pool proof
a potted history

Pete Kimberley, Colin Swinburne (1947 - 2021), Brian Smith

"Lemmings is an instant pop-psych classic and I treasure the copy Karel gave me it is a textbook example of the autumnal, fading hippy-prog sub-genre
as complex as King Crimson, Lemmings nevertheless leads from the heart not the head" Stewart Lee (Comedien)
"When I was a teenager in Birmingham Bachdenkel were the coolest thing ever. Looks like they still are" Lee Child (Author)
"Lemmings is a poetic masterpiece I truly want to say thank you." Jonathan Donahue (Mercury Rev)


Now available
Rise and Fall The Anthology
a 3 CD box set that includes the two albums
plus out-takes, live tracks and unreleased singles
via Grapefruit Records/Cherry Red

Though copies of albums can be found on the web.
Do not buy unauthorised double albums.

Lemmings 1973
Stalingrad 1978

where and when Gigs read all about it Press

Bachdenkel came to life in and around the King's Heath area of Birmingham.
Evolving out of a pop five-piece combo called "U No Who".

from left to right
Ron Lee (drums) Colin Swinburne, Bill Hunt*, Peter Kimberley & Dave Bradley (bass)
* standing in for vocalist Terry Hyland who had left Bill Hunt had played French Horn on
An Apple A Day and Strange People but was never a group member.
he was in the picture we don't know
maybe it was something to do with his natty shirt?

In late 1967 John Taylor from the Hollick and Taylor recording studio suggested that aspiring record producer
and song-writer Karel Beer check the band out. This he did at a Christmas Policeman's Ball
and being suitably impressed decided to write some songs with vocalist Peter Kimberley
and guitarist Colin Swinburne with a view to making a record at best, a demo at least.

Three compositions were written An Apple A Day, Strange People and Now & Again Rebecca
and recorded in early 1968., one of which
"An Apple A Day" was signed for publishing by the like named Apple Music.
In 2006 these three recordings were finally made available on the compilation of songs
signed by Apple Music appropriately titled "An Apple A Day"

take a bite
Peter, Colin and Karel were soon ditched by the married members of U NO Who (now renamed Bachdenkel)
and started to look for a drummer and a bass for Peter to play. Brian Smith who had been to Hamburg
came in on the kit and a six string Fender bass found its way into Pete's possession.
Bachdenkel were about to make the Midlands sit-down and listen.
In 1968 they high-jacked the graphics of an Italian week at lofty department store "Rackhams"
and having changed the text around David's head from Bravissima Italia they band proceeded, in the dead of night,
to hang the usurped posters around the necks of a row of statues on the store's fore-front.

The name of the band if not the music was at least now making an impact.
Adopted by Birmingham's small but active counter-culture the band started to perform at
key-note underground events, sit-ins, free concerts and fund raisers for the Birmingham Arts Lab.
Gone were the pub-gigs and social clubs replaced by attentive audiences who listened to not only the music but the lyrics. Concerts were frequently enhanced by Fred Smith's Amoeba Light Show and this still young band was making serious progress in the Universities, colleges and hip clubs.
London beckoned but after a vain attempt at trying to get it together in the country they decided to get it together out of the country where rents were cheaper (free) and a real live, good for nothing, English rock band was still a novelty. Especially if they had a light show, which they did thanks to the inky patience of the late great Fred Smith.

So in the spring of 1969, it came to pass that the bemused minets and minettes of the Romeo Club on Bd St Germain were exposed to "White Bicycles", "Morning Rain" and Vanilla Fudge-drenched versions of "Homeward Bound" "Dear Delilah" and "I Can't Let Go". These highly emotional dirge-like numbers did little to improve the audience's dancing skills but no doubt did have some effect upon their neurons. Next stop after the mandatory visit to the out patients ward of the American Hospital was the Alps and hopefully a residency in a snow bound club. The old Morriss van made it up to the top of Alp d'Huez and even faster made it down again to Grenoble and the Birdland Club, a most impressive manor owned by a jazz fanatic who also had a penchant for pea-cocks (and cocks of all kinds), a pond full of trout, doberman pincers and a Nazi's ear in a wooden box. Clearly this was a vast improvement on Birmingham, a city where Nazi's ears were and still are, few and far between. At least it was until, during breakfast one of the Doberman bit the guitarist's hand !

dubious mini poster as the band never played with either of the supporting acts
but they w
ere personae non-grata at le Golf Druout

The incapacitated lead guitarist meant that an important gig at Paris' Golf Drout had to be put on hold, the unforgettable rogue Jean Besnard who had been whipping British beat groups in and out of shape for almost a decade shipped the band off to a newly opened pizza-teque in St Aubin between Nogent sur Seine and Troyes.

