Velvett Fogg were a British psychedelic rock band. Tony Iommi was a member in mid-1968, but soon left to form Black Sabbath. Their lone eponymous album was released in January 1969, and re-released on CD by Sanctuary Records in 2002.
|Genres||Psychedelic rock, progressive rock, acid rock|
|Labels||Pye, Sanctuary, Castle, See For Miles, Past and Present, Bam-Caruso, Akarma, Seque, Rolling Stone, Metro, Pye/Esoteric|
|Associated acts||Keith Law, Jardine, Warhorse, Ghost|
|Website||Velvett Fogg Official Site|
Velvett Fogg were one of many new bands within the underground scene, that were formed at the end of the 1960s that would attempt to take pop music to a higher level of creativity. Birmingham also had its own flourishing underground music scene during that time with a variety of innovative groups emerging. The line up of Velvett Fogg all came from within this alternative music scene in the city.
Velvett Fogg were formed in 1968 from members of a Birmingham band Gravy Train. Up front was soul singer Ernie Handy, Bob Hewitt was lead guitarist, with Graham Mullett on drums, and Mick Pollard on bass guitar. Londoner Frank Wilson who played Hammond organ, was also on vocals, eventually becoming band leader and lead vocalist. The newly formed band spent most of the year touring Germany playing at army bases and clubs. Their stage act included a light show and a go-go dancer.
On their return to Birmingham, the band, now managed by an agency called Inter City Artists, were given a record deal by Jack Dorsey of Pye Records. It was also a time when it seemed that the more unusual or controversial a band was, then the greater chance there would be for success in the record business. The record label was looking to sign unusual underground music acts and Velvett Fogg were told to, in Jack Dorsey's words, "develop an image that would make people think you would piss on the pope!" (Keith Law).
The initial line-up of Velvett Fogg featured guitarist Tony Iommi (later with Black Sabbath). Iommi was in the line-up for only one gig before he left to be replaced temporarily by Ian Leighton. Leighton was "a great blues guitarist", said his friend Frank Wilson. It was during this time that Pye Records arranged a photo-shoot of the band for the cover of their proposed first album.
Before recording could begin in late 1968, Ian Leighton left the band and was replaced by guitarist/vocalist Paul Eastment (a cousin of Iommi). Paul Eastment contributed original compositions for the album, as did Frank Wilson, Graham Mullet and Mick Pollard.
Velvett Fogg recorded the tracks for their debut album on Pye Records under the direction of Jack Dorsey. Apparently, Dorsey aimed to get the band onto the then-popular progressive band wagon. "I was a classically trained pianist but we all had to play way below our capabilities" says Frank Wilson. The band were also allowed to record covers of a few songs they liked and these included psychedelic-sounding versions of New York Mining Disaster 1941 by The Bee Gees and Tim Rose's Come Away Melinda.
Original songs for the Velvett Fogg album were supplied by Keith Law, a local who became a friend of the band. A veteran of the West Midlands music scene, Law played with such groups as The Williamsons, Love and Understanding, Paint, and Jardine. In his initial writing sessions with the band Law came up with "Yellow Cave Woman", "Once Among The Trees" and "Within' The Night".
Velvett Fogg's self-titled album was released on the Pye label in January 1969. By far the most controversial feature of the album was its record cover which displayed the pre-Paul Eastment line-up of the band wearing garish make-up/body-paint and costume, but also included two well-endowed young women wearing nothing but strategically applied body paint. The package was accompanied by a typically obscure sleevenote by the influential U.K. disc jockey John Peel who commented that "there is a lot of good music on this record. Remember Velvett Fogg - you will hear the name again."
Along with the Velvett Fogg album, Pye Records also released a single by the group. It was a cover of The Tornados instrumental, "Telstar", which was recorded at the request of Jack Dorsey, who hoped to cash in on the publicity surrounding the American moon landings taking place at that time.
While receiving some radio play, the record did not sell enough copies to chart and a big advertising campaign planned by the record company to promote the album never materialised. The band did some touring after the single came out. Perhaps discouraged by poor sales of the album, Pye seemed to lose interest in the band so withdrew their backing. In the autumn of 1969 the group disbanded with the members going their separate ways. Frank Wilson says "I personally thought the first line-up in Germany was the best and most satisfying."
Paul Eastment started a Brum band called Holy Ghost—later to become Ghost, with whom he recorded a couple of albums. He later fronted another group called Resurrection, as well as recording with local folk singer Shirley Kent.
During the years since Velvett Fogg's demise, demand amongst collectors for copies of their (now very rare) album has increased considerably. Original albums have changed hands for high prices with bootleg copies also known to be in circulation. In 2002 the Sanctuary Records Group re-issued the album officially for the first time on CD (CMRCD619).
Keith Law stayed in the music business, is still writing songs, and is now an entertainer in South West England. Frank Wilson, now performs with his band Run VT, and performs at venues in South East England. Keith Law and Frank Wilson are back together writing as Velvett Fogg Reloaded, and recording for a proposed new Velvett Fogg album.