Part One 1968-70

Chapter 5: The First Album and Changes Afoot

After returning from Bratislava, life returned to normal. Cressida continued playing clubs and colleges through January 1970 while mixing their first album. Friday 13th February was the superstitious date Vertigo finally released the group’s first album, simply titled Cressida. It was one of three released by Vertigo that day and Cressida were in auspicious company with the other two releases being Rod Stewart’s An Old Raincoat Won’t Ever Let You Down and Black Sabbath’s first LP.

Cressida’s album was reviewed well by critics and received good radio airplay in the first few weeks after its release. Initial sales were also promising, so at Vertigo’s request the band went back into the studio to record a single. The track they recorded, Situation, was recorded at the end of February at Morgan Studios in Willesden, London. Never considering themselves a ‘singles’ band they were not particularly happy to produce one to order. In the end, the track was never released. However, it did see the light of day many years later on Esoteric Records’ compilation CD titled Cressida- The Vertigo Years Anthology – 1969-1971.

Following the release of their first album, March saw the band continue touring the country with gigs in Durham, Newcastle, Exeter and Kidderminster before heading north to Scotland, where they played the Maryland in Glasgow.

Towards the end of March the band travelled to Rouen in France to play at The Open Circus, a four-day event featuring bands and circus acts performing on three stages in a massive circus tent with a 360-degree psychedelic light show. As well as Cressida, the bill featured East of Eden and Brian Auger’s Trinity among others, with the music sets and circus acts interspersed with one another. It was one of the strangest gigs the band ever played.

After a brief return to the UK, Cressida were off again to Germany, this time for a two-week booking at the Blow-Up Club in Munich, where the group shared the bill with Jon Hiseman’s Colosseum for three nights.

Kevin: “Colosseum’s singer, Chris Farlowe, got up on stage to sing with us. I remember we did a few blues standards with him. Munich was a fantastic place to play in those days.”

Unfortunately, their stay in Munich was not a happy one. Personality clashes and tensions within the group had been growing for a while and the atmosphere was affecting the band’s performances. Matters finally came to a head and despite efforts to resolve differences it was accepted that the situation could not continue. A change to the line-up was the only solution and when they returned to London in April 1970, guitarist John Heyworth left the band.

The band immediately set about looking for a replacement guitarist and auditions were held over several days. The band needed a guitarist versatile enough to move between tightly arranged rock and jazz styles and the extended improvisational playing that had become the hallmark of Cressida’s music.

Kevin: “We auditioned a lot of guitarists. I knew a guitar player who I thought would be good for the group and I gave him a copy of the album. He came up and played with us. Iain liked him a lot and although I had thought he was really good when I played with him before, at the auditions I didn’t like him at all! We had another guy from a group called Creation who sometimes played his guitar with a violin bow. There was another player who later became the guitarist in the Sweet. There was also the guitarist from Man who came to the auditions.”

After several days of auditions and some return visits the job was finally offered to John, who previously had been with Geno Washington and the Ram Jam Band.

John Culley (L) the band’s new guitarist

John Culley: “I attended an audition for the group and remember being very impressed with the quality of the songs and high level of musicianship. I knew this was a band I really wanted to join. I just had to show them I was the right choice and could bring something worthwhile to the mix. This was not easy, as John Heyworth had played a big part in the band and had written such good songs.”

John joined Cressida in early May 1970, and after one week of intensive rehearsal it was back to Germany for a return stint in Munich, with a new guitarist, and a renewed sense of optimism.