Classic Wishbone Ash line-up reunites (almost) at intimate Garden Party event
Party people: Martin Turner on stage with Ted Turner
Martin Turner insists he was not trying to seize back power of ownership of the Wishbone Ash name by being joined on stage by fellow former members Ted Turner, Laurie Wisefield and Steve Upton during an intimate fan gathering last week.
Words: Dave Ling / Photos: Noel Buckley
The vocalist/bassist’s line-up of the group, known as Martin Turner’s Wishbone Ash, is about to go to court with guitarist Andy Powell, who trademarked the name several years ago. Powell is the only original member of his line-up of his rival group.
Last Friday afternoon MWTA appeared at an invite-only Garden Party for around 200 people at the home in Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire, of their manager Martin Darvill.
Attendees were astonished when Ted Turner, who these days resides in Arizona, strolled on and plugged in midway through Valediction, a rarely played track from the band’s second album, Pilgrimage, then hung around for a few further tunes, before Wisefield, Turner’s replacement, took his place for Living Proof.
Gardeners' world: Steve Upton, Ted Turner, Laurie Wisefield and Martin Turner
The audience was more incredulous still when Upton, who all but vanished from public view after leaving the band in 1990, took the microphone for a few words, and events concluded with four guitarists – Turner, Wisefield and MTWA’s own Danny Willson and Ray Hatfield – blazing away on an encore of the Ash standard Jail Bait.
The gathering was also attended by Rod Lynton, Wishbone’s former publicist, early sound engineer Chris Runciman, Mark ‘Hobbit’ Emery, a crew member from the group’s classic era, and of course MTWA drummer Dave Wagstaffe, who played throughout the show.
Nevertheless, Martin Turner later told Classic Rock: “There was no ulterior motive in what you just saw. It was a special treat for the fans. Living in France, Steve Upton has turned down every offer I’ve made to play with us, but this time he just happened to be in England visiting an Auntie.”
“When I heard that Steve was actually coming, there was no alternative but to jump on a plane,” adds Ted Turner, who appeared with MTWA at the High Voltage Festival in 2010.
Monster Ash: Ray Hatfield, Dave Wagstaffe, Martin Turner, Laurie Wisefield, Ted Turner and Danny Willson
“Though it wasn’t contrived to be so, what took place on stage was almost like the 40th anniversary reunion that never happened [in 2009],” continues Martin.
Nevertheless, being a part of that grouping again must have made you realise there’s still plenty of mileage?
“Making such a statement would sound as though I was motivated by money,” responds Turner. “My mate Andy [Powell] is the businessman, I’m a creative person. If you’re asking whether we’ll do this again then maybe we will. But it would only be on another day like this one.”
In his first interview since quitting the band, Steve Upton – who spent the next 18 years managing a 14th century medieval chateau – referred to the gathering as “enchanting”. He continued: “Though I’d love to have done so I didn’t participate because I haven’t played drums in some time. But if there’s another opportunity then you never know.”
Did the experience fire you up to play drums again?
“Not on a regular basis, no… but if something like this happened again then yeah, I’d probably do a couple of numbers. But it’s not as though the original Wishbone Ash are going to re-form. To see everybody like this again after so long was just a celebration of our past, albeit a very proud one.”
Friends reunited: Laurie Wisefield and Ted Turner
As an aside, although back in June Turner poured cold water upon the suggestion of MTWA recording new material, the Garden Party show also introduced an unrecorded number called Mystify Me.
“I’m not closed off to the idea of making a new album,” he says. “I’m sure we can still write songs and make them sound good.”
The full set-list ran as follows:
Standing In The Rain
Rest In Peace
Broken Down House
No Easy Road
Valediction (with Ted)
The King Will Come (with Ted)
Prelude/In The Skin (with Ted)
Why Don’t We (with Ted)
The Way Of The World
Living Proof (with Laurie)
Jail Bait (with Ted/Laurie)