Thursday, 14 July 2011

As Above...So Below

I thought I would share something a bit different with you today. Something that, strictly speaking, doesn't fit in with the vinyl-centric format of my blog, but deserves a wider audience nevertheless. 

Back in 1981, a full year before Marillion released their debut single, a Hertfordshire-based progressive rock band who went by the name of As Above...So Below produced a demo tape and secured a session on Tommy Vance's Friday Rock Show on BBC Radio 1. When this was later repeated, I recall Tommy Vance commenting that he'd received more requests for a repeat airing of that particular session than any other in the history of the show. It seems a shame then that As Above...So Below weren't able to capitalise on the interest their session garnered and to share in the success that Marillion, Pallas, IQ et al enjoyed as participants in the early 1980s' new wave of progressive rock. I count myself fortunate to have a copy of the aforementioned demo, but my recording of their Friday Rock Show session has long since gone A.W.O.L. I would love a copy if anyone out there has a tape of it lurking in the back of a drawer somewhere.

I am particularly fond of this band as guitarist Robin Hodge, or 'Mr Hodge' as I knew him, was my school teacher when I was nine years old. Undoubtedly he played a role in developing my love of music, introducing me to Harry Nilsson's The Point and playing guitar or classical piano pieces at morning assembly. In the drab 1970s it seemed very cool to have a guitar and piano-playing teacher with long hair, cowboy boots and a side-line in conjuring tricks as a member of the Magic Circle. The band benefited greatly from the experience that Robin's brother, Phil, had acquired as a member of Steve Hillage's band, having played at some of the shows captured on the Live Herald album. To my ears he has a decidedly Tony Banks-like quality to his keyboard playing, whilst Robin's guitar playing is at times reminiscent of Camel's Andy Latimer or Marillion's Steven Rothery. 

Robin Hodge bottom left with brother Phil behind him
 
The band would perhaps have benefited from a stronger vocalist, someone with the charisma and lyrical bite of Fish or Peter Gabriel, but that aside, they had everything going for them. If you can find so much as a mention of As Above...So Below elsewhere on the internet, then I take my hat off to you. The brief flurry of interest that their radio session provoked seems to have been erased from the collective memory of Tommy Vance's listeners. Here's Fade Out, the lead off track from the demo. I hope you enjoy what you hear. I would be delighted to post the other tracks if anyone wants to hear more.


UPDATE: 9th August 2012

Seeing as there has been such interest generated by this post, including a response from As Above...So Below's bass player, Charlie Noble, I thought it was about time I posted the band's demo in its entirety. And, for those of you who haven't found it hidden away in the comments section, here's a link to that Friday Rock Show session:

http://www.zensurweb.com/booksnstuff/as_above_so_below.htm

Enjoy!


37 comments:

  1. Great track - thanks for putting this up. I remember their session on the FRS and have pretty bad recordings of those songs. I would like to hear more of this demo and would love to have a digital copy, if at all possible!

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    1. Thanks for the feedback: always appreciated. When I have a moment I'll digitise the rest of the tracks and get a copy to you if you let me have your email address. I've been meaning to update this post because, since publishing it, I've found a website with decent quality MP3s of that Friday Rock Show session. Find it at: http://www.zensurweb.com/booksnstuff/as_above_so_below.htm

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    2. Wow. For some reason i was thinking of Tommy Vance and the Friday Night Rock Show today so searched for this and bingo !!! I used to rush home from my fish and chip shop job to listen to the show (best show on the radio alongside Nicky Horne on Capital). Anyway i remember this band being on twice and loved it at the time (and still remember today). Thanks for the download link. So good to hear again.......

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    3. Glad to be of service! It's feedback like yours that makes blogging worthwhile.

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    4. I had this cassette once having been given it by the Drummer with whom I was in a band in St.Albans before I went off to university.

      Of all the bands I had been involved with these were the guys I thought would make the big time. Would love to know what they are doing now.

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    5. Hey! Thanks for your comment. I think we're all incredulous that things didn't work out for the band.

