Widowmaker is the nickname shared by a hurricane wind, a jetfighter plane, and a high-powered drill, all of which are renowned for mayhem, destruction, havoc, and literally blowing you away. Well, as it happens, it is also the name of one of the most devastating rock ‘n’ roll bands to emerge from the musical cauldron that was around in the mid 1970s.
After a year as lead guitarist with Mott the Hoople, Ariel Bender (also known by his real name of Luther Grosvenor) left the band at the height of its commercial successes, looking to find his own way rather than riding on the tailcoats of an already big name act.
First he found Paul Nicholls, a young powerful drummer who had thumped the tubs in a reformed Lindisfarne, but was now looking for something a little more powerful to bend his wrists to rather than the Geordies’ folk/rock.
Next to be pulled into the ranks was talented New Zealander Bob Daisley, who had already built up a solid reputation as an excellent bass player in such bands as Chicken Shack and Broken Glass. He was also a talented songsmith with a reputation for enjoying the wild side of the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. After Widowmaker, Daisley went on to leave his mark with Rainbow, Ozzy Osbourne, Uriah Heep, and Gary Moore to name but a few.
Obviously a singer had to be found to front this lot and Bender had always been a great admirer of the vocalist from Love Affair (who had had a massive hit with the fabulous “EverLastin’ Love”). That man was Steve Ellis, who was lazing around in London after the collapse of his own self-named band. When he was first approached, Ellis was not keen to join this venture as he was jaded by the whole rock ‘n’ roll business, but once persuaded to come to a rehearsal, magic bonds were formed and the band was complete.
Widowmaker’s debut album, recorded in 1976 and released under the band’s own name, was a classic collection of hard rockers and stadium power-ballads, with some remarkable singing and Bender living up to his reputation as the greatest rock ‘n’ roll guitarist of his era. Now we are not talking technical ability here, there are probably hundreds of better guitarists, but Bender brought with him that priceless commodity: Excitement.
The album opener “Such a Shame” is very much in the same mould as “Black Dog” that opened up Led Zeppelin’s fourth album, allowing the band to put their collective wares on show. After that comes the beautiful “Pin a Rose on Me”, followed by the rocker “On the Road” and “Straight Faced Fighter”, which is perfect arena rock.
The next two songs are the albums centerpieces. “Ain’t Telling You Nothing” starts off as a slow-burner before building to a frantic climax where Bender’s guitar takes the song by the scruff of the neck and rings every ounce of excitement from it. “When I Met You” had originally been released on Luther Grosvenor’s solo album “Under Open Skies”, but was dusted down and given the rock ‘n’ rolls by the band. The album closes with two more rockers and two more ballads including the heartfelt “Leave the Kids Alone”.
You may now be thinking, “But I thought this stupid dog said they were a five-piece?” Well, thereby hangs a tale. After recording the album, and whilst rehearsing to take the music to the streets, Bender, who liked moving and giving the audience a show so much, decided it was impossible for him to hold down all the guitar parts at the same time. Huw Lloyd-Langton, the original space daze guitarist from Hawkwind, was therefore drafted in to give Widowmaker a two-pronged lead guitar attack. Lloyd-Langton stayed with the band until the bitter end two years later.
This is an excellent album still worth a listen today:
Such a Shame
Pin a Rose on Me
On The Road
Straight Faced Fighter
Ain’t Telling You Nothing
When I Met You
Leave The Kids Alone
Shine a Light on Me
Got A Dream
Ariel Bender – guitar
Huw Lloyd-Langton – guitar
Paul Nichols – drums
Bob Daisley – bass
Steve Ellis – vocals on 1st album and the live set
John Butler – vocals on “Too Late to Cry”