27 November 2008

Lysergic Diversions

Lysergic Diversions

Since "Wallpaper" (the last homebrew psychedelic compilation I uploaded) went down so well, here's another attempt, complete with the usual dodgy GIMP created sleeve.

The rules remain the same. These tracks are the work of artists who, generally speaking, created a few nuggets of perverse, skew-wiff pop music during the late sixties before sinking without a trace again, or - if they had longer careers - certainly didn't get the success they deserved. This is, for the most part, the sound of artists who were clearly starting to fall in love with the possibilities of the recording studio as much as their own live performances, throwing almost every piece of modern technology into the mixing process and - in the case of the Silver Apples - even using instruments most of the rest of the music industry were still regarding as novelty items. Even though most of these tracks had sod all influence on the music industry at large, you can get a sense of the textures which were being created by the technology of the time, which would eventually help inform the self-indulgence of prog in the seventies, and the overwhelming production gloss of the eighties. The material on offer here, however, is considerably snappier and (hopefully) much more fun.

Once again, most of these tracks have been featured on sixties compilations before, and I'm not claiming any sort of exclusivity with this effort - but I hope it's an enjoyable listen.

1. Francois Wertheimer - Le Compagnon de Voyage (Byg Records - 1970)
French psychedelia, no less, which without question has a flavour which is noticeably different from the rest of this compilation. Starting off like a wrist-slashing Euroballad, then slowly descending into a mire of sound effects, groans, and violent orchestral noises, "Le Compagnon De Voyage" is an unsettling affair, perhaps made more so by the fact that its sleeve featured a picture of Hitler in a dress. Francois later became something of a player on the French prog scene, and eventually worked with Vangelis on a variety of projects. This, on the other hand, wasn't a big hit for him at home or anywhere else in the world.

2. John Carter and Russ Alquist - Laughing Man (Spark - 1968)
John Carter had a reasonable amount of chart success as a songwriter throughout the sixties, writing for the Ivy League, Tom Jones, The Troggs, and (cough) Max Bygraves, but this effort with his chum Russ Alquist is something else altogether. By their own confession created whilst smoking a lot of marijuana, "Laughing Man" is almost disturbing in its jollity and distorted vocals, especially by the time you get to the downright sinister spoken word segment. It's safe to say that Max Bygraves didn't record this one, and that's for sure...

3. July - I See (Major Minor - 1969)
More Eastern-influenced psychedelia from the London band who dubbed themselves "The Eastern Hollies". "I See" is a gently persuasive piece of work with an unexpected and perplexing ending.

4. Geranium Pond - Dogs in Baskets (unreleased)
Featured on the Marmalade Skies Toytown series of CDRs, "Dogs in Baskets" pushes every lever and knob in the recording studio to get across its tale of... well, I've never been able to work out quite what they're going on about, to be honest. Little dogs with no silhouettes feature in the lyrics prominently, and from that you can deduce what you will.

5. The Fingers - I Hear The Sun (unreleased)
The Fingers were one of the first British groups to badge themselves as "psychedelic". They apparently brought a monkey on stage with them who gave off "psychotic smells", but beyond that it has to be said that their earliest material was somewhat tepid beat fare, without a whiff of incense (or indeed monkey dust) to be smelt. Lest we be tempted to forever accuse them of cynical marketing gimmicks, however, they really push the Magic Bus out for this one. "Trees try to gas me!" they cry, which could only mean that they're in the Outback of Australia, where the only trees which release noxious chemicals exist. Doubtless that place is also where the sun would be the "loudest" if you were trying to hear it. Lyrical puzzle solved.

6. Blossom Toes - What On Earth? (Marmalade - 1967)
That The Blossom Toes failed to sell records in the sixties is quite criminal - their mixture of music hall japes combined with their suss for Beatlesy tunes made them the missing link between the more cabaret elements of the era (such as the Bonzos) and the wonders of the Fab Four. "What On Earth?" is also so bouyant it could have been recorded by The Polyphonic Spree.

7. The Factory - Red Chalk Hill (CBS - 1969)
Written and sung by the Southend born John Pantry, "Red Chalk Hill" is a strong piece of period pop with appropriately mystical lyrics. Pantry eventually turned his back on the music industry to become a vicar, partly spurred on by some Christian folk bands he produced in the seventies. He still preaches in Essex, where he is occasionally bothered by psychedelic buffs entering his church asking him about his obscure past.

