Fire Records announces The Groundhogs ‘Blues Obituary’ 50th anniversary reissue

Jenna JonesNews, The Groundhogs

The Groundhogs
‘Blues Obituary’ 50th Anniversary Reissue
Out 12th October 2018
Die cut sleeve limited edition blue LP / CD with liner notes


It’s an everyday story of love, loss and moving on, punctuated by a trip to the cemetery, a bloke with smelly feet who was just too big for his own coffin and the introduction of some Indian drums that signalled a long, spiralling journey to somewhere else – like a ‘60s sitcom that never got made – Joe Orton would have loved it.

By 1969, The Groundhogs had already had their day in the studio, scratching the surface with their debut album paying homage to the masters who’d written the old time blues songbook. It was time to, as Arthur Alexander might say, move on…

“I wanted to write my own songs. The blues was just too ‘restrictive’,” explained Tony McPhee.

So move on they did, at a pace. Even though the songs were based on the blues, The Groundhogs Darwinian slim to a three piece with McPhee on guitar, Pete Cruikshank on bass and Ken Pestulnik on drums made them tick yet louder, a crafted multi-layered jam that never quite set.

“In a three piece every little change that moves the sound around becomes huge. If anyone changes anything then you have to come up with something new to balance it out,” reckoned Ken Pestulnik.

According to Tony McPhee in Zig Zag’s John Tobler’s sleevenotes to the 1987 re-issue of ‘Blues Obituary’ it was the BBC’s John Peel producer John Walters that forced the band’s hand. “He decided he hated the blues,” McPhee told Tobler, “We figured it was time to get away from it.”

On its original release, the album itself received major plaudits, most notably there were claims that it was a “deep excursion” into “musical depths further down than Canned Heat ever dared go.” No Mean feat as the Heat were big news post-Woodstock. But while the Heat had the blues, the ‘hogs were sniffing out something different.

Inspired by a Yardbirds’ freak out on stage, and equipped with the sounds of seismic tub-thumping, The Groundhogs spiraled out of their safety net, any potential deals with devil were definitely off.

And to celebrate this rebirth they dressed as the clergy and forced a mate into a coffin in Highgate Cemetry to illustrate their departure for the sleeve – genius! They came to bury the past and fashion the future… soon to come was ‘Thanks Christ For The Bomb’, ‘Split’ and ‘Who Will Save The World?’.

‘Blues Obituary’ was step one and the re-issue also includes a mono-friendly single cut of ‘BDD’ (that’s blind, deaf and dumb old school, pop pickers) plus its original B-side ‘Gasoline’, an aching stripped down solo Tony TS McPhee track that also appeared on the blues compilation ‘I Asked For Water, She Gave Me Gasoline’ in 1969.

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