Run by an amiable bunch of opportunistic north africans who were not concerned that the band had a one-handed lead guitarist, the club Le Tabou was set in a tiny village surrounded by acres of beetroot plantations.

Think they call this Rape-Seed
(the plants not the band)

A row of sleeping bags on the attic floor was to be home for several weeks.
A marked drop in standards from the Birdland in St. Ismier near Grenoble but with less distractions
the group started to write many of the songs that would later figure on Lemmings
Wishing well on the road to Paris

On one of the numerous excursions to Paris the band ended up playing in the Oasis Club in a northern suburb called Sarcelles not far away from the aptly named town of Stains. Here they met an aspiring record producer/label owner named Chou Chou (or cabbage to the power of two) and a certain Bernard Szajner who was starting to dabble in light shows which was timely since Fred Smith was soon to take his Amoeba light show back to Birmingham.
Chou Chou having got his hands on a real live english band soon arranged to put them in a recording studio and have them make a single. "Through the eyes of child" and the first recorded version of
"An appointment with the master" were chosen as titles to record, not so much for their commercial value
but probably because at least one of the songs lasted less than 3 minutes.
Not long after these recording sessions the band was introduced to avant-garde Argentinean danseur and choreographer Graciela Martinez who had previously worked with The Soft Machine and Mark Boyle's light show.
These were serious references and before long Graciela and her troupe were working with the band on a ballet
entitled "Translation" after which one of the newly composed songs would be called.
Contemporary dance financed by a bonkers banker who housed the group in a drug-store multi media complex in Orsay (South of Paris) was a very attractive proposition for the band. Sleeping and living in a slimmed down cultural department store was another step in the right direction. The band may have been locked in at night but with a fully stocked bar and fridges full of goodies the lack of freedom was easily compensated for.

Within a few weeks the ballet had moved into the American Center on the left bank in Paris and so had the band.

The American Center may have been dry from an alcoholic perspective but it was equipped with a swimming pool and run by some wild americans who used it like a water-bed without the plastic casing.
Under the protection of Mike McVay the band moved into various hidden quarters of the American Center.

