A montage of Ramases songs, by kind permission of Peter Stormare | SpaceHymns.com

A montage of Ramases songs, by kind permission of Peter Stormare.


Martin Raphael and Ramases are not the same person | Space Hymns

Ramases and Sel on Felixstowe beach, 1975
Ramases and Sel, 1975. Photo: Pennie Smith (NME)

It was reported by many reviewers and re-issue liner note writers that the real name of the artist known as Ramases (who recorded the cult classic album Space Hymns in 1971) was Martin Raphael.

However in May 2012, Dorothy, better known to Ramases fans as Sel (or Selket), advised that her late husband, Ramases (real name Barrington Frost) and Martin Raphael were not the same person.

I would like to clear up the confusion between Ramases (Barrington Frost), born in Sheffield, and Martin Raphael who played the sitar on Space Hymns. I do not know where he was born or where he lived. I wish to confirm that Ramases and Martin Raphael were not the same person. I do not know how this misunderstanding has come about. I would be interested to hear any comments. Love and light from Selket. (Dorothy Frost, wife of Ramases)

Dorothy’s message was posted on the Space Hymns website and Facebook Page, and actor and musician, Peter Stormare responded with some information after listening to the studio out-take tapes.

Martin Raphael’s nickname was Ralph to start with….
On one of the out-takes the engineer… (Gouldman, I think) talks over the intercom to the guy on the floor … you think it’s to Ram but actually Ram isn’t even there … it’s an overdub… (track is obviously Molecular Delusion, Mr Raphael’s only contribution).

“Hey Ralph” And it sounds as if Ram is replying, but that’s a previous take…
It’s very clear on our out-take…
“Ralph” Martin Raphael is then the only one talking…
Ram did show and sing him the chord-changes, but when the sitar is laid down on the next take Ram has left.

Also the famous “Fuck” heard on Molecular Delusions is clearly not Ram but Martin Raphael … he thought the chorus was coming and plays that note but there is still 8 bars of verse to go … he goes back to the verse after a bar.

Glass Top Coffin by Ramases officially released on CD for the first time

Ramases may have gone to the spirit world, but his legacy lives on in his music and this is the best of it. – Jon Wright, 2010

Ramases - Glass Top Coffin
Ramases - Glass Top Coffin

In 1975 I was 16 years old and living in the mining town of Boksburg, South Africa. Cat Ballou was the local record (and jeans!) shop in town within walking distance of my school, and I would spend many afternoons there soaking up the sounds of the latest releases. Rick Wakeman, Slade, Uriah Heep, Strawbs, Deep Purple, Supertramp, Yes and many, many more well-known artists were to be heard there.

One day the owner of Cat Ballou, Mrs Glencross, showed me the latest import, ‘Glass Top Coffin’ by an obscure artist Ramases. I already had a pre-recorded cassette of his ‘Space Hymns’ album from 1971 and loved it. This new import was marked at the princely sum of R7.50 … normal local pressings went for about R5.50, so this was way expensive at the time.

However I bought it (probably about 3 months worth of pocket money) and though it was very different in tone and feel from ‘Space Hymns’, I played it over and over and let the other-worldly themes, swathed in orchestral strings wash over me.

I really loved this album, and have played it often and regularly over the years.

I even transcribed the lyrics and though there are inaccuracies, they are still the only ones I’ve ever been able to find.

I have published them on a fan website I set up at http://spacehymns.com

Skip ahead 35 years …

Estoric Recordings, part of the Cherry Red label have re-issued this album officially on CD for the first time. Remastered by Paschal Byrne from the original tapes and including a superb booklet with sleeve notes and rare images.

