THE BEAT GOES ON 1960’s Part 2- PROCESSION

Anthem – (B Peacock/M Rogers) and Listen (B Peacock/M Rogers) – The Procession 1968

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The much-hyped Procession rose from the ashes of the Playboys and the Librettos and claimed an avant-garde/experimental status amongst their peers in the late 60’s. They comprised expat Kiwi bassist Brian Peacock who had previously been a member of The Playboys and The Librettos, guitarist Mick Rogers, briefly drummer Graham Trottman who was replaced by Greg Collinge, and after Phil Blackmore moved on, keyboard player Trevor Griffen. Above Top Trevor Griffen, Bottom L-R Brian Peacock, Greg Collinge, Mick Rogers.

They became the house band on Channel 0’s new show Uptight, a four-hour pop music show that screened on Saturday mornings; Channel O had abruptly cancelled their two flag-ship music shows The Go!! Show and Kommotion in 1967, and needed to comply with local content requirements regarding their programming, Uptight was cheap, cheerful, and enabled the channel to meet their local quota.

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David Joseph (above) was producer of the show as well as Procession’s manger, so he ensured maximum exposure for the band on each show, they were also regulars at the uber hip Berties and Sebastian’s discotheques in Melbourne, and all the while David Joseph groomed the band to be launched on the international scene. Procession signed to Festival Records in 1968 and in that year recorded their debut single, a Peacock/Rogers composition titled Anthem, recorded a cappella with all four singers voices replacing actual musical instruments, albeit with Peacock and Rogers providing most of the lead vocals The intricate sounds of rhythm and lead guitars, drums, organ, and bass were all mimicked by the voices of Peacock, Rogers, Collinge, and Griffen, in a startling original way. A cappella was a vocal style familiar in various choral, spiritual, and doo wop settings, but Anthem preceded the likes of the classic a cappella hits of the 1980’s like Only You (The Flying Pickets 1983), Caravan of Love (The Housemartins 1986), and Don’t Worry Be Happy (Bobby McFerrin 1988), by 15-20 years, and did it with style and conviction, using vastly inferior recording technology. Below L-R Flying Pickets, Housemartins, Bobby McFerrin

Go-Set reporter Lily Brett was a fan of the group and she breathlessly promoted their debut single “You must prepare yourself appropriately, before you are ready for THE PROCESSION! Clear your mind of all the little thoughts and interruptions – and listen intently to ANTHEM. A new sound, unique untried before in the whole of the pop world. Intricate, involved, ingeniously devised.”

A musical curiosity from the 1960’s that was both avant garde and experimental, but one the punters couldn’t quite wrap their heads around.

The band’s performance of Anthem on Uptight, backed by a 40-voice children’s choir, was impressive and they secured long-term engagements at Sebastians and Berties, the record climbed to #30 which probably reflected the fans confusion about a song that was so innovative and unlike most contemporary songs charting at the time. But Anthem would subsequently become a hit for the New Seekers when they took a heavy rock version of the song, now re-titled Anthem( One Day In Every Week) into the UK top 20 in 1978.

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In March 1968 Procession released their second single Listen, written by Brian Peacock and Mick Rogers, it was a was ground-breaking release as  it was the first local single to be recorded on eight track equipment at the Armstrong recording studios (Melb.). But apart from exhibiting a vaguely Small Faces kind of influence, it was a more conventional psych-pop song on which the band played their instruments, it wasn’t overly arty or contrived, and Roger Savage co-produced the recording with Peacock and Rogers, but it only  charted at #55 locally.

Intricate vocal harmonies overlaid with some psychedelic guitar.

Despite the relative failure of both singles, all four tracks surfaced on the group’s debut album, Procession Live at Sebastians, released on 15 May, 1968, the entire set was captured during one of the band’s shows at the club on April 3rd.and set the standard for others to follow by being the first live album to be recorded in stereo by an Australian act. It was an interesting record that mixed original material with covers such as The Beatles’ With A Little Help From My Friends, and the jazz standard Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out, incidentally, one of the original songs, Peacock’s sumptuous ballad Penelope, was later recorded by Normie Rowe and reached the national Top 30 in March of that year.

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An absence of real chart success locally, did not deter Procession nor their manager David Joseph, who were not short of chutzpah and self-belief, as they relocated to London and inked a record contract with Mercury/Phillips/Smash. Trevor Griffen had replaced Phil Blackmore on keyboards, Ross Wilson was recruited from Australia to become their new front man/songwriter (much to Mick Rogers consternation) and they secured a residency at the prestigious Marquee Club in London, and also secured gigs at Blaises, the Revolution Club, and the Scotch of St. James, the venues of choice for English rock superstars in the wee hours of the morning. Below L-R Marquee Club Show Poster, Interior of the Scotch of St James, Composite of Show Posters for Blaises, Revolution, and the Speakeasy in the 1960’s.

The band took up residence in a country manor house in Surrey and lived the idyllic rock star life of the 60’s, gigging, tripping on acid, shopping on the King’s Road, fraternizing with the British rock superstars of the day and recording in the most dynamic and sophisticated music scene in the world at that time, during this period Melbourne girl Pat Higgins joined Ross Wilson (together below) and they got married.

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Whilst tripping on LSD Ross formed a Zappaesque vision of a band that would not only reflect the off-kilter, parodic, sensibility of Zappa’s Mothers of Invention, but would also capture the humor, irreverence and satire of doo wop, that band would become the legendary Daddy Cool. There was also a riff Wilson had been experimenting with from back in his Party Machine days, that would become a key element in one of Australia’s greatest rock songs – Eagle Rock.

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Eventually the London gigs ran out, they released the single Every American Citizen in 1968 which only charted #88 locally and the band broke up. Ultimately Procession appeared to collapse under the weight of their own relentless hype, and at times pointless experimentation and one-upmanship, which did not translate into credible chart success. Anthem however remains a curious and still beguiling period piece from the 60’s and the group was respected by fellow musos and certainly had its fans. Below – Pat and Ross in 1983 when Pat hit the charts with Bop Girl.

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David Joseph moved on to manage the New Seekers who became very successful, Mick Rogers joined the Manfred Mann Earth band, and Ross and Pat Wilson hit the long and circuitous hippie trail back to Australia, via Europe, the Middle East and the Sub-Continent, funding their travel by donating blood and also discovering macrobiotic food along the way. 

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