From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
If was a seminal band formed in 1969 as Britain’s answer to the pioneering U.S. bands Blood, Sweat and Tears and Chicago. Unlike these groups, however, If did not have a trumpet or trombone player but instead featured two saxophone players. Essentially a live band, true to its strong jazz influences, If was one of the few jazz-rock groups, both then and now, to feature solos by all the band members, not just by the lead instruments.
Like early pioneers Chicago, If were difficult to classify with any of their contemporaries; they seemed out of place wherever they played, and were considered too jazzy when billed with groups with a more rock orientation and too bluesy or loud when billed with more jazz-oriented bands.
They toured extensively in Europe and the United States during the early 1970s, with two U.S. tours during their first year, performing at most of the major venues and festivals of the day including Newport, Reading, Fillmore East (November 10th 1970, sharing the billing with Black Sabbath and Small Faces) and Fillmore West, Whisky A Go-Go, and The Marquee.
They also shared billings with, amongst others, Miles Davis, Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon and Leon Russell as well as many of the classic rock bands of the day, such as Cream, Traffic, Yes, Grand Funk Railroad, Ten Years After, KISS, Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show, and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
If thus became one of the most highly-acclaimed groups of the Seventies to never quite make the big time, despite good record sales and full venues. The band was managed and its albums produced by Lew Futterman, who had previously produced US jazz/soul stars Brother Jack McDuff and J.J. Jackson, amongst others. Signed on by Chris Blackwell, an enthusiastic early fan, to Island Records in the UK and to Capitol Records in the US, their first album, If (1970), entered the charts in both the States (Billboard) and the UK, as well as winning a design award for its cover, and was followed that same year by If 2, also released on Island and Capitol.
The albums If 3 (1971), If 4 and Waterfall (1972) were accompanied by heavy touring schedules in the States and Europe, especially in Britain and Germany, where the band appeared on TV (BBC’s Top of the Pops/Old Grey Whistle Test in the UK and one of their tracks was used as a signature tune for the news in Germany, as well as performing live (Sept. 1971) on Bremen TV's Beat-Club, sharing the billing with Canned Heat and Deep Purple, among other acts).
Finally, following such intensive recording and touring schedules, in the summer of 1972, the band had to come off the road in the middle of a US tour when Dick Morrissey was admitted to hospital for major surgery. As a result of the break-up, the band members went off to work on other projects.
Consisting of essentially two clearly defined line-ups, as well as an intermediate, transitional one, the original band had a heavier leaning towards jazz, and was formed by Dick Morrissey, on tenor sax and flute, and Terry Smith on guitars, both Melody Maker award-winning British jazz musicians who had played together in US soul singer J.J. Jackson’s band. If’s original line-up included Dave Quincy who had also been in Jackson's band, on alto and tenor saxes, with Spike Wells on drums, Lionel Grigson on keyboards and Daryl Runswick on bass, although these last three musicians did not record with the band, with Wells going off to join Tubby Hayes.
The definitive seven-piece line-up for the first incarnation of the band, with a more jazz-rock-oriented style, and which appears on the first four studio albums, as well as a live recording, was J.W. Hodkinson on lead vocals, John Mealing on keyboards, Jim Richardson on electric bass, Dennis Eliott on drums, with Dave Quincy on alto and tenor saxes, Terry Smith on guitars, and Dick Morrissey on tenor and soprano saxes and flute.
The above line-up is possibly the band's best known, but the band was subject to other personnel changes. With If coming off the road when Dick Morrissey was admitted to hospital, J.W. Hodkinson joined Darryl Way's Wolf, Terry Smith and Dave Quincy went off to form ZZebra, John Mealing joined Klaus Doldinger's Passport before going on to Strawbs, Jim Richardson went on to do studio session work, and Dennis Elliott joined the hugely successful group Foreigner.
A new line-up had Fi Trench and Dave Greenslade (ex-Colosseum) on keyboards, and Dave Wintour replacing Richardson on bass. Wintour left shortly afterwards to join Roger Daltrey, appearing on his first two solo albums.
A sixth studio album, Double Diamond (1973), with only Dick Morrissey left from the original line up, featured Fi Trench (keyboards) and Pete Arnesen (keyboards), Steve Rosenthal (guitar/lead vocals), Kurt Palomacki (bass) and Cliff Davies (drums). It was recorded at The Manor recording studios shortly after Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells.
The last two If albums, Not Just Another Bunch of Pretty Faces (1974) and Tea Break Over, Back on Your 'Eads (1975), saw the band back on Capitol Records, and decidedly more rock oriented. They featured Geoff Whitehorn on guitars and vocals, Gabriel Magno on keyboards and Walt Monaghan on bass and vocals (replacing Mike Tomich, who had toured with the band prior to these last recordings), as well as Cliff Davies and Dick Morrissey. The style was unique in generating a distinctive harmony of electric rock guitar and jazz sax.
Coinciding with their more rock-influenced style, they also changed their famous small-case logo "if" for the more solid looking large-case "IF".
If finally broke up in 1975, Dick Morrissey going on to work with the Average White Band and Herbie Mann, eventually forming Morrissey-Mullen; Geoff Whitehorn to join Bad Company and Procol Harum; and Cliff Davies, Walt Monaghan and Gabriel Magno to join Ted Nugent, the rock 'n' roll star also produced by Lew Futterman.
1969 - 1972
1972 - 1973
1973 - 1974
1974 - 1975
- If (1970) U.S. #187
- If 2 (1970)
- If 3 (1971) U.S. #171
- If 4 (1972)
- Waterfall (1972) U.S. #195
- Double Diamond (1973) - also released in Germany as This is If.
- Not Just Another Bunch of Pretty Faces (1974)
- Tea Break Over, Back on Your 'Eads (1975)
- Forgotten Roads: The Best of IF (1995)
- Europe '72 (Live) (1997)
- "Here Comes Mr Time" appeared on the United Artists Records sampler All Good Clean Fun (UDX 201/2) (1971) and CD re-package (Liberty 8660902) (2004)
- A track from If's debut album also appeared on the classic Island Records 1970 compilation album Bumpers, featuring the label's star acts of the day.