The Giles Brothers
by Nick Churchill

They turned their backs on rock stardom because they wanted to be "the best musicians we could be", but now the formative years of Michael and Peter Giles, one Bournemouth's finest rhythm sections, are remembered in a new compilation album.

The Giles Brothers 1962-1967 gathers together a selection of singles, b-sides and unreleased studio recordings made before they co-founded the hugely influential King Crimson with fellow Bournemouth old-boy Robert Fripp.

Although steeped in the classical music of their violinist father, in the mid-1950s the teenage brothers were sold on rock 'n' roll's more visceral energy, hungrily devouring the records of Bill Haley, Eddie Cochran, Chuck Berry and Little Richard. They also digested the jazz of Miles Davis, Count Basie and Duke Ellington among others.

Michael's enthusiasm stunted his studies at Bournemouth Grammar School (but not before he'd made a pair of drumsticks in his woodwork class) and he left to concentrate on drums and with Peter taking up the bass guitar. In 1960 they joined their first semi-pro band, Johnny King and the Raiders, then the following year, Dave Anthony and the Rebels - with singer Tony Head and guitarist Al Kirtley - before the Giles brothers made their recording debut after joining another set of brothers, close harmony singers David and Keith Dowland, from Winton.

Johnny King & The Raiders

Signed to Oriole Records, the Dowland Brothers released a series of singles with pioneering producer Joe Meek, but their Everly Brothers-inspired sound was rapidly being overtaken by the Beatles-lead beat boom.

Michael and Peter jumped ship before the Dowlands' only top 40 hit - ironically a cover of the Beatles' All My Loving - to reunite with Al Kirtley in the Sands Combo before joining the Interns, whose bassist John Rostill had left to join the Shadows.

Keen to pursue more ambitious recordings, as well as earn better money on the live circuit, in early 1964 Michael and Peter formed Trendsetters Ltd with pianist Allan Azern who ran the Disque A Go Go venue at the Lansdowne, trombonist Mike Blakesley and guitarist Bruce Turner.

Trendsetters

Label mates of the Beatles, they released several singles and toured the UK and Europe backing the likes of Gene Vincent and The Drifters. When Turner left to join the Troggs in late 1966, the band released singles as the Trend and finally the Brain in which the Giles boys explored their more avant garde leanings incorporating free jazz, Goons-style humour and the arty fusion of satire, music hall and psychedelia espoused by the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band.

Of those tracks, Peter's Nightmares In Red appeared as the startling b-side to the more familiar R&B of the their Kick the Donkey single and the psyche-pop of One In A Million (with Al Kirtley back on piano accordion) has recently found favour with collectors.

"Peter and I were not in the thick of it and we had no desire to become festival-going, flower-powered, drug-taking, flared-trousered hippies," says Michael.

"We did however embrace the changing social attitudes coming from Peter Cook and Dudley More, Round the Horn, Beyond Our Ken and That Was The Week That Was.

"We were not trendsetters, we were not mods, we were not rockers, we were not drunkards or drugsters - we were being ourselves and the best musicians we could be."

That pursuit saw them join Robert Fripp in the formation of the clumsily named Giles, Giles and Fripp in the late summer of 1967. The line up swiftly expanded to include former Fairport Convention singer Julie Dyble, multi-instrumentalist Ian McDonald and lyricist Pete Sinfield and although an album was released it sold less than 1,000 copies prompting Fripp to reconstitute the band as King Crimson. At which point Peter Giles left to be replaced by another old Bournemouthian Greg Lake, although he did return as a guest on the band's second album In the Wake of Poseidon, after which both he and Michael left. They reunited in 2002 for the acclaimed 21st Century Schizoid Band tour of King Crimson alumni.

* Michael Giles stayed in the music industry, playing and touring with Leo Sayer, Steve Winwood, Ian McDonald and Yvonne Elliman. Peter Giles is a master elite distance runner and has represented England five times since 2004 winning several British titles from 1500m to marathon. He is still making music with his wife Yasmine under the name Aluna.

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