At fourteen Davy O’List studied orchestral composition, organ, piano, singing and trumpet at the Royal College of Music London, whilst playing rock-blues lead guitar for a band he called Little Boy Blues. At the time, O’List was formulating his own unique sound, fusing classical, jazz and rock music together. In 1966 under the name David John, O’List started a new band called The Attack, which marked the beginning of his new sound that combined rock, R&B and Soul. Managed by Don Arden, they were part of the 1960s Swinging London scene, and released two notable singles; Try It / We Don’t Know (Decca F 12550), Hi Ho Silver Lining / Anymore Than I Do (Decca F 12578).
Amazingly, Anymore Than I Do, penned by O’List, caught the attention of radio DJ John Peel who choose it as his theme tune for his new radio program Perfumed Garden on Radio Caroline. This station was listened to by most young people including John Mayall who asked Davy to join his band The Bluesbreakers as a replacement for Peter Green, whilst at the same time P.P. Arnold who had a hit with The First Cut Is The Deepest asked Davy to play guitar and sing backing vocals in her band.
Davy choose to join P.P. Arnold’s band, as he was given his own slot playing his original music, which therefore meant him leaving The Attack in February 1967. By May Davy’s new band The Nice were gigging in their own right and had gained their own billing at the National Jazz and Blues Festival. Taking his innovative style of combining rock, jazz and classics together, Davy approached P.P Arnold’s manager and obtained a record deal for The Nice.The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjak was their 1967 debut album, considered one of the first albums of progressive rock, and is still a best seller today. Their first single also called The Thoughts of Emerlist Davjak, penned by O’List, reached the UK Top 40. Following this the band were asked to support Jimi Hendrix in 1967.
Their next hit single, America 2nd Amendment, a heavily reworked version of Leonard Bernstein’s song from West Side Story, reached number 21 in the UK charts in July of 1968. O’List’s style in The Nice was described by Bruce Eder of Allmusic as “Hendrixish guitar … in sharp relief.” However, with two strong instrumentalists competing, O’List left The Nice in autumn 1968.
While still performing with The Nice, O’List substituted for Syd Barrett in Pink Floyd briefly in 1967, and was then asked to join David Crosby whilst touring with The Nice in the US.
O’List also briefly played in Jethro Tull after the departure of Mick Abrahams in early 1969. O’List provided guitar and bass for The Misunderstood, along with an early lineup of Roxy Music between October 1971 and September 1972. O’List co-wrote, arranged and produced Roxy Music’s first album, along with arrangements and compositions which secured the band a record deal with Island Records in 1972.
After Roxy Music folded in 1973 O’List rejoined Bryan Ferry where he proved he was no one hit wonder, producing Let’s Stick Together, The In-crowd and Chance Meeting and was awarded gold discs. The In-crowd was re-released in 1988, as part of a Roxy Music/Bryan Ferry compilation album, where it reached No 1 in the album chart; this was O’List’s first UK No 1, however Let’s Stick Together had been a No 1 in Europe.
Then in 1975 O’List made an album titled Jet for CBS, which was produced by regular Queen producer Roy Baker. O’List then joined John Cale of the Velvet Underground in 1977 for an extensive European tour (Cale was a fan of The In-Crowd, so asked Davy to join him). During 1980, O’List was a producer for Island Records producing reggae bands and mixed on The Jam tour.
O’List released his first solo album in 1997 entitled Flight of The Eagle while studying Fine Art and Filmmaking where he received a BA (Hons) in Fine Art, a PG in Advanced Filmmaking from St. Martins and the R.C.A. and a PCET from The University of Greenwich for Multimedia teaching and training. O’List’s films were screened at BAFTA, The BBC Short Film Festival and on Super Channel cable TV, as well as other art exhibition shows. O’List went into TV music production with his own studio in 2000 and started touring Europe with his own band.
In March 2015 O’List released his second solo album Second Thoughts. The album sees Davy return to his distinctive prog rock sound which gained him so much attention in the early part of his career, whilst also incorporating elements of proto-prog, funk and jazz. With a new band assembled, Davy will be touring this new record across the UK and Europe at the end of 2015/early 2016. The record has received great acclaim by both fans and critics alike. Classic Rock magazine said ‘Key to its appeal is O’List’s guitar tone, surely the best in Western civilisation’, you can’t argue with that.