STRETCH - The First 3... (1975/77)
Stretch were a 1970s British rock band that grew from the collaboration between Elmer Gantry (real name Dave Terry) and Kirby (real name Graham) Gregory. Gantry had been the frontman of Elmer Gantry's Velvet Opera. Kirby had been a member of Curved Air.
The story of Stretch and their one great song, Why Did You Do That Thing?, is odd but wonderful. It begins with a group of musicians cobbled together by Fleetwood Mac's manager to impersonate the real Mac for a US tour. The ruse failed and – the faux Mac unmasked – the tour fell apart amid acrimony. Frontman Elmer Gantry (a pseudonym taken by Dave Terry from a Sinclair Lewis novel about a hellfire preacher) and guitarist Graham "Kirby" Gregory formed Stretch on their ignominious return to London. Kirby promptly wrote Why Did You It? – in a spirit of bitter recrimination over the tour debacle – and by November it was in the charts, where it stayed for nine weeks. Lyrically, it comes close, I think, in its reproachful fury to Dylan's scabrous masterpiece, Positively 4th Street. Still more surprisingly, it was that rarest of birds: a work of lasting genius from a mid-70s white funk band. Except they weren't a funk band. An unstable admixture, thrown together by circumstance, Stretch couldn't make up their minds what they were dabbling in country, rock and folk. At the height of their success, they were even supporting Rainbow. The fabulous, punchy jazz-funk beat of Why … was more or less a stylistic accident; Gantry's Barry White-esque growl a put-up job. But it is a simply fantastic song one that stands the test of time long after that curious mid-decade phase of dodgy genre-melding experimentation was swept away by punk's merciless anti-music.
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