Week of January 21, 2001


Dirk Bogaert - lead vocals, flute
Gus Roan - guitar
Marc Malyster - organ
Jacky Mauer - drums
Jean-Paul Janssens - bass

Waterloo, from the beginning to the final split.

The origins of Belgian group Waterloo can be traced back to the meeting and the gathering in October 1969 of five musicians from two then-recently disbanded acts which had achieved national recognition. Bass-player Jean-Paul Janssens, born in 1945, and drummer Jacky Mauer, born 14 May 1946, had been members of the Brussels-based blues-rock power trio Adam's Recital, fronted by singer-guitarist Adam Hoptman: guitar player Gus Roan, born 22 January 1948, singer/flautist Dirk Bogaert, born 26 August 1948, and keyboard player Marc Malyster, born in 1947, had played in the Ghent combo Today's Version.

At the 1969 Bilzen festival (the most famous open-air rock event in Belgium in the late sixties and early seventies), Marc had met Jacky through the festival's manager Paul Andre. The two became friendly and Marc suggested Jacky and Jean-Paul to set up an organ-driven trio with him: Adam's Recital had just split, having released only one single. After a few tryouts in the trio format, Marc decided to enlarge the formula and integrate his former colleagues Gus and Dirk. The fivesome subsequently rehearsed in Jacky's father's (a dressmaker nicknamed Baba) old workroom which he had left at their disposal; these early rehearsals proved conclusive, the musicians getting on well with each other and sharing similar musical views. All of them had the ambition to mix rock, jazz and classical influences into an ambitious personal repertoire. Their musical formula was built around Dirk's flute and vocals, Gus proposed to integrate jazzy harmonies into classical pop structures; the necessary musical and emotional osmosis worked straight away. The band was officially created on Friday, 17th October 1969.

Marc was a classically trained conservatory musician and was notably influenced by the fusion of classical music with rock rhythms made famous by Keith Emerson and The Nice.

Jacky discovered jazz and rock at the start of the sixties and was a self-taught drummer. He started his musical career in 1962 by joining the rock'n'roll outfit, Les Partisans, winning first prize at a Golf Drouot band contest in Paris, ex aequo with a then-unknown pop singer, Michel Polnareff, who was to become a megastar of French variety. In 1964, Jacky joined the Latin-oriented combo, Tcha Ka Tchas; then founded Adam's Recital in 1966. The trio landed themselves numerous gigs in Holland and Belgium, and were regular bill toppers at Louis de Vries' (manager of The Pebbles and Mad Curry) nightclub. Thanks to the latter's connections in the music business, Adam's Recital were one of the few Belgian acts to gig at the Marquee Club in London; they were also featured at Windsor festival, appearing alongside Marmalade, Arthur Brown, Zoot Money, Dantalion's Chariot and Dizzy Gillespie.

Jacky was a jazz cat, yet he also liked English pop groups such as The Small Faces and soon enthused about the more adventurous Deep Purple, Yes and King Crimson. His favourite drummer was Ginger Baker, and he was equally influenced by jazz drummers. Despite their increasing reputation, Adam's Recital split in the Summer of 1969. Their only single was released on the French Barclay label.

Dirk started his musical career at age twelve, as the boy-soloist in Verdi's Nabucco, performed at Brussels' Munt Opera; he had been selected out of his entire school chorus. In 1962, he discovered rock and became a fan of The Beatles and The Animals. He bought a guitar and learned the rudiments by himself. In 1963, now an art school student, he founded his first band, called The Wrong; he switched to bass guitar before concentrating on lead vocals. The Wrong played mostly cover versions of his aforementioned favourite groups. In 1966, he formed blues-rock group The Act with guitarist Gus Roan and keyboard player Marc Malyster; Dirk was in charge of both bass duties and lead vocals. In 1967, The Act developed into Todays' Version; with another drummer the music evolved towards early progressive rock, the band performing covers of Nice and Arthur Brown, whilst also writing their own material. Meanwhile, Dirk had grown an interest in jazz improvisation, learning the flute, under the influence of Roland Kirk and Yusef Lateef. Besides singing and playing bass, he added his flute playing to the band's instrumental palette. Gus discovered rock under similar circumstances, at the beginning of the sixties, also learning the guitar by himself. As for Marc, The Act had been his first serious musical experience. The same applies to Jean-Paul, whose main musical feat of arms had been Adam's Recital. When founding Waterloo, the five band members decided upon singing in English, the universal language of rock; Gus was put in charge of writing the lyrics, which contained no particular message. Gus and Dirk were responsible for the songwriting, the tunes being arranged and fleshed out by the entire band at rehearsals. The musicians devoted all their time to the project, although they were not professionals: each of them had learnt a craft. Jacky suggested to call the group Waterloo, referring to the famous Napoleonic battle, which took place around a Brabant village in 1815, nowadays a mere suburban town of Brussels. Waterloo soon composed and rehearsed six original songs, which they played on 6 November 1969 to Wallace Collection's producer Jean Martin, whom the Bilzen festival manager Paul Andre had convinced to attend one of their rehearsals. Jean Martin was immediately aware of their potential, technical strength and originality and proposed at once to become their manager. He advised them to write more accessible songs with a view to a single success and radio broadcast. The next day, Martin returned to the rehearsal room, together with the Wallaces' guitarist Sylvain Van Holme; Sylvain liked what he heard, too, and this induced Jean Martin to produce a record by the group. A recording session of four tracks was promptly organized for the 12th of November.

