|7" (1972) */T
Baby Don't Get Hooked on Me
I'll See You on Sunday
|7" (1980) ***/T½
Hold Me, Touch Me
Limelight [a.k.a. Ashes to Ashes] (1980, 37.05) *****/TTTTGoing Home
Knife in Your Back
Mamma (I Don't Wanna Lose Ya)
Man of Colours
Walk on Water
Don't Look Back
Limelight have never been one of the first bands to crop up in discussions on Mellotron classics, which is a real shame. Their style is definitely hard rock as against progressive; in fact, they got themselves caught up in the so-called NWOBHM movement of the early '80s, as did any UK band with a distortion pedal and hair past their collars. Unlike many of their contemporaries, though, their style harks back to the early/mid-'70s, with little of the punk influence of, say, Iron Maiden; hardly surprising, given that the band originally formed at school in the late '60s, principally as a covers outfit. They bought their Mellotron to give their then vocalist something to do in the instrumental sections and to expand their tonal palette; when they contracted to a three-piece, they spread the keyboard load among themselves, though keys duties chiefly fell on guitarist Glenn Scrimshaw. Limelight have often had 'Rush copyist' accusations levelled at them (not helped by drummer Pat Coleman's slight facial resemblance to Geddy Lee), so it must be pointed out that they had both their name and their multi-instrumental three-piece setup years before they'd even heard of Rush, so there goes that one... Apparently, they slowly introduced original material to their sets of covers, giving their regular audiences time to get used to the new material and, in fact, they were still performing the odd cover around the time of their sole album's release, notably Zeppelin's Achilles' Last Stand.
Now, I'm going to push the boat out on this one, having no real proof either way. A 1972 single on Deram by a band called Limelight, coupling their take on Mac Davis' Baby Don't Get Hooked On Me with I'll See You On Sunday, initially appears to have zero connection with the Scrimshaws. However... It's known that the band were operating that early and if you'd produced something this awful, would you advertise it during your brief stab at the limelight (sorry) years later? No, you would not. It really is dreadful, frankly, pairing two shitty country numbers, complete with some crooner of a vocalist (Mike Scrimshaw this ain't), in a seriously 'don't bother. No, really don't bother' kind of way. So... Why do I assume it's the same band? Guess. I mean, how many bands called Limelight have used a Mellotron? One. The evidence is piling up, people, whatever some commenter on Discogs has to say... The 'A' only has a near-subliminal string part, but the flip features a couple of bursts of full-on strings, possibly played by the vocalist, possibly not. This is on YouTube (where d'you think I heard it?), but I'm seriously not recommending it. Horrible. Incidentally, there's another early 7" (no!), the self-released Take A Look Around b/w Run. More news when/if I ever get to hear it.
|photo: Phill Simpson|
Back to sanity, I think. Limelight contains (in my own humble opinion, of course) one of the Mellotron classics in Man Of Colours. I witnessed the band perform the song live on many occasions and it always brought the house down. Glenn would put his guitar to one side to sit at the Mellotron, while brother/vocalist/bassist Mike covered all guitar, bass pedal and vocal parts himself. A slow Mellotron strings opening builds to a climax before the unaccompanied flutes of the verse. Over the course of its seven-and-something minutes, Man Of Colours not only gets in some magnificent Mellotron work, but also one of the best melodic guitar solos ever and that from the bassist! The album has a couple of other Mellotron tracks, too; Metal Man, the song nearest to the prevailing mood of aggression, has a burst of choir in the middle (from a borrowed tape frame, apparently), while the multi-faceted Don't Look Back has some gorgeous strings, played on stage by the multi-talented Mike, who used to run in front of his brother to far stage left to play the part, Fender twin-neck flying in all directions. The rest of the album is solid hard rock; better than most of their contemporaries, Limelight were probably doomed to failure for not being contemporary enough. Incidentally, Mausoleum have reissued the album several times as Ashes to Ashes, adding said single and juggling the rest of the running order.
An earlier version of Metal Man only available as a single features a slightly different Mellotron part and there's a second single, the excellent Ashes To Ashes, not to mention a couple of AOR tracks recorded for a film soundtrack that crept out on a various artists compilation in the mid-'80s, but that's it for Limelight's recorded legacy. As mentioned in my UK '80s Prog article, the band recorded a second album in Germany, but none of the tracks have ever seen the light of day in any form. I have it on good authority that there was no Mellotron on these recordings, although there are a couple of demo tracks in existence featuring the instrument.
If you can track down a vinyl original, there were two versions of the album (pictured above); the original black sleeve Future Earth release and the lime green Avatar reissue (allegedly remixed, although it's hard to tell). It's rumoured that Avatar were one of the major labels' tax write-offs and none of its releases were ever meant to be a success. Believe what you will. The recording quality isn't far above that of a demo, sadly; the band were obviously on a tight budget and it shows. However, don't let this put you off hearing a classic; I still have faith that someday someone will give this the proper expanded CD release it deserves. Either way, if you get a chance to hear this, especially Man Of Colours, do so. A classic. n.b. Although Discogs lists it as 'unofficial', that expanded CD is now available, on Sweden's Flawed Gems label.
Incidentally, word has reached me that Limelight's Mellotron (M400 #205) was bought from Glenn Scrimshaw for £300 as late as 1998, in 'less than perfect' condition. Its new owner restored it and apparently ended up selling it to an Italian Limelight fan! At least it's gone to a good home...