Atomic Rooster: “I Can’t Take No More” (Death Walks Behind You, 1971)
In the UK, the jazz scene and the rock scene were never very far apart—both embraced American music and made it their own, for one thing—and at the end of the 60s, when the psychedelic scene was transmogrifying into the prog scene, jazz pretty naturally found its way into the music. There was another similarity between the two musical worlds in the UK, though. With a few exceptions, British prog bands functioned more or less like jazz combos, with members coming and going, starting their own things, coming back, going again.
Look at King Crimson, for the perfect example. If they were signed to Blue Note, their albums would all be credited to the Robert Fripp Quartet, or the Robert Fripp Quintet. He’s the only constant. Atomic Rooster was like that, too. Vincent Crane is the only constant in a lineup that shifted from album to album and year to year. His organ (and piano) is the throughline connecting all the different singers, guitarists, drummers and bass players that passed through the ranks as the band veered from album to album.
Death Walks Behind You is their second LP, but already Crane was the only one left from the first one. Original drummer Carl Palmer, with whom Crane had also played in the Crazy World of Arthur Brown, had left to form Emerson, Lake and Palmer, and new guitarist John Du Cann also took over the lead vocals from original bassist Nick Graham (who left to join the great Skin Alley), so you essentially have an entirely different band on this album.
It’s a proggy record all over, but on the second side, there’s this song, which is a pretty straightforward hard rock song that’s also weirdly predictive of Electric Light Orchestra’s 1979 hit “Don’t Bring Me Down.” Du Cann has a workmanly voice for hard rock, so it’s really up to the band as a whole to make this compelling, and they do, with those dual organ/guitar riffs, kinda evil piano drops, and general sense of careening, wild-eyed roughness.
I’m an eclectic person by nature, but I think if I was allowed to listen to nothing but vintage hard rock for the rest of my life, I’d get by.