Formed in Leicester in 1967 Family evolved out of
The Farinas, a R&B group who recorded for Fontana and were also known as The Roaring Sixties, but probably not the same band who in 1966 had recorded the then topical We Love The Pirates for Marmalade. The Farinas had been going since 1962 when Charlie Whitney had founded them at Leicester Art College.
In mid-1967 The Farinas moved to London and met up with American producer Kim Fowley who persuaded them to change their name to Family. They signed a one-off deal with Liberty in September 1967 for whom they cut a superb psychedelic single, Scene Thru' The Eyes Of A Lens, which also offered a foretaste of Chapman's unique vocals. It did not sell and is now extremely rare. You'll also find it on Electric Sugar Cube Flashbacks. Their debut album, Music In A Doll's House (co-produced by
Dave Mason) was a brilliant mind-expanding effort, full of new ideas and diversity. It surely must rate as one of the best debut albums of the sixties. Family at this time were an important part of London's underground circuit along with
Tomorrow et al. Their stage act was electric, the charismatic Chapman would contort around the stage in a demented haze and considerable use was made of light shows and smoke clouds.
Music In A Doll's House was self-penned, save for one
Mason composition, Never Like This, and contained daringly innovative material like The Chase, Mellowing Grey, Winter, See Through Windows, New Songs Old Songs and Peace Of Mind. This was mind-expanding music that highlighted Chapman's raucous vocal dexterity and utilized a wide range of instruments. Every track was a winner. Around this time the band achieved the dubious distinction of being the anonymous subjects of Jenny Fabian's novel 'Groupie'.
Family's reputation as one of Britain's leading rock bands was consolidated by their follow-up album, which was produced by John Gilbert and Glyn Johns. Although less consistent than the debut it contained some of their most powerful work, particularly on The Weaver's Answer which captures Chapman's vocals at their most manic, Hung Up Down and Observations From A Hill (Side one's three opening tracks). The album made No 6 in the UK Charts. After a series of unsuccessful 45s (in commercial terms, at any rate) 45 Chart success eventually came in 1969 when No Mule's Fool reached No 29 in the November of that year. 1969 was a tumultuous year, for the band witnessed the first of a series of personnel changes. Ric Grech left during their first US tour to join
Blind Faith. John Weider, who was then playing with an LA-based club band Stonehenge but who had previously been with
Eric Burdon and The Animals flew out to replace him. During the tour the group got into a misunderstanding with America's top promoter at the time, Bill Graham, and they never did make it big in the States probably as a consequence of that. When they returned to Britain they parted company with Jim King too. He was ousted due to some rather unpredictable behaviour and went on to play for an outfit called Ring Of Truth.
Upon King's departure, Poli Palmer, who had played in various Birmingham-area bands including Bakerloo Blues Line and
Deep Feeling joined. The band now enjoyed its most commercially successful, if not its most innovative, period. Not only did A Song For Me and Anyway reach numbers 4 and 7 in the Album Charts respectively, they also enjoyed three hit singles. In June 1971 John Weider left to join
Stud, who having recorded an album for Deram earlier that year, went on to record a couple for the German BASF label which weren't released in Britain. John Wetton came in to replace him from
Mogul Thrash but left 15 months later for
King Crimson. However, in this time the band produced two albums:- Fearless and Bandstand, which not only gave them more success in the UK Album Charts reaching Nos 10 and 15 respectively but also gave them their only US success making Nos 177 and 183 respectively in the Album Charts over there. After these Poli Palmer left to start a new band with Ric Grech which never got off the ground. Tony Ashton was drafted in as a replacement on keyboards, and Jim Cregan joined fromStud but by now the band was past its prime. A switch from Reprise to Raft for their final album, It's Only A Movie, did not ebb the tide and by October 1973 they were gone for good. Roger Chapman and Charlie Whitney later teamed up in
Streetwalkers. Rob Townsend re-emerged in
Medicine Head and was later in The Blues Band.
"Drowned in Wine" - 4:08
"Some Poor Soul" - 2:44
"Love is a Sleeper" - 4:00
"Stop for the Traffic (Through the Heart of Me)" - 2:09
"Wheels" - 4:38
"Song for Sinking Lovers" - 4:04
"Hey" - "Let It Rock" - 1:02
"The Cat and the Rat" - 2:30
"93's O.K. J" (Whitney, Weider) - 3:57
"A Song for Me" (Whitney, Chapman, Weider, Townsend) - 9:13
Bonus Tracks on 1989 CD Reissue
11. No mule's fool 3:21
12. Rocking R's 3:26
All tracks by Whitney/Chapman, except where noted
Roger Chapman – vocals, percussion
John "Charlie" Whitney – guitars, banjo, organ
Robert Townsend – drums, percussion, harp
John Weider – guitars, violin, dobro
John "Poli" Palmer – vibes, piano, flute