UK proggers Strawbs were in disarray this morning as mainman Dave Cousins hit back at claims that he'd unceremoniously 'dumped' the current band line-up, which also features Chas Cronk, Dave Lambert and Dave Bainbridge, none of whom are said to appear on the upcoming farewell Strawbs album, The Magic Of It All, due out through Cherry Red on July 14.
There have also been wild rumours flying around on social media that none of the most recent line-up, including drummer Tony Fernandez, have been asked to appear at any of the final live dates from the band, and that they'd been replaced by unknown South African musicians.
In a lengthy social media post last night, which you can read below, Cousins, who has been battling a number of health issues over recent years, claims that Fernandez "ceased to be a member of Strawbs" in November 2020, that both Cronk and Lambert had offered little in the way of inspirational new music and turned down Cousins' offer of appearing at this year's Cropredy Festival in what is effectively the band's final live performance, and that Bainbridge was stuck in the USA awaiting his green card.
Cousins goes on to state that while filming a new Strawbs documentary with a South African film crew, he recorded some new material with some top South African musicians, and that he and Blue Weaver, the band's former keyboard player and producer of 2021's Settlement album, performed a live show in South Africa. Of the impending documentary, Cousins states: "Blue Weaver and John Ford were co-opted into the documentary project, as it was the 1970s line-up of Grave New World that had made such an impact in South Africa at the time of apartheid. Studio recordings started in September 2022 in Cape Town."
You can read Cousins' statement in full, below.
CLARIFICATION OF INACCURATE MISINFORMATION
There has been many recent posts on Facebook pages relating to Strawbs that are inaccurate, ill-informed, and extremely hurtful. Perhaps I should clarify:
The last Strawbs appearance on stage, shortly after I had been diagnosed with bowel cancer, was at the aptly named ‘Rock Against Cancer’ in September 2021. We used Elliott Henshaw on drums after four days of intense rehearsal in a confined rehearsal room. You may ask why…
In November 2020, Tony Fernandez sent an email to all Strawbs members regarding ‘Settlement’ saying:
“Having just received the final version …. from Blue along with his thanks for our amazing input …. I find that not one complete drum part from myself has been used on any one track of this recording…. I refuse to have my name put to this album when I have had absolute zero creative or musical involvement in its content.”
In my view, Tony Fernandez ceased to be a member of Strawbs with that email. However, in March 2021, ‘Settlement’ entered the Official UK Progressive Albums Chart at No 3.
In March 2022, I sent out a demo of a new song ‘Wiser Now’ to Chas Cronk and Dave Lambert asking them to try out bass and guitar parts. What came back added nothing inspiring to what I considered to be a very strong song. I carried on writing new material.
In August 2022, I had a Zoom call with a group of South African sponsors and film makers with a proposal for me to lay down new songs, while being filmed recording them with top South African musicians. Blue Weaver and John Ford were co-opted into the documentary project, as it was the 1970s line-up of ‘Grave New World’ that had made such an impact in South Africa at the time of apartheid. Studio recordings started in September 2022 in Cape Town. I emailed John Ford at the time:
“Blue is meeting me in South Africa to work on songs for the new album with local musicians. I can’t get any new ideas from DL. Chas hasn’t let me have anything. Dave Bainbridge has sent me a musical flurry that is one of the pieces I’m working on.”
At the end of September, Blue and I did a live show with the South African musicians who had played on the new songs. The show was essentially “Strawbs greatest hits” from the 1970s, and the reaction was highly favourable.
Shortly after, without the knowledge of any member of Strawbs past or present, I contacted the organisers of Cropredy to ask if they would consider including Strawbs as part of the 2023 festival line-up. Just before Christmas they offered me a slot. Due to ongoing health issues I made it clear that this would be my last appearance on stage with a line-up of Strawbs “past and present”. I asked that the announcement was made with just the Strawbs logo and no accompanying photograph.
In January 2023, a blood test revealed that my immune system is severely compromised. It took until the end of March, with several consultations and procedures, to establish that I have MDS with excess blasts. It is an incurable malignancy and the only option is to try to slow down the progress of the disease.
It was not until 11 March 2023 that Dave Bainbridge got his US Green Card - before that he was not in a position to leave the USA. On 20 April 2023 Dave Bainbridge announced that he was booked for the New Jersey Prog Camp taking place on 12 August.
On 20 April 2023 I wrote to Chas Cronk and Dave Lambert to invite them to participate in Cropredy, as follows:
“Three weeks ago, when I was referred to an NHS consultant, I carefully checked the position with regards to Cropredy. I was advised that I could consider doing the show as it is in the open air. However, the consultant was adamant that I cannot consider rehearsing in a confined space, or in close proximity with other people because of the inherent risks …. Bearing in mind these restrictions, it’s been necessary to work out a show that eases the demands on my physical capabilities.”
“I’d love it if you would join me, as Acoustic Strawbs, and for the grand finale of Down By The Sea/Lay Down.”
Chas Cronk emailed to ask for clarification. I responded:
“As this is my last show it has to be a retrospective of Strawbs over the last 50 years …. I must emphasise that have been told that I must not rehearse in a confined rehearsal room where I might pick up any infection …. That rules out rehearsing with Elliott Henshaw or Tony F…. We could rehearse in the open air as it should be summer soon.”
I have not “excluded Messrs Cronk, Lambert, Fernandez and Bainbridge” as posted on Strawbs Facebook page.
Dave Lambert and Chas Cronk both declined my invitation to take part in Cropredy.
If anyone wants any further information please get in touch through Strawbsweb. My medical correspondence will remain confidential.