8. Rifkin - Continental Hesitation (Page One - 1968)
"How about some Leyton Oriental mystery?" It's very difficult to tell quite how serious this recording is, and I've often wondered if it's supposed to be a pisstake of hippy trends - but it's still a hugely enjoyable piece of psychedelic pop with the spikey undertones of mod running through its core. Nobody has ever been able to trace or uncover the identity of Rifkin, and this track is the B-side of the only single which was ever issued by them. Somebody somewhere must know who they are, and they should get in touch.

9. The Liverpool Scene - Baby (RCA - 1969)
If you want proof that Simon Armitage isn't the only poet to have dabbled with this pop music lark, listen to this, Adrian Henri's outfit bringing poetry to the masses. Roger McGough frequently got involved with this band's live gigs and studio recordings, and the end results quite frankly sound like Half Man Half Biscuit and Art Brut being well and truly pre-empted. "You make me feel like Woolworth's aftershave, baby" indeed. In a sane world, we wouldn't be waffling on about John Cooper Clarke's forays into the recorded medium as being in any way groundbreaking.

10. The Smoke - My Friend Jack (Demo Version - 1967)
This is the original version of a single which was a massive continental hit (to the extent that it was covered by Boney M, ffs) but failed to make the charts in Britain due to the BBC getting sniffy about its lyrical content. In the re-recorded version (which the BBC still refused to consider) the lyrics were toned down to talk about Jack's merry travels rather than his love for sugarcubes with certain special toppings, but the demo version here is quite plain in its intent.

11. The Orange Machine - Real Life Permanent Dream (Pye - 1968)
The Orange Machine were an Irish psychedelic band who appeared to arrive on the scene in the UK just as the party was drawing to a close. This cover of Tomorrow's "Real Life Permanent Dream" is much more aggressive and insistent than the original.

12. Russell Morris - The Real Thing Parts 1 and 2 (Decca - 1969)
This has already been mentioned as a YouTube entry on this blog, but this is the full six minute version (rather than the video edit) for your listening pleasure. A number one hit in its native Australia, UK pressings of this are almost impossible to find.

13. Pugh - Love Love Love (Metronome - 1969)
Swedish psychedelic star Pugh never managed to replicate his status in other nations - despite managing to creep out an album in America with all the tracks sung in his native language - but that doesn't stop "Love Love Love" from being one of the more demented Beefheartian pieces of Scandinavian pop you're ever likely to hear.

14. Neo Maya - I Won't Hurt You (Pye - 1967)
A solo effort from Graham Carter Dimmock of Episode Six (a band which also featured Ian Gillan and Roger Glover who would go on to join Deep Purple). This is a cover of The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band's album track, but whilst their version favoured understated gentleness, Neo Maya's version goes for the bold stroke of a thunderously loud orchestra halfway through. Both versions are ace in their own different ways, and if forced to pick a favourite, I probably couldn't.

15. Silver Apples - Oscillations (Kapp - 1968)
The Silver Apples are the only American band on this compilation, and really very little else needs to be said about them. This is apparently one of the first ever electronic singles to be released, and whilst it was seen as a foolhardy move at the time, this sounds absolutely fantastic to this day - no mean feat given the primitive technology involved. But while we're on the subject...

16. Crocheted Doughnut Ring - Nice (Polydor - 1967)
...this was actually slightly ahead of the game too. An experiment with studio technology using the master tapes of its A side, this is a pleasing piece of work which features an array of ambient noises which excited pirate DJs so much at the time that the record company preferred side was almost completely overlooked. And speaking of that...

17. Crocheted Doughnut Ring - Two Little Ladies (Azalea & Rhododendron) (Polydor - 1967)
...I can't resist slipping it in afterwards. Unlike its flip, this is fairly straightforward McCartney inspired pop, but it gets us back into the land of the relatively sane in one easy step.

18. David McWilliams - Three O'Clock Flamingo Street (Major Minor - 1969)
My campaign to get the work of McWilliams reassessed continues, and really, why not? Proving that "The Days of Pearly Spencer" was absolutely no one-off, "Flamingo Street" is a brash and busy piece of work which, had it featured on a Scott Walker album, would probably be trumpeted all over the Internet as we speak. McWilliams lacked Walker's consistency, and occasionally recorded political pop which was rather clumsy in its sentiments, but gems like this really don't deserve to remain buried.

