The Purple Gang

Band members                             Related acts

  line up 1 (1967-68)

- Christopher Joe Beard -- guitar

- Geoffrey Bowyer -- keyboards, washboard

- Trevor "Ank" Langley -- jug, banjo

- Gerry Robinson -- mandolin, harmonica

- Peter "Lucifer" Walker --  vocals, kazoo


  line up 2 (1968-72)

- Christopher Joe Beard -- guitar

- Geoffrey Bowyer -- keyboards, washboard

NEW - Tony Moss -- bass

- Gerry Robinson -- mandolin, harmonica

NEW - Alex Sidebotham -- drums, percussion


  line up 2 (1972-73)

- Geoffrey Bowyer -- keyboards, washboard

NEW - Tony Davies -- guitar (replaced Joe Beard)

NEW - Chris Millward (replaced Tony Moss)

- Gerry Robinson -- mandolin, harmonica

NEW - Alex Sidebotham -- drums, percussion


  line up 3 (1998-)

- Gabor Bartos -- drums, percussion

- Christopher Joe Beard -- guitar

- John Curtis -- keyboards, backing vocals

- Chris Millward -- bass

NEW - Stuart Pevitt (RIP 2009) -- vocals, kazoo, harmonica

- Andy Stark -- guitar



- Christopher Beard and Gerry Robinson

- The Distractions (Alex Sidebotham)

- Jericho Blues Band (Tom Davies)





Genre: pop

Rating: 2 stars **

Title:  The Purple Gang Strikes

Company: Sire

Catalog: SES 97006

Country/State: T

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: minor tear top right front cover

Available: 1

Catalog ID: --

Price: $30.00


Attending Manchester's Stockport College or Art, after hearing blues man Duster Bennet and the Jericho Jugband, Joe Beard decided to form his own  jug band.  He quickly recruited fellow students and acquaintances Geoffrey Bowyer, Trevor Langley, Gerry Robinson, and Peter Walker (working as a grave digger) and as The Young Contemporaries Jug Band, began playing local bars and clubs.


The group recorded a live demo tape which their management team took around to various London-based labels, eventually finding an interested party in Nat Joseph's folk-oriented Transatlantic Records.  Signed to a contract, Transatlantic relocated the group to London and teamed with manager/producer Joe Boyd. Now operating as The Purple Gang and keenly aware of the power of image in '60s London, along with the name change, the band updated their sound to reflect pop and psych influences.  They also adopted a 1920s mod look that included sharp clothing and short hair styles.  Boyd helped them get a couple of dates performing at London's hip UFO (a club he had a financial interest in), as well as The Marquee, The Wizard and The Roundhouse.  Their retro-stylings began to attract some attention among the "hippie" crowd and after an appearance at the 14 Hour Technicolor Dream festival they were signed by the Jane Easton Agency.


One of their first recording sessions with Boyd happened to find them in London's Sound Techniques Studios as Pink Floyd, who were recording their single 'Arnold Layne' with Boyd.   The band found a friend in Syd Barrett who even offered them one of his tunes - 'Boon Tune.'  The same sessions saw the release of their debut 45: 





- 1967's 'Granny Takes a Trip' b/w 'Boot Leg Whiskey' (Big T catalog number BIG 101)








Inspired by Nigel Waymouth's trendy Chelsea clothing boutique, the single should have made the band massive stars.  Instead the wheels came off their career.  Concerned about the song's perceived drug orientation (for goodness sakes the title included the word "trip"), the BBC banned the track, instantly making The Purple Gang  toxic.  The lack of radio play killed planned television and radio appearances and made promoters reluctant to touch the band.



All but unknown to audiences, credited to Monsieur Mirliton, 'Granny Takes a Trip' was re-recorded in French.  Jean Albertini provided the French lyrics with Jean-Pierre Orfino handling the vocals. EVen stranger than the English original, the track was issued as an instantly obscure French EP:


- 1967's 'Le Mirliton (chante) and 'Le Mirliton' (orchestra) b/w 'Le Mirliton (chante) and 'Le Mirliton (Barclay catalog number 71176M





Recorded in a single day and released by Transatlantic Records,, their debut album "The Purple Gang Strikes" (catalog number TRA 174) died instantly.  In spite of the band's marketplace meltdown, Sire Records acquired American distribution rights to their debut album.  Produced by Boyd "Strikes" proved a surprisingly tame affair.  With Geoffrey Bowyer and Christopher Beard credited with penning all eleven tracks, the album had more in common with the Bonzo Doo Dah Dog Band, Dr. West's Medicine Show, or perhaps The New Vaudeville Band than and of their blues, pop, psych, or rock contemporaries.  Throughout the set the group's jug band, blues, and vaudevillian influences were apparent.  They weren't without talent, but as exemplified by tracks like the leadoff performance 'Auntie Monica', 'Overseas Stomp' and 'Mr. Aldred Jones', the old-timey feel that permeated so much of the album just sound contrived and uninspired.  Blues-inspired numbers like 'Bootleg Whiskey and a cover of Noah Lewis' 'Viola Lee Blues' were no more inspiring.  Hearing them, you were left to wonder why not listen to the originals?  And then there was the might-have-been exception.  Unlike anything else on the album 'The Wizard' found the band diving into a more contemporary rock/lite psych realm.  Easily the album's creative highpoint, nothing else came even close.  Strange to say, but listening to the album I get the feeling these guys were so uncool, it was cool to admit liking them.  


