31 May 2009

Turnoffs to Nowhere


Well, I thought it was about time I uploaded another homebrew psychedelic compilation for your pleasure. Everybody who has already downloaded Wallpaper and Lysergic Diversions (and even Pop) will know roughly what to expect, and the theme doesn't vary much here.  No prizes for anyone who points out the obvious, which is that this is a compilation of lesser-spotted non-hits, all either wondrously good or intriguingly bizarre.

Perhaps one slight change to my approach this time is that these tracks are more summery than usual. This wasn't a deliberate attempt on my part to create the modern-day equivalent of one of those "sixties summer" compilations which were doing the rounds throughout the eighties at one point (every single one of them featuring the Kinks "Sunny Afternoon") more that the good weather probably influenced my choices without me being fully aware of it until the final list was in front of my eyes.

And with that perhaps unnecessary preamble, off you go - 


1. Gun – “Sunshine” (CBS – 1968)

First out of the bag is a blast of summery psych from a slightly unlikely source.  Gun were the rather proggish rockers who had a top ten hit with “Race for the Devil” in 1968 – this sat prettily on the B-side of that particular breakthrough hit, sounding like a fanfare to the hottest season.
Songwriter Adrian Gurwitz would of course go on to write and perform the abysmal “Classic” (“Gonna write a classic/ gonna write it in an attic, baby”) but perhaps we should let that drop.

2. The Buzz – “You’re Holding Me Down” (Columbia – 1966)

One of Joe Meek’s later productions, “You’re Holding Me Down” begins like a thuggish beat track and ends in a sheer overload of psychotic effects and screaming.  Lead singer Tam White later became the singing voice of Robbie Coltrane in “Tutti Frutti” (as well as a winning "New Faces" contestant in the seventies).  We all know what happened to Joe Meek not long after this, unfortunately.

3. Pentad – “Don’t Throw It All Away” (Parlophone – 1965)

Not much information is available about this quintet, but “Don’t Throw It All Away” is one of the earliest psych-sounding records out there (not counting Meek’s production on The Honeycombs’ “Eyes”) which probably went over the heads of the 1965 audience.  Perhaps they should step forward to take some credit one day.

4. Petards – “Tartarex” (Liberty - 1969)

German hit-makers (in their native country) who tried to break the UK market with this of all singles, an ode to the “King of Time” Tartarex.  It’s a wonderful little track with endless changes of tack and some very late Beatles styled arrangements, but remains lyrically completely and utterly baffling.  

5. Freedom’s Children – “Kafkaesque” (Parlophone South Africa – 1968)

South African acts were frequently given short shrift by the British public, often being denied work visas to perform in Britain, and Freedom’s Children (oh the irony!) were no exception.  “Kafkaesque” created some stirs in their home country, but largely remained unloved and unheard in other nations, until the “Garage Hangover” blog gave it another airing very recently.

6. Hour Glass – “Bells” (Liberty - 1967)

A typical piece of pseudo-profound sixties twaddle here, but very entertaining twaddle nonetheless.  “Bells” is rather like Mark E Smith reciting hippy poems about various alarm systems he’s heard.  If that’s not a good enough reason to listen to this, and doesn’t convert you to my cause, Lord knows what will.

7. Blossom Toes – “I’ll Be Late For Tea” (Marmalade - 1967)

The Blossom Toes never really seem to have been given the attention they deserve by British music lovers, perhaps because their humour occasionally bordered on self-consciously whacky.  The entirety of the album “We Are Ever So Clean” is worth a spin, though, and this one of many, many highlights.  Never have a band so successfully encapsulated the best parts of West Coast Psychedelia and English music hall, and it’s possible we’ll never hear the like again.

8. Billy Nicholls – “London Social Degree” (Immediate – 1968)

With backing recorded by The Small Faces, fact fans.  Billy Nicholls was supposed to have released the album “Would You Believe” on Immediate Records in 1968, but somehow it got shelved and wasn’t released until very recently. This is one of the stand-out tracks. Billy went on to write “I Can’t Stop Loving You (Though I Try)” for Leo Sayer, which is considerably less enjoyable but doubtless helped him pay off the mortgage.

