Brian Pilling memorial
After toiling away in various local bands in the Toronto area, brothers Brian and Ed Pilling packed their bags and headed to England where they formed Wages Of Sin in 1969. Less than a year later they’d caught the eye of Cat Stevens who took them under his paw, renaming them Zeus and using them as his back-up band. But at odds with Stevens over music direction, the 2 brothers quit and returned to Canada before the end of the year. They recruited bassist Greg Godovitz, who they played with a few years earlier in a band called The Pretty Ones. Add drummer Jorn Andersen and guitarist Mick Walsh, and the first incarnation of Fludd was born.
They became mainstays of the Toronto club scene and soon landed a contract with Warner Bros. Adam Mitchell, most noteable for his stint with The Paupers was brought in to the recording studios in California to help produce the band’s debut. Released in ’71, the self-titled album featured the Canadian top 20 hit “Turned 21”. Work on the second record began the next spring in Toronto, with Mitchell returning as producer. By this time however, Walsh had left and was replaced by fellow Wages Of Sin alumni Mick Hopkins.
While still working on the final touches of the album, they released the single “Get Up, Get Out, Move On” that April. However dissension with their label led Hopkins to return to England, where he formed the group Quartz. After being dropped by Warner Brothers, and sensing a change was in need, Fludd continued on their next project but with a different direction in mind. This led to the hiring of keyboardist Peter Csanky.
The band was picked up by Frank Davies’ upstart label Daffodil Records later that year and released the highly controversial … ON in early ’72, recorded in Toronto with new producer Lee DeCarlo. Determined to cause a ruckus, the album was initially called COCK ON, including a scantily clad group on the inside cover. With the execs sensing this might be disasterous, the photo was scrapped and the record’s title changed. Despite the furor, three singles were released, including “Always Be Thinking Of You”, which cracked Canada’s Top 40. Also on the lp were “Yes” and “C’mon C’mon”.
In a deliberate attempt to incorporate a more ‘British sound”, the band went to England to do their third album. They began recording at Richard Branson’s (Virgin Records & Airlines) Manor Studios in Oxfordshire in the spring of ’73. Soon after however, Csanky quit the band, to be replaced by Peter Rochon. The recording of Mike Oldfield’s album TUBULAR BELLS was by this time also getting in the way. Added to the rising cost of keeping the band in England and Godovitz’s growing dislike for fish and chips, Daffodil pulled the plug on the deal and brought them back to Canada.
To bolster fading interest in the band, Daffodil went back to the previous record and released “Cousin Mary” in time for the Christmas rush of ’73, the first single from Fludd in a year and a half. Ironically, though it wasn’t initially intended to be a single, “Cousin Mary” would go on to become one of the band’s biggest hits, cracking the top 20, and eventually finding its way on to several Canadian compilations over the years. The re-found interest resulted in them going back to the Toronto studios with DeCarlo, where they recorded three tracks.
Apparently not entirely committed to the group anymore, Daffodil released one of them as the new single. But the lacklustre radio response to “I Held Out” found Fludd again without a record deal. About the same time Brian Pilling was diagnosed with cancer, further setting back the band. Following the news, Godovitz jumped ship and formed Toronto legend Goddo. He was replaced by Doni Underhill (later of both Brutus and Trooper), bringing guitarist Gord Waszek with him.
Down but not out, Fludd was the first act signed by the new Attic Records in 1974. The first item on the agenda was to get the band back on the airwaves, and so “Brother And Me” and “Dance Gypsy Dance”, the remaining two tracks recorded after returning from England, were released later that year. They went into the studios in Montreal with new producer Adam Mitchell and recorded GREAT EXPECTATIONS in ’75, released nearly 3 full years since their last album. Always looking for ways to push the public’s buttons, the album featured a scantily clad pregnant woman on the jacket. The added publicity helped earn Fludd their first ever Canadian top 10 hit, “What An Animal”.
Unfortunately though, Brian Pilling‘s failing health meant the band couldn’t tour to support the album. Shortly thereafter, Underhill, Waszek and Andersen all left to reform the band Fingers. Underhill would soon move to the west coast to join Trooper, while Waszek would later join Leigh Ashford (which evolved into Moxy) and then joined Motherlode. Andersen would go on to become of one of the country’s most sought-after session drummers, working with the likes of Murray Maclauchlan and Honeymoon Suite. But by the summer of ’75, the Pillings’ were back in the studios with Jim Chrichton on bass and Ian McCorkie on drums. Both new members had come from Lynx and brought a revitalized energy into the group. The sessions with producer Adam Mitchell resulted in a number of tracks, but only one single, “I’m On My Way”, released early the next year. McCorkle was then replaced by Steve Negus, and the band’s next recording sessions saw the band producing their own works for the first time. “Help Me Back” and “With You” both hit the airwaves before the end of ’76.
But by the spring of ’77, it was evident Brian Pilling‘s continuing health problems made it impossible for the band to continue. Rochon, Chrichton and Negus left to join Saga soon thereafter. Attic released a compilation the same year called FROM THE ATTIC – ’71 – ’77. At the age of only 29, Brian Pilling lost his battle with leukemia in June of ’78. Godovitz would pay tribute to his friend in the summer of 1980 when Goddo re-recorded the Fludd track “HomeMade Lady” and the ode he’d written for him “Fortune In Men’s Eyes”. The two songs were released on a 45 and the proceeds went to benefit Pilling’s 2 children.
Godovitz again re-did a Fludd song, when in the mid 90’s his on-again, off-again project The Carpet Frogs recorded a version of “Cousin Mary”. 1994 also saw the release of a ‘best of’ package, entitled GREATEST EXPECTATIONS, the jacket of which is the photo intended for …ON, an idea nixxed by the execs. Two years later that album was reissued – under the guise it was supposed to have been in the first place, COCK ON!
Fludd was perhaps better known for the list of musicians who played with the band at one time or another, rather than for the music itself. But it definitely has to be noted that the Pilling brothers, and whoever else was in the band at the time, never bowed to pressure from the executives. Always pushing the envelope, they always did things their way, while recording some of Canada’s most under-rated and ground-breaking rock in the process.