Michael and Peter Giles

By the mid-fifties, bedrooms up and down the land were reverberating with the sound of cheap guitars and makeshift percussion instruments as kids attempted to emulate their hero Lonnie Donegan. For a pair of siblings living in Howeth Road, Ensbury Park, a northerly suburb of Bournemouth, skiffle was the spark that ignited a lifelong passion for music. Michael Rex Giles was born on Sunday 1st March 1942 in Waterlooville, Hampshire and gravitated towards the drums while his younger brother Peter Anthony, born Saturday 17th June 1944 in Havant, Hampshire, favoured the guitar.

The Giles brothers family home in Howeth Road (Photograph John Cherry)

In some ways, they had a jump on the other kids as their father was a talented portrait artist and violinist who encouraged his sons to appreciate many types of music, particularly classical and jazz. Michael wasn’t taken with the classics, but found an affinity with jazz and would bash along to Count Basie and Duke Ellington records on an array of upturned saucepans and biscuit tins. The brothers passed their Eleven Plus exams and gained entry into the local grammar, Bournemouth School for Boys, where they met another budding guitarist, Roger Collis. Fired up by skiffle and the rock ‘n’ roll records trickling over the Atlantic, the trio formed a group and, like many Bournemouth combos of the day, began their careers playing to rowdy juvenile audiences at the Saturday morning matinees at the Moderne cinema in Winton. Eventually, Mike’s all-consuming dedication to music overtook any lingering interest he might have had for the world of academia, as he was expelled from school, but not before knocking up a pair of drumsticks on a lathe during a woodwork class.

Photo Johnny King and the Raiders Bure Club
Johnny King and the Raiders The Bure Club circa 1960, Left to Right: Roger Collis, Michael Giles, Graham ‘Wes’ Douglas, Peter Giles &  Johnny King in front (Photograph courtesy of Roger Collis)

In 1959 Mike passed his driving test and took a job as a delivery driver, a handy occupation for a musician with a drum kit to ferry around, as he had joined his first proper group, Johnny King and the Raiders. The line-up comprised of his friend from school Roger Collis on guitar, vocalist and bassist Johnny King and the ephemeral figure of guitarist Dave Wilson who quickly gave way to Graham ‘Wes’ Douglas. It soon became apparent that Johnny was a better vocalist than he was an instrumentalist, as he relinquished his position in the bass department to the fifteen-year-old Peter Giles, who stepped in with a newly acquired semi-acoustic Hofner. Their repertoire of Gene Vincent, Chuck Berry and Eddie Cochran covers found favour with audiences at the Bure Club, Downstairs Club and the Yeovil Drill Hall where they regularly provided musical accompaniment to the ongoing booze fueled punch ups between the hard nut local youths and the battle ready squaddies billeted nearby at the Yeovilton army camp. On one particular night, the larger-than-life figure of Zoot Money sat in with the group and made a mental note of their guitarist Roger Collis. Within weeks, Zoot had lured Roger away to join Roger Bone and Pat ‘Pee Wee’ Sheehan in his new outfit, The Blackhawks. The Raiders elected to soldier on as a quartet until August 1961 when the brothers changed allegiances and elected to throw in their lot with guitarist Al Kirtley and vocalist Tony ‘Dave Anthony’ Head in Dave Anthony and the Rebels. The new combo, now with a certain Cal Thorpe on drums (inspired by his favoured mode of transport a Calthorpe motorcycle, Mike adopted the name and stencilled it on his bass drum) only managed a handful of gigs before the curse of Mr. Money struck again.

Dave Anthony and the Rebels Downstairs Club
Dave Anthony and the Rebels, Downstairs Club 1961, Left to Right: Al Kirtley, Tony ‘Dave Anthony’ Head, Peter Giles & Michael ‘Cal Thorpe’ Giles (Photograph courtesy of Al Kirtley)

Zoot hunting for musicians again and tempted Al Kirtley away to join Roger Collis, Mike Montgomery and Johnny Hammond in his embryonic Big Roll Band. Michael and Peter were left out on a limb, but not for long, as they were on the radar of the Dowland brothers who had spotted them with Johnny King and the Raiders at a ‘Battle of the Bands’ competition at the Westover Road ice rink back in the summer of 1961. They joined guitarist Roy Phillips in the Dowlands backing band The Drovers and after time, signed a recording contract with the independent record producer Joe Meek, who changed their name to The Soundtracks. During their two-year tenure, they accompanied the Dowlands on three unsuccessful singles released on the independent UK label Oriole, “Little Sue” (August 1962), “Big Big Fella” (November 1962) and “Break Ups” (April 1963). However, by the autumn of 1963, the pair had tired of the dated Everly Brothers inspired material and energized by the originality of The Beatles, left for pastures new. Ironically, the Dowlands next single was a cover of The Beatles “All My Loving”, a top forty hit.

