Revised February, 2011
Geoff Brown lead vocal, guitar
Richard Pannell guitar
Len Cox bass guitar
Carl Palmer drums
This mod-styled group developed from a popular Birmingham R&B line-up named The King Bees (formerly The Castaways). (The) Craig recorded an original song called 'I Must Be Mad' which is now regarded by many as one of the earliest and best British psychedelic/rock tracks of the 1960s.
Craig are also significant in rock music history as one of the earliest bands to feature drummer Carl Palmer who went on to fame and fortune in the progressive rock group "Emerson Lake & Palmer". Geoff Brown who was lead vocalist for Craig has provided much assistance in writing the story of the band as follows:
In February 1966, The King Bees manager Alan Clayton introduced them to the influential record producer Larry Page who worked with both The Kinks and The Troggs. Larry Page saw potential in the group so arranged for them to record a cover of an American group The Exciters US chart hit 'A Little Bit Of Soap'. The B-side for the proposed single was written by The King Bees own Geoff Brown and was entitled 'Ready Steady Let's Go'.
Amazingly, Larry Page did not consider Carl Palmer suitable to play drums on the recording. Geoff Brown; "The really interesting part is that Larry Page didn't think Carl had the right feel for the song in the studio so he brought in a session drummer he liked at the time, Mitch Mitchell (later to find fame in The Jimi Hendrix Experience) to play on the single. Carl said he didn't have the same rock feel to his drumming. He said he learnt a lot from that experience in terms of tighter playing and drum tuning".
It was Larry Page's decision to change the name of the group from "The King Bees" to (The) "Craig" because of other combos using the name The King Bees (including one fronted by a young David Bowie). However, the group's manager Alan Clayton had concerns the name change would confuse fans in the Midlands and affect the group's bookings as having already been advertised as The King Bees. In any case, the record was released on Larry Page's own 'Page One Records' label under the group name 'Craig' and distributed by Fontana Records.
Apparently, the name Craig originated when a member of a London mod band called 'The Clique' told Larry Page that his friend Craig would be helping to bring in some gear for a recording session. Larry liked the name and so used it for his latest new band - The King Bees (This information originated from a 'Shindig' Mojo Mills interview of UK musician Jesse Hector).
Although 'The Exciters' had scored a minor hit in the UK with 'Tell Him' in 1963, neither theirs or Craig's recording of 'A Little Bit Of Soap' made it into the British charts. The group members did not think the record was a good representation of what the band sounded like. Geoff; "I was still at university at the time and we didn't think the record really reflected what the band was about. The record was a minor success, but didn't make the charts. Larry page wanted us to record another cover of a Georgie Fame song 'Getaway', which I didn't like and couldn't really sing that well."
However, for the second Craig single, the band was given more freedom - both in the studio and in their choice of material. They were allowed to record some original songs that did a far better job of capturing the band's energy and sounded quite revolutionary for a British band back then.
Geoff; "I had been writing a lot of songs at the time. When we went into the studio I played Larry a new one I had called 'I Must Be Mad', which was a psychedelic, Who-like, storm of sound that really built up to a frenzy with some great drumming and massive one-note riff in E. We played it once through and Larry liked it. The next time through was a live take with no overdubs."
'I Must Be Mad' was indeed high-energy, full-out rock with a sound that can be described as quite psychedelic and ahead of its time. Based around a crude, yet stunningly effective heavy guitar & bass riff, the recording featured Geoff's distinctive bluesy vocal backed with a huge build-up and fantastic explosion of drumming from Carl Palmer. He must surely have been under the influence of The Who's Keith Moon in those early formative days!
Geoff Brown; "The record I Must Be Mad has since become a collectible psychedelic 1960's classic track. It was voted by an Observer poll only second to 'Arnold Layne' by The Pink Floyd as the greatest psychedelic single of the 60's. Little did we know that when we did that one-take recording it would remain around for posterity!"
In the decades following, I Must Be Mad has been re-issued on several 1960s compilation albums and CDs while copies of the original single are highly sought-after by record collectors. The story behind the B-side to Craig's I Must Be Mad 45 is just as interesting according to Geoff Brown.
