Grand Union

Grand Union formed in the spring of 2000 as a performing band as opposed to a studio band – which is what Solar (Dylan Rippon, Tim Drury, Quillon Larratt and Keith McAndrew) had become. It wasn’t that Solar decided to quit it was just that things began to change. The problem was staging live shows with loops and samples and a real drummer. It was messy – the small venues couldn’t cope with the multiple outputs and sync requirements – more often than not things would go wrong. Keith McAndrew left and was replaced on bass by Rob Lucas who had played with Larratt for years – they have that mystical rhythm section telepathy. Tim Drury stayed on as keyboardist and guru. Rehearsals began in the early summer at Ritz Studios in Putney and the band played their first gig at the 606 Club in October 2000.

Grand Union 2000

In 2001 the band recorded the first of two EPs, ‘All That Spanish Dust’, with Jamie Cullum (Tom McRae) engineering. Standout tracks ‘Hercules’, a twisted farewell to the 20th Century, and ‘He’s A Good Man’, a tender letter to an alcoholic father, showed the promise within the band. The EP was limited to 200 CDs and sold out. There were London shows at the Borderline and the Core Music Festival and the second EP ‘All That Indian Rust’ was recorded in the autumn of 2001 though it was never released in the band’s lifetime. This was a looser, more dangerous record – many of the backing tracks were recordings of the band rehearsing made direct onto minidisc and then blown up in the studio. Beefheart and Street Fighting Man-era Stones led the way. This EP features the first recording of ‘Rocks And Sands’, considered by Rippon to be one his finest. The song was written in 2000 about the Luxor massacre of 1997. Rippon himself had spent part of his childhood in the Middle East and had experienced first hand the tensions and culture clashes – the oil and the religions. Written from the viewpoint of a suicide bomber the song is a perfect expression of the desert at the heart of all violence – ‘it’s all over the rocks, all over the sands’. And then there’s the withering blow to the Western media’s voyeurism, the 24-hour news cycle, embodied by the camera-wielding tourists who became Luxor’s victims. As the tape rolled the events of 9/11 were a surreal and horrifying vindication of the songs intent – these were strange times indeed and at the end of the year Drury decided to leave the band to focus on his art. It was the end of the Union – a short lived but very Grand Union.

Grand Union Ritz Studios 2001