Band members Related acts
- Simon Byrne -- vocals, drums, percussion
- Henry Marsh – vocals, guitar, keyboards
- John Perry – vocals, bass
- Casey Synge – vocals
- Caravan (John Perry)
- Curved Air (John Perry)
- Jump (Jhn Perry)
- Quantum (John Perry)
Sailor (Henry Marsh)
- Spreadeagle (John Perry)
- Thunerthighes (Casey Synge)
- Toast (Simon Byrne, Henry Marsh and John Perry)
Rating: 3 stars ***
Country/State: Somerset, UK
Grade (cover/record): VG / VG
Comments: sample copy sticker on back cover; minor ring and edge wear; three radio station stamps on cover (KCOE-FM)
GEMM catalog ID: 5255
Simon Byrne, guitarist Henry Marsh and bassist
John Perry started their musical collaboration in the Somerset-based
beat band Utopia. By the late 1960s they’d mutated into the band Toast,
cutting a one-shot 1970 45 for CBS (‘Flowers Never Bend with the
Rainfall’ b/w ‘Summer of Miranda’ (CBS catalog number CBS-4786).
Within a matter of months the band underwent another transition,
adding singer Casey Synge to the line up and dropping the ‘Toast’
moniker to become Gringo.
Hitting the road, the band eventually ended up working on the French Rivera (tough job). Returning to the UK they continued to tour, opening for the likes of Barclay James Harvest and Caravan. The resulting publicity led to a deal with Decca and the release of 1971’s cleverly titled “Gringo”. Produced by Tony Cox, the results offered up an interesting mix of British progressive and pop moves. Featuring group-penned material, tracks like ‘Cry the Beloved Country’ and ‘More and More’ offered up an engaging mixture of complex structures, occasionally interesting lyrics, coupled with strong melodies and nifty harmony vocals (frequently within the same song). They were also capable of writing and performing straight out commercial material. ‘Emma and Harry’ and would have sounded great on top-40 radio. On the surface that may not have sounded particularly inspiring, but the results were actually surprisingly original and worthwhile. All four members had decent voices, with Synge exhibiting a multi-octave range that occasionally recalled a rougher Maddy Prior (check out the backward tape segment on ‘Our Time Is Our Time’), while Marsh displayed some excellent guitar moves (a nice sample of his dexterity is found on ‘Gently Step Through the Stream’). Imagine Caravan-lite, or Curved Air with an itch for a top-40 hit and you’ll get a feel for the band’s repertoire. Decca/MCA also tapped the album for a single in the form of ‘I’m Another Man’ b/w ‘Soft Mud’ (MCA catalog number MKS-5067). Unfortunately, Decca’s growing business problems saw the band all but ignored in terms of promotional support.
Following their breakup the band members went on to various outside projects.
Bryne hooked up with Brotherhood of Man and went into sessions work.
Marsh reappeared as a member of Sailor.
Perry proved the most active, initially joined Spreadeagle, followed by
stints in Caravan, Quantum, Jump, and Curved Air.
Synge became an in-demand sessions singer before she reappeared in
Thunderthighs (interesting name for a female trio).
"Gringo" track listing:
the Beloved Country (Simon
Byrne - Henry Marsh - John Perry - Casey Synge) – 5:50
I’m Another Man (Simon
Byrne - Henry Marsh - John Perry - Casey Synge) – 4:15
and More (Simon Byrne -
Henry Marsh - John Perry - Casey Synge) – 3.) 4:40
4.) Our Time Is Our Time (Simon Byrne - Henry Marsh - John Perry - Casey Synge) – 5:00
Emma and Harry (Simon
Byrne - Henry Marsh - John Perry - Casey Synge) – 3:55
Moonstone (Simon Byrne -
Henry Marsh - John Perry - Casey Synge) – 4:30
Land of Who Knows Where (Simon
Byrne - Henry Marsh - John Perry - Casey Synge) – 4:05
5.) Patriotic Song (Simon Byrne - Henry Marsh - John Perry - Casey Synge) – 5:10
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Was this band Gringo ?
Basically, yes, although we went through different names. It started out as Utopia, a five-piece copy band doing all the hits from the Beatles and the Searchers and lots of stuff playing at college and parties. Everybody in the band had been at private school and sung in the choir, so it was a terrific vocal band. We used to do wonderful renditions of Beach Boys songs, we were really rather good at that. It was basically the same band all the way through, the three of us : Henry Marsh on guitar and keyboards, Simon Byrne on drums and myself... That first band unfortunately split when everybody went their way. I went off to become a farming student, working on different dairy farms in the West country of England. But I kept in contact with Henry and Simon, and they approached me one day, saying they'd have a year off in their studies, and would I join them to form a new band, you know, rather than go grape-picking in France, which I thought would be wonderful... I actually had also decided to have a year off before I was going to go up to the Royal Agricultural College in Cirencester. So we elected to get this band together, which was called Toast. We hired one of the farmers' cottages, locked ourselves away and worked very hard, rehearsing or whatever, built up a repertoire and then we came up to London, and three months later we're on television ! The show was 'Colour Me Pop' and we did three songs on that... So none of us went back to college, and we all carried on in a musical career.
