Beggars Opera

Band members                              Related acts

  line up 1 (1969-70)

- Ricky Gardiner -- lead vocals, lead guitar

- Martin Griffiths -- lead vocals, percussion

- Marshal Erskine -- bass, flute

- Alan Park -- keyboards

- Raymond Wilson -- drums, percussion


  line up 2 (1971-72)

- Ricky Gardiner -- lead vocals, lead guitar

- Martin Griffiths -- lead vocals, percussion

- Alan Park -- keyboards

NEW - Virginia Scott -- synthesizers, backing vocals

- Raymond Wilson -- drums, percussion


  line up 3 (1972)

- Ricky Gardiner -- lead vocals, lead guitar

- Martin Griffiths -- lead vocals, percussion

- Alan Park -- keyboards

NEW - Gordon Sellar -- bass, vocals (replaced  Marshal Erskine), 

- Raymond Wilson -- drums, percussion


  line up 4 (1973-74)

- Ricky Gardiner -- lead guitar, vocals

- Alan Park -- keyboards, 1969-?),  

- Gordon Sellar -- bass, backing vocals, 

NEW - Linnie Patterson -- lead vocals (replaced Martin Griffiths)

NEW - Colin Fairlie -- drums, percussion (replaced 

  Raymond Wilson)


  supporting musicians:

- Virginia Scott -- synthesizers, backing vocals


  line up 5 (1974-79)

- Ricky Gardiner -- lead guitar, vocals

- Virginia Scott -- synthesizers, backing vocals



- The Jack Anderson Band

- The Argonauts

- Auschwitz

- The Bliss Band (Alan Parker)

- The Alan Bown

- The Tony Crane Band

- Dragonfly

- Joe Fagin

- Fatherhood

- The Feramones

- The Flood

- Gilgamesh

- The Harlem Shuffle

- The Alex Harvey Band (Gordon Sellar)

- Kelly

- Manfred Mann's Earth Band

- Leslie McKeowen & Egotrip

- Ronnie Paisley Band

- Ian Pop

- Precious Life

- The Projection

- Savoy Brown

- The Spoilers

- Stealer's Wheel

- The String Drive Thing (Colin Fairlie)

- The System

- Tiger

- The Vipers

- The Vostocks

- Rick Wakeman

- Writing On the Wall (Linnie Patterson)




Genre: progressive

Rating: 4 stars ****

Title:  Act One

Company: Verve

Catalog: V6-5080

Year: 1972

Country/State: Glasgow, Scotland

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: gatefold sleeve; small punch hole


Catalog ID:  30967

Price: $100.00


Best time to play:





"Act One" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) POet and Peasant   (Suppe - arranged by Beggars Opera) - 7:10

2.) Passcaglia  (Erskin - Scott) - 7:04

3.) Memory  (Erskin - Scott) - 7:04


(side 2)
Raymond's Road   (Beggars Operat) - 11:49

2.) Light Calvary   (Suppe - arranged by Beggars Opera) - 11;57


Genre: progressive

Rating: 4 stars ****

Title:  Waters of Change

Company: Vertigo

Catalog: 6360 054

Year: 1972

Country/State: Glasgow, Scotland

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: gatefold sleeve


Catalog ID:  267

Price: $110.00


Best time to play:  Rainy Sunday mornings; preferably when you don't have a hangover



While I liked the debut Beggars Opera LP, I found "Act One" a bit heavy on the classical influences and the pretense factor.   Against that backdrop, 1972's "Waters of Change" reflected a nice change of pace.  Yeah, there were still dollops of classical influences scattered throughout the album ('Silver Peacock Intro'), but this time around the project came off as more of group effort with Park's excesses reigned in and the band staking out a far more original and commercial approach.   Tracks like 'Time Machine' and 'Silver Peacock' were certainly progressive in sound and approach, but the band members (including synthesizer player Karen Scott who'd been made a full member after participating on the debut), all seemed to have an appreciation for openness and commercial potential.  Speaking of pretense, this is going to sound dweeby, but integrating Scott in the band gave them a much fuller sound with the combination of her mellotron and keyboardist Alan Park generating some beautiful fills throughout the album.  The collection also introduced new bass player Gordon Sellar who took over from Marshall Erskine.


