And this is the story of Unicorn:
Fans of rock music from the 1970s may remember Unicorn, a local band, that made some great albums, but unfortunately never had the fame they justly deserved.
Unicorn’s bass player was Pat Martin, who grew up in Send. In 1963 he began making music with Ken Baker, a friend from St Bede’s School, in Send. During the summer holidays Pat would ride his bike from his home to Ken’s house in Ockham with his guitar. They then both plugged into a home-made amplifier that Ken’s uncle had made.
Pat says: “My dad thought that if continued to pursue my love of beat music, it might keep me away from what he termed ‘the yobs’ he said I was mixing with.
“He bought us some better equipment, became our manager and we soon recruited a drummer, Pete Perryer.”
The band was originally called the Senders. They then became the Pink Bears, later changing their name to the Late. They played many gigs in and around the local area and not long after they had left school aged 17, they were performing as a living. In the early days various members came and went, including, Trevor Mee. He was a gifted guitarist, so Pat switched to playing bass guitar.
Other gigs Pat recalls playing with his band include the Stereo club that was above the Co-op store in Woking. He says: “We got a gig there as a replacement to another band. I don’t think it was a licensed premises, but there was a lot of good beat and rhythm ’n’ blues bands who played there.”
Not only did Pat and his bandmates play at Woking’s famous Atalanta club, he saw many other bands there – some of whom are now legendary. He says: “I saw the Who, the Turtles, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Graham Bond Organisation, and Cream, who were playing their second-ever gig when I saw them there.”
Atalanta owner Bob Potter managed Pat’s band the Late for three years. Pat recalls: “We did an audition for him and he liked us as we sounded like the Hollies. We were signed to him from 1967 to 1969. He had a studio in Mytchett and when we had some free time we recorded some demo tapes there.
“Under his management we got gigs from Hampshire down to Cornwall and up to North Wales. We never made much money, but it was great fun.”
The band rehearsed in Pat’s dad’s garage, which he had converted into a studio for them. They called it The Shed. Some recordings they made in it, have now been released on CD.
After a while their bookings for gigs slowed up, but they were lucky in that they became singer Billy J Kramer’s backing band. It was regular money, but they quit after about nine months as the routine of playing a medley of all of Kramer’s hits every day became somewhat tiresome.
By this time band member Ken Baker was writing his own songs and they got a break when Transatlantic Records offered them a deal. Now named Unicorn, the album was titled Uphill All The Way and was released in 1971.
Their style was soft rock with a country tinge plus lots of vocal harmonies. Gigs took them to countries in Europe such as Sweden and Italy where they were well received.
In 1973, David Gilmour, the guitarist in the world famous rock band Pink Floyd took Unicorn under his wing and the results were the albums Blue Pine Trees (released in 1974), Too Many Crooks and Unicorn2 (both released in 1976) and One More Tomorrow (1977).
Pat recalls this as an exciting time as they toured the USA, playing support to such bands as Fleetwood Mac, Manfred Man’s Earthband, Billy Joel and Linda Ronstadt. Unfortunately, Unicorn never made it big in their own right and by 1977 the emergence of punk music meant only the biggest country-soft rock bands could survive.
Unicorn played its last gig that year in Canning Town, London, to an audience that was so small the band cut the performance short.
After driving lorries for a living and also driving a mobile library bus for a while, Pat has now retired, but music is in his blood and he still plays. (by David Rose)
77’s One More Tomorrow proved to be the final Unicorn album. Capitol Records issued it first in the U.S., before Harvest brought it home to the U.K. in early 1978. While David Gilmour returned to helm the album, the record label also brought in Muff Winwood. Muff had played with his younger brother Steve in the Spencer Davis Group before transitioning into an A&R role at the Island and CBS labels. Winwood was enlisted by EMI (parent of Harvest and Capitol) to add a commercial sheen to the album. (The cover, a departure from the Hipgnosis-designed sleeve for Crooks reflected this as well.) Winwood recorded four tracks with the band which would supplement the Gilmour sessions, and in fact, his quartet of productions was selected to lead off the LP.
Hoping for a hit, Winwood brought along a pair of songs from outside writers – the first time Unicorn had recorded non-original material since the band’s debut. Covering John Fogerty’s CCR (“Have You Ever Seen the Rain”) and Eagles pal Jack Tempchin (“Slow Dancing,” a contemporary hit for Johnny Rivers in 1977), Unicorn nonetheless sounded comfortable. Muff also helmed two Ken Baker songs – the catchy, upbeat “New Shoes” and smooth, ironic “Get Along Fine.” Surprisingly, Winwood’s productions fit snugly on the album with Gilmour’s; “The Night,” like “Get Along Fine,” would reside comfortably on a so-called “yacht rock” playlist. The SoCal-inspired country-rock of Crooks wasn’t abandoned entirely, cropping up on songs like “Eric,” “The Way It Goes” and the jaunty, breezy “British Rail Romance.”
The Byrds’ influence is keenly felt on title track “One More Tomorrow,” with Baker adopting a natural drawl for his rueful lyrics. Baker’s bandmate Kevin Smith teamed with Roy St. John to pen the atmospheric “Magnolia Avenue.” One More Tomorrow was elegantly-crafted soft rock with impeccable musicianship guided, in large part, by David Gilmour’s deft and organic production touch, but like its predecessor, it failed to make a chart impact. After a brief parting of the ways between Baker and his bandmates, resulting in a handful of singles, Unicorn quietly broke up. The bandmates went their separate ways, though all remained involved in music, in one capacity or another.
This edition adds the non-LP B-sides “Give and Take” and “Nothing I Wouldn’t Do” plus three demos, and two performances from the same December 1975 radio session.
Ken Baker (vocals, guitar, harmonica, keyboards)
Pat Martin (bass, vocals)
Peter Perrier (drums, percussion, vocals)
Kevin Smith (guitar)
Howie Casey (saxophone on 10.)
Bill Livsey piano on 03., 04.)
Chris Pidgeon (keyboards, percussion on 03., 04.)
Alternate front + back cover
01. Have You Seen The Rain (Fogerty) 3.11
02. New Shoes (Baker) 3.02
03. Slow Dancing (Tempchin) 3.33
04. Get Along Fine (Baker) 3.29
05. British Rail Romance (Baker) 3.10
06. Eric (Baker) 4.19
07. One More Tomorrow (Baker) 3.14
08. So Hard To Get Through (Baker) 3.42
09. I’m Alright (When I’m With You) (Baker) 2.48
10. The Night (Baker) 4.29
11. The Way It Goes (Baker) 3.53
12. Magnolia Avenue (Smith/St.John) 3.26
13. Nothing I Wouldn’t Do (Single B-side) (Baker) 4.51
14. Give & Take (Single B-side) (Baker) 3.54