Who They Were: This article probably sits alongside my Human Sexual Response and Tragic Mulatto entries in the “Favorite Songs By Favorite Artists” series as a document of the most obscure artists included in my final published roster. Which is quite weird, on some plane, given the somewhat jaw-dropping membership of The Gods and their ancillary ancestors and descendants during their short-ish run in the ’60s and early ’70s. So let’s start here: imagine that I posited to you a story about a hypothetical band whose members included Mick Taylor (The Rolling Stones), Greg Lake (King Crimson and ELP), Ken Hensley, Paul Newton and Lee Kerslake (all Uriah Heep), John Glascock (Carmen and Jethro Tull), Brian Glascock (The Motels), Cliff Bennett (The Rebel Rousers), and Alan Kendall (The Bee Gees), among several others of less notoriety. You’d likely roll your eyes about such a music-nerd fantasia, pat me on the back patronizingly, and try to shuffle on to have a more lucid conversation with someone laboring under fewer weird rock-flavored delusions. But in that hypothetical scenario, and in real life, I’d actually be speaking the truth, about a real band of incredibly influential players, whose successes mostly came after their youthful times making music together in the bands discussed here today. The earliest trunk of The Gods’ family tree featured a band called The Juniors, founded in 1962 and featuring Mick Taylor and the Glascock Brothers. By 1965, Ken Hensley had joined, and the group had rebranded itself as The Gods; they played a legendary opening set for Cream at Wembley’s Starlite Ballroom, and later replaced The Rolling Stones as the featured house band at The Marquee Club in London. After releasing several singles and a pair of albums as The Gods, the ever-morphing group re-tooled with former Rebel Rouser Cliff Bennett as their vocalist, re-branding themselves as Toe Fat, and releasing two more albums under that name. They also released a notoriously raunchy one-off disc called Orgasm in 1970, using various personal aliases, and operating under the band name Head Machine. By 1971, the evolving lineage finally fractured, with its current and former members going on to their various better-known successors. The lost hero over the evolution of all of these groups and all of these albums was unquestionably guitarist Joe Konas, who appears on, sang on, and wrote numerous key songs for the various groups throughout their runs, but without achieving the same level of latter-day fame and success that his band-mates did. But he was a brilliant player, and crucial to the various groups’ stories, so I must note his essential contributions here for the record, even if you’ve not likely heard of him before, nor are very likely to hear of him again.
When I First Heard Them: As discussed in my Uriah Heep entry in this series, I first heard of The Gods and Toe Fat after scoring The Heep’s 1975 Best Of collection, which included a great “Rock Family Trees”-style graphic on its back cover showing the various group members’ activities before and after their service times with The Heep. But it was not until I was well into the Internet-era of the mid-1990s before I was actually able to score and hear any albums or singles from The Gods-to-Toe Fat lineage, given their relative obscurity, especially here on American shores. I wrote an article in 2001 describing my adventures in and love for the musical genre I’ve described as Heavy Organ Music, and The Gods, Toe Fat, and their related bands are cornerstones in the evolution of and history of that particularly awesome style of rock music-making. I know that I’d found and heard and loved all of the core albums released within the primordial pre-Uriah Heep Family Tree by the time I wrote that article, now 20+ years ago, and I can happily report that those rare records continue to spin regularly hereabouts, living their digital afterlives to the fullest extent possible, at least as far as my own listening experiences are concerned.
Why I Love Them: I’m not sure that I can improve upon what I wrote 20 years ago when I first discussed these groups on this website, and explained why I loved them, so I quote from the original “Heavy Organ Music” article below, in answer to the question of why I love The Gods, Toe Fat, and their extended kith and kin:
I’m a total sucker for a special certain kind of music that was fairly widespread and even (occasionally) popular in the late ’60s and early ’70s, but that doesn’t really seem to have any direct modern analogues. I call this genre Heavy Organ Music, though I don’t think anybody else does. You can generally describe it as mid-tempo, choogly rock (complete with appropriately widdly guitar and ram-a-lam drum solos), fortified with strong, typically baritone male vocals and cemented together with swirly, gurgly organ parts, usually played on classic Hammond B-3 or Vox Continental organs. Or other combo organs of the era, Farfisas and the like. You know the sound. Organy.
A great example of Heavy Organ Music is Ball by Iron Butterfly, which puts its better known predecessor, In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, to shame in terms of quality songwriting and performance. The Butterfly’s Doug Ingle delivers perfect bari-vox and organ textures throughout Ball‘s run, atop the muscular Lee Dorman-Ron Bushy rhythm section, as Erik Brann slings some serious riffs and chops on his six string axe, while also providing sensitive lead vocals on set closer, “Belda-Beast.” Ball was released in early 1969, which puts it right smack in the middle of the Heavy Organ Era, a great time in musical history when long-haired, hard-working rockers hauled giant keyboards around the world in order to deliver the groove to their hungry, happy audiences. Think Steppenwolf’s big hits (“Born To Be Wild,” “Magic Carpet Ride,” “Rock Me,” etc.) for another quintessential benchmark of that audio era. Oh, to get back to the Garden!
I went on from that introduction to specifically discuss the various and sundry bands further addressed in this article, even if I did not explicitly cover them in its introductory paragraphs. And I do the same below. In terms of making decisions on what to include here, and what not to include here, I’ve essentially decided to focus on the main-line Gods’ Family Tree, but to excluded any of the “famous” bands with whom they played in their later years, e.g. Jethro Tull, ELP and Uriah Heep. So, for example, I would not include anything played by the late and lamented John Glascock during his stellar time with Carmen and Jethro Tull, but I do include an obscure track by the less-well-known Chicken Shack (most remembered these days, if at all, for birthing Christine Perfect McVie’s career), where his bass work played a huge role in that fabulous group’s macro-level creative successes. I also didn’t include any “second-order” bands in the lineage, e.g. John’s brother, Brian Glascock, played in the outstanding Octopus (see item number two, here), whose other members then went on to perform with the well-known Split Enz; there are no Enz tracks in the Top Ten list below, as I have covered them elsewhere. (For the record, John Glascock was one of my very favorite musicians in the 1970s, and his untimely death touched me deeply. Don’t steal my idea, but I’ve long believed that there’s a great book to be written about the “behind-the-scenes” careers of the Glascock Brothers, and the ways in which they influenced and played with so many killer bands and artists, so that may become one of my background writing projects at some point in the years ahead of us). Since there are so many permutations of players represented in this article, I’ve been more explicit than usual in terms of accreditation where necessary. They’re all obscure, but they still deserve proper respect and acknowledgement!
#10. “Daughter of the Hillside,” from Imagination Lady (1972), credited to Chicken Shack (feat. John Glascock)
#9. “Candles Getting Shorter,” from Genesis (1968), credited to The Gods
#8. “That’s My Love for You,” from Toe Fat (1970), credited to Toe Fat
#7. “Towards the Skies,” from Genesis (1968), credited to The Gods
#6. “Bad Side of the Moon,” from Toe Fat (1970), credited to Toe Fat
#5. “Misleading Colours,” from Genesis (1968), credited to The Gods
#4. “But I’m Wrong,” from Toe Fat (1970), credited to Toe Fat
#3. “Sticking Wings On Flies,” from To Samuel A Son (1970), credited to The Gods
#2. “The Wherefores and the Whys,” from Toe Fat (1970), credited to Toe Fat
#1. “Lovely Anita,” from To Samuel A Son (1970), credited to The Gods