Part One 1968-70

Chapter 7: Too Little Too Late

The highlight of the Asylum album in many people’s view was the final track, Let Them Come When They Will. Written by John Heyworth, the song had been a live favourite for a long time, and they were keen to record it. With its diverse progressions, extended guitar and organ solos and percussion sequence, it was nearly 12 minutes long. The album also included several sharply contrasting, short, quirky songs including Goodbye GPO Tower and Survivor, along with an Oscar Petersen-style piano instrumental from Peter called Reprieved.

In May, a “Vertigo Night” was held at the Marquee Club in London, featuring Cressida and another Vertigo act, Fairfield Parlour. This was Vertigo’s first foray into promoting gigs and tours featuring several of their artists.

Whilst the Asylum sessions were being recorded, Cressida continued to perform at clubs and colleges around London and further afield in Northampton, Blackpool and Sheffield. In July they appeared for the first time at Mothers Club in Birmingham. The audience was so enthusiastic that the promoter immediately rebooked the group to return in August and September.

At the end of September, the band travelled to Switzerland for a concert before embarking on a major tour put together by Vertigo featuring Black Sabbath, Cressida and May Blitz. From 27th September to 5th October they performed in Rotterdam, Liege, Charleroi, Ghent, Brussels and Köln.

Iain: “It was a good tour, and although the bands travelled separately, we hung out together at the hotel after the gigs and there was quite a lot of socialising. I remember being in a restaurant with Black Sabbath when their management called to break the news that their LP had just reached No.1 in the UK charts. I don’t think the restaurant knew what hit it…. the celebrations were wild.”

Following their return from the Vertigo tour the mood in the Cressida camp had grown increasingly despondent. Although the first album had been well-received by critics and had sold in sufficient numbers for Vertigo to request a second, their producer/manager Ossie Byrne had failed to secure sufficient bookings to sustain the band’s operation – the diary did not look encouraging and there was talk of breaking up.

Peter: “I was the one who was most insistent on leaving Cressida. Feelings of disgust had been building up within me for some while over what I considered to be the ethical bankruptcy of the music business. In hindsight, this was all rather ironic; the period in which Cressida was active was remarkable in respect to the freedom given to bands like us to record precisely what we wanted, and without undue interference.”

Iain: “There was a sense that things were not progressing on the gigs front. It became difficult to remain positive, and this translated into conflict between the band members. We knew we were a good group, but success didn’t seem to be happening quickly enough. We were tied into management that was not really working out but we probably should have stayed together at least until the release of Asylum, but it didn’t happen.”

In November 1970 the band broke up. It was all over. The band members went their separate ways and Cressida came to an abrupt end after just two years.

Their second album, Asylum, was released in February 1971, three months after the band had broken up. Ironically it received even greater critical acclaim than the first album, but it was too little, too late.

Within a short time, Iain joined Uriah Heep and recorded their Look At Yourself album, John Culley moved on to Black Widow and Kevin became a member of Tranquility before moving to the United States. Angus continued writing and briefly worked with Iain on recording demos of new songs he had written, but eventually called it a day and left the music business altogether. Likewise, Peter, who had also grown frustrated with the music business, went on to other things, although he later began working on new music projects and playing periodically with different bands.

Cressida, like so many other bands, became a tiny, obscure footnote in the history of British rock music. They left behind two albums and a few other recordings and that would have been it had their two albums not continued to be re-released.

The resurgence of interest in progressive rock from 2000 onwards led a new generation of prog-rock fans listening to Cressida for the first time, along with those who already knew what fine records the original albums had been.

Unbeknown to the band’s former members, Cressida had acheived cult status amongst progressive rock fans.

To read Part Two of The Cressida Story 2011-13, click Here