Stretch

Stretch was an English hard-rock band that released the 1975–77 Anchor albums Elastique, You Can’t Beat Your Brain for Entertainment, and Lifeblood, followed by the 1978 Hot Wax release Forget the Past.

Prior to their album run, they cut a 1973 single as Legs on Warner Bros. and posed as Fleetwood Mac in a touring ruse commanded by Clifford Davis, then-manager of both bands.

Singer Elmer Gantry fronted sixties psychsters Velvet Opera and gigged with jazz-rockers Armada. Guitarist Gregory Kirby joined Curved Air for their 1973 album Air Cut. Bassist Steve Emery played on the two 1974 Ross albums and Danny Kirwan‘s second solo album.

Members: Kirby (guitar, vocals), Elmer Gantry (vocals, guitar, 1974-78, 2007-present), Jim Russell (drums, 1974–76), Paul Martinez (bass, 1974–75), Dave Evans (bass, 1975–76), Steve Emery (bass, 1976–79), Jeff Rich (drums, 1976–78, 2007–09), John Cook (keyboards), Nigel Watson (vocals, guitar), Nicko McBrain (drums, 1978–79)


Background

Stretch evolved from Legs, a band formed by singer David Terry, guitarist Graham “Kirby” Gregory, and bassist Steve Emery.

Terry first emerged in The Five Proud Walkers, an R&B/beat group that morphed into psych-rockers Elmer Gantry’s Velvet Opera, where Terry donned a cape and adapted the Gantry stagename, taken from the titular character of the 1926 Sinclair Lewis novel Elmer Gantry. They released the album Elmer Gantry’s Velvet Opera in 1968 on Direction. When Gantry left, the band carried on as Velvet Opera with Paul Brett.

Gantry surfaced in Armada, a jazz-rock band with Gregory and Emery, who took the place of original bassist Rik Kenton, an early member of Roxy Music. Armada recorded more than an album’s worth of material but only managed one 1973 single under the name Rimington (after saxophonist Sammy Rimington).

Meanwhile, Gregory (often known simply as Kirby) was one of three musicians — along with keyboardist–violinist Eddie Jobson and drummer Jim Martinez — drafted into a revised lineup of Curved Air, which made the 1973 album Air Cut. He also played on Rock On, the long-awaited debut album by veteran actor–singer David Essex.

Later that year, Kirby reteamed with Gantry and Emery in Legs, which issued the 1973 Warner single “So Many Faces” (b/w “You Bet You Have”).

Legs and Curved Air were managed by Clifford Davis, whose main client was Fleetwood Mac. In early 1974, Mac were unable to honor a pre-booked US tour due to internal frictions which prompted the exit of Bob Weston, one of two guitarist–singers in the lineup responsible for the 1973 albums Penguin and Mystery to Me.

Davis asked Kirby, Gantry, and Hackensack bassist Paul Martinez to deputize three-fifths of Fleetwood Mac (in lieu of Bob Welch, Christine McVie, and John McVie) for a pre-booked US tour. (Meanwhile, Emery joined funk-rockers Ross, which issued two 1974 albums on RSO.)

Kirby, Gantry, and Martinez — who were told that this tour would have Mick Fleetwood’s blessing and participation — agreed to play along. However, Fleetwood pulled out at the last minute. Alas, they took to the road as “Fleetwood Mac” with Australian drummer Craig Collinge (Manfred Mann Chapter Three, Shoot, Third World War), but the tour soon collapsed amid audience walkouts.

Reeling in scandal, Gantry and Kirby broke from Davis and formed Stretch with Martinez and Russell, who Curved Air replaced with a young Stewart Copeland.

Stretch signed with Anchor, a newly established UK label that also counted rustic-rockers Moonrider and the chart-bound Ace among its nascent roster.


Elastique 

Stretch released their debut album, Elastique, in late 1975 on Anchor Records. It features ten originals: one each by Kirby (“Why Did You Do It?”) and Martinez (“Navy Blues”). Kirby co-wrote four songs (“Miss Jones,” “Snakes Alive,” “Down Home,” “Slip Away”) with Gantry, who lone wrote “Buzz Fly,” “Miss Dizzy,” “Write Me a Note,” and “Tomorrow’s Another Day.”

