Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Welcome To The Butterfly Ball

Back in the late 70s Australia’s non-commercial ABC network occasionally used music videos as a filler to round out a program’s time slot. So occasionally you’d get a Mike Oldfield track or even a Sky track which were sometimes accompanied by a clip the ABC themselves made. Other times you’d get the original music video, and one of those oft used was the animated clip for a song called ’Love Is All’. At the time I had no idea who the artist was or what the origins of the song were, but it was just a beautifully crafted pop song.

For years after I kept an eye out for the song on various artist compilations etc. but never came across it. I remember hearing somewhere that Roger Glover from Deep Purple had been involved, and when I started collecting music chart books in the late 80s I saw that the song was credited (at least in Australia) to Roger Glover featuring Ronnie James Dio. That same chart book told me that the song peaked at #10 on the Australian singles charts in 1978, and it was lifted from the album ‘The Butterfly Ball’ by Roger Glover & Guests (OZ#12).

For years I kept an eye out for the album ‘The Butterfly Ball’ on CD. It was in the late 90s that I finally came across it packaged with an album called ‘Wizard’s Convention’ on a single CD. It was when I read the liner notes to the CD that I learned the story behind ‘Love Is All’ the song, and ‘The Butterfly Ball’ the album.

In 1973 Deep Purple bass player Roger Glover decided to leave the well established rock act. Glover turned to a position as A&R man with Purple Records, and then turned his hand to producing music. He produced Nazareth’s breakthrough 1973 album ‘Razamanaz’ which launched that band into a harder rock edged direction, and launched Glover’s career as a writer/producer in a whole new direction.

The origins of ‘The Butterfly Ball’ are in the children’s book of the same name by artist Alan Aldridge (who also did the cover art for the album). Aldridge had produced a series of airbrush illustrations to accompany William Piomer’s poems. The book proved popular and there were enough elements in the story and characters that seemed to lend themselves to a musical format. The story rights were secured by British Lion and first choice to compose the music for the project was Deep Purple’s Jon Lord. Lord was still very much tied up with Deep Purple in 1974, so Roger Glover was suggested as an alternative composer.

The original concept was to produce a 26 part animated series for television, which depending on its reception, would be adapted for a cinema release. During the summer of 1974 Roger Glover set about composing the music for ‘The Butterfly Ball’. Glover outreached to his friends and contacts in the music biz for help. Eddie Hardin, of The Spencer Davis Group, came in to play keyboards. Ray Fenwick guitar, Mo Foster bass, and Les Binks drums, all of the group Fancy, rounded out the ensemble.

Next Glover set about finding a vocalist to represent each of the main characters in the storyline to ‘The Butterfly Ball’. Ronnie James Dio was one of the first on board, and he ended up doing the vocals on three tracks, including of course ‘Love Is All’, and co-wrote two more. Glenn Hughes and David Coverdale were recruited from Deep Purple, with Tony Ashton from Ashton, Gardner & Dyke. Other musicians brought in to contribute included John Gustafson, John Lawton, Barry St. John and Neil Lancaster.

The album was released in December 1974 and around the same time a short animated film was produced to accompany the track ‘Love Is All’, both as a promo for the song/album and as a teaser for the planned animated series. Glover remarked at the time that the album itself may have trouble finding a market, since it was neither a children’s album nor had the hallmarks of a serious rock opera album - marketing wise. Glover’s concerns were well founded as the album didn’t sell that well initially. The single ‘Love Is All’ was however a huge hit in parts of Europe, reaching #1 in the Netherlands, Belgium and France. But as critics and fans alike would remark in time, Glover did a brilliant job of creating a virtual visual world out of the music he wrote and produced.

With the project losing momentum, the idea of arranging a one off concert came to the fore. London’s Royal Albert Hall was the venue and October 16th 1975 the date. Most of the talent from the album appeared, save for Ronnie James Dio who unfortunately had a prior commitment with Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow. In his place though Glover convinced former Deep Purple front man Ian Gillan to perform (for the first time since he left the band too in 1973). Acclaimed actor Vincent Price also contributed as the voice of the stories narrator. It was a sell out show and was caught on film, later released as a concert film.

