Eire Apparent were a band that deserved more success than they enjoyed in their brief three-year existence, and more recognition than they've received in the decades since.
Mostly they're remembered for having had one album produced by Jimi Hendrix. The band had its roots in the Irish show band scene of the mid-'60s -- guitarist Henry McCullough had put his time in, playing with outfits such as the Sky Rockets and Gene & the Gents, based on Portstewart, Northern Ireland. By 1967, McCullough had decided to take his talent and career elsewhere and headed to Belfast and then to England, to Blackpool, where he crossed paths with Chris Stewart (bass), Ernie Graham (guitar/vocals), and Dave Lutton (drums). The latter were all ex-members of a show band called Tony & the Telstars, and with McCullough decided to form a psychedelic band that they christened the People. They made their way to London, where they struggled just to earn a decent living -- but a fortuitous gig at the UFO Club brought them to the attention of Mike Jeffery and Chas Chandler, the two managers of Jimi Hendrix. They got the band -- renamed Eire Apparent at Jeffery's insistence -- signed to Track Records, the imprint belonging to Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp (for which Hendrix also recorded), who were also the managers of the Who.
For musicians who had been living in dire poverty when they arrived in London, the whirlwind of VIP representation they'd stepped into and the opportunities suddenly presenting themselves were astonishing. And it only got better when Eire Apparent were booked onto Hendrix's next tour of the British isles, working alongside acts such as the Move and such up-and-coming bands as Pink Floyd and the Nice. The finish to 1967 was capped by the recording of their first single, "Follow Me" b/w "Here I Go Again," which was issued in January of 1968. The record never charted, however, and marked their last release on Track. Next it was off to America, supporting Hendrix, Eric Burdon & the Animals, and Soft Machine (both acts managed by Jeffery). They spent a large part of 1968 playing shows in the United States, and had one show scheduled in Canada. At that point, the group's fortunes suffered a setback when McCullough was arrested, in part due to problems with his visa, and deported to Ireland. It marked his exit from the band, as he was summarily replaced by Mick Cox, who completed the tour with the group and became a permanent member.
The following month, the reconfigured Eire Apparent resumed their run at stardom with an album. What made the record special, beyond what the four members brought to the table, was the presence of Jimi Hendrix as producer. Hendrix had previously served in a similar capacity on behalf of Cat Mother & the All Night Newsboys, but Eire Apparent attracted somewhat more attention, owing to the fact that their album received an American release through the Buddah label, which also issued their second single, "Rock 'n' Roll Band" b/w "Yes I Need Someone." Hendrix also played on both sides of the single, as well as on the Chris Stewart-authored album track "The Clown," but his involvement with their music was more complex than even these moments of direct participation. The guitarist apparently saw Eire Apparent as a vehicle for more pop-oriented sounds than he usually got to explore on his own recordings, freely mixing softer sounds with a strong psychedelic influence amid the harder sound that was the group's forte. The harder sounds of songs such as "Morning Glory" were juxtaposed with more lyrical moments, vocally and instrumentally, without ever losing sight of their basic heavy electric sound.
The results -- to which Robert Wyatt and Noel Redding also apparently contributed -- were off-putting to some who expected something different from a project related to Jimi Hendrix, and also may have arrived a little late for the psychedelic influences. The album, entitled Sunrise, was issued on the Buddah label in the United States, and thanks to Hendrix's name on it and the time they put in touring, it did sell better than some Buddah releases of the era that didn't have a hit single to drive sales or get AM radio play. Copies of the record turned up in collections and used bins from time to time from the 1970s through the 1990s (and, indeed, still sometimes show up), which is more than can be said for some Buddah LPs of the era. But sales were nowhere near what was needed to break the group properly in the U.S. (and thanks to the U.S.-only release, Sunrise became a true rarity in England). Additionally, Eire Apparent had run into serious trouble on two fronts. Their extended time touring America had left them without an audience in England, and the gigs there dried up when the bandmembers were left to their own devices (and not touring with Hendrix). Additionally, they parted company with Jeffery after a tour of Europe opening for Hendrix. Without him, Burdon, or Soft Machine to headline, however, and without a hit record, their prospects in America were now dimmed considerably. Cox left the band in early 1969 and was succeeded by Tiger Taylor, who filled the lead guitar spot for their final year together. The band finally broke up at the start of 1970 and was almost instantly forgotten.
In later years, Eire Apparent were mostly remembered as a footnote to Hendrix's career, though the members remained active throughout the ensuing decade and beyond. Ernie Graham helped to found the pub rock band Clancy, after cutting a genuinely brilliant solo album -- indeed, one of the great albums (and perhaps the greatest unknown album) of the 1970s, backed by Brinsley Schwarz. Mick Cox organized a band of his own and worked with Van Morrison, among others, while Dave Lutton passed through the lineup of Heavy Jelly, before crossing paths professionally with Marc Bolan and Chris Spedding. Chris Stewart went on to become a top session man, while Henry McCullough, following his sudden exit from the band, jumped to Spooky Tooth and then the Grease Band. He backed Joe Cocker on the With a Little Help From My Friends album, and did a lot of session work (including Donovan's Essence to Essence). He was also a member of Paul McCartney's Wings in one of its early configurations, on the Red Rose Speedway album. ~ Bruce Eder, Rovi