A1. “Miss Jones” (3:33)
A2. “Why Did You Do It?” (3:28)
A3. “Miss Dizzy” (4:00)
A4. “Snakes Alive” (3:33)
A5. “Write Me a Note” (4:36)

B1. “Tomorrow’s Another Day” (4:20)
B2. “Down Home” (3:04)
B3. “Navy Blues” (3:08)
B4. “Buzz Fly” (1:42)
B5. “Slip Away” (3:53)

Elmer Gantry — vocals, acoustic guitar, harmonica, Jew’s harp
Jim Russell — drums, cowbell, tambourine
Kirby — lead guitar, electric guitar, tambourine, acoustic guitar, slide guitar, backing vocals
Paul Martinez — bass
Roshi — electric guitar, slide guitar
Steve Emery — bass
John Cook — keyboards

Sleeve Design – Clive Tunnicliffe


You Can’t Beat Your Brain for Entertainment

Stretch released their second album, You Can’t Beat Your Brain for Entertainment, in 1976 on Anchor. It features two songs each by singer–guitarist Elmer Gantry (“If the Cap Fits,” “Put Your Hands Up”) and guitarist Kirby (“The Way Life Is,” “Love’s Got a Hold On Me”). They bookend the album with covers of American bluesmen Bukka White (“Fixin’ to Die”) and Eddie “Guitar Slim” Jones (“Feelin’ Sad”). Gantry and Kirby co-wrote the four album-core tracks, including the single “That’s the Way the Wind Blows.”

A1. “Fixin’ to Die” (3:35)
A2. “If the Cap Fits” (3:29)
A3. “The Way Life Is” (4:08)
A4. “That’s the Way the Wind Blows” (3:52)
A5. “Hold Up the Light” (3:25)

B1. “Can’t Get Enough” (3:44)
B2. “Hold On” (3:26)
B3. “Put Your Hands Up” (4:07)
B4. “Love’s Got a Hold On Me” (4:01)
B5. “Feelin’ Sad” (5:28)

Recorded at – Kingsway Recorders

Bass Guitar, Backing Vocals – Steve Emery
Drums – Jeff Rich
Lead Guitar, Slide Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Backing Vocals, Producer – Kirby
Lead Vocals, Electric Guitar, Backing Vocals, Harmonica, Producer – Elmer Gantry

Illustration – Jonathan Hooper
Photography By – Alan Messer


Lifeblood

Stretch released their third album, Lifeblood, in 1977 on Anchor. It features six originals and covers of Derringer (“Rock ‘n’ Roll Hoochie-Coo”), Fleetwood Mac (“Showbiz Blues”), Freddie King (“Living On the Highway”), and The Rolling Stones (“Let’s Spend the Night Together”). Kirby wrote five songs, including “End Up Crying,” “Jonah and the Whale,” and “Knives in Their Backs.” Gantry submits “Can’t Beat Your Brain for Entertainment,” titled after the prior album.

A1. “End Up Crying” (4:01)
A2. “Knives in Their Backs” (3:54)
A3. “Rock ‘n’ Roll Hoochie-Coo” (3:08)
A4. “Right or Wrong” (4:04)
A5. “Showbiz Blues” (5:32)

B1. “Can’t Beat Your Brain for Entertainment” (3:08)
B2. “Jonah and the Whale” (4:49)
B3. “Living On the Highway” (3:07
B4. “Take You Down” (3:59)
B5. “Let’s Spend the Night Together” (5:55)

Bass – Steve Emery
Drums, Percussion – Jeff Rich
Guitar [Lead], Vocals, Percussion – Kirby
Lead Vocals, Guitar [2nd], Percussion – Elmer Gantry

Producer – Elmer, Kirby
Engineer – Louie Austin, Victor Gramm

Gantry left Stretch after Lifeblood. He reappeared with vocal spots on 1980–82 albums by the Alan Parsons Project (“May Be a Price to Pay,” “Psychobabble”), Cozy Powell (“Sooner Or Later”), and Jon Lord (“Where Are You?”).


Forget the Past

Stretch released their fourth album, Forget the Past, in 1978 on Hot Wax. It features three songs each by bassist–singer Steve Emery (“Re-Arranging,” “Ain’t Got No Reason,” “You’re Too Late”) and guitarist–singer Jack Kirby (“Take Me Away,” “School Days,” “Fooling Me”), plus two Kirby co-writes with keyboardist John Cook (“Cruel to Be Kind,” “Forget the Past”).

A1. “Re-Arranging” (4:02)
A2. “Cruel to Be Kind” (4:46)
A3. “Forget the Past” (5:43)
A4. “Ain’t Got No Reason” (4:48)

B1. “Take Me Away” (3:34)
B2. “You’re Too Late” (4:16)
B3. “School Days” (8:17)
B4. “Fooling Me” (5:42)

Bass Guitar, Lead Vocals – Steve Emery
Drums – Fran Byrne, Nicko McBrain
Electric Guitar, Lead Vocals – Nigel Watson
Lead Guitar, Lead Vocals – Kirby
Keyboards, Vocals – John Cook

Percussion – Chris Fletcher
Saxophone – Chris Merce

Producer – Kirby
Engineer [First] – Louie Austin
Engineer [Second] – Bob Brogliar

Design – Graves/Aslett


Discography:

  • “So Many Faces” / “You Bet You Have” (1973 • Legs)
  • Elastique (1975)
  • You Can’t Beat Your Brain for Entertainment (1976)
  • Lifeblood (1977)
  • Forget the Past (1978)

Sources:

1 thought on “Stretch

  1. This could do with an update in form of the 2011 reunion album Unfinished Business.

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