A symbiotic relationship with its fans keeps rock group The Enid thriving. Andy Coleman finds out why.
Cult rock band The Enid have their fans to thank for making their dream of performing on stage with a symphony orchestra come true.
On Saturday the group, who have been fusing classical and rock music for the past 36 years, will appear with the CBSO at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall.
“This really is the first time to hear The Enid music, right from the early days to the current album Journey’s End in all its full glory with a symphony orchestra,” says band founder and classically trained pianist Robert John Godfrey, the man behind such Enid albums as Aerie Faerie Nonsense and Something Wicked This Way Comes.
“It’s always been one of those milestone goals because The Enid’s music has always really been planned, ideally, for orchestra.’’
The show will also feature a 200-strong children’s choir and the recital of a poem by cult writer Alan Moore.
It has all been made possible by The Enid’s fan club, The Enidi.
“Our fan club, both as individuals and as a whole, have stepped into the shoes of good old fashioned patronage and sponsored this concert,’’ Robert explains. ‘‘Otherwise we couldn’t do it. There’s no promoter, there’s no big organisation putting this show on, it is the band’s fans and The Enid together.
‘‘The days are now long gone when the record industry is prepared to pay for expensive works of art.
“The fan club is set up as a non-profit making organisation to assist the band. It’s there really to sponsor us and enable us to put on these kind of shows which would otherwise be never able to happen.”
Robert, who has lived in Northampton for the past 20 years, says 1,450 tickets need to be sold to break even and is confident that the show is innovative enough to attract a large audience.
It will begin with fully orchestrated versions of the band’s two most famous tracks, Judgement and In The Region Of The Summer Stars, the title track of their 1976 debut album. A new version of Robert’s 1970s composition, The Lovers, will be included, followed by Childe Roland and Fand.
‘‘Fand really was the epitome of our music and our ambitions in the 1970s and if ever there was a piece that needed an orchestra to do it that was it,’’ says 64-year-old Robert.
The second half will open with Northampton-based writer Alan Moore, best known for his graphic novels Watchmen and V For Vendetta reciting his controversial poem The Mirror Of Love with improvised music by Robert and a couple of band members.
‘‘I want to do this as a kind of spontaneous dialogue between what Alan is going to be saying and setting the mood quietly to try and create the atmosphere,’’ Robert explains.
The concert will conclude with The Enid’s latest album, Journey’s End in its entirety, with the final track, The Art Of Melody, which was written for an orchestra but has never been performed by one, being played by the CBSO.
Adds Robert: “The unofficial piece that we’ll be playing at the end is a tribute to my friend Woolly Wolstenholme from Barclay James Harvest who unfortunately killed himself last year. We’ve done an arrangement of Mockingbird and it will be a once and only performance with the orchestra.”
The Enid formed in 1975, just as punk rock was finding its feet. On the face of it The Enid seemed to be everything punk rock was rebelling against, although Robert rejects the notion they are ‘Prog Rock’.
“Clearly there are some serious problems to do with the Prog genre that I find myself a prisoner of,” he says. “I don’t like it, not because I don’t like the concept of Progressive, I do like Progressive, but Progressive to me means intelligent, imaginative people pushing the boundaries and doing wonderful music.
“John Peel tried to be very rude about The Enid at Reading one year. He was compering it and we’d done three encores and he sort of slated it as being A-level rock. Well I’m proud that it’s A-level rock – what’s the matter with A-levels?
“Obviously my music can’t speak to everybody, and I don’t expect it to do that, but I do know that there are thousands of people who have come into contact with my music who will say to you that my music can reach parts emotionally that other music never gets to. It’s a god’s gift, I don’t know how I do it or why I do it but it happens.’’
Between 1968 and 1971 Robert was musical director with Barclay James Harvest, but says he was forced out of band.
“It was the band’s girlfriends who forced the issue,” he told Classic Rock magazine last year. ‘‘They were from the Lancashire/Yorkshire area and couldn’t handle the idea of a gay man like me with a plummy accent.’’
He formed The Enid with guitarist Francis Lickerish and guitarist/bassist Steve Stewart and were championed by radio DJs Tommy Vance and Alan Freeman. Over the years the band line-up has changed considerably.
Joining Robert are drummer Dave Storey, Jason Ducker on guitars, Max Read on vocals and keyboards and Nicholas Willes on bass and percussion.
‘‘We now have a young dedicated front line who will, if they want to, be able to take this forward into the future,’’ Robert says. ‘‘I’m devoting the rest of my days to showing them how I’ve done all of this so they can do that if they want to when I’ve gone.’’
* The Enid play Birmingham Symphony Hall on October 15. Tickets: £36, £38, £40 + booking fee from 0121 780 3333