Awesome Men Throughout History: Howard Werth
This week’s installment of Awesome Men Throughout History focuses on someone you should have heard of, but probably haven’t; musician and record producer Howard Werth. Werth was the frontman of Audience, a British art rock band that achieved cult-level popularity, but was a near-miss as far as mainstream success was concerned.
Born in London, Werth’s entrance to the music industry came through graphic design. He designed album covers for Pye Records, and worked on albums by The Kinks and Marlene Dietrich, among many others. He formed Audience in the late 1960s, and at their peak, they toured with Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and Rod Stewart. Genesis was one of their support acts.
Unfortunately, that was as high as they got. “We were naive in business terms,” Werth recalled in a 1975 interview with NME. “There was no master plan and we didn’t take advantage of the obvious ups. After a while it all seemed pointless.”
After Audience broke up in 1972, Werth started another band and was briefly considered as Jim Morrison’s replacement in the Doors, which clearly didn’t happen. Legend has it that Werth turned down the offer, but Werth claims that Ray Manzarek and co. weren’t super interested in him.
Either way, being Jim Morrison’s replacement would have probably been a kiss of death. A profitable kiss of death in the short term, but those were shoes no one could have possibly filled.
I was introduced to Howard Werth through his song “Obsolete,” which was released by seminal punk label Dangerhouse Records in 1978. According to a 1991 interview with Dangerhouse’s Dave Brown, Howard wrote the song in about half an hour and was “a completely delightful Englishman, who had received not nearly enough acclaim in his country.”
Howard also played a homemade Zematis guitar, which weighed about 20 pounds and was made of metal, on that track.
What’s great about Howard’s music, then and now, is how unpretentious it is. He cut his teeth in an era full of swaggering phonies who thought they were better and more important than they actually were, and their music reflects that; overproduced, over-composed, flat, and dull. “Obsolete,” meanwhile, is a fantastic, punky little rock song that has the blues influence of its contemporaries without any of the hubris.
Hell, enough talking about it. Let’s listen to it, and grab some of Audience’s stuff while you’re online.
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About Dave Kiefaber Dave Kiefaber is a Baltimore-based writer who regularly contributes to Adfreak and the Gettysburg Times. His personal website is at www.beeohdee.blogspot.com.