Site Logo  Gryphon
There’s unusual, off the beaten track, then there’s Gryphon, who play probably the strangest music ever to make it onto vinyl. Obviously that’s not negative criticism, as otherwise they wouldn’t be featured on the site, but credit going where its due has to involve observation being made where something is blindingly obvious.
And it’s obvious that Gryphon are a most unique band.

Formed in the mid-seventies by two graduates of the Royal College of Music in London, the five piece recorded for the best part of a decade before their eclectic blend of, wait for it, medieval rock music grew a bit too odd for people and the members decided to pursue other interests. I’m sure this wasn’t the main reason, but who knows, it may have played a part in the decision. Luckily for the relative few attuned to such inimitable sounds, they produced about five LPs beforehand.
The music draws on two main influences including the aforementioned medieval and the slightly more contemporary progressive rock that bands such as Yes became known for. It is played with a degree of musicianship as befitting classically trained musicians, absent from any (or almost any) other offerings of ‘popular’ music. The instruments range from the mundane to the obscure, krumhorns, recorders and bassoons mixed with guitars and a range of percussion captivatingly played by the drummer Dave Oberle, who surely had six arms, his work was so intricate.

Richard Harvey was co-frontman although not the singer, Gryphon were for the most part an instrumental band despite later in their career lyrics becoming become almost commonplace. He transcended the limiting boundaries of that most schoolgirl of musical instruments, the recorder, by coming to play it mesmerisingly well. Keyboards, organs and the famous krumhorn completed his repertoire and his sensitive compositions gave the band the musicianship usually associated with professional orchestras.
Brian Gulland brought more than his hair. His bassoon playing demonstrated him to be equal to Harvey in terms of musical output, and he too contributed with interesting compositions which set this band apart from any other. It should be said, one or two of them set Gryphon aside for the wrong reasons, their having released a handful of shockers but overwhelmingly, Gulland was more than the bloke who wrote Gulland Rock, rather the bloke who co-wrote Red Queen to Gryphon Three, surely their most majestic album.
The other musicians, Graeme Taylor and Philip Nestor were competent guitarists whose input complemented the genius of Harvey and flair of Gulland to complete the quintet, a band who may have set strange records (like being the only band to be played on BBC Radios 1, 2, 3 & 4 all on the same day) but which never really came to be more than a few talented drop-outs filling time before they ‘dropped back in’ again. Their time away from the mainstream of classical or modern music escaped the attentions of most, confused a number but delighted a few, and it is my belonging to the latter category that leads me to publish this tribute to them on my website.

Missing their reunion a few years ago was one of those things we wrongly describe as personal tragedies. In truth, it didn’t matter, but the likelihood of them playing together again now is disappointingly close to zero.