19. The Magic Mixture - Moonbeams (Saga - 1968)
A true oddity from the budget Saga label, who used to supply Woolworths with cheapo stock pressed up on appalling vinyl (and I'm now wondering if the fact this compilation has two Woolworths references on it was an act of my subconscious whilst putting this together). Unlike their TV themes albums or their dashed-off-in-a-day LPs introducing us to the marvellous world of trumpet sounds, The Magic Mixture were a band with songs of their own who were bunged into a makeshift recording studio in an Infant School hall to produce an album in an evening. "Moonbeams" is one of the stand-out tracks, and its believed the echo wasn't an intentional effect, but created by the dynamics of where the band recorded. Quite accidentally, the track therefore has a fantastic eerie, spacey feel to it. The album, somewhat surprisingly, also has some other strong moments, although it didn't lead to fame and fortune for anyone concerned.

20. David - Light of Your Mind (Philips - 1969)
Another band nobody has quite managed to track down. Their sole single "Light of Your Mind" was later recorded by James Griffin out of Bread, whose version I also have an MP3 copy of - but rest assured it's not as good.

21. Joy Unlimited - Mr Pseudonym (Page One - 1968)
Sounding like a lost end theme to a spy film, "Mr Pseudonym" is another track thick with atmosphere. The German band Joy Unlimited attempted to break the UK market with this, but it was not to be - a shame, as there's a certain Julie Driscoll meets Procol Harum charm to this which is hard not to warm to.

22. Gordon Waller - Rosecrans Boulevard (Columbia - 1968)
Gordon out of Peter and Gordon's debut solo effort, this Jimmy Webb song is baffling even by his usual standards. "She was a stewardess, you know", he tells us near the end, only managing to confuse matters still further in the process just as we thought we were beginning to make sense of them.

23. Kaleidoscope - Music (Fontana - 1968)
Now, this is studio trickery in action. The producer and engineer sound desperate to try everything here - panning music across speakers, chucking absurd effects on voices, even slipping in a recording of a coin spinning around at a slow speed. It's six minutes of studio anarchy, and seems as good a place to rest this compilation as any... and life goes on.
This Kaleidoscope were an English band who should not be confused with their American counterparts from the same era. Not if you want to avoid upsetting me, at least.

Part One:

Part Two:


Tulloch said...

Excellent comp, playing as I type. I too reckon the demo version of My Name Is Jack is superior to the 45, not only lyrically but the guitar is a lot wilder. I enjoyed Wallpaper too - keep these lovely comps coming please!

23 Daves said...

Thanks! There will be more psych compilations soon... along with compilations covering other themes or genres, I hope.

Ed Furst said...

Re "Nobody has ever been able to trace or uncover the identity of Rifkin, and this track is the B-side of the only single which was ever issued by them. Somebody somewhere must know who they are, and they should get in touch."

Rifkin went on to compose better songs and he was therefore turned down by everyone from Colin Frechter all the way down to Tony Visconti and George Martin, and ... blah blah blah ... changed his name to Ed Furst. The rest is history. Visit www.edfurst.com

23 Daves said...

Hi Ed,

Many, many thanks for unravelling a mystery that's been bothering me for some time now. Perhaps we could talk about this by email in a bit more depth sometime?

"Continental Hesitation" is a bloody brilliant track, by the way.

ge said...

Con-ti-nen-tal Hes-i-ta-tion
Trans-cen-den-tal Med-i-ta-tion

what an amazing cut!

also amazing i had never heard til today [being psych-pop nut]

Anonymous said...

The Geranium Pond track doesn't mention dogs with no silhouette! The line goes "Little dog with nose so wet; growl while you still have a chance to do so". What the next line is is a mystery, tho.

23 Daves said...

Aha! That makes a bit more sense.

The problem with a lot of these psychedelic flops is that you can't really check the lyrics on any of the usual online resources.

Anonymous said...

None of the links work, please fix. Love this blog and your compilations. ^w^

Anonymous said...

Links don't work !

23 Daves said...

Please see the FAQ and the most recently updated posts, everyone. Thanks.