The Dowlands and Giles
The Dowlands and the Soundtracks, Left to Right: Roy Phillips, Gordon Dowland, David Dowland, Michael Giles & Peter Giles

And so the musical merry-go-round continued. Al Kirtley left the Big Roll Band after they moved to London in an abortive attempt to go professional and enlisted former Raider’s guitarist Graham ‘Wes’ Douglas and the newly unemployed Giles brothers into his new venture, The Sands Combo. However, their tenure lasted barely two months before they were lured away to join former Big Roll Band refugee Roger Collis and saxophonist Kevin Drake in The Interns, after drummer Peter Brookes walked out and bassist John Rostill packed his bags and followed the yellow brick road to London where he replaced Brian ‘Licorice’ Locking in The Shadows. The Interns new line-up racked up a mere three weeks together before a disillusioned Collis finally tired of the ongoing toing and froing quit. After three years, hundreds of gigs and three singles, the brothers were still semi-pro and slogging away at day jobs in Bournemouth. Michael worked for a company organising fetes and Peter was a fitter for a local soft furnishing company. Finally, a route out of the nine-to-five existence into a professional music career presented itself in the winter of 1963.

Roy Simon, a forty one year old director of a local clothing manufacturing company, fancied himself as the next Brian Epstein and rather ambitiously placed an advertisement in a music paper looking for musicians to form a group to rival The Beatles. Michael and Peter passed the audition and joined pianist Al Kirtley (b. 20th December 1942 at the Pine Lea Nursing Home, West Way, Bournemouth) from The Sands Combo, who had been given a heads up on the vacancy through local music agent Vic Allen, guitarist Geoff Robison from the Johnny Quantrose Five and bizarrely, a trombonist, Mike ‘Tram’ Blakesley from Joe E. Brown and the Dixielanders. Roy believed beat music wouldn’t last and being a jazz lover, thought a trombone would give the band a wider appeal. With all the components in place, Trendsetters Ltd. sprang into action with a busy rehearsal schedule at the Cat & Canary Club in Sea Road, Boscombe, a guest appearance on Southern Television’s Three Go Round with Henry Mancini and four fifteen minute radio slots on Radio Luxembourg. Their first single, “In A Big Way”, was released in March 1964 on the same label as The Beatles, Parlophone. Written by Geoff Robinson, it would be the guitarist’s only input, apart from a writing credit for “Move on Over”, the B side of their second single, as he decided not to become the next John Lennon and stepped aside for Bruce Turner (b. 1941 in Stoke-On-Trent), a former member of The Fairways from Andover. Al Kirtley was also having second thoughts, as he was agonising over turning professional or playing it safe by staying with his job in the bank, in the end he chose the latter. His replacement was the joint manager of Le Disque a Go Go!, Allan Azern (b. October 1941 in Bournemouth). The new line-up recorded a further three singles, “Hello Josephine” (July 1964), “Go Away” (October 1964) and “You Sure Got a Funny Way of Showing Your Love” (August 1965), but like many groups before and after them, a dearth of good original material curtailed their recording career.

Trendsetters Ltd. first line-up in circa early 1964, Left to Right: Al Kirtley, Michael ‘Tram’ Blakesley, Peter Giles, Bruce Turner, Michael Giles (Photograph courtesy of Al Kirtley)

Hits may have eluded them, but gigs didn’t. Their booking agent worked tirelessly securing dates all over the UK, although the calibre of venues varied greatly. Bernard Manning’s Embassy Club in Manchester was particularly memorable due to the brusque manner in which the comedian hauled acts off stage if he didn’t think they were up to scratch. Luckily, he liked our boys. Then there was the famous Cavern Club in Liverpool, a windowless, unventilated former warehouse cellar that exuded the stench of stale cigarette smoke, rotting fruit from the the nearby warehouses, body odour, fried food from the snack bar and disinfectant from the overflowing toilets.

However, it wasn’t just a slog around the northern club circuit. There was a theatre tour with The Drifters in the spring of 1966, a one-off gig broadcast by the BBC from the ‘Ideal Homes Exhibition’ in Earls Court and support slots with Gerry and Pacemakers and Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas. Plus, like many groups of the period, they served three tours of duty in the bierkellers of Germany, playing seven exhausting nights a week. To help break the monotony and to give Blakesley’s lips a rest from continually blowing the trombone, the band developed a comedy routine with Pete mimicking Peter Cook and Allan taking on the part of Dudley Moore. The two comedians were very popular back in the UK because of their prime time TV show Not Only But Also, but the skits went straight over German heads as they didn’t have a clue who Pete and Dud were, plus their funny voices would have made it almost impossible for the punters to decipher what the pair were saying. More light relief from the grind came with a series of dates supporting Bo Diddley and backing their hero Gene Vincent on his thirtieth birthday, it made the whole trip worthwhile.

