Editor’s Note: Den of Antiquities focuses on the hazy days of proto-metal and the sounds and stories which surrounded the birth of our beloved genre. Read on below for loud pioneers, forgotten gems from days of yore and a healthy dose of fuzz! Also no, this isn’t the Sleep album, keep reading.
Apologies, my fellow den-dwellers, for my extended absence after teasing you all with just the beginning of what the depths of this rock and roll basement has to offer. To make it up to you, I’m starting things back off with one of the most vicious records to come out of the 1970s – a standalone self titled masterpiece from a British band called Jerusalem.
Jerusalem formed back in 1966 when schoolmates Paul Dean, Ray Sparrow, and Chris Skelchner were played a contemporary blues record at their school in Salisbury, Wiltshire, England that blew their young brains apart. The record was one from John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, and after catching them live shortly after, the trio picked up the closest instruments they could find and formed a band the very next night. With 0 experience behind them, instrument choices were pretty arbitrary but everyone ended up where they were meant to be, with Ray on drums, Chris on guitar, and Paul on bass and vocals, as well as the majority of the songwriting. The group dedicated their time to studying the blues, looking to little else for inspiration. Eventually they brought on Bill Hinde as a second guitar player, replaced Skelchner with Bob Cooke and brought on Phil Goddard as a vocalist to allow Paul Dean to focus on the bass, though Goddard would be replaced by Lynden Williams before the full length was recorded.
Despite the religious nature of their name, which they even share with a Swedish Christian rock band from the same decade, the inspiration actually came from a song the boys grew up hearing at assemblies in school. “Jerusalem” is a patriotic British anthem that was written in 1916 by Sir Charles Hubert Parry. The song is based on a short poem by William Bake which appears in the preface to his epic, “Milton: a Poem in Two Books,” a story in which the poet John Milton (author of Paradise Lost) returns from Heaven to unite with Blake and explore the relationship between living writers and their predecessors. Pretty heady stuff for a band writing songs with titles like “Primitive Man”. Paul liked it for the passion he heard in it, and the band would even go so far as to cover a snippet from the song as an intro to their live performances.
It was Paul’s sister Zoe who would help give the band their big break after she heard a recording of them and was genuinely impressed with what her brother had been doing in his spare time. She worked in the music industry and helped them record some demos at Pye Studios. She also facilitated what would turn out to be Jerusalem’s most valuable resource in their developing career, aside from their scorching riffs – a friendship with Ian Gillan, who was then singing for Deep Purple. Zoe brought Gillan home to stay when he was in town for a show and introduced him to Paul, who happened to be listening to Black Sabbath’s first album – the first time Gillan would hear (and reportedly enjoy) the band he’d go on to front.
A few months later, Gillan saw them play with Uriah Heep and decided to get involved, becoming their manager alongside Zoe. It was during this time that Lynden Williams took over on vocals and gave the band a sound unlike any other. With Gillan’s help, the band recorded their full length album and eventually signed to release it on Decca Records’ rock label, Deram.
Jerusalem’s self titled full length is so ahead of its time that it’s practically otherworldly. The truth is that the members of the band are no prodigies but the painfully raw way that they trudge through their songs is like almost nothing else seen by 1970 and would by mimicked and beaten down into even more primal forms by their successors. While the opening track, “Frustration”, is some good, rowdy, rock and roll fun, Jerusalem solidifies themselves as True Harbingers Of Doom Metal on the album’s second song, “Hooded Eagle”. Lynden Williams may not have been the first (or even the second) singer to lead the band, but he was clearly the one they were destined to find. His voice is downright maniacal and rivals some of the most evil sounding frontmen in metal history. With titles like “Beyond the Grave” and “She Came Like a Bat From Hell,” these guys clearly had an idea of where the direction of heavy music was headed and one can’t help but imagine what kind of ferocity they’d have produced if they came up two decades later.
And while shaky live performances were the demise of many a hard rock heavy hitter of the era, Jerusalem’s free-wheeling ferocity seems to have translated just as well to the stage. The band had a real knack for drawing in an audience, and were known for their ability to stop audience members – who were taking the relatively unknown’s band set as a chance to run to the bathroom or get another beer – in their tracks and get their butts back on the floor. Sadly, these showstoppers were rare to catch, as the band had a very short run despite their success.
Jerusalem broke up after their first record, for as simple a reason as they felt that the band had said all it needed to say. Rather than play the industry game and sacrifice the raw, homegrown nature of their sound, Paul and Ray decided to end things on a high note and focus their energies on other projects. They eventually formed a hard rock group called Pussy, who were seriously fun in their own way, but never quite found the same dynamite that they created with Jerusalem.