May Blitz

May Blitz was an EnglishCanadian hard-rock trio that released two albums on Vertigo during 1970 and 1971. They were initially a spinoff of Bakerloo. Drummer Tony Newman came from the Jeff Beck Group and later joined Three Man Army and Boxer.

Members: Tony Newman (drums), Jamie Black (vocals, guitar), Reid Hudson (bass)


Background

May Blitz formed in late 1969 when the rhythm section of Bakerloo, bassist Terry Poole and drummer Keith Baker, teamed with Canadian singer and guitarist Jamie Black. Bakerloo disbanded after one album when their guitarist, Clem Clempson, replaced James Litherland in Colosseum (after Litherland formed Mogul Thrash). The new trio named itself after a series of German air attacks on England during the first week of May 1941.

Before May Blitz landed a deal, Poole and Baker both left the band. (Baker briefly joined Uriah Heep for their 1971 album Salisbury.) Black kick-started May Blitz with bassist Reid Hudson, a fellow Canadian; and drummer Tony Newman, a Southampton native who played on the 1969 albums Beck-Ola by the Jeff Beck Group and Is This What You Want? by Jackie Lomax.

May Blitz hit the London clubs and signed with Vertigo, the progressive division of Philips/Phonogram.


1970: May Blitz

May Blitz released their self-titled debut album in 1970 on the Vertigo “swirl” label. It features seven group-written originals, starting with the eight-minute “Smoking the Day Away.” The remainder consists of three epics in the six-minute range (“Dreaming,” “Squeet,” “Virgin Waters”) and three cuts in the four-minute range (“I Don’t Know?,” “Tomorrow May Come,” “Fire Queen”).

May Blitz self-produced the album with engineer Barry Ainsworth, who also worked on 1969–71 albums by Deep Purple, Flaming Youth, Hawkwind, and Beggars Opera.

Original Vertigo copies are housed in a gatefold sleeve designed by cartoonist and illustrator Tony Benyon. It consists of three pencil sketches: a lady/pig hybrid shown from the waist-up in a bikini and sun hat (front); a giant anthropomorphic gorilla reclined amid empty towers (back); and the same lady/pig hybrid at the head of a mountain with the words MAY BLITZ at the foot (inner-spread). Benyon also drew the cover to the debut album by Vertigo labelmates Patto.

The inner-spread contains liner notes by four proprietors on the UK club circuit, including Phil Myatt of the Mother’s Club in Birmingham, who wrote “With the high standard of professional musicianship these days it’s seldom that a group makes me forget the time and place anymore. May Blitz did that!”

Vertigo issued May Blitz in the UK, Europe, Australia, and South Africa. In North America, the album was issued on Paramount Records, which paired the tracks “Fire Queen” and “Virgin Waters” on a white-label promo single.

“Tomorrow May Come” appears on Vertigo, a 1970 cassette-only label comp with cuts by Affinity, Black Sabbath, Colosseum, Cressida, Fairfield Parlour, Gracious, Juicy Lucy, Magna Carta, Manfred Mann Chapter Three, Rod Stewart, and Uriah Heep.

An 11-minute version of “Squeet” appeared on a 10″ acetate.

On October 22, 1970, May Blitz played the first night of the second International Essen Blues & Pop Festival at the Grugahalle in Essen, Germany. The four-day event also featured sets by Chicken Shack, East of Eden, Fotheringay, Mighty Baby, The Moody Blues, Quiver, Supertramp, Tony Williams Lifetime, and the German acts Embryo, Guru Guru, Kraftwerk, Witthüser & Westrupp, and Xhol Caravan.


1971: The 2nd of May

May Blitz unleashed eight new originals on The 2nd of May, released in 1971 on Vertigo. The album contains four group-written numbers (“For Mad Men Only,” “Snakes and Ladders,” “8 Mad Grim Nits,” “High Beech”), plus three with lyrics by one Stuart Clark (“The 25th of December 1969,” “In Part,” “Honey Coloured Time”). Black lone-wrote the closing track, “Just Thinking.”

The 2nd of May was produced by Charisma’s John Anthony, who also produced 1969–71 titles by Aubrey Small, Rare Bird, Lindisfarne, Van Der Graaf Generator (Aerosol Grey Machine, Least We Can Do, H to He, Pawn Hearts), Genesis (Trespass, Nursery Cryme), and Peter Hammill (Fool’s Mate).

The engineer on 2nd of May, Dave Harris, later worked on albums by Sailor, Mallard, Steeleye Span, Colosseum II (Electric Savage), and the debut solo album by Peter Gabriel.

Benyon sketched the album’s gatefold in a similar style to the debut. It shows a mixed group of b&w figures — anthropomorphic birds; cubist figurative subjects; men of various shape (portly, long-necked) — lined up in front of a temple. The lady/pig from before stands in a scarf and brown hair. The lineup extends to the back cover, where a colorful mix of Edwardian revelers stand amid green trimmings. The inner-spread shows a yellow-tinted group photo and credits.


Aftermath

May Blitz disbanded in late 1971. Black and Hudson both returned to Canada and disappeared from the music scene.

Newman joined Three Man Army, a spinoff of Gun. He played on their self-titled second album (aka Mahesha) and their 1974 third release, confusingly titled Three Man Army Two. Between 1972 and 1975, Newman also played on albums by Eddie Hardin, David Bowie, Mick Ronson, Hollies singer Allan Clarke, and ex-Third World War frontman Terry Stamp. He recorded two albums as a member of Boxer, formed by the Timebox/Patto partnership of singer Mike Patto and guitarist Ollie Halsall.

May Blitz and The 2nd of May were first issued on CD in 1990 by German archivists Linam Records, which also excavated titles by Ashton, Gardner and Dyke, Nucleus, Beggars Opera (Waters of Change, Pathfinder), Gentle Giant (Three Friends), Buddy Miles, and the Left Banke. Both albums have also gotten CD pressings on Repertoire (Germany) and Vertigo (Japan). Since 2001, Italian specialists Arkama have reissued the May Blitz titles multiple times on CD and LP.

In 2012, the German Thors Hammer label (named after the Danish band) added May Blitz to its series of discs titled Essen 1970. It contains the band’s 10/22/70 set, comprised of “Tomorrow May Come,” “Squeet,” “8 Mad Grim Nits,” “I Don’t Know,” and a 20-minute rendition of “Fire Queen.”


Discography:

  • May Blitz (1970)
  • The 2nd of May (1971)

Sources:

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