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Pentagram

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Pentagram

Although PENTAGRAM did not officially form until 1971, the beginnings of the band date back to 1970, when vocalist Bobby Liebling joined Washington DC area band, SPACE MEAT, who then changed their name to STONE BUNNY. Aside from Liebling, the line-up featured John Jennings (guitar), Greg Mayne (bass) and Geof O'Keefe (drums), all of whom later turned up in PENTAGRAM. STONE BUNNY only stayed together for a few months because Liebling's harder vocal style wasn't right for Jennings' often melodic material, and they parted ways with the Jennings/Mayne/O'Keefe trio reverting back to the moniker SPACE MEAT before splitting up a brief time later.

In the fall of 1971, Liebling and O'Keefe decided to pool their talents and form a band that could play originals in the heavy style they both loved. In addition to Liebling (vocals) and O'Keefe (switching to guitar), the very first line-up featured Vincent McAllister (bass), and Steve Martin (drums). They began working up original material influenced by their idols including Blue Cheer, The Frost, The Groundhogs, Stray, and Sir Lord Baltimore, and yet even in this embryonic phase, the sound was uniquely PENTAGRAM. After a month, John Jennings returned to the fold giving the band a twin-guitar style of groups like Wishbone Ash and Thin Lizzy but it soon became apparent that further fine-tuning was needed. Martin's jazz-influence style wasn't right for the heavy direction the band wanted to go in, and so O'Keefe returned to the drums. This sadly unrecorded Mark III line-up of Liebling/Jennings/McAllister/O'Keefe lasted for all of one rehearsal which blew everyone away, but later that evening, Jennings phoned O'Keefe and said he really didn't want to play heavy hard rock, leaving the remaining three members disappointed and without a guitarist.

The trio soldiered on briefly with Liebling playing rudimentary guitar so they could at least keep working on material until one day when bassist McAllister suggested he try playing guitar. Liebling and O'Keefe figured they had nothing to lose and after a few numbers, realized there had been a guitar hero posing as a bassist in the line-up all that time! They were blown away by his Leigh Stephens-styled soloing, wild and raw. It was just what they needed. O'Keefe promptly phoned his former SPACE MEAT pal bassist Greg Mayne (who also was a friend of Vincent's to begin with, living in the same area) and on Christmas day 1971, the classic "original line-up" of PENTAGRAM was born, although technically it was the 4th version of the band. They rehearsed as often as possible for three to four hours a night at a bulk mailing warehouse in Alexandria, VA where O'Keefe's dad was an executive. Just before the band's first promotional-only single, "Be Forewarned"/"Lazy Lady" was to be pressed in the summer of 1972, the band decided to avoid the potential controversy of being labelled a 'satanic' band and changed their name to MACABRE. Subsequently realizing people had difficulty correctly pronouncing that word (Muh-cah-bra), they went through a number of other names such as VIRGIN DEATH and WICKED ANGEL before finally and permanently reverting back to PENTAGRAM. They played their first live gig on December 8th, 1973 at Montgomery Junior College in Maryland. This Liebling/McAllister/Mayne/O'Keefe line-up remained constant (with the exception of two additions) until late 1976.

Briefly in 1974, Randy Palmer was added on second guitar and was in the band long enough to take part in the classic National Sound Warehouse sessions as well as their recording of the Rolling Stones' classic, "Under My Thumb." This line-up made its debut at the Falls Church Community Center in Falls Church, Virginia in July of 1974. Palmer left and rejoined the band again in 1975 but after another short stint was once again out of the band. Later that same year, PENTAGRAM was courted by CBS/Columbia Records and were brought to New York City to record demos with Murray Krugman and Sandy Pearlman. Krugman/Pearlman were well-known and quite hot at the time for their work with Blue Oyster Cult and The Dictators, among others. Unfortunately, due to a falling-out in the studio during the sessions, nothing came of it and the demos were never fully completed.

It was during this time when Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley of KISS were invited to the band's rehearsal by then-manager and big-time rock journalist Gordon Fletcher. The band was ill-prepared and not in the best form that day, and Simmons and Stanley weren't particularly impressed. It is oft-rumored that KISS offered to purchase the PENTAGRAM songs, "Starlady" and "Hurricane" and were turned down by the band, but there are strong conflicting recollections as to whether this actually ever happened. KISS were successfully writing their own material at the time and on the brink of huge success, having just released Alive a few months earlier, and PENTAGRAM could have definitely used the money. Additionally, the chief writer of "Starlady" was Randy Palmer, and Palmer, who tragically passed away in 2002 following an auto accident, stated repeatedly that he was never approached to sell the song. It is believed this in fact might have been an idea of Fletcher's and that he was floating the idea to the band before presenting it to KISS.

After the Columbia and KISS incidents along with other internal conflicts, Vincent, Greg and Geof decided to part ways with Bobby in early 1976, but as he owned the name, couldn't use it without him. They worked up new originals written by O'Keefe and auditioned singers, and along the way added guitarist Marty Iverson to the line-up. Eventually they decided to give Bobby another shot and wound up gigging quite frequently in the fall of that year, in addition to recording a 5-track demo at Underground Sound.

More conflicts within the band and with the managers led to a final split at the end of 1976. Vincent and Geof went on to be a part of a new local band assembled by the managers, while Bobby went on to form a completely new line-up of PENTAGRAM. In mid 1978, Bobby Liebling met drummer Joe Hasselvander. He was drumming for a local DC band who had opened up for PENTAGRAM.