Photo The Trendsetters Ltd 4
Trendsetters Ltd. second line-up, Left to Right: Allan  Azern, Pete Giles, Bruce Turner, Michael  Giles & Mike Blakesley (Photograph courtesy of Al Kirtley)

By the autumn of 1966, Trendsetters Ltd. had slimmed down in both members and name. Bruce Turner threw in the towel and returned to his hometown of Andover to hook up with The Loot, leaving the remaining quartet to become the shorter Trend. As a changing musical landscape pushed groups into ever expanding experimental waters, the brothers knuckled down and began writing their own material. Although their first single, “Boyfriends and Girlfriends” (November 1966), for Larry Page’s Page One label was a Syd Jacobson and Fred Anisfield cover, the flip, “Shot on Sight”, was a Stax influenced offering from the pen of Michael Giles. Six months later they had changed their name once again to The Brain and released “Kick the Donkey” (May 1967), an unremarkable song that resembled Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs “Wooly Bully”. The bizarre flip side though, was a different kettle of fish altogether. Written by Peter Giles, the demented “Nightmares in Red” with Goon style utterances, shrieks and laughter interspersed with cacophonous musical interludes, proved to be a portent of things to come.

While they were in Abbey Road studios recording the single, The Brain also taped a cover of Dylan’s “Most Likely You Go Your Way” and three originals, “Murder”, “Nobody Knows the Game” and “One in a Million” with Al Kirtley filling in on piano and accordion. The tracks sat in the vaults and didn’t see the light of day for forty years until they finally found a home on a compilation CD, The Giles Brothers 1962-1967 on the Voiceprint label. When Allan Azern and Mike Blakesley also deserted the sinking ship, the brothers drew up plans to move to London and start afresh, but not before placing an advertisement for a vocalist / keyboard player in the local newspaper. After sifting through a host of unsuitable applicants, they plumped for a non-singing guitarist from Wimborne called Robert Fripp.

The Trend
The Trend standing Left to Right: Michael Giles & Michael Blackesley, sitting Peter Giles & Allan Azern 

On paper Robert wasn’t the ideal candidate, he didn’t play keyboards, and he couldn’t sing, but the Giles brothers were intrigued and invited him to an audition at the Beacon Royal Hotel on 28th August 1967. They were impressed with his confidence, musical knowledge and superior equipment, but the clincher was Doug Ward. Apparently the accordion player who Fripp had been accompanying at the Chewton Glen Hotel near New Milton for the past year, could secure them a residency at a restaurant in London, Robert was in. Within days the brothers and Fripp were back at the Beacon rehearsing and recording original material on a Revox tape machine Peter Giles had bought from their previous employers, The Dowland Brothers. Al Kirtley also came along to help on piano. In September the trio set off for the capital with the promise of a gig backing the Flowerpot Men however, on arrival, the agent John Martin told them they were no longer needed and sent them home with their tales between their legs and a fiver for their troubles.

A month later they were back, this time with Doug Ward in tow, and moved into 93a Brondesbury Road, Kilburn. Billed as the Douglas Ward Quartet, the four musicians readied themselves for the pre-arranged residency at La Dolce Vita restaurant in Soho, but fate stepped in before they got the chance to play a note. Driving home through the busy London traffic, Doug got into an altercation with a bunch of bully boys after a near miss and ended up in hospital after receiving a severe beating. The dates were cancelled. On his discharge Doug decided London wasn’t for him and signed onto the QE2 luxury liner inviting Bob to join him, but the guitarist declined. As for our intrepid trio, they took a gig at the sister restaurant La Dolce Notte backing a diminutive singer / guitarist they nick-named ‘Hot-lips’ Moreno. A matter of days later they fell out with the owner over money and left ‘Hot-lips’ to fend for himself. Despondent, Bob returned to Wimborne in December and spent the duration of the lucrative Christmas and New Year season in the Majestic Dance Orchestra while Mike, in an even more precarious predicament with a wife and two small children back home, picked up the odd drumming job.

During their short time in London, several contacts had been made and one with Peter Shelley of Decca Records bore fruit. They won a one off deal and recorded an album, The Cheerful Insanity of Giles, Giles and Fripp, for the progressive arm of the label, Deram. Divided into two suites, ”The Saga of Rodney Toady” and “Just George”, the collection of psychedelia, pop, jazz and spoken word pieces were weird even by the standards of the day. “One in a Million” was chosen as a taster single, but flopped along with the album. Dismissed in many quarters as either quaint, gibberish, whimsical or rubbish in equal measures, it may be bonkers, but the album is well worth a listen. “One in a Million” is a flight of whimsy from the pen of Mike, “North Meadow” find Peter reflecting on the countryside surrounding Bournemouth, “Suite No. 1” proves that Robert is an impressive exponent of cross picking and “Erudite Eyes” points to what was to come later with King Crimson.

