The Nice formed in 1967 as a backing band for singer PP Arnold. Keith Emerson and “Blinkey” Davison had previously been playing in Gary Farr’s T-Bones, and they teamed up with Lee Jackson and Davy O’List.
At PP Arnold gigs the 20-minute warm-up set by The Nice became an attraction in its own right and soon the group were playing gigs of their own and being managed by Andrew Loog Oldham.
Their live act included their own heavy psychedelic version of Bob Dylan‘s She Belongs To Me and the old Dave Brubeck number Blue Rondo A La Turk (which they retitled Rondo).
Their first album – The Thoughts Of Emerlist Davjack (1967) – showed the beginnings of the classical tendency the group were to follow.
In the summer of 1968, The Nice released their controversial cover of Leonard Bernstein’s America as a single. It reached #21 in the UK charts.
It also resulted in the group being banned from the Albert Hall in 1968 after Emerson burnt the Stars and Stripes on stage while playing their hit version of the song.
Meanwhile, O’List was becoming increasingly erratic and was eventually fired, with the band continuing as a trio.
By the end of 1969, the trio had two more albums to their name: Ars Longa Vita Brevis and Everything As Nice As Mother Makes It. But Five Bridges (1970) featured Keith Emerson’s synth-led concepts dwarfing even the complex grandeur of their earlier albums.
The “bridge” pieces were an attempt to examine working-class life in Newcastle Upon Tyne and were commissioned for the city’s arts festival, while elsewhere on the album Sibelius and Tchaikovsky were put through the hard rock mangle.
They finally called it a day in 1970 with Keith Emerson forming ELP and Jackson and Davison forming a group called Refugee with an unknown Swiss keyboardist by the name of Patrick Moraz.
The group recorded a single, self-titled, album for Charisma which was released in 1974 – and the future looked bright . . .
After recovering from alcoholism, Davison relocated to Devon and taught percussion at Bideford College, as well as playing with a local blues band.
Emerson, Davison and Jackson reconvened as The Nice at London’s 100 Club in 2002, playing together for the first time in 32 years. A UK tour followed.
Brian Davison passed away on 15 April 2008, aged 65.
Brian ‘Blinky’ Davison