Wednesday, March 18, 2015

My favourite Andy Fraser band wasn't Free

When I heard Andy Fraser had died I got out this album, "First Water" by Sharks.  It didn't disappoint.

Sometimes it seems every band from the 70s has some kind of cult following. But not Sharks.

There's been no loving reissue programme for Sharks, no retrospective in Uncut, no young movie actor has stepped forward to claim them as his own. They're not on Spotify and there's barely anything on You Tube. It seems the only people who know anything about them are the people who saw them.

In the wake of the death of Fraser people are rightly talking about Free, the band he was in before forming Sharks. They're the band with all the hits. Sharks were a slightly less ingratiating, slightly more "indie" (to use a word that nobody used at the time) outlet for Fraser's still teenage instincts.

Fraser formed Sharks in 1972 with Marty Simon, a drummer from Canada, recruited Britain's most versatile session guitarist Chris Spedding and probably thought he'd have a shot at being his own front man. But the record company didn't rate his voice and brought in Snips as singer.

That probably explains why he left when their first album "First Water" came out in 1973 and failed to set the world on fire. They made another one which isn't anything like as good and then split up.

I saw Sharks three times before Fraser left and they made one of the best rackets I've ever heard in my life. They made music which had some of the more appealing characteristics of the jam - that sense of a groove being mined to see what might be inside it and the feeling of edges which nobody could be bothered to polish  - allied to that catchiness which hints at further layers of catchiness to come.

Like most great rock and roll bands they were led from the rear by the rhythm section, nobody in the band was actually playing what you were hearing and the guitar solos were largely implied.


  1. Strange that one of the older stalwarts of the 60s (Daevid Allen, born 1938) and Andy Fraser (born 1952! the youngest 60s artist?) should have died so close to each other.

    Blues bores quote the first, rather dreary, (especially for 1968) LP, 'classic rock' magazines quote the one with 'All Right Now', but for me the Free gem is the largely acoustic second album, 'Free'.
    Could be the best album release in 1969 which, by definition, also makes it the best album release since 1969.

  2. Daevid Allen gone? Didn't know until I read the above comment. Really sad to hear that. He and Gong changed my life in my late teens and I never stopped liking their music. Nice tribute HERE

  3. Totally agree David. I was always struck by how some people around me at the time (all Free advocates) thought Andy Fraser a bit of a self centred chap, and 'up himself ' to a degree I ignored them of course preferring to let his bass playing and obvious talents do the talking. Sharks First Water bears repeated listens and has worn well against time. Their somewhat laconic, shabby chic playing style was at variance with their peers, endearing and at least to me, worth greater success. A shame it didn't work for him - he never managed to change this with later solo efforts.