As someone who writes novels just so I can time travel to the 15th century, I truly appreciate the inspiration behind the musical group, the Legendary Ten Seconds.
Most authors can name that “special place” that provides the best ambiance for easing them “into the zone” to create. One thing that sets the writing mood for me is a musical backdrop matching my novel’s setting in time.
The Legendary Ten Seconds’ three collections of songs about Richard III builds the inspiration I need as I work on Heir of York – a time travel tale of a medieval king living in modern times, the sequel to Rings of Passage.
Through the band’s historically based songs, I am transported to a place where Richard’s life seems to converge with our own 21st century existence. The music is an exotic stew of of medieval, Elizabethan, and folk rock swirling with ‘60s psychedelia and ‘70s progressive influences.
Capturing the spirit
An example of this haunting blend is “Ambion Hill,” a song based on a present-day sighting of Richard III near Bosworth Field, where the king was killed in battle in 1485.
I saw a knight upon Ambion Hill,
His armour did shine in the sun.
He wore a surcoat of murray and blue.
It felt like a dream had begun.
Ever since Richard III’s bones were found beneath a Leicester parking lot in 2012, a similar sensation followed Richard III enthusiasts as they traveled to the city’s reburial events in March 2015 – a feeling that Richard was among us. “Ambion Hill,” inspired by a real life experience of Ricardian Susan Lamb, captures it perfectly. (Read about my own experiences in this Perceptive Travel article.)
The Legendary Ten Seconds band was founded in 2003 by Ian Churchward, a multi-instrumentalist and resident of Torquay, Devon (the same English town where mystery writer Agatha Christie was born).
Primary members of the band are Ian Churchward vocals, mandola, mandolin, bass and guitar; Lord Zarquon, Mellotron, electric keyboards, moog, drums and percussion; and Rob Bright, banjo and electric guitar. The band is also occasionally joined by Tom Churchward on melodeon; and vocalists Elaine Churchward, Phil Helmore, Camilla Joyce, and Violet Sheer.
The group’s songs on three albums (Loyaulte Me Lie, Tant le Desiree, and Richard III) are steeped in the events and personalities of the Wars of the Roses, but songwriter Ian Churchward’s earliest historical songs weren’t based on medieval events.
Fascination with history
During the late ‘90s, he was inspired by the album, Bones of All Men, which fused renaissance tunes with contemporary music. “I started to make up my own instrumentals in a similar style,” he said, writing songs “with a historical background – about the battle of Hastings and one about the First World War.”
At the time, he was a member of an English dance band playing Gaelic-based “ceilidh” music. From this period also emerged two instrumentals, “Tudor Danse” and “Fanfare For the King,” which now appear on the Loyaulte Me Lie album.
His interest in Richard III originated with stories based on English history read in his youth. But it was re-ignited by Channel 4’s documentary, King in the Car Park, about the excavation of the king’s bones.
The dovetailing of myth, reality and coincidence leading to the discovery of Richard’s grave, as well as the important role played by the Richard III Society to raise funds for the project, made a huge impression on him. “It was one of the most amazing things I have ever watched on TV.”
Afterward, Ian read the gamut of Richard III books, starting with Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time, Sharon Kay Penmen’s The Sunne in Splendour and Annette Carson’s The Maligned King.
“I have lost count of the number of books I have read about Richard III,” said Ian. “I had to read as many as possible to give me the knowledge and ideas to write historical lyrics. The books are all absolutely fascinating.”
Inspired by many influences
On top of his love of medieval, renaissance and traditional English music, Ian appreciates the psychedelic and progressive rock of the ‘60s and ‘70s. “All of these styles of music are featured in the songs on the albums about Richard III,” said Ian.
“One of my favorite albums is Piper at the Gates of Dawn by Pink Floyd,” he said. Other influences are guitarists John Cipollina of Quicksilver Messenger Service and Hank Marvin of the Shadows. “I am endeavoring to play my guitar in a similar style.”
He met up with fellow musician Mike Peakman, who professionally goes by the name Lord Zarquon, at a time when their respective groups were disbanding. Together they wrote “House of York,” included on the Richard III album. This also coincided with recording “a batch of songs which had a 1960’s psychedelic folk rock feel to them.”
Lord Zarquon plays keyboards using the sounds of the Mellotron, an “electro-mechanical, polyphonic tape replay keyboard” (so describes Wikipedia), which is at the heart of classic rock recordings by Pink Floyd, the Beatles, Yes, the Rolling Stones and the Moody Blues, and in the ‘90s, Oasis and Radiohead.
“Lord Zarquon is a huge Moody Blues fan and his Mellotron on the Richard III albums play a very important part in creating a sound that takes the listener to another time and place.”
To those people who have only passing familiarity with Richard III’s life, Shakespeare’s play seals the deal on the king’s villainous reputation, originally painted black by the Tudors: It is, after all, the victors who write the history books.
The Legendary Ten Seconds band takes a different stance. “To me Richard III is a flawed hero,” said Ian. “He had many good qualities but he also had faults just like any normal person would have.”
“I am not particularly motivated by the thought of changing the mind of someone who believes in his villainous reputation,” he added.
Ian Churchward is motivated by the Scoliosis Association (UK), which provides advice, support and information to people with scoliosis and other spinal conditions.
Ian learned about Richard III’s scoliosis from the documentary about the discovery of the king’s bones. It was the same affliction suffered by his wife’s cousin, who “had been a long term sufferer of scoliosis and died the same year that the grave of Richard III was discovered.”
A percentage of proceeds from the Legendary Ten Seconds music sales are donated to SAUK.
For those authors writing novels based in medieval or renaissance history, give a listen to the Legendary Ten Seconds. It might inspire you, too.
How Do You Rebury a King?
based on events in Leicester, England, March 2015
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Rings of Passage is a time travel historical fantasy, with Richard III as the romantic hero. Wizards control the events of history, but a woman’s love transcends all. Available for Kindle and in paperback from Amazon.com.
Dangerous Reflections is a time travel historical fantasy set in Edwardian London. After Martie is bequeathed a magic wand from her grandmother, she steps through a mirror into the arms of a powerful wizard and a truly magical romance.