Big Bubbles (no troubles)

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Skin Alley's Final Coat

Here’s early 70s prog band Skin Alley playing Norway’s Ragnarock Festival in June 1973, the only live footage I can find from their short career:

Questionable sartorical choices aside, I quite like it. The song is not especially memorable but the arrangement has interest and their performance is accomplished. At this point, the band were about six months away from their eventual demise. A fourth and final album, Skintight, would emerge later that year, its revamped and distinctly American-influenced sound alienating long term fans and resulting shortly thereafter in the dissolution of the group.

Skin Alley were managed by Clearwater Productions, alongside the great ‘lost’ folk-rock act Trees who themselves were petering out around this time, another victim of fading interest from record labels that had rushed to sign a glut of ‘progressive’ acts in the preceding two years and were now clearing their decks in favour of more commercial propositions such as Glam. They’d had some early success playing free festivals and benefit shows, although I don’t believe this had translated into significant album sales. Like Trees, Skin Alley signed a deal with CBS and produced two albums before being dropped, although they did scrape another deal that spawned a further couple of releases. Did they know the jig was nearly up at this point? The rest of the Ragnarock line-up that year, solid but hardly stellar with a distinct whiff of last year’s news about it - Mungo Jerry, The Pretty Things, Culpepper’s Orchard - may have offered a few hints. Perhaps they had an inkling. The first glimmers of punk would be on the horizon by the following year, in alleged reaction to the detached excesses of the prog years. The top tier prog acts - Yes, Genesis and co - were steadily iterating the foundations of lasting careers, while the second tier (Gentle Giant, Soft Machine, Caravan, etc.) had enough gas left in the tank to see them into at least the second half of the decade. But what was it like to be on the descending curve of your arc, the milieu that birthed you having had its day and marked for succession by the Next Big Thing? Even if Skin Alley had kept the faith with their fanbase for their fourth album, it seems unlikely the path of history would have been much different for them. In that sense, the Ragnarock footage, for all its qualities, feels elegiac.