Ray's Blog

Ray Bennett. July 2016:


……………”My girlfriend during "The Breed" days. Julie, was into blues and she encouraged me to be 'authentic'.  In fact, she insisted.  Pretty ballsy for a fifteen year old girl.  But I didn't know what that really meant yet, just had an inkling that I should be myself.  I was always attracted to originality, the unusual - the Beatles and classical music at first, and some blues and jazz later.  But it took years for the blues and jazz vibe to really creep into my soul, even though I started out in my first serious band at fifteen playing the blues.  At twelve I began as a guitar player but joining The Breed meant I had to play bass.  Most bands had too many guitar players in those days, as did The Breed.  No one really wanted to play the bass.  It was looked on as a “utility” job.  I think that was partly because it was a bit more of a subtle art and little understood by us kids.  The guitarist role was far more obvious.  I learned the bass basics from my pal in The Breed, guitarist Stu Murray, in about two weeks.  In time for our first audition to play a rugby club dance.  That was the first time Bill Bruford and I got down to it as a rhythm section.  I remember him giving me a huge grin of approval as we launched into the first few tunes.  We were really going like the clappers.  He was loud and quite a powerful player even then.  Jack Bruce was my bass inspiration for a while, and Paul McCartney.  Paul is very underrated as a bass man, which is bit of a mystery.  I suppose his songwriting overshadows many of his instrumental capabilities.  He’s also quite a soulful guy vocally

I didn't practice bass much on my own. It seemed boring without other people, other sounds.  I played guitar and piano at home.  But overall, as I progressed and started to really understand the role of bass player and the possibilities of how much the bass can contribute, I realized what a powerful voice it is.  Once that bass vibe got into me, it never left.  Bass is a transforming agent, a mood shaper that directs energy and emphasis.  When you have bass parts written with a true composers touch it can make a huge difference in how a band sounds.  Rock is not usually where this happens.  Classical and jazz is.  But when a rock band has a really top notch bass writer, player, then look out, things are probably going to sound good.


I got to know YES through Bill of course, which led to Peter Banks and FLASH.  Peter and I had a long, sometimes difficult relationship, but when we played together there was a lot of magic. FLASH gave me confidence and credibility and the opportunity to really stretch out.  It was a rich experience for me as a bass player, songwriter and as a person.  


Now guitar is my instrument of choice and I love to sing.  I've done quite a bit of composing on keyboard too.  On my solo album, just recently reissued, “WHATEVER FALLS”, I’m doing it all except drums.  


I owe a lot to the extraordinary era of rock I grew up in.  I wanted to be a part of it and I'm thankful to the great artists of that time who inspired me to be myself.  I approach music in my own way, I don't want to know what it's going to be - the fun is in the discovery."



  A few early facts for the curious:


The original FLASH, and YES, grew out of the same London psychedelic rock scene, from a common musical genesis (sorry no pun intended)...which in the UK meant British lads with a varied musical background. Some were jazzers, some had classical roots, and almost all of us had absorbed the Beatles' creative outpouring - rock in full-frontal creativity.


After finishing with art school - note I didn't say I actually "finished", I didn't.  Just did two and a half years before I had enough.  I loved it at first, but changing to a new college was an unhappy move.  It sucked.  But that's another story.  Starting around the late summer of 1968 I often went down to Munster Road in Fulham, London to see my old mate Bill and eventually, a year later, I stayed as a non-rent paying guest in the YES flat.  Jon and girlfriend, Jenny in the bigger upstairs front room, and Chris upstairs at the back.  Bill got the tiny downstairs room and Pete Banks got the larger front downstairs room.  With only the kitchen and bathroom left I ended up sleeping on the floor in the hallway, (more to follow on that).  These were the early years of a new era when YES was slowly beginning to have an impact. As yet, King Crimson had only played one or two gigs, Sting was still at school and AC/DC meant electricity. Future 70's rock bands - and legends - were being born. 


It was during these formative days that I got to know Peter Banks, watching his innovative, guitar pole-vaulting onstage with YES. Banks also saw his future FLASH bandmate - me - frying eggs, rolling joints and playing bass with "THE GUN". 


Later, when Pete Banks became the first ex-YES guitarist, Colin Carter, formerly with "PETER BARDEN'S CAMEL" became the voice of FLASH by initiating the idea to form a new band. I had gone to look for America in late '69, then reappeared in London after two years.......right on time to fill the bass spot.  Mike Hough had been a hard working drummer with a jazz, rock and big band background. He was discovered by Banks and Carter playing in a ballroom in London.


So we pooled our efforts - and very distinct identities - to form FLASH, creating what has been said to be another "original" in that first "progressive rock" era.  But few used the term "progressive" then.  That was a journalist's invention that took hold in later years.  We didn't give a hoot about labels, just wanted to mix it up and do something different.  We all did then.  Just "doing something different" was the call we answered.


Regarding keyboard players:  I was at Bill Bruford's birthday party at his London flat and talking to Jon Anderson about the, then, new Flash line-up and that we were having trouble finding a keyboard player.  Jon suggested a guy named Rick Wakeman who was with The Strawbs at the time.   


As previously noted elsewhere.................Tony Kaye was a guest on the first FLASH album, not an original band member as is often reported.  We decided to go on without keyboards.  Though later one other possibility did emerge.  Patrick Moraz once showed up at a London gig with a girl on each arm and dressed in outrageously flamboyant garb (think Louie the XIV).  He told us that he was a brilliant player and that we should audition him.  We were all a little put off by the approach and pretty much ignored him ..... except our drummer Mike Hough who later went with him to his London house to jam.  Mike said later at rehearsal "The guy is really good, we should try him out". In the end Pete dismissed the idea saying "I like us better as a four piece".  In fact Pete also didn't like the fact that Patrick was not English.  As for me, I was just put off by the way he had introduced himself.  In the end, as Flash was a democratic band and we always each had the power of veto on any idea., we couldn't agree on Patrick and permanently dropped the idea of a keyboard player.  Of course Patrick had the last laugh on us .... at least for a short while. He went on to join YES.