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Comus are a British progressive folk band who had a brief career in the early 1970s. Their first album, First Utterance, brought them a cult following, which persists. They reunited in 2009, and have played several festivals and released a new album.
Comus c. 1971
|Years active||1969–1972, 1974, 2008–present|
|Past members||Rob Young|
Comus was formed in 1969 by fellow art students Roger Wootton and Glenn Goring, who developed their musical style performing in folk clubs in and around Bromley in Kent. The band was named after Comus (a masque by John Milton), and also after the name of the Greek god Comus. The band grew from an early folk duo to a six-piece ensemble; in that later form, David Bowie came to appreciate them. They appeared regularly at his Arts Lab project in Beckenham, Kent. He also invited them to be his support act in a 1969 concert at London's Purcell Rooms.
Their first album, First Utterance, with cover art by Wootton and Goring, appeared in 1971. The music is largely acoustic art rock (also described as acoustic metal and acid folk) that blends elements of Eastern percussion, early folk and animal-like vocals. The lyrics involve violence, murder, mental disorder and the mystical.
After the album, woodwind player Rob Young was replaced by Lindsay Cooper, and the new lineup developed material for a never-released second album. No recording by this lineup would see the light of day for another 40 years. The group disbanded for a time, but Wootton, Andy Hellaby and Bobbie Watson reformed the band with new members for their second album, To Keep from Crying, in 1974.
A complete box set was released in 2005; this features both studio albums, their only single, "Diana", and a previously unreleased track called "All the Colours of Darkness". The liner notes feature an exclusive interview with some members of the band. They reformed for the Mellotronen Festival in Sweden in March 2008. They have continued to perform occasional gigs, including some new material.
A reunion album, Out Of The Coma, was released in June 2012. It contains three new tracks: "Out of The Coma", "The Sacrifice" (both Wootton) and "The Return" (Goring), plus a 1972 live recording of material from their abandoned followup to First Utterance, "The Malgaard Suite".
Wootton also appears on some recordings by Slapp Happy. Cooper went on to join Henry Cow. Reed player Jon Seagroatt is also a member of free-improvising trio Red Square. Seagroatt and singer Bobbie Watson married in 2003.
In 1998, Opeth singer and songwriter Mikael Åkerfeldt used part of a sentence from "Drip Drip" for the title of the album My Arms, Your Hearse. The full line was "As I carry you to your grave, my arms your hearse".
Another nod to Comus was given on the 2005 Opeth album Ghost Reveries. The second track, "The Baying of the Hounds", was derived from a line in the song "Diana" which reads, "And she knows by the sound of the baying, by the baying of the hounds".
English experimental band Current 93 covered the song "Diana" from First Utterance on their studio album Horsey. Musically, this version differs considerably from the original, with David Tibet singing the lyrics in an agonized fashion and constructing most of the song from a loop based around a vertiginous violin arrangement from the original.
- Current members
- Roger Wootton – acoustic guitar, lead vocals (1969–1972, 1974, 2008–present)
- Glenn Goring – 6–12 acoustic guitar, electric guitar, slide, hand drums, backing vocals (1969–72, 2008–present)
- Andy Hellaby – Fender bass, slide bass, backing vocals (1969–1972, 1974, 2008–present)
- Colin Pearson – violin, viola (1969–72, 2008–present)
- Bobbie Watson – lead and backing vocals, percussion (1969–1972, 1974, 2008–present)
- Jon Seagroatt – flute, oboe, hand drums (2008–present)
- Former members
- Rob Young – flute, oboe, hand drums (1969–71)
- Gordon Coxon – drums (1974)
- Keith Hale – keyboards (1974)
- Lindsay Cooper – bassoon (1972, 1974)
- Studio albums
- Live albums
- East of Sweden: Live at Melloboat Festival 2008 (2011)
- Out of the Coma (2012) recorded 1972
- Box sets
- Song to Comus: The Complete Collection (2005)
- "Diana / In the Lost Queen's Eyes / Winter is a Coloured Bird" (1971)
- Roger Wootton solo single
- "Fiesta Fandango" / "New Tide"
- Peter Grant (9 December 2016). National Myth and the First World War in Modern Popular Music. Palgrave Studies in the History of Subcultures and Popular Music. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 148. ISBN 9781137601384.
- McDonald, Steven. Comus at AllMusic. Retrieved 17 March 2017.
- Sleeve notes from the 1995 remastered version of First Utterance (BGO CD275)
- "Comus Official myspace". Retrieved 2008-04-26.
- "Roger Wootten page". Archived from the original on 25 January 2009. Retrieved 28 June 2008.
- "Comus News". Archived from the original on 25 January 2009. Retrieved 20 December 2012.
- "July 2012". Comusmusic.co.uk. Archived from the original on 25 January 2009. Retrieved 22 June 2012.
- "Comus – Bobbie Watson". Comusmusic.co.uk. Retrieved 2012-04-01.