Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Quill - Quill 1970

Quill were a Boston-based hard rock band that enjoyed some regional popularity, as well as a momentary flash of national exposure by playing at the Woodstock festival in August of 1969. The quintet was co-founded by siblings John Cole (bass, guitar, vocals) and Dan Cole (vocals, guitar, trombone) -- the rest of their core lineup was Roger North on drums, Norm Rogers on guitar, and Phil Thayer on keyboards, sax, and flute (though most of the members, at some point, switched around on instruments, depending on the song). They got together in 1967 and, after choosing the name Quill, played New England and New York over the next few years, getting some positive regional press for their combination of high-wattage rock with elements of psychedelia and jazz, and what would later be identified as performance art -- they might have been an East Coast rival to the Doors, except that apart from North, it's debatable whether any of them were a match for the latter; additionally, none of the members had Jim Morrison's charisma or Robby Krieger's sense of melody, or -- so far as the surviving evidence suggests -- could deliver a song with the mass appeal of "Light My Fire," or even "Break on Through." Most of the songwriting was handled by John and Dan Cole, who were highly literate and tended to deliver fairly complex pieces that lent themselves to elaborate performances, sometimes involving some heavy audience participation as well -- in 1967 and 1968, amid the psychedelic haze of the era, it all seemed very much of a piece with the times and quite effective, at least based on the accounts of those who were there.

Their reputation was sufficient to get them opening act spots for artists such as Jeff Beck, Deep Purple, Buddy Guy, and Janis Joplin, and their appearance at Steve Paul's Scene in New York City earned them a booking at Woodstock, but they never made the cut for the movie, owing to a technical flaw in their footage. They did get signed to Cotillion Records, but the resulting debut album languished in stores without the help of exposure from the Woodstock movie. John Cole left not too long after to pursue his own musical horizons, and the remaining members found their effort at a second album rejected by Cotillion. Quill had broken up by 1971 -- ironically, they received perhaps the greatest international exposure of their history 38 years later with the release of Woodstock 40 Years On: Back to Yasgur's Farm, a six-CD set that contained two of the four songs they did at the festival. Roger North is probably the most well-recognized ex-member of Quill, with a lengthy performing career that followed over the next couple of decades (including a stint with the Holy Modal Rounders) as well as his renown, in percussionist circles, as the inventor of North Drums, an unusual and highly specialized design of kit, which he played from the late '60s onward. AMG.

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