Roger Bunn was hardly ever a household name in music, even at the peak of his career during the last three years of the 1960s. He somehow managed to play with lots of important people and bands, and at major gigs -- and intersected with the early career of David Bowie, as well as playing a role in the founding of such outfits as Roxy Music -- but he only ever got known especially well among musicians, rather than to the public.
Bunn was born in 1942, the son of a deceased and highly decorated war hero. By his own account, his childhood -- during which he was mostly separated from his mother -- was lived out either in relative emotional isolation or, at brief moments at annual public ceremonies, in the shadow of his father's war record. By the end of the 1950s, he was enjoying the skiffle boom -- which was represented locally in Norwich by a band called the Saints -- and also gravitating to the work of the American beat poets and jazz musicians. Bunn had started playing guitar in his teens, and by the end of the decade had taken the lead guitar spot in a group called the Bishops. In the early '60s, however, he made the switch to playing jazz bass, and was working for Cockney rockabilly icon Joe Brown. He was back on guitar for a stint with Wee Willie Harris in Hamburg, and later bounced back to East Anglia and a soul outfit called the Bluebottles, whose members included Mike Patto.
Bunn's real love lay with jazz, and not the trad style that was dominant in commercial circles -- he was a serious Charlie Parker devotee. But he found most of his opportunities playing rock and soul, and the Bluebottles got gigs with the likes of Manfred Mann and the Animals; working in those musical surroundings, Bunn spent most of what free time he had at Ronnie Scott's jazz club. During the mid-'60s, he worked with a wide array of players, including Graham Bond, Zoot Money, and Joe Harriott, and crossed paths with Jimi Hendrix. By his own account, he also used a massive amount of recreational, often hallucinogenic drugs across the years leading up to the late '60s, which caused a memory lapse on aspects of his life that lasted well into the 1980s. He played with the Ken Stevens dance band and in Marianne Faithfull's backing band, and also lost out to Mick Taylor in a bid to join John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. After a stint playing with the expatriate South African Blue Notes, Bunn ended up working alongside Glenn Sweeney and Dave Tomlin in a trio called Giant Sun Trolley, which played on the same bills as Pink Floyd, Soft Machine, the Crazy World of Arthur Brown, and Procol Harum at the UFO Club. He was, through the trio, part of "The 14 Hour Technicolor Dream," a renowned psychedelic extravaganza. Bunn spent a significant chunk of 1967 and early 1968 traveling around the Middle East, especially Afghanistan, Iran, and Turkey. Back in England, he founded Djinn, a quartet that became a footnote in music history (but missed out on a page of its own) by allowing a youthful David Bowie into its ranks very briefly, part of a professional liaison that didn't last, though it led to Bowie taking up the song "Life Is a Circus" as part of his repertory for the next several years. Alas, Bunn somehow managed to lose control over the copyright and never saw any reward or recognition come from his use of the song. He also enjoyed a short-lived collaboration with lyricist/singer Pete Brown.
Bunn's solo career seemed to take off after he walked into the Apple offices on Baker Street and -- apparently based on the fact that Paul McCartney remembered him from the Beatles' days in Hamburg -- was able to talk his way into getting the use of one of their studio facilities to cut a series of demo sides. Those eventually became the basis for his recording contract with Philips Records, which resulted in the album Piece of Mind. Even that release wasn't simple and straightforward, however, as Philips licensed the new recording to Major-Minor, a tiny outfit that went bankrupt soon after. It took some doing to get the album issued a couple of years later, and in the interim Bunn received an invitation from an old friend, drummer Laurie Allen, to join the progressive rock band Piblokto, which brought him back to Pete Brown's orbit and made a brief musical splash in the turn-of-the-decade art rock world. It was after leaving them and forming his own outfit, Endjinn, that Piece of Mind was finally issued, but his work with the group proved more fortuitous at the time. Endjinn led to Bunn's most musically important gig, as the original guitarist for Roxy Music, from November of 1970 to the summer of 1971. He was long gone by the time they were signed to a recording contract, but his name has occasionally come up in recollections by Bryan Ferry. Since the early '70s, Bunn had more or less dropped out of music, apart from one-off projects such as one album by McCartney's brother, Mike McGear, and much later, releases by Davy Graham and Peggy Seeger. He became much more focused on politics, and was especially concerned with issues of national and corporate malfeasance and greed, and the specific issue of South African apartheid; he also happily helped to inform anyone who would listen of the CIA's complicity in the Afghan opium trade, among other nefarious goings on around the world, and sides to the West's involvement in the Middle East that are almost never discussed. Bunn passed away in July of 2005, just a few days after his 63rd birthday, in the same year in which the CD reissue of Piece of Mind -- long regarded as one of the great lost albums of the psychedelic era -- had finally been arranged.