Here’s an Obscure Track From 1973 When Weed Was Smooth and Psych Rock Smoking

A conversation with John Turner of Chicago's Bad Axe about the band's long lost recording.

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09 March 2017, 2:48am

In 1973, four kids, straight out of high school, got together in a Chicago studio to record. Calling themselves Bad Axe they set up like they were playing a gig, amp stacks and all, and layed down a number of raw live tracks of heavy Nuggets inspired, rock n roll groove. 

As a garage band, they were previously named The Burlington Express, who'd play hits of the day including "Sympathy For The Devil", "I Walk The Line" and "Funky Broadway". But as they got old enough for the downtown bar scene, they moved into a house on Chicago's west side, grew their hair, pulled hard tokes of Zep/Sabbath/Blue Cheer and sped up their sound. Bad Axe was born. 

The band played across the Midwest, including Detroit where they open for the MC5 but the combination of a lack of interest and a lack of money prevented the music from that '73 session being pressed or released. That is until 2014 when Permanent Records discovered the recordings and issued "Coachman" and "Poor Man, Run" as a limited edition 45. 

"Coachman" is to also to appear on Brown Acid: The Fourth Trip, the latest in the compilation series of long lost 60s-70s heavy psych/proto-metal/hard rock singles.

We caught up with Bad Axe vocalist and guitarist John Turner to find out more about the band and the recording session. 

Noisey: Was it Blue Cheer or Sabbath for you guys or more Hawkwind and Crazy Horse?John Turner: To be honest, it was the Rolling Stones /Deep Purple/The Who/Beatles. We started as young teens playing radio/pop hits like everyone else. As we got older we picked up on the blues, country, and hard rock. We basically played what ever the public wanted. We also expanded our gigs to bars, college parties. We went to see the Who at The Kinetic Playground and that floored us. It was the presentation the Who put on. It was very tight. That and seeing the Stones really got our attention.

What was the house on the west side like?
We hung on the northwest side of Fullerton and Cicero Avenues. It was a pretty solid blue-collar neighbourhood back then. It's still blue-collar but mostly Spanish now. It's not a bad place.

What was it like opening for the MC5?!
The MC5 thing was we were actually one of several bands that played a thing for John Sinclair. It was interesting to see all the different, yet same  people.

What was the 1973 session like? 
The "Coachman" sessions was actually only the four of us. Dennis Gray on drums/vocals, Steve Costa on guitar, Stan Marchefka on bass and me on guitar/vocals. Danny was 'indisposed' that day.

What drugs were you consuming? 
Our typical indulgence was pot and Jack. Thus Danny's indisposal.

What happened after Bad Axe?
Shortly after we did "Coachman", we added a keyboard/guitar/vocals, Dave Kent. We called it quits shortly after that. Dave, Stan and I went on to form Bitch.

'Brown Acid: The Fourth Trip' is available April 20 on Riding Easy Records

Image provided by Bad Axe.