52,6 sec. - 103 Kb.
song : ??
Produced : Adriaan Hoes
Year : 1976
Record co. : Gnome Records
58,3 sec. - 114 Kb.
song : ??
Produced : ??
Year : 1980
Record co. : Gnome Records
Precursor to the group was the formation "The Bats" from Diest, with
in it the brothers René & Robert Vlaeyen. These successful Flemish
entrepreneurs (René Vlaeyen is nowadays known as a TV-producer with VTM-shows
as de Kotmadam & Gaston+Leo at his conscience). had international plans and
placed an ad in Melody Maker in search of vocal talent.
Steve Davies (who had been a session-musician in England for a group named "Octopus"
in England, and who had later come to Germany and Belgium) and Robert Vlaeyen
founded the Belgian "Octopus". Initially, the drums and bass were played
by Nik Roland & Jean-Pierre Onraedt, but they were replaced later by Phil
Francis (another Englishman) and Gerard Opdebeeck (ex-Bats, ex-Purple Bus).
With this line-up, they recorded the first singles of the band. The debut became
"Hey Na Na" in 1973 (with Zaki and Mike Verdrengh at the backing vocals,
and Koen de Bruyne - brother of Kris - at the piano).
Sylvain Vanholme (see Wallace Collection,
Two Man Sound, Salix Alba, The
Machines ...), Sylvain Tack (Gnome and Start records, but also of "Suzy
waffles" and radio Mi Amigo) and King International (management of incl.
John Terra, Joe Harris and other Flemish crooners) were the business-brains behind
the group. The
first single was even released in England (through record firm Mooncrest). Although
the song received some airplay on Radio1 (and failed only just to be "Power
Play" of the week - it became "Tie a yellow ribbon" of Tony Orlando's
Dawn), only 4,000 copies of it were sold. Back to Belgium it was.
After a few months of auditioning, a fifth group member was found in falsetto
& keyboard player Paul Michiels. As Steve Davies recollects : "We
met Paul, who had a long beard then, at 'T pleintje in Heist op den berg. We met
him about a week after Gerard (Opdebeeck) joined Octopus in early 73, since they
had played together in 'Purple Bus'. There were 6 of us that used to go out regularly
: Paul, Me, Phil (Francis), Gerard, and Chris and Guy (Degens) from the John
Terra band. We used to go out drinking in Antwerp, and it was coming back
in Paul's Citroen Mehari that 'Antwerp Town' became a song. We first played together
at a charity gig in Heist, under the name 'Paul Michael's masterpatience'
where we did a 25 minute version of 'Gimme Some Lovin'. After about three months
of auditioning other keyboardists, we told René (Vlaeyen) that we wanted
Paul in the band - he wasn't too happy, but P.P. provided the falsetto voice we
needed, and we could do a better class of music."
The group was pop-oriented from the start (there was some touring going on
with The Rubettes en Mud), but their first hit came with a tearjerker "I'm
so in love with you". This was an English version of the song "Ik ben
verliefd op jou" of Flemish crooner Paul Severs. Phil & Steve were hired
to help him with the English pronunciation, but nothing came out of it. A year
later, the members of the group were surprised to hear that the record firm had
decided to issue the song as a single. A smart business move, because the song
became a hit (number 6 in Holland, number 16 in Belgium). In doing so, it also
steered the group into a new direction : in 1976 the group was overtaken by Johnny
Hoes, the successful Dutch king of commercial tunes. He made the group perform
mostly close-harmony and slows - even a full-album of it on "Oldies But Goldies".
Or as Steve Davies wrote to me : "Sky Records in Holland sent me 'An Hour
Of Octopus'. It's a bunch of stuff they did, mainly after I had left to suit Mijnheer
Hoes - it seems he did a good job- it's like the 'Zangeres Zonder Naam' with harmonies!!!!
The band had some small hits afterwards (e.g. South of the Border) and toured
around for some years. As Paul Michiels recollects this period: "We mainly
played in Holland, Belgium and in front of the Belgian armed forces in Germany.
I was slowly getting fed up with it, because I wanted to do my own stuff. I have
never given my own songs to Octopus. In Holland we also suffered quite a bit from
bad management : we ended up playing in ballrooms with 5 bars and a stage of 3x5m.
At the time we were the "the dumb Belgians". Nowadays it's quite a different
story". In 1980 Octopus fell apart.
Steve Davies had left the group already in 1976. He went back to England and
became a successful cabaret nightclubsinger called "Steve Grey". In
1981 he left for Baltimore in the United States, where he has a music publishing
firm (called "Octopus Publishing").
Phil Francis married a Belgian Gerda, but lives in Canada now. Apparently,
he is planning to release a new CD in collaboration with Luc Smets (ex-Pebbles,
Paul Michiels, who has never been very proud of his contribution to Octopus,
went back to Heist, tried a solo-career as P.P.Michiels,
and then became part of the internationally renowned soulpop-formation Leyers,
Michiels & Soulsister.
Band members :
- Steve Davies (vocals, percussion)
- Phil Francis (vocals, bass)
- Gerard Opdebeeck (vocals, drums)
- Robert Vlaeyen (vocals, guitar)
- Paul Michiels (vocals, keyboards)
- From Octopus with Love (Gnome, 1975)
- Oldies But Goldies (Gnome, 1978)
- An hour of Octopus (Sky, 1987)
- The Best of (Sky, 1989)
- Hey Nana / Future Feelings (Vogue, 1973)
- Bye bye baby (Vogue, 1973)
- Go down slow (Vogue, 1973)
- Say hello to the world (Vogue, 1974)
- I'm so in love with you (Vogue, 1974)
- Sarah (Gnome, 1975)
- Bring it on home to me / Angelina my love (Gnome, 1975)
- My special angel / Candy (Gnome, 1975)
- Cherry / Turn me on (Gnome, 1976)
- Summerland / Gentlemen (Gnome, 1976)
- Get up (Gnome, 1977)
- My little girl (Gnome, 1977)
- Cry (Gnome, 1977)
- South of the border (Gnome, 1977)
- Love me (Gnome, 1978)
- Let me touch the sky (Gnome, 1979)
- All alone (Gnome, 1980)
- Woman (Gnome, 1980)
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