|version française / french version|
There is really very little information about the music of the rock orchestra Esperanto on the Net. Here are some I have collected. I hope that people will send me more information (or correction) so I will be able to complete these web pages. For example: lyrics, photography, video, radio show, tour date, ticket, memorabilia... Thanks for your help and cooperation!
The Story of Esperanto
by Gilles Arend, Prog-résiste, translated by Diane and Bruno Libert
as presented in the liner notes of the Si-Wan CD releases
is a language invented in 1887 by Zamenhof, who combined bits of various Romance
language to make what he hoped would become a vehicle of universal
communication. The Belgo-English band of the same name at the beginning of the
70s had a short but intense career and produced an extremely varied musical
repertoire thanks to the many different nationalities, origins and outlooks of
all started at the end of ’71 when the Belgian violinist Raymond Vincent,
leader of the
Collection wanted to embark on a more adventurous musical endeavour (in
spite of his surprising predilection for hard rock) after his band had broken
up. After playing for a short period with Daniel (Dany) Lademacher and Roger Wollaert
(who had left Kleptomania), then with Dirk Bogaert (of
Waterloo), he got in
touch with Bruno Libert who was completing his musicology studies and playing
piano every night in Brussel’s theatres that were putting on “off
Broadway” musicals, which were quite fashionable at the time. Raymond told
Bruno about his new project and showed him some musical ideas. He also played
him a promotional album, Metronomics, that he had written for an advertising
campaign. The two musicians agreed to launch the project and started to look for
other musicians. They discovered the Malisan brothers, two Italo-Belgians of the
Mons area: Gino, bass player and Tony, drummer. They started to rehearse in the
back room of a small cafe, wrote a series of new numbers and recorded a first
demotape at “Cathy” studio in the Brabant Wallon region, owned at the time
by Marc Aryan (Belgian singer successful at the beginning of the 70s).
four musicians took their demo to England, where they met David Mackay who had
produced the Wallace Collection and The New Seekers and later produced part of
Esperanto’s first album. David was interested by the project and agreed to
recruit more musicians in order to strengthen the line-up which was quite
limited on the first demo (violin, piano and Hammond organ, bass and drums).
Soon, he contacted Glenn
Shorrock, an Australian singer who was living in London
at the time and had left his group, the Twilights. David also played a series of
records from his collection to the musicians to try to find female singers.
Raymond and Bruno were immediately convinced that Cliff Richard’s trio of
backing singers would fit the bill. David set up an appointment with Joy
Janice Slater and Bridget Dudoit (who had released a record under the name of
Bones) and easily convinced them to join the group as they were quite
enthusiastic. The band was also looking for a guitarist and
more string players in order to form a quartet. David Mackay found Brian
Holloway, an Australian guitar player. As he regularly conducted recording
sessions in London studios, it was also easy for David to assemble a
modern–sounding string section, unlike Belgian strings which tended to sound
more classical. A second violin (Godfrey
Salmon), a viola (Tony
Harris) and a
Kraemer) joined Esperanto and the first line-up was ready.
producer rented a farm for several weeks in Cornwall and the twelve musicians,
some of whom barely knew each other, or having just met, began to rehearse. The
results were excellent. The group then moved to a farm in Houyet, in Belgium, to
further work on the repertoire. They went back to London, and David Mackay took
everybody to Morgan studios to record the first album. Several new pieces were
written, among which “Black Widow” and “Publicity”, which would be
released as a single but was not included on the first album. After the
recording, the producer went in search of a contract. Polydor was quite
enthusiastic about the music but, because of a small disagreement on contract
details, the negotiations failed and the contract was never signed. In fact
Polydor did invest in another group which had quite a career: Slade. Finally,
after months of prospection and a meeting with Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss, a
contract was finally signed for three albums with
A&M. The first album “Esperanto
Rock Orchestra” was released in 1973.
