The Magic Highway




Stuart Tann (glasses), Vic Elmes, Mike Blakley and Ian Jansen.

Before joining Christie, Vic Elmes and Mike Blakley were members of a group called The Epics.
   The group had started life in the early '60s as The 4 Zodiacs with Vic, Ian Jansen, Stuart Tann, and Bill Fifield on drums. Influenced by the skiffle craze, the East London group played at parties, weddings and pubs and were managed by Ian's mum!
   When Bill left to play with Marc Bolan, he was replaced by Mike Blakley, and the group changed its name to The Epics. The band rehearsed hard and became a tight little unit, recording songs like the Spotnicks instrumental Rocket Man, Buddy Holly's Heartbeat and the old rocker, You're So Square.
   Stuart recalls: "Not long after this we got to record for Pye under recording manager Tony Hatch. We released two records at Pye, Just No Pleasing You, written by Jackie DeShannon, and Just How Wrong You Can Be, by PF Sloan."
   The flipside to the first single was a piece penned by Vic Elmes and Stuart, called My Little Girl. "You could tell it was our first effort," Stuart said, but it does show off Vic's emerging guitar skills. Later, of course, he would write more songs with Christie.
   The 'B' side of Just How Wrong .... was Blue Turns To Grey, by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. "This was to have been our next single, but we were prevented from releasing it because Cliff Richard was about to!!" Stuart said.
   Indeed, The Epics' Blue Turns To Grey is an outstanding arrangement, and far outshone the version by Cliff. Just How Wrong You Can Be and Just No Pleasing You were also fine, melodic tunes in their own right. The group was an impressive outfit with a sound not unlike Gerry and the Pacemakers. Stuart's lead vocals were excellent, as was Vic's electrifying guitar work.
   Stuart adds: "Vic has a great soul voice, and used to sing for example
Midnight Hour, Sweet Soul Music and Purple Haze.We both took individual part lead on You've Lost That Loving Feeling — then we all had harmony parts for Beach Boy stuff! Both Vic and Ian had great falsetto too!"
   When the group's contract with Pye was not renewed, it moved to CBS with recording manager Mike Smith. Travelling Circus was the only release and only nudged the hit parades despite good airplay. The song and the flipside, Henry Long - both incorporating a psychedelic sounds arrangement - were written by Tremeloes members Alan Blakley (Mike's brother) and Len Hawkes.

Acid Gallery

The Acid Gallery: A new pschedelic look, with new member Alan Ross (second from left) and really groovy Vic Elmes (right).


Flower Power! The bright and beautiful Blossoms, after the name change from The Epics.

  During this time the group were touring in Europe, particularly in Denmark, and achieved an unlikely hit when they helped produce a cover version of Chris Andrews' Yesterday Man. The band's Danish roadie Johan Lind, himself a singer with another band, asked the group to back him up on the song. The Epics agreed, but forfeited any payment for the job. "This record was released on the Metronome label and was in fact Denmark's first stereo single release," Stuart said. The song, backed by a cover of Every Day, made the Danish charts.  
   A little later The Epics became Blossom, for a very short period; when Stuart left, he was replaced by Alan Ross, and the group became Acid Gallery. They recorded Dance Round The Maypole, written and produced by Roy Wood at CBS studios, along with Jeff Lynne. Roy sang on lead and Jeff sang backing vocals on the disc and the unmistakeable sound of The Move permeates the record.
   The flipside to this much sought-after single was a song which simply evolved from a jam session. According to Ian Jansen, the group "started off with a 12 bar blues and developed it from there". "If I remember rightly, Alan Hawkshaw, a very well-known piano and session musician and composer was with us at the time and joined in the fun!" The piece features some searing guitarwork from Vic.
   The band eventually broke up when Ian left, and Mike and Vic took office jobs, much to Alan Blakley's relief. Alan said: "At least Mike had a steady job that would bring him money."
   But the call of the music industry would prove too hard to resist. A few months after, Mike and Vic joined Jeff to form Christie.


The Epics
There's Just No Pleasing You/My Little Girl
Just How Wrong You Can Be/Blue Turns To Grey
Travelling Circus/Henry Long

with Johan Lind
Yesterday Man/Every Day

Acid Gallery

Dance Round the Maypole/Right Toe Blues