Hatfield and the North
|Genres||Progressive rock, Canterbury scene, psychedelic rock, experimental rock|
|Caravan, The Wilde Flowers, Soft Machine, National Health|
In mid-1972 the band grew out of a line-up of ex-members of blues/jazz/rock band Delivery, Pip Pyle (drums, who had since played with Gong), Phil Miller (guitar, who had joined Matching Mole), and Phil's brother Steve Miller (Wurlitzer piano, who had joined Caravan). Replacing Roy Babbington on bass was Richard Sinclair (who played with Steve Miller in Caravan). This line-up moved away from the blues idiom of the early Delivery towards pieces based on riffs in odd time signatures and protracted melodies associated (in hindsight at least) with the Canterbury style.
The band played a few live shows between July and September that year, and gained their first record contract with Virgin Records with the 'Sinclair cousins'...as Steve Miller was replaced by Dave Sinclair (Hammond organ, also from Matching Mole and Caravan), the band soon changed their name to Hatfield and the North.
Delivery reunited for a BBC session in November 1972 with Steve Miller, Phil Miller, Lol Coxhill, Roy Babbington (bass), Pip Pyle, and Richard Sinclair on vocals. (Steve Miller went on to release a couple of duo albums with Coxhill in 1973/74.)
Dave Sinclair left in January 1973, shortly after the band's appearance (with Robert Wyatt on guest vocals) on the French TV programme Rockenstock, and was replaced by Dave Stewart (from Egg) before the band's first recordings were made.
The band recorded two albums, Hatfield and the North and The Rotters' Club.Backing vocals on the two albums were sung by The Northettes: Amanda Parsons, Barbara Gaskin and Ann Rosenthal. On the autumn 1974 "Crisis Tour", which Hatfield co-headlined with Kevin Coyne, the opening act was a duo of Steve Miller and Lol Coxhill (also previously of Delivery) and Coxhill usually guested with Hatfield on the jamming sections of "Mumps".
After disbanding, Dave Stewart formed National Health with Alan Gowen from Gilgamesh; Phil Miller was a member throughout the band's existence, and Pyle joined in 1977. (Richard Sinclair also sat in on a couple of gigs and a BBC radio session that year.) Hatfield and the North and Gilgamesh had played a couple of shows together in late 1973, including a joint "double quartet" set, in some ways the prototype for National Health. Miller, Stewart, Pyle and Sinclair also worked together in various combinations on other projects.
The name of the band was inspired by the road signage on the main A1 road heading north from London, where the a succession of signs referred to the first major town, and the overall direction, as 'A1 Hatfield & the North'. This style of sign from the 1970s has now been replaced by a slightly different variant, as shown in the current picture to the right.
In January 2005, the band reformed again with Alex Maguire (from Pip Pyle's Bash!) on keyboards and toured between 2005 and 2006 (notable appearances included a short Japanese tour in late 2005, and the BajaProg and NEARfest festivals in North America). On a small number of European dates in June 2005, Mark Fletcher (from Miller's In Cahoots band) reinforced the band while Pyle was recuperating from a back operation and only played on part of each gig. Pyle died in August 2006 after travelling back from a Hatfield show in Groningen. Following Pyle's death, Hatfield played two previously booked gigs with Mark Fletcher on drums, including the Canterbury Festival in October 2006.
In 2005/2006, the band released two archival collections, Hatwise Choice and Hattitude, featuring the classic Miller/Pyle/Sinclair/Stewart line-up, distributed by the UK label Burning Shed. Both releases contained a mixture of BBC radio sessions and live recordings, along with the odd demo, which are still available on CD and support the musicians and family of Pip Pyle.
In 2007, Cuneiform Records re-released two albums by Steve Miller and Lol Coxhill with bonus material including 20 minutes of material by the proto-Hatfield and the North line-up of Delivery playing "God Song", "Bossa Nochance/Big Jobs", and "Betty" (a variation on some of the Sinclair bass riffs that also produced Hatfield's "Rifferama").