Writing on the Wall – ‘Buffalo’
One of the relatively few Scottish psychedelic bands to make a mark upon the British scene, Writing on the Wall issued just one album during its five-year career.
That LP, 1969′s The Power of the Picts, offered heavy psychedelia in transition to hard bluesy progressive rock. Its prominent organ and theatrically dramatic vocals drew liberal influences from the Crazy World of Arthur Brown and the Doors, and to a lesser degree from Procol Harum and Traffic, though Writing on the Wall was more somber and less melodic than any of those bands. While ambitious and underground in its attitude, the music wasn’t all that original or significant, though it didn’t keep Writing on the Wall from continuing to plug away until the end of 1973. Only one mid-1973 single was added to their official discography, however, despite an active live schedule, periodic radio and TV recording, and an attempt to cut a second album in 1972.
Writing on the Wall grew out of the Edinburgh mid-’60s band the Jury, which moved with the times from soul music to psychedelic rock, changing their name to the Writing on the Wall by the beginning of 1968. Their manager, Brian Waldman, had them move to London that year, providing gigs for them in the psychedelic-underground-oriented club he’d opened in the city, the Middle Earth. By late 1968 they’d recorded a BBC radio session for DJ John Peel, and around that time, they recorded a live demo album to solicit a deal.
Though Tetragrammaton expressed interest, eventually — with slightly different personnel than had been in the lineup when they first relocated to London — they recorded the LP The Power of the Picts for Waldman’s Middle Earth label. The record didn’t attract much notice outside of Scotland, and while acclaim for their energetic live show enabled them to keep playing for a few more years, their well of new original material dried up in the absence of more record releases. They did do another Peel session in 1971, and after more personnel changes had reduced their lineup to the one that had comprised the Jury in 1966, they recorded an unreleased LP in Edinburgh in 1972.
A final single, “Man of Renown,” appeared on Pye in mid-1973, and they started work on another album in Wales in late 1973, but finally threw in the towel when their equipment was stolen in December of that year. The 2007 expanded two-CD reissue of The Power of the Picts on Ork includes not only the original album and a 1969 non-LP single, but also an entire disc of material from various 1968-1973 recordings that was not issued while the group was active.