Another one of those albums that grows on you and the overall album is far better than the individual songs.



full album sleeve


"Waters of Change" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Time Machine   (Alan Park - Ricky Gardiner - Martin Griffiths) - 8:06   rating: **** stars

So what to say about the opener 'Time Machine'?  It took a moment to shake its way out of the opening aural clutter, but once it emerged, I loved the intricate mellotron powered renaissance melody which sounded like Jethro Tull having just finished a masters thesis in classical music.  Throw in some first rate lead guitar from Ricky Gardiner; a touch of Procol Harum-styled organ from Alan Park and this had the makings of a fantastic rock-meets-progressive number.   And it was good, but would have been even better were if not for Martin Griffiths' leering vocals.   There was just something in his clipped delivery that irritated me beyond words    In spite of that criticism, the eight minutes when by quickly and it was easily one of the album highlights.    

2.) Lament (instrumental)   (Alan Park - Raymond Wilson) - 2:24   rating: **** stars

Opening with some Park church organ and Raymond Wilson's martial snare drum, 'Lament' could not have been a better titled composition.  Dark and forlorn, it was the perfect soundtrack for someone's funeral ...   Great tune.  

3.) I've No Idea   (Alan Park - Martin Griffiths) - 7:42   rating: **** stars

Aside from the Average White Band, you wouldn't think a Scottish progressive band could get funky ... okay I'm using the term loosely.  Still, when it got going 'I've No Idea' connected a couple of killer hooks and generated quite a bit of energy.  Thee interplay between Park's keyboards and Gardiner's guitar was particularly good, with the latter turning in the album's best guitar solos.  Even Griffith's sleazy voice (used car anyone ?), sounded okay on this one.

4.) Nimbus (instrumental)   (Ricky Gardiner - Martin Griffiths - Gordon Sellar) - 3:43   rating: *** stars

A dark and slightly ominous instrumental, 'Nimbus' was actually quite pretty and would have made a nice piece of incidental film music.   For me it captures the same stark and lonely feeling as Mark Knopfler's "Local Hero" soundtrack, which I consider a high compliment..


(side 2)
Festival   (Marshall Erskine - Alan Park - Martin Griffiths) - 6:00   rating: *** stars

With former bass player Marshall Erskine's sharing the writing credit and responsible for the flute solo and bass, I'm guessing 'Festival' was a leftover from the debut LP.  Opening up with a nice keyboard and bass pattern (very ELP-ish), the song was a bouncy track with a strange, almost medieval feel.  Easy to picture jesters bouncing around a town square performing this one (assuming they had electric instruments).  The song  also showcased the band's seldom heard talent for harmony vocals.  Quirky, but quite nice ...  

2.) Silver Peacock Intro (instrumental)   (Karen Scott - Alan Park - Martin Griffiths) - 1:15   rating: ** stars

After a brief narrative introduction, as the title indicated, 'Silver Peacock Intro' displayed Park's dazzlingly fast classically inspired keyboards.   Nothing spectacular which made you wonder what the main track was going to sound like.

3.) Silver Peacock   (Karen Scott - Alan Park - Martin Griffiths) - 6:33   rating: **** stars

Luckily, in spite of some way out there lyrics, 'Silver Peacock' was one of the band's prettier, more atmospheric songs with a great melody, plenty of Scott's understated mellotron and some nice acoustic guitar from Gardiner.  

4.) Impromptu (instrumental)  (Karen Scott - Ricky Gardiner) - 1:08   rating: *** stars

'Impromptu' was a brief instrumental section showcasing cello and acoustic guitar.  Pretty, but inconsequential.  