The two discussed their love of The Groundhogs and heavy rock and started a long friendship. On Halloween, 1978, after Joe's band, The Boys, broke up and PENTAGRAM was on hold, the two bumped into each other at a show that featured former members of both their bands. Joe was already playing with a full band in need of a vocalist. A week later, Bobby was the band's singer. They changed their name to PENTAGRAM and even played classic PENTAGRAM songs. A single featuring "Livin In A Ram? Head" b/w "When The Screams Come" was released on a local label in 1979 but PENTAGRAM was put on hold yet again due to personal problems within the band. It was Halloween 1981 when Joe introduced Bobby to Victor Griffin, the guitarist of a band he was drumming for called Death Row. Bobby was soon recruited as the band's vocalist and they quickly wrote "All Your Sins". Their bass player soon left but Bobby brought in PENTAGRAM alumni Martin Swaney. Martin had been in the 1978-1979 PENTAGRAM and appeared on the "Livin' In A Ram's Head" single. The name Death Row lasted until 1984 when fan pressure led the band to reassume the PENTAGRAM moniker. The band soon signed to Pentagram Records in February 1985 but things moved slowly and the band didn't receive much support. This coupled with the lack of management and direction, led Hasselvander to leave again in 1985. The s/t debut album was released in June 1985, five months after Hasselvander departed the band. Hasselvander would later resurface as the skinsman for the English metal band, Raven. Just before Hasselvander left and the debut album was released, the band entered Cue Studios to lay down the tracks to the second album, "Day Of Reckoning". Hasselvander was replaced by Stuart Rose, who stayed in the band until 1987. It was in '87 when "Day Of Reckoning" came out on Napalm/Dutch East India Trading. Due to lack of shows, money and label support, the band again disbanded in the summer of 1988. Liebling managed to get another line-up together in 1989 that split less than a year later. It was in 1990 however that Peaceville Records became interested in signing the band and re-released the first two albums. This led to Victor Griffin moving back from California to rejoin the band. Hasselvander soon followed although he was still playing drums in Raven. Martin Iverson also agreed to come back to the fold. In 1992 the Peaceville compilation, "Volume 4" started off with "Sign OfThe Wolf" and marked the first PENTAGRAM recording to surface on the label. This was followed by the limited Collector's Club 7" single "Day Of Reckoning" b/w "Relentless" in March 1993. The full length "Day Of Reckoning" then came out in August of the same year. "Be Forwarned" was released to rave reviews in January 1994. The band stayed together until 1996 when Hasselvander left (he continued playing with Raven as well as filling in as the touring drummer for Cathedral) and Swaney retired from the music biz. Gary Isom (Iron Man/Shine) replaced Hasselvander and Greg Turley replaced Swaney. The band continued to play shows but broke up again due to drug problems. A discography of live and raw tracks called "Human Hurricane" came out on Canada's Downtime Recordings in 1998. It was limited to 1,000 copies and features rare and previously unreleased tracks from the 70s. This release proved only for diehards however as most of the song quality was lacking. In 1999 the band reformed with only Liebling and Hasselvander. Black Widow quickly signed the band and released, "Review Your Choices" which featured Hasselvander playing every instrument! Hasselvander wrote the majority of the new songs. The record also featured re-recorded classics from the early days.

In December 2001, Black Widow records released the latest PENTAGRAM masterpiece, "Sub-Basement". Once again, it features only Liebling and Hasselvander and contains re-recorded PENTAGRAM classics as well as new songs. In 2002, Relapse Records unearthed some killer 1970s songs recorded with the original "Ram Family" line-up and asked to release two retrospective collections that would be the first authorized cds of these rare gems. "First Daze Here ~The Vintage Collection" was released in 2002 and included all the early, impossible to find 45s, the National Sound Warehouse recordings as well as a few live recordings of songs never put on wax. Liebling remastered all the songs as well as added vocals and guitar to the classics, "Lazy Lady" and "Be Forewarned." The second collection of PENTAGRAM rarities, ?irst Daze Here Too?will see its release in 2006 and contains rare and unreleased studio recordings and live rehearsals. 22 tracks of vintage PENTAGRAM classics from the vaults of the influential and critically-acclaimed D.C. legends!!! The legend lives on!
COMPLETE DISCOGRAPHY: 7" SINGLES MACABRE Be Forwarned b/w Lazy Lady (Intermedia Prod, 1972), Hurricane b/w Earthflight (Boffo Socko Records, 1973), Under My Thumb b/w When The Screams Come (Gemini Records, 1974), Livin' In A Ram's Head b/w When The Screams Come (High Voltage Records, 1978), Relentless b/w Day Of Reckoning (Peaceville Records, 1993) LPs/CDs: Pentagram (Pentagram Records/ Dutch East India Trading, 1985), Day Of Reckoning (Napalm Records/ Dutch East India Trading, 1987), Relentless (Peaceville Records, 1993) Re-Issue , Day Of Reckoning (Peaceville Records, 1993), Be Forewarned (Peaceville Records, 1994), Relentless/Day Of Reckoning (Peaceville Records, 1995), Review Your Choices (Black Widow, 1999) Sub-Basement (Black Widow, 2001), First Daze Here - The Vintage Collection (RELAPSE 2002), First Daze Here Too (RELAPSE 2006)