Bram Stoker

Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1 (1968) as Harris Tweed

- Peter Ballam (RIP 2019) -- guitar

- Anthony "Tony" Bronsdon -- keyboards

- Rob Haines -- drums, percussion

- Jet Harris -- bass


  line up 2 (1969-72) as Bram Stoker

- Peter Ballam (RIP 2019) -- guitar

- Jon Bavin -- bass, vocals

- Anthony "Tony" Bronsdon -- keyboards

- Rob Haines -- drums, percussion


  line up 3 (1972) 

NEW - Havye Coles -- guitar (replaced Peter Ballam)

NEW - Shela D'Arcy -- vocals

- Anthony "Tony" Bronsdon -- keyboards

- Rob Haines -- drums, percussion

NEW - Tony Lowe -- bass (replaced Jon Bavin)


  line up 4 (2004-2009)

- Jon Bavin -- bass, vocals

- Anthony "Tony" Bronsdon -- keyboards

NEW - Pat Flynn -- guitar (replaced Peter Ballam)

NEW- Pete Rumble -- drums, percussion (replaced Rob Haines)


  line up 5 (2009-2012)

NEW - Harvey Coles -- guitar (replaced Pat Flynn)

NEW - Shela D'Arcy -- vocals, bass (replaced Jon Bavin)

- Anthony "Tony" Bronsdon -- keyboards

NEW - Rob Haines -- drums, percussion


  line up 6 (2014)

- Anthony "Tony" Bronsdon -- keyboards

- Will Hack -- drums, percussion, vocals

- Tony Lowe -- guitar, bass


  line up 7 (2015-)

- Anthony "Tony" Bronsdon -- keyboards

NEW - Josphine Marls -- bass, guitar, vocals

NEW - Warren Marks -- drums, percussion

NEW - Neil Richardson -- guitar, bass





- Pete Ballam (solo efforts)

- The Crescendoes (Pete Ballam)

- Fay Wray (Neil Richardson)

- The Feel (Rob Haines)

- Freedom Village Rob Haines)

- Kaptom All Stars (Pete Ballam)

- Renaissance Faire (Tony Bronsdon)

- The Trappers (Pete Ballam)




Genre: rock

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Heavy Rock Spectacular

Company: Windmill

Catalog: WMD117

Year: 1972

Country/State: Bournemouth, UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: UK pressing

Available: 1

Catalog ID: not yet listed

Price: $150.00


Long a UK mystery act ...  Their one and only LP, 1972's "Heavy Rock Spectacular" was released on the small, London-based budget Wind Mill label that was distributed in England through the Woolworths discount store chain.  Much of the information on the band is just plain wrong - example, they were a bunch of studio musicians out to make a little spending money with a throwaway release.


Turns out these guys were a real performing group. Calling the Southern England coastal town of Bournemouth home, guitarist Peter Ballam and drummer Rob Haines had a couple of years experience playing together in local bands. In 1968 they united with former Renaissance Faire, classically trained keyboard player Tony Brondson.  Future manager Vince Silver connected the trio with former Shadows bassist Jet Harris, resulting in the formation of Harris Tweed.  Musical difference and an incident where Harris rode a horse into the rehearsal space of a local youth club in the process destroying the parquet floor, saw them quickly split with the volatile Harris, but within a couple of months they had recruited singer/bassist Jon Bavin and adopted the new moniker Bram Stoker.  Borrowed from their website, here's what happened next:


Before setting out on the road they rehearsed throughout that summer in a dis-used nightclub in Poole. It was to be the start of a busy schedule. One of the early gigs was as support act for the Who at Bournemouth Pavilion. Roger Daltry front man of the Who, asked for details of the band and invited them to record a demo album at his home in Berkshire. A few months later Bram Stoker was signed up to an independent label owned by Rolling Stones manager Tony Calder. From the vast circuit of clubs, colleges, universities and festivals (booked to play at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970 with Jimi Hendrix and others) throughout the UK the band developed the loyal following as cult artistes they are today.


I've seen various high priced collector's sales lists label the album as being psych or progressive.  I'll admit that the ominous 'Blitz' and closing numnber 'Poltergeist' had progressive leanings, but those were largely exceptions to the rule. That made this one of those rare cases of truth in advertising, the album title being a more accurate description of the overarching sound.  With all eight tracks credited to keyboardist Tony Bronsdon, material such as 'Born To Be Free', the instrumental 'Ants' and 'Extensive Corrosion' were Hammond organ and guitar powered rockers.  Imagine ELP, The Nice, or Uriah Heep hanging out with early Deep Purple and you'll get a feel for the overall sound.  This was actually one of those albums where it was fun to play "spot the influences" from song to song.  Not to take away any credit from the band since their performances where uniformly impressive and enjoyable.  Sporting great melodies, enthusiastic performances and surprisingly strong production for an album that was recorded in the span of a couple of days, this band could have given many better known early-1970s' bands a run for their collective money.  Bronsdon's playing was on a par with the late Vincent Crane, or Keith Emerson.  Guitarist Ballam's work was consistently tasteful, while Bavin's bass work was tuneful and served as the band's secret sauce.  Check out his lead work on the opener 'Born To Be Free'. Elsewhere, the standout track came in the form of  the darkly atmospheric 'Blitz'. I can't think of another band inspired to write a song by an air raid -  makes me happy to have never experienced such an event.  Nothing here is going to  change your life drastically, but its better than a lot of the better known big ticket items being hyped right and left.  


