Year of Release: 1969
Whilst The Factory's debut single, the "Nuggets II" compiled "Path Through The Forest" (actually written by Clifford T Ward under a pseudonym, fact fans) is entirely the work of the band in question, that's certainly not the case in this instance. Southend-based songwriter John Pantry initially provided them with the track here in the full expectation that they would handle all duties themselves, reckoning without the lead vocalist Jack Brand's ability to hold the tune together. It would seem that the frontman's efforts were deemed to be unsatisfactory, and in the end, Pantry stepped up to the plate himself to deliver the final take.
None of the above really subtracts anything from the worth of the single, which is actually yet another full-throttle piece of slightly kaleidoscopic mod pop which is marginally indebted to The Who. There was so much material like this being peddled around at the time that one has to wonder why The Who were the only band of that ilk making it into the charts - presumably the others simply couldn't get the necessary airplay to build a fanbase upon. "Try A Little Sunshine" rolls, judders, shakes and smashes along with frustrated intent, seemingly at odds with its simplistic hippy lyrical message. Whilst "Path Through The Forest" sounded eerily prescient of the work of Joy Division, this is a soundsplash of buzzes, thrashed guitars, and oddly angelic vocal stylings - very much of its time rather than ahead of its time, but no less thrilling for that.
The B-side "Red Chalk Hill" (also sung by Pantry) is a gentle McCartney-esque ballad which Record Collector recently named as something which sounded like a "long-lost Oasis out-take". At a stretch of the eardrums we could perhaps allow for that description, but really, the whimsy contained within the grooves isn't especially reminiscent of the Gallagher brothers. Subtlety has never been one of their strong points. What "Red Chalk Hill" does have going for it, however, is a lyrically quaint kind of faintly menacing surrealism, combined with echoing, wailing backing vocals. The words bring to mind a Royston Vasey styled town where one can never escape, whilst the music seems to be pulling the tune in the direction of "Fool on the Hill" styled optimism. It's worth a lot, lot more than its throwaway B-side status.
This proved to be The Factory's last single, but John Pantry's career as a songwriter continued for some time, although he eventually returned to his Christian roots and began penning songs and overseeing production duties for psychedelic folk churchgoers Parchment. Many of these are actually rather good, stamping out the myth that all Christian pop has to be appalling. These days, he works as a vicar in a church in Hadleigh, and is periodically bothered by psychedelic buffs asking him about his musical past. The movement could barely have produced a less likely underground hero, although these days he naturally denies any of his work was meant to have psychedelic connotations. We can only deduce from this that he never did try any Sunshine at all, much less a little of it, the hypocrite.
In the meantime, any readers who are curious about what Jack Brand's vocals sounded like before John Pantry intervened should head over to Sir Henry Rawlinson's blog. He has the acetate of it here, from which you can draw your own conclusions.