Stallion first appeared in 1972, aiming from the outset to put original compositions at the top of their agenda, performed with a professional and theatrical stage show that was very much in keeping with the progressive musical times. Band founder Steve Demetri had been influenced by early Genesis, King Crimson, Billy Cobham and Frank Zappa, whilst Tony Bridger had developed a guitar style influenced by his love of contemporary rock guitarists, including Rory Gallagher and Jimi Hendrix. Vocalist Tich Turner, meanwhile, had come from a background of American R&B, listening to everything from Marvin Gaye to Little Feat. This first line-up was completed by Steve Kinch on bass, who went on to tour with Hazel O’Connor before joining Manfred Mann’s Earth Band. Steve was later replaced on bass by Roger Carey in 1974.
From day one they produced a cohesive and original sound. The set showcasedTich’s compositions with powerful dynamic arrangements, leading audiences on extended musical journeys. Steve Demetri’s penchant for Peter Gabriel-like theatrics inspired Tich to develop a stage persona whereby instrumental sections could be acted out visually. Tich would sometimes wear a full skeleton suit and face paint (surprisingly effective under UV light) and these manic performances were in a similar spirit to Arthur Brown’s Fire. Audiences were immediately sucked in to the band’s world of light hearted musical horror.
The idea of bringing keyboards into the line up, particularly a Mellotron, had already been mooted when, in 1974, Stallion entered the Melody Maker rock contest. Phil Thornton was in the audience; he joined the band the same day, by the simple expedient of marching into their dressing room after the gig and announcing himself as their new “whatever you need” and declaring “by the way I’ve got some ideas.” Despite having no experience with organ or piano, Phil did possess a Korg 700 synth, soon to be augmented by a customised Elka Rhapsody string synth, which when played through a guitar amp, made an incredibly thick wall of sound. This seminal Elka sound was to become influential in shaping the future direction of Stallion’s music.
The timing couldn’t have been better. The band had already booked their first studio session and, within days, the new five piece Stallion set about recording their first single Skinny Kid, together with the B-side In the Wake of the Cobra. Released by the Flyright label early in 1975, the single was supported by a period of constant gigging up and down the country.
Shortly after the single was released Roger Carey was replaced on bass by Phil Gill, a guitarist friend of Steve Demetri. Phil had never played bass before, but the opportunity to play with the band was one that he didn’t want to miss. The band gave him a copy of Skinny Kid/Cobra and he borrowed a bass from Roger Carey, learning the bass parts on the two songs ready for the band’s next rehearsal. On the strength of this, they’d found their new and final bass player.
The line up worked well, but as the band began to write songs more collaboratively, cracks began to appear. It became apparent that the desire to move further towards trading in their preferred currency of prog rock was increasingly at odds with Tich’s preference for shorter, snappier material.