Several of my cohorts theorize that 1971 was the year for rock. You had the Stones’ Sticky Fingers, Sabbath’s Master of Reality, Can’s Tago Mago, plus Faust, Ash Ra Tempel, and ZZ Top all plopped upon the earth with debuts. Prog was in extremely innovative, yet-to-be-for-fatsos form (Van der Graaf, Mahavishnu), and proto-metal was in full swing (see Hawkwind, Budgie, Leaf Hound, Sir Lord Baltimore, and Dust checking in with blasters). Surely something was hiding in a closet that year, and perhaps the greatest find came for me in 2000 when I spotted a CD comp of proto-metal someone recommended called Downer Rock Genocide, sitting on a rack with its ridiculous, textless cover depicting a guy in a shell of a bomb-squad suit walking around.
The singular live entry “Street” from some band called Egor was taken from a 1971,100-edition private press comp of East London bands called Oddsocks. The song begins with 30 seconds of a craggly air-raid siren, followed by a skull-splitting shard of feedback that makes the VU’s “I Heard Her Call My Name” break sound like Enya. It flipped my wig. Here was a blistering boogie bomb clearly hogging the oxygen of some Brit pub for eight minutes of live, boombox-fi insanity. Searing riffs, oven-mitt-handled solos, cunning deadpan sneer vocals, and rampaging rhythm; Sabbath-like doom but without any lyrical invocations of demons at the foot of one’s bed. As far as Egor went, that lone live cut was the only trace of them anywhere. How could such a brain-frying band have nothing but one live track in the universe? Not even demos? It seemed sorta shocking to trawl the net for 20 years and come up with zero info, barely a photo to boot.
How could such a brain-frying band have nothing but one live track in the universe?
Thankfully, the Ancient Grease imprint dug into the case, now releasing Lost Tape—Live in 1970, a 12-inch of “Street” with two newly exhumed live cuts from Egor’s Plough & Harrow pub residency: “Fathers of America” and “Worm”(!). Through this I learned that the band was started in 1969 by Mike Foster and Nick Diss, who cornered blues singer John Flite and 16-year old shredder Eric Taylor. Egor, alas, never got into the studio. To get the full skinny, we contacted Mike and Nick, who offered some insight (answers are in tandem with each other).
How did Eric Taylor come into the picture? His style was so insane—and for a 16-year-old! Was this the key to the move from bar blues into heaviness?
We placed an advert in the rock music papers. Neither of us can remember auditioning anyone else because Eric made a huge impression on us: 16 years old, over six feet tall, skinny as a rake, and with a mad shock of bright blond hair that stood out from the side of his head in a wild frizzy Afro! Man, could he play. He turned up to that first audition with his battered ’50s Strat under his arm—I don’t think he ever owned a case for it. Plugged into an amp and simply tore the place down.
Did Sabbath ever become aware of Egor?
I had a chance to talk to Sharon Osbourne at Ozzy’s house in the U.K., a friend’s wife was her PA. I asked if he would even remember a band like Egor from that period, as we were on the same circuit. She said Ozzy couldn’t remember what he had eaten for breakfast that morning.
I read about one surprising gig where you billed in between the U.K. occult heavies Black Widow and not-so-occult Elton John. Any memories of this, or other standout gigs?
I thought the Elton John Band was lame and couldn’t see why he was on the bill. I think we were second and were well received by the crowd. The gigs that stand out for me: one at the Rainbow Room in London where the bouncer jumped on stage 30 seconds into the first number and told us in no uncertain terms to turn the fuck down! The White Elephant in the West End—I don’t remember a single person being there, I think the bar staff might have taken the night off as well. I remember playing on a wild all-night party boat on the Thames that was so crazy the boat had to keep turning back to pick up people who had fallen in.
Tell us how the new tracks were unearthed after all these years, and were you aware that people had been discovering “Street” for the past two decades?
I found the lost tracks in an old briefcase that had been stored in my attic for at least 30 years. We are blown away by the response we have had from people hearing “Street.” The reason we eventually called it a day was because we couldn’t get a deal at the time. I joined Tinted Aspex, who were a local cover band. Mike joined T2 with his friend Pete Dunton. It still amazes me to this day that more people are not aware of T2. Unfortunately, John had a massive heart attack and died in the mid-’90s, and Eric had disappeared long before that. I’m a film editor these days. Mike is one of my oldest friends and we talk about once a week on the phone, and I usually manage to get out to Thailand every year ostensibly for work. We’ll meet up a few times when I’m there. Mike got me my first job in the film industry, and I introduced him to his first wife. Although you can’t always get everything right!
He's right, and you can say the same for the music biz, too, I guess. But you don’t need to make the A&R grade to have created legend, so raise a brown ale to Egor and Ancient Grease for squeezing out a couple more tracks and some fried/frozen hidden moments in time.