22 May 2010

One in a Million: Fredereek Hernando/ Double Sight

One in a Million - Fredereek Hernando

Label: MGM
Year of Release: 1967

Much talked about but seldom actually made sense of, "Fredereek Hernando" was listed in Record Collector magazine's list of the greatest British psychedelic singles of all time, alongside The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Soft Machine and The Rolling Stones.

Now, whilst I wouldn't quite go that far in my praise for this single - for however much my opinion counts for anything - there's no question that "Fredereek Hernando" is a bit sodding strange. It's not just the lyrics that confuse and bamboozle, seemingly being about some infamous but eccentrically named figure being publicly hung, it's the salad of sinister echoing backing vocals, the screeching tape-rewinding effects, and the squawking guitar. In an interview many years later, lead vocalist Alan Young commented: "It was too way-out for mainstream exposure", and so it proved.

One in a Million were something of a regular support act for The Who during this period of time, and once again the influence of the Shepherd's Bush mob is very apparent, and by Young's own confession they were probably trying to sound like that band at their most cataclysmic rather than a hippy freak-out act. Still, whilst the gritted teeth vocals are decidedly not part of the peace and love plan, the surrealist lyrics and odd noises ensured that this single would inevitably come out of other side whiffing of incense, much as the 'Orrible 'Oo's "I Can See For Miles" is forever referenced in a psychedelic context.

The B-side "Double Sight" is a more straightforward mod rocker, and appears to be about the bogus arousals which become apparent in a gentleman when he meets the almost identical-looking brother of a woman he fancies. Can't say I've ever been there myself, your honour.

One of the more astonishing things about this single is the fact that the guitar lines were delivered by the 14 year old Jimmy McCulloch. Pete Townshend obviously wasn't blind to his prodigious talent, and ended up match-making him into the band Thunderclap Newman who subsequently had a massive number one hit with "Something In The Air". When that particular act proved to be little more than one-hit wonders and failed to "capitalise on their promise" (as so many editors of CD liner notes would doubtless say) he joined Stone The Crows, and eventually Paul McCartney's Wings. Tragically, he died of heart complications related to a heroin overdose in 1979, although we could state with some certainty that the musical output he achieved in his lifetime was more than many people double his age ever managed.

The other band members gradually drifted out of the music industry, but are still occasionally bothered by music journalists asking them about this very single, whose original pressing these days commands three figure sums on the collector's market. Mine is a re-issue - what do you think I am, made of money?


Anonymous said...

They were a Scottish band, I think. No so sure about Fredereek Hernando but I like Double Sight, it' got nice sound.

23 Daves said...

They were most definitely Scottish, Mike.

I think I agree with your opinion as well - "Double Sight" is a bit less 'interesting', but it's got more bite to it. It actually reminds me a lot of The Jam about ten years before they were even formed... although there are a lot of other bands we could pin that observation on as well.

Wilthomer said...

Brilliant stuff, sorta lysergic yet still "mod". This was a very interesting time for music in the U.K. and I don't think it's ever been better!

Marv said...

Yup! I can confirm that my Dad (who wrote this and can be heard on bass guitar) is definitely Scottish; as were the rest of the guys. Glasgow Boys through & through.