Starry Eyed and Laughing

Starry Eyed and Laughing were an English rustic-rock band that released the 1974–75 CBS albums Starry Eyed and Laughing and Thought Talk. Earlier recordings later surfaced on the archival discs Forever Young and To Try for the Sun. Their use of Rickenbacker 12-string guitars and West Coast harmonies drew comparisons to The Byrds.

Members: Tony Poole (guitar, vocals, organ, synthesizer), Ross McGeeney (vocals, lead guitar, 1973-75), Nick Brown (drums, percussion, 1974), Steve Hall (bass, 1974), Iain Whitmore (bass, vocals, percussion, 1974-75), Michael Wackford (drums, percussion, 1974-76), Roger Kelly (vocals, lead guitar, 1975-76), Steve Lewis (bass, 1975-76)


Background

Starry Eyed and Laughing had its roots in a childhood friendship between Tony Poole and Ross McGeeney, who both took up guitar and formed their first band, The Chymes, with Bedford classmates. As adults, they re-teamed as a London-based acoustic duo with a setlist compromised of Beatles, Byrds, and Bob Dylan covers.

In 1973, they went electric and adopted the name Starry Eyed and Laughing from a line in Dylan’s “Chimes of Freedom.” They gigged the pub circuit with a makeshift rhythm section.

On April 28, 1974, they performed as part of the Amazing Zig Zag Concert, a fifth anniversary celebration for ZigZag magazine at London’s Roundhouse with sets by Help Yourself, Chilli Willi & The Red Hot Peppers, ex-Monkee Michael Nesmith, and onetime Kingston Trio singer John Stewart. They signed with CBS in May 1974 with a lineup completed by drummer Michael Wackford and bassist Iain Whitmore, formerly of Leo Sayer‘s Patches.


Starry Eyed and Laughing

Starry Eyed and Laughing released their self-titled debut album in November 1974 on CBS. It features four songs apiece by Ross McGeeney (“Going Down,” “Closer to You Now,” “In the Madness,” “Everybody”) and Tony Pool (“Nobody Home,” “Money Is No Friend of Mine,” “Lady Came From the South,” “Oh What?”), plus two co-writes (“See Your Face,” “Living In London”) and two songs by Iain Whitmore (“50/50 (Better Stop Now),” “Never Say Too Late”).

1. “Going Down” (3:05)
2. “Closer to You Now” (3:45)
3. “Money Is No Friend of Mine” (3:28)
4. “Lady Came From the South” (3:37)
5. “Oh What?” (3:00)
6. “See Your Face” (3:08)

7. “Nobody Home” (2:35)
8. “50/50 (Better Stop Now)” (3:40)
9. “Living In London” (2:42)
10. “Never Say Too Late” (2:55)
11. “In the Madness” (3:00)
12. “Everybody” (5:50)

Sessions took place in mid-1974 at London’s CBS Studios with label A&R Dan Loggins, the older brother of American singer Kenny Loggins. Dan produced Starry Eyed and Laughing in sequence with CBS–Epic titles by Mott the Hoople, Russ Ballard, and Sailor. The engineer, Mike Ross, also worked on 1974 titles by Be-Bop Deluxe (Axe Victim), Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express, Colin Blunstone, and Michael Fennelly.

Ballard plays piano on the album, which also features guest appearances by Lindisfarne‘s Ray Jackson (mandolin), Cochise alumnus B. J. Cole (pedal steel), and Al Stewart sideman Peter Woods (harpsichord).

CBS art director Roslav Szaybo designed the front cover, which shows a rainbow-illustrated group pic by Peter Lavery (Fantasy, Kingdom Come, Pink Fairies, Travis). The back cover, designed by CBS’s Simon Cantwell, shows a saturated monochrome shot by Mike Putland (Argent, Curved Air, Moonrider, Soft Machine) with liner notes by John Tobler, who describes their sound as “that produced by optimists, and the songs are unlikely to lead to despair even in the most downtrodden of lives.”

