“a different kind of band and a different kind of music…”
Demon Fuzz was a group of seven young musicians who came together after emigrating to London in the early 1960s. Since 1948, the British government had been encouraging people in the Commonwealth to settle in England, in hopes of replenishing that country’s war-depleted work population; a happy by-product was that before long, many a West Indian riddim could be heard emanating from the clubs and street corners in big cities like Birmingham and London. British kids soon had a different beat to shuffle to. Of course, these times weren’t without their problems: in 1958, just three years before Demon Fuzz members (and brothers) Winston Joseph and Blue Rivers arrived in England, London’s Notting Hill neighborhood had erupted in race riots.
Paddy Corea arrived in London in 1963, and soon took up playing the tenor saxophone—his weapon of choice for irking neighbors. One day, he answered a want ad Winston had placed in NME, the British music magazine that many budding musicians bought in order to scour the classifieds. Corea auditioned, and Winston and Rivers recruited the saxophonist for their band. Organist Ray Rhoden joined up shortly after, and he brought in his good friend Clarance, a Jamaican musician who had studied trombone with Rico Rodriguez. A second saxophonist came on-board, and they began performing as Blue Rivers and the Maroons. “[We] didn’t play only ska, we were a raw soul band,” explains Corea in an interview with Koldo Barroso for themarqueeclub.net. “Not the Motown soft string soul that BBC peddled. We did a lot of material from the small labels of the South. The kids from out of town were a bit confused. They were looking for the stuff they heard on BBC radio, and we didn’t play that. Rivers prided himself in trying not to be like the rest. At that time in London, every Black man who had a voice wanted to be a ‘soul’ singer, and very few of them could cut it.”
Every weekend, the Maroons would perform to dapper-looking crowds at clubs like the Roaring Twenties, and the Q Club, owned by Count Suckle, the West Indian DJ who possessed the deadliest sound system outside of Kingston. “We used to get a lot of write-ups in the West Indian press,” says Crosdale proudly. “We were sort of the best band around really.” “Ziggy [Jackson, the band’s manager] had some contacts, and he booked just about every town hall in London,” remembers Winston. In 1968, Ziggy acquired some time at Regent Sound, a room on Denmark Street that had been the studio of choice for the Rolling Stones to record their first record in 1964. The session resulted in the LP Blue Beat in My Soul. But barely two years after recording Blue Beat, the Maroons would part company with Rivers, and take a left turn in style and attitude. Paddy Corea reflects on what prompted the decision to move away from their ska and soul roots.
“It was while in Morocco that my idea for a different kind of band and a different kind of music was born,” says Corea. “I was at this time exposed to a new kind of music that didn’t have a Western European scale. I learnt the Sufi Arabic scale and the pentatonic scale there. I heard all these tribal musicians from the interior playing various drums, reed instruments, and a kora, which is a stringed instrument with a calabash as a resonator. These chaps would play the hell out of this thing, as good as a Yehudi Menuhin. All this synthesized into what influenced me to try a different approach to my music. Some of the members of the Maroons understood and appreciated my ideas, and were thinking of similar things, so we formed Demon Fuzz on our return to the UK.”