Extract from the excellent sleeve notes from the 2010 CD re-issue written by Jon Wright

Then, in 1975, Ramases and Selket returned with this masterpiece, Glass Top Coffin. Co-produced by Ramases and keyboardist Barry Kirsch, the album was markedly different from the debut. More eclectic and certainly more professional it was another concept album based on space themes. Orchestral arrangements gifted by members of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the London Symphony Orchestra clearly helped Ramases to fashion his space hymns into a space opera. Confident perhaps in their abilities with a solid recording set-up Ramases and Selket both found their voices on this record. Their duet on Now Mona Lisa being a seductive and beguiling standout.

Elsewhere, tracks like the dittyish Long, Long Time and Saler Man found the pair surfing a way between pop and prog to a degree that shames many other bigger names of the time. Gone was the chanting and quasi-religious babble, to be replaced by an altogether firmer song cycle – in short, this is a more considered and better orchestrated record. An indication that during his hiatus, Ramases had matured significantly as a musician and songwriter.

The cover was a sticking point for Ramases, who clearly had an acute aesthetic sensibility. The cover was designed by him with artist Dave Field, but a mistake in the production, which lead to the figure on the cover not being pop-out as he had planned annoyed him just enough to lose interest. Ramases were no more and after poor sales he retreated from the industry.

Ramases left very little behind him, but this masterpiece is justification enough for his extravagant claims and outlandish dress. Melancholy, uplifting, though still strange enough to be cult, the album has continued to garner worldwide praise. Selket has recently resurfaced to discuss the albums on various fan sites and forums from here to South Africa and Germany, where the albums became immensely popular. She claims that she has tried to forget most of what they did. If true, that would be sad enough, but the death of Ramases at his own hand in the late seventies reads like an Egyptian tragedy. Only the Loneliest Feeling and Mind Island take on an added poignancy in the light of this, full of innate sadness and dark melancholy, they also indicate the hand of a sensitive and heartfelt songwriter. Ramases may have gone to the spirit world, but his legacy lives on in his music and this is the best of it.

Glass Top Coffin - Original Back Cover
Glass Top Coffin - Original Back Cover

My Top Ten Favourite Rock Albums of All-Time

1. Piet Botha – ‘n Suitcase Vol Winter (1997)

Piet Botha - 'n Suitcase Vol Winter I first heard ‘Sien Jou Weer’ on radio KFM in Cape Town and I became an instant fan. I bought this album the same day. ‘Suitcase’ opened up a whole new genre for me: Afrikaans Rock, and I’ve never been the same since!

I was so in awe of this album, of Piet Botha the artist and of songs like ‘Goeienag Generaal’, that I set up a small fan website for Piet and Jack Hammer (his English hard rocking alter ego). This website has now become the official Piet Botha website! Please visit: www.pietbotha.com

2. David Bowie – The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars (1972)

David Bowie - The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars We wore our hair like Ziggy, we bought the platform shoes, we tried to play guitar. Bowie was Ziggy and Ziggy was Bowie and he sang: “let all the children boogie”… and we did.

There is a whole website dedicated to just this one album at: www.5years.com

3. Deep Purple – Made In Japan (1973)

Deep Purple - Made In JapanTHE classic live album from a classic rock band. “What a rip-off!”, I thought to myself when I first saw this album, “a double album with only 7 tracks on it!”. And then the energy in those 7 songs (the shortest being about 7 minutes) blew my mind, melted my speakers and drove my Methodist church organist father nuts. This album was my first introduction to Deep Purple and I was hooked for life. And they are still around, much to my father’s surprise, and possibly their own as well. www.deeppurple.co.za

In September 2001 a 4CD box set was released titled ‘On The Road’, which chronicles Deep Purple on stage across the years and around the world from 1969-1993. Full track list and review at: Deep Purple On The Road

4. Genesis – Selling England By The Pound (1973)

Genesis - Selling England By The Pound “Can you tell me where your country lies, said the Unifaun to his true love’s eyes” sang the plaintive voice of Peter Gabriel to open this album. I still have no idea what he was on about (or what he was on), but this pastoral, gentle progressive rock album captured my ears and my heart and will always be a favourite. Also contains the hit single “I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe”). This was back in the days when Phil Collins was just a drummer…

5. Golden Earring – Hearing Earring (1973)

Golden Earring - Hearing EarringThis album was a compilation of tracks from 2 previous European-only releases: ‘Seven Tears’ (1971) and ‘Together’ (1972). As far as I know ‘Hearing Earring’ has never been released on CD, but it is one of my all-time favourite rock albums, so I eventually bought the CDs of ‘Seven Tears’ and ‘Together’ just to have all these great tracks.

