Tuesday, May 15, 2007


@ Pendragon
The story begins in the sleepy town of Stroud, Gloucestershire, England in 1978.

Four friends got together and decided to form a band. Zeus Pendragon consisting of Nick Barrett [guitar/vocals], Julian Baker [guitar/vocals], Nigel Harris [the most sought after drummer in the Stroud area] and Stan Cox [bass] was born.

Young and full of ambition Zeus Pendragon started out playing cover versions of classic rock tunes by Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Fleetwood Mac, and Santana and their first gig was ironically the same day that Nick left school, burning his maths text book and picking up his guitar on the way... The future had been determined.

The Zeus part of their name was later dropped when the logical and visionary Julian decided it was far too long to fit across a t-shirt, and this ridiculous cross pollination of Arthurian and Greek mythology just seemed plain silly.

Pendragon were approached by local promoter and manager Greg Lines, who took them under his managerial wing. Greg had put on many bands in the area (including U2, who actually slept on Greg’s lounge floor following their gig). Julian and Nick spent many days and nights writing the first Pendragon material and dreaming of stardom, but Pendragon’s ambitious schedule meant that Stan decided to leave, preferring to listen to music than playing it. Robert Dalby replaced him and John "Barney" Barnfield (the keyboard whiz from another local band "Cygnus") was persuaded to join to enhance the bands musical possibilities.

Line up hassles plagued the band in the early days and it wasn’t long before the imaginative but fiery Julian decided to quit the band. Nick and Barney were soon writing together and the distinctive Barrett/Barnfield sound was forged. A friend of Nick’s brother, guitarist Peter Gee was drafted in originally to fill Julian’s boots... But when Robert also decided to call it a day Peter took over bass duties! Musical chairs indeed.

The line up stayed stable….for a while with Nick, Barney, Peter and Nigel. The next step was one of the most life changing for Pendragon.

In 1982 Greg Lines booked a new band called Marillion to play in Gloucester, with Pendragon as support. The two bands hit it off right away and Mick Pointer [Marillion’s drummer, now with Arena] asked Pendragon to support them at the Marquee club in London.

Playing the Marquee club was electrifying and Pendragon went on to play with Marillion on many occasions whilst building on their own strong and loyal following.

1983 saw Pendragon play in front of a 30,000 strong audience at the Reading Festival and they recorded a live session for Tommy Vance on the Friday Rock show (BBC Radio 1 UK) Tommy Vance saw something special in Pendragon and was especially impressed with "The Black Knight" which of course became an anthem for the band for many years.

Despite the exposure the band had enjoyed there was still no recording contract on the horizon and difficult decisions had to be made. Barney’s contribution to the band was huge and the Barrett/Barnfield writing team was very strong, however Barney decided to leave, it was too big a gamble to give up his day job and so during a break in touring he made the difficult decision to quit. How on earth could Barney be replaced? (Barney now says: "My time with Pendragon was probably the happiest time of my life, it’s great that I still enjoy a close friendship with Nick and I love being able to still get out the guitars and play together, my favourite Pendragon album without a doubt has to be "Not Of This World" [2001]".

Rik Carter joined the band on keyboards and soon with some help from John Arnison (Marillion’s manager) Pendragon were in the studio to record a mini album Fly High Fall Far, and later the bands first full length album The Jewel.

There was more touring with Marillion, and their first European gigs but still no sign of a contract, these were frustrating times indeed. Due to lack of cash in pockets and a grueling tour schedule more line up changes were about to happen. Nigel left and was replaced for a short time by a friend of Rik’s, Matt Anderson. He soon departed followed by Rik...

So Pendragon were left with just Nick and Peter!

Fudge Smith (La Host) joined on drums and a session keyboard player in the shape of James Colah was drafted in to complete the 9.15 Live album tour.

During this time Nick, Peter & Greg were making trips to and from London chasing that elusive record deal. Nick called his old friend Clive Nolan who was now living in Egham, Surrey to see if they could stay with him whilst doing the rounds of the record companies. Clive and Nick had been friends since the age of 4 when they started school together. Although Nick was aware that Clive played keyboards he also thought he would be too busy with other commitments so hadn’t asked Clive about joining Pendragon. On one of the trips to London they sat up late one night talking, and Nick asked Clive if he knew of any keyboard players... "I’ll do it!!!" said Clive and the rest is history.

A full length album demo was eventually commissioned by David Munns [responsible for signing Joss Stone etc] at EMI Records and things were certainly looking up. However, when David left EMI the demo was dropped. The frustration of this was to create a "make or break" feeling amongst the band, and it was then that Toff records was formed c.1987, the EMI demo plus a couple of extra songs made up Toff’s first release, the Kowtow album.

Nick felt however that the band did not have a distinctive enough image until by chance he saw a classical CD with some very impressive artwork by Simon Williams.

1991. All the planets align…Toff Records was up and running, the line up was stable and some great artwork for the band meant the Pendragon we know today had arrived. Many fans still believe that Pendragon started with The World. It was in fact their third full length studio album but definitely the beginning of a new era for the band.

