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Air


Dreamed up in 1967, Blue Air was the brainchild of Al Gwyllt, a precocious, piano-trained Ypsilanti, Michigan, songwriter. As a seventh-grader toting his first guitar, Gwyllt first glommed onto the British Invasion and then savage new Detroit-area rock acts like the MC5, the Stooges, and SRC. Blue Air—young Gwyllt’s naïve response in rock-band form—featured Richard Nisbet on bass and drumless drummer Scott Carter. “He got real creative,” Gwyllt said. “He took a bunch of clothes, put ‘em in a suitcase, and kicked it as the kick drum. He used metal trash can lids for cymbals.”

No longer “Blue,” the sleekly-named Air took gigs at area high schools and drive-ins, managed by Jim Vanheck, a college student then renting Gwyllt’s parents’ spare room. Convinced of Air’s potential, Vanheck formed his Triangle, Inc. firm to promote them. He’d book Air for more than 150 shows, in nearby Ann Arbor and Jackson, Michigan, plus Midwest towns much further afield. Before Air had even traversed high school’s hellscape, parental generosity funded the trio’s recordings in 1972, providing the $1000 needed to document the band’s darkly progressive vision using Artie Fields Productions’ 24-track facility on Detroit’s Woodward Avenue—the same studio where the MC5 had tracked High Time. Five hundred Autumn-labeled copies of the deeply King Crimson-esque “Twelve O’Clock Satanial” b/w “Jump Back” went primarily to friends and family, who must’ve been baffled by just what “the committee decides.” As for the track’s “satanial” midnight caucus, Gwyllt invented the word himself. “We were trying to be creepy and crazy,” he remembered. “It’s an evil thing.”

By 1974, past graduation from Ypsilanti High and the thrill of opening for Alice Cooper, adulthood loomed over Air, leading to dissolution. Nisbet and Gwyllt regrouped to form Masquerade, a prog-cloaked four-piece that, in two years’ existence, outgained Air as far as local renown. When Masquerade ended in ’77, Nisbet sojourned through Chicago to California, while Gwyllt’s solo career in Nashville, Tennessee, got him onto TV’s Charlie Daniels’ Talent Roundup. Much later, Gwyllt would mark a return to baffling terminology in naming The Crystally and Reticulatus Chronicles, his novel-length works of science fiction.


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