Holyground Records - one of the most collectable labels in the world
track by track

oohs and ahhs corrections, amendments and omissions
  cover art
  the songs, musicians, the times and memories
  other CDs in "Holyground the Works" series

this page is to accompany HOLYGROUND : THE WORKS CD VOLUME 4
the contents of this page includes opinion, memories and recollections which may not be completely accurate
the opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Holyground

OOHS & AHHS corrections, amendments and omissions
please send other corrections to : mike@holyground

errors in 'The Works' CD artwork

  • printing flaw on the back of the booklet over part of the logo
  • on page 6 the top of column two should not be in colour
  • the label has lost an "s" - it should read ASTRAL NAVIGATIONS
  • the label should not say "Musics from Holyground" - that was the performer credit for A to Austr

"Someday" is incorrectly creditted in all releases up to the Works reissue. It was in fact written by Frank Newbold and Peter Illingworth, and had been recorded but not released by Little Free Rock, of which Frank and Peter were members. Sorry guys!

“Lightyears away: melting off the sea by the Coastroad / in the dead land. You can hear, almost hear that place, softly, naked, unknown / voices appear behind distant mountains / and now simple beauty. Time ticks by. Reality, but we’ll do what we can do. We are there but so many of us are not, how to make them understand? The Astral Navigator is here - he’ll tell them. Yesterday: Your whole mind is suddenly jerked and slowed down, only to be speeded up and thrust back / through to the new North Country Cinderella - then Coombs’ Surprise Symphony. Now the spaceship talks . . .

Thundermother: Gentle heavy chords pump the brain / take the ride again and we do. Rock Banshees. It’s a long, long way back home. But it’s really nice here / Boogie! Solid driving bass cracks the ground beneath your feet, and maybe at the end all those things they bin shakin’ about have just slipped through the cracks / Fucking good, go on sell a piece of your mind to Holyground”.

From the front of the original booklet : an excerpt from a review by Pete Ball, reprinted from STYNG, Yorkshire’s underground newspaper,1971.

by Mike Levon / Brian Calvert

Brian Calvert vocals, piano, guitar, bass

Chris Coombs organ

Ted Hepworth drums

Dot Nunn vocal, recorder

Mike Levon sfx

strings played by four unknown Bretton students

standing on the Coastroad saying fine
girl she shout from a napalm fire
give me a little more time
make it just a one more line
but the light of the night
doesn’t hide you or give you shelter
make it five for the dive
take a ride on my helter skelter
you see her with girls in their scenes
what you say cannot alter your dreams
you see chains in an empty cage
you make out on a stony grave
you see skins making out
painting eyes of Jesus’ lover
but the signs only rhymes
meaning less than one and another
standing on the Coastroad . . .

it’s really quite simple, just takes a slow moon
assessing your reasons, they’re all twenty one

waking alone looking past the window
in the dead land, silent song birds, april lilacs
august cacti fail to grow
on the headstone grave no reassuring words

leaning together waiting for the rain
in the dead land only thunder pierces roots
and summer’s bringing burning pain
in your time you’ll find no shelter for your fear

turning turn turned turning over
, in the flood the only bird to prowl
, for a leaf is the Winter Owl
, the White Winter Owl

twenty one past years are over
, from the stone a strangely silent howl
, it’s the time of the Winter Owl
, the White Winter Owl

shadows strange stirred flying over
, stable born its time at last come round
, flies to you for its future now
, the White Winter Owl

broken eyes are seeing only cages
in the dead land, catching flying
starlight sighing Jesus’ children fail to age
on your headstone grave, no Human hands
no Human cries, no Human signs . . .

