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Fire

Best known for their eccentric pysch-pop nugget "Father's Name Is Dad," Fire were a British rock combo active between 1968 and 1970. Though largely ignored in their time, they have nonetheless become a critically lauded cult band with an influential legacy that belies their brief existence. During their initial late-'60s run on Decca, Fire had a unique sound, quality material, and the might of Apple Records' publishing arm behind them. Despite this and plenty of airplay, they never managed to catch on and eventually moved over to Pye Records, which issued their 1970 debut, a progressive-leaning concept album called The Magic Shoemaker. Again success eluded them and they broke up shortly after its release. Fire's original lineup later reunited in the mid-2000s to perform a live version of their lone album, and their entire catalog was archived on the 2021 release Father's Name Is Dad: The Complete Fire. The origins of Fire can be traced back to their formation in 1966, in Hounslow, Middlesex, near the Heathrow Airport. The trio -- David Lambert (vocals/keyboards/guitar), Dick Dufall (bass/vocals), and Bob Voice (drums/vocals) -- were originally called Friday's Chyld, and released one single before changing their name. Based on the promise of their next batch of demos, they were offered a contract by Decca Records, in 1967. Their managers also negotiated a publishing deal with Mike Berry, head of Apple Records' publishing division. Fire's first single, "Father's Name Was Dad," was produced by Decca staff producer Tony Clarke, but wasn't released until several months later, in March 1968, but it was withdrawn a week later. Apple's Paul McCartney heard the track, however, and arranged for Fire to remix again, this time with Lambert doubling his guitar parts (they were also brought up an octave). Although it bore McCartney's stamp of approval, the revamped version of the song also failed to chart. Fire's next batch of demos were rejected by the label, though they were persuaded to record Mike Berry's "'Round the Gum Tree." This didn't sit well with Fire, and they refused to play on it, although Lambert eventually agreed to provide the A-side's lead vocal. The single was released, with minor results, in November 1968, and Fire was dropped by Decca. Pye Records eventually signed a licensing agreement with the band's management. In January 1970, they began recording The Magic Shoemaker, a whimsical concept album about a cobbler named Mark and his magic shoes. This time, Fire was assisted by the Strawbs' frontman Dave Cousins on banjo, and guitarist Paul Brett (of Elmer Gantry's Velvet Opera). When it, too, failed to perform, Fire disbanded. Voice and Dufall joined Paul Brett's Sage in 1970, while Lambert did session work and recorded demos with Rick Wakeman. He later provided soundtrack music for a Michael Caine movie, X, Y and Zee, before being recruited to join the King Earl Boogie Band (they had evolved from the chart-topping act Mungo Jerry). Shortly after the release of their Trouble at T'Mill album, Lambert accepted Cousins' invitation to join the Strawbs, who were moving in a more prog rock/glam direction. Having failed to achieve success in their day, Fire's music still made a small impact. In the decades that followed their breakup, the band's music grew in cult classic status, with "Father's Name Is Dad" regularly appearing on compilations of classic British psych-pop, and their debut album became an influential and highly sought-after collector's item. In late 2006, Lambert reached out to his former bandmates about getting together to stage a live version The Magic Shoemaker. Much to his surprise, they agreed to be involved and in December 2007, the original lineup of Fire teamed up with narrator Ray Hammond at a hall near Guilford to perform their beloved record in its entirety. A concert album, The Magic Shoemaker Live, was released the following year. A second Fire reunion show occurred in 2009 during a Strawbs 40th anniversary event and marked the final time the group played together. In 2021, archival label Cherry Red issued Father's Name Is Dad: The Complete Fire, a definitive three-disc compilation that, according to Lambert, contained every known recording made by the band including all singles, demos, their lone studio album, and the reunion concert.
© Bryan Thomas & Timothy Monger /TiVo

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