5.) The Fox  (Karen Scott - Ricky Gardiner - Martin Griffiths) - 6:52   rating: **** stars

'The Fox' offered up a strange, but fascinating mash-up of English folk, jazz-rock and progressive moves.  Apparently the tale of a fox hunt (told from both the perspective of the fox and the hunters), it was actually far better than you would have expected with each member of the band  given a chance to stretch out - bassist Sellar and Park were particularly good.  Yeah, I felt bad for the fox.



Genre: progressive

Rating: 4 stars ****

Title:  Pathfinder

Company: Vertigo

Catalog: 6360 073

Year: 1972

Country/State: Glasgow, Scotland

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: gatefold sleeve


Catalog ID:  30210

Price: $200.00


1972 saw Beggars Opera undergo a personnel shake-up with original  bassist Marshal Erskine replaced by Gordon Sellar.  The band subsequently released their  third studio album "Pathfinder". Self-produced, the collection found the group shifting musical direction.  While the set may have lacked the thematic grandeur of their earlier catalog, the new song -oriented direction wasn't without charms.  First the bad news.  No idea who thought it would be a good idea to cover Jimmy Webb's 'MacArthur Park'.  Even though they tried to "heavy up" the tune, it was one of those ideas that looked better on paper than in execution.  Then there was the just plain goofy closer 'Mrs. Doubtfire'.    The remaining six tracks covered a great deal of musical territory, but since II have pretty conventional musical tastes, I have to admit I quite enjoyed the variety.  For longstanding fans the instrumental 'Stretcher' and their tribute to Joan of Arc 'The Witch' retained elements of their progressive roots, but avoided the complex wonk factor in favor of a tighter, more mainstream approach.  Released as a promotional single 'Hobo' and the title track were convention, radio-friendly rockers.  'From Shark to haggis' was the album's strangest and most interesting performance, morphing from atmospheric knife fight to Scottish barn jig.  Was this a classic release?  Nah.  There was just too much competing talent for this to be a "must own" set, but lead singer Griifths was consistently impressive (he managed to play it straight on 'MacArthur Park' and the rest of the band were consistent and tight throughout.  Special?  No.  Enjoyable?  Yes.


And a word about the album cover - I'm lucky enough to own an original Vertigo copy that includes the Peter Goodfellow designed cover.  The thing unfolds into a stunning six panel poster that is simply stunning.


"Pathfinder" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Hobo   (Alan Park) - 4:40  rating: **** stars

Showcasing Griffith's likeable voice and Park's keyboards, 'Hobo' started the album off with an unexpected bouncy and surprisingly commercial performance.  If it was a progressive tune, it qualified for that distinction by the skin of its teeth.  Taken from Griffiths' liner notes: "... the sad story of a dying tramp - the tempo lazy, almost hypnotic and then in our dreamlike state we are launched in the opening bars of Jim Webb's classic ..."  On the other hand, Vertigo thought enough about the song to release it as a promotional single in the UK and a commercial 45 in the progressive hotbed of Portugal.

- 1972's 'Hobo' b/w 'Pathfinder' (Vertigo catalog number 6059 060)

2.) MacArthur Park   (Richard Harris) - 8:20   rating: ** stars

The Richard Harris original is one of my first radio memories and even as a kid I can remember disliking the tune.  Their extended cover version didn't do much to change my mind.  The Beggars Opera rendtion stayed pretty true to the original melody, complete with harpsichord fills.  Griffith's somehow managed to mouth the over-the-top lyrics with busting out laughing.  Griffith's comments: "A totally new approach and arrangement by the group with the addition of harpsichord and a taste of mellotron."

3.) The Witch   (Virginia Scott - Ricky Gardiner)  - 8:20  rating: **** stars

Thanks largely to Alan Park's keyboards, 'The Witch' was the album's most progressive-sounding performance.  It may also be the best tune ever written to commemorate Joan of Arc's horrific burning at the stake.  A martyr at nineteen.  And yes, I'll be the first to admit there's something strange when I find myself humming the refrain "we burned her at the stake, forgive us our mistake".  "A blood curdling scream sets the scene for the last track, first side -- a tale from the dark past of witch burning - a track not the be heard last thing at night."