Mike says : "This was the first song where I really planned out all the different sections - the instrumentation and the speed, rhythms and time signatures. It was complicated too by the need to plan the recording process on the two-track recorder. For example I got Brian Calvert to play the piano part on the "really so simple" bridge; then the guitar part to the "Waste Land" section (the Dead Land). I spliced these together and then we recorded over the gap."

by Mike Levon / Brian Calvert

Brian Calvert vocal, piano

Chris Coombs vocal, guitar

Jim Alexander cymbals

Bretton choir - unknown people, but Chris Coombs, who directed the recording of this is in there!

o the days of haze are over now
you can see quite clearly down the road
the highway out of here is lined with trees
and hiding the overblown
the highway leads to a spinney
where the path is Humanstone
and in the shade stands naked thinking
and in the shade it’s overgrown

do lap the milk that we set before you
do take a drink from thy golden bowl
know that the valley it is filled with teardim
know that your heart it is overflowed
do take a heart to the lonely village
take a good look at the restless world
hands can’t hold it and your mind is swimming
tell us all about it, tell us every word
and we’ll do what we can do . . .


by Mike Levon / Brian Calvert

Brian Calvert vocal, guitar, organ

I wish I could take you into my words
I wish I could see you out of the lines
did you ever see through windows
only certain minutes long?
how I wish that I could open
the gates of my rhymes and love you by a song

see the Astral Navigator bend the shining rays
as he’s here and there and everywhere
and lingers on for days
till it dawns on you that you and he
were here and there and everywhere
and time isn’t what it seems
with the Astral Navigator to lead you into dreams
of a kind so strange and beautiful
that heavenwards will scream
I’m the Astral Navigator, my sense of humour high
see you here and there in mornings
wake and wonder till you die, what will it be like when you awake from what you’ve dreamed
then you’ll see the point of all my schemes

Strangely enough this pairing of two songs provided the planned, and the final title. The album was called 'Windows of Limited Time' while it was being made, but this was later dropped for Dave Wood's suggestion of 'Astral Navgations' - which led Dave to do the brilliant and iconic artwork.

the cover image

Astral cover

The album is divided into three - Mike's songs with Brian Calvert; Chris's songs; and on side two Thundermother. Mike labeled the SIDES of the album 'Lightyears Away' (side one Mike, Brian and Chris); and 'Heavyside Layer' (side two, Thundermother). There is thus no single artist, and like A to Austr, Astral doesn't really have one. Over time the idea that there were two groups had arisen 'Lightyears Away' and 'Thundermother'. A to Austr had a by-line: "Musics from Holyground" . Astral had a similar one on a couple of posters: "Music For The Human Mind".

To mark the split between Mike's / Brian's songs and Chris's songs Mike added the Apollo rocket launch sound effect.

by Chris Coombs

Chris Coombs vocal, piano, stylophone

Bill Nelson guitars Brian Wilson bass

Ted Hepworth drums

torn by her sunshine
he lies in the meadow
tears overtake him
lost in her rainbow
painful but walking
he is led away
by a White Monk at the end of the day

Madeline Magic
don’t tell I warn you
now you have torn him
now I have torn you
part taken, revenge
justice, yeah
never shall woman hurt him again

Mike suggested the use of Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow as a suite-like title for these three songs

Ted Hepworth

Ted Hepworth

by Chris Coombs

Chris Coombs vocal, organ, steel guitar

Bill Nelson bowed guitar, guitar
soft night comes slowly on your window sill
and on mine and I know that it’s time
put on my boots and my coats and my rings
as I order a carriage for nine
pumpkins don’t change any more
so I walk round the block
with some glass in my hand
for you to try on so you’ll come out with me
to the ball at the rusty bandstand

every day watching a girl who’s a Princess
is tough for a man don’t you see?
could be a slopsong if written by any
Prince Charming excepting by me
wind blows up and down the road with the gust
and the dust that is making a hill
as curlers in hair and a fag in her mouth
she comes home each day from the mill

Japanese millgirls strike flutters in hearts
that are beating beneath yellow breasts
North Country millgirls put passion in miners
with heavy black hair on their chests
were I a miner all filled with desire
lying down I’d go mining for gold
being as me as I am and will be
her three inch high heels turn me cold

