Snafu was a British rhythm and blues/rock band of the 1970s, featuring vocalist Bobby Harrison and the slide guitarist Micky Moody.
In 1972, vocalist and drummer Bobby Harrison had just left blues-rock outfit Freedom and started to record his first solo LP, ‘Funkist’. Featured on this album was Micky Moody, then lead guitarist with the ailing Juicy Lucy. The collaboration between the two was so successful, that after the demise of Juicy Lucy they decided to form a completely new group and play American-inspired funk and R&B-flavoured rock.
Bobby Harrison had a background of playing with Procol Harum, and participated in the recording of their all-time classic, “A Whiter Shade of Pale”. Soon after, however, Harrison was told to leave the band due to ‘internal differences’. After Procol Harum, Bobby Harrison formed Freedom, whose first line-up recorded a couple of singles and a soundtrack for an Italian film. Commercial success sadly eluded them and Freedom disbanded in 1972. After that, Bobby would occasionally gig with Juicy Lucy where he became friends with guitarist Micky Moody.
Born in 1950 into a Northern working-class family, Micky Moody from an early age became infatuated with the sound of the electric guitar. Later – when Moody had formed his first band at school – his father managed to get him his first gigs at the local working men’s club. This band, called The Roadrunners, featured on bass and vocals one of Micky’s classmates from school, Paul Rodgers, later the lead singer of Free.
As the band started to improve, another bass player from the Middlesbrough area, Bruce Thomas (later of Quiver and Elvis Costello’s Attractions), was drafted and the group changed their name to The Wildflowers. After three months the group disbanded, and Moody went back to Middlesbrough to study classical guitar. However, he soon joined a local band called Tramline and was also a member of The Mike Cotton Sound. In July 1970, Moody was invited to join Juicy Lucy, with whom he stayed for three albums until Snafu was formed in October/November 1972.
Bobby Harrison and Micky Moody started writing together and auditioning new band members. They found former Tramline drummer Terry Popple (previously with Van Morrison), bass player Colin Gibson (formerly of Ginger Baker’s Airforce) and keyboard /fiddle player Pete Solley (later in Whitesnake). Gibson suggested the name Snafu, a term he lifted from a Captain Beefheart song “Big Eyed Beans From Venus” on their 1972 album, Clear Spot. The musical influences were mainly American, and came from bands such as The Allman Brothers Band and in particular Little Feat, one of Bobby Harrison’s favourite bands. (by wikipedia)
Micky Moody, 1973
Richard Branson, who had recently built The Manor Studio, and had started recording a long composition by an unknown guitarist, Mike Oldfield, was also impressed with the efforts of Snafu, who arrived at The Manor Studio to record their first LP. In fact, Oldfield was working on Tubular Bells while Snafu were there and Pete Solley played briefly on the recording.
The band’s first, eponymously titled, LP and single received good reviews but were less successful commercially. However, at the time when ‘Snafu’ was released, the group successfully toured Europe with The Doobie Brothers and then the U.S. with The Eagles.
On the second LP, “Situation Normal”, Pete Solley had taken over much of the control of the band and there is a strong country-rock influence on the album. However, it was not as well reviewed as its predecessor. The band toured America as a support act for Emerson, Lake & Palmer, but participation in the tour was seen by many as a mistake.
The band recorded up to eight songs in session for the BBC around this time.
Snafu’s third LP, “All Funked Up”, has long been seen as their ‘great lost album’ and is highly elusive in its original vinyl format. Pete Solley had left to join Procol Harum. He was replaced first by Brian Chatton (previously with The Warriors with Jon Anderson, Flaming Youth with Phil Collins and Jackson Heights with Lee Jackson of The Nice), John Miles) and later by Tim Hinkley, who was a much-used session player at the time. They both play on the album, which again was recorded at The Manor.
During a tour of Germany, Moody was invited to join David Coverdale and he accepted. Harrison tried to keep Snafu together for a while with Clem Clempson (Colosseum, Humble Pie, Champion) on guitar, but it did not work.
Snafu are notable for combining the British rhythm and blues tradition with U.S inspired elements of funk and country music. Micky Moody’s distinctive guitar playing, often with slide, provided the band with a distinctive hard-edged R&B sound, particularly on such numbers as “Lock and Key” and “Hard To Handle”.(This chronology was adapted from original material by Alex Gitlin) (by wikipedia)
And this is the first album of Snafu …
Snafu’s first, eponymously titled, album is an eight track affair of funky American influenced R & B with an edge of hard rock and an undercurrent of country rock twangs. It kicks of with the first of the Harrison/Moody compositions ‘Long Gone’. A slow burning track with a steady swagger it builds in to a nice mid paced blues rock opener. The track had already been recorded for Harrison’s “Funkist” album but this version is far superior.
