Since I first heard their classic album, ‘Argus’ back in the mid-70s, I’ve been a big fan of WISHBONE ASH. I first saw them live in ’78 at Hammersmith Odeon, London; and seen them many times since. I’ve listened to their music, strummed and sung along; and followed all their personnel changes over the decades. I’ve met some of them on occasions too.
These days of course, after an acrimonious split, there are now (to all intents and purposes) two Wishbone Ash’s – MARTIN TURNER’s, and ANDY POWELL’s. The two gentlemen in question (both members of the Mk1 and Mk2 versions of the band, 1970-80) fell out some years ago, and it seems that there is no love lost between them. Both have a fair claim to be in a band called Wishbone Ash, and both always put on a great show, playing more or less the same favourite songs, which they and other ex-members co-wrote together. But Powell has recently taken legal action to try to prevent Turner from using ‘his’ registered trade-mark ‘Wishbone Ash’, claiming it exclusively for himself and his version of the band; whilst Turner seems to have been content merely to continue using the name in some form: ie: MARTIN TURNER’S WISHBONE ASH.
The ins and outs of the split and the legal wrangles between Turner and Powell are complex and outside the scope of this article; and are well documented elsewhere (For example, both bands have detailed their own side of the story on their respective Facebook pages). Nor am I qualified to opine on it in any great detail. However, I find myself leaning heavily towards Turner’s camp for several reasons: (1) Turner was the founding member of the band when they were called THE EMPTY VESSELS back in the 60s – long before Powell was even recruited, so it seems reasonable for Turner to continue to use something like the original name if he wants to – even if he did leave his own original band. (2) Having read Turner’s excellent autobiography ‘No Easy Road’ (Dirty Dog Books, 2012), I can understand his point of view, which seems perfectly reasonable to me. (3) All of the other important ex-members of the group (such as Ted Turner, Steve Upton, and Laurie Wisefield) seem to be firmly on Turner’s side; attending Turner’s annual Garden Party, for example. These old boys also endorse the website http://www.wishboneash.co.uk, domain name ownership of which is, I believe, in the hands of Turner. Powell of course, owns the .com version.
Recently however, it seems that Powell has had some success in his legal undertakings, preventing Turner’s use of the trade-mark ‘Wishbone Ash’. Therefore Turner has now had to re-brand himself as ‘MARTIN TURNER PLAYS THE MUSIC OF WISHBONE ASH’ – which is a bit of a mouthful and sounds like a tribute act! But as we know, Turner is far more than that. What I’d like to know is, when Turner releases and plays new music (as he will do, as he is an excellent song-writer), will it be appropriate to credit it to a band called ‘MT PLAYS THE MUSIC OF WA’? Because obviously WA never released it in the first place! Or will it be released under the name Martin Turner, perhaps? I hope MT can clear this up. As you can tell, I’m not too happy about the new name of MT’s band! I would have thought something simple like THE MARTIN TURNER BAND would do very nicely. Or how about MARTIN TURNER’S PHOENIX – rising from the ASH(es)? (For the uninitiated, ‘Phoenix’ is track off the seminal 1970 album ‘Wishbone Ash’)
There are no winners in this debacle – all this legal wrangling is so very unnecessary and divisive. I think there is enough room within rock’n’roll for both bands, even if they are both using a similar name. Blame for this schism though must be mostly levelled at Powell for bringing legal action in the first place. I seem to remember that a similar controversy occurred some years ago with STATUS QUO, although in Quo’s case it was resolved amicably, and the classic four original members made it up enough to get back together again recently. I can’t see that happening with WA though. As for the fans: they are very likely to be fans of both bands, and not likely to be confused by similar names! Both Turner and Powell will always be synonymous with Wishbone Ash anyway; and I can’t see that changing – whatever happens regarding name-changes and court cases!
Now I wouldn’t rule out going to see Andy Powell’s lot in concert again, as I know he is an excellent guitarist, and is dedicated to the old WA material – he and his boys can certainly put on a good show; and I’d enjoy it. But personally I can’t wait to see Turner’s band play again. How annoying is this, though?: On 29th March this year MTWA (or whatever they will be billed as) are due to play a ‘Classic Legends of Rock’ gig along with THE STRAWBS (who I reviewed as my first entry on this blog) and CURVED AIR at the Palace Theatre, Southend-on-Sea, Essex. Will I be there? No, because I’ll be taking my Mrs to see the excellent and unique RICHARD DIGANCE a few miles up the road, at the Touchline Club – and you can’t be at two good gigs at once. Stop press! Amazingly, I’ve just received an email informing me that MT will be at the Touchline Club in October! Fortuitous, or what?
Anyway, I’d just like to wish MT good luck for the future, and hope that he and Powell can now: ”Throw Down The Sword, the fight is done and over, neither lost, neither won….” Phil The Music Quill.