"Strikes" track listing:
(side 1) 

1.) Auntie Monica   (Geoffrey Bowyer - Christopher Beard) - 3:04  rating: *** stars

One of the first songs the original jug band incarnation had written, 'Auntie Monica' sounded like something Paul McCartney might have written when in his nostalgic frame of mind.  Cute enough, with a couple of  nice Robinson mandolin solos,  but not really pop, psych, or rock.  

2.) Bootleg Whiskey   (Geoffrey Bowyer - Christopher Beard) - 3:18  rating: ** stars

Old timey blues feel with Robinson on harmonica and Walker on kazoo.  Probably sounds a lot better after you've had a couple of shots.   

3.) Viola Lee Blues  (Geoffrey Bowyer - Christopher Beard) - 3:10  rating: *** stars

In spite of the writing credit, 'Viola Lee Blues' was written by Noah Lewis (Gus Cannon recording the original version).  This version is a fairly conventional take on the blues track, though it serves to showcase Walker's nice voice..  

4.) The Wizard  (Geoffrey Bowyer - Christopher Beard) - 3:49   rating: **** stars

Just when you were beginning to get acclimated to the band's mix of old timey moves and blues retreads, they trotted out 'The Wizard.'   Showcasing Beard's nice guitar work, this was the album's most contemporary performance.  Maybe just me, but the song's lysergic touches reminded me a bit of early Pink Floyd.  Walker's best performance and the track that should have been tapped as a single.  MY only complaint is the song was too short.

5.) Mr. Aldred Jones  (Geoffrey Bowyer - Christopher Beard) - 2:57  rating: ** stars

Powered by Bowyer's rollicking barrelhouse piano and Robinson's mandolin, 'Mr. Aldred Jones' found the band returning to campy, old-timey moves.  The tune actually was quite energetic, but it was one of those tracks you either loved, or hated.  No midpoint on this one.  Walker's kazoo solo pushed me into the former category.


(side 2)
1.) Granny Takes a Trip
  (Geoffrey Bowyer - Christopher Beard) - 2:38   rating: **** stars

Previously released as a single, you had to wonder what all the fuzz was about.  Title aside, this was a pretty innocuous flapper-styled pop tune.  The song was inspired by '50s glamour girl Norma "Sabrina" Sykes, who happened to be band member Langley's cousin.  If you took the lyrics at face value, it was simply the story of an older woman hoping to travel to Hollywood in order to become a movie star.  The lyrics pretty much captured Sykes experiences.  Hard to see why the BBC got so excited about it.  Mildly catchy, it was different enough to segment the band from the rest of the crowd, but nobody was going to make a long term career out of it.  Extra star for being unique.

- 1967's 'Granny Takes a Trip' b/w 'Boot Leg Whiskey' (Big T catalog number BIG 101)

2.) Overseas Stomp  (Geoffrey Bowyer - Christopher Beard) - 2:15   rating: ** stars

Forgettable '20s Vaudeville moves.

3.) Freightliner   (Geoffrey Bowyer - Christopher Beard)- 2:50  rating: ** stars

Bluesy-shuffle made even more irritating by Walker's kazoo solo.

4.) The Sheik  (Geoffrey Bowyer - Christopher Beard) - 3:08  rating: **** stars

On an album full of weird tunes, 'The Sheik' was ever stranger than the norm.  Powered by Bowyer 's keyboards and  Robinson's mandolin, it was an atmospheric period piece sound which sounded like it had been soaked in LSD, this one gets an extra star for just being so bizarre.

5.) Rising Sun   (Geoffrey Bowyer - Christopher Beard) - 2:23   rating: *** stars

'Rising Sun' was an interesting mix of blues and jug moves.  Always wondered what the weird percussion sound was.

6.) Kiss Me Goodbye Sally Green  (Geoffrey Bowyer - Christopher Beard) - 2:30

Another '20 Vaudeville flavored tune.  No idea why but the forgettable track was tapped as their second and final single:




- 1967's 'Kiss Me Goodbye Sally Green' b/w 'AUntie Monica' (Big T catalog number BIG 111)







After returning the Manchester the band tried to pick up the pieces, but ended up calling it a day.  Without Langley and Walker, the band reformed in 1969.  With a new manager and various personnel changes they returned to London and started performing again, but were never able to recapture their audience or a commercial break.