Supersister


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This post was prompted by the following product announcement by Burning Shed:

All five of Supersister‘s glorious 1970’s releases (Present From Nancy, To The Highest Bidder, Pudding En Gisteren, Iskander and Spiral Staircase) on limited edition coloured vinyls.

It’s a mystery why old Crotchety Man should have taken any interest in this. The band was unknown to him, vinyl box sets are a relatively expensive way of buying music for a cash-strapped pensioner and, anyway, there’s no record deck to play it on at Crotchety Mansions. But the curiosity whisker twitched and the Spotty researcher was despatched to find out what Supersister were doing back in this blogger’s student days.

Here’s the title track from their first album, Present From Nancy, released in 1970.

Now, that’s right up Crotchety’s tin pan alley. Very Canterbury scene. Much like early Soft Machine. The rest of the album has some snippets to rival Frank Zappa at his silliest interspersed between sometimes poppy, sometimes jazzy, always proggy rock songs. At times it’s just too ridiculous, as this half-spoken lyric from track 12, Spiral Staircase, attests.

“I am the schizophrenic spiral staircase gnome.”

But the compositions and the musicianship are impressive and the headphones remained clamped comfortably over the ears as Supersister took us up the spiral staircase and down again. After 14 album tracks the neuronal circuits had been thoroughly stirred, leaving the brain a little giddy and hungry for more. Two further albums later (Spiral Staircase is not on Spotify and long tracks on Pudding En Gisteren pushed it onto the ‘later’ list) the topic for this week’s blog entry was settled.

Moving on to their next album, To The Highest Bidder, we find that Supersister are continuing in very much the same vein. A little less frivolous, perhaps; a little more melodic. Take this pretty little song, for example.

That’s not to say they have strayed that far from Canterbury. The 14 minute 55 second track, Energy (Out of Future), takes them a few small steps towards Gentle Giant, but we can still hear strong echoes of the Soft Machine boys and their friends.

Skipping album number three we find the scenery has changed somewhat. Iskander, the fourth Supersister studio album, has introduced some distinctly jazzy elements. Take Babylon, for example.

The change of direction is explained by a reshuffle of the band members. The original lineup consisted of Robert Jan Stips (keyboards, vocals), Sacha van Geest (flute), Ron van Eck (bass) and Marco Vrolijk (drums). When van Geest and Vrolijk left in 1973 they were replaced by Charlie Mariano (saxes, flute, nagasvaram) and Herman van Boeyen (drums).

Soon after recording Iskander Mariano left and Elton Dean (ex. Soft Machine) took the vacant wind instrument slot. But the band in this form didn’t last long; it was dissolved in 1974. Stips and van Geest recorded one final album, Spiral Staircase, under the name Sweet Okay Supersister. There were reunions in 2000 and 2010 but both were cut short by the death of a band member – van Geest in 2001 and van Eck in 2011. Not even a Supersister could cheat fate this time.

early band

Endnotes

  1. If you click the header image you’ll believe a woman can fly.
  2. There’s also a much more recent girl band called Supersister who have apparently released singles called Coffee and Shopping. Crotchety Man was not tempted to listen to those.

 

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