In July 1968, while scouring the musicians wanted column in the Melody Maker, Peter came across an advertisement for a bassist and guitarist placed by the former Fairport Convention singer Judy Dyble. Hoping that it might lead to paid work, he rang the number and spoke to Ian McDonald, a former army bandsman and talented multi-instrumentalist. Detecting a meeting of minds, he invited McDonald and Dyble over to Brondesbury Road for a jam. They hit it off immediately, apart from Dyble, who passed on the project and went on to form Trader Horn with Jackie McAuley, formerly of Them. A few weeks later the new line-up were invited back to the studio to re-cut two songs, “Thursday Morning” and “Elephant Song for release as a second single. Revamped with flute, clarinet and harmonies courtesy of McDonald, the extra fairy dust did little to boost its commercial viability and it sank like its predecessor. Sensing that money, or lack of, was an issue Ian approached his wealthy step-uncle Angus Hunking and secured financial backing on the promise that the loan would be reimbursed when the band turned a profit. To supplement their meagre income, Michael found a regular gig with the Mike Morton Band playing covers, Peter undertook sporadic dates with a quartet backing a blind organist back at the La Dolce Vita and Fripp stayed at home dispensing guitar lessons. In 2001, a CD of twenty-one demos recorded at home on Peter’s trusty revox gained a release as The Brondesbury Tapes (1968) on the Voiceprint imprint. It is fascinating to eavesdrop on the inner workings of the trio with Ian McDonald and Judy Dyble, as they meticulously crafted the songs that would make up their one and only album, plus a couple of takes of “I Talk to the Wind” which ended up on the first King Crimson album.

Gile, Giles, Fripp, Dyble & McDonald.jpg
An embryonic King Crimson, Left to Right: Peter Giles, Michael Giles, Judy Dyble, Ian Donald & Robert Fripp, 

As winter approached, Peter’s time spent networking bore fruit once again. The BBC invited Giles, Giles and Fripp to record a half hour TV slot for the teen music show Colour me Pop, a spinoff of the arts magazine show Late Night Line-Up. Broadcast on 30th November 1968, the band mimed to eight songs, four from the album and four works in progress, but unfortunately, like virtually everything else taped by the BBC in the sixties, it has been wiped. No doubt a high point in their career so far, along with an appearance on BBC radios My Kind of Folk with Bournemouth’s Al Stewart, the hoped for flood of work expected on the back of the exposure failed to materialise. Fed up with the lack of success and money, Peter Giles called time on the band and moved to an address in Clapham Common where he set about finding a “proper job”. The remaining members pressed on with their musical vision and channelled their thoughts into finding a suitable replacement. Fripp suggested his old college friend from Bournemouth, Greg Lake, who accepted the invitation and moved into Brondesbury Road before rehearsals started in January 1969.

The newly christened King Crimson made their debut on 23rd February 1969 at the Change Is club in Newcastle, which primed the band for their first London shows at the Speakeasy, Marquee, Lyceum and Revolution Club where they dazzled the hard to impress hip audiences and hard-boiled music hacks. In June, Enthoven and Gaydon pulled off a masterstroke. The Rolling Stones were organising a concert in Hyde Park on 5th July and the pair managed to wangle the band onto the bill along with Family, Roy Harper, The Third Ear Band, the Battered Ornaments, Alexis Korner and Screw. Brian Jones had been fired from the Stones a month prior, because of his ongoing drug problems and inability to get a work permit for the United States, which stymied any chance of the Stones touring there. The concert had originally been arranged to unveil his replacement, guitarist Mick Taylor, but fate struck on the evening of 3rd July when Jones was found face down in a swimming pool at his home, Cotchford Farm in Sussex. Because of Jones tragic death, the gig became a memorial concert for the late Stone. Crimson were second on the bill and their storming half hour, seven song set them won a standing ovation from the estimated crowd of 300,000 people and positive reviews in the music press.

Flushed with success, the band knuckled down to recording their debut album. After two aborted attempts with unsuitable producers, the band finally got down to business at Wessex Studios and produced In the Court of the Crimson King with no outside help apart from assistance from engineers Robin Thompson and Tony Page. Released on 12th October 1969, housed in a startling sleeve painted by Barry Godber, the reception was decidedly mixed. Some critics were ecstatic at the variety and dynamism of music on display, like the scribe at the Melody Maker, “This eagerly awaited first album is no disappointment and confirms their reputation as one of the most important new groups for some time”. While others were not so complimentary, showing disappointment after their incendiary live dates. The Who’s Pete Townshend gave it a ringing endorsement calling the record “an uncanny masterpiece” and the fans agreed by pushing it up to number five in the album charts. 

