mon 14/06/2021

Reissue CDs Weekly: Black Widow | reviews, news & interviews

Reissue CDs Weekly: Black Widow

Reissue CDs Weekly: Black Widow

Resurrection of a demonic rock sensation from 1970

Leicester's black magic-inspired prog-rockers Black Widow. With knife-wielding singer Kip Trevor third from right

 

Black Widow: SacrificeBlack Widow: Sacrifice

It wasn’t John Lennon’s fault, but things weren’t the same after the “bigger than Jesus” scandal of 1966. Pop music had been connected to religion in a way slightly edgier than Cliff Richard or the Salvation Army's The Joystrings' happy celebrations in song. The doors were now open to a darker take on faith.

The Rolling Stones waxed about evil in 1968’s “Sympathy for the Devil”. The B-side of the same year’s “Jumpin' Jack Flash" was "Child of the Moon", which referenced Aleister Crowley’s magical novel Moonchild. The Crazy World of Arthur Brown’s “Fire”, with its “God of hellfire”. also charted in 1968, the year a band called Black Sabbath formed in Birmingham. Cinemas were screening The Devil Rides Out. It was the year Satan went mainstream for British popular culture.

At this point, a soul-infused Leicester combo called Pesky Gee! were looking forward to the release of their sole album, 1969’s Exclamation Mark. Despite the attention-seeking title, it barely sold and later became a collectable footnote in the progressive rock canon. After a rethink and a line-up change, the band re-emerged as Black Widow. Their drummer had suggested black magic was the way to go and that songs and a stage show reflecting this might attract attention.

Black Widow on stageDespite the similarity in name, Black Widow were musically nothing like Black Sabbath. Their debut album, 1970's Sacrifice, wasn’t a blast of intense, pared-down moodiness but instead fussy, jazz-edged progressive rock with shades of Jethro Tull, west-London freaks Quintessence and The Moody Blues. Their lyrics though laid the dark stuff on thick. On stage, their show climaxed with the apparent sacrifice of a naked woman (pictured left).

According to band member Clive Jones in the liner notes of this expanded reissue of Sacrifice, “it was a concept album. But what truly set us apart was the fact that it wasn’t just an album. It was also a stage show. The Beatles might have done the Sgt. Pepper’s album before we did Sacrifice, but they never played it live.”

Black WidowThis package brings the chance to see Black Widow’s Beatles-trumping live show with a DVD of a German television performance of the album filmed on 28 May 1970, but not broadcast. Singer Kip Trevor looks the part in monkish garb and has crab-wise, side-to-side moves similar to those of Arthur Brown. After a few songs, a woman in a see-through, floor-length dress joins him. She clearly has no underwear. The next song is “Seduction”. His shirt comes off. He's captivated. “Attack of the Demon” follows. She is the demon. The pair face each other off. She lashes at him. He’s on the floor, overwhelmed by the power of the woman-demon. It culminates with “Sacrifice” where, strength regained, he takes her dress off, keeps his trousers on, wields a long knife and makes as if to stab her while she lies before him.

Depending on sensibilities, this is either silly or profoundly shocking. But certainly sexist. Black Widow got the column inches they desired, brushed the outer edges of the charts and went on to make three further albums. Sacrifice’s catchy “Come to the Sabbat” remains an evergreen. This was pantomime though, with no sense the band themselves were dark and satanic. The liner notes describe how Trevor “wanted to ditch the black magic approach” after Sacrifice.

As a curio, the album is worth hearing (it’s on Disc One of this triple-disc set). The DVD is diverting and the unintentional humour of the spectacle is tempered by feelings of sympathy for the poor German woman subjected to this nonsense. No band member involved in this reissue can remember her name. The second disc is an inessential re-rendering of Sacrifice where each original track is linked by newly recorded passages from former members. Listen, if you must. Then watch The Devil Rides Out for a proper thrill.

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