Camel is an English progressive rock group from London, England, United Kingdom. They formed circa 1964 when brothers Andrew and Ian Latimer got together with their respective friends Alan Butcher and Richard Over to form The Phantom Four. The band played extensively around their home town of Guildford, Surrey before changing their name to Strange Brew. The group performed mainly cover tunes until mid-1968 when Ian Latimer quit to get married. Andrew Latimer and Alan Butcher placed an ad in the Surrey Advertiser for a bass player to which Doug Ferguson responded. On 13th November 1968 Ferguson arrived for an audition and promptly impressed the duo with his confidence, a 'fat' bass sound, excellent gear (Fender jazz bass, 2 Vox T-60 cabs with amps) and his own roadie! He was offered the gig on the spot. The new blues orientated trio was called The Brew. Shortly after joining The Brew, Ferguson told Latimer about an exciting drummer he knew. Andy Ward joined The Brew at the tender age of 14 and the heart of camel had begun to take shape.
Ferguson rapidly proved himself to be a great asset with his talent for getting the band attention and gigs. He was also very good at coaxing the promised fees out of promoters, who often protested they didn't have the money on hand. As a result, The Brew enjoyed a steady stream of performance dates and recorded their first demo, 'Crossroads' in which DJM Records seemed to show interest but the trio were disappointed to learn that it was only in using them as a backing band for another of their artists, Philip Goodhand-Tait. In 1971, they recorded an album with Goodhand-Tait, called 'I Think I'll Write A Song', but the success was minimal and the trio were dropped. The experience, however, was enlightening. Phil Tait was a piano player. The three musicians agreed a keyboard player would broaden the sound of the band and they promptly placed an ad in The Melody Maker. On 20th September 1971, Peter Bardens responded to the ad with an extensive resume (Shotgun Express [Rod Stewart & Beryl Marsden], Them [Van Morrison], Peter B's Looners [Peter Green & Mick Fleetwood] to name but a few) as well as two solo albums under his own name. The four hit it off instantly. Bardens, who had been planning to depart England for what he thought to be "the more promising shores of the USA", had previously arranged a few gigs in Ireland. Thus, on 8th October 1971, the group performed their first gig in Belfast under the name of "Peter Bardens On". Not long after they would collectively agree on a new name... Camel.
Camel played their first gig at Waltham Forest Technical College supporting Wishbone Ash on 4th Dec 1971. By August of '72, Camel were signed to MCA Records. They quickly entered the studio to record their first self-titled album, 'Camel'. A collection of individual songs, chiefly from Latimer and Bardens, the album was greeted with muted success and MCA did not take an option for a second album. By now, the group had acquired management, Geoff Jukes and Max Hole of Gemini Artists (later to become GAMA Records), and moved to Decca Records where they would remain for 10 years. The push & pull relationship between Latimer and Bardens brought out the best from their compositional skills. They inspired one another with their individual solo work both in the studio and on stage. Energies were high. CAMEL gigged 9 months of the year and firmly established a reputation for their excellent live sound.
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