Automatic Man came out of nowhere in 1976. The front cover of their debut album had a simple yet eye-catching blue alien staring out from space. A close look at the four-man lineup on the back sleeve, however, shows highly-respected ex-Santana drummer Michael Shrieve. But the brains and chief songwriter behind Automatic Man was keyboardist Bayete, whose real name is Todd Cochrane.
Cochrane was a graduate of Oxford University and had recorded two unsuccessful albums on the Fantasy label in the early '70s. He teamed up with Shrieve soon after Shrieve had departed Steve Winwood and Stomu Yamashta's Go project. These two were joined by two other Bay Area musicians who had also played with Go, guitarist Pat Thrall and bassist Doni Harvey. The debut album by this assemblage reveals a strange and eclectic mixture of space rock, funk, and Jimi Hendrix-inspired guitar, powered mainly by Bayete's dreamy keyboards and vocals. It was a promising debut, but after Shrieve quit (he later formed Novo Combo), the band lost its way. The second release had a pink alien on the front sleeve; unfortunately, the music revealed more funk but less imagination. Thrall later joined the Pat Travers Band and guested on a Narada Michael Walden album. Bayete and Harvey seemingly disappeared from view. ~ Peter Kurtz