13 June 2009

The Plague - Looking for the Sun (b/w Here Today Gone Tomorrow)

Plague - Looking for the Sun

Label: Decca
Year of Release: 1968

If there's one thing about a lot of psychedelic and hippy singles of the sixties I find hard to take, it's the lyrical references to all the sad old losers in the world who work nine to five.  "Wear a suit and tie/ when I'd rather sit and die", as The Leaves ranted in "Too Many People" - because, like, wearing a suit is a sign of sure evil and signals the fact that you are regularly tickling The Man's cock.  Complete drivel, obviously.  

That said, you can appreciate their sentiments of anarchy and freedom however clumsily they may be expressed, even if it does involve forcing yourself back into the mentality of a time when new pathways and possibilities did seem to be opening up that didn't necessarily mean living a conservative nine to five life.  The Plague here, for example, released a sinister 45 which seems to be examining the dilemma from a rather bleak perspective.  The B-side "Here Today Gone Tomorrow" is a taunting, nagging, finger-wagging piece of work with some very sneering vocals - "Save for your holiday/ twelve months you work, two weeks you play/ next time summer comes around/ you may be six feet underground" they warn like psychedelic Grim Reapers.  Fair point, chaps, although putting out one single with Decca then disappearing without trace so that bloggers and writers in the future can't identify who the hell you are doesn't seem like much more of a long-term strategy.  Still, they tried.  They at least did that, didn't they?

It's a solid two sides on offer here, though, with the A-side "Looking for the Sun" being more chiming and subtle, but still having a similarly eerie and doomed feel.  Despite this, luck was not on their side.  By the time Decca launched this on to the public the summer of love had come and gone, and psychedelic pop was beginning to seem a bit like yesterday's news.  Had this been issued earlier I'm tempted to argue that it might have been a hit, but sadly it's hard to imagine it being a jolly daytime radio staple - it was always going to achieve cult status at best, and that's exactly what happened.  Original copies of this are so sought-after now that they frequently sell for three-figure sums.  My copy (pictured above) is a facsimile issue, hence the printed-on "spider" in the middle (it would seem that pressing plants don't seem to have the facility to create ye olde "spiders" in the middle of seven inch records anymore).

Rumours abound that The Plague were actually a studio-bound record label project rather than proper hippies, which (if true) just goes to show that The Man can disguise himself very well when he wants to.  I'd appreciate some confirmation on who The Plague really were and where they ended up, but I'd be joining a long, long list of people wanting to know the answer to that, so I won't hold my breath.


dr charlie said...

What a shock!
I was the lead guitarist / second vocalist with Plague. We recorded about 20 tracks at the Decca studios in 68. This included original and obscure covers. Our manager of the time rejected Decca's contract terms and we never signed with Decca. I and (I am almost certain) the rest of the band were unaware of this release. The tracks have definatley been re- recorded or alterd and added to (for instance the keyboard intro). Plague were a touring band and performed hundreds of times between 66 and 70. Today I know of only two venues web sites that were going to "list" us; Chiselhurst Caves, Kent (where we were supported by Pink Floyed in 66) and California Ballrooms, Dunstable (where we opened for Peter Frampton;-Herd, and Tony Rivers and The Casteaways in 67 or 68?) Myself and at least one other former member still perform today. Plague folded in 70

23 Daves said...

YOU'RE shocked?! I'm stunned! I honestly never expected anybody to respond to my original request - to the best of my knowledge psychedelic collectors and even record labels have been trying to ascertain the identity of The Plague for years now.

Suffice to say, you featured on a number of compilations - Decca's "Psychedelic Scene" CD is still available, so far as I know - and all have scant information about the band. The latest compilation to feature you, the seven inch singles box set "Psychedelic Days" states:

"Research into the Decca archives also yielded zero results... at a guess, this 45 may well have been a put together studio only project trying to cash in on the UK Psychedelic Scene.
If anyone out there knows who The Plague are, we at Acme Towers would love to know! Send postcards, letters to our address..."

In case you want it, their email is acmeoffice@acmerecords.co.uk, address Acme Gramophone Company, PO Box 138, Hastings, TN34 3WG.

I'd really like to have a quick word with you as well if that's possible. Would you be able to contact me on dave DOT bryant23 AT gmail DOT com? (replace DOT and AT with . and @). The fact that there are masters with twenty more tracks lurking around somewhere is something I don't think anybody has realised before now.

LF Barfe said...

I might be wrong, but I seem to recall that Decca used the XDR matrix to indicate a master made at an independent studio. That might be explained by the alterations/overdubs, which might have been done elsewhere. Charlie - who was producing/engineering the sessions you did at Broadhurst Gardens? Knowing what I do about the Decca (now Universal) archives, I wouldn't hold out much hope of the other tracks surviving, unless they were commercially released at the time.

metalicman said...

hi i am the second member of the plague. that was refered to by dr charlie. we have just recently made contact after all these years. it is true we were unaware that this single had been released by decca and it came as a big suprise when i was told only 2 days ago. i am still playing to this day.

Anonymous said...

Somebody has a very bad memory.

I was the singer and part composer of "here today gone tomorrow".

The Plague were a four piece band
the members were Bill Dale bass + vocal, Russ Harness Keyboard + vocal, Ken Ali guitar + vocal and John Truelove drums.

We only recorded one single for Decca, afterwards we changed our name to "The Explosive", and recorded on President records with the same line up.

Two of our most succesfull records were " Cities makes the country colder "
and " who planted thorns in miss Alices garden ".

The band broke up in 1971 after a ture of Israel.

I have now lived in Denmark for nearly 40 years and i am stil playing.

Hope this information helps, I dont know what band dr charlie played in, but it wasen't the same band that recorded this record.
All the best Bill Dale

23 Daves said...

Thank you very much for clarifying that, Bill. I am indeed aware of The Explosive, and had no idea that they were connected to The Plague.

That seemingly solves a long-standing mystery, anyway.

Anonymous said...

Bill - fond memories of you (and Joy), the lads, especially Russ (The Explosive - resident band at The Ritz in St Helier, 1968). Got all you records somewhere!