John, never one to be put off by a musical egg sandwich, recorded 5 sessions with the Yorkshire trio Back Door and played the group frequently throughout the early part of the 70s. The Peel sessions, as well as recordings made for Bob Harris, were compiled together into the complete BBC Sessions ‘Human Bed’.
The original band were formed of Ron Asprey (Alto Sax), Tony Hicks (Drums) and Colin Hodgkinson (Bass). Ron and Colin cut their teeth playing summer seasons in Bournemouth in the late 60s, but it wasn’t until they started playing gigs in a friend’s pub in Blakey Ridge, North Yorkshire that Back Door really came together.
Pulling in Tony Hicks on drums the band began a weekly gig at the Lion Inn at the request of Brian Jones the landlord. Originally only playing to four people, soon the nights became legendary and four became hundreds. These sessions were known to be rip-roaring parties with band members drinking “ten or twelve pints of Newcastle brown” and forming conga lines around the room!
Despite the bands local success, labels were reluctant to sign them for an album “No guitarist, no lead singer, no organ, get outta here!”So in 72 Brian the landlord stepped up and fronted £500 for the recording and pressing of the album. It was recorded in only a matter of hours and only a few hundred copies were ever pressed, the band never expected much to come of it, apparently collecting the takings from Fearnley’s Records in Middlesbrough and going down the pub.
However after rave reviews in NME from Charles Shaar Murray ("This is the most original thing"), the album was picked up by Warner Brothers leading to a reissue in 73 (with an incorrect track list, which still appears on Spotify) and three subsequent albums, tours around the US and Europe and even an appearance at Ronnie Scott’s World Famous Jazz Club in Soho.
One of the most noticeable things about the album is the length of it’s tunes, most come in under the three minute mark, totally defying the convention of other Jazz-Fusion LPs full of long, drawn out pieces. From the punchy ‘Human Bed’ to the dreamy, melancholy ‘Plantagenet’ the interplay and sharp contrast between Colin’s virtuoso bass playing, Ron’s rasping sax lines and Tony’s driving technical drumming, combine to form an at times challenging but ultimately rewarding listen.
After drifting apart during the ‘80s the band reformed for a special reunion gig at the Lion Inn in 2003, footage of which can be seen here.