The following notes, by BJ Cole (who can be heard on As Strong as Samson), are taken from the Edsel CD Past Loves (EDCD 345, 1992), a very useful 'best of' album of Cochise. The three original albums are now, however, available on CD: see here. Procol Harum fans will be interested to know that – even if he did tell Shine On that he did not have a songwriter's mind – seven of its sixteen tracks were written by Mick Grabham.
was in existence for only three years between 1969 and 1972, but in that time we recorded three albums (a total of 28 tracks) and Mick Grabham and I went on to make solo albums for United Artists. This CD compilation contains the sixteen best tracks we recorded (in my opinion) from the three albums Cochise, Swallow Tales and So Far, including our US top 100 hit Love's Made A Fool Of You. The tracks are consecutive, and are listed under the title of each album. We were signed to United Artists records in 1969 by Andrew Lauder. Our label mates were an assorted bunch of bands that reflected Andrew's forward thinking policies – High Tide, Brinsley Schwarz, Hawkwind, Man etc. We played colleges, festivals, and places like the Roundhouse and the Marquee, and were managed by Clearwater Productions who also looked after Hawkwind and High Tide. It was altogether a very 'heady' time.
Stewart grew up in Pinner, Middlesex, a close friend and neighbour of the fledgling piano player Reg Dwight (Elton John). After working in various bands during the 'sixties, they both ended up working together in Long John Baldry's group, Bluesology. I first met Stewart when we were 'headhunted' by manager Peter Grant, who had the idea of forming 'a sort of British Flying Burrito Brothers'. A great idea, but ultimately abortive, because Grant became increasingly involved in an idea for a heavy rock group called Led Zeppelin. Cochise was the final chapter in Stewart's career in music. Following the release of the first album, Stewart and his girlfriend split for the Mediterranean to live an altogether sunnier and more laid back existence. I always felt Stewart was a great loss to the band and the business. He was very charismatic with more than a hint of the Jim Morrisons, and he composed two of our strongest tunes: Past Loves and Watch This Space.
If anyone can be said to have started Cochise, it was Mick. A native of Sunderland, Mick's first taste of the big time was as a member of the late 'sixties pop group Plastic Penny, who had one hit entitled Everything I Am. Upon the demise of that group, Mick began putting together the Cochise line-up. His links with Dick James Music allowed us access to their demo studio in New Oxford Street. Although fairly chaotic, this little studio had a great buzz about it around that time(1968). Elton John was recording his very first demos there, and the Troggs had the misfortune of committing to tape some embarrassing and legendary outtakes. It was a great place for us to be struggling with the emerging chemistry of Cochise. Mick was then, and still remains, a first-rate rock guitarist. Mick and I played off each other a lot. His heavy rock style was tempered by a great respect for Country guitarists like James Burton, and I just couldn't wait to get the pedal steel out of its straitjacket. This unlikely interplay gave Cochise a unique instrumental sound.
Ricky, like John 'Willie' Wilson, was from Cambridge, and had been working with the seminal Cambridge band Jokers Wild, and with guitarist Dave Gilmour. Ricky and Willie's social connections also brought us into contact with major artists of the time like Steve Marriott, who can be heard singing harmonies on That's Why I Sing The Blues. If anyone in Cochise can be said to have 'made it big' in their subsequent career it is Ricky, for following spells with name bands like Roxy Music etc, he secured the gig of bass player in Foreigner.
John 'Willie' Wilson
Ricky and 'Willie' had been working together with Dave Gilmour and came to Cochise as a working unit. Willie is one of the most laid back drummers I ever met – certainly very easy going, and I suppose that contributed to the sound of the group. Following the completion of the second album, Willie left Cochise to join the group Quiver (later of the Sutherland Brothers and Quiver).
Roy joined us for the third album, So Far. Stylistically, Roy and Willie were chalk and cheese; Willie laid back – Roy into funk and James Brown, which certainly made the third album tighter and more punchy than the first two. Although a great drummer, Roy was an uptight, haunted person. I heard a few years after the break-up of the band that he had committed suicide.
John joined Cochise as lead singer following the departure of Stewart Brown. Another Geordie, John had been working with a Lancashire band called Mighty Joe Young. Unlike Stewart's mellow and mysterious tones, John was a singer who sounded best on heavy rock songs like That's Why I Sing The Blues, and Midnight Moonshine. He certainly brought a very different vocal character to the second and third albums.
Well, I suppose you're wondering what a pedal steel guitarist was doing in a psychedelic rock group anyway. The answer, in those far off, laid back days was as simple as ... why not! I had met Stewart in the abortive band project I have already mentioned, and Stewart knew Mick – and so on. I had been playing in country bands (mostly terrible) for the previous four years and just couldn't wait to get into the rock mainstream. So I got the fuzzbox out and played heavy, influenced greatly by Mick, and started writing songs that in retrospect were a bit too avant garde for Cochise. Although the band was taking me in new and challenging directions, it was the social connections that I made during that time that proved to be the most important thing for me. I got to record with many of the famous names that were associated with the group like Steve Marriott (Humble Pie) and Elton John, and quickly the word spread that here was a pedal steel player who was trying something different. I have Cochise to thank for my career as a session musician and the reputation I have managed to establish.
The tracks on the compilation CD come from the following original recordings:
Cochise (UAS29117, released 1970)
Producer: Dick Taylor and Cochise.
Engineer: John Stewart
Studios: Kingsway and De Lane Lea
Past Loves (Stewart Brown)
Trafalgar Day (BJ Cole)
Moment And The End (BJ Cole)
Watch This Space (Stewart Brown)
China (Mick Grabham)
Swallow Tales (LBG83428, released 1971)
Engineer: Roger Wake
That's Why I Sing The Blues (Mick Grabham)
Strange Images (BJ Cole)
Down Country Girls (Mick Grabham)
Home Again (Mick Grabham)
Another Day (Mick Grabham)
US Single (LBF15425)
Love's Made A Fool Of You (Holly/Montgomery)
So Far (UAS29286, released 1972)
Producer and engineer: Vic Smith
Studios: Olympic and Island.
Cajun Girl (Otemro)
Diamonds (Mick Grabham)
Blind Love (Dave Elliott)
Thunder In The Crib (BJ Cole)
Midnight Moonshine (Mick Grabham)
Mick Grabham – electric and acoustic guitars, piano, organ and vocals
BJ Cole – pedal steel guitar, dobro and cello
Ricky Wills – bass guitar, percussion & backing vocals
Stewart Brown – lead vocal and acoustic guitar
John Gilbert – lead vocals
John 'Willie' Wilson – drums, percussion and backing vocals
Roy Otemro – drums and percussion.
With additional musical contributions from Steve Marriott, Robert Kirby, Tim Renwick, Nigel Olsson and Caleb Quaye.
Cochise albums at last available on CD!