This album features two Alice performances, 'I'm Flash' (S.Hammond/D. Pierce/B. Pierce) and 'Space Pirates' (S.Hammond/D. Pierce). It also featured many other stars including John Entwistle (The Who), Maggi Bell and Justin Haywood (Moody Blues). Alice's vocals were recorded in Los Angeles and produced by Bob Ezrin while most of the rest of the album and Alice's backing tracks were recorded in England. Alice also doctored the lyrics a bit.
This album has been re-issued on CD by RPM records.
There was a difference between the US and the UK editions of the LP but the Alice tracks are on both. All tracks are on the CD version.
The Alice tracks feature the following musicians:
Robert A. Johnson - Lead Guitar
Johnny Weider - Guitar
John Entwistle - Bass
Bill Bruford - Drums
Justin Hayward - Acoustic Guitar
Kenny Jones - Drums
John Entwistle - Bass
Nicky Hopkins - Piano
Keith Moon - Long John Silver
Steve Pettican - Slide Guitar
Sometimes an LP's credits can be confusing as they are enlightening. In the case of the disc you are currently holding, many of the performers within are household names, but there's little information around to indicate exactly howsuch a stelar project came about, and just what the original plans were."Flash Fearless" was definitely planned as a proper stage musical as well as an LP: the sleevenotes credit the record as "A Scratchy Records Production for Chrysalis Records Limited in association with Intergalactic Productions andbased on the stage musical to be produced by Weston Gavin." ("Flash" did make it to the stage with Gavin in the title role, albeit not for another six years...but we're jumping the gun a little here.)
Then there's the comic book, given away free with the LP (and reproduced here, as much as is possible on a CD!). Whether this, largely the work of one Paul Sample, was the original inspiration for the project or done later isn't clear. However, as the entire musical is based in the comic book genre (one review accurately described it as "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" meets "Flash Gordon"), it must be regarded as an integral part of the project, if only to provide the plot of the musical which you'd hardly pick up from the songs themselves.
So who were the people responsible? Dave Pierce and Steve Hammond, two Canadians (although both were based in England at the time), were the prime movers. Pierce was responsible for writing the comic book and lyrics, with Hammond concentrating on the musical direction. Hammond had formerly been a guitarist for Fat Mattress in their later days(around 1970), a band best known today for its Hendrix connections (ex-Experience bassist Noel Redding was a founder member of the band and Hendrix appeared on their first LP - all before Hammond's time, however). A 1981 biography tells us that Hammond's songs have been recorded by Metal Ticket, Chris Farlowe and Eric Burdon.
The biography of Pierce is even more impressive: "he is a veteran of 150 plays, television shows and films in the USA, Canada, England and France. He has provided lyrics for the BBC, London's Royal Court Theatre, five albums and innumerable singles."
Although these two formed the nucleus of the project, three other people were also involved in its composition. Dave's, erm, relation/spouse. Bonnie assisted with the lyrics on "I'm Flash" and "Blast Off". Fellow Canadian Rick Jones assisted musically with "Country Cooking" and "What's Happening". (Jones was also stationed in England at this time, and according to his biography had his own show on BBC TV for ten years - any ideas, readers?!) Thirdly, one Terence Hillyer wrote the music for "Sacrifice", a gentleman about whom nothing is known.
The project came together in 1974, and a deal with Chrysalis Records was struck."Executive producers" for the LP were John Gaydon and Alan Siefert, although wheather this relates to the stage musical side of things rather than the LP isn't clear. (Gaydon of course was the "G" of EG Records, home to King Crimson,Roxy Music etc.)
The producer for the album was John Alcock, at the stage perhaps best known for his production duties on the second and third solo LPs by Who bassist John Entwistle ("Whistle Rhymes" and "Rigor Mortis Sets In"). [In fact Alcock apparently WAS Entwistle under a psudonym]. More importantly the duo had just finished recording Entwistle's fourth LP, "Mad Dog" just prior to "Flash Fearless" and three other musicians from those sessions (Eddie Jobson, Graham Deakin and Doreen Chanter) along with Entwistle himself re-appeared here.
