Steamhammer was an English blues rock band from Worthing, England, whose origins were with the blues. The band was founded in 1968 by Martin Quittenton (guitar) and Kieran White (vocals, guitar, harmonica). The first stable line-up consisted of Quittenton, White, Martin Pugh (guitar), Steve Davy (bass), and Michael Rushton (drums).
The first version of Steamhammer acted as backing band for Freddie King on two of his tours of England between 1968–1969. Like many of their peers, the band experimented with instrumental passages, introspective lyrics, and ultrasonic guitar effects, along with folk, jazz and classical influences. After playing in English pubs in the late 1960s, Steamhammer’s self-titled album Steamhammer (aka Reflection) debuted on Columbia Records in 1968, featuring their single, “Junior’s Wailing,” and including covers of “You’ll Never Know” by B. B. King and “Twenty Four Hours” by Eddie Boyd as well as original songs by White, Quittenton, and Pugh. Session musicians Harold McNair (flute) and Pete Sears (piano) also played on the album. While the album was not commercially successful, the band’s sound became popular live, especially in West Germany. In the summer of 1969, Quittenton and Rushton left the band, and Steve Jolliffe (saxophone, flute) and Mick Bradley (drums) joined the band.
The second version of the band recorded the album Mk II, released in 1969. It consisted entirely of original songs, and the musical style had more jazz and progressive rock influences. Jolliffe left the band in 1970. The remaining band members recorded the album Mountains, which was released in 1970. This album included a cover of “Riding on the L & N” by Lionel Hampton and seven original songs.
In 1971, Davy left the band, and Louis Cennamo (bass) (formerly of the original line-up of Renaissance) was recruited as his replacement. After a European tour in the summer of 1971, White left the band, and the remaining trio of Pugh, Bradley and Cennamo began recording a new album. This line-up, along with guest vocalist Garth Watt-Roy (of Fuzzy Duck), recorded the album “Speech” – which was released in 1972. It consisted of three long, mostly instrumental songs, in a heavier progressive-rock vein than the basic blues and jazz/folk influences of their previous albums. The genesis of Armageddon began with this final Steamhammer album, with production assistance by ex-Yardbird and Renaissance frontman, Keith Relf (who also contributed background vocals here – along with his sister, Jane Relf).
Bradley died of undiagnosed leukemia on 8 February 1972, aged 25. A memorial concert took place at London’s Marquee Club on 14 March that year, with appearances by fellow bands Atomic Rooster, Beggars Opera, If, and Gringo. Steamhammer carried on for a while with a new drummer, John Lingwood, and lead singer, Ian Ellis (ex-Clouds). The new line-up debuted at London’s Imperial College on 3 May, followed by a European tour in May and UK tour in June with American vocalist/guitarist Bruce Michael Paine replacing Ellis. In June 1973, it was announced that they would now perform as Axis, playing their first gig under that name at the Marquee on 15 June. Quittenton rejoined, but the band split towards the end of 1973.
Steamhammer (aka Reflection) was the debut album issued in 1969 by the British blues-rock band Steamhammer. Steamhammer was chosen as legendary blues guitarist Freddy King’s backing band whenever he toured England. The musicians in the band were Martin Quittenton (guitar), Kieran White (vocals, guitar, harmonica), Martin Pugh (guitar), Steve Davy (bass), and Michael Rushton (drums). The album includes classic blues numbers by B.B. King (“You’ll Never Know”) and Eddie Boyd (“Twenty-four Hours”), as well as compositions by band members White, Quittenton, and Pugh. The session musicians Harold McNair (flute) and Pete Sears (piano) also appear on the album.
Already in 1970 the song “Junior’s Wailing” was recorded by Status Quo on their album Ma Kelly’s Greasy Spoon. (by wikipedia)
Reflection is also-ran late-’60s British blues-rock, with more rock-oriented takes on the kind of approach used by heroes Freddie King and B.B. King. B.B. King’s “You’ll Never Know,” in fact, is covered here, though most of the material was penned by the band. Steamhammer doesn’t put much of an original spin on its sources, or on the British blues-rock form, though this is competent and does generally have a moodier, more downbeat feel than most of the band’s competition in the genre. The expressive qualities of Kieran White’s voice, though, are limited, as though he’s being pinched by something that keeps him from letting go too much. The best moments come when they venture just a little outside of the ordinary U.K. blues-rock model, particularly when Harold McNair adds some jazzy flute; “Down the Highway” sounds a little close to some of early Jethro Tull. Future Jefferson Starship member Pete Sears plays session piano. The 2002 CD reissue on Akarma adds two bonus tracks from 1969 singles, “Windmill” and “Autumn Song,” which are more explicit forays into the more melodic jazz-blues-rock direction mined by the likes of Jethro Tull, Colosseum, and Davy Graham in the late ’60s, again with prominent flute. (by Richie Unterberger)
I add three more songs, recorded live at the BBC Maida Vale Studio 4, London, UK; February 4, 1970 (“Rhythm & Blues” programme). This is a very good radio broadcast (mono). Broadcast on BBC World Service radio and presented by Alexis Korner !
In 1969 the British Blues boom was over, but Steamhammer was one of the last bands of this genre … and they was one of the finest bands of this boom … Listen carefully !
Frontcover of the bootleg with the three BBC tracks
Steve Davy (bass)
Martin Pugh (lead guitar)
Martin Quittenton (guitar)
Michael Rushton (drums)
Kieran White (vocals, harmonica)
Mick Bradley (drums on 14. – 16.)
Harold McNair (flute)
Pete Sears (piano)
01. Water (Part One) (Quittenton/Pugh) 0.57
02. Junior’s Wailing (White/Pugh) 3.22
03. Lost You Too (Quittenton/White) 3.32
04. She Is The Fire (Quittenton/White) 3.31
05. You’ll Never Know (King) 3:27
06. Even The Clock (Quittenton/White/Graham) 4.12
07. Down The Highway (Quittenton/White) 4.34
08. On Your Road (White) 2.55
09. Twenty-Four Hours (Boyd) 7.32
10. When All Your Friends Are Gone (Quittenton/White) 3.53
11. Water (Part Two) (Quittenton/Pugh) 1.49
12. Windmill (Quittenton/White) 4.24
13. Autumn Song (White/Joliffe) 4.05
live at the BBC (recorded February 4, 1970)
14. Junior’s Wailing (White/Pugh) 2.38
15. On The Tide (unknown) 5.02
16. Another Travelling Tune (White/Pugh) 4.40