The early seventies would see the advent of Progressive rock, a swirling keyboard based mash of ideas and rambling concepts, the thinking man’s rock ‘n’ roll if you will. Coventry would not be left out of this genre and we too would have our own prog’ rock band in the shape of the fascinating Indian Summer.
Rob Jackson had been the rhythm guitarist in local band The Rochester Beaks (they all had big noses and lived in Rochester Road, that’s Bob’s words not mine) with Paul Hooper on drums. ” I was about 17 at the time”, says Bob, “and the experience was nothing short of thrilling. I played rhythm guitar. We played various covers from that era”. From those humble beginnings came a new breed of group enter The ACME Patent Electric Band. A forward thinking combo that also included Tim James and Malc Harker who had joined from the band The Perfumed Garden. Bob took up the role of bass player and the band gained a reputation not just for their Psychedelic blues sound but for their bizarre stage antics and film and light shows. Bob Jackson again, “It developed into quite an unusual band featuring many diverse elements, including a fully functioning exploding antelope’s head! Quite bizarre really-both musically and theatrically, but good fun nonetheless”.
By the late sixties Bob (now on keyboards) and Paul Hooper had formed Indian Summer, after various people came and went Malc Haker would join on bass and the classic line-up was complete by former From the Sun guitarist Colin Williams. For six months they found their feet, playing as many gigs as they could muster, perfecting their art. It was at one of these gigs at Henry’s Blues House in Birmingham they were Black Sabbath’s then manager Jim Simpson (who also ran the club) had rounded up former Vertigo Records boss Olav Wyper to see the band. Both had attended the same venue 12-month previous and witnessed Indian Summer and Black Sabbath play. That day saw Sabbath being signed to Simpson and Vertigo records and Indian Summer being rejected. This time it was the Coventry bands turn and that twelve month of hard gigging had seen the group come in to it’s own. Bob Jackson, “ I can remember Ozzy asking us over to his place in Birmingham to discuss whether or not Indian Summer should sign with their management. He told us Sabbath was at the point of leaving to sign with Don Arden (Sharon’s father), which was the start for him of something much bigger than he, or we, could ever have imagined”.
The quartet went into the studio to record their first (and as it would transpire, only) album also called Indian Summer. Produced by Sabbath’s producer Rodger Bain. It was recorded at Trident Studios in London and took just one week to finish. “Recording the album at Trident studios was a thrill”, reveals Paul Hooper, “but because it was really our first time doing a proper professional recording we probably let a lot of stuff pass which we should have taken more time over. I remember the “Time is Money” ethic being banded about by record company people, so we were under some pressure to get it done as soon as possible. I recall that we were recording at all times of the day and well into the night on some occasions.
The album turned out well, with Bob Jackson’s outstanding vocals provided a perfect foil for the super-tight keyboard and guitar-work. All held in place by the bands rock solid rhythm section. In my humble opinion the standout track on the album was Emotions Of Men. A jazzy keyboard driven anthem that builds to a stunning guitar solo, with some nice use of harmonics in there for good measure! The album was released on RCA’s new progressive Neon label (label-mates were another Coventry band Dando Shaft). Paul Hooper again, “I find it very interesting that we still get a few “fans” from all over the world, and curiously especially from the Eastern Block, wanting to know more details about Indian Summer. The LP has sort of become a collectors item…probably because of it’s rarity rather than any great musical reason! However, some hold it up as the supreme example of it’s genre…Well who am I to argue with that?”
The band would promote the album playing many Open-air festivals supporting bands like Yes, Arthur Brown and Free. One interesting festival they played was The Carnon Downs Festival in Truro on 21st August 1971. Indian Summer where they were sixth on the bill and an unheard of band called Queen were eighth on the bill (this was their 28th show as Queen and only their 13th with John Deacon on bass)! Arthur Brown was headlining the festival.
Soon after the album came out Malcolm Harker left the band and he was replaced by Wez Price formerly of The Coventry beat band The Sorrows. A tour of Switzerland followed, but by 1972 four very disillusioned musicians had returned to Coventry, penniless a decided to call it a day. Bob joined the band Ross then Badfinger, Colin Williams left the music business all together and Paul Hooper would then team up with Rob again in The Dodgers then join Barry Walker’s Smakee before becoming one of The Fortunes (along with Bob again).
I asked Bob Jackson if there was every talk of a single and a follow-up album? “The record company wanted us to record a single. Their suggestion was Free’s “Ride on a Pony”. We didn’t like the idea, so we made a really bad job of the demo. Lucky it didn’t backfire on us- we ended up doing a track of our own (Walking on Water). Unfortunately though, we hit management/record company problems, so the single release and projected album never saw the light of day”.
Despite being short-lived and making only one album Coventry’s Indian Summer still maintain a cult-like status. As I browse the internet I find their album is being offered for $264, that’s around £142 pounds, for a record that’s over 30 years old that’s some legacy!
Indian Summer Trivia.
- They often stood in for the Black Sabbath boys when they couldn’t make a gig for some reason. They never ate any bats, but in those days neither did they!
- They regularly used to give Pete Waterman lifts home in our group van after gigs.
- Indian Summer was the first rock band to play in Coventry Cathedral ruins for an open-air gig.
- Bob was once so broke that he pushed and dragged his Hammond Organ on a trolley from my home in Grafton Street to the Lanch Poly.
- The Album (now very collectable) was released in CD format in 1993. It was only one of two Neon Album’s to be released in America.
- Jim Simpson went on to become editor of the Midlands music paper Brum Beat, where a fledgling reporter named Pete Chambers cut his teeth.
For more information on Coventry & Warwickshire music old and new checkout Pete Chamber’s fascinating book “Godiva Rocks” available for just £5.99 from the following outlets. Ottakas books the Precinct, Midnight Cov Market, Browns Café Bar Earl St, Armstrong’s Books Earlsdon, the Jailhouse Much Park St, Coventry Tourist Centre Priory row, Central and Stoke library. Hunts bookshop Rugby, Spinadisc Rugby, The Nags Nuneaton, The Entertainment Exchange Queens Rd Nuneaton, Portland Books Warwick St Leamington spa and on e-bay.