Part 1: Folk Club Days
Part 2: Electric Band
Part 3: After The Break
Part 4: Don't Say Goodbye
Part 5: End Of The Millenium
Part 6: Acoustic Odyssey
Part 7: Multiple Line-Ups
Part 8: 40 and Counting ...
Dave and Brian continued with duo gigs over the next few years. Other members splintered off to various other outfits.
Willoughby, Cronk and Fernandez were involved with Brian Connolly, leader of the glam-rock band The Sweet, on various projects, in one instance with Dave Lambert, in another with Andy Richards. Willoughby also played on Monty Python's "Contractual Obligation" album and appeared in the Terry Gilliam film "Time Bandits". Andy Richards went on into sessions work and record production.
Chas Cronk joined the Steve Hackett band between 1981 and 1983, then formed a band for the ice skating spectacular being staged by skating Robin Cousins (no relation). He worked on a few Wakeman albums and then, with Roy Hill, formed the duo Cry No More, releasing two albums and several singles for EMI Records. Cry No More had a strong, maybe even fanatic, following in the Twickenham area of West London, and also had single success in Germany with "Oh Sharon". Cry No More disbanded officially in 1994, but continue to play a handful of gigs a year for their supporters (in 2002 supporting Marillion on a European tour - for further info on Cry No More see their website at www.crynomore.co.uk.
In 1983 Dave Cousins appeared on the first episode of Rick Wakeman's TV talk show "Gas Tank". Rick had wanted to re-unite the version of Strawbs which played the QEH back in 1970 and got Hooper, Hudson, Ford and Cousins to join him for a live version of "The Hangman And The Papist". Shortly afterwards, Cambridge Folk Festival organiser Ken Woollard approached the band about an appearance at Cambridge. Rick wasn't available, and Blue Weaver was recruited on keyboards, with Brian Willoughby joining what was effectively the Grave New World band on lead guitar. A week's rehearsal produced a fine show, and by general agreement the band agreed to keep the outfit going on an occasional basis. Blue Weaver however was unavailable to tour, so with effect from the US tours undertaken in 1984 and 1985, ex-Hudson Ford keyboard player Chris Parren replaced him in the line-up.
Line-up for the 84/85 tours
John Ford also left the band when he decided to relocate to the U.S. permanently, and he was replaced on the bass by veteran rocker Rod Demick, who had been on Wheels, then worked with Herbie Armstrong as a duo and latterly had just completed a 9-year stint in David Essex's backing band.
1986 and 1987 saw the band extending their reach, with short tours into Scandinavia as well as their usual short hop to the U.S. A new album Don't Say Goodbye, the first for nearly 10 years was recorded, featuring some of the tracks from the still unreleased Heartbreak Hill re-recorded by the current line-up: "Something Or Nothing", "We Can Make It Together" and "Let It Rain". Other highlights were ""When The Crying Starts", "Evergreen" (with Tony Hooper vocals) and the acoustic "Beat The Retreat".
Don't say goodbye ...
The next major burst of Strawbs-related activity was in 1991, when Dave Cousins moved from radio work to working in TV, based in London rather than his beloved West Country, work which apparently gave him more time for the band.
At the same time there were three notable Strawbs releases on CD. In 1990, Dirty Linen had released Preserves Uncanned, a 2-cassette set of early Strawbs/Strawberry Hill Boys recordings, which though a limited edition, was nominated for an award. John Tobler's Road Goes On Forever label released the material in 1991 on 2 CDs and the set remains one of the most successful Strawbs releases on RGF, still selling seven years later. The legendary Sandy Denny tapes also finally surfaced on CD, as Sandy And The Strawbs, released by Joe Boyd's Hannibal label, and featuring a different selection of tracks which emphasised Sandy's involvement.
Finally, a new release - Ringing Down The Years - albeit one which was only saw the light of day via Virgin Records in Canada. The CD had re-recorded versions of "The King" (this time featuring Cathy Lesurf duetting with Dave), "Ringing Down The Years" and "Grace Darling", both the latter featuring Brian Willoughby's lead guitar solos which had become a feature of their live performance. Also resurrected was a track from the Strawbs first album, "Tell Me What You See In Me". Wholly new songs included a couple from Dave, a couple from new writing partnership Hudson/Demick/Willoughby and, in deference to Canada's requirements for indigenous content, a non-Strawbs track "Might As Well Be On Mars", released as a cassette single by the Strawbs fan club.
1992 saw the tentative release by A&M of a "best of" collection Choice Selection, and a video of a live show recorded in 1990 for Central TV and released as Strawbs' Greatest Hits Live; the following year Road Goes On took the soundtrack and released it as Greatest Hits Live on CD with two extra tracks.
1993 was heralded as Strawbs' 25th anniversary (probably of their signing with A&M in April 1968 which produced their first single in June '68), and plans took shape for a national tour, with Don Airey taking over the keyboard slot from Parren who was committed to the Rocky Horror Show band. The Silver Anniversary shows brought out a few songs from the archives, both old - "Oh How She Changed", which perfectly suited a rock backing - and new - "Heartbreak Hill", which was rapturously received. Performed for the first time by the band, in a version first arranged for but not released on the Deep Cuts album, was "Blue Angel" from Dave's unjustly overlooked solo album.
After the anniversary celebrations, another tour was proposed, supporting Lindisfarne on a national jaunt running up to Christmas. This however was beyond the patience of Tony Hooper's employers and he exited the band a second time, along with Don Airey, the latter being replaced by Blue Weaver returning to the fold.
25 years on
1993 had also seen the Strawbs attempt their own festival, the Suffolk'n'Good Festival, but in the next few years fans were to enjoy relatively few and far between live performances.
Dave and Brian released a further album The Bridge in 1994, with so many Strawb-related guest stars in support that it might as well have been a Strawbs album. Highlights were "You Never Needed Water", "The Plain" and Dave's country-tinged "Further On Down The Road". Dave and Brian reprised Cousins and Hooper's 1965 tribute to veteran folkie Alex Campbell "Song For Alex", forgotten even by its writers until the release of Preserves Uncanned.