Pop ’N Hiss: Robin Trower’s Twice Removed from Yesterday

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Pop ’N Hiss: Robin Trower’s Twice Removed from Yesterday
Robin Trower circa ’73: Pictorial Press/Alamy.

The solo career of guitar icon Robin Trower took off like a rocket in the early ’70s after he left Procol Harum, which he joined shortly after the release of its 1967 debut single “A Whiter Shade of Pale.”

After five albums of psychedelic rock laced with classical, blues, and other styles, Trower grew restless and departed the band amicably in 1971.

“I left because I was writing so much material that I needed my own band to start putting it all together,” he said. “The guitar was featured a little bit, but Procol Harum really was a keyboard band. I wanted a guitar, bass, and drums kind of thing.”

For a short while, he was part of Jude, a band that featured vocalist Frankie Miller, former Stone the Crows bassist/vocalist James Dewar (1942-2002), and former Jethro Tull drummer Clive Bunker.

“It didn’t really work very well. We did some shows, but it never really clicked. I take most of the blame for that,” said Trower, laughing. “Even though everybody was really good, it didn’t gel. I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what it was, but it just didn’t have that thing. I did start to think, ‘I’d rather have a three-piece,’ and started to realize I needed more room for guitar, and for the music to be less about vocals.”

Trower’s power-trio daydream came to fruition when he and Dewar joined with drummer Reg Isidore (1949-2009).

“Working with Frankie, I got to hear Jimmy as a vocalist. So, after that band split up, I approached Jimmy to work together,” he recalled. “That was a real turning point, being able to form a three-piece with him, and we found Reg, who was recommended by Zoot Money. We auditioned him and thought he was great.”

Though Trower had a backlog of material, the new trio’s debut album, 1973’s Twice Removed from Yesterday, featured mostly fresh songs.

“Some of the ideas I had beforehand, but it was mostly written during rehearsal. I brought in the backings – guitar parts and the arrangements – then Jimmy would put the vocal to it.”

Twice Removed was produced by former Procol Harum bandmate/organist Matthew Fisher.

“He had quite a bit of input, but mostly it was down to the three of us being happy with what we were doing. I can’t remember doing more than two or three takes of any song because we were so well-rehearsed.”

The opening track, “I Can’t Wait Much Longer,” is a grooving blues-rocker co-written by Miller and Trower during their time in Jude. It features trademark Trower guitar.

“I was using a Uni-Vibe on that; I got into the Uni-Vibe in Procol Harum and it became a signature of mine.”

“Daydream” sports varied playing from Trower, including a spry melody riff, crisp rhythm, and fast strumming. Fisher overdubbed organ accents.

“Apart from the organ, all the playing on that went down live, which was a bit of a happening. I was pretty open to giving anything a try, and Matthew is a brilliant musician, so he knew exactly where to put the organ parts.”

Catchy riffs and a bluesy solo fueled the upbeat single “Man of the World.”

“We put that together with the hope of getting on the radio. When we wrote the song, I certainly felt it had a commercial side to it,” remembered Trower. “I was quite influenced by (Marvin Gaye’s version of) ‘I Heard it Through the Grapevine’ when I came up with it, and it’s one of my all-time favorites!”

Other notable songs include the psychedelic “I Can’t Stand It” and the title track, which Trower attributes to his Jimi Hendrix influence, and the no-holds-barred B.B. King cover “Rock Me Baby.”

Trower’s gear was fairly simple.

“I was playing a stock Strat. I still had the ’60s one I’d been playing in Procol Harum, along with the Uni-Vibe and a Fuzz Face. I had Marshall 100s was playing through 8×10 cabinets, which was rare at the time.”

The album was well-received, especially once the trio hit the road to promote it.

“We had a very good response! We were fortunate to open for really big acts in America. I think it helped tremendously that we were supporting Jethro Tull first and then Ten Years After.”

A 50th anniversary reissue of Twice Removed from Yesterday includes a newly remastered version of “Take a Fast Train” (“Man of the World” single B-side), an alternate mix of “Man of the World,” and rough mixes of “Hannah” and “Ballerina.”

Other highlights are four songs from John Peel’s enormously influential “BBC Radio 1” session from March 26, 1973: “Twice Removed from Yesterday,” “Man of the World,” “Daydream,” and “Sinner’s Song.”

“When you went to the BBC, the studio was tiny and it was a really dead-sounding room. It was difficult to perform in there. But the songs turned out okay. You didn’t get a lot of time – maybe a couple of hours for the session.”

“Peel was very important to introducing new music at that time,” Trower noted. “He was a champion for our stuff and played our music later on. It was a big breakthrough, in the U.K., to be on his show.”

This article originally appeared in VG’s October 2023 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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