The World was to be the least commercial sounding album so far, yet was the biggest seller at that point. The album was met by much critical acclaim bringing a tidal wave of new fans, even the press were beginning to realise that Pendragon were a force to be reckoned with.

Followed by The Window Of Life, the now tight knit band with their incredible sound were on a roll, and the early years of line up changes and disillusionment melted away.

Toff records was still a small, home run business and the avalanche of success that The Masquerade Overture brought saw the lounge of Nick's small cottage piled high with cd’s, and booklets and merchandise to be sent out and the family were drafted in to help whilst Nick was answering the many calls for interviews and promo work. The Masquerade Overture sold 60,000 copies, an incredible feat. The partnership of Pendragon and Simon Williams along with the "5th member of the band" Karl Groom engineering the superb classic Pendragon sound was to make the band one of the highest selling “prog-rock” bands not signed to a major label.

However a maelstrom of events were to come both personally for Nick and Pendragon. Nick says: "It was strange because when I was writing "The Shadow" (Masquerade Overture) there was a line that started 'there's a man who's followed me just about all of my life, being to you what I couldn't be, I call him my insecurity', I remember writing this very clearly and feeling there was a slightly strange atmosphere that day in the studio, little did I know how prophetic that line would become."

There was to be a five year gap between Masquerade and the next studio album Not Of This World. During this time Nick went through painful personal problems in the shape of a messy divorce. Not Of This World was a cathartic body of work, perhaps the most personal and emotionally charged by the band, considered by many to be the finest work produced by Pendragon. Following the release of Not of this World Nick was awarded "best guitarist 2001" by The Classic Rock Society in the UK.

Financially crippled following the divorce, the next studio album had been a long time coming but as always Pendragon picked themselves up and headed back into the public domain once more.

Just like in 1991 when The World was unleashed, there was a wind of change and a feeling of successful anticipation in the air. 2005 saw the release of Believe, the 7th studio album by Pendragon which reflected a renewed youthful exuberance and fresh approach both musically and visually for the band.

Once again a line up change reared its ugly head, and after 20 odd years with the band Fudge Smith was replaced by 26 year old whipper snapper Joe Crabtree on drums. The band now had a real firecracker of a drummer underpinning the rhythm section which brought a renewed need to fight and the passion and energy of the band was almost like they were 17 years old again for the upcoming Believe tour.

Pendragon undertook the biggest tour of Europe they had ever done and followed it with a release of the brilliant And Now Everybody To The Stage dvd.

2007 sees the 21st anniversary of The Jewel dvd release called Past And Presence which includes most of the musicians from those early days and shows how this tenacious band can still thrill, evolve and capitalize on its strengths over a 28 year period where so many others have failed.

So to the future, a new album is on the cards and a year full of festival dates just goes to show that in this hurly burly world of fickle pop music….some ships were built to last. =>>>>>>>>>>>

Download a PDF version of this biography

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@ Wiki
Pendragon are an English progressive rock band established in 1978 in Stroud, Gloucestershire as Zeus Pendragon by guitarist Nick Barrett. The Zeus was dropped before the band started recording. There were a few personnel changes in the early days, but since 1986 the lineup has remained stable, and the band is still active as of 2006. Their music is characterised by Barrett's virtuoso guitar playing and his highly emotional, if eccentric, vocal performances.

* Nick Barrett (guitars, vocals)
* Rick Carter (keyboards before 1986)
* Peter Gee (bass)
* Nigel Harris (drums before 1986)
* Clive Nolan (keyboards since 1986)
* Fudge Smith (drums from 1986 to 2006)
* Joe Crabtree (drums since 2006)

* Fly High, Fall Far (EP) (1984) (vinyl only in this form)
* The Jewel (1985) (CD includes first half of Fly High, Fall Far EP)
o Remastered with new cover art 2005
* 9:15 Live (1986) (CD includes second half of Fly High, Fall Far EP)
* Kowtow (1988)
* The World (1991)
* The R(B)est of Pendragon (1991) (compilation of single and EP tracks including the whole of the Fly High, Fall Far EP)
* The Window of Life (1993)
* The Very, Very Bootleg: Live in Lille (1993)
* Fallen Dreams and Angels (EP) (1994)
o The Window of Life and Fallen Dreams and Angels were reissued on a single combined disc in 2006
* Utrecht...The Final Frontier (1995) (live)
* The Masquerade Overture (1996) (also in a "Limited Edition" version with a bonus disc containing 4 extra tracks)
* As Good as Gold (EP) (1996)
* Live in Krakow 1996 (1997)
* Overture 1984 - 1996 (1998) (US compilation)
* Once Upon a Time in England Volume 1 (1999) (rarities)
* Once Upon a Time in England Volume 2 (1999) (rarities)
* The History: 1984 - 2000 (2000) (compilation, originally released in Poland)
* Not of This World (2001)
* Acoustically Challenged (2002) (live "unplugged" versions, another Polish release)
* Believe (2005)

* Live at Last...And More (2002)
* And Now Everybody To The Stage (2006)

CD/DVD combo
* Liveosity (Acoustically Challenged CD packaged with Live at Last...And More DVD, featuring new artwork) =>>>>>>>>>>>

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