As their burgeoning reputation spread across the Atlantic, a tour of America was arranged, taking in the major cities on the east and west coasts plus the northern hubs of Chicago and Detroit. However, despite rave reviews, on the way to the final date in San Francisco McDonald and Giles confided in Fripp that they were leaving the band. Both hated flying and the boredom of endlessly hanging around waiting for show time had become mind-numbingly tedious. Michael also wanted to spend more time with his new partner, Mary Land, who he had recently taken up with after splitting from his wife. Greg Lake got wind of the impending mutiny and secured his future by making a pact in the bar at the Fillmore West with Keith Emerson. They would return to the UK and form ELP with the drummer, Carl Palmer.

King Crimson, Left to Right: Peter Giles, Keith Tippett, Greg Lake, Michael Giles & Robert Fripp  

After a promising start, King Crimson were all but dead in the water after one album, eighty gigs and barely one year in existence. Despite being severely depleted, Island still exerted pressure on Fripp and Sinfield for a swift follow up to their debut. After drawing a blank finding replacements and a veto from Fripp blocking an attempt by their management team to appoint Elton John as vocalist, Lake was persuaded to delay his departure, but not before negotiating Crimson’s WEM PA system as payment. As for the rhythm section, Michael and Peter Giles were invited back on a strictly session basis and McDonald’s absence was filled by the jazz pianist Keith Tippett and Mel Collins from the band Circus on flute and saxophone. Fripp’s old school friend Gordon Haskell provided vocals on the track “Cadence and Cascade”. The first fruits of the temporary line-up’s labour came in the shape of a single, “Cat Food”, a perfectly decent rock song ambushed by discordant noodling from Tippett. A mimed appearance on Top of the Pops did little to help sales. Released on the 15th May, In the Wake of Poseidon sold well and garnered mostly positive reviews, although the consensus at the time thought it was too similar to its predecessor, almost to the point of imitation. Bizarrely the cobbled together line-up delivered the highest placed album in the band’s history, one chart position higher than In the Court of the Crimson King at number four.

McDonald and Giles 1970
McDonald and Giles 1970

As promised, after an intense eighteen months and much critical success, Michael Giles and Ian McDonald departed the Crimson fold. They decamped to Island’s Basing Street Studios to work on an album with Peter Giles, Stevie Winwood, and ex Trendsetters Ltd. trombonist Michael Blakesley. The recording of what was to become McDonald and Giles dragged on for months, as they deliberated over sound choices and overdubs, which impacted on the mixing stage, causing costs to spiral. The finished album finally saw the light of day in November 1970, selling modestly to Crimson fans looking for more of the same. In fact, Fripp has stated that it could almost have been one half of the second King Crimson album if they had stayed together. The only difference being the conscious decision to steer clear of the darker challenging passages associated with their former band in favour of a lighter pastoral feel. Reviews in the main were positive, with Disc and Music Echo commenting, “Unlike King Crimson, there is little or no aggression in the music. Instead, it projects warmth, and the romantic double cover is very appropriate. An excellent debut”. The gatefold sleeve in question depicted the pair walking through Richmond Park in London with their spouses, looking happy and contented. Although for McDonald the contentment was not to last, within a matter of months the pair parted company and McDonald left for New York, where he eventually co-founded the hugely successful AOR band Foreigner with Mick Jones and Lou Gramm. As for Mike, he remained in London becoming a session musician while Peter Giles returned to his day job. The lack of promotion and gigs scuppered any hope of the record making headway commercially, and it languished in relative obscurity before its inevitable relegation into the bargain bins.

In the summer of 1970, Mike hopped across the Solent to Afton Down with Terry Reid, multi-instrumentalist David Lindley and bassist Lee Miles to play a well-received set at the third ‘Isle of Wight Festival’. He was sitting in for the absent Alan White who was honouring a prior commitment to record with John Lennon. Reid, known as ‘Superlungs’, was a talented vocalist who had been Jimmy Page’s first choice to front the New Yardbirds on a short Scandinavian tour, but he deferred because of his busy solo career and nominated Robert Plant in his place, the rest as they say is history.

A couple of years later, Mike turned up on a trio of albums by Jackson Heights, a quartet assembled by the Nice bassist Lee Jackson after Keith Emerson abandoned ship and buddied up with Greg Lake and Carl Palmer in ELP. The original band recorded an acoustic soft rock debut album called King Progress, which was a million miles away from the proto neoclassical progressive rock of his former band. The band then drifted apart, only for Jackson to resuscitate the group a couple of months later with two multi-instrumentalists, John McBurnie and Brian Chatton. The new formation recorded three albums with Mike on drums, 5th Avenue Bus, Ragamuffins Fool and Bump N’ Grind. In 1974 Jackson called time on Jackson Heights and returned to the progressive rock arena with his former band mate drummer Brian ‘Blinky’ Davison and the Swiss keyboard player Patrick Moraz in the short-lived Refugee. Mike moved on to Grimms, an anarchic poetry cum comedy conglomerate made up of ex-members of the Bonzo Dog Band, Scaffold and the Liverpool Scene. He joined Bournemouth’s own clown prince, Zoot Money, who was already in residence on piano and remained long enough to appear on their self-titled live album recorded in Liverpool and London. Mike and Zoot departed shortly after.