9. Orange Bicycle – “Rennaissance Fair” (Columbia – 1968)

Another Morgan Studio-bound project, Orange Bicycle were basically a chance for the producer Wil Malone to work off his Brian Wilson obsessions.  Despite a number of hit singles on the continent and a lot of Radio One support, they failed to really get appreciated in this country, despite producing some monstrous gems like this cover of The Byrds track.

10. The Montanas – “Difference of Opinion” (Pye - 1967)

Of course, not everybody thought the mind-expanding possibilities of the new psychedelic world were a good thing, and nor did every artist worship Bob Dylan.  Supper club superstars The Montanas seemed to be very het up about the hype, and released this cheeky piss-take on one of their B-sides.  “People like you make us tired/ trying to appear inspired” they harmonise with malicious intent.  One has to admire their nerve, as well as the fact that despite having its roots in parody, this actually isn’t a bad tune.  Did one of them secretly admire this sort of thing in reality?

11. Dave Clark Five – “Lost In His Dreams” (Columbia - 1968)

At this point, you can almost smell the insecurity seeping out of the pores of the nice clean-cut lads on the circuit.  “Lost In His Dreams” appears to be yet another sneering parody of psych, but Dave Clark and company could perhaps comfort themselves with the knowledge that by the end of 1968, it would all be as good as over.  For both themselves and psychedelia, that is.  Hell, nobody was going to come out of this war alive…

12. Buster Jangles’ Flying Mattress  - “Love Has Taken Over My Brain” (RCA – 1971)

Whilst some were keen to see the back of psychedelia, others clearly never quite got over it, even as late as 1971.  This is credited to “Clark and Naylor”, and I do have to wonder if the “Naylor” in question is Shel Naylor who later went on to work with Lieutenant Pigeon.  The production techniques certainly seem very similar, sounding pleasingly rudimentary in their Meek-ish effects and echoes, and the sense of humour behind the band name itself also seems familiar…

13. Crazy Elephant – “Dark Part of My Mind” (Major Minor - 1969)

The B-side of the supposedly “bubblegum” hit “Gimme Gimme Good Loving”, “Dark Part of My Mind” is a different proposition altogether, utilizing wild fuzzed up guitar noises, eerie vocals, and a weird meandering tune.  The name “Crazy Elephant” was shortly afterwards used by 10cc for a session muso project, but this isn’t 10cc on this track.  Yes, shadowy studio b(r)and names can indeed be rather confusing. 

14. Chubby Checker – “Stoned in the Bathroom” (Ariola - 1971)

Not too long ago, I had the idea of putting together a “squares go psych” compilation, exploring the possibilities of what happens when family entertainer stars went a little bit wibbly towards the tail end of the sixties.  Had I gone ahead with this plan (as it happened, I couldn’t find anything like enough available material, much less quality material) Chubby Checker would have been high on my list.  “Stoned in the Bathroom” is from his foggy “Chequered” album where he tried to re-invent himself in a Hendrix style, although the album also veers towards some very proggish territories too.  It has yet to be reissued and seldom ever seems to be written about, although one suspects it can only be a matter of time.

15. Apple – “The Other Side” (Page One - 1968)

A rather doomy piece of psych from the band we previously saw on the “Wallpaper” compilation.

16. Bill Fay – “Screams In The Ears” (Deram - 1967)

An enormous amount has been written about Bill Fay in the adult music press over the last few years, which leaves me with precious little to add.  Although I’m uncertain about his status as a “lost legend”, a phrase which is over-used far too much for my liking, it has to be said that some of his material is astounding in its rather quirky and unsettling worldview, and “Screams In The Ears” is (for me at least) a piece of musical satire up there with the best of the era.  Fay’s sneers at his hipster party friends and their budgerigar-murdering ways are something everybody should hear at least once.  Doubtless Stephen Jones out of Babybird wasn’t listening - until recently, nobody was -  but the spirit of his recordings is in this track, a whole thirty years before.

17. Mellow Candle – “Feeling High” (SnB - 1968)

A very early outing for the much-loved folksters, “Feeling High” was their debut single which slipped out relatively unnoticed on Simon Napier Bell’s record label SnB.  

18. Jason Crest – “My House is Burning Down” (unreleased)

From the people who gave you “Black Mass”, “My House Is Burning Down” is a rather surreal little number about the tragedy of arson attacks on one’s personal home.  I suspect the band may have been slightly influenced by Procol Harum here, but they’ve managed to retain a quirky identity of their own.

