Sharks

Sharks were an English hard-rock band that released the 1973–74 Island albums First Water and Jab It in Yore Eye. Guitarist Chris Spedding formed the band with ex-Free bassist Andy Fraser, who went solo after the first album. Singer Steve Parsons later joined Baker Gurvitz Army and recorded under the moniker Snips.

Members: Andy Fraser (bass, piano), Chris Spedding (guitar), Marty Simon (drums), Steve Parsons (guitar, vocals), Busta Jones (bass, 1974), Nick Judd (keyboards, 1974)


Formation

Andy Fraser formed Sharks after his second and final exit from hard-rockers Free, which released six albums on Island Records and charted with “All Right Now” and “My Brother Jake,” both co-writes between Fraser and singer Paul Rodgers. Free released four 1969–70 albums and first disbanded after their 1971 live album. With Free in stasis, Fraser contacted Chris Spedding for a new band, tentatively named Toby, with drummer Stan Speake and (future Sparks) guitarist Adrian Fischer. However, Free reformed in January 1972 for a new album, Free at Last. Fraser left before their 1973 swan song Heartbreaker.

Spedding played on numerous rock and jazz albums between 1969 and 1972 and did brief stints in the Frank Ricotti Quartet and Nucleus. He co-founded The Battered Ornaments and became their frontman after the ouster of singer Pete Brown. As a solo artist, he released three 1970–72 albums in the idioms of jazz-rock (Songs Without Words), blues-rock (Backwood Progression), and neo-fifties boogie (The Only Lick I Know). His pre-Sharks session credits include 1971–72 albums by Elton John, Harry Nilsson, Kenny Young, Jack Bruce, Julie Driscoll, Lesley Duncan, Linda Hoyle, Linda Lewis, Matthew Ellis, Michael Gibbs, Paul Korda, Pete Atkin, Tony Hazzard, and Vigrass & Osborne.

Sharks coalesced with Canadian drummer Marty Simon, who hailed from Polydor psych-rockers Life and played on the first secular solo album by American singer Mylon LeFevre. Fraser passed on Vinegar Joe singer Robert Palmer and Patches frontman Leo Sayer for Steve “Snips” Parsons, a 22-year-old veteran of multiple Hull-based beat groups. Island A&R (and ex-Spencer Davis bassist) Muff Winwood discovered Snips the unsigned Nothingeverhappens and recommended him to Sharks, who hired him on account of his song “Snakes And Swallowtails.”


Live Activity

Sharks traveled in a customized Pontiac Le Mans, fitted with a roof fin and fiberglass grille teeth. On February 19, 1973, while en route from Cleethorpes to London, the Pontiac collided with a tree. Fraser sustained a wrist injury that hampered his performance and depressed his band ambitions. After a brief recovery period, Sharks embarked on a March–April UK tour with Roxy Music and made a 3/17 appearance on the BBC music program The Old Grey Whistle Test.


First Water

Sharks released their debut album, First Water, in July 1973 on Island (UK) and MCA (US). It opens with the Snips–Spedding song “World Park Junkies” and closes with “Broke a Feeling,” a joint-write by Fraser, Snips, and Simon. The album’s balance alternates songs by Fraser (“Follow Me,” “Brown-eyed Boy,” “Driving Sideways,” “Doctor Love”) and Snips (“Ol Jelly Roll,” “Snakes And Swallowtails,” “Steal Away”).

1. “World Park Junkies” (3:12)
2. “Follow Me” (4:50)
3. “Ol Jelly Roll” (2:40)
4. “Brown-eyed Boy” (2:48)
5. “Snakes And Swallowtails” (4:06)

6. “Driving Sideways” (4:10)
7. “Steal Away” (6:07)
8. “Doctor Love” (3:25)
9. “Broke a Feeling” (4:11)

Sharks self-produced First Water, which Island soundman Tony Platt co-engineered with Heartbreaker producer Andy Johns, who also worked on 1972–73 albums by Fanny and West, Bruce & Laing. Platt handled Sharks in succession with Back Street Crawler, the debut solo album by ex-Free guitarist Paul Kossoff, who used the title for his subsequent band.

First Water sports a blue cover illustration by Island artist Tony Wright (Traffic, The Meters), who rendered the Sharks logo in the shape of their Pontiac. Island photographer Brian Cook took the inner-sleeve and back-cover group photos. The latter shows them positioned around the Pontiac with the image superimposed near the precipice of the Seven Sisters chalk sea cliffs in East Sussex.

Sharks lifted “Ol Jelly Roll” as a single (b/w “Follow Me”). In France, Island lifted “Broke a Feeling” as a promo-only single (b/w “Brown-eyed Boy”).


Lineup Change

Soon after First Water hit shelves, Fraser left Sharks. He recorded two 1975 solo albums and spent the next decade as a US-based songwriter. In 1978, Robert Palmer charted with “Every Kinda People,” the Fraser-penned opening track on the singer’s 1978 fourth solo album Double Fun.

Sharks contacted bassists Ric Grech (Family, Blind Faith, Air Force) and Boz Burrell (King Crimson) to no avail. Mick Jagger recommended Memphis bassist Busta Jones, a recent Albert King sideman. Ex-Audience keyboardist Nick Judd joined as a fifth member. In September 1973, the new Sharks embarked on a six-month tour. Brian Eno enlisted the band (minus Snips) for assorted tracks on his debut solo album Here Come the Warm Jets.


Jab It in Yore Eye

Sharks released their second album, Jab It in Yore Eye, in April 1974 on Island (UK, Europe, Australia) and MCA (North America). Snips wrote six of the album’s nine songs, including “Revolution of the Heart,” “Kung Fu,” and “Sophistication.” He co-wrote one song each with Spedding (“Surrender”) and Simon (“Rain Or Shine”). Side One contains the Busta Cherry number “Baby Shine a Light.”

1. “Just Like a Fever” (3:28)
2. “Baby Shine a Light” (4:52)
3. “Sun Beat Down” (4:44)
4. “Rain Or Shine” (3:42)
5. “Kung Fu” (4:02)

6. “Sophistication” (5:23)
7. “Surrender” (2:46)
8. “Cocaine Blues” (4:37)
9. “Revolution of the Heart” (6:43)

Sessions took place in London at CBS and Island studios, where Spedding co-produced the album with Roy Harper soundman Peter Jenner. Platt engineered Jab It in Yore Eye in sequence with Island titles by The Wailers, Sparks (Kimono My House), and G.T. Moore & The Reggae Guitars. His assistant, Dave Hutchins, also worked on the concurrent Genesis double-album The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway and 1975–75 titles by Dog Soldier, Fruupp, Gonzalez, Heavy Metal Kids, Trapeze, and Nazareth frontman Dan McCafferty.

Island copies sport cover art by the British design firm Hipgnosis. It shows a monochrome image of Snips and Spedding (front) and the others (back) with crudely painted eyelids. MCA copies feature an illustration of a stiletto-nailed eyelid widening by Bill Imhoff, whose artwork also appears on 1973–76 albums by Alphonso JohnsonBilly Joel, Charlie (the US Fantasy Girls), Chris De Burgh, and Rufus.

Sharks lifted “Kung Fu” as a single backed with the non-album Snips number “Elevator Dancing.”


Discography:

  • First Water (1973)
  • Jab It in Yore Eye (1974)

Sources:

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