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As the seventies progressed, Mike popped up and on a variety of releases accompanying Leo Sayer, Rupert Hine, Bridget St. John, Kevin Ayers, Anthony Phillips and Chapman and Whitney’s Streetwalkers. He also became a member of Neil Sedaka’s touring band along with future Police guitarist Andy Summers and appeared alongside the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra on the American singer / songwriter’s Live at the Festival Hall album. He then joined a stellar cast of musicians on Roger Glover’s much lauded musical interpretation of The Butterfly Ball and Grasshopper’s Feast based on the 1802 children’s poem of the same name by William Roscoe. The Deep Purple bassist pulled in favours from his friends in the rock fraternity including Ronnie James Dio, David Coverdale, Tony Ashton, Ray Fenwick, Glenn Hughes, Eddie Jobson, Eddie Hardin and the very un-rock ‘n’ roll accordion player Jack Emblow. The resulting record became so popular it birthed a live concert at the Royal Albert Hall and a video starring many of the artists from the album, sans Michael.

On completion of his home recording facility Cottage Studios in Dorset, Mike began work on his first and only solo album to date, Progress. Apart from his usual go to collaborators, brother Peter and Michael Blakesley, he called on pianists Dave McRae and John Mealing, multi-instrumentalist Geoffrey Richardson, a brass section comprising of Martin Drover, Ray Warleigh, Jimmy Hastings and Pete Thoms plus vocalist Catherine Howe. Unfortunately, the jazz / rock concept of short and concise train related titles such as “Departure”, “Rolling”, “Shunter” and “Arrival” was out of step with current musical trends and without label support, sat on a shelf for twenty-five-years until Voiceprint saw fit to release it on CD. Another recording from the period that remained in the can for several years, was the collaboration with ex-King Crimson percussionist Jamie Muir and guitarist David Cunningham for director Ken McMullen’s 1983 film Ghost Dance. The atmospheric blips, beeps and drones remained unheard until the mid-nineties, a decade that saw Mike all but disappear from view, apart from an appearance on the title track of Bryan Ferry’s Taxi and the song “Demimonde” on Ian McDonald’s solo album Driver’s Eyes.

21st Century Schizoid Band
21st Century Schizoid Band, Left to Right: Mel Collins, Jakko Jakszyk, Mike Giles, Pete Giles & Ian McDonald 

In 2002 Michael and Peter formed the 21st Century Schizoid Band with previous Crimson alumni Mel Collins and Ian McDonald, plus a stand in Robert Fripp, guitarist and vocalist Jakko Jakszyk, Mike’s son-in-law (Jakko married Mike’s daughter Amanda). Performing songs mainly drawn from the first four King Crimson albums, along with a smattering of originals from their respective solo careers, the band proved a popular draw. But yet again the reluctance to tour prompted Michael to hand over the drum stool to Ian Wallace after a series of dates in Japan. The following year the band encountered financial and logistical difficulties, and concerts ceased in 2007. Wallace’s untimely death brought the curtain down on any more Schizoid activity. In total, they recorded five self-financed live albums and released a highly recommended DVD filmed in Tokyo.

Mike Giles, Blue Plaque Downstairs Club September 2014 003
Michael and Me at the Les Disque A Go-Go blue plaque unveiling in 2014 (Photograph John Cherry)

Never one to partake in recreational drug use or follow fleeting fads and trends, Mike channelled all his energy into becoming the best musician he could be. He is a consummate drummer who is held in high esteem by his peers and fans alike. His distaste for touring has kept him out of the limelight, but allowed him time to become a much sought after session musician. To date, he has guested on over forty-five albums, but he will always be inexorably linked with his highly inventive work on the first two King Crimson albums. His latest venture Mad Band is an experimental, improvisational percussion trio with Ad Chivers and Dan Pennie. They have undertaken sporadic concerts and recorded two CDs, The Adventures of and In the Moment, which featured sometime Crimson collaborator Keith Tippett on piano.

Peter Giles has worked as a computer operator, a solicitor’s clerk, and for the Performing Rights Society collecting unpaid royalties. He rarely shows his head above the parapet apart from when his brother calls. He lives in Surrey, where he is an elite distance runner and makes music with his wife Yasmine under the name of Aluna. A highly talented bass guitarist and perfect foil to his brother’s complex rhythms, he has preferred to let the world of performance and recording pass him by, but when he contributes, his playing is inventive without being over fussy, it’s just a shame there is not more for us to enjoy.

To sample their early work with the Dowlands, Trendsetters Ltd., The Trend and The Brain, try the CD The Giles Brothers 1962-1967 on the Voiceprint label.

Special thanks go to Al Kirtley for emails and photographs.

