A jug band put together by a bunch of Stockport art students and discovered by UFO Club owner Joe Boyd, their washboards, kazoos and harmonicas sound astonishingly innocent today, but in 1967 The Purple Gang evoked a BBC ban with their single Granny Takes A Trip (featuring the first kazoo solo ever to appear on a single).
The band – whose sound incorporated elements of folk, pop and psychedelia – had been taken under the wing of producer and entrepreneur Joe Boyd just in time for the burgeoning underground movement to embrace them.
The group played at many of the happening venues of the time, including an appearance at The 14 Hour Technicolour Dream alongside established underground favourites The Pink Floyd, Arthur Brown and Tomorrow – who were also managed by Joe Boyd.
Despite the band’s protestations to the contrary, the Beeb sensed the whiff of drug culture in Granny Takes A Trip, which nevertheless became a great favourite at the UFO Club and lent its name to a hippie boutique on the King’s Road in London.
A second single, Kiss Me Goodnight Sally Green trailed an album (The Purple Gang Strikes) in early 1968 but, despite its quirkiness and charm, the LP didn’t set the world on fire and gradually the band unravelled.
The Purple Gang reformed in 1970, building a name through gigging on the university circuit supporting several major acts of the time including Yes and The Moody Blues. Despite winning favour for their music, they couldn’t establish the momentum they had developed three years earlier and gradually ground to a halt again.
According to guitarist Joe Beard, the band were cursed due to singer Peter Walker’s adherence to Wicca magic. A member of the Alderley Edge (Cheshire) Coven, Walker’s nickname was “Lucifer” – a moniker he used to record a self-financed single in 1972 called Fuck You which was sold through an advertisement in Oz magazine for 50p.
Pete ‘Lucifer’ Walker
Christopher ‘Joe’ Beard
Organ, piano, washboard
Trevor ‘Ank’ Langley
Gerry (David) Robinson