For Absent Friends: The Curious World Of Frankly Arthur
Who or what was Frankly Arthur? Prog goes on the trail of the long-lost band.
When gathering information for this feature, Prog’s attention was piqued by a message on the Facebook page of Nursery Cryme producer, John Anthony: “On the rare occasions when no one was using [Trident] during the all-night mixes of Nursery Cryme, he was writing away and having a whale of a time on the piano that was on Hey Jude. I helped and encouraged him in his side-project Frankly Arthur with David Hentschel and Ronnie Caryl.”
The ‘he’ in question was Phil Collins. This writer had never seen the name Frankly Arthur, and, as one of the team who researched Collins’ Plays Well With Others collaborations album, wondered if it was a jape from Anthony to confuse hardened Genesis watchers. It was, in fact, all true. We dropped David Hentschel a line, and he confirmed the story: “The core of Frankly Arthur was me and two of my school friends: David Cole, who played drums and sang, Frank Friestedt [from Washington DC] was the lead singer and guitarist. I played keyboards, occasional guitar and bass. Trident used to allow us to use studio downtime at night, ostensibly to allow me (an in-house assistant engineer) to practise the craft of audio engineering. As time progressed, the late Jack Nelson [Queen’s first manager, who ran Trident’s production company] was impressed enough by some of our efforts to pay for a string orchestra and several songs were mastered, although never released. Ronnie Caryl was an occasional contributor on bass and guitar, and also deputised for Frank whenever he returned home to the USA. Phil was a contributor when we jammed and recorded with two drummers. Our only venture into live performance, with Ronnie and Phil, was a gig in Epsom Town Hall. Preston Heyman [Brand X/Kate Bush] also joined us for that – yes, three drummers!
“The original three of us in Frankly Arthur started recording in early 1970. Soon after that I met Phil. He introduced me to Ronnie, who was a school friend of his. Phil and Ronnie’s involvement would mostly have been pre-Nursery Cryme. After that, Frankly Arthur pretty much faded into obscurity as I became busier as a full-time engineer and Trident was always booked 24/7.”
All that remains of this curious, below-the-radar outfit is the picture above but undoubtedly, it helped give Phil Collins his taste for session work. After all, he did play well with others.