Family centered on the talents of guitarist Charlie Whitney and vocalist Roger Chapman, and found early acceptance in the London underground scene. The pair was originally in the Leicester-based Farinas, along with sax/flute player Jim King and bassist Rick Grech. American producer Kim Fowley gave them their name, a reference to their “mafia” appearance. Rob Townsend arrived on drums and after recording one single for the Liberty label they were signed by Reprise.
Fairport Convention got its start in the same London underground as their more psychedelic counterparts and eventually became England's first (and finest) electric folk-rock band. Fairport too was absorbing their influences, considerably West Coast (The Byrds) with the requisite Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell covers. Their debut is a pleasant and gentle affair that showcased the talents of guitarists Richard Thompson and Simon Nicol. In particular, "Sun Shade" and "The Lobster" portend the King Crimson debut in some respects - except of course, Mellotron.
Another stanchion of the London underground scene, Arthur Brown had huge success with the single "Fire". Released in June, it rose to the top of the UK charts, while reaching No. 2 in the US that September. Like Procol Harum's debut, the single was a tough act to follow, perhaps even overshadowing the rest of his career. But let's not sell the man short; Brown's real contribution to rock music was theatre: his on-stage antics - from fire helmet to crucifixion - set the standard for most everyone to follow.
With Syd Barrett's unpredictability on stage reaching the point of embarrassment for the band, Pink Floyd forged ahead into 1968 with fellow Cambridge guitarist and friend David Gilmour in tow. Driven by pressure from EMI for another hit, they first released a single, "It Would Be So Nice" b/w "Julia Dream" in April, but it was mostly throwaway. The album, A Saucerful of Secrets, however fared much better.
Originally together in the In Crowd, bassist John "Junior" Wood and singer Keith West had middling success, but after teaming with guitarist Steve Howe and drummer John "Twink" Alder, they ditched the R&B slant and launched straight into psychedelia. Highly regarded as a live act, Tomorrow was part of the original scene of London's underground. They missed out as the house band in Michelangelo Antonioni's cult film "Blow Up" (the Yardbirds got it instead), but ended up signed to EMI.
Taking their name from Steve Marriott's (of The Small Faces) euphemism for being high, The Nice originally formed as a back-up band for Immediate label soul singer, P.P. Arnold. But the group's infatuation with Hendrix-like stage antics, in particular Keith Emerson's keyboard histrionics, led them quickly away and into London's limelight. Guitar heroes had been around for years already, but Emerson lashed out as England's first keyboard showman.
Upon review, The Nice's third self-titled record is certainly not their strongest effort, failing to offer any progress on the band's prior two releases. In fact, it contains little new studio material at all. The album opens with "Azrael (Revisited)", but Keith Emerson's piano is no substitute for David O'List's guitar that featured on the original single.
With David O'List gone, Keith Emerson firmly took charge of The Nice. It should then be no surprise that their second effort finds the trio progressing deeper into classical music realm to further flaunt Emerson's keyboard histrionics. Their six-minute rendition of Leonard Bernstein's "America" (recorded while O'List was still with the band) was released as a single and nearly reached the UK Top 20 in July.