I’ll send her a bunch of pink plastic of roses
whose scent with soap fumes fills the air
I’ll talk of the waves, of the rollers
that laquer has set in her peroxide hair
I’ll sing of the weals, of the bobbins, the calouses
rubbed in her delicate hand
and Satanic mills that like churches have filled
this pit-covered part of the land . . .

by Chris Coombs

Chris Coombs vocals

Bill Nelson guitars, vocal

Martin Snell piano

Ron double bass

now I’ve told you all the story of the girl I used to know
well she played the fast and loopy in a town called Buffalo
she played the natural grinner and your hangups died of shame
then she’d eat the men for dinner as she won at every game

the man who stole her magic and took her latest breath
deformed became a tragic in the art of making death
he stalked the answer boldly but it turned his heart to stone
now in the night she whispers coldly in the end I’m not alone

ah all her friendship kindness gone
ah but in him it lingers on

in the steps of Sleeping Beauty pricked her finger to the bone
then awoke to certain duty still she goes it on her own
when the White Monk dies of sorrow put your last life on the shelf
and be the Phoenix of Tomorrow, be a prophet to yourself

ah still her friendship kindness gone
ah still in some it lingers on

additional tracks

by Mike Levon / Chris Coombs

Chris Coombs guitar, vocal

Mike Levon drums, tape loops

all the places round us change their present colours
turning from flamboyance into umber
winter is withdrawing, heralding the spring
the summer solstice turns in real anger
autumn crowns the days in coils of amber

the power of your frightened eyes
could tear this world asunder
echoes of your voice like rolling thunder
hiding under power, no-one sees you now
they just come up and ask you ‘What’s the matter?’
and see your eyes and stop and cease to wonder
if you could see the setting sun
could hear the stellar rumble
which images of gods are buried under
terran understanding
you’d know had not been found
the season’s spin is counted in cold numbers
and all the time there is is nearly over

in a coiling of amber galaxies
you listening to the ticking of the stars
atomic reason in the minds who try
shot down in flames
stood up in coils of amber

Mike was always playing about with tape loops. Sadly he never used them as a basis for songs, otherwise musical history could have been very different! These loops have some of Mike's drumming on them and are recorded in 1968 - 1969.

by Chris Coombs

Chris Coombs piano, vocals, harmonica

if you’re travellin’ on your way to bed
try to find me tonight
I see you, nearly, nearly, not quite
write a letter goin’ up the stairs
mail a letter back home
latest news, inside ma shoes,
I gotta move, I gotta phone

while you just sit at home waiting for the sun
I might just as well sit back in the farm
and get me my favours done

think about and talk about around my name
find my foot a face, face a foot
oh oh, ain’t that cute? but in the wrong place


by Chris Coombs

Chris Coombs piano, treated pianos, vocals

a little tale I’ll tell to you
of animals both red and blue
of cobalt tortoise, scarlet hare
but everyone’s born blue so there!

and when they’re grown they’re blue or red
Ginger Hare to Humph the tortoise said
Rhode Island red, in crimson lake
is paradise and please don’t make

your way across the water to the hares
we know that any redness scares
but Humph replied ‘Experience has taught us
far better dead than red for a blue tortoise’

they bust the isle
and led the hares away
let in the sea - to their dismay
purple water purple stains
and purple creatures
Humph blew out his brains

across the purpling sand for all to see
crimson brains as red as red could be
and the moral is all that bothers is not blue


by Frank Newbold / Peter Illingworth

David John (Miff) vocals

Dave Millen (Ginner) guitars

Frank Newbold guitar, bass

Fred Kelly drums

in days of Yesterday
the thoughts your mind portrays
your deepest inmost side
the feelings you can’t hide

Today we stand alone
into the night we go
to find your inmost side
the feelings you can’t hide

now Yesterday is gone
still the dream drags on
sleeping from day to day

Tomorrow’s on the run
there are things that must be done
living from day to day

now we find the Sign
we’re searching for
the Sky reveals
what the future tries to hide

