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National Rock Star, October 1976, by Candy McGraw

Wishbone Smash. Sell out tour. Nippon hits. Southern comfort.


It seemed an eternity that two years since Wishbone Ash dominated the music media via Andy Powell’s Flying V guitar and the band’s introduction to the world of instrumental harmony.  Now Wishbone are back on home ground for a British tour tour that sold out literally, within hours of most of the tickets going on sale.


So how’s it been?  We wondered, and in a bid to find the answers for National RockStar, we tracked down bassist Martin Turner to Japan shortly before the band headed back to the U.K.


Wishbone has in fact just finished touring Japan for the second time since February ’75, when it played the two major cities Tokyo and Nagoya.  This time the reception was overwhelming.


Says Turner:  “We love Japan.  We’re really into the place because they build good hi-fi amplifiers.  Seriously, they just seem to be incredibly good to us.  They’ve always picked up on the band.”


Turner admits to Wishbone’s sound leaning towards the subtle at times and he feels the Japanese people like this because they pay prime attention to detail.  The Japanese reception was, as he put it:  “Really amazing.  We’ve had people at the airport with banners and presents, wanting photos or autographs.  It’s nice to know they care.”


Often the Japanese have been known to jump up on stage and kiss the performers they idolise.  Has this happened to Wishbone Ash on the tour?


He laughs:  “The Japanese are particularly short people and our stage has been built very high.  No one’s been able to get to us yet.”


I was curious to know how Wishbone had been able to attract so much attention in Japan in the last two years.  Turner explains that there’s a strange selection of groups that are popular in Japan.  Basically it’s not quite the same for bands there as it is in America or Europe.  Since the country is smaller geographically, it’s a good deal easier for people to tour there, and consequently there’s more of a buzz created.  However, most of Wishbone’s time out of Britain was spent in the States where Martin admits that “we haven’t been able to function very well.”


He spells out how the American music business and record companies very much control the way things are in the States for bands, and although Wishbone are best known in the Chicago and New Orleans area, they haven’t become widely known throughout the country.


“Most groups that happen in the States concentrate on a specific area.  I think we tended to spread ourselves a bit thin.  On the other hand a couple of things happened there that people picked up on.  Such as, we did an appearance down South once that we wrote about in a song called Rock n Roll Widow, where someone was shot at a gig.  Because it happened in the South, I think people related to it very strongly.  It’s sick in a way.  But it did attract quite some attention to the band.”


And how about the return to Britain?


The answer?  “Wahoo!”


Martin particularly wanted it to be known that Wishbone Ash aren’t fantastically different from the way they were two years ago.


“I mean we’re a 1970’s rock band and we’ve been to America and absorbed a lot of influences there.  I think people in England will be pretty much into us.  Let’s face it, we’re very British, and we love the U.K.  The last time we did a tour in Britain it was very emotional   I think it’ll be the same this time.”


“I don’t think I’m blowing my own trumpet if I say that this group really has contributed to rock music.  You can turn on the radio any moment of the day and hear a band, no matter who it is, be it George Harrison or the Bay City Rollers, any group, who has got a record out featuring harmony guitar.  Wishbone Ash was without doubt the band that pioneered that sound.  It’s a contribution which has been mimicked a great deal.  But we do it better than most.”


Lastly, we spoke about the addition of Laurie Wisefield to the line-up and the album which was released with the start of the tour, New England.


It’s no secret that Wishbone were in trouble when Ted Turner left; it’s not the kind of outfit that changes every day and at first it was difficult for Wisefield to establish a rapport when playing.  Now, after such a long settling-in period, he has integrated perfectly.  Martin’s comment:  “The two guitars are totally together.”


And how about albums?  The last two have been under par, he admits.  The first with Laurie was problematic because no one knew each other but this time their work is being produced by Ronnie and Howie Albert from Miami – recorded in Martin’s basement studio in Connecticut – and the result is more alive, more natural.


Welcome home.

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