The Quill


Band members                             Related acts

  line-up 1 (1967-70)

- Dan Cole (aka Da Ank Khoi) -- vocals, guitar, trombone
- Jon Cole (aka Jo Unk Khoi) -- bass, guitar, vocals
- Roger North (aka R. Willy North) -- drums, percussion, 

  backing vocals
- Bill Rogers (aka Red Rocket Rodgers (RIP 2011) - lead guitar,

  bass, cello, backing vocals
- Phil Thayer (aka Phil Stan D'There) --  keyboards, bass, sax,

  backing vocals

 

 

 

 

- Catharsis (Roger North)

- Jeffrey Frederick and Clamtones (Roger North)

- The Freak Mountain Ramblers (Roger North)

- Steve Weber and the Holy Modal Rounders (Roger North) 

- The Knights (Dan Cole and Jon Cole)

- Morning Star Blues Band (Phil Thayer)

 

 


 

Genre: progressive

Rating: *** (3 stars)

Title:  The Quill

Company: Cotillion

Catalog: SD 9017

Year: 1970

Country/State: Cambridge, Massachusetts

Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+

Comments: gatefold sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 124

Price: $70.00

Attending Massachusetts' Mount Herman Academy, brothers Dan and Jon Cole started their musical careers as members of school affiliated The Knights. After graduating in 1966  the brothers started playing Boston clubs.  By 1967 they'd hooked up with ex-Catharsis drummer Roger North, guitarist Bill Rogers and former Morning Star Blues Band keyboard player Phil Thayer and begun performing as Quill. The band made some headway on the New England club circuit, graduating to opening act status for touring national acts ranging from a young Steve Martin to The Jeff Beck Group and even The Grateful Dead.  A Spring 1969 appearance in New York City at Steve Paul's The Scene nightclub provided their breakthrough moment.  Their appearance coincided with a showcase for blues man Johnny Winters.  The Winters showcase brought out a large crowd of record industry VIPs.  Attention from the performance saw Michael Lang sign them to appear at the Woodstock Festival.  Never heard of them?  Well after being flown by helicopter to the Bethel, Massachusetts festival site they had the misfortune of opening day two of the festival with a four song, 45 minute appearance between 12:15 and 12:50 in the afternoon.  The resulting publicity and potential marketing opportunities associated with the festival saw Ahmet ErtegŁn sign the band to Atlantic's newly formed Cotillion subsidiary. 

Cotillion clearly had faith and hope in the band allowing them to record the all original material in their own studio.  They were also allowed to self-produce their album. At the time that was a rare allowance for even established acts. More apparent in their live act, the five members were highly talented musicians; all multi-instrumentalists capable of switching roles and supplementing one another.  That went as far as incorporatingng their own small horn section and providing their own string arrangements.  Sharing lead vocals, both of the Coles were capable singers; Jon  being the stronger of the two.  With six out of seven tracks written by the Cole brothers, 1970's"The Quill" wasn't exactly the year's most commercial release. The opener 'Thumbnail Screwdriver' and 'Too Late' reflected conventional rock structures. The harmony and percussion-rich 'They Live the Life'  showcased the band's affection for extended song structures, while 'Shrieking Finally' showed an appreciation of psychedelic influences. Elsewhere the album reflected the band's "freak" leanings.  Not to say the set wasn't without it's oddball charms. Trotting out their horns, '
BBY' sounded like a train collision between BS&T, Captain Beefheart and some third tier English punk band. The lyrically and musically bizarre 'The Tube Exuding' and the sweet ballad 'Yellow Butterfly' (the latter recalling something out of the Syd Barrett catalog) were quirky enough to deserve multiple spins. Released with minimal fanfare and no marketing support, the set quickly vanished into cutout bins, followed in quick order by the band.  (Interestingly of the four tracks they played at Woodstock, only 'They Live the Life' made it on to the album.)

 

"Quill" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Thumbnail Screwdriver (Dan Cole - Jon Cole) - 5:30 rating: **** stars

The opening sounded like a discordant jam, but when the Coles started singing and the melody finally fought its way through, 'Thumbnail Screwdriver' turned into a driving guitar-powered rocker. The whole band distinguished themselves; particularly Rogers who played a catchy little riff throughout and his solos proved very melodic.  Nice way to start the album.
2.) The Tube Exuding (Dan Cole - Jon Cole) - 3:50
rating: *** stars

Jon Cole opened 'The Tube Exuding' with some nice bass moves with the song going on to aptly display the band's unique sense of melody and structure.  The song simultaneously managed to demonstrate a progressive structure and some first-rate pop and rock features.  Hard to adequately describe, but geez, it was all over the place ...
3.) They Live the Life (Dan Cole - Jon Cole) - 9:23
rating: *** stars

'They Live the Life' was the only composition the band played during their four song set before a soaking wet, just-starting-to-wake-up Woodstock crowd.  Given it sported a sluggish melody and Broadway-show styled vocals, it shouldn't have come as a surprise the Woodstock audience wasn't impressed.  Complete with an extended freak-out percussion jam segment, the song reflected kind of a Peter Gabriel era Genesis flavor throughout.  Admittedly the song showed off the band's sweet, if a little ragged harmonies and it picked up a little speed and energy as it rolled along to a conclusion.  The "diddley wah' refrain always makes me smile.

(side 2)

1.) BBY (Dan Cole - Jon Cole) - 4:40 rating: ** stars

Trotting out the horns, 'BBY' showcased the band's quirkier, BS&T-meets-Captain Beefheart-ish vibes.  The vocals actually had an English punk feel.  Harsh and not exactly music to shake your booty to.
2.) Yellow Butterfly (Dan Cole - Jon Cole) - 4:15
rating: **** stars

Unlike anything else on the album the lysergic ballad 'Yellow Butterfly' had a very Syd Barrett/Pink Floyd flavor. I'm a big Barrett fan so I liked this one a lot.
3.) Too Late (Norm Rogers) - 3:40
rating: ** stars
Penned by guitarist Rogers, 'Too Late' was the album's most conventional rocker. The performance was pleasant, but unmemorable.  Wonder if Rogers was featured on vocals.

4.) Shrieking Finally (Dan Cole - Jon Cole) - 7:28
rating: ** stars

Who let the drunken friars in the studio?  The closer 'Shrieking Finally' struck me as encapsulating the band's worst characteristics - not much of a melody; unfocused, overblown vocals and way too long.   

 

 

 

Hopes to capitalize on the band's Woodstock connection disappeared when the film footage proved flawed (the sound didn't sink with the images) and none of their performances were included on either volume of the various artists "Woodstock" soundtracks.  With little support from Cotillion both Jon Cole and Rogers quit.  Rogers eventually returned to the fold and the survivors recorded a follow-up album which Cotillion promptly shelved.  The band then called it quits.  It only took four decades for their performance to see daylight.  Released as a six-CD set, "Woodstock 40 Years On: Back to Yasgur's Farm" (Rhino catalog number R2 519761) included 'They Live the Life' and 'That's How I Eat', two of the four songs they performed at the concert.

 

Jon Coles remained active on the Boston music scene before turning to the auto repair business.  He then focused on renewable energy products. including commercial applications of solar power.

 

Dan Coles focused on the production side of the music, running Boston's Intermedia Sound Studios; eventually going to work for Sony.

 

North remained active in music, playing with folk singer Odetta and then joining The Holy Modal Rounders.  He also started North Drums.

 

Rogers stayed in New England, occasionally playing with local band, before passing on in 2011.





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