Steamhammer were formed in 1968 in Worthing by guitarist Martin Pugh and guitarist/vocalist Kieran White. They were joined by Michael Rushton on drums, Steve Davy on bass, and Martin Quittenton, also on guitar. Quittenton and White came out of the British folk circuit, whereas the other three were veterans of the R&B scene.|
Their first album Steamhammer (also issued as Reflection) was released in 1969, and was a mixture of classic blues by the likes of B.B.King and Eddie Boyd, and their own compositions.
Martin Quittenton was co-writer of Rod Stewart's monster hit, Maggie May, and if nothing else, undoubtedly does very well on royalties, even to this day. He has often been mistakenly credited with playing mandolin on that track. Not surprisingly, he quit Steamhammer to concentrate on song-writing. Michael Rushton was replaced by gifted drummer Mick Bradley.
Mark II was their second album, and the group was joined by Steve Jolliffe, (flute, saxophone, harpsichord), bringing an added dimension to the band's music with his precise arrangements and jazz influences. A particular highlight of the CD reisssue of the album is the track Blues For Passing People... He had already departed again before the next album was released. He went on to record with Tangerine Dream (on the album Cyclone), and has since recorded a brace of solo albums.
Steamhammer played at the twelth National Jazz, Blues and Rock Festival in Reading in 1972.
Bassist Louis Cennamo (ex-Renaissance, Colosseum) joined the band shortly after the album Mountains was recorded, replacing Steve Davy.
After Kieran White departed, singer Bruce Payne joined the band for a tour of Germany, where the band were far more well known than their native England.
Speech was the final album released, in Germany only, in 1972, but by that time, Steamhammer were no more. The band line-up of Martin Pugh, Mick Bradley and Louis Cennamo was augmented by the soaring vocals of Garth Watt-Roy (Fuzzy Duck, Greatest Show On Earth). The record was a masterpiece of progressive rock, showing how far the band had come in just a few short years.
While the band were in the throes of mixing the album, Mick Bradley went home to Rugby for the weekend. When the rest of the band reconvened in the studio the following Monday, they received a phone call from Mick's brother, saying that he had been taken ill, gone to hospital, and died. He had been suffering from undiagnosed leukemia.
The band soldiered on for a while, replacing Mick with John Lingwood, and even changing their name to Axis, but it was a lost battle. As Louis Cennamo explained, "We just didn't have any heart for it after Mick Bradley died. It was a terrible winter as I recall with lots of power cuts and it all became an uphill struggle. The album got finished, but it lost some of its meaning for us. Steamhammer ran out of steam - and became just a hammer in the end!"
In a further sad footnote to the Steamhammer story, a letter from Kieran White was reproduced in the Repertoire reissue of Mark II. He expressed great delight at finding his old band's material at last released on CD: "I have not heard Steamhammer for 20 years or more without scratches on a record."
White himself had gone on to release a solo album in 1975, called Open Door, also re-released by Repertoire. He moved to the US in 1989 and left the music business, working as a truck driver, though, as he said, "I still play my instruments ...and love music and will always be a musician... I am proud of my time and work with Steamhammer."
Armageddon was the band formed in the wake of the natural dissolution of Steamhammer. Martin Pugh and Louis Cennamo joined forces with Keith Relf (vocals), of Yardbirds fame, and the three headed off to California. There they joined up with American drummer Bobby Caldwell (Captain Beyond) and became Armageddon.
On fronting up at A&M Records, armed with an introduction from none other than old mate Peter Frampton, they were unexpectedly offered a record deal on the spot, and then had to turn around and quickly start writing songs! The result was the self-titled album Armageddon (1975), with its suitably apocalyptic cover.
The album exhibited huge potential, but the band's career was cut short by the tragic death of Keith Relf in 1976.
Martin Pugh and Louis Cennamo are still active musicians. Pugh plays with band The Instigators, and often works with Stan Ruffo.
A "Best of" CD retrospective has been lovingly compiled by Repertoire Records, Junior's Wailing, named after the single which was probably far less well known than the Status Quo cover version.
Louis also appeared on Jody Grind's 1969 album One Step On, on a cover of the Rolling Stones' Paint It Black. (If you like the Speech era of Steamhammer, you will like this album!) Louis never gigged with the band, but they were friends of his, which is why he did the session. (Trivia - the track was laid down at Morgan studios, owned by Barry Morgan, drummer of CCS and incidentally also where the CCS albums were recorded.)
|Martin Pugh has been recording with guitarist/vocalist Daniel Jones and Geoff Thorpe of Vicious Rumors. The end result is about to be released under the moniker 7th Order... Check the official Steamhammer site for more details!|
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