In or around about 1969 there were some major changes going down in the world of music and the world as a whole. Before there was Ozzy Osbourne there was a cat named Kip Trevor. And Kip would continue to be a sort of opposite to Ozzy in the band who gave Sabbath the most fear of heavy competition and even rivaled them thanks to an outrageous stage show. That band was of course Black Widow.
I have interviewed Kip about the beginnings, the fun part of it, the down part of it, and his successes after Black Widow working behind the scenes with big names as big as The Rolling Stones! He now runs an online music publishing company called websongs.co.uk to help young artists realize their dreams, but I will take you back to his time in the Leicester legends Black Widow.
In 1969 music was rapidly undergoing some serious changes and upheavals. So too was the culture that musicians from their respected countries delved into. In England a strong interest in the Occult was taking place as works by authors such as Alistair Crowley, the Gothic fantasy novelist Mervyn Peake, and others were becoming popular with aspiring artists and musicians. Black Widow would emerge together with Black Sabbath as two polar opposite bands of the Occultist vanguard. While Sabbath were essentially a Christian outfit warning against the perils of Satanism Black Widow were celebrating it, almost making it seem inviting. Their sound wasn't characterized by bombastic guitar riffs and wailing vocals that evoked terrifying visions of opening the door to sacrifices and practice of the black arts. Instead Black Widow tried to show us into a world where one could learn about the workings of Satanism and the practice of it through a rock opera that told an elaborate story through words and music. Remember that The Pretty Things had made a huge impact on musicians in the know with S.F Sorrow, but even more so a lot of bands were looking to The Beatles for inspiration on how to create conceptual music. The innocence of the flower power era was dying out nearly completely. To simply state the fact of the matter would be that thanks to Arthur Brown and his ilk either you were "Progressive" or "Underground" or you weren't. Black Widow would enter the charts amazingly with the single "Come To The Shabbat" in 1970 and then they would become a household name in England with a debut album sporting the very unsubtle title Sacrifice.
But it would take even them time before they would reach that oh-so unusual year of 1969 where Satanism started to become prevalent in the music that was coming out of the British Underground. We in the States had the horrible band Coven, but Black Widow were something else- they weren't a gimmick or a band who lacked chops. Starting out as the Club/Soul act Pesky Gee and releasing a horrendously rare album called Exclamation Mark of seedy Soul/Jazz/blooz rock they were jazz players, soul players, and they had a blues/soul vocalist. When Kip Trevor and Kay Garnett and the band delved into an interest in the occult you had to be sharp with what you'd come out with. Bands like Bulldog Breed were introducing the outlandishly occult into the rock idiom while bands as stupid as Harsh Reality played with the imagery without having anything to do with the anti Christ.
Fast forward to early 1970, Black Widow had lost Kay after recording an at the time unreleased version of their debut later put out on CD as Return To The Shabbat. In 1970 with Kip handling all lead vocals, Jim Gannon on acoustic/electric guitars, heavy Hammond organist Zoot Taylor, Beatnicky Clive Jones on lead sax and flute and the bass and drums of Clive Box and Bob Bond the group released Sacrifice and scared the Hell out (no pun intended) of nearly anyone who became aware of the album. If the tepid, menacing, trippy, and otherworldly jazzy progressive rock of the album that culminated in the tremendously terrifying "Attack Of The Demon" and the Yardbirds styled rave up of 13 minute length "Sacrifice" weren't enough then the band's stage show pushed everything right off the precipice and word soon spread like wildfire this band were dangerous. The group used dry ice before anyone else. They clothed themselves in Medieval robes and Kip Trevor wore at times white face paint and black leather. It was Kip who was the focal point- pulling out a huge sword and sacrificing a naked woman in the role of Astaroth Queen Of Heaven Queen Of Hell at the end of the act. This caused so much uproar because no one had dared to go as far as BW went then. When photographers and publicity were banned from the group's show at The Lyceum in London nobody could have predicted that at that gig and the peak of intensity that cameras would shockingly go off somehow and cause Black Widow and Kip Trevor to be a sensation. For a good year long period they were a wild, dangerous bunch, but changes had to be made first to the personnel. Clive Box and Bob Bond simply just couldn't cut it as the rhythm section. Geoff Griffith would come in as the virtuoso bass player and West Indian drummer supreme Romeo Challenger came in.
Soon Black Widow were beginning to feel a bit uneasy about their enthusiasm for The Man Downstairs. They started to see, much like how I can see violence doesn't solve things, that Satanism could be really, really scary, Still, they would stick to their occultist guns going into the studio to make their second album this time just called Black Widow.
A massive step forward vocally, musically, and lyrically the album remains one of the greatest achievements of the early Underground progressive era with excellent vocals from bluesy, melodic voiced Kip. In fact, the only real similarity with Sabbath was two fair haired singers who had different approaches to that, but who could go from raving to mellow and reflective. Black Widow now were playing fantastic progressive heavy hard rock a bit like a much improved Deep Purple although The Yardbirds, Traffic, and Led Zeppelin all were more of what BW was about. There is lots of excellent electric guitar from Jim Gannon, epic song structures merged with more straightforward ones (the long heavy Blues Rock scorcher "Poseur'), and the album closes out with the opus "Legend Of Creation" which brings to mind both early Yes and Trespass period Genesis. Seek their first two albums out, especially this one, and you'll be very much rewarded.
Unfortunately, it just wouldn't last. Problems with egos in the group and some of the members wanting what others despised namely moving completely away from their past led to Jim Gannon who was the soul and principle writer leaving the group. Kip Trevor felt that the group now were a diluted version of what they had been. He'd only stay on for one more album. Soon it all would be revealed to be something sadly lost for any hope of greatness again as the pompous, overweight prog of Black Widow 3 proved. I had a sentimental attachment to this album for a long time, but as you'll hear from Kip he had no interest or enjoyment coming out of the band at all anymore. You can hear his unhappiness on the unimpressive anti Soldier rant "The Battle" and his songwriting input was down to 2 songs. Black Widow had run their course, but obnoxiously with NO INVOLVEMENT from Kip Trevor or Jim Gannon some members tour with bogus line ups trying desperately to cling to a past that will outlive their foolish attempts to rake in money on them. Black Widow will live through the music on their first two albums- music that was made by a young and hopeful group who would for a brief moment shine in the rock and roll light as an underground sensation.
Kip, really good friend of mine, gave me a wonderful interview this past winter and I have tried to integrate the knowledge I learned from his story into this write up. I will try to publish the full interview later on as there unfortunately isn't the space for the whole story on this blog. I will just say in closing that Kip Trevor is a down to earth, intelligent, and very talented guy who is still involved with music for all the right reasons. He will soon appear on another epic recording- an album based around the works of my namesake William Blake! Rock on Kip!