Monday, August 11, 2008

Forgotten pop: Vigrass and Osborne (1972 - 74)

Here you'll find all I have been able to assemble about Vigrass and Osborne: the British duo of Paul Vigrass and Gary Osborne. They had a brief recording history in the early 1970s which resulted in a handful of sparkling pop singles that were criminally ignored in most territories around the world.

Depending on territory, the records were released on labels such as Uni (in USA), MCA (NZ, Brazil), Epic or JCM.  The known singles were
  • Men Of Learning/Forever Autumn (1972)
  • Virginia/Ballerina (1972) - audio of Virginia now available on Youtube
  • Mr Deadline/Remember Pearl Harbour* (1972) - audio of Mr Deadline now available on Youtube (unfortunately missing some of intro and a few bars in the middle) 
  • Gypsy Woman/I've Seen Her Shining, 1974. 

The albums:

Queues (1972): Forever Autumn, Ballerina, and probably Men Of Learning/Don't You Worry/Ballerina/Mississippi Lullaby/Virginia//Sail Away/Forever Autumn/An Invitation/Remember/The End.

Steppin' Out (1974): Gypsy Woman/Daily Express/Engine Driver/Summer Passed You By/Haystacks/Sunshine Cake/Wild And Windy Sea/Steppin' Out/Sit Yourself Down/Hey Brother-Heyla

Their producer, Jeff Wayne, was a writer and producer of commercial jingles - he undoubtedly brought that sensibility to the table, as well as playing organ and co-writing some of the songs.  Musicians I recognise on the albums include guitarists Chris Spedding and Caleb Quaye, and Ray Cooper (percussion); the latter two frequently worked with Elton John.

Wayne, of course, later produced the highly successful War Of The Worlds album in 1978. To that project, he took with him Gary Osborne to write lyrics to some of the songs - and he uplifted a Vigrass And Osborne tune - Forever Autumn, which became the biggest seller and signature tune from War Of The Worlds. The original - less wistful and at a brighter tempo - had been the b-side to V&O's first single, and you can listen to the original here. I post the link with some hesitation, as the song by no means does them sufficient justice, and pales against the better production values of the later, better-remembered version.

According to this site, they were also both in a band called Casablanca (as was Bias Boshell, writer of I've Got The Music In Me) for one eponymous 1974 album.

Prior to V&O, Paul Vigrass had a few solo releases in the late 1960s (including Free Lorry Ride and A New Man), then briefly replaced Tony Burrows as lead singer of the studio band Edison Lighthouse. But I have found no record of him past 1974.  There's one audio of his on Youtube - Suzie - very much in the Burrows/Lighthouse style.

Gary Osborne leaves a number of traces, though - as a lyricist. He apparently wrote English lyrics for the Veronique Sanson song Amoureuse, recorded by Kiki Dee in 1974 (a year after the original). But his best residual income would be from the War Of The Worlds album, possibly also for his lyrics for Elton John on three albums in the mid-1980s; the hits were Part Time Love, Little Jeannie, and Blue Eyes. He's been active as lyricist as recently as 2006.

I write this because Vigrass And Osborne have nigh-on disappeared from the tribal consciousness, which is quite the opposite of the fate they merit. I best know them for their highlight: Mr Deadline, a wonderful piece of pop which thoroughly deserves to be remembered. Interestingly, it shared a vocal line with Sweet's Blockbuster. My memory tells me I heard Deadline first and thought Blockbuster was the ripoff; however the records show the latter was released a couple of weeks earlier in my territory (and no comparisons available elsewhere), so the situation is unresolved. However, never put it beyond messrs Chinn and Chapman (Sweet, Quatro, Mud, Smokie, etc etc) to steal anything not nailed down. [listen to the falsetto 'ah-aaaah' at the very end of Deadline, and at the beginning of Blockbuster - they're identical.]

The only charting info I have (to my knowledge, all based on record sales):
  • Men Of Learning: US (Billboard) #65; Boston (WRKO) #20; Australia #84; New Zealand #17; Wellington NZ (2ZM) #12
  • Mr Deadline: Wellington #16

Some additional information available at Gary Osborne's Wikipedia entry. A blog entry for The Great Big Radio provided some information found nowhere else, as well as the above picture cover, and more accolades.

Other discussions of early 1970s pop music: songwriters (and occasional singers) Ellie Greenwich, Roger Cook, and the strange trend of recycling classical music.

*Note that Pearl Harbour is nothing to do with war, but like Virginia relates the tale of an eponymous woman.


Anonymous said...

3 day nation was another song by Gary Osbourne released around 1970.

S Simmonds said...

Thanks for the extra snippet, Lynn. Always appreciated.

Anonymous said...

I bought 3 Day Nation at the time, it was an orange label - CBS, I think. My memory is that i'd seen him performing it on Top of the Pops. But also, for the last (almost) 40 years, the way i remember it was that his backing band for that appearance was The Faces. I guess that could just be my memory playing tricks, though (but the record does have that 'sloppy', lolloping Faces sound!). Sample lyrics - "A nation of heads packed up their beds, and went out to get together"; and, er, "An incredible lady was having a baby. . ." (Yes, it really was that terrible!).

Anonymous said...

Hi all,

Paul Vigrass was later to be found as the singer in the UK progressive rock band Quasar during the early 80's, performing on the independently-released album "Fire in the Sky".

S Simmonds said...

Thanks, Anon. Personal knowledge always a great help in this research.

I also note:
- Youtube now has "Paul Vigrass - Stop / Like It Never Was [7" Vinyl RCA ] 1970"
- his two singles (Suzie, Stop) are on an obscure compilation called Fading Yellow Vol 9;
- there's also an actor of the same name, but probably a different person if a bio birthdate of 1963 is correct;
- V&O contributed a song to the 1974 Stardust soundtrack, Take It Away, sung by David Essex;
- Youtube has now removed Mr Deadline(!) - vigilance of a single copyright stakeholder, I guess.

Anonymous said...

Gary Osborne was/is the brother in law of Kenney Jones drummer in The Faces.
I saw Vigrass and Osborne when they supported The Faces in 1972? absolutely brilliant!!!

Anonymous said...

Here is the imdb page of Paul Vigrass and he is also with few other acting agencies like BMA Actors/Models :

S Simmonds said...

Thanks, both of you.

Is there any way to verify/make a positive connection between this Vigrass and the one on IMDB?


Anonymous said...

Paul is into screen work and films now. I know because I have worked with him.

Scotty1965 said...

I saw Paul perform with Quasar 3 times in 1983 or 1964. They played a tiny room in a pub called The Honeysuckle in Gateshead then two nights in a social club in South Shields (both Tyneside) On the first night at the social club the pyro rig set the curtains on fire, not surprisingly they weren't allowed to use the pyros the next night.

Anonymous said...

I think Paul is producing some music at the moment, with his lyrics, coming out later this year..will see what it is. Sure it will be great stuff..

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
S Simmonds said...

Thanks, Sylvia - done.