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Hatfield And The North - The Rotters' Club CD (album) cover


Hatfield And The North


Canterbury Scene

4.22 | 655 ratings

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Psychedelic Paul
3 stars HATFIELD & THE NORTH were a two-album Canterbury Scene band, named after the well-known A1 Motorway sign on the Great North Road from London to Edinburgh. Their first eponymously-titled album passed by virtually unnoticed at the time of its release in 1974, but their second album "The Rotters' Club" (1975) is much better-known. The line-up for this second album featured Dave Stewart on keyboards, Phil Miller on guitar, Richard Sinclair on bass and lead vocals, Pip Pyle on drums, a 4-piece brassy horn section and a 3-piece female choir of Barbara Gaskin, Amanda Parsons & Ann Rosenthal, collectively named The Northettes.

The opening song "Share It" sounds strangely familiar, even upon first hearing. This upbeat jaunty Jazz-Rock number is very reminiscent of both Caravan and Camel. There's no doubting that Hatfield & the North are an English band from Richard Sinclair's clear-cut vocals, which sound as English as fish & chips. The obscure lyrics are a riddle wrapped in an enigma though, but that only adds to the quaint English charm of this catchy tune . Here's a brief opening taster of the lyrics:- "Tadpoles keep screaming in my ear, Hey there! Rotter's Club! Explain the meaning of this song and share it" ..... The bizarre meaning of this particular song will perhaps forever remain shrouded in mystery, when even the singer sounds baffled by the abstruse lyrics. And now for a little instrumental lounge music with "Lounging There Trying", which sounds like the kind of sophisticated improvisational Jazz you might listen to whilst coolly sipping a gin and tonic in a trendy cocktail lounge. There's no clue as to what the strangely-titled "(Big) John Wayne Socks Psychology on the Jaw" might be all about, because it's a brief 43 second instrumental, and the slightly discordant music bears little relation to the bizarre song title. This leads us into the even shorter "Chaos at the Greasy Spoon", which does indeed sound chaotic and a bit of a tuneless mess to be absolutely honest, so it's something of a blessed relief that it's less than half-a-minute long. Next up is "The Yes No Interlude" which is not so much an interlude, but more of an extended 7-minute instrumental jam session, where the musicians throw caution to the wind with gay abandon and let loose with some wild and improvisational Canterbury Scene Jazz. We're back to more familiar territory with "Fitter Stoke Has A Bath", which sounds like a typical lively Jazz-Rock song that Caravan might have recorded, although the meaning of the weird song title and lyrics are just as obscure as Hatfield & the North's instrumental numbers. Here's a brief example of the totally nonsensical lyrics:- "Bing billy bong - silly song's going wrong, Ping pong ping, clong cling dong, Tie me up, turn me on, Bing billy bang, Desperate Dan, frying pan, Cling clong cling, Bong bing bang, Michael Miles, Bogey man," ..... Yes indeed! Song lyrics don't come much sillier than that! They sound like the kind of wacky lyrics you might have heard in a typical Eurovision Song Contest entry from the 1970's. There's a return to some kind of normality - or whatever passes for normal in the bizarre musical world of Hatfield & the North - with "Didn't Matter Anyway". This is a gentle Caravan-esque song floating on a mellow wave of flute and delicate keyboards. It's the most approachable and easy-to-listen-to song on the album. You can just relax and let the worries and cares of the day slip away listening to this gorgeous insouciant song, because whatever might have been troubling you, it probably "Didn't Matter Anyway".

It's time now to don a dinner jacket and order a dry martini - shaken not stirred - for the Side Two opener "Underdub", because it's another pleasant cocktail lounge diversion to while away four minutes of spare time whilst waiting for your dinner date to arrive for the evening. And finally, we arrive at the 20-minute long suite "Mumps" to close out the album. The music is divided into four parts with the kind of weird and crazy titles that we've come to expect by now:- 1. "Your Majesty Is Like a Cream Donut (Quiet)"; 2. "Lumps"; 3. "Prenut"; 4. "Your Majesty Is Like a Cream Donut (Loud)". The Jazzy Canterbury Scene music is just as eccentric and off-kilter as the titles suggest, featuring another wild excursion into uncharted realms, occasionally sounding atonal and disjointed, but always unexpected and totally unpredictable. It's an endlessly complex arrangement that deserves to be listened to several times to truly appreciate the musical diversity on offer here.

"The Rotters' Club" is undoubtedly an essential album for fans of the Canterbury Scene sound, but it's not so essential for Prog-Rock fans generally. The album won't be to everyone's taste, because this is wild and improvisational Canterbury Scene music that's nowhere near as approachable and easy to listen to as the more melodic and harmonious sound of Caravan and Camel for instance. "The Rotters' Club" album is not for the uninitiated. If you've dipped your toes into the Canterbury Scene with Caravan, then Hatfield & the North by contrast are like jumping into the deep end. Their complex music veers more towards the Jazz Fusion end of the musical spectrum, than the more traditional British Jazz-Rock sound. On the other hand, if you're in the mood for some uninhibited and unrestrained Jazzy flights of fancy, then head on up the Great North Road to the sound of Hatfield & the North.

Psychedelic Paul | 3/5 |


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