‘Jangalene’ is a classic rock song with its long acoustic intro and then thundering full-tilt climax. This album goes from light to dark, soft to loud in an instant and is very comparable to the Deep Purple or Zeppelin stuff from the same era. www.rock.co.za/files/hearing.html

6. Jethro Tull – Aqualung (1971)

Jethro Tul - Aqualung “Sitting on a park bench watching all the pretty panties run”. No wonder our parents hated it. Jethro Tull at their hardest and rockiest. Before the self-indulgence of ‘Thick As A Brick’ and ‘A Passion Play’, this was the spirit of early 70s rock captured on one album. And ‘Locomotive Breath’ is on it… worth the price of admission alone. www.rock.co.za/jethrotull

7. Pink Floyd – The Dark Side Of The Moon (1973)

Pink Floyd - Dark Side Of The MoonI remember hearing this album when it was just another new release, “the new Pink Floyd album”, nothing more. Who would have guessed the impact it would have on future generations? Well my friends and I did, for one. We knew this was nothing like we had ever heard before: sound effects, spoken words, hidden messages, cool cover, a swearword (this was South Africa in 1973, remember?), songs flowing one into the other… and David Gilmour’s guitar, oh that guitar sound…

Pink Floyd is still one of my all-time favourite bands and I have a fan site for them at: www.rock.co.za/pinkfloyd

8. Ramases – Space Hymns (1971)

Ramases - Space HymnsA Sheffield central heating saleman thinks he is re-incarnated as an Egyptian God. He gets his wife to sing with him, the fledging 10cc to play with him, and Roger Dean to paint the LP cover for him and produces a stunning work.

From acoustic love songs with gentle flutes to sitars and rock guitars this album explores the themes of alienation, loneliness and searching with a particular “other-world” feel. Hard to find but well worth the search. www.spacehymns.com

9. Rodriguez – Cold Fact (recorded in 1969, first released in South Africa in 1971)

Rodriguez - Cold FactIf you’ve heard of Rodriguez (and amazingly most of the world hasn’t), then you probably love this album like I do, so you don’t need me to tell you how good it is.

In 2002 I was asked for my input for a re-issue CD, and Terry Fairweather from PT Music and Bill Robb from Robb Graphics allowed me the freedom to fix many mistakes with lyrics, track listings, etc, as well as including one of my personal concert photographs from the 2001 South African tour. ‘Cold Fact’ album producer, Mike Theodore, provided some valuable info, as did Gary Harvey, co-composer of 2 songs on the album. And Rodriguez, the original Sugarman, supplied a quote or 2 and a signature. www.sugarman.org

10. Rick Wakeman With The London Symphony Orchestra – Journey To The Centre Of The Earth (1974)

Rick Wakeman - The Journey To The Centre Of The Earth Majestic sounds, choirs, synthesizers, the London Symphony Orchestra, narration of the Jules Verne classic by David Hemmings… this album was the ultimate fusion of rock and orchestra pioneered by Jon Lord (with Deep Purple) and Keith Emerson (first with The Nice and then ELP). Rick Wakeman – keyboard wizard? Oh yeah!

And yes, the years 1971 to 1974 were probably some of the best years of my life, and thanks to music, the net, my children and friends I am still very much in touch with my inner teenager. “Too old To Rock and Roll” – never! “Too young to die” – damn right…

Further reading

Brian Currin’s Top 50 Rock Albums of All-time

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