Steeleye Span

20 January 2001

Bus Stop

Disclaimer

This is my personal opinion. Any errors of fact will be promptly corrected when I am notifed of them.

Gay quits

As of 14 January 2001, Gay Woods has left the band.

This announcement was made via her web site. It appears as if the other band members first found out from the web site as well, judging from Peter Knight's response.

Gay Woods has announced through her website that she has left Steeleye, ...

It seems as if there is a lot left unsaid there.

The second album

In a lighter vein, it was only to be expected. No lineup has ever put out more than two albums without significant change. As evidence I offer the following timeline:

EntryAlbumsExit
Formation: Tim Hart, Maddy Prior, Ashley Hutchings, Gay Woods, Terry Woods.
  1. Hark! The Village Wait
the Woods leave
Martin Carthy and Peter Knight join
  1. Please to See the King
  2. Ten Map Mop
Martin and Ashley leave
Rick Kemp and Bob Johnson join
  1. Below the Salt
  2. Parcel of Rogues
Change of producers
Nigel Pegrum joins
  1. Now we are Six
  2. Commoners Crown
Change of producers and management
 
  1. All Around my Hat
  2. Rocket Cottage
Peter and Bob leave
Martin rejoins, John Kirkpatrick joins
  1. Storm Force Ten
  2. Live at Last
Band splits up
Band reforms
  1. Sails of SIlver
Band splits up, again.
Band reforms, minus Tim Hart
  1. Back in Line
Rick leaves
Tim Harries joins
  1. Tempted and Tried
Nigel leaves
Liam Genockey joins
  1. Tonight's The Night
 
Gay rejoins
  1. Time
Maddy and Liam leave
 
  1. Horkstow Grange
  2. Bedlam Born
Bob retires, Gay leaves

The band as a bus

Maddy Prior has characterised Steeleye Span as like being on a bus (see Steve Winick's article).

"Steeleye Span is like a bus," Maddy Prior explains. " It goes along, and people get on and get off it. Sometimes the bus goes along the route you want to go, and sometimes it turns off, so you get off." The only problem, she says, is that nobody's driving, and the bus tends to get lost.

The description seems to have stuck: The 25th reunion concert album was finally released under the title "The Journey" and Peter seems to echo the theme when he says:

Steeleye Span will do what it has always done in these situations. Continue on its journey.

I wonder where the bus is headed though.

Next stop

As of Bedlam Born, we have a band that is showing the courage to try some new directions. It sounds a lot like a new band, in fact, it doesn't sound that much like Steeleye Span anymore. (I don't think this is a bad thing! Every mark has sounded different from the one before. Steeleye Span's great strength has been its sheer diversity and richness.)

With Bob andGay gone though, it's a band with a problem or two.

Songwriters.

From the earliest days, the "traditional" material has had more than a little help---from Bob, Maddy, Tim Hart and Peter. Recently, Tim Harries has started to blossom in this area, but with Bob gone, that puts the burden all on Peter and him.

On a more positive note, Rick Kemp took to songwriting in his years away from the band, so Steeleye could be almost up to full stength again.

Arrangers.

See above. With Bob and Tim Hart gone, that leaves just Peter. I don't know how good Rick is. However, if the band 'gels', then arrangements shouldn't be a problem.

Lead vocalists.

At one time Steeleye Span seemed to be made up of nothing but lead vocalists: Tim Hart, Maddy, Martin, Gay and Bob, with a similarly strong array of backing vocalists: Tim, Maddy, Martin, Gay, Bob, Rick and Peter.

Exit Bob and Gay and that leaves Peter and Tim Harries, whose voices are suited to only a fraction of Steeleye's repertoire. I don't recall Rick's voice as really being suitable to carry to burden of chief lead vocalist, so they really need one or two more lead vocalists!

At first it seems obvious that they need a super female lead vocalist; but Fairport managed to survive the loss of Sandy Denny, by changing its focus, so they could take the brave step of not replacing Gay or Maddy.

Drummers

Steeleye Span has long gloried in its ability to function without a permanent drummer. Having said which, having a permanent drummer would be a Good Thing.

Diversity

Steeleye Span has always been a very diverse band. That is one of the things I like most about them, and I think it is an important part of what makes Steeleye Span what it is. Peter, Rick and Tim are extraordinary musicians, but I fear that even they are a bit stretched to carry on alone.

The armchair critic speaks

It's all quite simple really. They need a world class feamale lead vocalist and also another lead male vocalist. Who can write songs and arrange. And a really good drummer. All of whom are sympathetic to the music. And get on with each other, and the existing members of the band. Who don't mind a heavy touring schedule. And can expand the diversity.

Um, yes. In your own time then.


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