SC#05: Roland Ray – Hot, Cold & Blue

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Hot, Cold & Blue
Hot, Cold & Blue
Hot, Cold & Blue

In the late ’60s, Roland Ray was forced to leave his hometown of Hannover, Germany after a gang of local souteneurs came to his place looking to kidnap his girlfriend. He attempted to flee to England, where she was from but was denied access for seeking musical employment without a work permit. For the next few years, he was without a home, traveling around with his guitar to Brussels, Antwerp, Lyon, and Paris, busking with his girlfriend for spare cash. He had a short stint as a resident prog and psych rock DJ in the early ’70s at Paradiso in Amsterdam, until he was finally granted permission to enter England. Now in his new home in London, he set out to be a full-time musician.

He moved into a dilapidated flat for £14 a month and started constructing a home studio. The apartment was in West Hampstead, a vibrant music community where he would bump into characters like Robert Palmer, Daddy Longlegs, or Thin Lizzy walking down the street or at the local pub, The Railway Tavern. He’d play gigs at The Moonlight Club, a venue adjacent to the famous Decca Studios, where he would perform with his first band, blues psych outfit, Loony Q. After several years of gigging, Loony Q members started dropping out because the band wasn’t making an impact. Roland decided if he wanted to continue with music, he’d have to take to set out on his own.

To manifest his album, he needed an 8-track tape machine to record his experiments. They were too expensive in Britain, so he drove a Hackney Carriage to Brussels to find a cheaper option. He smuggled the 8-track in the cab’s passenger seat across the border in Dover. Once he was in England, his cab started to break down, and for the next hundred miles, he pushed onward behind thick plumes of smoke coming from his taxi’s engine.

With his newly pirated 8-track and a slew of second-hand gear he culled from buying and selling equipment to make rent money, he embarked to record his very own pop album. One of the first songs from the LP he wrote was “Hot Cold Temperament”, a synth-laden psych trip influenced by his favorite 60’s songwriters. He had a sensibility for catchy hooks and quirky vocal lines, and Hot, Cold, & Blue became a mix of bedroom rock experiments and 808 disco workouts. He would perform his compositions live from the living room and kitchen area (the control room), and record into a dedicated padded dead room/echo chamber he built out. What you hear on this LP is years and years of constant studio meddling coming together - heavy delays, a Hofner bass, falsetto vocals, and charisma all fuse, creating the Roland Ray sound. For the parts he couldn’t do himself, his friends & neighbors were enlisted to play sax, keys, and drums over his arrangements.

He sent some finished songs from the album to EMI and received the letter you can hear recited on U.K. Chart Singles, apparently, he didn’t have a ‘hit single’. He decided to self-release the album, however, the albums’ release coincided with Roland being pushed out of his flat. The landlords had deliberately let the place go, the ceiling was caving in and his running water was shut off. For months, Roland was the last tenant in the building. He used his last days in the building to throw wild parties in the flat next door and set up additional recording locations. He protested outside the offices of the landlords so he wouldn’t be evicted and lose his beloved studio, but unfortunately, he was thrown out. He lost steam to promote his album, some copies were passed out to local libraries and radio promo, but largely, the record has remained unheard. We’re happy to distribute the remaining limited stock of this strangely fresh-sounding album.