Bill (a drummer on the run), Vincent Murphy, Mike McVay

Villa Boulard 1969

When the doors were locked at night the group came out of various cupboards and torch-lighted their way around the empty building. These were exciting and somewhat revolutionary times with assorted draft dodgers and vietnam war deserters taking refuge in this safe haven. Also present were some influential avant- garde jazz musicians such as the Art Ensemble of Chicago and Anthony Braxton who blew a mean horn and played a merciless game of chess.
These musicians and their manner of approaching music were to impregnate the fashion
in which the band would approach improvisation.
Come July 1969 it was time to find out whether the van could make it back to England and the by now much tighter band could maybe make it in their homeland. A few gigs were set up in and around London including a set at Implosion at the Roundhouse where they met another leading light show manipulator Vince Dunne.
After siphoning their way down to Sandbanks in Dorset and a spot of rehearsing à la francais in a nearby church hall where the seeds of the Settlement Song were sown, the band limped back up to Birmingham for some free summer concerts before squeezing what life was left in the van and heading down to Cassis in the South of France for a reprise of Translation with Graciela on stage and Vince Dunne inking the aldis projectors.
Sharing a festival bill with the Art Ensemble, Brigitte Fontaine, Jacques Higelin and Areskias well as Georges Moustaki
was certainly more exotic than a free concert with Earth (soon to be Black Sabbath) in B'ham's Calthorpe Park..
Festivals such as Cassis not only paid unusually good money but offered a hotel and square meals for a week.
Clearly it was going to be difficult to give up such a lifestyle for Alex's Pie Stand in Digbeth.
An attempt at wheeling out their White Bicycle in the Big Ben club (Cassis' hot discotheque) resulted in the band inflicting severe ear damage on the startled holiday makers and receiving their marching orders from the management.
This savage brand of rock music was going to be hard to persuade the Rivierans to dance to.
It was time to move inland.
In Cassis they had met an architect called Vincent Butel who had mentioned that he had a house in the Vaucluse
that was sitting empty. Bachdenkel soon were sitting pretty.
The village of Villars may not have had a discotheque but it did have a church and masses of unguarded melons.
What more could an ambitious rock band ask for?
A croque-monsieur every once in a while and a reliable van.
By the end of 1969 they had recorded an un-released single, become a tight, free-flying trio,
shared a bill and a roll-up with Led Zeppelin, abandoned their van in Grenoble,
and brought all the equipment up to Paris by train where they were arrested by the police on the eve of Christmas Eve.
Could the new decade be any better?
It's unlikely that anyone had ever seen so much hand-luggage on the night-train that took the band and the gear back to England after they had been released by the authorities.
Van-less but ready to impress the record labels Bachdenkel hid themselves away in an abandoned Welsh school
in order to ready themselves for an important gig at the University of Aston where A&R men from London
would be present, hopefully with fat cheque books and string-free contracts.
Perhaps having Colin launch into the song Donna with his guitar still de tuned after An Appointment with the Master
was one of the reasons why the A&R men took an early train home. Maybe going on after Taste didn't help either
but Bachdenkel's music was clearly not being played by any of the bluesy rules that the decision makers understood.
A string of University gigs across the country and an appearance at London's Roundhouse (with emerging Bowie)
at least proved that the audiences were responsive to this challenging and unconventional music.
Without either the enthusiasm or the means to stay in England trying to get a deal
it was back on the night-ferry for the boys.
Vince Dunne helped out by driving the band and the gear to Ostend in his van where they were met by Karel
in a french registered vehicle and sneaked across the Belgian border into France.
Karel had secured them a potentially long and lucrative booking as band in residence with the Open Circus
a mad venture in a tent thrown together by a wealthy benefactor.
There were no animals to speak of but trapeze artists, high wire walkers, fire-eaters and bands galore.
The idea was for Bachdenkel to use the improvisational skills they'd honed working with the ballet Translation
to accompany the circus acts. In theory it was a good idea but in practice it was a very different can of worms
and the lid was put back on the can after a couple of nights.
The appointment with the ring-master had come to an ugly end, Bachdenkel were broke and van-less.
But at least not homeless.
The Open Circus organization forgot to let the hotel know that the occupants of four of the rooms
were no longer on the pay roll. The Hotel Louisiane on rue de Seine was to be the band's headquarters
for quite a few weeks and breakfast was included!
.Then it was back to the American Center for a string of concerts that reinforced
the band's Parisian notoriety and kept the wolf from the door for a couple more months.
By now the only thing that was holding the band together was their sense of humor and the music
they had created. If there appeared to be no coherent future then it was time to at least get the songs on tape so
there would be something to hear if not show for the past three years.
Karel had heard about a recording studio on avenue Wagram that had just been taken over by the Europa Sonor
group of studios. Studio Wagram had an 8 track recorder, very few clients and belligerent neighbors.
By laying down a small deposit the band managed to get into the studio for a week's recording.
Ample time they figured to get the essential songs recorded. Left to their own devices with compliant and eager engineer Pierre Guichon the recording process quickly amplified from the proposed guitar, bass, drums plus vocal overdub proposition to a full blown pandora's box of studio tricks.
Layers of guitars, double tracked bass, organ, piano and vibes soon found their way onto the meager 8 tracks available.
Many of the tracks had up to five different instruments on as each song developed.
The band by now were working on credit, Karel would sign a sheet at the end of each session
and they'd be back in the studio the following day.
No-one thought to ask how the final bill would be settled nor when or how
the vocals would be added given that there were no tracks left on the tape.
Europa Sonor were owed a considerable amount of money by a band who were as broke as they were inventive and the only way to get the album finished was to transfer the project to a bigger 16 track studio where vocals could be added.
Not needing 8 more tracks for the vocals the boys filled up those extra available tracks with yet more sounds.
The engineers had never seen anything like this before, were they working with lunatics or visionaries?
For Bachdenkel, "Lemmings" no longer had anything to do with a band, it was all about the music
and the manner in which the studio process could give it extra depth, richness and emotion.
By the time Europa Sonor finally lost patience and pulled the plug
something quite extraordinary was waiting to be mixed.
Mission accomplished the band sold off the equipment that they hadn't already divested themselves of to stay alive
during the weeks they were locked away behind microphones and returned to England
leaving Karel to unravel and mix what was intended to be their swan song.

lemmings session diary

Back in Birmingham Colin, Pete and Brian had their instruments but no longer any equipment
Rolling Stone (or was it Strange Days) after hearing the acetates of Lemmings claimed that Bachdenkel was
"Britain's Greatest Unknown Group".
There was a buzz but no band. Karel was in America trying to get a deal or raise some venture capital to enable the
band to have equipment that would enable them to recreate something close to the album live.
It was over six months before the quartet would reconvene.
No capital had been extracted from America but in England labels were sniffing at the heels of this
uncompromising combo. United Artists inhaled first followed by CBS, whose offer didn't cover the amount of money
that was owed to Europa Sonor, besides there was still Warner Brothers who were the hottest label around.
Signs were encouraging enough to put the band back on the road. An investor was found in Birmingham and
equipment and a voluminous Ford Transit van were bought. Bachdenkel was back on the road
and straight on the night ferry to France.
Things did not go smoothly.

