Trisha Shetty (Editor)

Grand Union (Frank Tovey album)

Updated on
Share on FacebookTweet on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Reddit
Released  1991
Producer  Mass produced
Release date  1991
Label  Mute Records
Recorded  1991
Tyranny & the Hired Hand  Grand Union
Genre  Dance/electronic
Grand Union  Worried Men in Second Hand Suits
Artists  Fad Gadget, Frank Tovey & the Pyros
Similar  Snakes and Ladders, Tyranny and the Hired Hand, Incontinent, The Fad Gadget Singles, Easy Listening for the Ha

Grand Union was released in 1991. The album was recorded at Sawmills Studio in Cornwall and at WW1, Harrow Road, London.


Background History

Grand Union was written by Frank Tovey as an autobiographical album based on a set of coincidences that happened within his life. Frank described the album as a ‘metaphoric vehicle’. He found that people and places involved in his music were located around the Grand Union Canal in London; including Mute Records, whose premises back on to the Grand Union Canal in the Harrow Road. All the songs were written by Frank on acoustic guitar becoming rockier when recorded with additional bass and drums. Pressure was taken off of Frank through working with other musicians. Frank would turn up at rehearsals with an acoustic guitar and completed songs. The other musicians would then just join in; Frank never had to tell them what to play. He found this way of working really refreshing. At the time Frank had begun working with the Pyros. Originally from Ireland they had moved to London they began working with Frank after meeting up at Hermes Point (near the Harrow Road), where the Pyros were then living, they used to sit down and play some songs from Frank’s Tyranny and the Hired Hand album. After getting on well they worked with Frank for the next couple of years. This was the beginning of what became Frank Tovey and the Pyros. All the time they worked with Frank, the Pyros became more electric while Frank became more folky. Acoustic instruments were used to form the basis with some traditional Irish music used to serve the whole recording. Frank was full of ideas, one being the building of a solid body, electric five string banjo for the recording of the album. Somewhere in the middle the ideas and influences met and made the Grand Union album. The songs included stories and ideas from the area around the Grand Union canal including ‘Bad day in Bow Creek’ which runs adjacent to the River Thames; and ‘Passing Through’ about the building of a motorway through an area where Frank lived whilst growing up. ‘Bethnal Green tube disaster’ tells his Mother’s story of when during the Blitz of London her father had taken her to the underground station to shelter from the bombing. In the blackout one of her shoes fell off and while searching for it avoided a terrible event that occurred that night. The panic stricken crowd who were rushing underground tumbled on the stairs and many people were crushed to death. Frank lived in Bethnal Green until he was five years of age. IKB (RIP) tells the story of Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s death. Brunel is buried at Kensal Green next to the Grand Union canal. The main single released from the album was ‘The Liberty Tree’. The video of ‘The Liberty Tree’ was filmed at Mudchute Farm on the Isle of Dogs. This is the same location where the cover artwork was shot of Frank riding a horse in front of Canary Wharf. The video was directed by Frank Tovey and Derrek Santini. ‘The Liberty Tree’ throws up a couple odd coincidences. The history of The Liberty tree comes from America. The British made the Liberty Tree an object of ridicule. Soldiers tarred and feathered a man named Ditson, and forced him to march in front of the tree. Americans would hang British officers in effigy form from the tree. Frank often appeared tarred and feathered (Gag album cover) and also wrote and sang many lyrics about hanging (Sam Hall) just a coincidence I am sure.

Track listing

  1. Bad day in Bow Creek
  2. When the Victim Takes the Tyrant's Place
  3. Passing Through
  4. Bethnal Green Tube Disaster
  5. Cities of the plain
  6. Fallen angel
  7. IKB (RIP)
  8. The Liberty Tree
  9. One November morning
  10. The great attractor


Other musicians recording with Frank Tovey were [The Pyros] consisting of:

  • Paul Rodden - Solid body 5-string electric banjo, 5-string acoustic banjo and acoustic guitar.
  • John Cutliffe - 5-string electric bass, acoustic guitar and strings.
  • Guest musicians included:

  • Charlie Llewellin - Drums, percussion and harmonium
  • Steve Smith - Organ, harmonium, piano
  • Tracey Booth - Bodhran.
  • Elliot Carnegie - Jaws Harp
  • Tozie Lynch - Bones
  • Songs

    1Bad Day in Bow Creek5:16
    2When the Victim Takes the Tyrants Place3:43
    3Passing Through4:50


    Grand Union (Frank Tovey album) Wikipedia