Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



(b 30 Dec. '50, London) Keyboardist, composer, largely self-taught one-man music industry (not to be confused with the Eurythmics' Dave Stewart). Began on guitar '65, soon switched to organ and formed psychedelic/blues band Uriel '67 with school friends Steve Hillage on guitar, Mont Campbell on bass. Hillage left to go to Kent U and Uriel became Egg, a trio with Campbell and drummer Clive Brooks for albums Egg '69 and The Polite Force '70 on Deram; adding Hillage they also made an eponymous album as Arzachel, later on Demon's Drop Out Records. An occasional big gigging band the Ottawa Company was formed by Stewart and Henry Cow drummer Chris Cutler, who encouraged Stewart's composing; and Hillage formed Khan, which made Space Shanty '72 on Deram on which Stewart played. Stewart joined Hatfield and the North, formed by drummer Pip Pyle and Canterbury bassist/vocalist Richard Sinclair and named after a road sign, for two LPs, Hatfield and the North and The Rotters' Club '74--5, on Virgin (as was an Egg reunion album The Civil Surface). He then formed National Health, with keyboardist Alan Gowan, ex-Hatfield guitarist Phil Miller, Bill Bruford initially on drums, replaced by Pyle: Stewart had been influenced by Keith Emerson from the beginning, and played 'compositions of inordinate length and complexity' appealing to 'a tiny audience of slightly disturbed young males' (his words). Punk was about to be the next big thing while National Health were 'inept at gobbing and massively over-qualified in matters chordal'; not until the tiny then-new Charly label stepped in were National Health and Of Queues And Cures issued '78. Gowan died of leukaemia '81 and the band re-formed for an album of his compositions, DS Al Coda, now on a Voiceprint CD, while the East Side Digital label have issued all three in a two-CD set '90 and issued 40-plus minutes of new material incl. many guests and visitors on National Health -- Missing Pieces '96. But NH had disbanded due to lack of public interest; Stewart had already played on Bruford's first solo album (see his entry), now joined him for two more as well as two tours of the USA, and after 15 years of playing was named 'best new talent' by readers of the US Keyboard magazine. Rapid Eye Movement was a gigging band formed by Stewart and Pyle '80--81 (yes, they thought of the name first) which recorded only incomplete demos; and Stewart's single on the '66 Jimmy Ruffin hit 'What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted' with vocalist Colin Blunstone was a substantial hit early '81 on his own Broken Records.

Meanwhile Barbara Gaskin (coincidentally born in Hatfield) had studied piano and cello since age ten, moved to Canterbury to study philosophy and literature at Kent U but got involved in the music scene (see Caravan, Soft Machine), joined Spirogyra (not the USA jazz-rock group Spyro Gyra), met Hillage and Stewart and sang with most of the bands mentioned above; along the way she travelled in Asia for three years, teaching English, singing and studying music. She has also recorded with Peter Blegvad, Phil Miller, Jane Weidlin and others; Red Roll- On was an all-girl quintet '79--81 that recorded only two tracks on a compilation LP. Stewart now turned arranger and producer in partnership with Gaskin, and their cover of 'It's My Party' was a UK no. 1 for four weeks '81, but their album Disappear '82 was rejected by record companies as uncommercial: as Stewart/Gaskin they have stuck to Broken Records in the UK and licensees overseas for several more singles (some charting) and CDs Up From The Dark '86 (incl. tracks from Disappear); Broken Records -- The Singles '87 (six singles plus B sides) and As Far As Dreams Can Go '88 (incl. the rest of Disappear); and Selected Tracks '93 (US, Japanese and European compilations respectively), plus The Big Idea '89 (described as their Sgt Pepper) and Spin '91 ('pop music for grownups') as well as 7]im[ and CD singles, on labels incl. Rykodisc in USA, Midi in Japan, Line and Instant in Germany, Musidisc in France, Disky in Holland, Quality in Canada. Stewart also writes for Keyboard and has published The Musician's Guide To Reading And Writing Music. Musicians like Stewart and his art-school-rock generation generate reissues, new work and fan clubs to this day: see also albums by Phil Miller on Cuneiform and Crescent Discs, Gowan on Cuneiform and Voiceprint, Gilgamesh on Japanese Virgin and Charly, Pip Pyle on Gimini Music in France (incl. Short Wave with Miller), Spyrogira on Repertoire in Germany and on Si-Wan Records in Korea (who have not only issued three '71- -3 albums on CD, but a vinyl three-disc set with gatefold sleeves and a poster).