A progressive band with intricate songwriting and musical textures ranging from heavy metal to psychedelia, Tractor originated in the mid-'60s when guitarist/vocalist Jim Milne and drummer Steve Clayton of Tractor came together in a Rochdale beat group called the Way We Live. By 1970, the quartet -- which also featured bassist Mick "Slim" Batsch and founding member, lead vocalist Alan Burgess -- were down to just Milne and Clayton. They continued to make recordings in the bedroom studio of their friend, sound engineer John Brierley, and soon had transformed themselves into a heavy psych rock group, with Milne playing all of the guitars, bass, and lead vocals, while Clayton provided drums and bass.
On the strength of their demo tape, Elektra U.K. A&R man Clive Selwood signed them to Dandelion, a label he and BBC Radio One DJ John Peel had started. The group was booked into London's Spot Studios and finished its first album sessions in two days' time. In January 1971, Dandelion released the Way We Live's debut, A Candle for Judith, named after Clayton's girlfriend. The album earned critical praise if little in the way of sales. Peel and Selwood soon convinced the duo to change their name, and it was Peel who, looking out of his kitchen window, spied a tractor on his farmhouse property and recommended it to them. Tractor's first release was an EP -- "Stoney Glory"/"Marie"/"As You Say" -- for Dandelion. They also backed up a Dandelion act called Beau -- led by C.J.T. (Beau) Midgley -- on the album Creation.
The duo's first full-length follow-up, Tractor, was released in 1972. By January 1973, the album was earning rave reviews. Longtime sound engineer John Brierley was eventually replaced by former the Way We Live singer Alan Burgess and along with Milne, Clayton, and new road manager Chris Hewitt, the group began building a studio in Heywood. Tractor eventually left the struggling Dandelion label and recorded a demo for CBS Records. A new deal was not forthcoming, however, so the band released their next single, the reggae-tinged "Roll the Dice," on Jonathan King's UK records. In the summer of 1976, Milne and Clayton recruited bassist Dave Addison and teamed up again with Brierley, now the owner of Cargo Records. They recorded one more single -- "No More Rock 'n' Roll"/"Northern City" -- which was issued on Cargo, but parted ways after its release in November 1977.
In 1980, Milne, Clayton, and Addison re-grouped once again, this time adding blind musician Tony Crabtree on keyboards/guitar. They recorded another single -- "Average Man's Hero"/"Big Big Boy" -- this one for Roach Records, but by the end of 1982, Tractor called it a day. The duo's two albums were reissued on numerous reissue labels, including Repertoire and See for Miles, and Milne and Clayton continued to play as Tractor well into the 21st century. ~ Bryan Thomas