Lucifer’s Friend – the original line-up
Legendary German rock cult band, formed in 1969
The group were noted as early practitioners of heavy metal and progressive rock.
They also incorporated elements of jazz into their music.
The British-born John Lawton was vocalist for a group called Stonewall. Peter Hecht, Dieter Horns, Peter Hesslein and Addi Rietenbach were members of a band called the German Bonds.
The five joined together to record an album under the name of Asterix in 1970, which later became Lucifer’s Friend.
The early albums were released on the Vertigo Records label in Europe, but in the United States those albums were released on a series of small independent record labels, often a year or more after their release in Europe. Thus, despite airplay in some markets and a cult following, the band’s albums were hard to find.
Lucifer’s Friend was known for changing musical styles and influences on each album.
The self-titled 1970 debut had dark lyrics and a stripped-down guitar and organ style and sounded similar to Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath.
The single release “Ride the Sky” became a rock classic, having been covered by many of today’s younger rock bands.
That album is still sought after by fans of early heavy metal music.
The second album, Where the Groupies Killed the Blues (1972), took an entirely different direction; it was a very experimental album of progressive and psychedelic rock, lyrics mostly composed by John O’Brien Docker.
On the third album, I’m Just a Rock & Roll Singer (1973), they changed direction again, this time in the straightforward rock style popularized by such groups as Grand Funk Railroad, and gritty “life on the road” themes in the lyrics.
Banquet (1974) featured extended, multi-layered jazz fusion compositions and a 30-piece backup band, alternating with some shorter tracks reminiscent of Chicago and Traffic. Those first four albums are all concept albums of a sort and along with the self-titled Asterix album are the most sought after today.
Mind Exploding (1976) established a holding pattern and tried to combine the jazz of Banquet with the garage-rock of Rock & Roll Singer.
Vocalist John Lawton left in 1976 to join Uriah Heep and was replaced by Mike Starrs, former vocalist with Colosseum II.
John Lawton returned for the 1981 album Mean Machine.
On the two albums without Lawton they moved to a more commercial sound, on 1978’s Good Time Warrior and 1980s Sneak Me In.
John Lawton’s 1980 solo album on RCA, Heartbeat, was a Lucifer’s Friend album in everything but name, with the line-up from Sneak Me In, performing as backup musicians on that project.
Lawton’s official return, Mean Machine, found the band returning to heavy metal, this time in the vein of Rainbow. The band officially broke up in 1982 but briefly reformed in the early 1990s to release a new CD, Sumo Grip.