The Giles Brothers 1962 - 1967 

Michael and Peter Giles Discography
The Dowlands and the Soundtracks Singles

Little Sue c/w Julie: Oriole (CB 1748) 1962

Big Big Fella c/w Don’t Ever Change: Oriole (CB 1781) 1962

Break Ups c/w A Love Like Ours: Oriole (CB 1815) 1963

Trendsetters Ltd. Singles

In A Big Way c/w Lucky Date: Parlophone (R5118) 1964

Hello Josephine c/w Move on Over: Parlophone (R5161) 1964

Go Away c/w Lollipops and Roses: Parlophone (R5191) 1964

You Sure Got a Funny Way of Showing Your Love c/w I’m Coming Home: Parlophone (R5324) 1965

Trend Single

Boyfriends and Girlfriends c/w Shot on Sight: Page One (POF 004) 1966

The Brain Single

Kick the Donkey c/w Nightmares in Red: Parlophone (R 5595) 1967

Giles, Giles and Fripp Singles

One in a Million c/w Newly Weds: Deram (DM 188) 1968

Thursday Morning c/w Elephant Song: Deram (DM 210) 1968

Giles, Giles and Fripp Albums

The Cheerful Insanity of Giles, Giles and Fripp: Deram (DML/SML 1022) 1968

Metaphormosis: Tenth Planet (TP 049) 2001 Vinyl compilation

The Brondesbury Tapes (1968): Voiceprint (VP 235CD) 2001 CD compilation

King Crimson Singles

The Court of the Crimson King Pt. 1 c/w The Court of the Crimson King Pt. 2: Island (WIP 6071) 1969

Cat Food c/w Groon: Island (WIP 6080) 1970

King Crimson Albums

In the Court of the Crimson King: Island (ILPS 9111) 1969

In the Wake of Poseidon: Island (ILPS 9127) 1970

Live in Hyde Park (July 5th 1969): Discipline Global Mobile (CLUB12) 2002

McDonald and Giles Album

McDonald and Giles: Island (ILPS 9126) 1970

Michael Giles Album

Progress: Voiceprint (VP246CD) 2002

Mad Band Albums

The Adventures of: Mad Band (SDM001CD) 2009

In the Moment: Mad Band (SDM002CD) 2011

21st Century Schizoid Band Albums

Official Bootleg Volume One: Self Released (SB 001) 2002 Live in Mark Angelo Studio’s

Live in Japan: Self Released (SB 003) 2003 Live in Tokyo, Japan

 Live in Italy: Self Released (SB 003) 2003 Live Forli and Sarzana, Italy

 In The Live of Crimson King: Highland (H620/621) 2003 Live Robin 2, Wolverhampton

In Concert (Live in Japan & Ital): Castle Music 2005 Two for one CD

Pictures of a City: Live in New York: Iceni (ICNCD 2006) 2006 Live BB King’s Blues Club

The Giles Brothers Album

The Giles Brothers 1962 – 1967: Voiceprint (VP5000CD) 2009 CD compilation

 Michael Giles Albums as a Guest  

Luther Grosvenor: Under Open Skies: Island (85 747) 1970

Kenny Young: Clever Dogs Chase the Sun: Warner Brothers (K 46111) 1971

Duffy Power: Duffy Power: GSF Records (GSF-S-1005) 1972

B.J. Cole: The New Hovering Dog: United Artists (UAS 29418) 1972

Jackson Heights: 5th Avenue Bus: Vertigo (6360 067) 1972

Jackson Heights: Ragamuffins Fool: Vertigo (6360 077) 1972

Jackson Heights: Bump N’ Grind: Vertigo (6360 092) 1973

Ken Tobias: The Magic’s in the Music: MGM (SE-4917) 1973

Grimms: Grimms: Island (HELP 11) 1973

J. Arnau: B. J. Arnau: RCA (SF 8363) 1973

Rupert Hine: Unfinished Picture: Purple Records (TPSA 7509) 1973

The Olsen Brothers: For What We Are: Phillips 6318 015() 1973

Leo Sayer: Silverbird: Chrysalis (CHR 1050) 1973

Leo Sayer: Just a Boy: Chrysalis (CHR 1068) 1974

Chapman, Whitney Streetwalkers: Streetwalkers: Reprise (K 54017) 1974

Bridget St. John: Jumble Queen: Chrysalis (CHR 1062) 1974

Kevin Ayers: The Confessions of Dr. Dream and Other Stories: Island (ILPS 9263) 1974

Mick Audsley: Storyboard: Sonet (SNTF 659) 1974

 Steve Swindell: Messages: RCA Victor (LPL1 5057) 1974

Neil Sedaka: Live at the Festival Hall: Polydor (2383 299) 1974

Various Artists: The Butterfly Ball and Grasshopper’s Feast: Purple Records (TPSA 7514) 1974

