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Beggars Opera

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Glasgow, Scotland, progressive rock band Beggars Opera was formed in the late 60s by Marshall Erskine (bass/flute), Ricky Gardener (guitar/vocals), Martin Griffiths (vocals/percussion), Alan Park (keyboards) and Raymond Wilson (drums). The group’s grandiose ambition was to fuse classical and progressive rock elements, an accommodation they achieved but only to moderate critical and commercial interest. The dominant Hammond organ sound drew comparison with the Nice, who were the leading organ-led prog band at that time. Signed to Vertigo Records, they made their debut in 1970 with Act One, released concurrently with ‘Sarabande’. The single was the most successful of the two releases, charting in several mainland European countries. The album included a preposterous rendition of ‘Classical Gas’, which was eventually released as a single in its own right four years later. The group then expanded to a quintet with the addition of multi-instrumentalist Gordon Sellar (bass, guitar, vocals) for the follow-up collection, Waters Of Change. Abandoning some of the progressive rock elements of earlier recordings, the group pursued a more melodious rock direction on this album, heavily indebted to musical developments on America’s west coast. Erskine had left the group by the time they recorded 1972’s Pathfinder, which included a cover version of Richard Harris’ ‘MacArthur Park’. Their final effort, 1973’s Get Your Dog Off Me, was completed as a trio, with Sellar joined by founder members Gardener and Park. Unfortunately, this again proved unsuccessful, and with Vertigo wary of further investment in the group, they broke up in 1974. Sellar attempted a re-formation in the mid-70s when two further albums were issued in Germany - still the group’s most receptive market. Gardener enjoyed greater success as a member of David Bowie’s touring band and played on Low.

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