(side 2)

1.) Pathfnder   (Ricky Gardiner) - 5:26   rating: *** stars

Penned by lead guitarist Gardiner, the title track has always reminded me of something out of the Deep Purple catalog.  I'm a Deep Purple fan so that comparison didn't bother me, though I'm not sure the band's original progressive cadre were as enthralled by their new musical direction.  Gardiner turned in some nice lead guitar on this one.   "True to its name, it is totally different from anything Beggars Opera have done before."

2.) From Shark To Haggis   (Virginia Scott - Ricky Gardiner) - 6:38  rating: **** stars

Am I the only listener who feels like they've stumbled into a West Side Story knife fight between The Jets and The Sharks?  Very atmospheric with Gardiner turning in a killer guitar solo that out of the blue transitions the song into a Celtic jig.  Nice tribute to their Scottish roots, but talk about an abrupt change in direction ... "... strange name, but listen -- as the number unfolds from the sly menacing mood of the Shark to the raucous Scottish jig accompanied by drunken yells - we understand."

3.) Stretcher  (instrumental)   (Ricky Gardiner) - 4:50

The instrumental 'Stretcher' opened with some classically-inspired Park keyboards before shifting into a platform for Gardiner to display some of his prettiest work.  "The mood changes again. A corral of guitars points a relaxed sleeplike melody from which we are abruptly awakened to herald the enterance of Madame Doubtfire."

4.) Madame Doubtfire   (Martin Griffiths - McFeddries - Ricky Gardiner) - 4:15   rating: ** stars

Opening up with some rollicking  Park organ, I have no idea if 'Madame Doubtfire' was intended to scare the crap out of listeners, or make them laugh themselves silly.  I guess it had some sort of satanic theme ("sister of Satan"), but the over-the-top meltdown effects that led to the song's final collapse have always made me think Spinal Tap.  "In the studio every possible  instrument was used to create thus devilised composition from sheet thunder in the toilet to an enormous bell which brings to a close an album of contrast and interest."



Genre: rock

Rating: 2 stars **

Title:  Get Your Dog Off of Me

Company: Vertigo

Catalog: 6360 090

Year: 1973

Country/State: Glasgow, Scotland

Grade (cover/record): VG/VG+

Comments: cutout 'x' mark on back cover; sticker residue on cover

Available: SOLD 

Catalog ID: SOLD 5164

Price: SOLD $15.00


Even though they had a fairly extensive recording catalog, Scotland's Beggars Opera remained complete unknowns to American audiences (and not all that the well known outside of their native Scotland).  




The disappointing sales of 1972's "Pathfinder" saw the band begin to polarize into different camps with different artistic visions.  It also saw original singer Martin Griffiths and drummer Ray Wilson tender their notices.  Former Writing on the Wall singer Linnie Patterson and journeyman drummer Colin Fairley were recruited as replacements.  Self-produced, 1973's "Get Your Dog Off Me!" typically gets slammed as the little more than the revamped band's creative last gasp.  It clearly wasn't as original, or enjoyable as the three earlier studio sets, but it wasn't a total washout either.  Patterson wasn't as immediately likeable as Griffiths had been, but his voice was just as versatile, capable of handling everything from routine boogie rockers, to more challenging arrangements.  The album also benefited from the unofficial return of synthesizer player Virginia Scott to the lineup.  Though she wasn't listed on the band roster, Scott received special credit in the liner notes and was responsible for two of the ten tracks ('Freestyle Ladies' and 'Morning Day').  So what did this puppy sound like?  Well longstanding fans were probably appalled by the band's decision to largely abandon their earlier progressive roots in favor of a more mainstream pop and rock orientation.  That opened the door to taking stabs at a wide variety of genres that never would have been contemplated in the past, including country-rock ('Get Your Dog Off of Me') , pop 'La-di-da'), and bluesy-rocker (Working Man').  Sure, artistically it was clearly a sellout, but you couldn't really blame them for a marketing decision like this one.  After all, the first three LPs won critical raves, but didn't sell worth squat and musicians need to eat.  