Following their new manager's advice, the band had devised some pop songs such as the chart-oriented "Meet Again" with its easy-to-remember refrain, intending for it to appeal to a large audience. However, the band was rather reluctant to make musical concessions towards the general public, whereas their manager wanted to achieve the same success with Waterloo as he had scored with Wallace Collection and their worldwide hit, "Daydream".

The band recorded their four selections at the tiny "Des" studio in Brussels, Jean Martin signed a distribution deal with the French Vogue label to release the band's singles on the Belgian market. Two singles were rush-released with "Meet Again" as the potential chart buster, they were regularly broadcasted on the Belgian national radio and met with rapidly increasing sales.

Meanwhile, Jean Martin had committed himself to program an international rock act at Brussels' "Ancienne Belgique", the city's most reputed concert theatre; the planned concert had to be cancelled at the last minute and Martin proposed to the theatre's manager to launch his new discovery as a replacement.

Thus, Waterloo made their stage debut at the beginning of December 1969, alongside Michel Polnareff, returning soon to the same concert hall, from 17th to 20th December, together with another Belgian group in the vein of Wallace Collection, Modus Vivendis, Belgian variety singer Jacques Hustin and Wallace Collection themselves. A friend and fan of the band, Jacques Garfinkiel was enrolled as their roadie. These series of gigs earned the group their first laudatory reviews in the local press. Jean Martin then called upon his former associate David MacKay, the co-author of Wallace Collection's "Daydream", to record Waterloo's debut album in England. The band recorded their repertoire at an eight-track studio in Soho from 26th December to January 1st, 1970 under the supervision of MacKay and Martin. Thanks to Marc's formal musical training, the band members adapted perfectly to the session's requirements, even if they had little studio experience. A completely new, much more elaborate version of "Meet Again" was recorded, as the original single version had been canned due to poor technical conditions of that recording and was already deleted. To design the sleeve, a photo session was arranged inside Waterloo's battlefield museum; a picture of the group next to a genuine gun from the battle heydays was eventually accepted and integrated into a drawing depicting the Emperor Napoleon, the whole project being devised by a specially appointed English agency. The album was called "First Battle", referring to both the historical event and the band's first recording. Several thousand copies were pressed, yet the album was distributed in Belgium only. The release, in February 1970, was acclaimed by the Belgian papers. To promote the album, the band gave a press conference followed by a concert at the Martini club in the Rogier building in Brussels, and appeared several times on Belgian television. The new version of "Meet Again" was released as a single. Oddly, a Portuguese label called Roda requested a licence from Vogue to release the album on the Portuguese market. Eventually, two EPs with excerpts from the album were released in Portugal the next year.

Meanwhile, the band had recorded a soundtrack for the musical, "Zigger Zagger", at Brussels' Theatre National in January 1970. Around the same time, Jean Martin went to the Midem fair in Cannes in order to present his latest proteges, including Waterloo's first single, to French and international record companies. He had equipped himself with a copy of the new version of the band's hit, "Meet Again", which hadn't been released yet. Unfortunately, he lost the tape, which ended up by a miracle on the desk of a presenter at "Europe 1" radio station. The broadcaster liked the song and played it regularly, explaining to the listeners that he had no idea about the title of the song or the name or origins of the band which performed it. The name Waterloo being written on the tape's box was the only indication at his disposal and so the song was broadcasted on French radio as "Waterloo" by an unknown group!