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  2. I cannot stop listening to the four tracks. They are so good. Bearing in mind i didnt think i would ever hear these songs again and for 30 years have just been remembering the songs and the band name. Its seriously impressive to get to hear these songs again. I'm normally fussy about the download quality of my collection. I dont care about these ones. Why didnt they get signed? beats me. They were easily as good as Pendgragon / Marillion at the time.

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    1. I couldn't agree more Dave. I have no idea whether there was ever any record company interest at the time, or what the circumstances were that led to the band's demise. Perhaps if any former members of As Above...So Below stumble across this blog they could enlighten us. Incidentally, this is by far the most popular post on my blog: a small indication that the band could have gone on to be as successful as other better known prog bands of the era.

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  3. Funny - I was just showing my eldest lad a couple of Steve Hillage riffs, and I stumbled across this blog. When I started reading I was going to post the link to the zensurweb blog, but you've already found that. The FRS session got picked-up by John Peel and was aired on his "Keeping it Peel" section
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio1/johnpeel/sessions/1980s/1981/Oct02asabovesobelow/

    You may know that Marillion were also based near us, and were once our support band. I forget where, but it may have been at St. Albans civic centre. Anyhow, I got on OK with Fish, and we shared a can of (I think) McEwans back stage. Their then bassist shortly after suffered some medical condition, possibly a detached retina?. Fish phoned me to ask if I'd like to audition for Marillion, but I (of course) declined. He assured me that they were going to get a recording contract "any day now" (yeah, right). Ah well...

    Lord knows why we weren't signed, but the pressure of work/music was getting to all of us and we agreed to an amicable split. I stayed in contact with Dave Ashcroft for a while, but life gets in the way. I've more recently been in touch with him again - He's still in the music industry, doing some session drumming and producing some music videos
    http://www.starnow.co.uk/DaveAshcroft

    I'm so glad/surprised that you still remember and enjoy the stuff we did so long ago. Its just a pity that we didn't record more of the music, as Phil was quite a prolific writer.

    I'd be interested to hear from anyone who remembers any of the gigs we did around Hertfordshire and north London, especially the Horn of Plenty in St. Albans which was always packed.

    As a last plug - here's my lad playing in his band
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1d7LkJy4uz0&feature=BFa&list=UU9odsRi0FqIlz7PXBWsfuWQ

    and if anyone else from AASB watches, see if you recognise the Simms Watts 4x12 which I lent to Dom (the guitarist). Every time I carry that somewhere I'm transported back to the '80s.

    Charlie.

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  4. I forgot to mention -
    The photo of us on the cassette cover was taken at your school, though you can't see much of it behind us. Its where we used to practise on Sundays.

    Charlie.

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  5. Delighted to hear from you Charlie! I hope it's satisfying for you to see the affection people have for AASB's music after all these years. You answered one question that I'm sure many of us have wanted to ask, namely, are there any other previously unheard AASB tracks anywhere? I had hoped that you might have the master tapes for an unreleased album sat in your loft. Oh well..! Sadly I never had the opportunity to see AASB live (too young at the time to be going to gigs), but would welcome any memories of the AASB live experience from readers of this blog. I know the Horn of Plenty very well and can imagine that AASB would have got a great reception there.

    It's good to see that the apple hasn't fallen far from the tree, and that your son is a musician too. Did you continue to play after AASB split or had you had enough of the music business by then? Were you not tempted to have a word in Fish's ear when he parted company with Marillion?

    Charlie, thanks again for taking the time to post your comments here and for the heads up on Dave Ashcroft. Oh, and thanks especially for the music!

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  6. OOOOOH! How exciting! I used to go and see AASB at The Horn and as a 16 year old thought Dave Ashcroft was fantastic. Also saw Marilion and bumped into Fish in the ladies' toilets because there wasn't a mirror in the men's for taking off make up.

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    1. Thanks for sharing your memories Jude. I bumped into Fish on London's Oxford street years ago - must have been around the time of Misplaced Childhood. Despite being late for an appointment with his bank manager, he took the time to chat and sign an autograph. Seemed like a thoroughly nice bloke. I'm more than a tad envious that you saw AASB!

