The other day in Frankfurt at Mythos Records, Thomas made me buy the first Epitaph album. I found myself agreeing without thinking too hard about it. It wasn’t that cheap, wasn’t in the greatest condition and I didn’t know the album. Of course later I discovered that even a bit scratchy this was a bargain and it has sent me searching for their other records. Difficult to find even on CD unless you have endless cash – then of course, it’s easier. I saw an article in the paper yesterday with a headline that said “Scientists prove that money actually does buy happiness”.
Epitaph formed in Dortmund in 1969, oddly with Englishman Cliff Jackson on guitar and vocals, Scot James McGillivray on drums and at least one German in bassist Bernd Kolbe. They released their first self-titled album in late 1971 and their second, Stop, Look And Listen in 1972. They lost McGillivray somewhere, replaced first by Achim Wielert for two singles till Polydor dropped them. Norbert Lehmann joined on drums for Outside The Law (1974) for Billingsgate records. The record label went bust and they broke up in 1975.
In 1976 they reappeared as the original band and additional guitarist Klaus Walz before McGillivray left again and joined Eloy as Fritz Randow, drummer with Eloy 71-73, joined Epitaph. Walz and Kolbe left and with a new line up (with Heinz Glass on guitar), Jackson went on to make two albums on Brain, Return To Reality (1979) and See You In Alaska (1980), that were apparently disappointing Boogie Rock (I haven’t heard them to judge). Walz and Kolbe came back, Lehmann replaced Randow for Danger Man (1981), apparently a better album but they split up again.
It seems Epitaph never managed to recapture the magic of the first three records, Post Psych Progressive Rock, with twin guitars and Jazzy influences, sometimes moody, sometimes hard. Changing line-ups and insufficient sales have left them lost in history but once they were a band that made exciting and relevant records in the golden era of German Freaky music.
Note: They reformed in 2007 with Williams / Kolbe and Glass and Achim Poret on drums for two albums, Remember The Daze (2007) and Dancing With Ghosts (2009). I am not familiar with any of the later records but am tempted to search them out. In 2016 they released Fire From The Soul.
Note: Extra tracks on the album for the CD release.