Rather than use rigid line-up for the LP (which might not have been possible, given that the LP was recorded over three months), Alcock chose a floating line-up, including no less than three top drummers for example. The cast list was in fact quite impressive, and the budget for the LP must have been pretty generous. The cast included the following:
JOHN ENTWISTLE (bass) was the only musician involved on every track on the LP (apart from one short synth reprise). It would seem this LP followed directly from the "Mad Dog" sessions, and the "Special thanks to the Ox" credit on the sleeve would indicate that Entwistle was an early choice and important part of the project. He also sings lead on "Let's Go To The Camp".
ALICE COOPER (vocals) sings lead on two tracks, "I'm Flash" and "Space Pirates". Obviously well-known, following his Number one hit "School's Out" among other hits, this particular project fell between his LP for Warners - "Muscle Of Love" and his first for Anchor - "Welcome To My Nightmare".
ELKIE BROOKS (vocals). Elkie was also between contracts. Having split Vinegar Joe (on Island) at the end of 1973, she was soon to join A&M as a soloist to great acclaim later in 1975. Her role in "Flash Fearless" is somewhat confused, having sung her first song "Trapped" as Dulla of Flash's crew and the second as the leader of the Zorg Women - i.e. the enemy! She could have been the star of the album if she hadn't been given such a low position in the mix.
JIM DANDY (vocals). The lead singer of Black Oak Arkansas, a band who meant little in the UK, but were phenomenally successful in the States. Sings lead on "Country Cooking" and "Blast Off".
JAMES DEWAR (vocals). Not a household name, but at this time Dewar was familiar to rock audiences as bassist/vocalist for the Robin Trower Band (another Chrysalis act). He made his breaktrough as bassist for Scots band Stone The Crows before their split in 1973. Sings lead on "What's Happening".
MADDY PRIOR (vocals). Best known for her work as front person with Steeleye Span, another band in the Chrysalis stable. She makes a nice job of the country-ish "Georgia Syncopator" here (despite sounding very like Carly Simon), although she seems to be taking on the role of Dulla, played earlier on the LP by ElkieBrooks!
FRANK MILLER (vocals). Frankie's career these days is fairly low-key, but during the mid-'70s he was widely tipped as the next big thing - a gruff-voiced bluessinger of not inconsiderable talent. He cut six albums for Chyrsalis during this period - hence his ready availability to tackle the somewhat dodgy "Supersnatch"- and had two or three big hit singles, of which "Be Good To Yourself" is perhaps the best remembered today.
KEITH MOON ("Long John Silver"). Presumably dragged into the project by Entwistle, albeit only in a cameo speaking role during "Space Pirates" (what else?). Ultimately his contribution was mixed so low that it's hard to see why they bothered, particularly as he had to be recorded specially in Los Angeles.
JUSTIN HAYWARD (guitar). A long serving member of the Moody Blues. Hayward's atypical blues riffs here are a highlight of the record. At the time of recording this, he was working on his album with Moodies Bassist John Lodge, "Bluejays". In addition to Hayward and Lodge, "Bluejays" also featured KIRKDUNCAN (piano) and GRAHAM DEAKIN (drums/percussion), both of whom appear on this CD. In fact, it was probably through Deakin (who in turn had appeared on the recent John Entwistle LP) that Hayward became involved. Hayward later appeared on two more concept albums: Chrysalis' "The Eye Of Wendor" LP (now on RPM), and the highly successful "War Of The World", his contribution, "Forever Autumn", making the Top 10 when released as a single.
BILL BRUFORD (drums). Has recently seen King Crimson split up, having left Yes especially to join them. Regarded then as now as one of the best drummers in the business. Surprisingly (apart from a brief period with Genesis), he would not re-enter the limelight until the release of both his first solo LP "Feels GoodTo Me" and the debut of all-star band UK, both in 1978.
