This is a personal story that details the highlight of 2001 for me and
at the same time will hopefully promote some great music that you
will buy and love forever!! In 1980, at about the age of 14, I
was introduced to a band called Unicorn through a connection with
Pink Floyd's David Gilmour. Being a huge Floyd fan, finding out
about a band that Gilmour played on and produced three albums by
made me immediately seek out the records, which were all released
in the mid-1970's. Well, unfortunately, the records were already
out of print and I was forced to search the used bins, eventually
finding the records, one by one, usually priced very inexpensively.
I recall honestly expecting the records not to be very good. They
had big cartoon Unicorns on the sleeves, looked like prog-rockers,
and although they were released on Capitol, they were already
drilled and deleted just a few years after their release dates.
Listening to the records was another story completely. Not
anything at all as I expected.
Unicorn were from England. Their music was based in tight melodies, loose arrangements, sweet harmonies, and sincere lyrics covering topics as diverse as farming, trips to the dentist, and pure love. In all, the band released four albums and a handful of singles. Of the three later LPs, David Gilmour produced two and a half and played pedal steel guitar on two. Fans of Gilmour's might have wondered where the sole single from his eponymous debut solo outing from 1978 came from. That song, "There's No Way Out of Here" was written by Ken Baker of Unicorn and first appeared on their "Too Many Crooks" album in 1976. If you know that song, it will give you an idea of what Unicorn are like. Try to imagine a band that are quintessentially English in terms of subject matter and melody, but also a band deeply influenced by American artists such as Neil Young, The Band, The Lovin' Spoonful, and especially Clarence White-era Byrds. Believe me, it is a marriage that works. Being situated in the UK at the heart of the punk rock explosion was not a good thing for a band such as this, and only one, month-long ill-fated tour in the US meant that their exposure in this country was minimal (despite the fact that Rolling Stone gave their 1976 LP a whopping five-star review when it was released!). Anyway, I really connected with the music and the songs. Lyrically, Ken Baker was (and still is) a genius. His simplistic songs of love, loss, heartache, and excitement are as timeless as the music provided by the band who were all seasoned players. To this day, when I listen to them at work I have people asking who is this wonderful new band. The music does not sound dated, and in fact sounds fresher than most of the so-called alt-country artists that are currently so 'in vogue'.
How was it that this music was going unheard, I always wondered. I don't think I ever met anyone that knew the band (unless they were Floyd-obsessives). Then, in 2000, 20 years after I first heard their music. something happened. A Best-Of cd was released in the UK on the See For Miles label. Colin Miles had worked for EMI's Harvest label in the UK which released the Unicorn records in England. He was in contact with Pat Martin, bassist for Unicorn, and a light bulb went off and a cd was released. Finally! Something available by Unicorn. Of course it would be far better to have the full records back in print but this was a start. Contacting the record label (like the obsessed fan I am), I was eventually put in touch with Pat Martin via email and we developed a friendship. This led to my visit last year, to England, to meet the man himself and spend a week listening to, discussing, and buzzing on about Unicorn. What was in store for me was an acoustic performance by three of the four members of Unicorn in Pat's living room. It was the first time they had played together in about 20 years. It was historical, it was magical, it was brilliant, it was recorded!, and it was intimate. To meet my idols, after not having any information on them at all for so long, and have them be the nicest guys in the world (not joking - you could not meet more sincere, sweet folks), was like the equivalent of a Beatles freak getting to spend a week with three of the Beatles just hanging out and discussing music. That's really how important this band is to me. Not many people in the world know of the magic that this band has. Now's your chance while this Best Of is available! There is a web site that a fan named Todd Glenn created for the band. Have a look. Unicorn Web Page
To purchase the cd:
The Best Of Unicorn
- In Closing
Well there goes just my second newsletter, and I hope I didn't get too personal with this one. If you want, I'll clam up and be a bit more cold with the next one. Lemme know!