Formed in Bolton in 1967, acid-folk band Spirogyra found their wings in Canterbury in 1969 with a stable line-up of Martin Cockerham (vocals and acoustic guitar), Julian Cusack (violin and keyboards), Steve Borrill (bass) and Barbara Gaskin (vocals).
The quartet abandoned their university studies in favour of the band and quickly won a recording contract. For the next three years, Spirogyra recorded, toured and raged against the laws of neglect and diminishing returns that left them eventually shipwrecked with their poor-selling albums becoming collector’s items.
The inconsistent but often brilliant St Radigund’s (1970, named after the street the band lived in nearby to Canterbury Cathedral) and Old Boot Wine (1971) established Cockerham as a distinctive, unconventional songwriter and Barbara Gaskin as one of the most haunting singers in rock, but their best work came when Cusack and Borrill returned to academia, leaving Cockerham to develop the marvellous Bells, Boots and Shambles (1973) alone.
In place of the often incongruous mixture of time signatures and styles on its predecessors was a unified, flawlessly-played and frequently moving suite of songs featuring glorious trumpet and cello parts.
Sadly, however, the LP was barely distributed – the band were part of a tax loss deal for the label – and Spirogyra called it a day. Copies of the album fetch more than £300 today.
Vocals, guitar, keyboards