Mult-artist rock opera concept albums were quite the thing in the 1970s, culminating in the hugely successful Jeff Wayne project War of the Worlds. Most of these projects – often trying desperately to be the next Rocky Horror Show or Tommy (the film versions of both being recent releases) with a knowing combination of high camp, pop culture references and rock ‘n’ roll – tanked miserably and failed to become the stage spectaculars that they so wanted to be. Flash Fearless Versus The Zorg Women Parts 5 And 6 is a perfect example.
Inspired by Saturday morning serials and comic books, this album was written by Canadians Dave Pierce and Steve Hammond, a couple of jobbing musicians who have a long list of credits for things you’ve never heard of. Somehow, they struck a deal with Chrysalis Records and pulled The Who’s John Entwistle, fresh from his fourth solo album Mad Dogs. Entwistle pulled along half of his backing band and – according to his own claim – produced under the pseudonym John Alcock (‘Alcock’ was the producer of Entwistle’s solo albums and not much else, so the claim that they were one and the same makes sense). Perhaps he wanted to show Pete Townsend that he too could create a memorable rock opera.
A motley crew of current rock stars were lined up to sing the songs and provide the music. Alice Cooper (at the time mid-transition from band to solo artist), Elkie Brooks, Steeleye Span’s Maddy Prior, Bill Bruford, Justin Hayward, Carmine Appice, Kenny Jones and other Seventies stars now lost to obscurity took part. Keith Moon recorded a somewhat superfluous spoken part. Cooper, Moon and Jim Dandy of Black Oak Arkansas were recorded in the US by Bob Ezrin, while everything else was recorded in London between October and December 1974.
The album was released in February 1975, complete with a 12-page comic book that explained the story and set the scene for the planned stage show mentioned on the record sleeve. The comic was also given away in the NME and in record stores across the UK. Unfortunately, during post-production, the running order of the songs was changed, ruining any chance of listeners following the story. The US edition had a slightly different track listing, just to confuse matters further.
And the music turned out to be, for the most part, rather plodding blues rock. Cooper’s I’m Flash had a certain verve, with Alice giving it his all – it’s not a million miles away from his music of the period, and was released as a promo single. The rest of the music is rather uninspiring, sadly.
The album itself, despite the starry line-up and heavy promotion, tanked badly, and that was the last anyone heard of the stage show until 1981, when the project was retooled as Captain Crash Versus The ZZorg Women Parts 5 & 6, expanded with new songs and performed in a small theatre in Los Angeles. It was not a success, and Flash / Crash has not been heard of since. The LP was, however, reissued on CD in 1999.
Listen to the US version below.