Herbie Flowers: One Man 'Wrecking Crew'!

Legendary bassist Herbie Flowers is a one man "Wrecking Crew'
Herbie Flowers, left, performing with David Bowie and Marc Bolan
Most anyone who has ever spent any time in record stores over the years, especially the cut-out bins, is at least familiar with the band Sky on a subconscious level. If the name doesn't ring a bell, perhaps the sight of this tape will clear things up.

Seeing a copy of Sky 3 on cassette today, in its familiar red Arista branding, takes this writer right back to those halcyon days of youth when my biggest worry was how much time my parents would spend in Sears, leaving me no other alternative than to rummage through the bins of the adjacent Musicland cheapo bins for what seemed an eternity.

Supergroup Sky featured Herbie Flowers on bass.As a teenager, my personal read on the band based solely on the cover art was as follows:

1. They're on Arista so, whoever they are, they're doomed.

2. Don't be fooled by iconic and futuristic cover art, its most likely some pompous British prog band with a flutist where the most futuristic thing about them is the damn cover art. Once bitten, twice shy, babe.

So when I recently procured a box of sealed cassettes from a record store that recently closed their doors, I found myself owner of many titles I had seen over the years, but never heard. Sky 3 was one of those cassettes.

Before you could say "Hey, I wonder what this one sounds like" I ripped off the shrinkwrap and immediately eyed the credits for any name that rang familiar. I was immediately reminded of my #1 gripe about cassettes: the abbreviated liner notes. Beyond listing song titles, the J-card for Sky 3 neglects to provide a photo of the band, much less the names of the band members, yet does provide you with the last names of each song's writers.

It took a quick Google to reveal the band's membership and the first name that catches this writer's eye is "Herbie Flowers".

Finally, a name we recognize.

This writer first became aware of Flowers as the bass player for T. Rex on 1977's Dandy In The Underworld, an album that finally delivered on Bolan's promise of a return-to-form, but was stopped short by Bolan's death.

Before that, Flowers played bass in Blue Mink, a band that claimed Elton John among its biggest fans. John would tap Flowers to play on Tumbleweed Connection, which brought Flowers to the attention of David Bowiewho handpicked Flowers to play bass on Lou Reed's Transformer.

Flowers' fluid bass lines are noteworthy throughout the Transformer album for adding much-needed melody and nuance to otherwise minimal arrangements, but never more so than on "Walk On The Wild Side", where Flowers' playing imbues the song with the necessary grit needed to drive home Reed's subversive lyrics.

Flowers went on to play bass on Bowie's Diamond Dogs and toured America as part of the Bowie band that recorded David Live! that same year. That autumn, Blue Mink broke up, freeing Flowers to take on more session work. One of his first projects in 1975 was classical guitarist John Williams' album Height Below; the success of which enticed Williams to continue his foray into more pop-based work by forming the band that would become Sky.

Between 1979 (the year the first Sky album was released) and 1981, Flowers played on successful albums by Cliff Richard, David Essex, Camel, Harry Nillson, Roger Daltrey, Justin Hayward, Ringo Starr and George Harrison. In 1984, he would work with Paul McCartney on Give My Regards To Broad Street.

It is loosely estimated that Flowers has played on more than 500 hits.

Sadly, none of those hits can be found on Sky 3, which is the sort of classical prog album that lovers of ELP (especially those Works albums) no doubt salivate over upon hearing for the first time. While not exactly this writer's favorite cup of tea, the level of musicianship on display is, in a word, staggering.

Superior St. Rehearsal Facility

1 comment:

  1. Flowers is a genius on bass just listen to Bowies space oddity born Brian Keith Flowers his musical career started in the RAF playing Tuba soon progressed to double bass then in 1959 bought his blue Fender Jazz.Hes still going strong! And is 80 next year.