The death of Andy Fraser in March this year has spurred the quiet man of British guitar heroes, Chris Spedding, to remember his former bandmate with a special tribute set this week.
Spedding recently returned to performing as a solo act (he is a core member of Bryan Ferry’s band and an essential component of Jeff Wayne’s War Of The World’s extravaganza) with the release of this year’s acclaimed Joyland solo album. Fraser made a guest appearance on Joyland – he and Spedding having worked together intermittently over the decades – and his death in March of this year has spurred Spedding on to put together a version of Sharks, the hard rock band the two men co-founded in 1972.
Reunited with original vocalist Snips (Steve Parsons) and keyboard player Nick Judd, the band will perform a five-song Sharks set – alongside a full set of Spedding’s original material – this Friday at Nell’s Jazz & Blues Club, London.
“Steve has recently got back into performing so having a part of my show given over to the Sharks seemed a good idea,” says Spedding who now resides in Brighton after many decades in New York City then Los Angeles. “Plus there are some Sharks fans out there who would be interested.”
Raised in Sheffield before shifting to London in the mid-1960s, Spedding made a name for himself playing in Nucleus and on Jack Bruce’s seminal solo debut Songs For A Tailor. A virtuoso guitarist – he is equally capable of playing blues and jazz alongside rockabilly and hard rock – Spedding quickly became part of the London session scene and played on albums by everyone from The Wombles to Sixto Rodriquez. Alongside all this he found the time to have a UK Top 20 hit with Motor Bikin’ and produce the first demos for the Sex Pistols and the Cramps. Somewhere along the way he got to be a member of Sharks who released two albums on Island in 1973 and ’74.
Sharks initially took shape when Andy Fraser approached Spedding in 1971 with the offer of Chris joining his post-Free band Toby. Nothing came of that but the two kept talking and jamming and Sharks took shape in 1972.
“I was looking for a proper band to join,” says Spedding of why he joined Fraser. “When Sharks came up I happily gave up session work totally for the two years of Sharks and became a proper rock guitarist in the process. Andy Fraser was brilliant on every level musically. His writing and playing was the best. The band wasn’t a commercial success but I personally got a lot out of it that I couldn’t get in the session world.”
Fraser and Spedding’s Sharks partnership was to be brief: a car crash on the way back from a gig in Spedding’s Pontiac LeMans (customised with a fin on the roof and teeth on the grill – see top pic) left Fraser hospitalised and then to his departure from the band. “Andy’s own explanation is a bit confusing. He says he wanted to develop his singing, but never mentioned that to me – in fact most of our energy in the beginning was to find a lead singer! So there were a few things about the man – as we found out later – that he was keeping to himself.”
Fraser quit Sharks before they began work on their sophomore album Jab It In Yore Eye. Sharks continued, opening for Roxy Music, a band who would play a major role in Spedding’s future.
“It was my first meeting with Brian Eno, whose debut album myself and other Sharks were to play on. And my first meeting with Bryan Ferry – with whom I was to work with a lot. So I guess you’d say that tour led to a lot of later stuff for me.” Sharks, he says, was “central in my development as a guitarist and live performer.”
Chris Spedding plays Nell’s Jazz & Blues Club, Friday October 16. Get tickets at the reduced rate of £10 by buying from here and entering the offer code MOTT.