String Driven Thing
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|String Driven Thing|
ozit morpheus Records
|Past members||John Mannion
Billy "The Kid" Fairley
String Driven Thing are a folk rock band from Scotland, originally formed in the 1960s and led by husband and wife Chris Adams and Pauline Adams and featuring the electric violin of Graham Smith.
String Driven Thing formed in Glasgow in 1967 as a three part harmony folk band with the Adamses and guitarist John Mannion. After paying their dues on the Scottish folk circuit they put out a self-titled album on the independent Concord label (copies of which are collectable and difficult to find) although a long way from their later Charisma label output. The group moved to London in 1970 and Chris Adams began to steer the band towards the electric folk-rock genre where his song writing abilities, which often feature hard-bitten and bitter observations capturing the harsher side of life, would be seen to better effect. By 1972 he had recruited classically trained violinist Graham Smith and guitarist Colin Wilson on bass, but soon afterwards Mannion left, citing musical differences.
Record deal and tour
Adams then secured a deal with Tony Stratton-Smith's Charisma label and another eponymous album came out, produced by Shel Talmy at London's IBC Studios, with the songs "Circus", "Jack Diamond" and "Easy To Be Free" among the standout tracks. With Smith's high octane violin and Adams' distinctive vocals, the band toured the UK and Europe with Charisma stablemates Lindisfarne and Genesis. This exposure raised their profile and led to TV appearances and an American tour. A second album, The Machine That Cried, was recorded in February 1973 at IBC, but now with the addition of a drummer, Billy "The Kid" Fairley. This was a much bleaker and rockier offering and though reviews were mixed at the time, it is now regarded as a forgotten classic. Standout tracks include "Heartfeeder", "The Machine That Cried" and "Sold Down The River". The song "Night Club", which opened Side Two, was inspired by the cover of their first Charisma album, designed by Hipgnosis, famous for their work with Pink Floyd. Recorded while Chris Adams was suffering health problems, including a collapsed lung and depression, the album is on the whole a very dark affair. Despite its cult status, it did not sell well at the time.
By 1974 the constant touring was taking its toll and Wilson was replaced by Bill Hatje on bass, then Billy Fairley gave way to Colin Fairley (former Beggars Opera but no relation.) Soon afterwards, disillusioned with life on the road, the Adamses quit and returned to their native Glasgow. With their departure the band disintegrated, but Charisma recruited three musicians to continue touring with Smith and Fairley. Singer Kim Beacon, guitarist Andy Roberts and bassist James Exel joined the band, with Roberts and Exel collaborating for much of the songwriting, including the single "Cruel To Fool" produced by Shel Talmy. Two albums followed. Please Mind Your Head, recorded by engineer Tony Taverner at Escape Studios in Kent, and Keep Yer A'nd On It, produced by Andy Johns at Island's Basing Street studios.
String Driven Thing put out a number of singles on the Charisma label, some of which are not on any of the vinyl albums but appear as bonus tracks on Ozit Records CDs. Two of these are the Chris Adams compositions "It's a Game" and "Eddie". "It's A Game" was covered by the Bay City Rollers in 1977 and became a chart hit in the US, Japan and Germany. Chris and Pauline Adams put out a few singles on the Charisma label both as "Chris and Pauline Adams" and just "Adams". The b-side of their first single, "The City at Night", features Graham Smith. Colin Wilson went on to put out a solo folk album called Cloudburst on the Tabitha label which is also hard to find and has recently been reissued. The Chris Adams/Graham Smith String Driven Thing line up has reconvened on several occasions, most notably in 1991, 2001 and in 2004 which also saw an appearance from Pauline Adams.
The American tour of 1975 highlighted issues which the new lineup had with continuity and finding an appropriate audience. In October that year, they opened for Lou Reed, after which drummer Colin Fairley left the band and Charisma withdrew their support. Fairley went on to have a career as a studio engineer and record producer, for Elvis Costello and The Bluebells among others. Andy Roberts became guitar tech for Jeff Beck and Stevie Winwood, while Jimmy Exell still plays in Denmark. Beacon sang lead on Tony Banks' solo debut, A Curious Feeling, in 1979 and also had solo material issued. He died in 2001.
Violinist Graham Smith joined Charisma labelmates Van der Graaf in 1977 and also featured on some Peter Hammill albums. He later joined the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra, and put out three solo albums in Iceland, later reissued on CD by specialist progressive label Ozit Morpheus Records.
All early String Driven Thing, Chris Adams and Graham Smith albums are available on CD (Ozit Morpheus Records). Some live material and some hard to find tracks and outtakes appear on a German CD called Dischotomy with some alternate takes and rare material not found anywhere else. There are several BBC transcription discs of String Driven Thing live performances featuring both line-ups and two of these sets are on a German live bootleg CD called It's a Game.
Reformation and career
After 15 years of silence, Chris Adams released a solo album, The Damage, in 1991 and subsequently reformed String Driven Thing for a German tour, the Berlin leg of which was released on Ozit as $uicide, Live in Berlin. Variations of that band toured sporadically throughout the 1990s, but since 2001 the lineup has stabilised, with Andy Allan on bass, Dick Drake on drums and either George Tucker or Chris' son Robin Adams on guitar, with Pauline Adams and Graham Smith occasionally joining them in concert.
In 1978, Jimmy Exell played with a number of "session" bands, notably at the Baron's Court Tavern in Baron's Court, London, where he was a regular and a favourite of Alex Sanders' (then known as "The King of the Witches")
In 2007, the band released Moments of Truth, their first studio album in over 30 years, featuring twelve new Adams songs. April 2009 brought the Americana-tinged Songs From Another Country (released for contractual reasons as String Driven) on Backshop Records. The new material was first heard publicly at Fifestock in March 2009 and a new website stringdriventhing.co.uk was launched at the same time as the album release. In 2010, the Adamses gigged with original member John Mannion to celebrate the first album's 40th anniversary. As 2012 was the 40th anniversary of String Driven Thing's signing to Charisma and touring with Genesis, the band did some English gigs with Graham Smith and Pauline Adams.
Bass player Colin Wilson died in 2013.
- String Driven Thing (1970)
- String Driven Thing (1972)
- The Machine That Cried (1973)
- Please Mind Your Head (1974)
- Keep yer 'and on it (1975)
- Suicide (Live in Berlin)
- In the Studio '72
- The Machine That Cried Band's Official Version
- The Early Years
- Moments of Truth (2007)
- Songs From Another Country (2009)
- Live on the Foxtrot tour 40th Anniversary
- "Another Night in this Old City" / "Say What You Like"
- "Eddie" / "Hooked on the Road"
- "Are You a Rocknroller" (demo)
- "Circus" / "My Real Hero"
- "I'll Sing One For You / "To See You"
- "It's a Game" / "Are You a Rocknroller"
- "Overdrive" / "Timpani for the Devil"
- "Mrs O'Reilly" / "Keep on Moving"
- "Stand Back in Amazement" / "But I Do"
- "Cruel to Fool" / "Josephine"
- Chris Adams - The Damage
- Chris Adams - The Damage II (Ozit)
- Graham Smith - Med Töfraboga (Touch of Magic) (Ozit, 1980)
- Graham Smith - Arrival of Spring (Ozit)
- Colin Wilson - Cloudburst
- Graham Smith - Kalinka (Ozit)