Leo Sayer: Another Year: Chrysalis (CHR 1087) 1975

Gay and Terry Woods: Backwoods: Polydor (2383 322) 1975

Lennie McDonald: Hard Road: Arista (ARTY 117) 1975

Catherine Howe: Harry: RCA (SF 8407) 1975

Brian Potheroe: I/You: Chrysalis (CHR 1108) 1976

Catherine Howe: Silent Mother Nature: RCA (RS 1041) 1976

John G. Perry: Sunset Wadding: Decca (SKL 5233) 1976

Nutshell: Flyawat: Myrrh (MYR 1056) 1977

Bardot: Rocking in Rhythm: RCA Victor (PL 25121) 1978

Garth Hewitt: I’m Grateful: Myrrh (MYR 1080) 1978

Anthony Phillips: Wise After the Event: Arista (SPART 1063) 1978

Anthony Phillips: Sides: Vertigo (9124 362) 1979

Nutshell: Believe it or Not: Myrrh (MYR 1084) 1979

The Penguin Café Orchestra: Broadcasting From Home: EG (EGED 38) 1984

Bryan Ferry: Taxi: Virgin (V 2700) 1993

John G. Perry: Seabird: Voiceprint (VP169CD) 1995

Jamie Muir and David Cunningham: Ghost Dance: Piano (PIANO 502) 1995

Ian McDonald: Driver’s Eyes: Camino Records (CAMCD 18) 1999

Terry Reid: Silver White Light: Live at the Isle of Wight 1970: Water (WATER 108) 2004

Graham Bonnet: Graham Bonnet: Voiceprint (604388335824) 2011

Morgan / Tandy: Earthrise: Rock Legacy (ROL 2011) 2011

10 thoughts on “Michael and Peter Giles

  1. What an incredible wealth of information here! Bravo! I will be on the hunt for many of the recordings discussed here. Glad to know they still exist after all these years. Thanks so much!


  2. Yes, absolute gem of work done here. I will too be on the hunt for those recordings I have missed; didn’t know there was that many. Hoping the best for everyone … A fan


  3. How lovely to read about my dad and uncle’s musical life in such a comprehensive way and I love the old pictures. I have very few of my dad at that time but he looks quite like my son who is also a very accomplished bassist and drummer at only 18. Thank you for publishing the article. Amanda


    1. My pleasure Amanda, I’m delighted you enjoyed reading about your very talented dad and uncle. John


  4. I came upon this piece by pure accident when curious about what the original Crimso were doing now. Fantastic History compilation. Thanks!
    I grew up listening to Crimso and trying to learn to play Mike’s impossibly fast and complicated drum pieces, from “In The Court of” on the arm of my Mum’s sofa. (unfortunately, I wore out the material and she had to buy another sofa. I wasn’t popular!)
    I had gone to the ‘69 Hyde Park free festival at the age of 12, when I lived in London and was stunned and amazed at how different and original the music was and the fantastic technique Mike displayed on stage. I went out and bought all the albums up to Islands including McDonald and Giles and Cheerful Insanity and still have the vinyl copies preserved in my collection.
    We moved to Verwood 25 years ago and I have got back into the music after the Crimso concerts at the Pavilion Bournemouth a couple of years ago. Pity Mike wasn’t playing, but I have since completed my collection of albums. Isn’t it amazing the wealth of talent that has come out of Bournemouth!
    I went on to play drums all my life in various teenage progressive rock and pub rock bands, although only as a paid hobby and I taught some of Mike’s fills to my son, who took up drumming 5 years ago at the age of nine. He is now way better than I ever was.
    He formed a band last year and they played a few gigs at the Branksome Railway Tavern and the Lord Nelson in Poole before lockdown. After that they continued rehearsing for a while but became bored playing classic rock, so I suggested a few alternatives. One of which was Schizoid Man! They loved it and are now confirmed early Crimso fans, which proves that the music is new whenever it was written! Thanks Mike for your Inspiration to me and to my son, who now sites you as one of his influencers.


    1. Hi Colin, That first Crimson album was a game changer in lots of ways, and you are correct about Mike’s drum fills, quite stunning and original for the time. Although Bournemouth didn’t compete in the pop charts with all the other Beat Boomers, there was certainly an embarrassment of talent in the town during the sixties, as my website demonstrates. So a belated welcome to the area and what is your sons band called ? I will look out for them when this crazy situation comes to an end. John


  5. It certainly was. Totally different from anything i’d ever heard and a refreshing change from the Blues and Folk influenced music i’d listen to before. My son’s Band was called Off The Rails, but similarly to Mike and Pete’s early career they have split, partly due to “creative differences” but mainly due to Covid. My son and the guitarist are looking for replacement talent to get going again, but it’s hard to find mid teen players with the same level of skill and commitment. Funny, but when I was a kid I was always looking for good bands that played live.


    1. Ah, the old musical differences chestnut. I really feel for bands today, all that hard work and nowhere to play, it’s very disheartening.


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