John Speedy Keen (RIP)

Band members                             Related acts

- John Speedy Keen (RIP 2002) -- vocals, drums 


  supporting musicians (1973)

- Jimmy McCulloch (RIP) -- guitar


- The Eccentrics

- The Kresaders

- The Second Thought (John Keen)

- Thunderclap Newman

- Los Tomcats






Genre: rock

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Previous Convections

Company:  Track/MCA

Catalog: MCA 331

Country/State: Ealing, UK

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: cut lower right corner

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 273

Price: $20.00


Best time to play:  probably not very often


Following the break-up of Thunderclap Newman, singer/drummer  John "Speedy" Keen jumped into a solo career with the release of 1973's "Previous Convictions".  Like Thunderclap Newman, Keen found himself signed to Kit Lambert's Track Records - MCA holding American distribution rights.   Self-produced, the album showcased a largely original set of songs that bounced between singer-songwriter material to more commercial pop numbers.  The collection also displayed Keen's unique voice which meant the album didn't sound all that different from the Thunderclap Newman catalog.  Since  I'm a big Thunderclap Newman fan Keen's high, fragile voice didn't irritate me.  If you've never heard Keen, it's hard to accurately describe him - imagine Pete Townshend singing in a broken falsetto after slamming a car door on his hand and you might be in the right aural neighborhood.  There's nobody else that came close to the sound.   That said, I can see where the unprepared might find his voice a major challenge.  Anyhow, the album certainly wasn't bad.  Among the standout performances were 'Let Us In' (which reminded me a little of a Pete Townshend solo effort), showcasing the late Jimmy McCulloch the instrumentals 'The Flying Wino' and the funky 'Keep On the Grass'.  We've all heard solo albums that were far worse.  We all heard solo albums by drummers that were far worse.   Still, I've got to admit it didn't come close to matching the charms of the Thunderclap Newman album.   Still, since you can find cheap copies, it might be worth a spin.


"Previous Convictions" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Old Fashioned Girl   (John Keen) - 3:44   rating: *** stars

'Old Fashioned Girl' opened the album with one of Keen's prettiest tunes.  With a pretty chorus and some nice Jimmy McCulloch guitar, the track had a very Thunderclap-feel.  That comparison was underscored by Keen's balls-caught-in-a-door shriek of a voice.  As mentioned above, you either loved Keen's unique voice, or detested it.  Sporting a slightly different (and superiod mix), the song was released as a UK single:





- 1973's 'Old Fashioned Girl' b/w 'That's the Way It Is' (Track catalog number 2094-103)






2.) Keep Your Head Down  (John Keen) - 2:39   rating: *** stars

'Keep Your Head Down' was a bouncy, orchestrated pop tune with a nice melody and some mildly activist lyrics.  Once again McCulloch turned in a first-rate guitar solo.  Singing in a lower register Keen actually sounded pretty good on this one, though the shrill backing vocalist were irritating.  This probably would have been a better single that 'Old Fashioned Girl'.

3.) Let Us In  (John Keen) - 3:35  rating: **** stars

Opening up with some glistening strumming 12 string guitars, 'Let Us In' was side one's most mainstream and commercial number.   Interestingly Keen's vocal actually sounded a bit like a Pete Townshend number. McCulloch distinguished himself with yet another killer solo.   This one was released as Keen's debut US single and as a follow-up UK single:

  US pressing:

- 1973's 'Let Us In' b/w 'Aries Lady' (MCA catalog number 40062)   

  UK pressing:

- 1973's 'Let Us In' b/w 'Keep On the Grass' (Track catalog number 2094-108)  

4.) Something Else   (Bob Cochran - Sharon Sheeley) - 2:15   rating: *** stars

With a '50s rock edge and some surprisingly funny lyrics, ' Something Else' sounded like something Roy Wood might have recorded.  Much better than you would have ever expected.    

5.) The Flying Wino (instrumental)  (John Keen) - 1:17  rating: **** stars

Thought there were no detailed performance credits, the instrumental 'The Flying Wino' sounded like a studio demo giving McCulloch a platform to demonstrate his pounding, fuzz-drenched lead guitar.   My goodness the guy had talent.  Wish the song had not faded out so early.   

6.) Don't You Know He's Coming  (John Keen) - 3:45   rating: *** stars

The opening and refrain of 'Don't You Know He's Coming' have always reminded me of Joe South's 'Games People Play'.  In fact, the resemblance is so strong ,I find myself surprised Joe South didn't slap Keen with a copyright suit ...  he probably would have if he'd known about the album.    


(side 2)

1.) Positively 4th Street   (Bob Dylan) - 4:08  rating: ** stars

The first real misstep, Keen's cover of Dylan's 'Positively 4th Street' stayed true to the original melody, but fell apart under Keen's strained vocals and the overwhelming orchestral arrangement. 

2.) Forever After  (John Keen) - 3:01  rating: ** stars

A pretty, but forgettable ballad, 'Forever After' just never kicked into gear.  

3.) That's the Way It Is  (John Keen) - 4:03   rating: *** stars

One of the album's more commercial numbers, 'That's the Way It Is; was a classic rocker with distinctive commercial potential.   

4.) Keep On the Grass (instrumental)  (John Keen) - 4:01  rating: **** stars

Easily the album's standout performance, the instrumental 'Keep On the Grass' had a slinky bass and keyboard-propelled melody that was actually FUNKY !!!

5.) Aries Lady  (John Keen) - 4:21   rating: *** stars

It wasn't much in the lyric department, but 'Aries Lady; was another pretty ballad showcasing another tasty McCulloch guitar solo.  The song also appeared as the "B" side to Keen's debut US single 'Let Us In'.

6.) Lesliana (instrumental)  (John Keen) - 1:55   rating: *** stars

More a song fragment that anything, 'Lesliana' ended the album with an atmospheric instrumental.       



Only 56, Keen died of heart failure in March 2002.