Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Lost - Lost In Action


The Band's History

The lost were formed in 1964 by Bill Heath, a pupil at Uppingham Public School in the small English county of Rutland. Initially known as Paradise Lost, the embryonic composition of the group fluctuated greatly: early contributions were made by Charlie Adamson (drums) and Fred Ward (rhythm guitar), but the line-up stabilised around lyricist and lead vocalist Heath, drummer Jake Walton and brothers Chris and Martin Hatt on lead guitar and bass respectively. At the time of the group's formation the British musical scene had effectively been polarised by the emergence of two distinct musical genres: the beat groups were achieving greater commercial success but the tougher, less ephemeral rhythm and blues sound was becoming increasingly popular in the clubs around London and the Home Counties. It was the burgeoning R&B scene to which Paradise Lost became attracted, consciously striving to emulate the raw adrenalin that shaped classic singles like 'Rosalyn' and 'Baby Please Don't Go'. As might be expected, the group played regularly at Uppingham and at various local halls, but began to seek wider horizons: to this end they visited the now legendary R G Jones recording studio in Morden, Surrey in August 1966 to record 'Problems Of Day To Day Living', a Bill Heath/Chris Hatt song that was lyrically reminiscent of several recent Jagger/Richard compositions. However, independent producer David Oddie decided that the band should concentrate their efforts on a cover version of  'Neighbour Neighbour', a recent Stax single from Jimmy Hughes that was also recorded by pre-Status Quo act the Spectres. Augmented by Stu Taylor (a former member of the Tornadoes and Screaming Lord Sutch's band The Savages), Paradise Lost spent several hours perfecting 'Neighbour Neighbour' before recording 'Problems Of Day To Day Living' in the little studio time that remained. Unfortunately neither track saw the light of day.

Undeterred, the Heath/Hatt songwriting partnership persevered, and in early 1967 the band, now operating under the truncated name of The Lost, visited Hollick & Taylor's recording studio in Birmingham to demo their new material. A single-sided acetate album (also pressed as a doublc-sided 10" LP) comprising seven tracks was recorded in a three hour session. Covers of the Stones' 'Spider And The Fly' and Chuck Berry's 'Guitar Boogie' demonstrated that The lost weren't afraid to identify their influences, whilst the album closed with Chris Hatt's pleasant if inessential instrumental 'Lost In Paradise'. However, the real meat lay in the four Heath/Hatt collaborations; 'Problems Of Day To Day Living' is almost identical to the version cut the previous year (it's the earlier recording that appears on this compilation), but the three remaining songs were a perfect vehicle for Bill Heath's distinctly Jaggeresque vocal inflexions. 'Bread Van' and 'The Times Are Gone' also show evidence of the acerbic observation and mild misogyny that characterised both thc Stones and the Kinks' strongest recordings of the era, but possibly the most accomplished song is 'Something To Us', an apparently heartfelt plea for forl:iiveness tempered by a few carefully selected barbs. Occasionally the ambitions of the material exceed the instrumental dexterity, but it should be remembered that, as with all the material featured on this album, these were hastily recorded demo tracks rather than the finished article.

With no record company interest in the Hollick & Taylor session, the lost sought to toughen their sound with the recruitment of pianist Patrick Hannay (another Uppingham acquaintance) and former Amber guitarist and Syd Barrett acolyte Mic Read. In February 1968 The Lost returned to R G Jones (Morden) Ltd, and it is the two tracks from this session that arguably represent the acme of their achievements. The proto-punk savagery of 'What's The Matter (With You Babe?)' inflates the vague waspishness of some of the group's earlier material to incandescent fury, but on this occasion the lyrical content is matched by a thunderous backing track that reaches some kind of peak with Chris Hatt's closing guitar solo. 'Don't Open Your Mind', a minor masterpiece of song construction and undoubtedly The Lost's most fully realised creation, maintains the musical and lyrical assault, although it would be another sixteen years before the song received any kind of national exposure, when British Telecom was approached with the idea of a telephone line featuring an arbitrary selection of classic recordings. BT agreed to the proposal and in December 1984 the Guinness Golden Hit1ine was born, with Bill Heath employed as resident disc jockey and the opening bars of 'Don't Open Your Mind' pressed into belated service as the signature tune.

By mid-1968 the Lost had fragmented, with Bill Heath and Jake Walton taking a post-Uppingham sabbatical trip around the world. Chris and Martin Hart linked up with vocalist John Vaughan and former Paradise Lost drummer Charlie Adamson in a summer holiday band bearing the unlikely name of the Undergrowth Of Literature. The 'Growth toured the Welsh coastline as a travelling jukebox, playing faithful cover versions of the latest Hendrix, Cream, Mayall and Fleetwood Mac material alongside a handful of originals including Chris Hatt's 'High In The Sky'. Accompanying the band as tour manager and general dogsbody was fellow Uppingham pupil and future BBC Radio One disc jockey Peter Powell. In late August 1968 the Undergrowth Of Literature visited R G Jones to cut a souvenir album (recorded in a single two hour session!) of their tour. Only four acetate copies were made, and the five tracks included herein have been culled from what appears to be the sole surviving copy.

