Years: 1960s - 1974
Styles: Blues Rock, Jazz Rock, Psychedelic Rock, Rhythm and Blues
Graham Bond - Alto saxophone, Hammond organ, Mellotron, Piano, Vocals
Thick-set, unfashionable Graham Bond never really wanted to be ‘the next big thing’. An Essex-born music enthusiast, he played alto sax for Don Rendell’s jazz quintet at the age of fifteen, finding himself earmarked as Britain’s New Jazz Star in 1961. Bond – whose playing partners would make up a veritable Who’s Who of British blues glitterati – made the transition to blues rock, playing first with Alexis Korner (the genre’s godfather) and then persuading band members Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker to join him in his own new project in 1963. The Graham Bond Organization was soon known for its leader’s distinctive Hammond organ and rasping vocal. (A lack of hit singles – then essential currency for any beat combo – caused Bruce and Baker’s departure to form Cream with Eric Clapton three years later.)
Bond struggled to reachieve the critical heights he’d experienced in the sixties, moving briefly to the USA with his partner, singer Diane Stewart, to find work, and then back to Britain, where – despite recording with Bruce and Baker’s new projects – his slump into self-destruction alarmed his colleagues. Increasingly obsessed with the occult, Bond (with Stewart) formed the band Magick, and began ingesting vast amounts of drugs and alcohol as his frustration and despondency increased.
Near-destitute, Bond’s personal problems escalated, with his two-year marriage to Stewart ending in 1972 (posthumous allegations of the sexual abuse of a stepdaughter emerged in a biography) and work impossible to find. Bond was seemingly hamstrung: his attempts to take even low-paid music jobs were met with genuine disbelief by potential employers, astonished to be approached by such a legend. Following a month in prison for a public misdemeanour (and subsequent enforced institutionalization), Graham Bond died under a tube train at London’s Finsbury Park station. Although the driver of the train described Bond as having ‘appeared in front of him’ as he emerged from the tunnel, without a suicide note we can never know whether his death was intentional. Bond’s funeral in Streatham was no more straightforward either – a vast pentagram hung behind his coffin, and Jack Bruce improvised a bluesy dirge on the church organ.
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