“Money Is No Friend of Mine” appeared on October 4 as an advance single (b/w “See Your Face”). On February 21, 1975, “Nobody Home” became their second single (b/w “Closer to You Now”). “Nobody Home” appears on the 1975 German CBS comp Rockwork, a two-record set with cuts by Chicago (“Old Days”), Blood, Sweat & Tears (“Ride Captain Ride”), Earth, Wind & Fire (“Shining Star”), Jeff Beck (“You Know What I Mean”), Mahavishnu Orchestra (“Can’t Stand Your Funk”), Andy Fraser Band (“Don’t Hide Your Love Away”), Kokomo (“I Can Understand It”), Boz Scaggs (“You Make It So Hard (To Say No)”), Dave Mason (“Show Me Some Affection”), Birth Control (“Gamma Ray (Part I)”), Journey (“To Play Some Music”), Kansas (“Down the Road”), and Titanic (“Buckshee Woman”).


Thought Talk

Starry Eyed and Laughing released their second album, Thought Talk, in 1975 on CBS. It features two group-written songs (“Good Love,” “Keep It to Yourself”) and three Ross McGeeney numbers (“Down the Street,” “Believe,” “Don’t Give Me a Hard Time”).

Thought Talk also contains two songs each by Tony Poole (“One Foot In the Boat,” “Flames In the Rain”) and Iain Whitmore (“Since I Lost You,” “Fool’s Gold”), plus the co-written title track.

1. “Good Love” (4:55)
2. “One Foot In the Boat” (4:17)
3. “Since I Lost You” (4:53)
4. “Down the Street” (4:13)
5. “Fool’s Gold” (4:45) features cello arrangements by American composer Michael Gore (the younger brother of singer Lesley Gore).

6. “Believe” (6:00)
7. “Keep It to Yourself” (3:40)
8. “Don’t Give Me a Hard Time” (3:46)
9. “Flames In the Rain” (5:38)
10. “Thought Talk” (5:06)

Sessions took place in London (Sarm Studios) and Monmouth, Wales (Rockfield), where Dan Loggins produced Thought Talk in one of his final studio roles before his move to the CBS A&R department (where his anti-punk stance forced CBS managing director Maurice Oberstein to intervene and sign The Clash). Sarm soundman Gary Lyons engineered Thought Talk in sequence with 1975 titles by Be-Bop Deluxe (Futurama), Fox, Jet, and Queen (A Night at the Opera).

Thought Talk features guest musicianship by Electric Light Orchestra cellist Colin Walker, “O” Band organist Jeff Bannister, Easy Street auxiliary saxophonist Pete Zorn, and jazz vibraphonist Frank Ricotti (a collaborator of ELO alumnus Michael de Albuquerque).

Roslav Szaybo oversaw the cover art, designed by CBS’s Janusz Guttner with input by freelancer Norman Moore, who also has visual credits on 1975–76 titles by Alquin, Easy Street (self-titled), Heatwave (Too Hot to Handle), Pasadena Roof Orchestra, and Split Enz (Mental Notes, aka the Chrysalis version of Second Thoughts).

“Good Love” appeared on August 8, 1975, as the band’s third single (b/w “Down the Street”).


Starry Eyed

In mid-1976, Poole, McGeeney, and Wackford reconstituted as a trio under the abridged name Starry Eyed. They recorded two new Poole compositions with producers Flo & Eddy (ex-Turtles), both issued by CBS as standalone a-sides backed with Thought Talk tracks.

On September 3, Starry Eyed released “Song On the Radio” (b/w Don’t Give Me a Hard Time”). “Saturday” followed in late December (b/w “Believe”).

A. “Song On the Radio”

A. “Saturday”


Discography:

  • Starry Eyed and Laughing (1974)
  • Thought Talk (1975)
  • Forever Young (2014, recorded 1973–74)
  • To Try for the Sun (archival, 2016)

Sources:

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