Did Gringo achieve any sort of commercial success ?
Yes, we did have some success, we had this American girl who was with us for a while, and we lived down in Saint Tropez for three months. We worked in the Club Voom-Voom, it was a live music club rather than the discotheque it is now. It was owned by a guy who also had a beach and a rather nice villa which we lived in, on the way to Plage Tahiti. And we were there, working for three months and writing this first, one and only Gringo album... It was a good band, there's some original stuff on that album. We eventually split up in 1971, after four years, because by then we were going in different directions, and it naturally came to an end. We'd grown out of each other I think. But we had a wonderful time together, for four years. What was great in those days was that we were able to play six nights a week in different clubs. We didn't get paid a lot of money, but we didn't need so much. Because we had exactly the same line-up and the same equipment as Cream, the early days of Cream, you know, a Marshall stack each, and we could get all our equipment and one roadie into our Four-Transit, travelling around Britain and Europe, and learning what we were doing. The expression is "paying your dues", and this is what we did. And it was fantastic, for four years to do that, we learnt a lot. We spent quite a lot of time in Europe, playing in Holland and Germany... After Gringo split up, Henry went on to play with a band called Sailor with Curt Becher, Phil Pickett and Georg Kajanus, which was hugely popular and is just reforming I understand... And Simon Byrne, a very good drummer, he went on to play with Brotherhood of Man, which was very successful, and various other bands like that.
I understand Gringo toured with Caravan a couple of years
before you actually joined the band ?
Yes, they were headlining a tour with Barclay James Harvest, at the time Caravan were promoting "In The Land Of Grey And Pink". We were there a sort of opening act, and got to know both bands and kept in touch with them. It was a good tour actually, very successful, cause Caravan were very well-known in the South of England and BJH were very well-known in the North of England, so all the way round the country we had the crowds and stuff, so for us that was taking us out of the small clubs into concert halls and theaters and stuff like that, so that was a good experience for us. But then we decided to split up and I was invited to join Spreadeagle, and played with them for about six months. They'd actually recorded an album before I joined, and they'd lost their bass player. I actually got in touch with them through Tony Cox, who'd produced the Gringo album and nowadays does a lot of arranging for Andrew Lloyd-Weber... Anyway, nice guys, I still keep in contact with them, highly talented, very original people. I learned a lot from them. In terms of musical style, they were difficult to describe, to pigeonhole - slightly poppy, slightly jazz, slightly rocky... A good band, a wonderful drummer called Jimmy Copley.
Then... Caravan !
I had just started with Spreadeagle really when I received a phonecall from Pye Hastings, asking would I join. As you can imagine, I said yes extremely quickly ! It was quite a blow, actually, a huge compliment, because they were a very well established band, with audiences around the world which loved them, and for me it was such an opportunity to actually... break, you know. Musically, I'd always loved Caravan. What I loved about their music was that it had good structures, and at the same time had room to grow. It was a band which had the ability to, when they were playing live, to really expand the music, and react to the audiences rather than just playing a song night after night. I loved the freedom that was within it, yet with those strange time signatures which they seemed to play entirely naturally... and of course the sense of humour. The guys were just so unpretentious, they were just normal guys who were only in it for the music. And for me it was a very good time to join because they'd expanded the line-up by adding Geoffrey Richardson on viola and flute, a hugely talented man. And David Sinclair, who'd left the band a couple of years before, came back to the band at the time I joined as well. So I had the best of both worlds, it was a new Caravan, but with the essence of the old. Obviously lacking Richard Sinclair who I replaced, an immense talent on bass guitar, writing and voice... but I like to think that Geoffrey and I, we were at least the 25 percent remaining they'd lost with Richard going to form his own band...
So you recorded the "For Girls Who Grow Plump In The
Night" album. Nice memories of that ?
Sure, it was great working with Dave Hitchcock, a very nice producer to work with, a clever guy actually, he knew the band well, and how to get the best out of us I think... Certainly one of the most underrated producers ever - and now one of the best accountants ! I'd like to think that this album we did was almost on a par but different from "In The Land Of Grey And Pink".
Would you have liked to contribute a bit more to the
actual songwriting ?
Well, I was very fortunate to be able to contribute anything at all, really, because you know, the style of the band was very much generated by David Sinclair and Pye Hastings. Of course the contribution of Richard Sinclair was a great loss, but I think Pye and David certainly made up for it. And to be given the opportunity to actually contribute to some of the songwriting was quite a thrill. I didn't expect to do more than I was actually asked to, really. And I was able to sing as well, a bit of lead singing, a lot of backing singing, which was great.