The Alan Bown Set

The Alan Bown Set was a seven-man English R&B band that released five 1965–67 singles on Pye Records, including the Northern Soul classic “Emergency 999.”

As the psyched-up Alan Bown! they made the 1968–69 albums Outward Bown and The Alan Bown, followed by the 1970–71 Island albums Listen and Stretching Out.

They featured a revolving-door lineup that launched the careers of singer Jess Roden and Robert Palmer. Saxophonist John Helliwell surfaced in Supertramp.

Members: Alan Bown (trumpet), Vic Sweeney (drums, 1965-72), Jeff Bannister (keyboards, vocals, 1965-71), Stan Haldane (bass, 1965-70), Dave Green (saxophone, clarinet, flute, 1965-66), Pete Burgess (guitar, 1965-66), John Anthony [John A. Helliwell] (saxophone, 1966-72), Jess Roden (vocals, 1966-69), Tony Catchpole (guitar, 1966-71), Robert Palmer (vocals, 1969-70), Gordon Neville (vocals, 1970-72), Andy Brown (bass, 1970-71), Dougie Thomson (bass, 1971-72), Derek Griffiths (guitar, 1971-72), Dave Lawson (keyboards, 1972), Tony Dangerfield (bass, 1972), Frank White (guitar, 1972), Nick Payn [Nick Payne] (saxophone, flute, 1972), Alan Coulter (drums, 1972), Pete Goodall (guitar, 1972)


Slough, Berkshire, native Alan Bown (July 21, 1941 — Dec. 16, 2014) started as a trumpet player in the RAF. In 1963, he joined The Embers, a resident R&B–jazz act at the Star-Club in Hamburg. He then joined the John Barry Seven, which backed UK shows by American country singer Brenda Lee. Before JBS folded, Barry transferred leadership to Bown.


Pye Singles

In May 1965, Bown picked three JBS players — singer–organist Jeff Bannister, reedist–clarinetist Dave Green, and bassist Stan Haldane — for the Alan Bown Set, which added guitarist Pete Burgess and drummer Vic Sweeney. Producer Tony Hatch signed them to Pye Records, which issued their first five singles. 

September 10, 1965
A. “Can’t Let Her Go”
B. “I’m the One”

In late 1965, saxophonist John Helliwell replaced Green and ex-Shakedown Sound singer Jess Roden (then eighteen) took the vocal slot from Bannister, who focused henceforth on keyboards. The Alan Bown Set headlined London’s Marquee Club and appeared on the ITV music program Ready Steady Go!

The lineup of Bown, Bannister, Burgess, Haldane, Helliwell, Roden, and Sweeney released three 1966 Pye singles.

April 8, 1966
A. “Baby Don’t Push Me”
B: Everything’s Gonna Be Alright”

July 29, 1966
A. “Headline News”
B. “Mr. Pleasure”

On July 31, the Alan Bown Set played Day 3 of the 1966 Windsor Jazz Festival>.

October 21, 1966
A. “Emergency 999” later gained popularity on the Northern Soul circuit.
B. “Settle Down”

London Swings ‘Live At The Marquee Club’

In 1966, Pye released London Swings ‘Live At The Marquee Club’, a split live album with sets by Jimmy James & The Vagabonds (Side One) and the Alan Bown Set (Side Two). The Bown Set side features seven numbers.

B1. “It’s Growing” Robinson, Moore
B2. “Emergency 999” Corda
B3. “I Need You” Mayfield
B4. “Sunny” Hebb
B5. “Headline News” Hamilton, Hatcher, Morris
B6. “Down In The Valley” Berns, Burke
B7. “The Boomerang” Covey, Ott, Randolph

In November 1966, Burgess cleared for guitarist Tony Catchpole. The Alan Bown Set cut one further Pye single.


Jeu de Massacre

On March 31, 1967, the Alan Bown Set released their fifth and final Pye single.

A. “Gonna Fix You Good (Every Time You’re Bad)”
B. “I Really Really Care”

The Alan Bown Set recorded the theme to Jeu de Massacre (Massacre Game), a 1967 French comedy film, starring Jean-Pierre Cassel and Claudine Auger. The Bown Set track (titled “Killing Game”) appeared on a Disques Vogue EP with program music by Jacques Loussier.

The Alan Bown!

With the advent of psychedelia, Bown adopted infused the band’s R&B arrangements with toy-town whimsy. They signed with Verve Records as The Alan Bown!

October 27, 1967
A. “Toyland”
B. “Technicolour Dream”

March 1, 1968
A. “Story Book”
B. “Little Lesley”

July 5, 1968
A. “We Can Help You”
B. “Magic Handkerchief”

Outward Bown

The Alan Bown released their debut album, Outward Bown, in November 1968 on Music Factory and Verve Forecast.

A1. “Toyland” (2:34)
A2. “Magic Handkerchief” (3:16)
A3. “Mutiny” (3:04)*
A4. “All Along the Watchtower” (3:09)
A5. “Sally Green” (3:19)
A6. “Penny for Your Thoughts” (3:39)
B1. “Storybook” (3:15)*
B2. “Technicolor Dream” (2:55)
B3. “Love Is a Beautiful Thing” (3:32)
B4. “Violin Shop” (3:01)
B5. “You’re Not in My Class” (3:34)
B6. “My Girl the Month of May” (2:48)

The Alan Bown

The Alan Bown released their second album, The Alan Bown, in February 1970 on Deram.

A1. “My Friend” (3:06)*
A2. “Strange Little Friend” (2:21)
A3. “Elope” (3:21)
A4. “Perfect Day” (3:00)
A5. “All I Can Do” (2:44)
A6. “Friends in St. Louis” (2:29)
B1. “The Prisoner” (10:09)
B2. “Kick Me Out” (2:57)
B3. “Children of the Night” (2:55)
B4. “Gypsy Girl” (2:30)

*Replaced with “Still as Stone” (2:46) on U.S. issue.


The Alan Bown released their third album, Listen, in November 1970 on Island.

1. “Wanted Man” (4:20)
2. “Crash Landing” (5:55)
3. “Loosen Up” (3:25)
4. “Pyramid” (3:46)
5. “Forever” (2:50)
6. “Curfew” (4:00)
7. “Make Us All Believe” (4:30)
8. “Make Up Your Mind” (8:45)
9. “Get Myself Straight” (4:00)

Stretching Out

The Alan Bown released their fourth album, Stretching Out, in August 1971 on Island.

1. “The Messenger” (7:45)
2. “Find a Melody” (5:15)
3. “Up Above My Hobby Horse’s Head” (4:20)
4. “Turning Point” (9:38)
5. “Build Me a Stage” (3:30)
6. “Stretching Out” (8:25)



1 thought on “The Alan Bown Set

  1. Original intro (2018): “Formed in 1965 with a lineup featuring woodwinds, brass, and organ in addition to standard rock instrumentation, the Alan Bown Set initially sat midway between the R&B/beat principles of the Graham Bond Organization and the jazz framework of The Peddlers.”

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