I have to think, given the original release of ‘Love Is All’ was in 1975, that one of the possible reasons it finally charted in Australia in 1978 was its regular use as an ABC promo - that’s just my theory and if anyone could offer a definitive answer on that I’d love to know. Incidentally Ronnie James Dio did finally get to perform ‘Love Is All’ live when he appeared as a guest at a Deep Purple show, appropriately enough at the Royal Albert Hall, in 1999 - Roger Glover had rejoined the Deep Purple fray by then.


darrin said...

Great Post, I too remember watching this in maybe 1980-81 at my old house as a 6 year old in Sydney.............

The other video ABC played alot was Mike Oldfields Portsmouth.
There are some comments there about the ABC playing it.

Thanks again for the memories

A. FlockOfSeagulls said...

Thanks Darrin. Portsmouth - that's the one! I recall it being a Mike Oldfield track but couldn't for the life of me remember which one. Much obliged for the youtube link :)

mawdryn said...

I've been spending a lot of time looking up the old intermissions played on the ABC in the 80's - call it an obsession :P

I definitely remember this one, and the Portsmouth song mentioned in an earlier comment, but there are at least two more I remember,one with labrador puppies and one with a space shuttle launch. Wish I could find those, or at least the music mixed with them.

A. FlockOfSeagulls said...

Thanks for your comment mawdryn. I've got a vague recollection of the ABC clip with labrador puppies, mainly because I think I had one at the time. If you uncover any more info on the accompanying music for those ABC fillers, I'd love to know. I'm pretty sure the track 'Toccato' by Sky was one, but I think that featured the actual band. Kind of a shame we don't see 'fillers' that much anymore, with TV programming seemingly timed to the nanosecond.

Mawdryn said...

Dang... I emailed the ABC and they unfortunately don't have anything in their archives. I'm not really sure where to look now...

I've got a suspicion that the music to the Space Shuttle filler may have been a Vangelis piece..

A. FlockOfSeagulls said...

It was worth emailing the ABC. It's a pity their archiving from that era was pretty shoddy. I've heard stories about the re-use of old video tape archives to save money. I know they lost some of the old Countdown master tapes that way. Not really sure of any other avenues you could try. I recall an instrumental track by Jean Michael Jarre called 'Oxygene' which I'm pretty sure was another one they used, though I might be getting that confused with the Vangelis one you mentioned.

Might have to come down to a word of mouth thing, and relying on people's memories of that time. I was thinking how much easier it will be for future generations to find information from this era. With the advent of computers, and the internet in particular, there isn't anything that's not archived or on a database, or website, or blog or something. But when it comes to tracing information from the 80s and before it comes down to paper records and people's memories - makes it more difficult. How about trying something like a Facebook fan group for ABC fillers or something along those lines. Those social network sites can occasionally be useful lol.

Anyway, I'll keep pestering people I know from that era who might be able to recollect something. Best of luck on your quest mawdryn :)

John said...

Hi - there was another Mike Oldfield song ABC played - Moonlight Shadow
but I digress, my purpose in posting is to let you Butterfly Ball fans know of the two releases on cd.
The European version has the songs off the original lp + the film clip that can be viewed on a pc. The Australian version has the songs off the lp + a whole heap of extra studio out-takes. Both are well worth having IMO. Cheers, John.

A. FlockOfSeagulls said...

Hi John - thanks for your comment and information re. Butterfly Ball CD's. I've got a copy of the Australian release, featuring the extra studio outtakes you mentioned, but I wasn't aware of the European release. I'm tempted to track that one down just to get the full video clip for 'Love Is All'. I've been making do with an old VHS copy which I dubbed to DVD.

John said...

No worries - I'll keep an eye out for the cd for you.
Ronnie Dio singing the Butterfly Ball & Sitting In A Dream at the Royal Albert Hall with Deep Purple that you mention above is available on dvd too, again, a must have :-)