by Mott the Dog
re-mastered by Ella Crew
Peter Banks was relieved of his position as lead guitarist
with the formative “Yes” after two albums. Not because of his abilities, but
because of a penchant for rather overdoing the Rock ‘n’ Roll life style and
tending to have a bit too much of a good time, unlike some of his more studious
When Steve Howe replaced Banks he had to firstly learn how to
play Banks’ parts, and like all “Yes” guitarists, had to play in that
style to this day. However, Steve Howe throws a terrible wobbly if Banks’ name
is even mentioned in his hearing, scotching any chance of any further
collaboration between Banks and any of his old colleagues. That is pretty ironic
considering that over the years everybody in the band has left and re-joined at
some point, an exception being bass player Chris Squire, who seemed to have
managed the devious waters of being in a band rather well.
Bill Bruford, acknowledged as the drummer’s drummer, left
out of sheer boredom. Rick Wakeman, the keyboard wizard and champion of the
draughts table and skittles, was once fired for eating his curry and chips
dinner washed down with a few pints of Kilkenny, while still playing the more
tedious parts of the extremely overblown epic “Tales from a Topographic
Ocean” in front of a packed Wembley Stadium.
When lead vocalist Jon Anderson and Wakeman (again) left in
1980, they simply incorporated pop duo The Buggles (Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes,
famous for their one hit wonder “Video killed the Radio Star”, which was
eventually to lead to Howe and Downes clearing off to form the money spinning
“Asia”) into their ranks.
Perhaps at this stage “Yes” should of been known as “Yuggles”,
but to be fair the record buying public never seemed to mind buying each new
release as long as the name “Yes” was on it and it had a nice Roger Dean
designed cover, so the album looked good nonchalantly lying on the coffee table.
So what did the bad boy of Progressive Rock do after leaving
“Yes”? Form a Punk band? Well, not quite, but certainly as close as Punk
Rock ever came to Progressive Rock. “Flash” was the name of the band, a name
thought up over cold pie and chips with a couple of warm lagers after their
first rehearsals. Flash by name, Flash by nature.
Peter Banks had found himself the perfect lineup to replace
his old colleagues, but thereby hangs a tale as by the time they got into the
studio, Peter’s old drinking buddy from “Yes”, Tony Kaye, had also been
tossed aside as the others coveted the multitalented skills of Mr. Rick Wakeman
and his many assorted keyboards. They were whisked from those laid back folks
with ‘The Strawbs’ and positioned in all their glory taking up the whole
left hand side of the stage at every “Yes” concert. Far more prestigious
than Tony Kaye’s simple Hammond organ. More is not necessarily better.
So Tony Kaye was rushed out of one door straight into the
door marked Flash. Tony Kaye never actually toured with the band although his
playing here is nothing short of stunning. This was always going to be Peter
Banks’ band. To be fair to Tony Kaye he had been rather caught on the rebound
and decided to take a bit of a break from playing in a band before forming his
own. He did so later and formed the keyboard oriented fabulous “Badger”,
which suited his playing.
On lead vocals was Colin Carter, who looked like an action
man doll with long curly blonde hair, and with a talent for singing Peter’s
songs and smashing tambourines at the end of each song. Indeed, he sounded a lot
like Peter Banks’ previous singer, but didn’t insist upon singing his own
On bass guitar was Ray Bennett, one of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s
most inventive bassists, running out fluid bass lines that not only underpinned
all of Banks’ solos, but laid down their own stories as well. One listen to
opening track “Small Beginnings” will leave you gasping as his bass is all
over the song, while not taking anything away from the lead guitars or
keyboards. He was also the owner of a very clear pair of pipes enabling the band
to incorporate soaring harmonies amidst even the heaviest sections of the music,
and, as in the second song on this collection, take over on lead vocals to leave
Carter to his tambourine smashing.
Next we have the gentleman with the sticks in his hands
behind the drum kit, Mr. Mike Hough, an exponent of his skills of rare talent
and violence, probably the find of the band. His live drum solos, though
thankfully brief, used to leave audiences gasping.
There are five songs on this debut album and they come in two
varieties, two relatively short ballads (about five minutes each), and three
longer, well-structured pieces with room for each element of the band to show
off their skills, the pick of which has to be “Dreams of Heaven”. (Actually
the gem of an idea for a song that Peter Banks had in his last days with
“Yes”. They changed it into “Perpetual Change”, but here you get it in
its full rocked out glory.) “Dreams of Heaven” clocks in at just under
thirteen minutes; however, it often used to be stretched out to thirty minutes
when they used it as a closure to their live sets. The music is fast and
furious, edgy, and seldom relaxed. They often played ten chords when three would
of done. What the heck. If you’ve got it, flaunt it. But they could never be
accused of being clich้, gauche, or mediocre.
After touring all over the world for two years, three albums
by the band, a solo album from Peter Banks, a disinterested management, a
confused record label, tempers shortening, and morale dropping, the band
imploded in true Spinal Tap fashion after a show in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It
really is a shame.
Despite all the usual accusations of pomposity and self
indulgence leveled at Progressive Rock, “Flash” had a vibrancy and optimism
that transcended all the stereotypes of seventies rock music. They really loved
their music and it always showed.
Definitely some of the classiest music to come out of the
early seventies and a great addition to any CD collection. Even cooler, it has
an album cover anybody would like to have draped across their coffee table, but
it definitely isn’t by Roger Dean.
They were Flash - their life was short, but burned bright.
They came and went in a Flash.
Peter Banks - Guitars, Electric, Acoustic, and Spanish,
Ole’, Hooter A.R.P. Synthesizer, and even a little backing vocals
Tony Kaye - Organ, A.R.P. Synthesizer, Piano
Colin Carter - Tambourine smashing and lead vocals
Mike Hough - Drums, Hard Knocks and Badinage
Ray Bennett - Bass Guitar, backing vocals, lead vocals on ‘Morning Haze’
Children of the Universe
Dreams of Heaven
The Time it Takes
To contact Mott the Dog email: [email protected]