A R T I C L E S
a n d I N T E R V I E W S
Sounds, 10 October 1970 by Ray Telford
Although still a comparatively unknown group, Wishbone Ash are going to make a lot of people sit up and take notice during the coming months. Audiences who have already discovered them know their qualities and so have a number of Britain's most highly respected rock musicians. Colosseum organist Dave Greenslade was the first person I ever heard talking about them earlier this year, since then the name has cropped up during many conversations.
Apart from being four very plausible people, bass guitarist Martin Turner, co-lead guitarists Ted Turner and Andy 'Snap’ Powell and drummer Steve Upton are determined to make Wishbone Ash succeed. They see their music and its development as the result of four musicians coming together with a uniform aim and it is remarkable to find that it is working. The attitude is ideal but seldom implemented.
Formed in October of last year by Steve and Martin, Wishbone have built up a truly original sound and in this respect are at one with the tiny handful of groups, among the recent onslaught or boring Led Zeppelin or Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young variations, who can live up to their publicity handouts. They are one of the most melodic groups around, a quality which has its beginnings in the very personal guitar techniques of Andy Powell and Ted Turner.
Many groups have attempted a two lead guitar line-up but seldom has it met with any measure of success within such a framework and both Ted and Andy are aware of this, especially the fact that egos are easily bruised when there are two such highly featured soloists. "'We learn a great deal from each other and we have worked things out pretty well. There's never been any jealousy between us and this is part of the secret of making the two guitar line-up work effectively," said Andy. "We're a group in the true sense of the word which means everyone pulls their weight. Sure we're aware of the ego problems which could crop up but that was all thrashed out after we got together. It wasn't difficult because we'd been throuqh it all before with our other groups.
The very effective rhythm section of Wishbone Ash is in the capable hands of Steve and Martin. They both agreed with my observation that the group swung more and was much tighter than it did even a couple of months ago. Much of the credit for those not so obvious but nevertheless vital dimensions of the group's music is given to Steve Upton. He is a refreshing percussionist who attracts attention to his own playing but never wanders from his role. Steve is a perfectionist and is never entirely satisfied with a nights work. "We can always improve," he says with great conviction. "Naturally when we started everything was down to creating a good impression and this made us a bit tense and nervous but of course you can swing more when you're relaxed and confident and we're getting more confidence in ourselves after every gig. We find we're getting more into the music too and it livens our stage presentation. It's not a planned act but if you move with the music it really enhances it."
Bass player Martin Turner is a leading light within the group. He plays six string bass, using it as a third lead instrument a great deal of the time. Martin is a strong song writing force and handles most of the vocal work. From four confident but modest people, he emerges, in the nicest possible way, as the most forceful character. He says he has come to terms with things like indifferent audiences but says at first he got hung up if a crowd reacted poorly. Did he feel there was a tendency within the group to prefer performing for any one particular type of audience? "Yes, things like this used to affect us a lot. We could play a club like Ronnie Scott's one night and a college the next and found ourselves making compromises for either one or the other but now we see it as the group controlling the venue rather then the venue controlling the group. Another point is that we never sacrifice the music now for different gigs although we do alter our presentation. The music is left to. speak for itself."
One of Wishbone Ash's most applauded numbers is 'Handy" which came about after a riff from a John Handy album had caught Martin's ear. "Handy" is a good number by which to judge the group for it is typically heavily arranged but not too complex. "That is something which we really keep away from," he said emphatically. "We have never been a self-indulgent group and we never will be. 'When we're accepted we can experiment but at the moment we want to become a readily commercial proposition."
For almost a year now Wishbone Ash have been laying the groundwork - hopefully the next twelve months will do them full justice.