David John, known to us at the time as Miff(y)


This song was a first take, and no-one warned Mike it was lengthy. He expected it to be about 8 minutes from chatting about it, but it carried on well past that, with Mike watching the end of the tape coming up. It made it - but 10 seconds more and it wouldn't have!

by David John / Dave Millen / Dave Wilkinson

David John vocals

Dave Wilkinson piano

Dave Millen guitars

the house where you dwell
stands inside your head
the Universe she’s one across your mind

you are where you’re at, nowhere else instead
who’s to say there is no use in trying?

it’s a long way to go home
before you’re really home
it’s a long long way to get back home

gotta get back


above : Ginner
(Dave Millen)

by L T Tateman III

Dave Millen guitar

Dave Smith bass

Fred Kelly drums

Mike Shearing writes : "The photo, (see right), of Dave playing with a member of “Jerusalem Smith” on Bass was me! That is Fed Kelly’s furry jacket at the side.

I remember some of that weekend. I had to as I was the guy that provided the transport! I remember Fred Kelly well - we did play quite a bit together I liked his strong style of playing. If I remember the photo must have been taken while playing 'Rock Me Babe' as I do remember doing that with him and as far as I know it was a practise and not laid down.

I couldn’t  play the bass part to Woman (on Gagalactyca). I have always been totally blown away how he (and now I know you) laid that Woman track down. I do remember that and listening to it afterwards as it progressed. Playing with Dave was to me the ultimate, and I have always thought him to be one of the best ever.   
Jerusalem Smith played their final gig on the 31st December 1969 at Preston Public hall as a support band with Slade as top of the bill".

additional track

by Dave Millen / Dave Smith / Fred Kelly

Dave Millen guitar

Dave Smith bass

Fred Kelly drums

Mike mixed this with some effects and Dave Wood's spiel about UFO's. However, as the fade ends a strange ethereal voice appeared from nowhere, saying "You Know Me"!

It was clearly some electrical break-through from somewhere - we regularly got taxis and occasionally bits of radio (as on Jumble Lane), but this was weird.

The Astral Navigator?
by Dave Millen / Dave Smith / Fred Kelly

Dave Millen guitar

Dave Smith bass

Fred Kelly drums

Recorded live at Bretton Hall one Saturday night, Mike titled this after Pete Duce who was from Preston and took many fine pictures of Thundermother, Mike, Chris and others. Pete now lives in Antigua and still totes a camera.  
by Dave Millen / Dave Smith / Fred Kelly

Dave Millen guitar

Dave Smith bass

Fred Kelly drums

More of the 'Rock Me Babe' based jam, again titled by Mike nodding to the mystery voice and the riff's origin.  

ASTRAL was made by copying tracks from one tape machine to another and back again, all in glorious mono. The album boasts doctored pianos, multi-fuzzed acid guitars, Holyground’s patent headphone phasing, amplified Stylophone, space launches, clocks and UFO’s. Eerily, right at the end of the original LP, on Rock Me UFO mix, a strange voice just appeared on the tape saying “You know me?” To this day no-one knows where it came from . . .

Fourth Coming, Path of Stone, Windows of Limited Time, The Astral Navigator, Yesterday, Today (North Country Cinderella), Tomorrow (Buffalo), Face My Foot, Tale of the Blue Tortoise
© 2002 writers, MCPS, and BUCKS MUSIC

Stellar Amber, Someday, Country Lines, Rock Me UFO mix, Rock Me Jam, Duce Blues
© 2002 writers and HOLYGROUND MUSIC

thanks to Dot, all at STYNG, Cadellin Silverbrow, Shirl & Slyv, Ken, Kao, Aki, Peter Duce, ‘Le Taileur’

cover drawing and artwork Dave Wood
album designed, recorded & produced Mike Levon


In association with Kissing Spell Records, Holyground has released all the recordings from the '60s and '70's, except for Skybird's Summer Of 73, and Bill Nelson's Northern Dream.

