Rarity: Pre-Flight, Room


Pre-Flight: Room, Deram LP 1970
It has to RED Deram centre.
side oneside two
Preflight
(Steve Edge)
Andromeda
(Chris Williams, Roy Putt, Jane Kevern)
Where Did I Go Wrong?
(Room)
War
(Chris Williams)
No Warmth In My Life
(Chris Williams, Jane Kevern)
Cemetery Junction Parts I and II
(Chris Williams, Jane Kevern)
Big John Blues
(Chris Williams)
Pre-flight: Room, Deram LP 1970

This is a further choice where I knew the band back in the day.

It must be nearly twenty years ago, I saw Pre-Flight by Room on the wall of a (long-gone) record shop in Ringwood. £180. ‘You’re joking!’ I exclaimed.
‘A mint copy’s £400 in Rare record Price Guide,‘ I was told, ‘This is in beautiful nick. It’s cheap.’

No way, I thought. But cheap it was. The last time I saw a copy at a Record Fair it had £800 on it. Its 2022 guide price is £1200 mint.

They should have been on Vertigo, not Deram. Their 1970 album is called Pre-Flight. The Byrds had released an album of early tracks in 1969 called Preflyte. Like Jefferson Airplane, they had two guitars, bass, drums and a powerful female vocalist. Like Jefferson Airplane, the sleeve depicted a ramshackle plane (compare the Heath Robinson style contraption on After Bathing At Baxters.) They didn’t come from San Francisco though, they came from Blandford Forum, in Dorset. Room was formed in 1968.

FOR MORE INFORMATION SEE: Bournemouth Beat Boom: Room (linked)

They consisted of Jane Kevern (vocals), Steve Edge and Chris Williams (guitars), Roy Putt (bass) and Bob Jenkins (drums). Roy Putt also designed and drew the sleeve.

I got to know of them as the regular support at the Ritz Ballroom on Bournemouth’s West Cliff, where they were support to the likes of Fleetwood Mac, Howlin’ Wolf, Edgar Broughton, Piblotko and The Strawbs.

Drummer Bob Jenkins from Ginger Man joined them in the summer of 1969 when that band broke up (SEE” Early – Supertramp). He had been playing with John Wetton, Richard Palmer-James and John Hutcheson in Ginger Man, and brought added power to the band. An online review reads:

The real star of Room is the drummer; Bob Jenkins. Always finding a way to interpret the riffs as being jazzy, his rolls and cymbals are a delight to listen to.

Room flier / poster

Room won the Southern heat of the Melody Maker Beat Contest held at The Ritz in December 1969, and went on to the finals in January 1970. They came second, but were spotted by Decca and offered a three year contract with a £2000 advance. The album was recorded in mid-1970, and Deram were prepared to go to added brass and strings.

Steve Edge In December 1969, Room made a demo tape of just two tracks. EMI were interested. But soon the Decca deal was done following the band’s appearance at the Melody Maker’s annual band contest at the Lyceum, London. Decca were quite good to us. They gave us a good producer, a good engineer and a good musical director, along with a good studio. They also gave us advance royalties! What Decca didn’t do? They didn’t promote the album. But that was the industry norm for most rookie bands in those days.
Prog Archives, 6 January 2011

The album was released in November 1970. Steve Edge left, and they had a major issue with reproducing the brass and strings on the album, so Bob Jenkins introduced his ex-bandmate W.J. “Hutch” Hutcheson from Ginger Man, who joined on Hammond organ.

Steve Edge The tracks on “Pre-flight” were selected from about a dozen recorded over a couple of days at the studio in West Hampstead. Most went down in one or two takes with vocals dubbed afterwards. The strings and brass added later. Soon after the recording session, I left the band. The remaining four members along with the record company and band management made the final album track list selection. The tracks were a reasonable example of what Room were playing at gigs at the time although some of the softer, melodic songs were omitted. The album did not sell well. 
Prog Archives, 6 January 2011

I saw them rehearsing with Hutch behind Sid Fay’s music shop in Old Christchurch Road, Bournemouth and went to a few gigs with Hutch. Nothing is comprehensive because I saw them at Blandford Corn Exchange, which is not listed on the main Room website. Hutch departed after a short tour of Switzerland. The group broke up in July 1971.

John Cherry: For a couple of years at the end of the sixties, Room was the number one band in Bournemouth, mainly through their high profile gigs at the Ritz. However, record company indifference, a manager who looked after his own interests rather than that of the band and plain bad luck conspired to keep them that way rather than a national success. Their lone album, “Pre-Flight”, is now regarded as a highly prized artefact from the height of the progressive era by collectors. Many modern day reviews are gushing in their praise and compared to some supposedly lost masterpieces, the album stands head and shoulders above the competition. Despite the rushed two-day sessions and thanks to the preparedness of the band on the day and the proficiency of producer Mickey Clarke, the performances and production of the album are superb. Minuscule sales at the time guarantee that a mint original vinyl copy can easily reach a staggering £2,000 to £3,000, but if you would like to sample this gem, buy the digitally remastered 2008 CD version on the Esoteric label with sleeve notes by Room guitarist Steve Edge. 
Bournemouth Beat Boom website

When I read an article on this a few years back, a reviewer was very taken by the thoughts behind the best-known track Cemetery Junction (one for which they really needed Hutch’s Hammond to perform live). They waxed lyrical on the philosophy of the title. Ah. The group lived just a few hundred yards from Cemetery Junction in Bournemouth. There’s another Cemetery Junction in Reading which gave its name to the 2010 Ricky Gervais film.

It’s a pity there are no bonus tracks. I remember a live song which I thought was called Wheels which was an ode to their beloved group van. Steve Edge mentions it in his blog. He wrote it and the title was Vehicle.

MONEY …

Rare Record Price Guide 20122: £1200 mint

Discogs:

Lowest: £580
Median: £1250
Highest: £2857

There are various CD versions around. Most are “unauthorized” such as the Australian CD I have on the Progressive Line label (I don’t have an LP). I’ve seen Korean CDs too and seen adverts for white vinyl South Korean LPs. There’s a 1990 Japanese CD on the Edison label. At the best, these must be “grey” market. No one involved in the band would ever be paid.

There is a new reissue vinyl version from Abraxas Records (2007) which is available on amazon for £49.99.

The Esoteric audio CD mentioned is 2008, and is £25.86 on amazon, which suggests it is out of print. It is also labelled DDD which indicates an original digital recording which did not exist in 1970. It can only be ADD.

The Estoric CD has notes by Steve Edge, so has official status.

Steve Edge Esoteric Recordings contacted me in 2007. I think they’d seen the blog. They said they were remastering the original Deram tapes with a view to releasing a CD under the Cherry Red label. And could I help with pictures and words for the sleeve notes. I contacted Roy and Chris who kindly sent me some photos and a few words and I cobbled together some notes for Esoteric.

See Steve Edge’s blog: roomprogressive.blogspot.com

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