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When Cockerham went to the University of Kent at Canterbury in December 1969 he expanded the band to include fellow students Barbara Gaskin (vocals), Steve Borrill (bass guitar), and Julian Cusack (violin). They were soon spotted by student union entertainments officer Max Hole, who offered to manage them and got them a recording contract with B&C Records. Their debut album, St. Radigunds, was named after the street that their student house was on. It established them as a cult act on the underground club circuit, and sold respectably. Its follow-up, 1972's Old Boot Wine, appeared on Peg Records and showcased a harder-edged sound than their predominantly acoustic debut. After the release of Old Boot Wine, the band was pared back to the duo of Cockerham and Gaskin, who were by now romantically involved.
Their final album, Bells, Boots and Shambles, appeared on Polydor in April 1973 and sold poorly. Widely regarded today as one of the classics of British 'acid folk', it featured guest appearances from the band's former members, as well as contributions from Henry Lowther on trumpet. Copies of all three albums are rare and expensive today. All three also appeared on Brain Records in Germany, with gatefold sleeves (unlike their UK counterparts). Dave Mattacks of Fairport Convention played drums on all three albums as a guest.
In March 1974, Spirogyra undertook their last tour, with Martin Cockerham (vocals and guitar), Barbara Gaskin (vocals and electric piano), Rick Biddulph (bass and guitars) and Jon Gifford (woodwinds). The new, rather experimental material was promising, but never made it on a fourth studio album. New titles were "The River", "Waves" and "Sea Song".
Cockerham lived abroad for many years but returned to England early in the new millennium. He began to issue privately new editions of old Spirogyra material and some previously unreleased work. He reunited with Mark Francis using their original Spirogyra name, and from 2004 to 2006 they recorded a new album which was finally released as a physical CD in 2009, entitled Children's Earth. At the same time another new album called Rainbow Empire, while officially a Martin Cockerham solo release, featured the same collaborations and is musically cognate. Both were made available, as are other releases, through his Rainbow Empire website, and were favourably reviewed in the Christmas 2009 edition of Record Collector magazine.
On 6 June 2010, Spirogyra reunited for 'A Psychedelic evening with Spirogyra' at The Union Chapel Islington, hosted by Ron Brand and Tiffany Vivienne Brown of Ron Brand Management.
The duo of Cockerham and Francis, with several colleagues, combined for another Spirogyra album in 2011, calling it Spirogyra 5. This album reunited Cockerham and the trumpeter Henry Lowther who had earlier contributed to the Bells, Boots and Shambles album.
Martin Cockerham, who was born in 1950, died on 5 April 2018.
- St. Radigunds - 1971/remastered 2013
- Old Boot Wine - 1972/remastered 2013
- Bells, Boots and Shambles - 1973/remastered 2013/all 3 on Esoteric/Cherry Red/Universal Music Group
- Burn the Bridges - 1969-72
- Children's Earth - 2009
- Spirogyra 5 - 2011