Samuel Gopal was born in December 1944 in Malaysia. Already at the tender age of seven he learned to play tabla, the Indian/Asian drum. In 1962 he moved to London, England, as a music student. London was a (also) musical melting pot of cultures in the sixties. In 1966, he formed Sam Gopal Dream with Mick Hutchinson on guitar and Pete Sears on bass. A short time later, keyboardist Andy Clark joined the band. In this line-up, the band made some demo recordings for Screen Gems. The recording engineer at the time was Gus Dudgeon. Nevertheless, the group soon went their separate ways. Andy Clark and Mick Hutchinson remained connected and founded the band Clark-Hutchinson in 1968, which released four excellent LPs (A=MH² ; Shape ; Retribution and Blues). In the same year, Gopal put together a new formation that played together under his name Sam Gopal. As guitarist and singer a certain Ian Fraser Kilmister hired Gopal, who had previously played in various bands. Among others at The Rainmakers, The Motown Sect. and The Rockin Vickers, with whom he recorded three singles between 1965 and 1967. The second guitar was played by Roger D’Elia and Phil Duke played bass. In this quartet line-up they went into the studio and recorded from October to November 1968 in the De Lane Lea and the Morgan Sound Studios eleven songs, which were pressed on long-playing record and released in 1969 on the short-lived stable label under the number SLE 8001. The LP was titled Escalator and was packed in a matte textured flip cover. In Germany, the LP was released on the Vogue label with the number LDVS 17225. Four tracks of the LP were pre-released under the same number as D.J. Promotion EP to radio stations and disc jockeys. Stable also released the Sam Gopal single “Horse” / “Back Door Man”. Singer Ian Fraser Kilmister was credited on the album cover under the name Ian Willis, his stepfather’s last name.
With “Cold Embrace” the listening pleasure begins. A psychedelic mid-tempo number with aggressive determining solo guitar is the perfect introduction. Bass and percussion form a dense background on which the distorted guitar floats over it. Song number two, “The dark Lord” is a slow bluesy number following a similar knitting pattern to “Cold Embrace”. The song is determined by the beautiful interplay of the two guitarists, who constantly alternate with the lead parts. “The Sky is burning” begins with crackling fire crackling. Immediately guitar harmonies follow without distortion and when the tabla starts, it develops into a bluesy folk number. Nice and slow and intense. Progressive and a little faster is “You’re alone now”. The bass is a bit stronger as the main element in the foreground. In the middle of it all, the sound fades out almost completely, but comes back immediately. Similar in mood as “The Sky is burning” is the following “Grass”. The voice is clearly in the foreground here. “It’s only Love” starts briefly with folky guitar sounds, but soon a swinging shuffle style develops. The scale-like main guitar melody is the defining element. In the middle, the intensity increases somewhat, but soon slides back into the worn, hypnotic. The song ends with the sound of surf. The title track “Escalator” is a slightly harder progressive song with some nicely highlighted tabla playing. The voice shows a bluesy touch in the style of a Rory Gallagher. With a good fifty seconds of thunderstorm rumbling begins “Angry Faces”, which is replaced by folky clear guitar tones. Characteristic is the interplay of Kilmister and D’Elia on the six-strings. Folky harmonies meet bluesy licks. A riff almost reminiscent of “You really got me” by the Kinks begins “Midsummer Night’s Dream”. The lead guitar is set back a bit in the music spectrum. A grandiose cover version is the penultimate song of the LP. “Season of the Witch” from the pen of Donovan Leitch shows an almost soulful touch; especially through the background vocals of two singers. Folky sounds in combination with tabla form the introduction to the last song of the record: “Yesterlove”. The singing of Kilmister here is almost pleading, draining. Amazingly, the song fades out about half a minute before the end and for about 20 seconds sounds sound like before a classical orchestral performance.
Unfortunately, despite the record release, the group did not stick together and split up in 1969. Ian Kilmister briefly joined the group Opal Butterfly, with whom he recorded the single “Groupie Girl” and left before the release of the single to join the space rockers of Hawkwind. But now under his nickname “Lemmy” Kilmister. In 1975 Kilmister founded the group Motörhead.
Gopal, however, formed a second formation in 1969 under the group name Sam Gopal. The line-up was Gopal on percussion, Micky Finn Waller on guitar, Mox Gowland on harmonica and flutes and Freddie Gandy on bass. Vocals were provided by Alan Mark. For the stable label, the group recorded several songs, including “Somebody stole the Sun”. A change of name to Cosmosis soon took place and although the Led Zeppelin manager Peter Grant took over the management, the band remained unsuccessful. 1971 was a black year for Sam Gopal. A serious car accident put Gopal out of action for several years. In 1976 he went to Paris, where he recorded “Feedback” and “Backfeet” for Radio France with the two Gong musicians Didier Malherbe and Patrick Lemoine . From time to time Gopal has recorded individual songs in various studios. In 1980, for example, the songs “Sell out Joe”, “Falling in” and “Showdown” were recorded at London’s Olympic Studios. Between 1981 and 1988 Gopal spent the years in Nepal, where he indulged in further tabla studies. Afterwards, Europe was back in fashion. In 1989 he realized the album Largo in Zurich. In Berlin he founded the band Sangit, which recorded a live record in the chamber music hall of the Berlin Philharmonie. Later they realized the soundtrack to the six-part documentary series “The Great Moghuls” in 1990 for the British channel Chanel 4. With his old collaborator Andy Clark he recorded the album Soap Opera in 1990 and Not for Sale the following year. In 1992, Sam Gopal founded the formation Brain Tonic, with whom he recorded a self-titled album. One year later the record Blind Man’s Movie in Munich. In the late 1990s, Gopal turned to 12-tone music. In 1999 he released the album Father Mucker. Contributors besides Gopal were Andy Clark, Sandro Ricciarelli and Chuck Jake.
Well-preserved original pressings by Sam Gopal – Escalator are nowadays highly sought after and highly paid collector’s items, whose price moves in higher one hundred euro regions. The two single tracks “Horse” and “Back Door Man” were included for the first time on the 1999 repressing of Get Back.
Sam Gopal – Escalator
1969 – Stable Records – SLE 8001
A1 – Cold Embrace
A2 – The dark Lord
A3 – The Sky is burning
A4 – You’re alone now
A5 – Grass
A6 – It’s only Love
B1 – Escalator
B2 – Angry Faces
B3 – Midsummer Night’s Dream
B4 – Season of the Witch
B5 – Yesterlove