The temptation to mythologize Bill Fay can be overwhelming; Fay was, for decades, as prolific as he was under-appreciated. Fay was, and still is, an artist disinterested in performance and promotion while remaining as dedicated a songwriter as ever, composing stacks upon stacks of stirring, abundant new music. Fay’s unsung-hero status has changed slowly, steadily, on the order of almost twenty-five years. With each new album comes new hosannas and evangelizers — Jeff Tweedy, Kevin Morby, Adam Granduciel and Julia Jacklin, to name just a few.
But to focus on the mythology is to distract from what’s truly special: Bill Fay writes music with the honesty and clarity of a person with much to say but nothing to prove, and in doing so delivers songs of remarkable beauty and confidence. The Bill Fay Group, in particular, is Fay’s most significant collaborative work; he records as a member of a larger group here, and the result summons a grander sonic scale, an elegant counterweight to Fay’s instincts for the understated. Tomorrow Tomorrow and Tomorrow brings to bear the galactic qualities of early rock, the intricacy of jazz improv, and Fay’s earthy folk magic. For whatever might be going on amongst the instruments, Fay’s lyrics almost inevitably come back to nature, and to a matter-of-factness about love and loving that gives his work even more depth and power.
Tomorrow Tomorrow and Tomorrow has a patchy release history: recorded between 1978 and 1981, it was not released until 2005, when it appeared on CD with limited streaming and no vinyl companion. A 2006 reissue brought the album onto vinyl but with a truncated sequence and nine songs missing. Now, finally, Tomorrow Tomorrow and Tomorrow arrives in full worldwide. Available on streaming services worldwide and pressed to a double-album vinyl edition, it features the album’s original 22 songs and includes rare and previously unseen photographs from Tomorrow Tomorrow and Tomorrow’s original recording session.
We are fortunate to have a brief history of Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow, written by Gary Smith and Rauf Galip, missing Bill Stratton, and abbreviated from the forthcoming album notes:
Both Bill Stratton and Gary Smith liked Bill Fay’s albums at the time they were released. When his third album didn’t appear, Bill S. contacted Decca Records to find out why. They gave him a contact for Bill’s manager who said there wasn’t another contract in the offing, so put the two Bills in touch.
Forward to 1977, we’ve got The Acme Quartet, a trio, with Gary on guitar, Rauf on bass and Bill S. on drums (as Bill Fay said “Their sound was such though that they could have called themselves ‘The Acme Quintet’ or ‘Sextet’”). We’d been gigging for a while and got a performance at The Fulham Arts Centre in S.W. London. We asked Bill to come along and do a solo set. Nice grand piano for him and we all had a great evening. Bill asked us if we’d be interested in getting together, so we hired a rehearsal room above a pub in Wandsworth and it worked out well, socially and musically.
We met regularly in Gary’s flat in Tooting, in a tiny living room, to talk and work on the music. Bill had a lot of songs, and it was important for us, Gary, Bill S., and Rauf, to choose what we thought were the right songs. The Acme Quartet was an intense, uncompromising group, with a lot of improvising, beyond jazz and coming out of rock music. We initially wanted to make the music extremely powerful (there are elements of this in the song ‘Life’). Also, by this time Gary had more or less left rock music and hadn’t expected to work with someone like Bill and his music, he’d spent years doing that, but Bill was different. As has been said, we all served the music.
We chose five songs to record as finished pieces: Life, Spiritual Mansions, Cosmic Boxer, Strange Stairway, Isles of Sleep, all recorded in two studio sessions. We sent them out to try and get a record deal. There were few really independent labels back then and Punk was in the record labels’ ears. No deal.
Around this time Bill Stratton left the group. It was a difficult time, late night trains, not a lot to expect from beyond the music itself, hours in a day and we were financing everything, which wasn’t easy as we were all broke! Bazz Smith came in and generously gave his time, a brilliant drummer whom Gary and Rauf had both worked with (the same goes for Chris Merrick Hughes, John South, and Dave Bernez who gave their time and considerable skills). We knew we wanted to carry on to complete a full album, which we did.
And now, Dead Oceans who have a lot of faith in Bill’s music wants to re- release the ‘Tomorrow’ album. A double vinyl package. Is there any more unreleased music for the fourth side? Of course. So, we’ve been opening old boxes, finding CDRs, cassettes, a musical archaeological dig. This is our choice
from all the music we found.
Fly Like a Bird.