Several of the albums have only ever been released in small vinyl runs : volumes 1, 5, 9, 10 and 11. All have a considerable number of additional tracks. The average running time of each CD is over 60 minutes and often more than 70 minutes.

Mike has scoured his archive and made several surprising finds, especially the
songs "hidden" on the bottom track or other side of the tape - tracks even he didn't know he'd got!

Each CD in the series has:

  • from 60 to 74 minutes of music
  • full colour eight page booklets and inlays
  • renovated and previously unseen photographs and original artwork
  • words to all original songs
  • additional tracks, out-takes, and contemporary tracks (covering just about everything Holyground recorded!)
  • several previously unreleased recordings, and some remixes
  • a special silver label and logo, in a rainbow of colours!
  • background and recording information
  • a special webpage with more information, recollections, photographs and news
  • info, and anecdotes  . . .   the works!

ASTRAL NAVIGATIONS and A TO AUSTR are the most well known albums on the label during its early days from 1966 to 1975. These and nine others make up the "Works" released through KISSING SPELL:

series volume
release date
LAST THING ON MY MIND has never been released since the original 99 vinyl copies made by Mike Levon when he recorded it in 1966. It is an album of folk and early folk rock - the roots from which Holyground grew. There are standout performances from Chris Coombs and others. It's an album of great beauty: if you close your eyes you can see the candles, and feel the dark . . . There are also several out-takes and contemporary recordings never previously released at all!
The first LP to carry the 'Holyground' label. The name comes from an Irish folk song, and was used by Mike to name his flat in Cyprus Street - doesn't everyone name their homes? Recorded partly in Bretton Hall, partly in Jacobswell Lane - Mike's later flat, shared by Norfolk Jim, Brian Wilson and Derby Dick, most of the tracks were made in Moodies Bar. Moodies was a real old-fashioned pub in 1966 - 67. Women had only just been allowed in! - although they were still excluded from the small back room where the recordings were made. In fact, Shirley Levon may have been one of the first women to drink in there during the recording sessions! A mixture of traditional folk and new acoustic songs, with a nod towards early folk-rock, Bread Street sold 243 out of 250 copies made, and still made a loss!
In 1967 Mike Levon moved into his own flat in Cass Yard half-way down Kirkgate. There were two large bedrooms, and one quickly became a studio, allowing Mike to start recording drums and electric guitars. His first electric recording was of Bill Nelson's group 'Global Village' - a good omen for the future! From late 1967, through 1968 and 1969 Mike recorded a variety of people including several commercial records of clubland artistes such as Winston Smith, Joanna Starr, The Method, and even an LP of mood music for a local bingo chain. During this time he started working closely with Chris Coombs, and with existing musicians such as Brian Wilson, augmented by other new people like Al Green, George Mabon, Brian Calvert and Ted Hepworth. The results was the album A to Austr. This dealt with many current themes: from drugs to sex, wisdom to wonder, and resulted in a very varied album of what has become know as psych-rock. It was Holyground's best work to date, and set the scene for the 1970-71 period: a busy, creative time which saw the making of albums like Jumble Lane, Bill Nelson's Northern Dream, Gagalactyca, and above all the seminal 'Astral Navigations'. Austr itself was viewed by some as their favourite album from England: 'they do it all,' said American dealer Greg Breth who was l;ucky enough to find one copy from the 99 made.

Described by one collector as a “deeply evocative and enchanting album which really touches me”, ASTRAL is seminal Holyground. The album has two complementary sides: side one features songs by Mike Levon and Brian Calvert, and by Chris Coombs: acoustic rock with Holyground’s psych edge. The three Chris Coombs tracks also feature Bill Nelson on lead guitar. Side 2 showcases Thundermother, searing guitars in a progressive, acid-rock band featuring David John who had earlier recorded with Joe Meek as David John and the Mood.

