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Dave Lambert and friend in the studio and The Magic Shoemaker LP (below).

Recording the album had taken its toll on Lambert both physically and mentally and he was in no mood to promote it without record company backing. “Honestly, I think I was just exhausted and I couldn’t see a way forward,” he says, “and I thought the album’s not selling so what more can I do. I can’t do any more. I think that’s how I felt. It was sad because I felt that I was letting Bob and Dick down. I attempted to form another line-up to see whether maybe with a fresh line-up it might come back to life, but no. My heart just wasn’t in it.” Fire limped on for a while but soon parted. “It was kind of an amicable drifting apart. We were struggling to find a new identity for Fire, Paul Brett came in as a second guitarist in an effort to give the band some fresh momentum, but that didn’t happen” recalls Voice.

Lambert’s confidence was given another boost when he was approached by the band’s previous manager, Ray Hammond. Hammond had recently formed a production company and knowing the band was going through a rough spot asked if they’d like to join him. “He just came to me one day,” recalls Lambert, and said, “Look I’m putting together a tender for a record that’s going to be leased to major companies and I’ve very much like to add your Shoemaker idea to the file.’ Of course that’s exactly what I wanted to hear by that time, somebody actually backing what we wanted to do”. No sooner had the ink dried on their new contact than Fire booked onto Polydor Studios to record demos for The Magic Shoemaker.

The band’s next move was to book into Pye’s Marble Arch studio, where they began an intense period of recording. Voice recalls they decided to work at night because, “We were very self-indulgent, and we recorded at night because we wanted to. It was enormous fun. We got Dave Cousins and Paul Brett in and a couple of mates in to play on different bits.” The band had progressed considerably since recording ‘Father’s Name Is Dad’ and this was no better reflected than in Lambert’s writing. “What I was trying to write was just a set of character studies, that’s all I was trying

to do. But when I wrote ‘Magic Shoes’, which was only supposed to be a whimsical song, that was going to be the beginning and end of it, then my mind started to go to a musical fairytale” he explains.

This time nothing was left to chance, and the album was planned like a military exercise. “I think it worked better because we had the concentrated time to get down to rehearsals and work each song out and how the narrative worked and how it all flowed within itself,” recalls Voice. “Lots of records these days are made in the edit, but this was made in the conception”.

Without any interference from outside forces, the band shone. The Magic Shoemaker is a triumph. It was progressive without being “prog” and had just enough psychedelic fairy- dust to make it compelling. While it recalls the work of late period Beatles, Kinks and Small Faces it was resolutely original and like all great albums devoid of clichés. But perhaps it was too original; when it was issued it suffered a fate similar to the band’s previous singles. “Pye didn’t really get behind it,” says Lambert. “They placed a couple of adverts, but record companies didn’t really do that in those days.”

Lambert may have been frustrated with the way things were going but he hadn’t completely given up on the band. A new Fire rose phoenix like from the ashes. “Dave went off and put together a new Fire format with Dennis on drums and Pete Skully, who would soon become his brother-in-law, on bass,” recalls Voice. “I started working with Paul Brett doing the folk clubs. I was playing percussion and he was playing acoustic guitar, and as that started to pick up and gain momentum I ran Dick up because we needed a bass player. And then we brought a flutist in, Mickey Higginbottom, and we went out as a four-piece soft rock band.” The new Fire didn’t last and it wasn’t long before Lambert joined his former band mates on the folk circuit. For a while Lambert teamed up with Dave Cousins and then toured as MC and support with Mungo Jerry, then in the process of splitting. Joining forces with ex- members of Mungo Jerry he formed The King Earl Boogie Band before being asked to join The Strawbs.

Sometime in 2007, Dave, Bob and Dick got together for drinks with their original manager. “Our recent coming together came out of the fact that we were having a reunion supper one night with Ray Hammond, our old manager, at The Groucho a year and a half ago. I think it was Dick who said why don’t we get together and do a gig again? I said it’s all very well for you guys... I haven’t played in 30 years. I think the red wine got to me in the end and I foolishly agreed to it” explains Voice. This chance remark led to two reunion shows in December ’07 where the band played The Magic Shoemaker in its entirety for the first time ever. Both shows were recorded and the resulting live album has recently been issued by Angel Air Records.

Many thanks to Dave Lambert and Bob Voice. 43

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