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TLAK TALKS: Behind the Scenes with Unicorn – Navigating the Music Industry and Forging Lasting Bonds

In this exclusive interview, we dive into an insightful conversation with Pat Martin, a key member of the band Unicorn, who shares the group’s journey from their early days, working with David Gilmour, and the challenges they faced along the way. Discover how the band’s music has found new life through various deals and re-releases, and learn about the enduring friendship between the remaining members.

TLAK: You have played a pivotal role in preserving and promoting Unicorn’s legacy through involvement in reissues and other projects. Can you share what inspired you to take on this responsibility? Was this a collective decision among band members, or did you take the initiative on your own?

Pat Martin: I was always referred to by David Gilmour as the ‘Go To’ person in the band, the other guys were not really interested so I got the job, I took the initiative to do it because nobody else would.

Until we got the record deals and heavy management I was like the bass player, sang one of the harmonies and was kind of like a tour manager. When we got the deals and management I became the go to guy between David, the management and the band. They would call me to ask how the band was feeling about various stuff, I would run it by them and report back.

After the band were forced to call it a day, due mainly to the new wave, I tried to get some interest but eventually gave up for many years.

It wasn’t until around 2000 that a friend told me Unicorn had a track on the EMI Harvest label album called Harvest Festival a compilation of most of the bands that had been on the label. I didn’t have any of the Unicorn albums as I had lent them to somebody and didn’t see them again. I decided to write to EMI to ask if I could borrow the tapes to make a CD of them for myself and people that had been connected to the band, they said NO. I phoned David Gilmour and he said he would look into it and a week later he phoned me and said that it had turned out that his manager,  Steve O’Rourke, had leased them to EMI and forgotten about them. David said they now belonged to O’Rourke and that he would ask him to give them back to us. O’Rourke agreed and I eventually was sent a message by EMI Harvest to pick up the tapes.

A little while after that I was contacted by ex-EMI high up guy Colin Miles who now had his own label See For Miles Records, I negotiated with Colin which resulted in us leasing a selection of songs to See For Miles for the Best Of Unicorn CD. When that deal finished we leased them to a small USA label called It’s About Music and Air Mail Recordings in Japan. Next I released an album of recordings I had produced at our Shed Studios rehearsal facility (my Dad’s single car garage) called Shed No Tear-The Shed Studio Sessions.

In 2017 I did a lease deal with Cherry Red Records on their Esoteric Recordings label for the three David Gilmour produced albums Blue Pine Trees, Too Many Crooks and One More Tomorrow albums all with bonus tracks and the digital only release of Shed No Tear. When that deal finished I did another deal for the 4-CD box set called Unicorn – Slow Dancing: The Recordings 1974 to 1979 which is the three albums plus a fourth CD of previously unreleased tracks.

When we first met David Gilmour, at a friends wedding, he offered us time in his home studio where we demo recorded lots of the songs that later were re recorded for the Blue Pine Trees album and some tracks we later re recorded for Too Many Crooks album. To cut a long story short, Dave DiSanzo got us a lease deal with Omnivore Recordings for these enhanced demos resulting in the vinyl and cd release of the album ‘Laughing Up Your Sleeve’

Our first album the 1971 release Uphill All The Way is not owned by us but has been re released many times on various labels and is a firm favourite with our followers. There is one more album which is our  very first attempts at recording and song writing when we were called The Late. It’s a CD released of these recordings called The Late-Songs From The Family Tree on the Wooden Hill label, a lease deal I did in a supermarket with the label owner David Wells.

TLAK: How do you, as well as the other Unicorn members feel about the continued interest and appreciation for the band’s catalog, even after so many years?

PM: There’s only Ken Baker and I left from the band that started as schoolboys in ’63. There were three of us Ken. The late Pete Perryer and myself from ’63 to ’77 with various other sidemen over the years. Ken is happy for me to run things.

TLAK: The album “Too Many Crooks” is considered one of Unicorn’s finest works. Can you reminisce about the atmosphere and the band’s mindset during its original creation and release?

PM: We all thought that we peaked on Too Many Crooks album. We were really happy working with David Gilmour, we were doing lots of gigs including a USA Tour in ’74 and the playing and Ken’s song writing was getting better all the time. Half way through the album Ken got writers block for a few weeks and while waiting we worked on the ones we had already put down. One day we were booked into Olympic Studios and David Gilmour phoned me the evening before to say he had to go to an important meeting but for us to still go to the studio to polish a few of the tracks. Ken in the meantime had written “No Way Out Of Here” and “In The Mood” so we recorded them both without David and they were the best recordings we had ever done in our humble opinions. David went into the studio the next day and heard the recordings, he phoned me up and was really pleased with them and said he liked “No Way Out Of Here” so much he was going to cover it on his first solo album.

TLAK: We’re excited about the upcoming Think Like A Key Music release of Keith Smart’s band St. Johns Wood Affair, in which you played a part and contributed bass to some tracks. Could you share some insights about your experiences and the story behind playing in the band?

PM: I played on some tracks with Keith Smart’s band St Johns Wood Affair. I met him through a mutual friend and his keyboard player Anne Whittet also plays in my 8-piece Motown covers band called the Tamla Tigers.

TLAK: Playlist Challenge: Please curate a playlist that includes 5 Unicorn tracks, as well as 5 songs from different artists that you feel would pair well with the selected Unicorn songs.

Stream and like the playlist on Spotify

Thanks to Pat Martin for taking the time in his responses, and be sure to pick up the CD and first vinyl reissue of Too Many Crooks out May 2023 via Think Like A Key:

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