Wishbone Ash – Alone

13th November 2023 · 1970s, 1971, Music

Wishbone Ash were rock dinosaurs during the punk wars but they played the tiny Marquee Club one night in 1977, prior to playing Wembley Arena two days later.

When I was at boarding school there was a communal record player in the Common Room which was commandeered and controlled by the older boys. So I spent much of my formative years being forced to listen to their terrible prog albums.

They divided roughly into three groups – the Yes, ELP and Genesis guys, the Purple, Sabbath and Zeppelin guys, the James Taylor, Cat Stevens and Melanie guys – and someone who was a big fan of Wishbone Ash.

I’ve rarely listened to them since then, though their twin-guitar sound seemed in some way a template for the dual axis of Television, who would become one of my favourite bands a few years later.

And I remember a particular night in October 1977, a time when I had listened to nothing but one-chord wonders for at least a year, when Wishbone Ash played a gig at one of my regular haunts, The Marquee, and I was able to blag in for a trip down memory lane.

I vividly remember the two trucks the size of railway carriages parked in Wardour Street – a spectacular contrast to the battered vans favoured by the usual bands I saw.

And I remember the illicit thrill of watching a band who really knew how to play their instruments well, and had been doing so for at least a decade, long before punk came along to blow them back into ancient history.

Not that I would have admitted it to anyone else in the Class of ’77.

But none of them were there that night, and I was, and I quickly found that I knew nearly all the songs they played because I had heard Argus and Pilgrimage countless times on the Common Room record player and knew almost every note by heart.

Warrior, Jail Bait, The King Will Come, Throw Down The Sword, Blowin’ Free, Phoenix… they played them all and for one night only I travelled back in time to the school Common Room.

They didn’t play this short instrumental but it perfectly encapsulates illustrates the beauty of Andy Powell and Ted Turner’s intertwined guitar playing.