Found this dusty classic in the back of my sister’s closet – Fat Mattress, from 1969, the eponymous first album by a band featuring British singer Neil Landon and guitarist Noel Redding who at the time was bass player in the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Fat Mattress came about because Landon and Redding were buddies who wrote songs together – the duo then recruited bassist Jim Leverton and drummer Eric Dillon (who had both performed in Engelbert Humperdinck’s backing group).
Redding was really the sparkplug behind this gathering. He sought a venue where he could write, sing and play lead guitar as a frontman; he was of course not able to do that with the Experience. Redding and Landon had written a number of songs together for a failed Landon solo record, and these wound up as the basis for the first Fat Mattress effort.
“All Night Drinker,” which opens the record, has an unmistakable Jethro Tull feel complete with a rock flute. But the flute player is really Chris Wood from Traffic, not the only superstar who would pop up on this record. “I Don’t Mind” is an inoffensive but anonymous bit of English psychedelic pop rock, as is “Petrol Pump Assistant,” with its Byrds-like chiming guitar figure.
One of the album highlights is the wiggy “Magic Forest,” another Traffic soundalike. In fact, “Magic Forest” was released as a single and achieved mild success – it was a hit in the Netherlands. “Everything’s Blue” and “Walking Through A Garden” are more flavorful slabs of English pop rock, the former song evoking the sound of Yes and the latter sounding an awful lot like the Who. Then of course there’s “How Can I Live,” in which Redding’s buddies from the Experience show up to play – Mitch Mitchell sits in on drums and Jimi Hendrix handles the percussion.
The first major public exposure of Fat Mattress was as the opening act on a Jimi Hendrix U.S. tour, during which Redding performed with both bands. Although they played some big audiences opening for Hendrix, Fat Mattress were ultimately unable to achieve any notable success on their own. In fact, their own U.S. headlining tour was canceled after only five dates. The group disbanded shortly after releasing Fat Mattress II, the follow up to the debut LP.
After leaving Hendrix in 1969 Redding played with a number of bands including the heavy metal trio Road. Redding stayed bitter about signing away his royalties from the ongoing sales of Hendrix/Experience recordings; in fact when he died in 2003 he had been planning a lawsuit to attempt to gain some of those lost royalties.