Geoff; "I also wrote the B-side, 'Suspense', on which the guitar solo was played by a new band Larry was recording called The Troggs. Later that day they recorded Wild Thing!" Certainly, it was a productive time for Larry Page if you can believe it - two great records made in one day!
Unfortunately for Craig, a classic record does not always a hit make, so any hopes the band had of topping the charts soon evaporated. Len Cox; "We recorded a few things for Larry Page at a studio in the famous 'Tin Pan Alley', but our bid for fame was frustrated by him trying to take us in a musical direction that did not sit comfortably with us. The name change from The King Bees to Craig was the innovation of Larry and being somewhat naive and hungry for success we went along with it, but it was the beginning of the end."
Geoff Brown; "We all had relationships and the band was going nowhere even though we all got on. We weren't really happy about the name change and the direction Larry wanted to take us in and we decided to call it a day." Thus, unwilling to continue as part of the "Larry Page Stable", Craig had disbanded by mid 1967.
Carl Palmer went on to join Chris Farlowe's "Thunderbirds" who already had the number one UK hit 'Out Of Time' in June 1966 - a song written and produced by The Rolling Stone's Mick Jagger. From there, Carl Palmer got the job of playing drums with "The Crazy World of Arthur Brown" who had experienced international success with their hit record 'Fire' in 1967. Following his stint with Arthur Brown, Carl helped form the acclaimed progressive rock outfit "Atomic Rooster" with whom he soon became recognized as one of the top drummers in the UK.
In 1970, Carl Palmer was invited to join a new "supergroup" by Keith Emerson - formerly of The Nice. The resulting band consisting of Keith Emerson (keyboards), Greg Lake (from King Crimson on lead vocal & guitar), and Carl Palmer, were titled simply "Emerson, Lake & Palmer". Their music, however was anything but simple with complex arrangements combining spectacular musicianship including Carl's famous on-stage drum solos.
ELP achieved immediate success, especially in America, recording multi-million selling albums and touring all over the world. Their recording of 'Fanfare For The Common Man' was a number two UK hit in the summer of 1977. Carl Palmer had continued success in the 1980s with yet another supergroup "Asia" who also sold records in the millions world over. Still performing today, Carl Palmer remains one of the most respected drummers in rock music.
Following the demise of Craig, Geoff Brown along with Richard Pannell, went on to form the Brum progressive rock outfit Galliard who made a couple of well-received albums and became very well-known on the club/college circuit (see Galliard). Richard Pannell would later travel the world as sound engineer with the hugely successful Birmingham rock group ELO (see The Move).
Len Cox left the music business to become a vicar (Father Leonard Cox) at St. Martin's in Birmingham. Len; "I can recall many happy memories from those iconic days, about our time together and the various Birmingham musicians and bands who went on to world wide fame. It was a magical period and I am pleased to say Geoff, Richie, Carl and I still keep in touch."
As for Geoff Brown; "After Galliard I formed 'Muscles' who had one album (Birmingham's answer to level 42). Finally, I ended up in videogames in 1983 as CEO/Founder of two major companies: US Gold, one of Europe's leading game publishers, and CentreSoft, the UK's largest game distribution company. US Gold acquired Core Design in 1985 and developed in that studio the Tomb Raider/Lara Croft game which went on to sell more than 38 million copies worldwide. The company was the first videogame group to float on the UK stock-market and went public in 1993."
Geoff is still active in videogames and now lives in Los Angeles, California where he enjoys playing and composing bluegrass music. So you see, all that hard work in school and university did pay off eventually for Geoff and I'll bet he doesn't have to make his own guitars anymore!
Many thanks to Geoff Brown for his assistance in preparing the Craig story and providing images of the group shown here. Thanks also to Len Cox for additional input.
Copyright © 2011 John R Woodhouse
You can visit Geoff Brown's MySpace music page at: myspace.com/geoffbrownrecords
For more information about Carl Palmer, visit his official web site at: www.carlpalmer.com
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