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  7. WOW..Finally someone who has the demos of this great band. Used to go and see them along with Bleak House and Clientelle back in the day. Fantastic band. Any chance of getting hold of the mp3 of these tracks..Pretty please :)

    Jez

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    1. Thanks for the feedback Jez. And, seeing as you asked so nicely....

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  8. Hello - could you make the were so small and where did I go so wrong tracks available to me so that I can download them please. I think that all of these tracks deserve to be covered and extended by a contemporary prog band - I reckon a proper studio version of each and truly extend the tracks (I like longer tracks) would be marvellous.

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  9. hi, fantstic to stumble on this band again,many many thanks for the songs and the link,ah memories! as with others i taped them from the FRIDAY rock show and played the tape to death. fantastic music. any chance of the mp3 files of the demos? many thanks

    Mike

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    1. Thanks to those of you who've shown an interest in these tracks. I'm looking into ways of making them more widely available.

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  10. Another thank you - having occasionally searched the interweb for AASB over the years, nice to come across this, plus the links. Glad you have had the time and commitment to post it all.

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    1. My pleasure PM. Thanks for taking the time to leave an appreciative comment.

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  11. Well it looks like my fond recollections from that Friday Rock Show of 1981 were shared by many. It is strange that after so many years, and never ever having heard any of their tracks again, I still hum "Out of touch. I will have to forward this to some of my old room mates from the time to share in this nostalgia. It would be great to be able to add this to my eclectic mix on my iPod if anyone can send me the tracks... It is such a shame that Tommy Vance did not push them further and support them: after all so many crass bands have made it big yet this really good music was appreciated but did not get where it should have. I am really pleased though that I did a proper search and came across this page. Well done for posting it and keeping their music alive!
    B. J.

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  12. PS You also need to post Flying Dreams (their best track in my humble opinion) and City in the Sea!

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    1. Thanks for your comments Brian. If you click on the link just above the divShare player in my post, it'll take you to a website with all the tracks from their Friday Rock Show session: Flying Dreams et al.

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    2. Now you have another liker (one of my room mates from school!). Good word can travel fast. Question is can I download any of these for the iPod?
      Many thanks

      B. J.

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  13. Great find BJ. Certainly brings back memories. Great site btw.

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  14. What treasure! And what a tragedy that this band were failed by anyone who might have helped them as they deserved. Their session on the Friday Rock Show was one of the best ever. The songs were also of a time and place in my life that meant so much. To hear them again now is very poignant. Thank you for your link to the site with the tracks donated by the man in Holland, and thank you to the band members for giving us these gems. Few though they may be, they're as precious as any other work of art and should be preserved and shared the same.

    Paul Moulder

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  15. Thanks for your heartfelt and eloquent comment. It's only through the power of online interaction that I've begun to get an understanding of how much this band has touched people's lives.

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  16. Hi,

    I had seen your blog ages ago and had been meaning to write to you as Phil and Robin Hodge are my uncles and it was really great to see that people were still interested in their music but in the end Phil wrote to you himself and I had nothing much to add.




    However, I've been wanting for a long time to get something official together about the band and all of Phil's music in general and so thought I would drop you a line.




    I'm hoping to have an official Phil Hodge webpage ready in the coming months with some info about some planned releases of the majority of his recordings to date. The reason it will probably be a Phil Hodge music site as oppose to an As Above So Below site is that there is a lot of music written and recorded over a long period (1972-94), plus some recent-ish (2006) piano pieces. These were all put together under different band names and project titles and so although AASB will definitely be one of the main releases, I thought if they were all together on one site. it would be easier to find and hopefully all the material will be of some interest.




    Hope to keep you posted.




    All the best,




    Daniel Hodge.

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    1. Hi Daniel,
      Thanks for getting in touch. It's great to know that you're planning a website to make your uncles' music more readily available. I'd certainly be interested to hear what Phil was up to musically in the post-AASB years. Did Robin continue to play after the band split? I would love to see the AASB demo and the BBC Friday Rock Show session paired up on a tastily packaged limited vinyl LP release with detailed liner notes and photos. Just planting a seed! Do please keep in touch and let us know of any developments.
      All the best!

