Steve’s Heron project
Heron has had a chequered history.
Various incarnations have been necessary over the years and in 2010 we reformed the original line-up that recorded the first two Dawn albums. In browsing the internet I have found a number of versions of Heron history – none of which has been very accurate. The sleeve notes on both the Black Dog album (released by Hux Records) and the Upon Reflection Anthology (released by Sanctuary) come closest to the Heron history – but then we were consulted about it. The official Heron website will have all the necessary info should you be interested in knowing everything that happened between 1967 and 2012.
Welcome to Steve’s Heron Project – it concerns the events leading up to, and following on from, the Black Dog sessions in 1997 – my Heron project – conceived and driven by yours truly.
In 1996 my mother died leaving me a small legacy. I had no particular plans but, when on holiday with my wife Lyn, we found ourselves in Devon and close to Black Dog – the village where Heron had recorded the Twice as Nice double album in 1971.
Persuaded to show Lyn the farm where the recording took place I knocked on the farmhouse door only to be met by a new owner. However, much to my surprise, she knew all about the recording and was keen that I should speak to Robin who now owned the cottage where we did most of the recording. Knocking on someone’s door unannounced can be difficult – you never know what you might burst in on. I think our arrival disturbed both Robin and his wife, but, despite the surprise, they welcomed us with obvious delight. They had acquired a copy of the original “Twice as Nice” album – an unexpectedly costly investment for them – and they periodically played it to friends and acquaintances as a homage to the ‘great’ event that their home had hosted so many years before. Robin even declared that he had come to quite liking the ‘winky wonky’ music that Heron had recorded.
As we were leaving Black Dog I had one of those Damascus-y moments – why not get the guys together and revisit our former glory? We could record it for posterity, gain an internet presence and see if we could create a fan base after all these years.
Having received no royalties over the years the assumption was that we had disappeared into the mire of obscurity many years previously. So I figured the best thing would be to make two new albums – one that revisited the old songs to re-establish the Heron sound and a second one of more contemporary songs to show we hadn’t just sat on our arses for years…
There followed several months of organising. Lacking one original member, Gerald, I called on the help of my friend Gerry Power. A talented singer/songwriter in his own right he sat in with the rest of us very easily – bringing a great deal of humour and professionalism to the fold. Roy and Tony both took to him immediately. Gerry wasn’t quite sure why we wanted him to join us – being of a different generation and all – but learnt the 30 or so songs that we had decided on and contributed a few of his own.
It was a good summer so Tony and I reconnoitred Black Dog before the sessions and met up with the Brooks family whose home we were soon to invade. We decided on a plan of action. Michael (Ken) Dixon was to be our sound man with his mobile recording studio set up and we would rehearse for a week – with studio – at Tony’s home near Chichester. That gave Gerry a chance to get to know the songs, us a chance to find out if we could still tolerate each other and the opportunity to sound check.
Apart from one frustratingly wet day the week went well – so well, in fact, that we decided to book a video team to film the Devon sessions for posterity and as a documentary/TV programme.
All went well – in fact we had a great time. We ended up with two albums, a video documentary, 13 hours of footage, a concert to the villagers and our first foray into having an internet presence. Relaxx Records was set up, we created a website and discovered we weren’t the unknowns we thought we were.
Suddenly there were inquiries from as far afield as Scandinavia, Spain, South America and Japan.
For me, that’s when it all started. I realised how many opportunities we’d missed over the years. But never say never…
Here’s some of the photos, audio, video and stories from that period from 1997 to 2002 – and some of the news about Heron in the years that followed.