Tooth’. What a marvelous name for
a progressive rock band from the late
sixties. Pity they could not have been
a bit more original with the name of their
second album. 'Spooky Two' smacks far
too much of 'Chicago 17', but that is
a small quibble when the standard of the
musicianship and songwriting on this album
is truly masterful.
Four Members of ‘Spooky Tooth’,
Luther Grosvener, Mike Kellie, Greg Ridley,
and Mike Harrison, had been playing together
for several years in the area of Carlisle,
England, since 1963. First as ‘The
VIP's’ they numbered Keith Emerson
in their ranks, and then as 'Art', who
released one magical, Guy Stevens produced,
album called 'Supernatural Fairy Tales'.
(Recently this album has been released
again on C.D and is well worth a listen.)
Then with a stroke of genius it was decided
to add singer/songwriter/keyboardist/American
Gary Wright to the ranks, and ‘Art’
changed their moniker to ‘Spooky
The first album 'It's All About' was
released to great critical acclaim, being
produced by the master of getting the
best out of his charges, Jimmy Miller.
(After his work with 'The Rolling Stones'
(Sticky Fingers), Jimmy became one of
the most demanded producers in the world.)
The engineer for these sessions was a
certain Glyn Johns, who soon found his
own piece of history for his work with
‘The Who’s’ ‘Who's
Next'. It was a cracking debut album giving
birth to the hit single 'Sunshine Help'
as well as including the first ‘Spooky
Tooth’ version of Loudermilk's Tobacco
Road', which was to remain a concert favorite
of the band no matter what lineup changes
they went through. Apart from the three
cover versions on the album Gary Wright
at least had a hand in writing all the
other seven songs.
After a year on the road, gigging almost
every night on both sides of the Atlantic,
and having built up a strong live following,
the road toughened and much tighter ‘Spooky
Tooth’ went back into the studio
to record their magnum opus 'Spooky Two'
(1969). Keeping Jimmy Miller in the producer
role, the unavailable Glyn Johns was replaced
by Andrew Johns in the engineer’s
seat. (Andrew Johns was later to work
on all the early 'Led Zeppelin albums'.)
The resulting eight songs were to be more
influential on the world of rock music
than anybody at the time would of dared
imagine. Apart from the cover 'Evil Woman',
Gary Wright again had a hand in writing
all the songs; everyone a classic of its
‘Spooky Tooth’ had so many
strengths within the band; it is hard
to name them all. There was the obvious
songwriting skill of Gary Wright.
The groundbreaking lineup in the classic
rock format of two keyboard players (used
to dramatic effect live with a bank of
keyboards on each side of the stage surrounding
the rest of the band), both of them in
their own contrasting styles, had a couple
of the best two voices of their decade.
They were used to great effect almost
as two separate instruments within the
On lead guitar there was a young Luther
Grosvenor, probably the most underrated
lead guitarist to ever come out of the
British Isles. Merge this in with the
bass playing skills of Mr. Thunder himself,
Greg Ridley, and the drummer's drummer
Mike Kellie, and you have a very formidable
The one cover song, 'Evil Woman', was
written by Larry Wies (Larry also wrote
'Rhinestone Cowboy' and 'Bend me Shape
me'), which was already well known through
its release by American blues and boogie
giants 'Canned Heat'. However, the ‘Heat’
never did anything like this with it,
‘Spooky’ turning it into a
9-minute epic of such intensity that it
strains your speakers. At over 9-minute
length it allows the band to really show
off their musical abilities. As in all
‘Spooky Tooth’ material, there
are soaring vocals, great changes of pace,
and the really dangerous sense of drama,
but on 'Evil Woman' it is Luther Grosvenor,
who for once gets his nose in front of
his two keyboards associates. He truly
takes the reigns, making the song his
own, as he was to do several years later
with Mott the Hoople, where he claimed
Ian Hunter's 'Walkin' with a Mountain'
by spraying his sonic lead breaks all
over it. Luther Grosvenor had by then
metamorphosed into Ariel Bender. But here
it is still the original Luther Grosvenor,
who pulled out some of the most heavy
and whacked out guitar licks ever put
down on tape.
There is also the double whammy of 'That
was Only Yesterday' and 'Better By You,
Better Than Me', the latter of which was
to be at the center of a long court case
after heavy metal band 'Judas Priest'
covered the song and got taken to court
by the parents of a young man, who had
committed suicide due to the songs lyrics.
The case was finally thrown out of court.
The song is a bit like Leonard Cohen's
version of heavy rock, but I think that
was taking things a little too far.
'Spooky Too' is a must for any serious
collector of rock music, not only for
the songs, but for its place in history.
The following year the ‘Spookies’
were to lose their minds and record an
album with French musical impressionist
Pierre Henry, which was very pretentiously
called 'Ceremony An Electronic Mass'.
The cover has a picture of a man having
a nail driven into his head by a hammer,
which well describes the results. It was
released to wide spread critical ridicule
(quite rightly) and the only thing ‘Mass’
about it was the public's disbelief.
Greg Ridley had been horrified by the
idea in the first place, fleeing the ship
before recording started, and joined up
with Steve Marriott, Peter Frampton, and
Jerry Shirley to form Humble Pie, who
he stayed with throughout their Ten album
After the release of ‘Ceremony’
a disillusioned ‘Spooky Tooth’
split up, claiming “That after two
and a half years they had slumped into
stale and predictable music”, words
that they would soon have to eat of course
as within a year three of them were back
in the studio recording as 'Spooky Tooth'
for 'The Final Puff '.
Luther Grosvenor went onto 'Stealers
Wheel' and then hit the headlines recreated
as Ariel Bender in Mott The Hoople. Gary
Wright went onto an incredibly successful
solo career as ‘The Dreamweaver’.
Mike Harrison had a reasonably successful
solo career. Actually he did rather well,
but pales a little in comparisons to his
former keyboard partner. And Mike Kellie
went on to join Peter Frampton's ‘Camel’,
and then 'The Only Ones'.
‘Spooky Tooth’ has constantly
reformed over the years. Mick Jones was
in one version of the band for some time
before he went on to form 'Foreigner'.
All the original members have at some
time or other popped back home to record
an album or two, even some touring. In
fact, four original members got back together
in 1999 (only Gary Wright couldn't make
it due to other commitments, which was
a shame) to record some unfinished business,
releasing 'Cross Purposes', and a jolly
nice little album it was, too.
However, the magic of the original ‘Spooky
Tooth’ was in all five people at
the beginning, and no matter who or what
they tried, they could never recreate
the magic of those first two albums.
Pawed by Mott The Dog
Remastered by Ella Crew