Argus by Wishbone Ash

1972

It used to be that there was a real distinction between an argument and a discussion. An argument could quickly become personal but a discussion would be a way of expressing an opinion and listening to a different opinion. I would often teach children who were unaware of this distinction and it was important, when confronting a child with the consequences of their behaviour, to focus on what they had done and not who they were. A common riposte would be “you’re always picking on me” which was a surefire way to turn a discussion into an argument. Clearly a discussion between a teacher and a badly behaved child is different to a discussion between two adults over the merits of a particular group or album. As a teacher, of course, I was “always right” but my opinions about music are personal. I don’t think anyone else should like the same things that I do – although it’s nice when they do. Going back to a teacher always being right….of course there were times when I made the wrong decision about what to say or do. I used to mentor trainee teachers and they would beat themselves up when an argument blew up, blaming themselves. I reminded them that, as a teacher, you are probably making about a hundred decisions an hour – who to talk to, what to say, how to react etc. If you get one of those decisions wrong, a lesson can quickly deteriorate. My take on this was that it was important to focus on all the decisions you got right. In order to ameliorate things, I wouldn’t back down in front of a whole class but I was prepared to meet a reasonable child half way in a calm one-to-one discussion when tempers had cooled.

I don’t think I was ever particularly good at discussions at work and it seemed that when I expressed a different point of view, it could be interpreted as angry or argumentative. I think that certain people liked the fact that I said what I thought and was prepared to stick my head above the parapet but these people tended not to be those who managed me. Of course, I could arrogantly dismiss these people as “typical management – always used to getting their own way”. In my next life, I’m going to try harder to say lots of positive things before expressing a counter argument.

This has all come about because I’ve been really thrilled that some people are leaving comments on some of my posts and I’m very happy to acknowledge that music I like isn’t necessarily what other people like. Recent posts have drawn negative comments about Van Morrison, Led Zeppelin and Half Man Half Biscuit. I’m delighted that people feel able to express this.

Paul Simon released an album called “Surprise” in 2006 which I really liked. In fact I played it on repeat when I wrote the Oakmeeds timetable that year. One of the many good tracks is “Sure Don’t Feel Like Love” and it contains these lyrics: “Wrong again. I could be wrong again. I remember once in August 1983 I was wrong, and I could be wrong again.” That always makes me smile because I think I was wrong once.

Seriously though, I am happy to admit that, after a discussion on this blog about Wishbone Ash, I was wrong to dismiss them. Four people have left comments about “Argus”. I listened to “Argus” on Spotify and have subsequently purchased a second hand copy using eBay for £2.58. That’s remarkably cheap and now, considering how good it is, it’s a complete bargain.

(As an aside, when I went to Royal Holloway College in 1972 a pint of beer was 12p in the Union bar and 15p in a local pub. A new LP cost £2.50 and you could buy a second hand LP for £1. Now, the cheapest pint of beer is about £3.80, a new CD is £10 – £12. So I used to be able to drink 16 pints for the cost of an LP and now I can only drink 3. Does that mean beer is more expensive or albums are cheaper?)

“Argus” is Wishbone Ash’s third album and was the album of the year according to “Sounds”. It is sometimes described as progressive rock and I think I would agree with that, bearing in mind the big distinction between progressive rock and prog-rock. It’s more Fleetwood Mac than ELP – it’s more Spooky Tooth than Genesis. It’s a hard rocking rock album with twin lead guitars and the sound has grown out of the Sixties British Blues boom. The group was formed by bass guitarist Martin Turner and drummer Steve Upton. It’s interesting that the bass player is the lead vocalist as the bass playing throughout the album is imaginative, inventive and interesting.

Interestingly, the opening song on this album is called “Time Was” which is a song about recognising one’s faults and understanding a need to change. I can empathise with that. It starts acoustically but takes off into a great groove with two excellent electric guitar solos. Wishbone Ash supported The Who on several occasions in the Seventies and their influence is keenly felt, especially on this track.

Possibly my favourite track on the album is “Sometime World” which is a song of regret over missed opportunities and hopes of a better future. Again, it starts slowly and quietly before exploding into life after three minutes with some more majestic guitar work by Andy Powell, one of Wishbone Ash’s two lead guitarists. Andy Powell was born in the East End of London, grew up in Hemel Hempstead and was heavily influenced by Hank B. Marvin. When he went for an audition to become Wishbone Ash’s new guitarist, Martin Turner and Steve Upton couldn’t decide between Andy Powell and Ted Turner, so they asked them both to be in the band, thus accidentally creating their unique sound.

“Blowin’ Free” is sometimes referred to as “The Ash Anthem” by fans. It was written about a Swedish girl whom Martin Turner wanted to keep in touch with, only for her to reply “you can only try”. Ted Turner’s guitar work is great on this song – he left Wishbone Ash in 1974 and between then and 1987, when he rejoined the band, he played with George Harrison, Billy Preston, Rod Stewart and Stewart Copeland.

Side Two of this album is equally interesting. “The King Will Come” concerns the Biblical idea of a second coming. “Leaf And Stream” is a restrained folk song. Warrior” and “Throwing Down The Sword” were often performed live together and both make extensive use of the twin guitar duetting.

Wishbone Ash have now released twenty three albums, with the latest, “Coat Of Arms”, being released in February 2020. The only member of the band to survive from “Argus” is Andy Powell. Martin Turner left the band in 1980 because the rest of the band wanted a stronger vocalist. He has since been involved in a legal battle about the use of the name. He had to change the name of his new band from “Martin Turner’s Wishbone Ash” to “Martin Turner plays the music of Wishbone Ash” and then to “Martin Turner Ex Wishbone Ash”. Ted Turner plays in this group occasionally.

A good album and an interesting band. I think Wishbone Ash play good, solid, exciting and interesting rock music. I’m glad to be proved wrong about them and I’m glad to have been part of a discussion about good music.

Published by wilfulsprinter

Music lover

4 thoughts on “Argus by Wishbone Ash

  1. Really nice write up! I knew nothing of this band but kept reading the name Wishbone Ash and this album title, probably in MOJO. Finally, about 12-13 years ago I sampled it, liked it, and downloaded it from iTunes. I wish I’d bought a proper release with the album art. I really like this album, but still know nothing about their other releases. As for this one, “It’s more Fleetwood Mac than ELP – it’s more Spooky Tooth than Genesis” is a very good description. And I hadn’t considered the Who’s influence. I read that and immediately thought “Behind Blue Eyes” as it pertains to “Time Was.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for an interesting and informative piece.
    It’s good to see that you admit to being wrong! (although I can’t remember when)
    Perhaps ‘forgiveness’ is the next step.

    Liked by 1 person

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