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    2. Hi there,

      Sorry about my slow reply. I'd had similar thoughts regarding the disc - having both the demo and radio session together plus some bonus tracks, pics, info, etc. Will hopefully have some vinyl and cd copies made. At the moment, my main concern is to get the original master tapes cleaned up to a high enough quality and to get permission from the BBC to use the radio recordings, which is taking time.

      Plan to have the website up and running by xmas. Yes, Robin did carry on playing post AASB. As far as i know, there are no recordings of anything he's done. He plays violin and mandolin a lot these days and has got really into Irish folk music. It's interesting to see what Charlie Noble and Dave Ashcroft have been up to also. Hello Charlie and Dave if you are reading this. We've never met, but have listened to your playing for years and it's v tight. Would be great to have you both involved in this project somehow if poss.

      Just a quick request from me - can i have zenureweb's email or could you forward this info to him as i couldn't find the link from his blog.

      Many thanks,

      Dan.

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    3. Hi Dan,

      Much appreciate the update!

      It's good to know that Robin too has continued to play. He always struck me as a musician who could turn his hand to any instrument and musical style. I do recall a conversation with him in my school days where he said he regretted concentrating on classical piano and wished that he could play jazz piano like Phil. Perhaps I'm remembering this wrongly, but it has been 35 years.

      If AASB's material ever makes it onto vinyl, please let me know. My email address is at the top of the page.

      I've never had any contact with Zensurweb, but I found an email address on his blog:
      zensurweb@yahoo.com

      Keep in touch!

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  17. Hi. Thanks for that marvellous page about wonderfull AASB, but I can only listen the first track. Couls you please to work in it. Thank you very much

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  18. I'm glad you've created this page.

    I was a semi-regular in the Horn of Plenty in the period 1980-81. I heard various bands that other people have mentioned here, including the Never Never Band which I went to hear a good number of times. I remember hearing As Above So Below only once, but I remember it as the best gig I'd been at there and I remember telling my flat-mates afterward about how great it had been.

    All these years later, that was about as much as I remembered. I certainly never got to hear about the session for the Friday Rock Show. The other day, I was reading something about Angel Witch's album "As Above, So Below" which jogged something in my memory, so I typed "as above so below band" into Google and found your page.

    I can't say I specifically remember any of the music in the downloads, although I must have heard it at the time, and it's great to hear now. Parts of it are amazing. As others have said, some of it is a bit like Camel, but they aren't a Camel sound-alike. It's so unfortunate that this band never found any more acclaim than they did, and never got as far as making an album.

    Two Facebook friends of mine, husband and wife, were in a band twenty-five years ago. Last year, by which time the members were all doing different things, they all got back together, spent a day in a studio, and recorded some of the songs they used to play live. They'd no intention of releasing this, and just wanted something for themselves that they could also circulate privately. Maybe As Above So Below could do something similar? Judging by the comments on here, I expect crowdfunding could cover the cost of the studio time.

    Be that as it may, thanks again for the chance to download and listen to some delightful music.

    Best wishes from Aberdeen.

    Colin.

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    1. Thanks for your input and appreciative comments Colin. I like your crowdfunding idea. It would be great if there was sufficient interest from ex-band members to record some new music, or at least to put out a disc that compiles existing recordings.

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  19. Mark "zensurweb.com" here. Great Blog. I had some emails saying people were having difficulty getting the MP3 links to work. I put some youtube versions up which should work much better. Anyone have any tracks I don't have that they would send me ?

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  20. For anyone who doesn't know, the Friday Rock Show session was repeated on the 8th Jan 1982. There's a recording of this show hosted on the archive wikea at:
    http://fridayrockshow.wikia.com/wiki/08_January_1982
    (Note that the a recording of the show for the first broadcast has not yet been found)
    Hope that's useful to someone.
    Cheers,
    P

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  21. Thanks for the info P. Much appreciated!

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