A veteran of the music industry, with a career stretching all the way back to 1970s New York, Philip Rambow has had many years of experience to perfect his craft. During his journey he has from band to solo artist, effortlessly, and from pub rock to new wave style just as smoothly. From co-writing several songs with the famous Kirsty MacColl to performing at the O2 Academy, Rambow’s career is fascinating, and a lesson in why crossing borders is so important for artists.
Originally from Montreal, the son of a tailor, Rambow took his stage name from the poet Arthur Rimbaud’s surname. He used it as a basis to begin his musical career, starting with his original band Missing Links, who styled themselves after The Beatles with a focus on folky rock style music. Rambow describes this time as a, “great folk scene”, adding, “Dylan played there with the band, on the 1966 tour. There was no booing. We were the cognoscenti.”
Studying at McGill University, Rambow attributes some of his passion for music to the time he was there, though not necessarily the studying itself. Simply by being in the presence of Chaim Tannenbaum, Anna McGarrigle and others in the rich Canadian folk scene helped to cement his love for the style of music, and to evolve his own voice. He describes the time as both psychedelic and formative, explaining: “I spent more time jamming in the student union than studying. The gigs in the Union were great as well – John Mayall’s Blues Breakers, with Mick Taylor on guitar; Mountain, with Corky Laing on drums; and Allan Ginsburg reciting Kaddish and doing Hari Krishna chants.”
On to London
Following his first foray into the world of music, Rambow made the leap from local bands to international artistry, travelling to London where he knew no one, and to make a fresh start. It was here that he was able to connect to the local pub rock circuit, and performed for the first time at the Lord Nelson in Holloway Road, alongside his new UK band The Winkies.
This is where Rambow first experienced the heights of success with his music, and he described the UK music scene as, “So exciting to be able to go to gigs almost nightly, free entry, and see all these great bands and musicians. There was nothing like it in North America.” Within a few months, the band had a full page in Melody Maker, and by that Christmas a record deal.
Soon, the band were working with Brian Eno and getting proper recognition – making Rambow a full-on success, graduating from the pub rock scene to something far more significant. He found himself travelling between New York and the UK for his musical requirements and working with increasingly bigger names across the industry, even teaming up with those like Mick Ronson for live shows and sessions.
Post Winkies and recent rebirth
Unfortunately, the success of The Winkies didn’t stretch much further, with Rambow citing, “A succession of poor producers” as the reason for their failure to make it to the big time back in the 70s. Despite this, the band could be considered a highlight in his career, with many great songs still enjoyed by fans to this day.
Following the relative success of his band, Rambow went solo with the release of two albums in the late 70s. But following that first launch into his solo career, he practically disappeared off the map until he resurfaced in 2017 with a brand-new EP titled Love and Rock, with two original compositions included. ‘Love is Hard Time’ and ‘The Modern Age’ are also included as legacy tracks on the EP, which Rambow explains is a way of, “Matching the two new ones with the old ones, style wise.”
Rambow continues on to say that, “Theme-wise, it’s a way of connecting and confirming my relationship to the past. I believe in the same values today as I did back then.” This shows that when it comes to his passion and enthusiasm for music, his values are the same as they’ve ever been.
When it comes to values, Rambow’s new EP continues with his tongue-in-cheek styling of self-described, “Folk-rock Canadiana”. The song, ‘Sold My Soul to Rock & Roll’ is a reference to his lack of faith, and the use of God or religion in older rock songs. “I’m an atheist, so I thought it would be amusing to bust some of the old Rock myths in a tongue in cheek kind of way.”
With Rambow firmly re-established in the genre after a long break in his music-making career, his upcoming show at the O2 Academy in Islington is sure to be one to watch. The singer/guitarist will be joined by CJ (Chris) Hillman on the pedal steel, as well as Maggi Ronson on backing vocals. As for the set list, Rambow revealed: “I’ll be singing ‘Dem Eyes’, ‘Love is the Answer’ and ‘The Hobo’s Lullaby’.”
For those interested in experiencing the nostalgia of Philip Rambow’s folk rock stylings, the artist can be found at:
his current label, and his albums can be purchased via PhilipRambow.com.