were then established with tour managers and Esperanto began a series of
concerts, first in England, as supporting act for Sha na na (also with A&M
at the time), playing gigs at the Roudhouse, the Shaw Theatre, the Rainbow, the
Queen Elizabeth Hall in London, but also in Newcastle, Manchester, Liverpool,
etc. The tour was difficult to handle for the band, as the public of Sha na na
was not really that of Esperanto and, in spite of an acerbic article published
in the famous “Melody Maker”, which called them “pseudo-hippies”, it
went on in Europe, this time with the Strawbs The band also made a series of
live recordings for the RAI in Rome, Naples and Turin which were broadcast on
the Italian television. Esperanto did however not know the sales figures of
their album and had to rely on the reactions of the public to evaluate their
in England, the twelve musicians met up again, this time in a castle in Wales,
and started to prepare the next album. The band always had to meet in farms and
castles because of the large number of musicians and of the logistic
difficulties of gathering the whole crowd in London. The Welsh castle was of
course haunted and its strange atmosphere permeated the music of what would
become the band’s second album (featuring a track called “The Castle”).
After several weeks of rehearsals, the group recorded the first tapes and made
an acetate which they presented to A&M, but the project was rejected by the
record company. The situation then became difficult in the band, Glenn Shorrock,
hit by nostalgia, decided to go back to Australia (he was well inspired as he
later became very successful, notably in the United States, with Little
River Band). A&M then asked Peter Sinfield (poet and song writer for
King Crimson and ELP, and translator of Premiata Forniera Marconi’s work –
PFM) to produce the new album. Peter accepted and brought with him a new singer:
Keith Christmas. Keith
Christmas, who had a career as a solo singer afterwards, had a very different
style and was more folk music oriented but he did take over from Glenn Shorrock
as the frontman. A new demo was then presented to A&M with different or
rearranged pieces sang by Keith Christmas (on the acetate it was Glenn Shorrock
– there are also unpublished pieces on this re-release). This time, A&M
endorsed it. The three singers were still in the band but they were soon to
leave, as would Brian Holloway, which explains why these four members of
Esperanto are not (even though they play on the album) in the picture on the
backsleeve of “Danse Macabre”.
second Esperanto record, “Danse Macabre”,
was released in 1974. If, on the first album, the band was obviously in search
of its style, with pop, rock, classical and progressive influences, this new
opus was much more homogenous, progressive, with a quite brooding atmosphere…
The Welsh climate and the haunted castle had a great influence on the musicians
and permeated Esperanto’s music. It is worth noting that the album was
released in France without the piece “Danse Macabre” as the Saint-Saëns
copyright-owners refused to agree to its publication in that country. Peter
Sinfield put so much energy into the making of this album that he later declared
in an interview that he declined an offer to produce the first Supertramp album
after the Esperanto experience.
Esperanto’s and its managers were preparing the next tour. Magma (another
A&M artist, then little know in England) was to be supporting act. The tour
took the two bands to most of the large universities in Britain. Again,
Esperanto had no information on the album sales and were never paid any
royalties for it by the label. They had to rely on the success of the tours to
evaluate their impact on the public.
line-up of Esperanto changed considerably for the third album. Keith Christmas
had left for musical reasons and the band was looking for a more energetic
frontman. They met this time in London and published some ads in the music
press, including in the Melody Maker (Genesis had recruited Steve Hackett
through that channel). Esperanto auditioned and took on board their next singer
Roger Meakin. His special vocal timbre made him an ideal partner for Kim
female singer recruited in the same way, as their voices blended perfectly. The
recording of the third album took place partly in London and partly at the
famous chateau of Herouville near Paris where Jethro Tull, Elton John and many
others recorded in the seventies. The album “Last
Tango” was produced by Robin Geoffrey Cable (engineer and producer,
notably for Queen, Genesis, Van Der Graaf Generator, Elton John and Carly
Simon). It was released in 1975.
