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Wishbone Ash: The Making Of Argus

Argus was a milestone release for the band. who invented the twin guitar sound. It was released in 1972. This feature first appeared in Classic Rock in 2008

It’s unusual for a group that’s been around for almost 40 years and released a huge catalogue of live and studio recordings to be defined – some might even say overshadowed – by one album in particular. But that’s very much the case with Wishbone Ash and Argus.

Released on April 28, 1972 Argus transformed Wishbone Ash into international stars – at the third time of trying. Pooled from the London-based combo’s disparate backgrounds in hard rock, folk and crisp, electric blues, its soothingly evocative strains introduced a pioneering twin-guitar approach that was adopted by countless other bands. So extraordinary was Argus that its popularity became a bugbear for the band in the coming years. 

Struggling to come to terms with the success it had brought them, Ted Turner, the younger half of their inspirational guitar team, elected to quit after one further album. And yet 42 years later, Argus remains so fresh, vibrant and enduringly popular that two different permutations of the group recently performed the record in its entirety on respective British tours. 

Entwined business-wise with Miles Copeland, a brash, fast-talking American [who later emerged as manager of The Police], Ash signed a deal with MCA Records, after none other than Ritchie Blackmore recommended them to producer-cum-A&R man Derek Lawrence Ash’s Andy Powell had impressed Deep Purple’s Man In Black when the pair performed a bizarre, spontaneous guitar battle during a soundcheck at Dunstable Civic Hall in May 1970. 

That same year’s Wishbone Ash and 1971’s Pilgrimage albums [both overseen by Lawrence] brought critical praise and respectable sales, but Wishbone – completed by bassist Martin Turner [no relation to Ted] and drummer Steve Upton – knew they could do better. 

“In signing us to MCA, Derek wrote himself into the contract [as producer] for three albums,” Martin Turner explains now. “He was a great guy, but not a great producer in the modern sense; he didn’t want to twiddle buttons and mess around with faders. But Derek had a good feel for music, and was good at man-managing musicians and creative people when things got a bit bolshy. Which they sometimes did.” 

Retaining a winning team, Lawrence kept on another Purple acolyte, Martin Birch, as engineer. That Birch went on to produce Iron Maiden, Rainbow, Black Sabbath, Blue Öyster Cult and many more confirms the wisdom of the arrangement. The quartet opted to remain at De Lane Lea studios in Wembley [North West London], on the grounds that it had just been ffited with what was then a state-of-the-art 16-track desk. 

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