CARMINE APPICE (drums). Having risen to prominence with US band Vanilla Fudge, Appice was at this time the drummer in supergroup (Jeff) Beck, (Tim) Bogert (also from Vanilla Fudge) and Appice. Again, respected as one of the bestdrummers in the business.
KENNY JONES (drums). Then in the Faces, although that band soon fell apart when Rod Stewart's solo career became too big to combine both careers and guitarist Ron Wood joined The Rolling Stones. This LP features the first example of Entwistle and Jones as a rhythm section, which of course would become a fixture when Jones joined The Who on the death of Keith Moon.
NICKY HOPKINS (piano). A man who needs no introduction, having played with just about everybody from the Roling Stones and The Who downwards. His death in 1994 was a sad loss to rock music.
Other musicans featured included ROBERT A. JOHNSON (guitar); JOHN WEIDER (ex Animals/Family) (bass); EDDIE JOBSON (Roxy Music) (strings); MIKE DEACON (ex Suzi Quatro, then with Kiki Dee, later in Darts!) (piano); MICK GRABHAM (Procol Harum - a Chrysalis band) (guitar); JIM FRANK (harmonica); CHICK CHURCHILL (Ten Years After - a Chrysalis band) (keyboards); HOWIE CASEY (respected session musician going back to Liverpool's Howy Casey & The Seniors) (Saxaphone); STEVE PETTICAN (errm...) (slide guitar); THUNDERTHIGHS (1974 hit single, but best remembered for "doo doo doos" on Lou Reed's "Walk On The Wild Side") (backing vocalist); LESLEY DUNCAN and CHANTER SISTERS (respected vocalists) (backingvocals).
"Flash Fearless" was recorded between 1st October and 31st December 1974 at London's Chrysalis Studios, although three contributions had to be recorded in America; those of Alice Cooper (New York), Jim Dandy (Memphis) and Keith Moon (Los Angeles). These sessions were produced by Bob Ezrin (then a familiar collaborator of Cooper's, and later to work with Peter Gabriel and Pink Floyd amongst others.)
By the time the album was released, the order of the material had still not firmly been established. "Blast Off", featured early in "Part 5" of the booklet, appeared on the "Part 6" side of the LP for example, and most other songs moved around within their act. "Georgia Syncopator" was absent from the booklet, suggesting a last-minute addition. The booklet in turn featured two songs (one in each act) for the Queen of the Zorg Women not on the LP. Considering thebooklet makes more sense in terms of lateral development, it's not clear why the order was changed.
"Flash Fearless" was released in the United States in February 1975 (CHRYSALISCHR 1972), followed by a UK release in May (CHR 1081), complete with the aforementioned 12-page comic book which explained the plot. The booklet was additionally given away free in the UK with the weekly paper NME as a promotional tool (and in record stores - though why I should have kept my copy for 20 years having never heard the album is one perhaps only a psychiatrist scan answer - rpm editor). The US album carried a different track to the UK release - "Supersnatch" (which replaced "Georgia Syncopator"), although nobody we've asked can remember the reason for the switch. The US track has been restored here in what we believe is the most appropriate place theme-wise.
With its all-star cast, the LP could hardly creep out unnoticed, but it ultimately failed to sell in large quantities. Perhaps it might have helped had a single been taken from the album, but none was released to the general public. Instead, a promo single (CHRYSALIS CHS 2069) "I'm Flash"/"Trapped" was issued to interested parties, complete with a special picture sleeve. Although there was never a follow-up LP (or even a prequel featuring Part 1-4!),the album did indirectly provide the foundation for a further LP on Chrysalis. Although the first Mandalaband LP (released shortly after "Flash Fearless") had been an actual band affair (and produced by John Alcock, chosen by Chrysalis following his work on "Flash Fearless"), the follow-up album "The Eye Of Wendor" was another "various artists" concept LP, even featuring a couple of the same guests, Maddy Prior and Justin Hayward. (This LP has also - coincidentally -since been reissued on CD by RPM (RPM 105).)
