You would like to think that if in the second half of the sixties, your band got a support slot with Jimi Hendrix, a regular spot at the Marquee Club in Wardour Street, a Billboard Magazine review that screams “This band will be a giant”, cited as a big influence by Rick Wakeman & Keith Emerson, name checked by David Bowie & Pete Townsend, oh, and signed by Brian Epstein, that your place would be reserved in the Rock & Roll hall of fame.
Scotland 1964 - The Premiers were a soul band that included Ian Ellis (vocals) and Harry Hughes (drums) that were well known on the circuit. In an effort to boost their success they added Billy Ritchie on organ, who’s busy and flamboyant musicianship quickly rubbed the other musicians up the wrong way causing their departure, thus leaving just Ian, Harry, Billy and a rather large dilemma.
London 1966 – Ian Ellis had moved to bass, the trio had moved to London and renamed themselves 1-2-3. While their new line-up and style had not worked on the Scottish Club circuit, they were quickly absorbed into the London scene and signed to Brian Epstein’s NEMS management company.
London 1967 – Following the death of Brian Epstein, Robert Stigwood takes control of NEMS and decides to send 1-2-3 on a cabaret tour of North England, fitting in around comedians, ventriloquists & jugglers.
So on returning to London and seeing The Nice steal their thunder must have been almost as depressing as sharing a dingy Sheffield club dressing room with a comedy balloonist. Their fortune seemed on the upturn after being signed by future Chrysalis Label partner Terry Ellis who changed their name to Clouds.
Their first single, released on Island in 1969 is the very hard to come by “Make No Bones About It”, a superb pop song backed by the proto-prog “Heritage”.
Despite successful American tours and three superb albums, by 1971 Chrysalis were putting all their effort into Jethro Tull and the Clouds parted.
1-2-3 has since been given a re-appraisal by Music magazines (for whatever that’s worth) for their precursory influence on progressive rock. The only official release is on “Up Above our Heads - Clouds 1966-71 2CD anthology” as a bonus track. Recorded live at The Marquee, 1-2-3’s version of Paul Simon’s “America” was recorded a year before it was released on Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bookends”. Paul had originally recorded a demo in London which passed to 1-2-3 by studio engineer Stu Francis, along with “Sound Of Silence” they performed this at the Marquee Club in April 1967. In the audience was Yes vocalist Jon Anderson, who would use this arrangement on their own version several years later.
It’s a shame Clouds do not have the same rock mag pass, the 2 CD anthology shows them to have a superb collection of songs, smartly captured with some great performances.
For more information on Clouds visit www.cloudsmusic.com