The South London-based Killing Floor was originally a pop duo formed by lead guitarist Mick Clarke and vocalist/harmonica player Bill Thorndycraft. During the British blues boom of 1968-1969, they decided to form a "straight blues" group, recruiting prospective members from the classified pages of Melody Maker. Joining them were piano player Lou Martin, bassist Stuart MacDonald, and drummer Bazz Smith. Taking their name from Howlin' Wolf's "Killing Floor" (Wolf's cover was itself a version of Robert Johnson's "The Lemon Song"), the band played just one gig before ex-Radio Caroline DJ and ardent blues fanatic John Edward offered to manage them. Edward's connection with the Southern Music publishing company led to them signing with Southern's Spark Records imprint. The band was booked into Pye Recording Studios and with Edward aboard as "producer," they recorded their self-titled debut in 12 days' time. Most of the material was re-configured Chicago blues classics, except for a cover of Willie Dixon's "You Need Love." Killing Floor was released in the U.S. on new London subsidary Sire. Meanwhile, Edward booked the band gigs at Dunstable's California Ballroom, where they supported Ten Years After, Jethro Tull, Chicken Shack, and the Herd, to name a few. He also helped them get gigs at the Marquee, where they supported Yes and the Nice, and in 1969, they also toured with Texas bluesman Freddy King on two U.K. tours, which helped further their growing reputation. The band also appeared on all the contemporary British radio rock shows and toured solidly around the U.K. Lou Martin left after the release of Killing Floor and a handful of BBC Radio sessions and the group continued as a four-piece band. There were additional lineup changes in 1970-1971, at which point the group included ex-Juicy Lucy vocalist Ray Owen, drummer Rod D'Ath, and bassist Mick Hawksworth (ex-Fuzzy Duck/Andromeda/Ten Years Later). A second Killing Floor album, Out of Uranus, was released in 1971 on Penny Farthing Records, this time with executive producer/label honcho and the Troggs' manager Larry Page overseeing the sessions. By mid-1972, Killing Floor had disbanded. The various members became Toe Fat and began backing Cliff Bennett. Thorndycraft retired from music and Bazz Smith continued to play in jazz trios. McDonald formed a band called Peace (with ex-Free vocalist Paul Rodgers) before returning to his native Wales and playing in local bands. Former piano player Martin joined Rory Gallagher's band, toured with Chuck Berry, and later played with Blues 'N' Trouble. In 1974, guitarist Mick Clarke formed legendary pub rockers S.A.L.T. with "Little" Stevie Smith. In 1983, he had his own group, the Mick Clarke Band, who have released numerous LPs. Both Killing Floor albums have been reissued by Repertoire Records and See for Miles (the first album was retitled Rock the Blues).
Out of Uranus is rawer and more irreverent than most second-line British blues-rock of the late '60s and early '70s, as indicated by the title itself. That doesn't mean the all-original songs are that good, that they're especially imaginative players, or that Bill Thorndycraft's semi-barked vocals are so special. But it makes for a refreshing change from the normal not-so-well-known British blues-rock albums of the era, with a brash streak to both the lean arrangements (particularly in the frequent rushed tempos and Bas Smith's crisp drumming) and lyrics missing from many of their peers. Slight nods to the world of underground rock outside of the blues form are heard in the yearning hippie ethos of "Soon There Will Be Everything," where the violin of Paul Spencer Mac again takes them a little outside of the standard framework for the genre. The countercultural mindset of the time is occasionally reflected in numbers like "Call for the Politicians" and the wittily titled "Fido Castrol," somewhat in the bluntly sardonic manner of another band of the day, the Deviants. (buy it)
Killing Floor - Acid Bean