QUEEN BEFORE QUEEN
THE 1960s RECORDINGS

THE LEFT HANDED MARRIAGE

"... at EMI's prestigious Abbey Road studios"

In the summer of 1965, in another corner of Hampton Grammar School, Brian May's old friend Bill Richard (who had been a fleeting, early member of 1984 before it acquired its futuristic name), and his colleagues Jenny Hill (nee Rusbridge), Henry Deval and Terry Goulds, formed a folk-rock band called the Left-Handed Marriage, named after an archaic form of marrying beneath oneself. By January 1967, the quartet had progressed to the point where they had issued their own privately-pressed album, "On The Right Side Of The Left Handed Marriage", which ran to just fifty copies (and, incidentally, has since acquired cult status among collectors, with a 600 price tag to match).

Although naturally familiar with the album, Brian May as yet had not been involve with the band. That changed in March 1967, after Bill signed a twelve-month contract with EMI's music publishing company Ardmore & Beechwood - a deal secured through the efforts of Brian Henderson, a former member of Edinburgh beat outfit the Mark Five, and more recently, the bassist in Patrick Campbell-Lyons' 60s psychedelic band, Nirvana. Bill approached Brian to help him create a "fuller" sound for the Left Handed Marriage, with a request to provide guitar and backing vocals on some recording sessions. On the understanding that the project wouldn't interfere with his commitment to 1984, Brian agreed. On 4th April 1967, he joined Jenny, Henry, Terry and Bill in AMC Sound, an amateur studio in Manor Road, Twickenham, to record four songs: "Give Me Time" (later changed to "I Need Time"), "She Was Once My Friend", "Sugar Lump Girl" and "Yours Sincerely" (which was basically "Give Me Time" backwards, with new lyrics pinched from the Russian author Puskin).

The songs were all cleanly-recorded, melodic attempts at 1967 pop (despite the Left Handed Marriage's later classification, there's little actual folk music in evidence). "She Was Once My Friend" is the pick of the bunch, thanks to its Kinks-like structure - complete with Bill Richard's Ray Davies-soundalike vocal and, albeit way down in the mix, flashes of that distinctive Brian May 'Red Special' guitar sound. Acetates of the AMC EP were cut, and the idea had been to release the songs as a commercial EP. Instead, the set merely became the Left Handed Marriage's first demo for their publishers, although it did lead to the offer to record a more professional session - at EMI's prestigious Abbey Road studios.

The Abbey Road session took place on 28th June 1967, when Left Handed Marriage were joined by Brian and 1984's Dave Dilloway, who was drafted in to play bass. Two further tracks were cut: they reworked "I Need Time", and a new song called "Appointment". At this stage, there was more talk of issuing a record, this time a single, and a release date of August was even discussed. This never materialised either, and again 7" acetates are all that remain.

Although Ardmore & Beechwood were pleased with the results, they still thought the Left Handed Marriage could improve their sound even further, and on 31st July 1967, they booked the band into another studio, this time Regent Sound in central London. As Dave Dilloway was not available, another friend, John Frankel, was called upon to play bass and piano. The eight-track Regent Sound machine was something of a technological marvel, and the session was flawlessly recorded, resulting in new versions of "I Need Time", "She Was Once My Friend" (which also remixed and edited for the abandoned single), and "Appointment".

Despite the studio quality of the tape, Ardmore & Beechwood failed to place the songs with a record label, and like so many groups before and since the Left Handed Marriage quietly disappeared from view. It was left to frontman Bill Richards belatedly to issue the fruits of this last session when in February 1993, he tagged the three Regent Sound recordings - the final mix of "I Need Time", the abridged version of "She Was Once A Friend Of Mine" and the final mix of "Appointment" - onto the end of "Crazy Chain", a CD recorded by the reformed Left Handed Marriage, which itself was prompted by collector's interest in the group's original 1967 LP, "The Right Side Of..." Most of the master tapes for the LHM recordings featuring Brian May have long since disappeared along with the Regent Sound studio, and (with the exception of "She Was Once My Friend") the Richards/May collaborations on the CD were digitally remastered from acetates.


Thanks to Dave Dilloway, Tim Staffell, Bill Richards, Henry Deval, Mark Hodkinson, and Jacky Smith from the Queen Fan club.

The Left Handed Marriage's "Crazy Chain" CD featuring Brian May is available on CD for 8.50 and cassette for 3.50 (including postage and packing) from Bill Richards, 5 Trees Avenue, Hughenden Valley, High Wycombe, Bucks, HP14 4PG.

PICTURES COMING SHORTLY.

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