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Mellow Candle

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Biography

Although they are anything but a household name today, in their time, Irish folk-rock band Mellow Candle were frequently mentioned in the same breath as more enduring names from the Emerald Isle's late-'60s generation of rock bands, such as Steeleye Span, the Chieftains, Thin Lizzy, Horslips, et al. The origins of Mellow Candle can be traced back to 1963, when precocious young ladies Clodagh Simonds, Alison Bools, and Maria White formed a vocal trio named the Gatecrashers while enrolled at Dublin's Holy Child Convent. After several years of impromptu performances, covering hits of the period inside the school walls, 14-year-olds Simonds and Bools (White had already left) sent a demo to Radio Luxembourg DJ Colin Nichol, who in turn brought it to respected producer Simon Napier-Bell, then manager for the likes of the Yardbirds and John's Children, among others. Napier-Bell was duly impressed and soon arranged for a recording session from which emerged the 1968 single "Feeling High" b/w "Tea with the Sun," released through his own short-lived SNB label imprint and credited to the already renamed Mellow Candle.

The single's poorly rendered approximation of psychedelic girl group sounds failed to chart, however, and Simonds' parents strategically intervened by shipping her off to school in Italy, while Bools began attending art college back in Ireland and singing with local covers group Blue Tint. This paired her with guitarist and future husband David Williams, so that, with the addition of bassist Pat Morris and Simonds' return from Italy, Mellow Candle were relaunched in 1970, making their debut performance in support of the Chieftains. Numerous concerts and festival appearances alongside fellow rising Irish acts such as Horslips, Taste, and Thin Lizzy helped build the band's public profile over the next year, and Simonds even contributed harpsichord and Mellotron to Lizzy's Shades of a Blue Orphanage LP. By the time this was released, Mellow Candle were already hard at work on their own debut album for Deram Records, having replaced the unsuitably straight-laced Morris with former Creatures bassist Frank Boylan and augmented their formation with a drummer for the first time in ex-Kevin Ayers man William Murray. That debut album, Swaddling Songs, was produced by David Hitchcock (Genesis, Caravan, etc.) and released in April 1972 — a month that also saw Mellow Candle supporting Steeleye Span at Dublin's National Stadium.

But this reputable concert booking unfortunately did not reflect the public reaction to Swaddling Songs, which, for reasons unknown, was generally either ignored or dismissed by critics of the time (the NME famously calling it a "tax loss"), only to subsequently transform into a paradigm of overlooked British folk-rock in the decades that followed. In fact, come the 1990s, its magical musical amalgam of Celtic folk, progressive, goth, psych, and rock, topped with Simonds and Williams' otherworldly vocals (honed to telepathic interaction over years of partnership), was being hailed as a lost masterpiece, and exchanging collectors' hands for hundreds of dollars until long overdue CD reissues began covering some of the demand. All too late to save Mellow Candle, of course, which had initially weathered Swaddling Songs' commercial failure with tours alongside Genesis and Curved Air, then briefly changed their name to Grace Before Space, but ultimately crumbled altogether and went their separate ways toward the end of 1973.

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Genre
Years Active:

'60s, '70s

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