Stopped at the Belgian border without a carnet ATA the band had their equipment impounded by French customs.
They were stuck in northern France for several weeks but thanks to the help of local friends such as Jean-Noel Coghe they managed to organise a few gigs, with or without equipment, until the paperwork could be finalized to release the gear.

The band had more Parks than South Korea

After which it was down to the Dordogne and la Forge, a sprawling complex of Napoleonic buildings
where they once manufactured cannon balls.

arial view of la forge

Here with Bernard Szajner and his light show they organized a summer long series of concerts initiated by a larger than life architect Peter Rawstorne who had once flown a plane upside down into a tree in Rhodesia.
The presence of a hairy rock band in the village of Les Eyzies was soon to divide the local population to such an extent that one morning at 6am. scores of Gendarmes, CRS, Customs officers surrounded the complex in search of the drugs that they had been tipped off they would find. If they'd have brought their own the Gendarmes might have found some
but the end result of this massive manoeuvre was to confiscate an illustrated Karma Sutra and a few other books
that they deemed to be pornographic. The fine was 60 francs. The taste bitter.
Despite the animosity of certain people in Les Eyzies, la Forge was to be Bachdenkel's base for some time to come.

great space for a small gig

home is where the van is

free concert for no-one

By the end of 1971 Lemmings had undergone some remixing and the band had once again run out of money.
This resulted in the first of several "farewell" concerts in Paris. Always a good way of bringing in some extra cash
"In Memoriam" was held at the American Center and the boys went back to London ostensibly for good.
By January 1972 they were back in France working their way down to Cannes for the Midem music festival
in an uninsured van now driven by a fully fledged roadie Dave "crash" Cassidy.
Once in Cannes with a few extra dents on the Ford Transit they managed to persuade the priest in charge of the
Notre Dame des Mers church to let them organise a concert having promised that the audience would be respectful and
the music in keeping with the sacred setting. Pretty soon the world's music industry decision makers had been notified that their presence in church would be more beneficial than being in the bar of the Martinez Hotel.
The recording execs were invited but the general audience were expected to buy tickets.
That was until Sam Bernett compering the Byrds / Poco concert told the audience that there would be a free concert
in the local church on thursday night. Rarely had so many hairy hippies been seen in church and so few recording execs
remained in the Martinez bar. The gig was an unmitigated disaster, the priest not a happy monky.
The event went down in local history and Midem went on without discovering Bachdenkel.

pre 74

A hastily arranged concert in Grasse enabled the band to add further dents to the Transit and raise the money
necessary to get out of town via the ever welcoming clubs and university in Grenoble.
It was at the Drac Ouest in Grenoble that under mysterious circumstances that involved a managerial blow-job
in the dressing room that Pete's six string Fender bass disappeared.
By the time the "well (if dubiously) connected" club owner had managed to retrieve the bass Bachdenkel had
agreed to a multi-media expanded band residency in the club. It was their mad dogs and englishmen
period with horn section, backing vocalists, piano player plus video, film and light show projections.
Sleeping in a medieval barn attached to the club were twenty or so men, women and electricians.
The club kept the technicians for a re-vamp and sent the musicians packing after a week's trial run.
It was back on the road and by the end of April 1972 yet another farewell concert had been organised in Paris.
It was time to sell "Lemmings" directly to the labels in London.
Between May and October the band did everything in their power to get a major label to sign them up.
This included house cleaning, dog walking, flyer distributing and running an illegal late night bus service
out of the back of the Transit van.
CBS made an offer, United Artists showed an interest, Island passed on the project and Warner Brothers
proposed that they re-record "Lemmings" with Guy Stevens as producer. After a meeting with Warner execs and
a very speedy Stevens the band decided to get out of London and head back to Paris where the Europa Sonor
studios had lost patience and stitched up a deal for a "Lemmings" release with Philips.
In January 1973 they were back in the studios recording new versions of "Faceless" and Appointment.
On May 29th "Lemmings" was finally released. The band was back on the road with plenty of posters.
The summer of 1973 saw them back in the South of France where they were to endure their
exiles on main street period in considerably less comfort than the Rolling Stones.
Throughout 1973, '74 and '75 Bachdenkel (now a four piece with Karel Beer on 12 string)
toured relentlessly throughout France and even made excursions into Switzerland
the only place where the Transit van could undergo repairs.
In November 1975 they entered Damiens Studio to record their second and final album "Stalingrad".
This was released on Initial Records in 1977 by which time the band was Transit-less
and no longer performing live, though still in France where they all live to this day
and even see each other on a reasonably regular basis.
March 6th 2019 was the 50th anniversary of their arrival in France.
The last time they ever played together as a full band was November 1982 to hear the result
check ou this link and listen to "Equals".

colin - brian - pete

authored by Mark Williams