Filed under: Nigeria
BLO were the first actual rock band from Africa that I ever read about. I remember seeing their Phases 1972-1982 retrospective on Afro Strut in the Forced Exposure catalog and thinking that I needed to pick that up. But they were sold out, so I bought a disc by Orlando Julius instead. It would be many years later before I would ever get to hear the band. Not until the Q.D.K. Media released their Love, Peace & Poetry: African Psychedelic Music compilation.
The band’s name was an acronym for Berkley “Ike” Jones (guitar) and Laolu “Akins” Akintobi (drums) and Mike “Gbenga” Odumosu (bass). Where as most African bands were massive orchestras, BLO were the first rock trio – and really the only one I can think of – in Africa.
Jones, Akintobi and Odumosu originally started out in a band called The Clusters while they were still in high school in Lagos, Nigeria. At that time, they were influenced by the British Invasion – The Beatles and Rolling Stones – and then later James Brown. That is until they saw Gerald Pino and The Heartbeats Band from Seirra Leone who were mixing Rock and Roll with Rumba and Soul. After that, The Clusters started to play a mix of Afrorock and Highlife.
Eventually, Jones, Akintobi and Odumosu left The Clusters to form Afrocollection with twin sisters Kehinde and Taiwo Lijadu – bettern known as The Lijadu Sisters. Afrocollection decided to move in a more Afrorock direction, and move away from the more traditional Highlife sounds. Around this time, Ginger Baker – drummer of Cream and Blind Faith – was wandering around Africa and happened to catch Afrocollection performing at the Batakuto Club in Lagos. Baker recruited members of the band to form Salt, who toured throughout Western Europe and North America, but never recorded.
After the break up of Salt in 1972, Jones, Akintobi and Odumosu returned to Nigeria decided to form BLO. Their first show was on 23rd December 1972 at Onikan Stadium in front of 10,000 fans – the biggest ever audience in the history of Nigerian Music. The following year, they released their debut album, Chapter One on EMI. But the record sales did not meet the expectations of EMI, and the band moved to Afrodesia – which was a subsidiary of Decca – for the second album Phase II released in 1975.
That same year, the band released Step Three. Mike Odumosu had left the band to join Osibisa and was replaced by Adeniyi “Biddy” Wright on bass, as well as alto and soprano sax. The band was now influenced more by American music groups like Grand Funk Railroad and The Isley Brothers than their fellow countrymen like Fela Kuti and Orlando Julius. But poor records sales pressured the band and Jones and Akintobi decided to call it quits. The duo moved to London to study screenwriting and sound production. That is, until they met session musician Otu Udofa – also known as Lemmy Jackson – who encouraged them to put the band back together.
In 1976, BLO released Phase IV. Although Mike Odumosu is pictured on the cover, he was not a member of the band even though supposedly sang backing vocals on the record. The band went on to release two more records – Bulky Backside in 1980 and Back in Time in 1982 – before breaking up for good.
According to the liner notes of Soundway Records’ Nigeria Rock Special: “Berkley Jones has not picked up a guitar in years and is now a property developer in Lagos. Laolu Akintobi still produces music and Mike Odumosu settled in London after his days with Osibisa.“ Also, Lemmy Jackson went on to become one of the biggest producers in the Nigerian music industry.
Catalog number DWAPS 2009 on Afrodesia / Decca West Africa of Lagos, Nigeria. Released 1976, manufactured in England.