time, the group seemed to have found its musical and personnel equilibrium and
the tour which followed was very successful. They played at numerous famous
festivals, including Reading, Newcastle and Bilzen among other engagements. The
band also had a residence at the Marquee: an Esperanto concert was automatically
programmed every 10 to 15 days in the famous London club for several months. The
European tours were also quite successful, with memorable concerts at the
Paradiso in Amsterdam and at the Festival de Montreux (Switzerland), with PFM.
the band seemed to have found its cruising speed and success was obviously on
the horizon (they were still in complete ignorance of sales figures), A&M
did not renew their contract. Esperanto band members were flabbergasted as they
knew their music had real appeal, particularly given the growing success of
their concerts. One of the negative factors was that situation in England in
1973-1974. Following the oil crises, the cost of vinyl manufacturing increased
dramatically (note that the weight of records fell substantially) and labels
were tending not to sign new artists or take any risks in this very unfavourable
period. It was also the time of the miners’ strike which lasted 9 months,
paralysed the country and certainly did not contribute to improving the economic
climate in England.
was probably also a victim of it’s formula as, even with a reduced line-up on
the last album, it still had eight musicians and large technical staff who had to be housed, fed and watered.
The cost of touring was very high and the technical problems linked to this
sophisticated musical genre necessitated a lot of complex equipment for the era
(difficulties of amplifying strings mixed with electronic instruments, etc.).
The band was thus expensive to run and, as it is often the case, the law of
immediate profits justified A&M’s decision and overruled artistic quality.
rupture marked the end of Esperanto. Nevertheless, they left as a heritage three
remarkable albums, all different and full of qualities that this beautiful
re-release will allow you to discover or rediscover. Some people compared
Esperanto to a band like ELO because of the two violins and the cello but it is
clear that Esperanto’s repertoire is much more varied and inventive and that
is has its roots in numerous influences, like its musicians.
can only regret one thing: considering the talent of the musicians and their
musical evolution, the group had probably not said its last word. Although
several important prog rock bands had already produced their main opus back in
1975, the door was still open for many talented bands as it was the golden age
of prog, which faded several years later.
years have passed and we should simply enjoy this re-release. After a decade of
patient searching and efforts, you now have in your possession a rare testimony
of the past. I hope you will have as much pleasure listening to it as the
musicians had playing it in the early seventies.
More information on the Story of Esperanto
Edouard Meinbach give complementary information:
I was the guitarist of the band when we started to rehearse in the back room of a small cafe in front of the Arts et Métiers in Bruxelles. I played already in a rock band called Convention with Bruno Libert. I rehearse more than a year with Bruno, Raymond and the Malisan brothers. I've also played all guitar parts on the demotape recorded at the Marc Aryan studio. When I had to decide to left Belgium to England, I refused because I was in a second candidature for journalism at the ULB (Université Libres de Bruxelles) and I didn't want to sacrifice my study for the band. At that time Bruno and Vincent were very angry about that, what I can understand after one complete year of rehearsal. I did nevertheless played again with Raymond Vincent in 1975 when he came back to Belgium. After that time he had understand my decision and forgave me.
Click the covers on the left bar to
know more about the 3 LPs released by Esperanto.
All 3 records are available since end of 2001 on CD at Si-Wan records.
Listen a sample of an interview
made by Tony Hadland (in RealPlayer format):
Bruno Libert and Raymond Vincent on why Raymond created the Anglo-Belgian rock orchestra.
You can even order the complete interview from Tony and Rosemary Hadland on tape or CDr, see their web site.
This site is maintained by Claude Wacker in Switzerland who really welcomes your suggestions, corrections and new materials. English, French and German are welcome.
The album covers and audio samples are reproduced with the kind permission of Glenn Vincent (son of Raymond Vincent) and Bruno Libert. Gino Malisan, Janice Slater and Timothy Kraemer helped and provided also material for this website. The Story of Esperanto is reproduced with the permission of Gilles Arend. Many thanks to all of them!!
If you believe any material on this web site violates a copyright, please email me and I will be happy to work things out.
© Claude Wacker - 2000-2014