"THE STORY SO FAR"
WAITING FOR THE WIND
The summer of 1967 was hot and psychedelic and The VIP’s, now a foursome, were leading a pleasant and unchallenging life in London just "being"! Recording sessions were booked by the office most of them taking place at Pye Studios behind Marble Arch and in between there were writing sessions at the Sussex Gardens flat where Kellie, Grosvenor & Harrison were still living.
Although never a true psychedelic unit, it was during this year that they experimented, very carefully, with mind expanding drugs, always ensuring that flatmate & faithful "sister" Sylvia was on hand to protect them from their changing world. She would answer the door & generally make sure that no harm befell them on occasional dawn visits to nearby Hyde Park. In the spirit of this "summer of love" agreement was made that publishing on all songs should be split four ways irrespective of who actually wrote them. During these times Guy Stevens was an important part of the Island "family" and had spent increasing amounts of time in the company of the band. Blackwell suggested that he (Stevens) should produce the forthcoming album. Always finding new and interesting music, Stevens came up with the idea of recording "For What it's Worth" re-titled "What's That Sound" written by Stephen Stills and recorded by his then band Buffalo Springfield. The song was an American hit but hadn't yet been recognised this side of the Atlantic, so record it they did and now re-named ART the single was released on Island in late 1967, a few weeks prior to the album Supernatural Fairytales, both produced by Guy Stevens. The single received some radio play but was not the success that the band & Island had hoped for. All the album material, with the exception of "What's that Sound", was self penned, but it became clear the music was not commercial enough for the times.
During these times finances were balanced by the success of The VIP's in France. After "I Wanna be Free" had reached No2 in the French "world chart" their label Phillips Fontana released several EP.'s of material all of which have become extremely collectable if they can be found. The band continued to travel to France and perform at different venues all over the country. Chris Blackwell had done a "shared management" deal with a Frenchman named Jean-Jacques Vuillerman, one time manager of French singing star Claude Francois, and Jean-Jacques enjoyed capitalising on the group's success and many happy times were spent based mainly in Paris........ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EdKruylEq6w&feature=fvwrel
Back at home it was obvious to the band & management that no natural songwriter existed in "ART" . Keith Emerson had been on board for the French adventure, but had now moved on to form P.P. Arnold's backing band "The Nice", leaving Harrison, Ridley, Kellie & Grosvenor in need of another "facelift".
Once more Blackwell came up with the next move. As business manager of "TRAFFIC" he accompanied them on their first public outing, a mini tour of Scandinavia, a warm up before their first British tour.
Supporting act for Traffic in Sweden was a band called "The New York Tymes", featuring on vocals and Hammond organ a lad from New Jersey called Gary Wright
Blackwell liked Wright, but was not keen on the band. He offered to pay for Wright and his musical partner Jim Carol to come to London and record their songs. This they accepted but within a short while it was evident that the project would not work. He then had the idea of putting Wright together with the members of ART to see if this was the answer. He arranged a meeting with Messrs Harrison, Ridley, Kellie & Grosvenor and informed them that this was the "last chance". They were to get together with his new signing, Wright, and MAKE it work! They were introduced, and started hanging out together at Wright's Ennismore Gardens flat in Knightsbridge.
A harpsichord was purchased from Harrods on which Wright was to compose new material for the five-piece to record. Kellie remembers, “...it was actually quite an enjoyable time. Gary was American and had a wicked sense of humour which mixed well with our hard nosed no frills approach to life....” Wright already had one song completed, "Sunshine Help Me". The band and Blackwell thought this was commercial and should be recorded as soon as possible.
By now a new member of the Island team had arrived. Jimmy Miller was an old friend of Wright’s from New Jersey days. He had been in the business of writing and independently recording songs then leasing them to a label for a year at a time, a practice common in those days. Apparently his recording of “ Incense “ by The Anglos had come to the attention of Island. Sequence of events is hazy but the result was Miller joining Island as “house producer”. Using Olympic studio number 1 and with Miller producing recording began for the first album “It’s all About”.
Kellie remembers, .”.Jimmy had an infectious enthusiasm and great approach to music. We felt confident with him around and things became very creative...”. Miller’s work with Traffic at the same time shows great creativity and excitement. Rhythm was especially one of Jimmy’s strengths having been a bit of a drummer in his early days. His dad, Bill Miller was the one who signed Elvis for his first comeback appearance at The International Hotel in Vegas in 1968..
Things were now really beginning to move....all they needed now was a name!
Copyright Control Mike Kellie 2012