“This very fine album was released in the early 1970s and produced by George Martin, and unless I’m very much mistaken Stackridge were the first band he worked with after The Beatles.
“Stackridge were from the West Country of England – a bit on the crazy side, I believe – and The Man In The Bowler Hat was their third album. George Martin recorded it with them at Air Studios in London, and you can hear his influence. Their singer was called Mutter Slater, and other members had slightly barmy names, like Crun Walter, which endeared me to them greatly.
“The album includes the song The Galloping Gaucho, which had the lyric: ‘The galloping gaucho comes to town/ Riding like a demon vaquero/Bought his horse for half a crown/And called it Scar-Faced Jock’ – complete nonsense but absolutely great. The best bit of all is: ‘The girls all stood and stared, intentions undeclared/To a six-foot drip with a plastic whip he could not be compared.’ Ah, magic!
“There was also Fundamentally Yours, Pinafore Days and The Last Plimsoll – you looked at a track called The Last Plimsoll and wondered what the hell it could be about. The Indifferent Hedgehog was another with a great title, but an awful song. Some of the lyrics were satirical, which of course I liked a lot. There were also a couple of instrumental songs, which you’d expect given George Martin’s involvement. And it’s really orchestral in places; very jolly, light-hearted and quintessentially English. There are lots of flutes and violins.”
“I first discovered the album when I was about 16 years old, when a friend played it to me. Then I bought a copy of my own. After that I recorded it onto cassette and played the thing over and over again. I remember taking that tape with me to the Reading festival one year.
“So it’s pretty silly to admit that The Man In The Bowler Hat is the only Stackridge album I’ve ever bought. If they want to send me the rest of their catalogue, I’d love to hear it.
“I believe that Stackridge got back together again a few years ago after being away for more than two decades. But then people still sometimes say the same thing about Marillion: ‘Are you guys still going?!’
“In my case, the more obscure an album tends to be, the better it often is. And it was a toss-up whether I chose Stackridge or Caravan’s In The Land Of Grey And Pink [from 1971]. But if you’re looking for something a little off the beaten track you could do a lot worse than giving The Man In The Bowler Hat a try.”
Steve Hogarth was speaking with Dave Ling. The feature originally appeared in Classic Rock 85, September 2005.