Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Plastic Penny - Two Sides of a Penny

This is the debut album from "Plastic Penny" released in 1968

Bass Guitar - Tony Murray
Drums, Vocals - Nigel Olsson
Lead Guitar - Mike Graham
Organ, Piano,Vocals - Paul Raymond
Vocals - Brian Keith

Plastic Penny originally came together in the summer of 1967 when ex-Universals members vocalist Brian Keith, organist Paul Raymond and bassist Tony Murray decided to form a new band with guitarist Mick Grabham and drummer Nigel Olsson. The Universals had released two singles on producer Larry Page's Page One Records ("I Can't Find You" and "Green Veined Orchard") before disbanding and so it was to Mr. Page that the newly named Plastic Penny turned to form a contract. The band's debut single was "Everything I Am"/"No Pleasure Without Pain" (POF 051). Released in December 1967, the A-side was a cover of a song originally released by The Box Tops and Plastic Penny took it straight into the UK top ten, reaching No.6 and spending ten weeks in the charts. However, the follow-up single "Nobody Knows" (written by Bill Martin and Phil Coulter)/"Just Happy To Be With You" (POF 052) failed to chart and the various members began to indulge in other activities. Vocalist Brian Keith already had a lot of session experience and he left in mid-1968, later turning up in Congregation, Big Balls and The Great White Idiot and Screaming Lord Sutch amongst others.

The remaining members soldiered on, with Raymond taking on vocal duties. In mid-1968, they released the album "Two Sides Of A Penny" (POL 005) and followed it with the single "Your Way To Tell Me To Go"/"Baby You're Not To Blame" (POF 079). November 1968 saw a cover of Leiber/Stoller's "Hound Dog"/"Currency" (POF 107) followed by "She Does"/"Genevieve" (POF 146) in mid-1969 by which time the group existed only in name as the various members decided to go their separate ways.

Tony Murray joined The Troggs and also contributed bass to Elton John's "Empty Sky" album. Paul Raymond joined Chicken Shack for two years and then played with Savoy Brown between 1971-76; heavy metal band UFO was his next step between 1977-79, and he was also a member of the Michael Schenker Group. Mick Graham formed Cochise with Rick Willis, released a solo LP "Mick The Ladd" in 1972, and was a member of Procol Harum between 1973-77. Since then he's been an in-demand session guitarist working with the likes of Bandit, The Dukes, Yvonne Elliman, Dave Greenslade and Micky Jupp amongst others. Nigel Olsson’s post Plastic Penny career reads like an A-Z of Rock! He provided the drums for Uriah Heep's debut LP "Very 'Eavy Very, 'Umble" and then worked with Elton John on a permanent basis between 1969-74. He also released five solo albums ("Drum Orchestra", "Nigel Olsson", "Drummers Can Sing Too", "Changing Tides" and "Nigel") and has worked with the likes of Eric Carmen, Spencer Davis, Kiki Dee, Randy Edelman, Linda Ronstadt, and the Who to name but a few. History may remember Plastic Penny as 'one hit wonders' but there's no doubting the excellent musicians training ground it provided!

Mark Brennan


  1. This was a nice article to read, thank you for sharing it.

  2. This is my first time i visit here. I found so many interesting stuff in your blog especially its discussion. From the tons of comments on your articles, I guess I am not the only one having all the enjoyment here! keep up the good work.

  3. In the 'Blue Note' club, Roker Avenue in
    the town of Sunderland, a small gang of
    us went to see Mick Grabham as he was
    called then), Nigel Olsson and others
    Ostencibly, we'd gone to heckle and taunt.
    Nigel Olsson, I remember sprang-out
    and bounced onto the stage delivering
    a frenzied rendition of a song 'Little Egypt', with the band backing him with explosive accompaniment.
    (He must have only been sixteen years
    of age then).

    The gang of would-be hecklers were
    stopped in their tracks, becoming
    entranced. They joined the buzz of
    the night's performance in a mixed
    mood - one of respect and reverence
    and one of complete revery.

    It was fun to read above in the
    blog that Nigel Olssson titled
    his album 'Drummers Can Sing Too'.

    Well, after all that time passing
    and from what I recall, I'll vouch
    for that Nigel.

    You were terrific!

    Glad to read that you and Mick made
    it all into a successful career.

    Phil Phillips.


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