One of the very best musicians you’ve never heard from one of the most important rock bands of the ’70s you’ve never heard just passed away.
Roger ‘Deke’ Leonard died Wednesday, February 1. He was a singer and guitarist with Man, a band from Wales properly described as a cross between the Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service,psychedelic and progressive rock with healthy doses of wit and pop thrown in for good measure.
I first discovered Man as a freshman radio DJ in college (1969) when a single from their first album was released: “I Love You (Erotica).” (On the band’s first album, it was titled simply “Erotica.”) It had a woman making orgasmic sounds in the background; of course we played it along with a single a classmate had just brought back from France by Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin, where she too mimics an orgasm. (I suspect that was the first time “Je T’Aime (Moi Non Plus) was played in the states.)
Fast-forward five years, when a friend turned me on to Man, by then amazing rockers. Leonard was a member of the band for the first five albums, then left to form his band Iceberg. He would return for four more albums through 1976, and he participated in numerous reunions during the ’80s and ’90s. He also played with Help Yourself and The Force.
Several of the band’s album titles were noteworthy in an of themselves, including 2 Ozs of Plastic with a Hole in the Middle, Do You Like It Here, Are You Settling In? (in Welsh, that’s Uew Ydd Pel et Nion Ary Byb Bobyn?) and Rhinos, Winos & Lunatics. Their third album featured a 20-minute song and “Would the Christians Wait Five Minutes? The Lions are Having a Draw.” Do You Like It Here, Are You Settling In? was highlighted by one of the band’s classics, “Many Are Called But Few Get Up.” And Leonard’s distinctive voice screamed emotion on songs such as Rhinos, Winos & Lunatics tune “Kerosene.”
Leonard’s first two solo albums delighted (Iceberg, 1973) and then disappointed (Kamikaze, 1974). He returned with a more appreciated effort in 1981: Before Your Very Eyes, and finally Freedom & Chains (2005). We was also a witty music journalist and line noter scribe who wrote a book title The Twang Dynasty.
Many are called but few get up.