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The International Writers Magazine: Rock History

Falcon: A Prog Tale
Mark Cunliffe

For many music lovers, Prog is a dirty word, an era best forgot. But to those who accept, admire and wish to address prog rock, then look no further than Falcon. Falcon, or King’s Falcon as they were known at the fag or joint end of the 1960s were for many the great white hope of progressive rock music. The line up of Roger King, lead vocals guitar and leader of the band; Ray Wicksworth guitar and sometime vocalist; Lester Frith on bass; Tony Bannerman the drummer and Erik Dell-Taylor, the wizard of the keyboard and moog synth; became something to admire for music fans and something to achieve for musicians.

Falcon’s early days can be traced back to school boy friends Roger King and Ray Wicksworth who, in early 1967 started a blues band first called The Roger King Sound. Frankly these early stages were mildly derivative of a lot of the scene and success eluded them until they fully ensconced themselves in the faux Edwardian revival of the summer of love. With King being at his most strident and powerful, he re-christened the group King’s Falcon, and with his love of English History adopted the logo of King Henry VIII with a blinded Falcon. Posters began to appear up and down the King’s Rd and Carnaby Street creating a healthy buzz for the band that were sounding folkier and more strange.
As John Peel said around the time; "Noisy odd buggers aren’t they?" and he was right.

In 1969, the band released their album Dawn Execution, and it was immediately, well within a month anyway, a success. For a brief period that spring/summer, the boys were riding the crest of a wave commercially, however in private there was turmoil. Many believed Dawn Execution with its references to Hampton Court and it’s Henry VIII imagery to be solely about that period in time. However what few fans realised was that at the heart of the album, the broken heart if you may, was the disintegration of Roger King’s marriage to his first wife Dawn and her subsequent relationship with drummer and welsh druid Tony Bannerman. The driving influence of the group, King, was suddenly at the wheel of a runaway car. Literally after having an LSD binge from which he still receives flashbacks, he crashed into a tree and was admitted to hospital. From there it was diagnosed that he had suffered a nervous breakdown brought on by an extensive drug intake that even Jimi Hendrix warned him about. He was admitted into a mental home and many thought the band was over.

However, the band continued, and renamed as Falcon, achieved frankly little success as a four piece with Wicksworth taking the helm, unless you include a novelty record, ‘Where’s My Gnome?’ still a hit at children’s parties to this day. Finally a fitter and well Roger King returned to the band he made he created. For many this is the golden age of Falcon, an age with a lot more creativity for all, as King could no longer fully control the band for the sake of his own health and had to admit that Tony and Dawn were now officially together.

In 1972 they scored a huge hit with their concept album, Daemonologie, based on the witch trials of the 1600's.

Some would say this is their finest work, a seminal piece that serves as a precursor to metal whilst still being deeply prog and a revered example of that music as any.

Featuring such classic tracks as The Number Of The Beast, running at 7minutes and 6 seconds (6, 66 being the in joke) and the excellent ten minute suite Miss Cooper’s Impes Part 0ne Jack, Part Two Prickears and Part Three Frog and of course the excellent Hopkins and Stearne which opened side two and ran for a staggering 14 minutes that is so good it only truly feels like 13 minutes.

The seeds were sown, with their love of history and their creative sounds, Falcon were the biggest success progressive rock had scene, and The Old Grey Whistle Test was their oyster. Who too can forget Pan’s People’s own unique interpretation of Suckling Sabbat in the form of dance when the band failed to appear on Top Of The Pops after an unfortunate and near incident of Frith choking on Dell-Taylor’s own vomit at a Little Chef on the A53.

For many, the band could never top this classic album, though there are several admirers of their later concept stuff, such as Spring heeled Jack and The Pied Piper. They continued on until an amicable split in 1981.

So what became of these rock gods?
Roger King is now fairly reclusive, his solo work is sparse but welcome, he has made a return to his blues roots and worked with Clapton recently, but still shows a penchant for prog with his Celtic flavoured albums and his soundtrack to the Arthurian film Mordred made in 1988. He lives in Glastonbury, with his 16-year-old girlfriend whom he met whilst serving on the PTA board of the local school. In an account often humourously related he complained to neighbour Michael Eavis about the festival noise of Glastonbury last year wearing only the girls nightie and carrying a pump action shot gun to make a point. He still suffers those LSD flashbacks.

His drummer, the Welshman Tony Bannerman and King's former wife, Dawn, live happily on a farm in North Wales, speaking only Welsh and selling fresh produce to passers by of a gullible nature.

Lester Frith the bassist achieved some success with his solo album devoted to bass entitled 'Slap This' which the NME lauded as 'not as annoying as you'd think' on its release in 1979. He currently resides in Ibiza with a lisping hairy-lipped Spanish houseboy. He remains unmarried.

Ray Wicksworth is probably the most commercial of the group, writing several musicals for the west end, having fingers in many business pies, notably a chain of bakers and is still touring to this day. He wrote last year’s British entry to the Eurovision, it gained nul points. He spends his time in LA and Spain and has a ponytail.

Sadly the master of the moog, the finest keyboard player this country ever produced, Erik Dell-Taylor, succumbed to a debilitating alcohol addiction and suffered severe burns when he set himself alight after smoking a Camberwell Carrot in bed. He continued with his love of antiques, running a small antique business moderately well in Tintagel throughout the late 70s and 80s with a speciality in broadswords and pistols. But his time was short and he was dogged by rumours of random bestiality. A shadow of his former self, he eventually died in a tragic flintlock accident in 1990.

But we remember them, as does a lot for today’s modern bands such as The Arctic Monkeys who offered this tribute; "They’re ok like, not as bad as we first thought."

© Mark Cunliffe Feb 2008

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