Feudalism: A medieval social system, particularly prevalent in Western Europe, under which lords, vassals (minor nobility and knights) and serfs (commoners), owed each other reciprocal defense and social duties. (Encarta Dictionary)
We were met at the front gate of The Lodge by Dave Storey, The Enid’s long time (and original) drummer, and by their manager, Ian Eardley (aka “Billy”). Storey and Eardley showed us to the central staircase which rose past the recording studio rooms on either side to the second floor living areas. There, at the top of the stairs, was the Lord of the Lodge manor and of all things Enid, Robert John Godfrey.
Despite wearing black jeans, Teva-style sandals and a red checked shirt open half way up his belly (rather than pantaloons and robe with sceptre in hand) Godfrey instantly projected a persona that was every inch the bearded, white-haired English nobleman. It was with a gracious swing of the arm that he showed my wife, Nancy, my friend and business partner, Ian Oakley, and myself into the Lodge’s great room. After seeing to our refreshments, Godfrey positioned himself, reclining, engulfed within an oversized, overstuffed red armchair.
* * *
Progression: How is this band put together?
RJG: I’ll let Dave answer that because he has a very interesting take on it. Something that he said to me the other day about my innate or unconscious ability to be able to create situations like this I mean whereever I go.
Progression: The current version of The Enid?
RJG: Anything that we have ever been in.
Dave Storey: Yeah I can remember saying that at the time, I’m not quite sure when it was.
RJG: I have an instinct of self preservation if you like which is that I suppose it is self preservation. I don’t go out and meet the world I let it come to me. I keep an open door and sooner or later and someone will walk in that door, who will be right for me and in order for it to be right for me, has to be right for them too, because otherwise it isn’t right for me. In other words it has to work. For example Michael at the moment does our merchandise he lives here. Five years ago, he came to stay here for a couple of nights. He was out of prison and a friend of someone else who was here and he’s been here 5 years. He was right, he’s happy here. This is his home, this is his life. Billy — or Ian as you know him — is another one who walked into our lives in a totally unconnected way as a studio client who brought a band here to record and gradually overtime. You know it’s been right for him to be involved as tea. It was the same when Max walked through my door all those years ago.
Progression: Under what circumstances?
RJG: We met at a party that we went to one of my mad parties when I lived in that big house a few miles away from here. It was a fairly outrageous one. Virgin records was running it. Oh no you didn’t come to that one did you. No it was a prior one to that. Max was a local musician
Max Read: And recorded an album in the studio with my band and I’ve probably been here a few hundred yards from my house.
RJG: To put it you don’t mind me saying that where Max started like everybody that first starts with me, I am definitely the Julius Caesar and they definitely are obedient. That is only initially, and what I said to Max was that there are probably not in so many words that if you make a success of this and you stay here and you are loyal to me I’ll make you a partner in this business and ultimately I will leave it all to you and that is exactly what I have done. It’s all his in fact.
It is tempting for journalists, Prog-snobs and faux-academics (is there a difference?) to think of the history and development of the genre in terms of taxonomical labels such as “Golden Age,” “RIO,” “Neo Prog” and “Third Wave…as if there were a direct through-line amongst these seemingly immutable categories. But whilst such labels have their uses (at least two of which are (a) giving bored prog fans something to debate and (b) journalistic laziness), the reality is that there neither is nor ever was such a single through-line.
There may be no clearer proof of that proposition than The Enid. The band, quite simply, defies any easy categorization. In fact, there is no immediately comprehensible explanation for how such a band could ever have existed as and when it did and why it has not been long dead and buried. How could a band that played classical music on rock instruments burst on the UK music scene just as Punk was reaching its greatest heights of critical and popular success? How could such a band get two major label contracts? How could it tour up and down the UK for weeks at a time, filling its premier venues with punkers clad in attire that had adorned the Sex Shop racks only the day before, standing right next to proggers and hippies.
* * *
Progression: One of the things that struck me the most about the history of the band was the notion that, here’s this band playing classical music with rock instruments to large audiences up and down the country with punks standing next to hippies.
RJG: With Jews standing next to Muslims. Exactly.
Progression: So what made the punks interested?
RJG: That is partly a social situation.
Progression: Classical music on rock instruments sounds more like what the punks were against than what they were for.
RJG: Perhaps. But The Enid started as the punk revolution exploded and we, I mean no disrespect, but to be quite honest, the dinosaurs — the super groups of the day — actually overnight ceased to be. You know Keith Emerson couldn’t get a gig. You know having appeared at the Crystal Palace or something I think that playing a four thousand year old organ and twirling around in the sky on a crane, you know, those sort of absolutely bombastic overblown shows. The pre Punk situation outlived, outgrown and outbloated itself into this sort of extravagance, and also the quality of the lyric writing began to go down the spout where the earlier work of Genesis I think — well perhaps not Genesis, I’m sort of thinking about bands in general and ELP, exactly. It all deteriorated.
Progression: So you were protesting the same thing they were?
RJG: What The Enid was is a receptacle for the mainly boys, but some girls as well from nice backgrounds — very A levels — wanting to be doctors, lawyers, physicists, and everything else, who wanted something radical and were prepared to be different and reasonably extreme but weren’t punk. Because they didn’t like punk music. They didn’t think that it was music.
Progression: So what about you?
RJG: What I find funny is that I kinda like it now. But there is a lot of it that I didn’t get but I get it now. But I certainly didn’t get it then, nor did my young audience.
Progression: So how did it appeal to the punkers?
RJG: Well when we did the live shows it wasn’t like we were playing classical music. The live shows were a rock experience.
While Tommy Vance on BBC Radio One once described The Enid as “the biggest cult band in Europe,” the simple fact is that The Enid phenomenon — and quite a phenomenon it was — never really translated out of English very well: not to Japanese, not to French, Dutch or German and definitely not into the American vernacular. There were many reasons for this. A band playing classical-style music on rock instruments is unlikely to produce much in the way of hit singles. Another is that The Enid’s Englishness makes Jethro Tull — that most English of bands from Prog’s Golden Age/First Wave — feel downright American.
But another reason is, quite simply, bad luck. If all had gone according to plan it would have been Japan to which The Enid was exported first. The band was on the cusp of a major campaign in Japan, supported by touring, a record and video release and a major promotional push when its label, Pye, underwent a financial and management meltdown resulting in the pulling of nearly all financial support to the band. With the ensuing departure from Pye of it’s A&R sponsors, The Enid found itself orphaned and floundering.
And yet from the ashes of those lost opportunity Robert John Godfrey and The Enid built something different, something unexpected but something that may leave as lasting an impression as the music itself.
* * *
Progression: You will certainly leave a legacy of music some might say that one of the most important legacies of The Enid, is business. And many of the ideas — we were talking about it on the way up here — many of the ideas you utilized over the years are now de rigeur.
RJG: Well I regard myself as a pioneer and I’ve encouraged bands to you know do it themselves and use their fan club.
Progression: Marillion, for example?
RJG: Well I’ve advised them to do it. There was a bit of a spat between me and Marillion, but it wasn’t really with them, actually, it was with EMI. I was a bit naughty you know contentious again, sort of using the way EMI decided to brand this band.
Progression: Well I don’t think that many of them were too happy with EMI by the end.
RJG: No, exactly. So you know everything that I said, which they were so angry about initially when that newspaper came out it all came true and very wisely they have managed to maintain a career very successfully by doing just that — telling them to fuck off and doing it themselves — and this is the right way to do it.
Progression: Fish took two more shots at it before he started doing it for himself. What is the original of those business concepts? Where did they come from?
RJG: Out of my head, there wasn’t a business concept really. I just got up one morning and said “Right! We need to organize these fans and stop treating them as consumers; they have to become our patrons.” And they have.
Many hard core Enid fans look back to the period from the band’s founding to the departure of one of its original guitarists – Frances Lickerish – as The Enid’s “Golden Age.” Godfrey, Lickerish and second guitarist Stephen Stewart formed the band’s “Holy Trinity” and it is to this Holy Trinity that Enid-fans look as the creative core of the band.
Godfrey seems a bit more ambivalent on the subject. On the one hand, when asked, Godfrey resists the notion of such a Golden Age:
Our successful period? Yes but that was all backed up and played for a record company. And it wasn’t real, none of it was real. The fact is the 80’s we were on our own. We didn’t have a record company then at all. Before that I was under under enormous pressure from Pye Records, you know, to change the format of the band to get some bloody singer with a cucumber down the front of his pants. Then we would have changed into some sort of rock band. You know that was the sort of situation and that’s what they wanted to do. That is why our singles were absolutely outrages because we were committed to having to do singles.
But Robert John Godfrey is a realist as well as a visionary, a businessman as well as a musician. And Robert John Godfrey knows his market quite well. Will the Holy Trinity reunite? No. Not exactly. But close.
This past April 16 at the Birmingham Town Hall in the UK, The Enid played a very special orchestral gig – and did so with Frances Lickerish and members of Lickerish’s “new” band, Secret Green. While the gig included the debut of The Enid’s new album, the centerpiece was the performance – with Lickerish – of the band’s classic epic, “Fand” from their second album, Aerie Faerie Nonesense. “Fand” is everything The Enid is – a complex composition that is classical in nature, deeply moving and melodic…and guitar driven. The central figure around which the song’s opening is built would – quite frankly – not be entirely out of place in a Dream Theater song. “Fand” — and the prospect of Godfrey and Lickerish on stage together again — was the headline going into the show. That was the headline coming out of the show.
* * *
RJG: Someone made the point that Francis said recently that he thought that the 70’s version of the band was the best…but he was the one that destroyed it.
Progression: What precipitated that?
RJG: Oh Francis and I always had the kind of relationship that Churchill and Stalin had right with each other from day one. We had a common goal, not a common enemy in the sense, but a common goal. So we were able to set aside our….You see he and I see the world in utterly different ways about how it works. It doesn’t matter to me. I’m happy with my own views of the world and I don’t mind whether other people agree with them or not. But Francis is different he has to…he is like an anarchist. He wants people to see it his way and you know they’ve got to believe that King Arthur is going to wake up and come and save us all…it is completely fucking crazy, so it always has been.
Progression: But it held together?
RJG: Well, the problem was that he got to the point in 1980 after we had had a bit of sort of record company support. He sort of drunk a few glasses of champagne around this marketing director in the office and we had sort of road crew that drove all the gear to places that we would show up into a nice hotel and there would be sort of a rider and all that things. And it went to his head completely. Alright this is my turn now I’m going to take the band over and it’s time for RJG to step off the bus. Well he called a meeting and in 1980, I think it was about then and said what he wanted to do and I said that we fine, I said because you know I’m quite happy for you to do that and, you know, I’m quite prepared to step down and go off and do something else. But nobody apart from Willy [Gilmour] would go for it and only Willy did it in fact. He had a totally different reason for wanting to leave the band anyway — which was Francis’s brother David who was shagging his wife and he wanted out of the whole situation completely and utterly. Right so Willy went and the rest came with me. Francis went off into the wilderness to try and walk on water and I think that he still does.
Progression: But you’re working together again?
RJG: Yes. Certainly. Even now my relationship with him is that I will give him all the help that I can but must be in our mutual interest to try and address the needs of the tribe of Enid. But it will be at arm’s length and we still have that relationship like Churchill and Stalin had the craziness. That destroyed the first band there were large. I think that you would agree to that don’t you Dave?
Dave Storey: I think it’s true that right from the very start, which was a bit before I got there…I thought that very early that your relationship was rather volatile. And certainly I think that I could still have some of those thoughts and ideas
So, in the end, when asked the direct question – “can you see a circumstance in which the so-called Holy Trinity could work together again?” – the answer is a simple, declarative and emphatic “NO.” Not the entire Holy Trinity. “Francis just left the band in 1980. We had most of our success in the 80’s much of which he nothing to do with.”
There in The Lodge’s Great Room, Robert John Godfrey – Lord of the manor – sat, surrounded by his people – heirs, members of the band, band manager as well as guests and ghosts. Godfrey — larger than life, filling the room with his personality, persona and person — occupied the space as surely as he would a stage. It seemed not out of place at all that in so doing Godfrey outlined his plans for immortality.
Progression: So what are you doing with the band? What are the current plans?
RJG: The current plans are the completion of Journey’s End, which is not journey’s end it’s Journey’s end then it’s my end. I will probably never do another concept album. I think, unless I find something fresh to say I don’t think that I will. That’s not the end of my creative life. I have a new generation here which The Enid isn’t just a band, it’s a way of doing things it’s a whole other approach.
Progression: What is that approach?
Progression: What next?
RJG: We intend to re-record the whole catalog, not as , not to in any way to try and repeat the past, but with this new line up. With the hindsight of best practice if you like — as far as composers are concerned in other words — the way I would now develop that material in a way that I did not know how to do that when I was inept and young and now I’m old and hopefully wiser. And it will be very exciting, so there is The Enid-redux project, which is the whole catalog going to be re-recorded, with using every modern facility.
Progression: What else?
RJG: Well, that will probably take several years to do. Then there is virtuoso which is the virtuoso arrangements of tracks of pieces from our repertoire which would suit that kind of treatment. It’s not so much the large scale works, but some of the more fiery ones, who I can really show off my piano technique which I have really hid under a bushel and also to produce a kind of unplugged Enid. A very small, intimate
Progression: Chamber Enid?
RJG: Virtuoso performances here. With everybody being sort of required to really show themselves off in a quite exciting way. Because once we have all that with in say three years I could have quite a lot of all this happening which means we would be able to give all sorts of performances in different types of venues. With those projects that you know that will probably see me out of the sort because the point that I was making. Well, so I get to 67, which I will be by the time that it’s done. You know I will feel like quite lucky, so there is that. In the mean time there is the younger generation which this band can be a vehicle for if they want it to take it one to where ever they want to do it. And if Jason wants to start writing and composing music in the mean time well I’m going on with all of this or any of the others, then they certainly can. And I will probably do my bit while I’m around but I almost envision a stage where we get to where I can perhaps put in a guest appearance for a few numbers, you know they call the stage and then let them, you know, continue with the situation because I want the tradition of the way that I have learned to work with a band that is a unique thing. That is to be carried on.
Progression: So The Enid will live on beyond Robert John Godfrey?
Godfrey’s response – perhaps the most eloquent of an interview filled with erudition – was a wry and very mischevious smile. Like any good Feudal lord, Robert John Godfrey had taken care to secure the succession. Immortality? Yes. But also to secure for his heirs, his band members and for those ghosts the future through the past.
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