John Du Cann

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Although John Du Cann had several singles in the late '70s with a strange power pop/new wave/hard rock melange, his most successful group by far was Atomic Rooster, for which he played guitar in the early…
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Although John Du Cann had several singles in the late '70s with a strange power pop/new wave/hard rock melange, his most successful group by far was Atomic Rooster, for which he played guitar in the early '70s. Du Cann had a long and varied career before beginning his brief attempt to become a solo star, without ever becoming a name widely recognized by the international public. In the late '60s he had been in the obscure British psychedelic groups the Attack and Andromeda, both of whom have had material released on the sort of special-interest psychedelic reissues that only fanatical collectors of the style are aware of. In 1970, still known simply as John Cann, he joined Atomic Rooster, whose main man, organist Vincent Crane, decided to alter the organ-bass-drums lineup of their first album into an organ-guitar-bass trio.

Du Cann was also the singer in Atomic Rooster, and played in a lineup with Crane and drummer Carl Palmer for nine months before Palmer left to join Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Atomic Rooster entered the British Top Ten with the album Death Walks Behind You, and a single, "Tomorrow Night," also went Top Ten in the U.K.; Du Cann claims he wrote this, although Vincent Crane got the songwriting credit. The third Atomic Rooster album, In Hearing of Atomic Rooster, was even more successful, as was the single "Devil's Answer," which made number two in Britain. At this point, however, Crane fired Du Cann.

Du Cann then formed Bullet with drummer Paul Hammond (who left Atomic Rooster at the same time as Du Cann) who, after their first single, had to change their name to Hard Stuff since there was an American band also using the Bullet name. Du Cann subsequently worked as a songwriter, and replaced Gary Moore in Thin Lizzy. Then his manager changed his name from John Cann to John Du Cann. He got signed as a solo artist and started recording with Status Quo producer Francis Rossi, using a journeyman band including bassist John McCoy (later of Gillan), drummer Pete Kircher (ex-Honeybus and Cliff Bennett), and keyboardist Andy Bown (the Herd, Status Quo).

Considering Du Cann's background, his solo outings were far more pop-based than could have been reasonably expected. His rough, throaty voice was not natural frontman material, nor were his songs that great, but there wasn't much of a lingering aftertaste to his metal-hard rock background. He sounded, frankly, caught between new wave, power pop, and the mainstream, without heading wholeheartedly in any of those directions. Imagine a very mainstream Wreckless Eric, if that's possible, and you have an idea of how Du Cann could sound at times. "Throw Him in Jail" and "Where's the Show" were put out as singles, and an album was ready for release in 1977, but was canceled.

Still, in 1979, Du Cann did manage a British Top 40 hit with "Don't Be a Dummy," which was originally recorded for an advertisement. Rather than pursue a solo career, however, Du Cann reunited the Crane-Hammond-Du Cann version of Atomic Rooster for touring and recording. The unreleased 1977 John Du Cann album was de-mothballed and issued on CD in 1999, with numerous bonus demos and outtakes.