11/5/09

Vinyl Dynamite #16: From Jesus Freak to Lucifer's Friend



We'll Fly You to the Promised Land by Les Humphries Singers (1971)

The Les Humphries Singers were sort of your standard Jesus Music group of the early 70's - every song sounded like "Age of Aquarius (Let the Sunshine In)" with a gospel twist. The album contains your predictable mix of (1) hippie Christian tunes like "Jesus Cried on the Day He Died", (2) hippie social message songs like "Melting Pot", and (3) hippie rock covers like "Hey Joe". 

The group consisted of diverse ethnic origins and nationalities.  Their biggest hit came a German cover version of The Bellamy Brothers' hit "Let Your Love Flow", translated to "Ein Bett im Kornfeld".  Here's one song off the We'll Fly You to the Promised Land album titled "Bucket of Sweat".



By the mid-1970's, Les Humphries Singers had all but abandoned any Christian pretense.  They released rock, jazz and even disco albums.

What I find particularly interesting about this group is their main vocalist, John Lawton. His funky mug is front and center on the front and/or back of every record.



What blows my mind is how Mr. Lawton could be in a family-friendly Jesus freak musician and then a band called... (drum roll, please) Lucifer's Friend!



Here's a song from the Good Time Warrior album above called "Old Man Roller".  I apologize up front for the awfulness... this stuff is bad - real bad.



As the name implies, Lucifer's Friend had a lot more in common with Black Sabbath than The Fifth Dimension or Up with People. However, I should mention that Lawton actually was in both groups simultaneously. It would have made for a more interesting post had he quit Les Humphries Singers, renounced Jesus, and pledged his soul to Satan.  Alas, this was not the case.

In another interesting turn, Lawton became the frontman for the well known prog rock group, Uriah Heep in 1976.To view a few more album covers by The Les Humphries Singers, click the "read more" option below...

images from the Les Humphries Discography site; click images to embiggen






7 comments:

  1. As a fan of space age pop, I was aware of the Les Humphries Singers, and Uriah Heep of course caught my attention, but I was never aware of their connection, much less the Lucifer's Friend side project.

    I think the simplest explanation is that John Lawton is a musical whore.

    Thanx for the album covers & info!

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  2. I'm always interested in hearing about attempts to blend Christianity with late 60s hippie culture (Jesus Christ Superstar, Godspell), as they usually seem like two mutually exclusive realms. If you can point me to other examples of such, I'd appreciate it. Thanks!

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  3. A quick web search shows that our man John Lawton is still alive and kickin' out the jams in Bulgaria (Bulgaria?) as well as doing a travel documentary for a TV company called "Skat".
    Read more at http://www.johnlawtonmusic.com
    Love that company name. I got their motto: " It's not TV, it's Skat!"
    (I find most TV a form of scat.)

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  4. Phillyradiogeek, check out Billy Graham's book The Jesus Generation, or Di Sabatino, David. The Jesus People Movement: An Annotated Bibliography and General Resource (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1999).

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  5. I remember that some of my family members had a lot of hippie Christian music back in the day. I can remember hearing a lot of that music when I was a kid.

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  6. Lawton replaced David Byron in Uriah Heep who was the original (and in my opinion best) Heep.I liked the stuff with David Byron and the Uriah Heep music with him as frontman is some of the best progrock of the 70's. He was basically kicked out of the band at the demands of cheif songwriter/keyboardist Ken Hesely who had had it with Byron's alcoholism and subsequent erratic and volatile behavior. Some peopel see the lose of Byron as the end of Uriah Heep in the same way the loss of Ozzy (for the same reasons as Byron) ended the 'real' Black sabbath. With Lawton as frontman the band just started doing straight forward 'lets party' rock-n-roll and I lost interest. After Lawton I think there was a revovling door of singers, each one worse than the one before though the band is still making music with only frizzy haired guitarist Mick Box as the only original member.

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  7. Typo:

    Lawton replaced David Byron in Uriah Heep who was the original vocalist (and in my opinion best and most charismatic)Heep frontman.

    Sorry...

    Bill

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