The band started to gig extensively, first in Brussels and Belgium, then in France, performing in the North, the East (Dijon) and at Lyon's Palais des Sports, where they opened the show for French variety star Claude Francois. The band ended up playing about 40 concerts. On 28th June, they were billed as supporting act to Family at the "Golden Guitar" festival in Ciney (Belgium); on that occasion, they appeared dressed in colourful costumes and had their faces painted. Jean Martin got them a six-week season at the La Jota club in Madrid running from July, yet on the way back, Jean-Paul Janssens announced his decision to leave the group for personal reasons. The band started auditioning for a replacement; bass player Rick Urmel from Ghent was retained but he left after only a few rehearsals and was replaced permanently by Jean-Paul Musette, a respected musician from Brussels.

Shortly afterwards, Marc Malyster decided to leave too; he wanted to start a new project with the pop duo Jess & James. To replace him, Jacky thought about Frank Wuyts, an organ player whose talent had impressed him when he heard him perform with a dance band. He offered him to join Waterloo, but Frank had joined Wallace Collection instead. Eventually, Frank accepted Jacky's offer and joined Waterloo at the end of August 1970, while still working with Wallace Collection. The members of Waterloo used to visit a bookshop in Brussels, which was run by a music freak, John Van Rymenant, who also played saxophone with different bands. They made friends and jammed with him; convinced that the addition of his lavish sax playing would enrich the band's musical formula and sound range, they asked John to join the group which he accepted. Although not a brilliant technician, John proved to be very creative musically, contributing some of his original ideas to the band's musical evolution and introducing the band to the modal jazz of Miles Davis and John Coltrane. John used a device fixed with a microphone on the bell of his sax, which enabled him to play an octave higher or lower and produce unusual sounds; the band's harmonic possibilities were further expanded with no less than four solo instruments (flute, guitar, organ and saxophone). Dirk's flute was sometimes doubled up by Gus, who added flute to his guitar playing. The band issued a single in September 1970. Side A was a new track and side B was taken from the album. The musicians continued to gig intensively in Belgium, performing shows with many visual effects, lasting for more than an hour and including all of the album's titles as well as new compositions. On stage, the emphasis lay also on humour and jokes. On 28th November, 1970, the band shared the bill of the important Ghent festival with The Greatest Show On Earth, Fynn McCool, Stray, Judas Jump, Belgian bands Captain Bismarck, Carriage Company, Recreation, Jenghis Khan and Americans Van And Gayle.

Waterloo were also regular visitors to France's major venues, playing several times at the famous Gibus club in Paris, for example from 3rd to 7th March, 1971, alas without John who had injured his hand. On that occasion, the musicians took the opportunity to jam with several members of Magma, notably Francois Cahen and Francis Moze.

Since John had joined the group, the English pop influence had gradually decreased in favour of more jazzy leanings and a more adventurous musical formula, foreshadowing Pazop's progressive rock. A new single was recorded with songs "I Can't Live With Nobody But You" and "Smile"; it was re-leased in March 1971. The band's last tracks were canned in the beginning of 1972; "Bobo's dream" and "Bad Time" were issued on a single; "The Youngest Day" remained unreleased. Curiously, its sleeve showed a photograph of the group with Rick Urmel who didn't participate in the sessions, as he had already left the group; he had appeared in a photo session during his short stay with the band. The impetus had gone and the musicians decided to disband in a friendly way. Gus joined the more commercial New Inspiration, Jacky, Dirk and Frank decided to continue their collaboration and formed Pazop with ex-Arkham bassist Patrick Cogneaux and violinist Kuba Szczepanski, also from Wallace Collection. Their unreleased recordings have been eventually published by Musea on a full-length CD in 1996. After Pazop's dismissal, Jacky and Dirk founded the jazz-rock combo Abraxis which also featured one-time Waterloo bassist Jean-Paul Musette, his colleague from Classroom/Cos Charles Loos and a guitarist. They released one album on a small Belgian label in 1976. Since then, Gus has worked as a songwriter for variety artists, Dirk has run music shops, Jacky has managed a recording studio in Brussels, whereas Frank carried on as a sideman with noted performers such as French singer Jacques Higelin, before returning to work as a solo artist in Belgium. Waterloo's recordings represent one of the finest examples of the emergence of genuine, sophisticated rock music in Belgium. Their music, which mixes lyricism with energy, matches up to the best of early Jethro Tull and Blodwyn Pig.

Acknowledgement: Gus Roan, Jacky Mauer, Dirk Bogaert, Marc Doutrepont and special thanks to John Bollenberg.

Francis Grosse
Taken from the CD reissue of "First Battle", Musea, 1999, FGBG4281.AR

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