Within a matter of weeks The Lost were reunited: now at law school, Bill Heath teamed up with another trainee solicitor, Dick Ellis, to write 'Ernest Seymour, The Man From 66c'. With Ellis guesting on piano, The Lost duly returned to Morden to record this surreal psychedelic pop nugget in which the lyrical dichotomy is matched by the rampant musical schizophrenia. Despite the group's high hopes, the track once again failed to secure a commercial release. 

By February 1969 The Lost had given way to Just Plain Smith, whose name was inspired (if that's the correct word) by a particularly surreal Chris Hatt dream. Hatt, Bill Heath and Mic Read followed Traffic's illustrious example of communal living; whilst the Berkshire poppies had been famously 'getting it together in the country', our intrepid trio had to settle for a rented bungalow called 'Oikos' in the Surrey stockbroker belt of Walton-on-Thames (Read's homegrown). A Just Plain Smith single, apparently limited to 500 copies, appeared on the local Sunshine label bearing an 'Oikos Production' credit. A Read ballad entitled 'February's Child' was backed by a revamped 'Don't Open Your Mind'; the former track once again featured Dick Ellis, whilst 'Don't Open Your Mind' included contributions from Patrick Hannay and a young EMI A&R man by the name of Tim Rice, who received a sleeve credit for backing vocals under the thinly-veiled alias of 'Mitsago'. By this stage Martin Hatt had 
been replaced by Chris Standring, who would resurface the following year with RCA's heavy rock act Horse, with percussion chores divided between Jake Walton and Dave Knight. The single is now a highly prized (and highly priced) artefact of the late 1960s, a

The Lost (UK) - Lost In Action

01 - What's The Mater (With You Baby)

02 - Gotta have A New Dress

03 - Bread Van

04 - Something To Us

05 - Swlabr

06 - Now

07 - Problems Of Day To Day Living

08 - Don't Open Your Mind

09 - Manic Depression

10 - High In The Sky

11 - The Times Are Gone

12 - Neighbour Neighbour

13 - Ernest Seymour, The Man From 66c

14 - Music To Eat Cakes By

15 - What's The Mater (With You Baby)

16 - Don't Open Your Mind

17 - Ernest Seymour, The Man From 66c

Originally known as Paradise Lost this band were formed in 1964 by Bill Heath whilst he was at Uppingham Public School in Rutland. The early line-up fluctuated quite a bit but eventually stabilised into 'A' above. They started out playing R&B and in August 1966 visited R.G. Jones' recording studio in Mordon, Surrey. The session produced a cover version of Neighbour, Neighbour, a recent Stax single by Jimmy Hughes, which was also recorded by The Spectres (a pre-Status Quo act) and a Rolling Stones'-influenced Bill Heath/Chris Hatt composition, Problems Of Day To Day Living, but neither recording made it onto vinyl. They were augmented for this session by Stu Taylor, who'd been with The Tornadoes and The Savages (Screaming Lord Sutch's band).

By 1967 they were known as simply The Lost and a seven track single-sided acetate album was cut at a Birmingham studio. The featured tracks were four Bill Heath/Chris Hatt compositions:- Problems Of Day To Day Living, Bread Van, The Times Are Gone and Something To Us; covers of The Rolling Stones' Spider And The Fly and Chuck Berry's Guitar Boogie and a Chris Hatt instrumental Lost In Paradise. Of their originals Something To Us was arguably the most complete.

The Lost then augmented their line-up with the recruitment of pianist Patrick Hannay and ex-Amber guitarist Mike Read. This new line-up returned to R.G. Jones' studio cutting two new tracks - the raw and primitive What's The Matter (With You Babe) and Don't Open Your Mind, but still there was no record company interest. Don't Open Your Mind was a pulsating number which they later re-recorded as Just Plain Smith.

In mid-1968 Heath and Walton departed to tour the world. The Hatt brothers teamed up with Charlie Adamson (who'd been one of the early drummers with Paradise Lost) and vocalist John Vaughan in a temporary band, Undergrowth Of Literature. Their tour manager was future Radio One disc jockey Peter Powell and they also cut an acetate album at R.G. Jones' studio.

The Lost had reformed by Autumn 1968, returning to R.G. Jones' studio to record a piece of pop-psychedelia, Ernest Seymour, The Man From 66c, but again it failed to secure a commercial release, although it was easily their most inventive recording. In mid-1969 they evolved into Just Plain Smith.

In 1994 Tenth Planet released a 14-track compilation of the band's material, Lost In Action, along with quite an extensive history of the band on the sleevenotes on which this article is based. Three of the finest moments:- What's The Matter (With You Babe), Don't Open Your Mind and Ernest Seymour, The Man From 66c were also re-recorded by the band as a limited edition single in December 1993, which came with the Tenth Planet album. The original recordings of these songs also can be found on Syde Trips, Vol. 2 (LP).

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