1968. The explosion of two frustrated leading Greek Pop bands We Five and The Forminx brings four intrepid musicians to Paris. Their ambition is to travel to England, explore the Great British Rock scene and wow the vibrant music industry with a two-track demo tape called ‘Plastics Nevermore / The Other People’, but to their dismay the group (known at this point as The Papathanassiou Set) are delayed due to air strikes and passport problems forcing them to either return to Greece or wait in France until future notice – resulting in their nervous guitarist returning to Athens to carry out his National Service. Undefeated, the band’s leader, Evanghelos Odyssey Papathanassiou, uses this time to visit the French offices of Mercury and Philips Records who agree to release the one-off single (under the easier to pronounce moniker Aphrodites Child) while the band waits for work visas. Unfortunately, the following month, student riots break out and the band are subjected to stringent security measures and delayed even longer so they record their second single ‘Rain And Tears’ and sign-up to live agents Giorgio Gomelsky and Jean-Pierre Rawson (sharing books with Rotomagus, Chico Magnetic Band and Martin Circus).
The huge success of the singles lead to a string of French hits and two LPs released within a short 18 month period but due to a dislike of travel Evanghelos (fondly known as Vangelis) refuses to tour with the band. While singer (and future coffee table superstar) Demis Roussos and Lucas Sideras twiddle thumbs Vangelis disappears into dark studios to experiment with a new conceptual / biblical follow-up LP and fulfill a film score commission for a Jane Birkin film called ‘Sex Power’ which required minimal Byzantine instrumental themes for hippified desert scenes. Vangelis also works with Jean-Claude Vannier at Studio Des DAmes recording the debut Vana Veroutis single for the Italian Pillips office (as organised by Jean-Pierre Rawson) as well as a single for unknown singer Paul Labbey on Fontana. It is around this time that Giorgio Gomelsky introduces workaholic Vangelis to BYG’s Jean-Luc Young and Jean Georgakarakos with a view to pursuing some *sychedelic Byzantine influenced undercover projects. With the return of guitarist Silver Kouloris and the help of Vangelis’ then girlfriend Vilma Lado – the Alpha Beta collective is born. Housed in an unassuming white sleeve with a rare Vangelis penned Ralph-Steadmanite black ink drawing on the front their only two disparate tracks comprise Folk Rock rhythms, futurist Funk elements, beat poetry, street noise and rampant vocal assaults courtesy of Gomelsky and Vangelis’ flamboyant studio techniques. The pair would collaborate again in coming years on Aphrodites’ final LP ‘666’ and the doomed BYG produced ‘Dragon’ and ‘Hypothesis’ sessions in the UK.
1971. Having carved himself a new work horse in Paris with his progressive Rock Pas Degenere agency and management group Giorgio Gomelskys’ schedule (looking after Magma and Gong) kept him burning the midnight oil past boiling point. Regretting his inability to fully commit to his good friend Vangelis’ ‘666’ album project for Aphrodites Child (for which he wood be credited as ‘passing through’) he was eager to compensate and agreed to produce Vangelis’ debut international solo project (apart from the ‘Sex Power’ soundtrack and a rare private press LP inspired by the Paris riots called ‘Fais Que Ton Reve Soit Plus Long Que La Nuit’) which would be recorded in the UK – a wish that was finally granted three years after Vangelis had been refused entry in 1968. Having totally freaked-out major labels on both sides of the English Channel with his mind-melting biblical concept LP for Mercury’s English Prog-Rock imprint Vertigo (a record which finally crucified the band) the funding for his next experimental project had to come from an open minded investor and the struggling BYG, who would take huge risks until the final furlong, gladly promised to stump up the cash for the recording bills at Marquee Studios in London.
Without delay Gomesky hired a crack team of UK session men who were keen to experiment under Vangelis’ Greek/French instructions. Bassist Brian Odgers had previously worked with French musicians (under J.C Vannier) on Gainsbourg’s seminal ‘Melody Nelson’ and drummers Micky Waller (Brain Auger Trinity) and Tony Oxley (John McLaughlin) were no strangers to creating experimental tracks for French Library labels due to the M.U. clampdown on workaholicism in UK production music. Without a title, format or score sheet the custom ensemble ploughed into elongated jam sessions with Vangelis manning a castrated rack of international synthesizers, many of which were incompatible with English studios. This eventually put a temporary hold on the proceedings which Vangelis planned to rekindle after extra writing. Having finally established residency in the UK the mythical composer was instantly greeted with countless unrefusable commissions which indefinitely delayed the Marquee sessions in which time Karakos and Youngs’ label ran out of money (having never quite recovered from hosting the infamous Aspegious rock festival)
Eager to try their luck in English language territories Karakos embraced the rising New Wave / No-Wave / Synth-Pop movements which were bourgeoning in Paris and New York and he founded his new cross continental Celluloid label. Young, fuelled by nostalgia and hard-line business, would set up Charly Records, resurrecting 15 years worth of old contracts with which he would build his Charly Records reissue empire. With this mentality, Young would eventually contact Marquee Studios to acquire the Karakos commissioned tapes of the aborted Vangelis recordings and the unfinished full-length tracks (which actually sounded like fully realised and accomplished Prog opuses) were released throughout Europe on various independent labels under the titles ‘The Dragon’ and ‘Hypothesis’. The separate releases are defined by two stylistic categories (Funk-Rock and Jazz-Funk, perhaps) but with elements of state of the art synth existentialism and deep-grained Byzantine influences the recordings embody top-drawer Euro-Prog sensibilities which give the likes of Goblin, Le Orme, Heldon, SBB and late period King Crimson a Blade Run for their money. A decade later Vangelis would become a household name crossing countless international finish lines including the Oscar winning score for ‘Chariots Of Fire’.