Here & Now
Here & Now grew out of a loosely formed jamming group known as Here-Now formed to play at the 1974 Windsor Free Festival. Named as such due to the floating membership policy and the influence of Ram Das's book, Be Here Now.
Under Kif-Kif's non leadership, this incarnation focused around the Latimer Road/Frestonia squat scene in West London. Songs gradually began to form out of the jams. The line-up coalesced out of the "rag-tag bunch of colourful scruffy hippies... full of idealism, an incredible concoction of drugs and an unbelievable amount of bullshit."
Here & Now proper, legendarily first formed at Watchfield Free Festival in 1976, as a result of a very casual jam session between Stefan Lewry - 'Steffe' on guitar, Kif-Kif on drums, Twink on synthesizer and Keith the Bass on, well, bass guitar. After the success of the first jam, the band decided to play again later the same day, at which point 15000 people turned up to watch, amongst whom were Stevie Winwood and Viv Stanshall. Here & Now were playing on the smallest stage of the site, but as a result of the energy and warmth of the set, Traffic decided to forsake the main stage and play the following night on the small stage. The evening after Traffic had played, by popular demand, Here & Now played the last set of the festival and were joined on-stage by such luminaries as Arthur Brown, and "Rebop" Kwaaku Ba from Traffic. After such a star-crossed beginning, the members of the band, (Twink, Steffe, Max Cann and Kif-Kif) decided to decamp to Bath and work out some material which, with added improvisations, comprised the band's set for about six months. During this time the band were playing somewhat infrequent, but always well received gigs in the South of England. In September they searched out Keith again and set off on what was intended to be a short tour of France, but in fact the band received so many extra bookings whilst in France that it was four months before they returned.
Here & Now wintered at Thandoy's Norfolk retreat until early in the summer of 1977, when the band met Daevid Allen of Gong. He'd had the band recommended to him by Mike Howlett after seeing them at the Notting Hill Tabernacle, and it was decided to amalgamate later in the year with a view to touring and recording. During that summer, Twink? had decided to leave the band and was replaced on synthesizer by Gavin da Blitz. So, in October they all met up at Harry Williamson's place at Oxford Cross for rehearsals (plus a legendary debut performance at the Queen's Hall, Barnstaple), and in November, the Planet Gong - with Daevid Allen, Gilli Smyth and Here & Now, with the additions of two chanteuses Suzy Blueshoes and Annie Wombat - set off on a tour of the UK, followed by a tour of France. During the French tour, the band recorded a concert in Toulouse, which emerged in early 1978 as the album Planet Gong, Live Floating Anarchy 1977. This album has to date(?), sold over 90,000 copies and is still selling world wide. They also popped into a Paris studio to record the single, Opium for the People.
However, early in 1978 Daevid Allen collapsed on the eve of the second Planet Gong tour of the UK, so Here & Now decided to carry on as before. It was this combination which signed to Charly Records, and late in 1977 released their first album, Give And Take (Charly Now 1), and the Dog in Hell EP. During this period the band undertook three major UK tours which were distinguished by being the first ever "FREE" tours of Britain. There were no admission charges, a collection taken to cover running costs.
Although the tours were all hugely successful, the strain of constant touring for free, the festivals and the recording schedule, trying to balance the idealism of the original vision with the need to maintain the equipment and the tour bus, was too much. Eventually, after the last gig of '78, Kif-Kif the drummer and the bus gave up. Suze and Anno followed in early 1979. They were replaced shortly afterwards by Rob Bougie on drums and Bernie Elliott on second guitar, and as a five piece the band continued with a UK tour closely followed by a hugely successful European Tour with dates in Holland, France and Germany.
On returning to England the band set up another UK tour, during which the live album All Over The Show was recorded, and released in early 1980 with the single, End Of The Beginning. Bernie Elliot then left and was not replaced, so as a four piece the band concentrated on Europe in 1980, and undertook a three month tour taking in Holland, Germany, Switzerland, France and Italy. The band received excellent receptions throughout, but were dismayed and a little annoyed to find that there were no albums available in Europe. As a result they felt unable to continue their association with Charly Records, and although there was ample material, no album was released that year. By early 1981, guitarist Steffe, felt he had had enough tours to last a lifetime, and although he still played occasional gigs, was replaced on the guitar by Deano Ferrari. Whilst touring their new act they met Trevor Evan Jones (ex Moody Blues) producer, and arranged a new contract with M+A records of Denmark, and in December of 1981 began recording their third album. The LP was completed in March 1982. Rob Bougie then left the band in September and was replaced by Rob Peters. The new album, Fantasy Shift (Charly CHR 1? 003) was released in the UK in October 1982 on Chick Records. Rob Peters then left the band in February, and was replaced by Paul Rose, who proved more than adequate to the task.
Despite the ups and downs, Here & Now still found the energy to help provide PA, staging and lighting for the Stonehenge Free Festival every year. The band stayed on the cutting edge of the alternative music scene throughout the early '80's, releasing self-produced tapes such as Stolen Moments, Coaxed out from Oxford(approve sites), and a fourth album Theatre, which was recorded with independent label 'Landslide' and produced by legendary Never Mind the Bollocks producer Dave Goodman, featuring a much more 'live' sound and songwriting input from Deano. Landslide got scuppered when distributors Pinnacle went bust. Stonehenge Festival was trashed by the police and Here & Now finally gave up and went their separate ways. Branded as 'Hippies' by the music press, Here & Now were never accepted by the industry despite a huge live following. Whether it has anything to do with getting involved in Daevid Allen's politicking with the music biz, or just that they were too far ahead of their time we'll probably never know. They certainly influenced a whole generation of post-punk free festival heads, including Ozric Tentacles and The Cardiacs.
Fortunately for their fans (and History) they only ended up taking a year off, and returned, sporting a saxophone player and a new drummer.
Despite having a stable line-up throughout the latter part of the '80's, the band were having trouble finding their direction again. Gavin left Here & Now finally in 1990 to be replaced by Andy Roid - "The Only Man who had a VCS 3? and could actually play it". Daevid Allen persuaded Keith? - who'd been working part-time as Gongmaison's booking agent - to come and play bass for Gong's Central TV show 'reunion'. This provided the perfect opportunity for Keith to reconnect with Steffe, who introduced sticksman Steve 'one dread' Cassidy, giving birth to a fresh and potent alchemy and a truly wonderful new album, UFOasis(approve sites) (Nowhere).
UFOasis(approve sites) synthesised a unity between the widely divergent paths of Steffe and Keith?, forging a unlikely link between the worlds of Hip Hop/Funk that Steffe had entered, and the looping asymmetrical riffing that Keith had been perfecting. Sprinkled liberally with stardust from the at times awesome Andy Roid, and driven by the crisp, attacking powerhouse drumming of Steve Cassidy, the album ranks as their best ever for most of their ever-evolving following.
Andy Roid left in 1997, so Steffe and Keith? decided to carry on with Steve Cassidy - who also plays with Mandragora - as a jamming three-piece, getting back to their free-form roots rather than endlessly running through the old back catalogue, keeping each performance live and fresh, with all the wild unpredictability for which they are so justifiably legendary.