Red Dirt

Red Dirt was an English post-psych blues-rock band from Kingston upon Hull that released a self-titled album on Fontana in 1970. Guitarist Steve Howden concurrently played with music-hall popsters Fickle Pickle.

They recorded a second Red Dirt album and morphed into Snake Eye for the concept album The Journey, both vaulted until the 2010s. Bassist Ken Giles became a studio musician, appearing on albums by The Mekons, among others.

Members: Steve Howden (guitar, piano, bass, vocals), Dave Richardson (steel guitar, piano, organ, harmonica, vocals), Ken Giles (bass), Steve Jackson (drums)


Red Dirt formed in 1969 at a pub in Bridlington where guitarist Steve Howden met three young aspiring locals: keyboardist Dave Richardson, bassist Ken Giles, and drummer Steve Jackson. Richardson had already worked with two other rising locals: guitarist Mick Ronson and songwriter Mike Chapman.

They initially called their band Wellington Boot before settling on Red Dirt. After 18 months on the local pub and club circuit, they booked a two-night graveyard session at Morgan Studios in North London.

The Album

Red Dirt had their album released in limited quantity on Fontana Records in 1970. The album was produced by ex-Smoke drummer Geoff Gill, who co-wrote “Gimme a Shot” with Howden.

Richardson wrote seven of the 12 tracks, including “Memories,” “Death Letter,” and “Death of a Dream.” Howden contributed “Problems,” “Ten Seconds to Go,” and “Summer Madness Laced With Newbald Gold.” Giles’ sole number, “Brain Worker,” is the penultimate track on side two.

Red Dirt was engineered by Mike Bobak, then of the studio group Motherlight. He also worked on 1969/70 albums by Pussy, Steamhammer, Little Free Rock, Chicken Shack, and Dada. Assistant engineer Robin Black later worked on recordings by Jethro Tull, Steeley Span, and Mallard. The cover art of Red Dirt, credited to Teenburger company (purportedly by Barney Bubbles), depicts Apache chief Geronimo dripping with four holes to the forehead.

Also in 1970, Howden partook in Fickle Pickle, a Gill-produced music-hall project fronted by Cliff Wade and arranged by (ex-Orange Bicycle) keyboardist Wil Malone, also of Motherlight. Howden played guitar and bass and wrote one song (“Barcelona“) on their album Sinful Skinful. He also backed singer Judey Willey on three songs under the name Jude, including the much-comped “Morning Morgan Town.”

Vaulted Second Album, Snake Eye

In January 1971, Red Dirt toured with Mott the Hoople and laid tracks for a second album with producers Gil and Malone. Howden cleared out for musician Ron Hales, a friend of Richardson who played in the soul-rock band Sweet Sugar. When Morgan Music folded over lack of business options, the album got placed in the vaults. Meanwhile, the band played opening slots for Free, Status Quo, and Wishbone Ash.

At the suggestion of new manager Miles Copeland, the lineup of Richardson, Giles, Jackson, Hales, and guitarist/singer Dave Clarke picked a new name, Snake Eye. In 1973, they recorded a concept album under the working title The Journey. Midway through the sessions, Jackson cleared out for drummer Gary Boroughs. This project also got vaulted when Giles quit to work in PA. Richardson and Hales carried Snake Eye to the mid-70s with no further recordings.

Later Releases

Red Dirt got its first reissue in 1994 on Audio Archives. In 1999, they reissued it again as Red Dirt Plus… with four bonus tracks: “Mixed Blessing,” “Wilting Tree,” “Three Fair Maidens,” and “Back Alley Sally.”

In 1995, Audio Archives issued a 1971 Red Dirt concert recording as Diamonds In the Dirt. It features eight numbers, including several with altered titles: “Wilted Tree” (“The Heart of a Young Boy”), “Three Fair Maidens” (“Tolly Cobbold”), and “Back Alley Sally” (“Hoedown”).

The Journey was unearthed in 2016 by archivists Angel Air Records. It features six cuts: the short title track, two six-minute numbers (“World In a Mountain,” “Sweet Dream Lady”), two nine-minute pieces (“The Heart of a Young Boy,” “Don’t Be a Fool”), and the 13-minute epic “The Journey’s End.”

The long-lost second Red Dirt album was finally issued in 2018 as II by Morgan Town Blue, a label dedicated to vintage Morgan studio recordings. It features 12 tracks, including “Time to Move,” “Dreams and Nightmare of a Plastic Ringworm,” “Directing My Imprisoned Thoughts,” and three numbers listed as demo backing tracks: “Dreaming,” “The Last Train,” and “Easy Rider.” The disc also includes three cuts from the Jude project.

Giles surfaced as a producer/engineer with tech credits on 1981–83 post-punk singles by The March Violets, The Mekons, Sisters of Mercy, Flowers of Evil, Seething Wells, Red Guitars, The Three Johns, The Vets, and Zoot & the Riots.


  • Red Dirt (1970)


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