Zag and the Coloured Beads
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Blending elements of psychedelic rock and progressive rock, the band were initially active in the 1980s London free-festival scene and featured several members who went on to subsequent projects including Ring, Levitation and The Milk And Honey Band. Splitting up in 1990, the band eventually reformed in 2006 with a different lineup.
Sound and influences
The band's singer/guitarist Steve Arthur remembers that Zag And The Coloured Beads "evolved pretty much independently, as a band who played complicated tunes in a ragged/bluesy style." Music sometimes "emerged out of jamming, noodling, wandering in the evenings and varied loitering." The band have cited Captain Beefheart, Frank Zappa, Cardiacs, Philip Glass and Can as central influences over the years, "mixed up with all sorts of post-punk albums of the time (Return Of The Duritti Column, Marquee Moon, Wilder by Teardrop Explodes, Killing Joke....)" as well as "old jazz, Trumpton music, plus all the usual Mojo reader's old records."
Zag And The Coloured Beads was formed in Croydon and began playing live in 1982 (although demo tapes had been recorded as far back as 1979). The band initially featured frontman Zag (real name Ian Faichne), who departed in 1983 to form Ring. The most familiar lineup was Steve Arthur (vocals and guitars), Michael "Mik" Tubb (guitar, bass, synthesizer, vocals), Paul Howard (bass, guitar, vocals), Robert White (bass, keyboards, vocals), and Tom Rosenbloom (drums). The instrumentation was flexible, with plenty of instrument-swapping both live and on record. The band occasionally also played under pseudonyms such as Ming And The Fods.
For the members, the band was just one of several ongoing projects. Tubb and Howard also played in Bing Organ's Beastly Scrapings; White played in Ring; both White and Howard played in jazz-rock band Peru; and all members bar Tubb occasionally played in the Purple People Eaters.
Zag And The Coloured Beads recorded their first cassette album, Loaf of Legs during 1984 and 1985, using a portastudio. The followup, 1987's Sawtooth Gripmaster saw the band adding eight-track recording capabilities.
Robert White departed in late 1988 to concentrate on Ring and subsequently Levitation and The Milk And Honey Band (he would eventually be joined in the latter by Tubb). Paul Howard left in 1989 and the band continued for a while as a trio of Steve Arthur, Mik Tubb and Tom Rosenbloom.
The remaining band members gradually became another band, 'Wryneck'.
Steve Arthur recalls "without Paul to share bass duties with Mik, we stopped swapping instruments around... Initially I wanted to get away from the Beads' jokiness, and be taken seriously, ma-a-n, so in (came) a mixture of more straightforward rock, woozy atmospheres and non-specific angst. This was the era of shoegazing, Dinosaur Jr. and Snub TV. Plus I saw Levitation doing very well with these huge, intense songs. That was definitely a kick up the backside, though I was caught between wanting to copy them and wanting to be utterly different.
"There was a group we knew called The Belltower who were an influence too - really driving psychedelic power pop. As time wore on and Levitation burned out, our love of reliable old faves like Led Zep, James Brown etc. came more to the fore. Re. the latter, even with the rhythm section on top form (and it was) funk is difficult for a trio to do well - it needs other instruments. We drafted in Leisurely on bongos, but sadly the Hammonds, horns and backing vocals stayed in our imaginations."
Zag And The Coloured Beads reunion
Steve Arthur, Michael Tubb and Paul Howard reformed Zag And The Coloured Beads in 2006 with new members James Larcombe (keyboards, from Stars In Battledress and North Sea Radio Orchestra) and Keith Roche (drums). In 2007, Roche was replaced by Paul "Helocolin" Johnson.
To date, the revived band has not released any new recordings, although both Loaf of Legs and Sawtooth Gripmaster were reissued as CD albums to sell at live concerts. A typically lively Zag and the Coloured Beads set can be seen in Nick Booth's 2009 film "Hollow Legs", which can be seen here: , the band appear at 06.10, after a satirical introduction. The Beads perform Bernard Crapshit, a song Mik Tubb wrote in 1986 about the actor Bernard Cribbins. The end credits erroneously refer to the song as A Loaf of Legs, which was the name of the Beads first album. Along with his work in Croydon band Junk Time Pate, Mik Tubb has also developed an interest in gambling on horse racing. At Plumpton races in the winter of 2010 he almost won a large sum on a horse called Uncle Eli, which unfortunately unseated its jockey, Grand National winner Liam Treadwell at the final hurdle, resulting in the destruction of Tubb's wager. There has been talk of a new band being formed between Mik Tubb and Paul Howard, called Mik Tubb's Military Pickle.
- Steve Arthur - guitar, vocals
- Michael "Mik" Tubb - guitar, bass, synthesizer, vocals
- Ian "Zag" Faichne - guitar, bass, keyboards, vocals (1982–1984)
- Paul Howard - bass, guitar, vocals (1985–1989, 2006–present)
- Tom Rosenbloom - drums (1982–1987)
- Robert White - bass, keyboards, vocals (1985–1988)
- James Larcombe - keyboards (2006–present)
- Keith Roche - drums (2006–2007)
- Paul Johnson - drums (2007–present)
- Loaf of Legs (1985 cassette album, reissued on CD 2006)
- Sawtooth Gripmaster (1987 cassette album, reissued on CD 2006)