Mabel Greer's Toyshop is an English band that was born in the heart of the 60's British music explosion. They have just released the first song from they're second reunion album titled "The Secret". The song "Big Brother, Little Brother" showcases the issues affecting Native American Indians. Founding members Bob Hagger and Clive Bayley reunited in 2014 to record a new album entitled "New Way of Life" and the magic had returned. Yes member Billy Sherwood produced and played on the album along with original member Tony Kaye. The original MGT featured many members of the prog supergroup Yes, which they eventually change their name to. Some of the original members include: Chris Squire, Bill Bruford, Peter Banks, Tony Kaye, Jon Anderson as well as Bob and Clive. The first album of Yes contained 2 songs born from MGT, "Beyond and Before" and 'Sweetness". The current Mabel Greer's Toyshop line up include Clive (guitar), Bob (drums), Hugo Barré (bass) and Max Hunt (keyboards). I recently asked Bob Hagger to let us know "The Secret" and the history of MGT.
R.V.B. - Congratulations of your new single release "Big Brother, Little Brother". What's behind the title and how does it relate to the American Indians Issue in the American west?
B.H. - Hi and thanks for the invitation to comment. The Native American Indians are a great people that have so much to teach us about how to respect the world. The song title should be considered as a question; who is Big Brother and who is Little Brother?
R.V.B. - I understand "Mabel Greer's Toyshop" will be releasing one song at a time until the album is complete. Are all the tracks complete at this point?
B.H. - Yes, we have recorded all the tracks and will release songs as and when editing and mastering is complete. We think progressive music sometimes needs to be listened to many times over to get a full understanding of what’s going on. So thought it would be a good idea to spread out the tracks in time, hoping people get a chance to listen to each song several times before moving on to the next.
R.V.B. - With the title of the new album being "The Secret", do the songs represent clues to the title?
R.V.B. - This album is comprised of newly written material. Do you feel it captures the essence of Mabel Greer's Toy Shop earlier works?
B.H. - When Clive and I formed Mabel Greer’s Toyshop in 1966, he was only 16 and I was 18. The sound grew out of a base of blues and psychedelic music. The band Yes took the music in a direction that Chris Squire and Jon Anderson were comfortable with, and they created some beautiful works. The Mabel Greer album we released in 2015, “New Way Of Life”, was a bridge that took Clive and I from where we left off in 1968 to where we picked up again in 2015. We are both older now with many experiences influencing the way we play.
R.V.B. - With England being a giant bulls eye for an amazing source of 60's music, was the magical music scene around you the inspiration to start this group?
B.H. - I think the London youth movement and environment of 1966 was the main inspiration to start the group. Our love of music was our way of being part of the scene and creating something worthwhile.
B.H. - Before Chris Squire and Peter Banks joined the band in 1967, our gigs had been low-key affairs. It was due to Chris Squire’s connections at The Marquee club that we started to really play in public eye. After that, in addition to the colleges around England, we regularly played at Middle Earth, Happening 44 and UFO in London. Mabel Greer had some memorable shows supporting bands like The Nice and The Who. After the name change to Yes then things really started to move. In November 1968, Yes were already supporting The Cream at the Royal Albert Hall in London.
R.V.B. - You had various members of the band that was to become Yes in the group, such as Jon Anderson, Chris Squire, Tony Kaye, Peter Banks and others... What type of sound did Mabel Greer's Toyshop set out to achieve? in later years the term "Progressive Rock" was introduced, would you consider your sound a pre-cursor to this?
B.H. - Originally we considered Mabel Greer an “underground” or “psychedelic” band. The term progressive had not yet been coined. We set out to achieve something different, original. About half of our music was original, the other half we took music that we liked and rearranged it into something special, something we could enjoy playing in our own style. We had special versions of Eleanor Rigby, Something’s Coming, Midnight Sleigh-ride, I See You and many others. The way the songs were re-arranged and played was certainly progressive in those days and we did feel like pioneers in what we were doing.
R.V.B. - Who were your inspirations as a drummer and how did you get involved in music originally?
B.H. - I first started playing at the age 15 when a friend had a drum kit for sale. He was a lover of jazz, and introduced me to some of the greats. I used buy records that didn’t have drums on them so I could play along, I completed wore out an Oscar Peterson album. My interest in other drummers came later when I started to visit London clubs and I became influenced by people like Ginger Baker and Phil Seaman.
B.H. - It was an amazing experience. I hadn’t seen Clive for 45 years. It was he that suggested we should go into the studio and try things out. Imagine, we sat down and played the same music again after that huge gap in time.
R.V.B. - What are you most proud of about your musical career?
B.H. - Well a number of things are memorable; in the early days we were very proud to asked to play on John Peel’s BBC radio programme “NightRide” – not everybody got that chance. We were lucky that John Peel asked us and it was a great fan. Another great memory is looking down from the stage one night and seeing Jimi Hendrix watching us play at the Middle Earth club. Both Clive and I are very proud of what our baby Mabel became, the great band Yes with all it’s legacy. More recently, we were pleased about collaborating with Billy Sherwood and Tony Kaye on the Mabel Greer revival album. Chris Squire was able to give the project his blessing just before he sadly died and Billy did a great job replacing Chris on songs like Beyond And Before.
R.V.B. - Who are some of the people who helped out on "The Secret".
B.H. - Sorry, it’s a Secret…
R.V.B. - Thank you for considering answering these questions.
B.H. - Thanks for asking, hope you enjoy the music...
Interview conducted by Robert von Bernewitz
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Photo credit Emmanuelle Faure
For more information on Maybel Greer's Toyshop visit their website www.mabelgreerstoyshop.com
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