The group Easy Street were born out of the singer songwriting duo that were Ken Nicol and his brother-in-law Peter Marsh who released a couple of singles and an LP with CBS on the Epic label in 1974. The Nicol + Marsh’s Easy Street LP featured the instrumental talents of Pete Zorn on Bass, Saxophone and Banjo. All but one of the songs on the LP were written by Nicol or Marsh and they shared writing credits on three tracks.
In 1975 they became a trio, adding Richard James Burgess on Drums to the line-up. Performing as a four-piece group they won the judges panel vote in second heat of series four of the New Faces talent show, presumably adding Pete Zorn to their line-up for the appearance. They went on to appear in the first All Winners Final of the series, losing out to ventriloquist Roger de Courcey and his bear Nookie.
In 1976 they released their self-titled LP on Polydor Records, relying exclusively on the songwriting partnership of Nicol and Marsh and with Richard Burgess received a songwriting credit on five of the eleven tracks and, while not officially listed as a member, with Pete Zorn contributed to three tracks on the LP. The LP received the following review in the Reading Evening Post;
Easy Street are a trio. On the strength of this album they can dish up some pleasant, high harmony, soft rock but flounder a bit when they venture outside that formula. Instrumentally the group is fairly good. Another modest success.
Their first single I’ve Been Lovin’ You peaked at number 81 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in July 1976.
In October / November 1976 they were the support act on the 27 date UK tour for the prog-rock group Barclay James Harvest. At the Newcastle City Hall show on 10 October 1976, their management had put out lots of promotional material, including paper hats. Their appearance on New Faces was a cause of great amusement and resulted in large numbers of the crowd retiring to the bar, however after the first couple of songs they started to return and pay attention and by the time they were halfway through the set their sound had won over the good sized crowd.
They admit that by the time of Under The Glass, their second album for Polydor, they had lost their way a little due to a change in their approach to songwriting, resulting in one track being very different to another due to the mixture of songwriting collaborations in the group.
The trio spilt to leave Nicol and Marsh to relocate to Los Angeles to record one final LP together in 1978 before they too went their separate ways.
Ken Nicol settled in the United States for most of the 1980s and continued to perform as a solo artist and as lead vocalist for the group Versailles. He returned to the UK at the end of the 1980s and returned to touring the club circuit and produced a number of albums on his own label.
In 1997 he joined The Albion Band as lead guitar and singer as well as providing his songwriting talents and producing their four albums released during his time with them. In 2002 he joined the folk group Steeleye Span for their UK reunion tour. This collaboration ran for a further seven years and included tours of the UK, United States and Australia.
In 2008 he recorded a folk album with rubber-faced comedian, and lover of folk music, Phil Cool.
Ken continues to perform, write and record as a solo artist into 2020, although a scheduled event in Macclesfield on 27 March 2020 was cancelled due to the Government restrictions in force across the UK to combat the Coronavirus pandemic.
After the break up of Easy Street, Peter Marsh formed the short-lived punk / new wave group Twist and in 1979 they released the album This Is Your Life which included a track called Ads that featured Elvis Costello on backing vocals.
In the early 80s Peter worked closely with Greek composer Vangelis, releasing a single co-written and produced by Vangelis and providing his vocals on Vangelis’ 1980 album See You Later. He also worked with producers Godley & Creme and was a session singer with Manfred Mann’s Earth Band.
Peter’s next musical project was cloaked in mystery. The record company at Warner Brothers announced their arrival with this release statement;
Blanket of Secrecy are three young men engaged in a project of extreme sensitivity and a necessarily classified nature. They have been chosen specifically for their imagination, their dexterity with electric instruments, their ability to compose with panache and style.
For reasons of, shall we say diplomacy, we feel compelled to cloak our subjects in a veil of anonymity. Who are they? Where do they come from? That, we’re afraid, would be telling.
The synth-pop group Blanket of Secrecy’s album, Walls Have Ears, was released in 1982 with the band members listed under the pseudonyms of Tinker (Peter March), Tailor (Andy Howell) and Soldier (Roger Bechirian) with an additional member Spy (Phil McWalter) credited with a writing credit on the single Say You Will. Their identities were only revealed years after the record had long left the charts. A second album was recorded around the same time but never got a physical release. Blanket of Secrecy 2 was eventually released digitally in 2017.
Peter is still active in the music business and released new albums in 2013 and 2017.
Richard James Burgess
From as early as 1975 Richard Burgess co-produced, co-wrote, programmed, sang and played drums for the early electronic band Landscape, who had huge hit singles in the early 80s with Einstein a Go-Go and Norman Bates. Richard is credited as a musical innovator, defining the computer programmer’s and sampler’s role in modern music, creating one of the first computer driven hits using the Roland MC-8 Microcomposer as well as recording digital samples on a commercial recordings with his programming of the Fairlight CMI.
Since the late 1970s Richard has been exceptionally busy working as a musician, producer, author, composer, programmer and manager with many influential and diverse acts including Barbara Dickson, Kate Bush, Buggles, Visage, Spandau Ballet, Adam Ant, King, Five Star, Kim Wilde, Living In a Box and Brother Beyond to name only a few.
As a producer Richard was responsible for one of the first New Romantic hits, Spandau Ballet’s To Cut A Long Story Short, he also produced their albums Journeys to Glory (1981) and Diamond (1982).
He has held several educational posts, all related to music and production, has managed producers and engineers and been member of a large number of music related committees. He is currently the CEO of the American Association of Independent Music.
Prior to his involvement with Easy Street, Pete Zorn worked with The Goodies’ on their 1973 comedy album Sing Songs from the Goodies and appeared on the soundtrack to Willy Russell’s 1975 musical John, Paul, George, Ringo…and Bert. It was on this recording he first performed with, what would become one of his long term collaborators, Barbara Dickson.
After his brief involvement with Easy Street, the American multi-instrumentalist played acoustic guitar, mandolin, saxophone, flute, and bass guitar with many singers and groups, including Elaine Paige, Gerry Rafferty, Barbara Dickson, Steeleye Span and primarily as a member of Richard Thompson’s backing band.
In 1979 Pete joined his brother-in-law, Paul Phillips, to co-write the Top 10 hit Car 67, with Pete credited with coming up on the middle eight chord sequence and his brother Bill writing the B-side Communication Breakdown. The drummer of the hit was none other than Richard James Burgess. The single should have been a much bigger hit as following an appearance on Top of the Pops the demand for the single quadrupled but due to the record label’s place in the pressing plant queue they could only manage to produce a fraction of the 120,000 orders. Instead of topping the charts, it dropped down the charts, peaking at number seven.
To add to the record’s poor fortunes, Pete received a call to go and play saxophone on a session with one of his regular recording artists. He was already committed to promoting the Car 67 track so had to turn it down, instead suggesting Raf Ravenscroft play the saxophone on the huge Gerry Rafferty hit, Baker Street instead.
Tragically Pete Zorn was diagnosed with lung and brain cancer in early 2016 and he sadly died of the disease on 19 April the same year.