19. Elmer Gantry’s Velvet Opera – “Mary Jane” (Direction - 1967)

EGVO surely have to be one of the most under-sung psychedelic bands of the period.  They supported Pink Floyd at many early gigs, were covered by Led Zeppelin in their earliest sets (the fantastically rocking “Flames” was their track of choice) and released what is actually a brilliant eponymous album.  
“Mary Jane” came out as a single but was banned by the Beeb due to its possible references to a certain soft drug (more than possible based on the lyrical content here, I’d argue).  Do check out the album if you ever get a chance – it’s a smorgasboard of the best elements of blues, rock, proto-prog, music hall and psychedelia, and sounds like a brilliant mini-compilation of the period in itself.  This isn’t the strongest track, but does suit the theme of this particular CDR a bit better than the rest.

20. Grapefruit – “Lullaby” (RCA – 1969)

Grapefruit have already had an entry on this blog, so there’s little to add except to say that this track has been mislabeled as a “lost Beatles song” online so many times that I’m now beginning to find the error tedious.   It’s only a “lost Grapefruit song”, having been buried on their flop album, and everything else you hear is just tittle-tattle.
Still, irrespective of whether or not Lennon and McCartney were in the room nodding their heads encouragingly or contributing musically (and we’ve no proof on either count) this is admittedly a neat piece of work which wouldn’t have sounded totally out of place on a Beatles album.  Or perhaps B-side.  That’s still more than most bands can ever hope to achieve, though.

21. 23rd Turnoff – “Michelangelo” (Deram – 1967)

Sounding slight and innocuous at first, “Michelangelo” has a way of worming its place into your heart with its subtleties.  23rd Turnoff were named after a motorway turnoff leading into Liverpool, and were a project for that city’s songwriting son Jimmy Campbell.  One wonders if Bill Drummond of the KLF ever picked up on the fact that Liverpool was at the end of a 23rd sliproad on a motorway – he’s never mentioned it....

22. Still Life – “My Kingdom Cannot Lose” (Columbia - 1968)

An early outing by these rather obscure proggers who, in the late sixties, seemed to be contenting themselves with tunes similar to “Songs of Praise” hymns being channeled through a kaleidoscopic filter.  It's a fine line.

23. Gene Latter – “Annie’s Place” (Young Blood - 1973)

Spin back to the entry I did on the “Circus Days” compilation and you will find a track by Kidrock of the same title – this is indeed the same song, taken by sixties Welsh/ Arabic legend Gene Latter and given a much higher budget.  The original certainly never had a full orchestra gracing its grooves, and guiltily, I must confess I prefer this version.

24. Mike Y Toti – “De Nata, Fresa Y De Limón” (Explosion – 1973)

And guess what?  This too is a cover version of a Kidrock track, namely “Ice Cream Man”, in Spanish this time.  The track was actually a minor hit in Spain due to it gracing an ice cream commercial there (well, there was precious little else it could logically sell, in fairness).  

25. Simon Dupree and the Big Sound – “Laughing Boy From Nowhere” (unreleased)

From Portsmouth via Scotland (rather like The Beta Band) Simon Dupree and The Big Sound were never life’s natural hippies, preferring their more hard-edged, dancefloor orientated origins.  Nonetheless, following the success of the mystical “Kites” they ended up producing lots of fluffy psych like this, which is actually lovely stuff, even if I get the impression the band themselves hate it.
People engaging in the hobby of early Elton John session spotting may like to note that yer man features on piano throughout this track.  

26. Crazy World of Arthur Brown – “Give Him A Flower” (Track - 1967)

Proving that Arthur could inject humour into the sixties as well as the Bonzos could, “Give Him A Flower” pastiches the hippy movement with more wit than the Dave Clarke Five or The Montanas managed.  

27. Lieutenant Pigeon – “Opus 300” (Decca - 1972)

…. And finally – the B side of the Pigeon’s only other hit “Desperate Dan” acts as a demented album closer.  What were they thinking?  Well, “We’ve got a B-side to do, so let’s just have as much fun as we can with these home studio gadgets we’ve got”, I suspect.  

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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