mastered for vinyl by Patrick W. Engel at Temple of Disharmony
While still being at school in Hull, Paul Tognola (guitar), Doug Sheppard (vocals, guitar), Terry Hopkinson (bass) and Paul Conyers (drums) formed Ethel The Frog (named after a Monty Python sketch) in 1975. After having recorded several speculative demo tapes, the band decided to take fate in their own hands by releasing the first 7” single of their own Best Records label (in November 1978). Recorded at Fairview Studios in Hull, the single, pressed in a quantity of 500 copies, featured a heavy version of the Beatles “Eleanor Rigby” and their own composition “Whatever Happened To Love” on the flipside.
By the end of the 1970s, Ethel The Frog had gathered a pretty strong local following and were booked as one of the main attractions of the Humberside Theatre’s second weekend festival at Springstreet in Hull. Some fans had been travelling hundreds of miles to witness the band, only to see their open air premiere abandoned after a mere 15 minutes. After complaints from some patients at the nearby Kingston General Hospital, the police moved in and pulled the plug.
However, in the following months Ethel The Frog started to gig all over the country and gained some interest from professional labels, even including a few majors. “We had sent EMI some of our numbers in the past,” explained Doug Sheppard to a local paper back in 1979. “But they really became interested when we were featured in the Melody Maker national ‘Rock And Folk’ competition.” Although Ethel The Frog did not reach the finals, rock DJ Neal Kay got in contact with the band to include one of their songs on his legendary »Metal For Muthas« compilation (rubbing shoulders with Iron Maiden, Samson, Angel Witch and Praying Mantis). Doug Sheppard commented at the time: “Hopefully, EMI will be able to make use of our own recordings, but if they’re not good enough, we’ll have to go back into the studio in order to lay down a new version.” In the end, the band’s own recording of “Fight Back” did indeed make it onto »Metal For Muthas Vol.1«. More so, EMI even put out a full-length ten-track album of Ethel The Frog in May 1980, featuring a selection of songs taken from a variety of recordings sessions (stretching between 1975 and 1979).
In the process, the “Eleanor Rigby” 7” single was also re-issued on EMI in February of the same year (this time coupled with “Fight Back” on the B-Side; demo/promo copies exist, some with picture sleeve). On March 29th 1980, Charles Shaar reviewed the “Eleanor Rigby”/“Fight Back” single in the New Musical Express: “This record hits you in the face like an exhalation of bad breath.”
When the album finally hit the shops in May 1980, Ethel The Frog had practically already disbanded. As a consequence, EMI (wisely?) decided to invest all their money to promote the upcoming Iron Maiden (as well as Angel Witch, for that matter).
Although sales at the time were mediocre at best, the self-titled album was re-discovered by New Wave Of British Heavy Metal enthusiasts all over the world a decade or so later. As Canadian metal expert Martin Popoff wrote: “Heavy and classy stuff, better for the fact that the band somehow didn’t get it, somehow sounded outside of time.”
After a final gig in early 1981, Ethel The Frog broke up for good, with Paul Tognola and Paul Conyers joining local band Salem. The official reason for the split was bassist Terry Hopkinson going to university. However, Doug Sheppard had commented at the time that he was “disenchanted with the music scene”. Take your pick.
Eleanor Rigby/Whatever Happened To Love 7” Single 1978 Best Records (SRTS/FMR 014)
Eleanor Rigby/Fight Back 7” Single 1980 EMI (EMI 5041)
Ethel The Frog LP 1980 EMI (EMC 3329)
Ethel The Frog CD 1997 British Steel (CD Metal 11)