"Get Your Dog Off of Me" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Get Your Dog Off of Me   (Alan Park - Ainsworth) -    rating: **** stars

With an instantly memorable melody and nice vocal from Linnie Paterson, the title track was a top notch country-rock performance.  Upbeat, funny, and highly commercial, this one should have been tapped as a single.

2.) Freestyle Ladies   (Virginia Scott) -    rating: ** stars

Penned by Scott, 'Freestyle Ladies' was a pedestrian boogie rocker number.  I've certainly heard worse, but this one just lacked much in the originality.  Ricky Gardiner's guitar was probably the best thing on the album.

3.) Open Letter   (Robert Smith) -    rating: **** stars

One of the standout tracks, 'Open Letter' was a mid-tempo rocker with a great melody and wonderful harmony vocals.  Paterson rough hewn voice shone on this one, while Scott's voice was clearly heard on backing chorus.   Very nice.  

4.) Morning Day   (Virginia Scott) -  rating: *** stars

Scott's second contribution, 'Morning Day' opened up with a nice Gordon Sellar bass pattern and unfolded into a decent country-rock number.  Pretty melody with some nice group harmonies on the chorus.   

5.) Requiem  (instrumental)  (Ricky Gardiner) -  rating: *** stars

One of the few nods to their past, side one close with the atmospheric instrumental 'Requiem' .  Written by Gardiner, the track also showcased his arching guitar.  Beautiful performance, but it was very short.    


(side 2)
1.) Classical Gas (instrumental)   (Mason Williams) -   rating: ** stars

Slowed down and given a classical edge with the addition of Alan Park's harpsichord and Scott's synthesizers, their cover of Mason William's 'Classical Gas' was fun, but hardly improved on the original.  It actually sounded like something that Focus might have concocted ...   It was also tapped as a European single.  





1974's 'Classical Gas' b/w 'Sweet Blossomed Woman' / 'Requiem' (Vertigo catalog  number 6059 105)   







2.) Sweet Blossom Woman   (Mick Grabham) -  rating: *** stars

The first couple of times I heard it 'Sweet Blossom Woman' didn't do a great deal for me.  To be honest, it struck me as a routine country-rock number with an ill advised dollop of synthesizers.  And unexpectedly one day when I had the album on and wasn't paying all that much attention the song jumped out at me.  Yeah, it was a country-rock number but the performance was exceptionally energetic and Paterson turned in one of his best vocals.  

3.) Turn Your Money Green   (Alan Park - Ainsworth) -    rating: **** stars

'Turn Your Money Green' started out as a pretty atmospheric instrumental, before morphing into a nice Southern rock ballad.  Funny to think that a Scottish band could pull that move off.  Most probably couldn't do it.  

4.) La-di-da   (Linnie Paterson - Colin Fairlie - Alan Park - Gordon Sellar - Ricky Gardiner) -    rating: **** stars

The group-penned 'La-di-da ' was easily their most commercial outing.  With a giddy refrain this one had everything required for top-40 success, making you scratch your head and wonder why 'Classical Gas' was tapped instead.    

5.) Working Man   (Gordon Sellar - Ainsworth) -  rating: *** stars

'Working Man' ended the album with a nifty blues-rocker.  The surprise on this one was Paterson who demonstrated a previous unheard capacity for belting it out.  Taunt and tough, it was unlike anything heard on their earlier releases.  





The album proved another commercial flop and the band subsequently called it quits.  Guitarist Gardiner and synthesizer player Scott decided to continue their collaboration, quickly reactivating the band name and recording a pair if mid-1970s albums that only saw a German release:


- 1974's "Sagittary" (Jupiter catalog number 27 691 XAT)

- 1970's "Beggars Can't Be Choosers"  (Jupiter catalog number 27 702 XAT)


A couple of years later bassist Sellar used the band name to release what was essentially a solo enterprise:


- 1980's "Lifeline"  (Vertigo catalog number  6435 060)