A true story wants to be told


LevitationLevitation were a short-lived but highly influential band of the early 1990s.
levitationarchive.co.uk is dedicated to picking up all the pieces they left lying around

On 23rd September 1994, without fanfare, Levitation took to the stage for the final time. The location was the New Cross Venue in London – a venue they had graced many times. Over the course of the previous four years, Levitation had earned a reputation as the best live band in Britain, had been derided as “Hippies”, and lauded for single-handedly reanimating the concept of Progressive Rock. They were:

Joe Allen (bass 1990-91), Terry Bickers (vocals, guitar 1990-93), David Francolini (drums), Christian "Bic" Hayes (guitar, vocals), Steve Ludwin (vocals, guitar 1993-94), Laurence O'Keefe (bass), Johnny T (violin 1990-91) and Robert White (keyboards, guitar, bass, vocals).

Before uniting as Levitation, they had graced bands such as Cardiacs, Colenso Parade, The Dave Howard Singers, The House of Love, The Jazz Butcher, Panixphere, Reggae Philharmonic Orchestra, Ring, Some Have Fins, Something Pretty Beautiful, and Zag and the Coloured Beads. Later described by drummer David Francolini as “A coterie of like-minded angry hippies”, Levitation were the one thing the music industry didn’t want them to be – free. Their music came from themselves instead of trend. They followed their hearts, not the charts, and their integrity flowed from the studio, onto the stage, into the audience, and all the way back again.

After his success in The House Of Love, guitarist Terry Bickers sought to throw off constraint but the music press could only initially approach Levitation as “Terry Bickers’ new band.” They toured France in late 1990 to take off outside the spotlight, soared high with their initial UK concerts and then, in April 1991, they dropped their first bomb: “The Coppelia EP”. Remarkably, the barrage of their live shows – the panic and grace – had been captured alive. Melody Maker made it their Single Of The Week, and “Terry Bickers’ new band” were no more – “The Coppelia EP” was Levitation.

In August came “The After Ever EP”, described as “Monstrous” by Melody Maker who bowed to the inevitable and awarded it their Single Of The Week. Two bombs. Two direct hits. Rough Trade launched their singles Club in September, and the first 7” was Levitation’s “Squirrel”. Capitol Records USA new a good thing when they heard it, and in November they released “Coterie”, a summary of Levitation’s output so far. It included live versions of “Rosemary Jones”, “Smile” and “Paid In Kind” - all recorded at the Town And Country Club, London, in July 1991. Such was the demand for the live versions, that Coterie earned a UK release in March 1992.

In November 1991, after playing four gigs in America, the band went into winter hibernation to record what would be their first album, “Need For Not”. Rough Trade’s Geoff Travis, who had seen the band dozens of times live, now considered them to be his most important investment since The Smiths.

The band scored another Single Of The Week with the harder, leaner “World Around” EP in February 1992, and “Need For Not” followed on May 4th 1992 to critical claim. In August they played the legendary Reading Festival, headlining the Radio One tent.

The second half of the year saw Levitation play only a handful of gigs as they road-tested songs for the follow-up to “Need For Not”. Their annual winter hibernation saw them virtually disappear until late March 1993. After playing three prestige dates with Spiritualized, the band released “Even When Your Eyes Are Open” which provided “A suitable soundtrack to wake up to, skin up to, and have sex to – in that order”. The sex song was the epic “Mantra”, a nine-minute throbbing instrumental already familiar as the intro music to their live shows. By now it had become known that Levitation’s next album, “Meanwhile Gardens”, would not be an album at all – it would be two albums, provisionally titled “Summer” and “Autumn”, to be released three months apart.

On May 14th, during a gig at London’s Tufnell Park Dome, the push-pull tension between music and family finally pulled Terry Bickers out of the orbit of Levitation. Quitting live on stage, he denounced the music business: “Business is our business…There’s no room for love”.

With no singer, with seventeen songs recorded, and with the first part of a two-album project ready to be released, Levitation did the only thing they could have done: nothing. All forth-coming shows were cancelled, and the entire “Meanwhile Gardens” project was shelved. The seventeen songs originally recorded for the “Meanwhile Gardens” albums were to remain unreleased for twenty two years...

American singer Steve Ludwin joined from Some Have Fins, and the band re-recorded the vocals for six of the “Meanwhile Gardens” songs. With the addition of three new songs - including “All At Sea”, a little brother to “Mantra” – “Meanwhile Gardens” was released in 1994 as a nine-track CD in Australia only.

Since September 1994, the musical talents of Levitation have found expression through bands such as Cradle, Dark Star, Dragons, The House of Love, The Milk and Honey Band, Mikrokosmos and Pura Vida.

Levitation re-surfaced in April 2015, releasing the "Never Odd Or Even" EP on Record Store Day. The EP consisted of three songs from 1993's "Meanwhile Gardens". And, after years of speculation and anticipation, the album itself was finally released in October 2015. Release!