While the album failed to sell the continued to tour, finding they still had English and Dutch fans..  Guitarist Ballam lost his voice and suffering from exhaustion, bowed out.  Harvey Coles was brought in as a replacement but was apoor fit.  Next to go was bassist Bavin, briefly replaced by Tony Lowe.  Finally Haines turned in his resignation, at which point Bronsdon called it quits. No singles, no follow up LP ...  this was it for the band's original discography.   Well, until 2004 ...


"Heavy Music Spectacular" track listing:

(side 1)

1.) Born To Be Free  (Tony Bronsdon) - 3:43  rating: **** stars

Courtesy of John Bavin, 'Born To Be Free' opened up with some of the most melodic bass I've ever heard.  Imagine Jack Bruce giving up his meandering jazz tastes for a hard rock sound and you'd get a feel for this one.  Peter Ballam also got a shot at the spotlight.  That left Tony Bronsdon's organ to fill the edges.

2.) Ants (instrumental)  (Tony Bronsdon) - 3:45  rating: **** stars

The instrumental "Ants" was one of the tracks where I could hear a comparison to The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, or specifically to the work of keyboardist Vincent Crane.  In this case Bronsdon's Hammond work bore more than a passing resemblance to Crane's work.  Tuneful, but still quite rocking' with Ballam turning in an awesome effects treated solo - be interested in knowing how he got the pesudo-sitar sound.  Wish it had not faded out so soon.

3.) Fast Decay (instrumental)  (Tony Bronsdon) - 3:49  rating: **** stars

Geez, did I slap on an Emerson, Lake and Palmer album by mistake?   Powered by Brondson's classically inspired Hammond work it was easy to hear ELP influences in the mix.  Once again, Ballam's tuneful and understated guitar provided the highlights.  Brondson's admitted that on this one he was "inspired" by  Bach's Toccato and Fugue In D Minor.

4.) Blitz  (Tony Bronsdon) - 5:33  rating: **** stars

Okay, opening up with what sounded like a distant air raid siren and then some truly ominous ever intensifying sound effects, 'Blitz' deserved to be tagged as a progressive effort.  The tune also gave Bronsdon and Ballam an opportunity to showcase some of their prettiest work.  At the same time you got to hear what an impressive rhythm section Bavin and Haines were.  Only complaint - the vocals were buried in the mix.


(side 2)

1.) Idiot  (Tony Bronsdon) - 4:35   rating: *** stars

'Idiot' has always made me think of Arthur Brown.  It wasn't that Bavin sounded anything like Brown (in fact you were left to wonder if he was going to make it through the song without running out of air), but the song's goofy lyric and the overall "circus" vibe were strange in an Arthur-Brown fashion.

2.) Fingals Cave (instrumental)  (Tony Bronsdon) - 7:42   rating: *** stars

Borrowing at least a little from Mendelssohn's 'Hebrides Overture' the instrumental 'Fingals Cave' bore a distinctive classifcal feel, serving as  a Bronsdon spotlight moment.  Parts of it were quite lovely and technically it was very impressive, but like much of Focus, or The Nice catalogs, if ultimately kind of ponderous.  Speaking of Focus, Ballam's jazzy moves reminded me a bit of Jan Akkerman's work with Focus.

3.) Extensive Corrosion  (Tony Bronsdon) - 4:19   rating: *** stars

I'm a sucker for romantic titles ...  'Extensive Corrosion' was one of the album's more commercial tunes, allowing the band to jam, but without going to any extremes.

4.) Poltergeist  (Tony Bronsdon) - 4:35   rating: *** stars

In an interview with It's Pyschedelic Baby, Bronsdon describe this one as "so we wrote a spooky sounding song called 'Poltergeist'.  Hearing this song some some 40 years after it was recorded, I'm not sure I would categorize it as spooky.  To be honest, even in 1972 the harmony vocals ensured it wasn't really scary.  It does have a nice progressive melody and Bronsdon got to showcase his skills on the tune.




No idea if the band benefited from any of the subsequent reissues.  In 1999 Peter Sarfas' UK Audio Archive released the album in the CD format under the title "Schizo-Poltergeist" (Audio Archives catalog number AACD 023).  In 2000 the Italian Black Widow label reissued it in vinyl, restoring the original title and artwork (Black Widon catalog BWR 042).  Almost certainly done without band approval, Arkarma released it in CD format in 2003.  For some reason Arkama changed the running order (Arkarma catalog number AK 257).  I'll stop there.  By my count there have been at least four subsequent reissues.






In 2004 Bavin and Bronsdon reformed Bram Stoker, recruiting new members Pat Flynn on guitar and  Pete Rumble on drums.  As of 2019 Bronsdon was the only remaining original member.



I've never heard any of them, but since reforming in 2004, the band has released a string of four studio albums - I'm not sure which are available as CDs, versus digital releases:


- 2007's "Rock Paranoia" was basically a re-issued version of "Heavy Rock Spectacular" with the addition of two bonus tracks - and early Bram Stoker cover of 'Scarborough Faire'' and the instrumental 'Illusion Collusion' (Digimix Records catalog number DGMIX 113)


- 2014's "Cold Reading" (Sunn Creative Records catalog number SUNC 1301)


- 2017's "Bete Noire" (Thoroughbred Music - four track EP)


- 2019's "No Reflection" (Bram CD catalog number BRAMCD 18001)




The band has a website at:


After an extended illlness, in June, 2019 guitarist Ballam passed on.  He had a website at:


I also found an interesting interview Bronsdon did with Psychedelic Baby Magazine: