Always found on the “Greatest Progressive Rock Albums of all Time” lists is U.K. by the supergroup U.K. It was their debut album released in May of 1978 on E.G. Records and Polydor Records. It features John Wetton, Eddie Jobson, Bill Bruford, and Allan Holdsworth. The album was well received by FM album rock radio and by the public during the summer of 1978.
The impeccable technical precision, complex yet modern arrangements, and dynamic live performances made them an overnight legend whose reputation has far outlasted their brief 2-year existence.
The band was formed in 1978 by bassist John Wetton and drummer Bill Bruford, both fresh from the USA tour (and accompanying live album) of King Crimson. I believe the first time I heard of them was attending a concert in Atlanta, Georgia. They were the opening band for Jethro Tull in the Omni and I was blown away.
- Allan Holdsworth – acoustic & electric guitar
- Eddie Jobson – keyboards, electric violin, electronics
- John Wetton – bass, lead, and backing vocals
- Bill Bruford – drums, percussion
John Kenneth Wetton (June 12, 1949 – January 31, 2017) was an English musician, singer, and songwriter known for his dexterous bass playing and booming baritone voice. John performed with many progressive rock and hard rock bands, including King Crimson, U.K., Family, Roxy Music, Uriah Heep, Wishbone Ash, and Asia.
All the time I was on the road with Roxy Music guys would keep coming up to me and asking me ‘Why did Crimson end, what happened?’ While I was doing that Bill Bruford was out on the road with Genesis and he was getting the same questions. One thing led to another and Bill and myself always felt that there was some unfinished business and that Crimson had ended too quickly. We felt that there was a lot more life left there. I wrote to him and told him that I was getting this all the time and why don’t we do something together? He was getting the same thing so he said ‘Yeah let’s do it’.John wetton -on how U.K. started
William Scott Bruford (born May 17, 1949) is an English drummer and percussionist who first gained prominence as a founding member of the progressive rock band Yes. He spent the 1970s recording and touring with King Crimson (1972–1974) and Roy Harper (1975), and touring with Genesis (1976) and U.K. (1978). In 1978 he formed his own group, Bruford, which was active until 1980.
Edwin “Eddie” Jobson (born April 28, 1955) is an English musician noted for his use of synthesizers. He has been a member of several progressive rock bands, including Curved Air, Roxy Music, U.K., and Jethro Tull. He was also part of Frank Zappa’s band in 1976–77. Aside from his keyboard work, Jobson has also gained acclaim for his electric violin playing. Jobson was asked to participate in Jethro Tull frontman Ian Anderson’s solo endeavor, which was eventually released by Chrysalis Records in 1980 as a full-fledged Tull album, A.
Tracks – Side one
- “In the Dead of Night” (Eddie Jobson, John Wetton) 5:38
- “By the Light of Day” (Jobson, Wetton) 4:32
- “Presto Vivace and Reprise” (Jobson, Wetton) 2:58
- “Thirty Years” (Wetton, Jobson, Bill Bruford) 8:05
Tracks – Side two
- “Alaska” (Jobson) 4:45
- “Time to Kill” (Jobson, Wetton, Bruford) 4:55
- “Nevermore” (Allan Holdsworth, Jobson, Wetton) 8:09
- “Mental Medication” (Holdsworth, Bruford, Jobson) 7:26
Wetton briefly secured guitar wiz-kid Eric Johnson for the band as well, but Johnson’s own project (the “Seven Wonders” solo album) and the legal wranglings that were accompanying it would cause Johnson to quickly withdraw and be replaced by another guitar virtuoso.
Allan Holdsworth (August 6, 1946 – April 15, 2017) was a British jazz fusion and progressive rock guitarist and composer and was known for his esoteric and idiosyncratic usage of advanced music theory concepts, especially with respect to melody and harmony. He was in the bands Soft Machine, Gong, and U.K. in the 70s .
Suddenly there were four of us in the studio and we were all looking at each other. I had never heard of Allan Holdsworth in my life but when he started to play I thought: this is in-cre-di-ble! Allan had only been playing in small clubs so very few people knew who he was. What would happen with this guy if he was to play large venues? I immediately knew we had to make sure there was plenty of room for improvisations in our music.John Wetton
No better way to start the album than one of prog rock’s classic pieces of music, a 13-minute suite composed by Jobson. The first part, sharing the suite’s name “In The Dead of Night”, is absolutely one of the best album openers I know.”Alaska”, also written by Eddie Jobson, was for the Yamaha CS-80.
In The Dead of Night was probably the song that came together the quickest and easiest, which is probably why it became U.K.’s signature song. I brought the piece in as a virtually complete three-part suite—mostly written out on sheet music—but it turned out to be one of those songs that everyone just started playing and it immediately worked.Eddie Jobson
“Thirty Years”, the closer of the first side on the LP is another great vocal delivery by John Wetton, reminding me this time of his singing on Book of Saturday, from the King Crimson album Larks’ Tongues in Aspic. “Time to Kill”, sounds at the beginning as an attempt at a radio-friendly tune, but the middle part that starts at 1:45 is a wonderful complex instrumental with another great violin solo.
“Nevermore”, a Holdsworth composition, starts with a beautiful acoustic guitar solo that develops into a Weather Report–like melody. The tune shares a lot with jazz rock and fusion bands of that period, and there is a great duel of solos between Holdsworth and Jobson.
It is called Nevermore because of the proposed demolition of Soho in London and I think that it is quite important to me that place carries on existing. They want to knock it down and put a concrete version of high rise flats, and doing that you lose all the character of London. You lose the red light district but you also lose that lovely character.John Wetton
An edit of “In The Dead Of Night” / “Mental Medication” was released May 19, 1978. The artwork for the album cover was created by Nicholas De Ville, a British designer, artist, curator and author, born in 1944. Stephen W. Tayler performed the engineering and mixing for the album.
Note from Doyle
- The Yamaha CS-80 is an analog synthesizer released in 1977. It supports true 8-voice polyphony, with two independent synthesizer layers per voice each with its own set of front panel controls, in addition to a number of hardwired preset voice settings and four parameter settings stores based on banks of subminiature potentiometers (rather than the digital programmable presets the Prophet-5 would sport soon after). It has exceptionally complete performer expression features, such as a layered keyboard that was both velocity-sensitive (like a piano’s) and pressure-sensitive (“after-touch”) but unlike most modern keyboards the aftertouch could be applied to individual voices rather than in common, and a ribbon controller allowing for polyphonic pitch-bends and glissandos. Production of the instrument ceased in 1980. Vying with the Sequential Circuits Prophet-5 and Oberheim OB-X polysynths for the title, the CS-80 is often described as the pre-eminent polyphonic analog synthesizer, and, together with the monophonic Moog modular synthesizer, commands amongst the highest prices of any synthesizer. [Back]
- Stephen W. Tayler is a British mixer, audio engineer, producer, composer, and sound designer. His career began in the mid-1970s at Trident Studios, in London, and mostly involves studio work for pop/rock artists. He has worked with many including Soft Machine, Bill Bruford, Caravan, Saga, The Fixx, Howard Jones, Murray Head, John Wetton, U.K., Jethro Tull, Thompson Twins, Rush, Stevie Nicks, Tommy Bolin, Bob Geldof, Justin Hayward, The Moody Blues, Suzanne Vega, and Kate Bush. [Back]