GAGALACTYCA has only been released on vinyl. It is a sister album to Astral Navigations. There are two "sets" of music : Chris Coombs and others (Lightyears Away), and Thundermother. Chris and Mike Levon wrote songs for the Light Years Away "side" of the album. Standout tracks are the short though beautiful "That Is What We Need", and "Cold Tired and Hungry" a storming track featuring Bill Nelson on guitar. Thundermother come up with five brilliant tracks, four of them their own songs. Standout tracks are a version of "Woman" by the group, an acid guitar epic in "Come On Home", and the beautiful "Woman In My Life".  
Described accurately by one reviewer as “going through so many unexpected and bizarre changes as to be completely un-categorisable”, JUMBLE LANE was recorded by friends and local students in the summer of 1971. From the delicacy of “The Gallery” and “Blues for Joanne” to the rock of “Frustration: Ends Away” it’s psych rock of the highest calibre. Bonus tracks include songs by Steve Channing who made his debut on JUMBLE LANE.
JUMBLE LANE’s success meant new students at the nearby college would turn to Holyground to record their own albums. Pete Howells and Jim Gordon, as BLUE EPITAPH, made the acoustic, psychedelic whimsy that is ODE - another highly collectable Holyground album. The third group to do this, in 1974, recorded the album “JUNCTION 32”. As an album it was not a success, but there were some fine tracks, and these are included as bonus tracks on this CD. Bonus tracks are the best of the 1974 album “JUNCTION 32” : Third Take / Whiskey In The Jar / Bill Bailey / Prickety Bush / Bold Princess Royal / Ropegate Rag.
During 1972 and 1973 local band GYGAFO recorded a variety of tracks at Holyground. Rock with a psych edge, recorded in true Holyground tradition, the band featured Charlie Speed on lead guitar. Charlie’s lead, with Eddie’s keyboards, makes the album glow. Standout tracks are “Solid Man Song”, and the long, pastoral title track. One bonus track is by a contemporary of the band, Ark; another guitar led band stretching out over a long song.
In 1975 Mike closed down Holyground (temporarily as it turned out) to start a new studio venture in Doncaster. In the last few midsummer weeks he suggested to Steve Channing that some of his songs, plus some Mike and Steve would write later on, should be recorded. Mike asked the members of 'Lazy Days' to join in giving (as he thought before the recording sessions) a line up of Steve on vocal / acoustic guitar; Dave Wilson on electric guitar; Alan Robinson on bass; and John Shepard on drums. None of the band had met Steve on the first day of recording, and to Mike's surprise Lazy Days turned up with a Hammond organ player, Mick Spurr, who also added an early Moog synth to the line-up. The results, even on the first day, were magic - a lively set of songs driven by Steve's vocals and skills on guitar, and backed by a tight and fluid group. The songs, often blued based, were lovely. The atmosphere was electric, and pushed along by the knowledge that Holyground was ending. Steve and Lazy Days had been regulars since the 70's - Steve appearing first on Jumble Lane and Lazy Days had recorded there on several occasions and in different line-ups. This CD captures the end of an era.
volume one
The original Loose Routes double vinyl LP with a large format booklet consisted of many tracks which have been included with other "The Works" reissues, and in the case of Bill Nelson, on "Electrotype". This two CD release is largely unissued material and, with the other "Works" CDs, completes the Holyground recordings. Volume one covers the start of Holyground and the period upto the making of Astral Navigations in 1970/1971.
volume two
Volume two starts with Thundermother and carries Holyground through to the (temporary) end in 1975. The final track is from new Holyground recordings from 1990.
All the Holyground recordings made by Bill Nelson from 1968 to 1972, (excepting Northern Dream - separately available, and Teenage Archangel). The CD has 21 tracks, and covers the period from the start of Global Village up to the early Be Bop De Luxe. 68 minutes from Bill's first ever recording to the days just before signing to EMI to make Axe Victim - all the Global Village and Be Bop De Luxe recordings still in existence.