The first of the more country and funky tinged tracks ‘Said He The Judge’ follows and it starts off slowly before it builds up into a funky groove with some nice guitar work from Moody after the first verse and chorus. The pace quickens even more before slowing back down for the return of the vocal before another instumental passage to fade. It may not exactly be cutting edge stuff but it is well played and more than enjoyable.
It is almost widdly diddly folk time for ‘Monday Morning’ another balladic tale from the pen of Harrison with some great fiddle work from Solley driving the song along. Moody also contributes some great mandolin picking and the whole song has an English country fair feel to it. It should be pretty naff but it goes down a treat and is a a great jig-a-long bit of fun.
The album highlight for me is the track that closed side one of the original vinyl issue, and the only non original track on the album ‘Drowning In The Sea Of Love’. Written by Philadelphia soul legends Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff it had been a minor hit for American soul singer Joe Simon the previous year. It is a perfect vehicle for Snafu, suiting Harrison’s vocal style perfectly and allowing Moody the opportunity to display his various styles. The use of female backing vocalists also gives the song an extra dimension and it has long beeen one of my favourite recorded works by any artist.
The second half of the album gets under way with ‘Country Nest’ a slower more melancholy affair with another balladeer vocal from Harrison. The opening line of “I’m sitting in my rocking chair I’m smoking a joint in my underwear …….” is nothing short of brilliant and the humour in the lyric all the way through is a positive joy. Co-written with Solley it obviously has some good keyboard runs and the farmyard noises at the tracks end leave a smile in their wake.
The fiddle is back for ‘Funky Friend’ a strutting funky tale of a lost friend. The widdly diddly fiddle this time is more reminiscent of an Irish hoe down than an English fair but just as with the earlier track it is impossible not to jig along to the funky infectious rhythm. Once again musical rocket science it isn’t but it is out and out good time music that leaves nothing but a smile.
Things get a litle more serious for ‘Goodbye USA’ a brooding mid paced funk with some great guitar and keyboard techniques underneath a laid back easy vocal from Harrison, who surely has claims to be up there with the best funky blues vocalists of the day.
The longest track on the album is closer ‘That’s The Song’, a fast paced strutter with a real great vibe. It has an almost evangelical feel to it and it is not difficult to imagine a huge congregation all singing and dancing along in unison. Moody throws in a spectacularly funky solo and the backing vocalists choir is a perfect touch. It is a great funky fast paced end to an album that really should be heralded as one of the classic rock albums of the seventies. The decision to fade down the volume as the track ends though was surely a mistake. The album itself ends with a brief reprise of the riff and melody of the opening track ‘Long Gone’
On its release “Snafu” was greeted with considerable favour from the reviewers of the day and the band quickly gained a huge live following. They also became something of a musicians band and were often praised by comtemporary musicians of the day. Sadly this did not turn into record sales though and neither the album or the non album single ‘Dixie Queen’ (included as a bonus track on CD remasters) troubled the charts. Such was their popularity live though that they secured European tours with both The Doobie Brothers and The Eagles. “Snafu” is a right little belter of an album which is very much ‘of its day’ and it has long been one of my most played albums since finding it in a junk shop for the princely sum of £1 way back in 1980. These days I mostly play the CD remaster but the cherished vinyl edition with its gatefold Roger Dean cover occasionally comes out for a spin. Whether you are a lover of classic rock, blues or funk, or even just curious to hear pre Whitesnake Micky Moody “Snafu” is worth its place in anyone’s music library and is in no way synonymous with the RAF saying from which the name is derived. (by Martin Leedham)
Colin Gibson (bass)
Bobby Harrison (vocals, percussion)
Micky Moody (guitar, mandolin, background vocals)
Terry Popple (drums)
Pete Solley (keyboards, background vocals)
01. Long Gone (Harrison/Moody) 5.18
02. Said He The Judge (Harrison/Moody/Solley) 4.35
03. Monday Morning (Harrison/Moody) 3.18
04. Drowning In The Sea Of Love (Gamble/Huff) 5.52
05. Country Nest (Harrison/Solley) 5.20
06. Funky Friend (Harrison/Moody) 4.06
07. Goodbye U.S.A.(Harrison/Moody) 4.25
08. That’s The Song (Marcellino/Solley) 6.05
Situation Normal All Fucked Up
(The term was born during WWII as an acronym of the initials of the words situation normal, all fucked up, which summed up the chaos and confusion of the war from an individual soldier’s point of view.)
Bobby Harrison in 2010