by R C Perry

The music press once described The Enid as "Britain's best-kept secret." Radio One dubbed them, "The biggest cult band in Europe." Not because they were, but because the leading radio station in the UK assumed they must be! Record companies feared them; Glastonbury banned them. MI5 investigated them. By the mid-1980s, most music fans in the UK had heard of The Enid. The amount of misinformation that surrounded them is staggering. They've been called "fascists" (by people who had been told of but had never actually experienced at first hand, their sacrilegious on-stage renditions of "Land of Hope and Glory").

On the other hand, they found themselves denounced as either "anarchists" or "leftists" (because of Robert John Godfrey's vociferous insistence that all people are interdependent, whether they know it or not and that individuality has no fundamental meaning).

At the time, some assumed The Enid to be some sort of insane punk band. That assumption could scarcely have been further from the mark. They were probably the most enigmatic and intellectually challenging of any band to have emerged in the UK.



The Enid were formed in 1974 by keyboard player Robert John Godfrey and remains as the only original. A possible career as a concert pianist had been thrown out of the window in the late sixties in favour of London's rapidly flowering hippie music scene. He had stopped hanging about the Royal Festival Hall and started hanging about the Roundhouse, where he met and joined the young Barclay James Harvest, living and working with them over three years in a farmhouse on the Yorkshire Moors. These three years saw the release of the debut BJH album and the follow-up, "Once Again." It was Godfrey who was responsible for co-writing and developing most of their large-scale pieces - Mockingbird etc.
Godfrey left the band in 1971, already looking for a more custom-made vehicle for his own rapidly crystallizing musical ideas. The following year he recorded a solo album, The Fall of Hyperion, for Tony Stratton-Smith's Charisma label. This album was the first flexing of Godfrey's musical muscles and formed something of a blueprint for his approach to future projects.
From the outset, The Enid always promised to be different. The spiritual home of the band was Finchden, an unconventional, experimental school for gifted but problematical youths, which Godfrey and his fellow founder-members, guitarists Stephen Stewart and Francis Lickerish, had attended. Finchden fell apart in 1973 and over the next few years, various casualties crawled from the wreckage to join the already-established Godfrey. The result was The Enid.
Given the climate of the times the band should never have lasted. At a time when punk rock was exploding all around them, The Enid were writing and performing large-scale, wholly instrumental pieces which took as their inspiration myth and fantasy, and which eschewed the simplicity and cynicism of punk in favour of a broad, almost orchestral dynamic range and a rich canvas of emotions and atmospheres. Yet such was the power of their live performances and recorded work that they rapidly gained a large, fanatically dedicated following that have stayed with them throughout their career and that took in the most unlikely bedfellows - everyone from hippies to bikers to - you guessed it - punks.



The Enid signed first to BUK records, a tiny label then a part of EMI, and in 1976 released their first album, In the Region of the Summer Stars. Based on the Tarot sequence and on the writings of Charles Williams, it made no bones about where The Enid were at. The Epic Emotional Chariot Ride. Comparisons were unhelpful. Prog rock it wasn't, although in many ways it was what prog rock should have been. But the energy was more akin to punk, and the drama was pure Hollywood.
The second album, Aerie Faerie Nonsense, released in 1978, went yet further down the same road. It told the story of Roland, the young knight aspirant questing his way across the world. The tale was told with pathos and humour; as Godfrey says "we had to take the piss out of ourselves a bit to get the music across".
On the strength of these albums and their live reputation – The press had voted them "The band most likely to succeed" - The Enid could swing a major record deal. They signed to Pye Records - one of the most expensive signings the company had ever made. Money was lavished on the band. They were even provided with their own studio in which to record their 1979 album, Touch Me. This album marked the onset of what one reviewer called their "Electro-Edwardian" phase - a lively, uplifting album with a surprisingly hard edge. The band - now a seven-piece - were regularly playing several-thousand seater venues such as the Hammersmith Odeon, and major success seemed just around the corner.



What was really lurking around the corner, though, was a near-disastrous setback. What Godfrey and his fellow musicians hadn't known was that Pye was in trouble. Lew Grade had just made the mega-flop movie Raise the Titanic, and his whole business empire was sinking majestically beneath the waves. Staff were deserting in their droves and The Enid were stuck in a top-notch deal with an essentially rudderless label. Panic was setting in at Pye, who suddenly didn't know what to do with their newest, costliest signing, and this led to the hasty release of a spate of singles, among them The Enid's classic Dambusters' March/Land of Hope and Glory showstopper. Rushed into the shops and not properly promoted, none of the singles charted. It was a sad waste of a lot of good music.
The same fate awaited the band's second and last album for Pye, Six Pieces. The album, released in 1980, contained a series of cameos of the then band members; quirky, yet often incisive portraits. According to Godfrey, it is one of The Enid's most personal albums, recorded in the knowledge that their relationship with Pye was all but finished and that the fruits of their labours would receive little or no promotion. Paradoxically, this fact seems to have given the album a curious sense of freedom. The pieces run riot with parody and a quirky energy which almost touches on jazz-rock in places.

1970's Albums

Fall of Hyperion

In the Region..

Aerie Faerie Nonsense

Touch Me