Presumably the relative lack of success for the LP put paid to immediate plans for the stage version, and its main protagonists moved to other things, Dave Pierce and Rick Jones formed the country-rock band Meal Ticket, who had some success with their two LPs for EMI ("Code Of The Road" and "Three Times A Day",both 1977) and one for Logo ("Take Away", 1978), following many prestigious support spots and touring globally.
Flash and his crew, however, still weren't quite dead and buried yet. Although the details of his "chip shop" era (y'know, working with Elvis) are sketchy, Flash did make a comeback in 1981 - albeit with one or two name changes, possibly for contractual reasons. In March of that year, "Captain Crash Versus The Zzorgwomen [sic] Chapters 5 & 6" opened as a musical at Richmond's on Santa Monica Boulevard in Los Angeles. Steve Hammond took on the role of Musical Director (as well as in-house guitarist and narrator), while a couple of familiar names appeared in the cast: Dave Pierce played Swede and Rick Jones took the role of Zilch. (Bonnie Pierce, whose lyrical 1975 contributions were removed, was relegated to "Slide Projector Operator"!)
The credits now listed Dave Pierce as the sole lyricist, with the music credited to Steve Hammond, Rick Jones and Weston Gavin (who played Captain Crash). The song list had changed quite substantially since the initial album, having expanded to almost twice its original length. Only two songs are familiar from Part 5, although Part 6 scores higher with 4 songs from the original intact. The new list ran as follows:
PART 5: I'm Crash (Crash) Trapped (A.S.S. Crew) Heart Shaped Box Of Chocolates (Dulla) A.S.S. Anthem (The Crew) Hi Fellas, What A Nice Surprise (The King) It Takes All Kinds To Make A Galaxy (Zoftik) I Could Love You So Good (Zilch)
PART 6: I'm Crash (Crash) Beaver Fever (Zuk) Raspberry Lipstick (Crash) The Georgia Syncopator (Dulla) Let's Go To The Chop (Zzorgs) Goodbye Is Putting It Mildly (Zilch) Sacrifice (Zzorgs)
Unfortunately, the work was not well-received, gaining a particularly stinging review in "Variety":
"If any mercy is left in the world, there will not be a chapter seven follow-up to "Captain Crash..." This show is an uninvolving space adventure spoof thattries desperately to be clever in every way but never comes close. Saturday night several in the crowd seemed aware of that and made an intelligent decision- they left at intermission. Pierce...has concocted a book that can best be described as a flat version of "Rocky Horror" meets "Flash Gordon". His lyrics are mostly trite, sub-standard attempts...Steve Hammond, Rick Jones and Weston Gavin are credited with the music, which is neither offensive of interesting. The cast never really has a chance with what they're given to work with..."
Following this, Flash/Crash was last seen in hyperspace looking for a rare type of galactic hair-gel, leaving only this LP as his testament on earth. And while said product isn't in itself earth-shattering, it's a pleasant enough ride, anda sober reminder that twenty years on, such grandiose recording would be nigh-on impossible.
Tim Joseph (January 1995)
"I met John Entwistle after a solo show he put on at the old 86 street club in Vancouver B.C. Canada. He was at the time touring for a new album which never was released. This would have been around 1989 or 1990. Anyway I met him out back as he was leaving to get on his tour bus. I asked him for a autograph and when I handed him my copy of flash fearless he seemed very surprised, and asked how I got. I told him I bought it at a used record store. He told me that he did not remember this album being release. After seeing the album he became very nice and wanted to talk a bit. I asked him who John Alcock was, he replied that was him and was his name on any album he produced. I also asked who were thunder thighs, (female backing vocals) He said they were just some sluts (his words) that hung around the studio."
(Gerry, November 2006)