24 July 2010

Penny Peeps - Little Man With A Stick/ Model Village

Penny Peeps - Little Man With A Stick

Label: Liberty
Year of Release: 1968

Sometimes, just sometimes, life could be difficult in the sixties if you were a hard-edged rock band.  The reality is that whilst The Kinks, The Rolling Stones and The Who had a vast number of snarling, R&B derived singles, the majority of their rivals just didn't sell records in convincing quantities.  They may have had cult live followings, but The Downliners Sect, The Eyes and The Primitives (to name but three examples) couldn't translate their live energy into enough units to please the record companies.

If a record label wanted to sign a full-throttle act, then, they were faced with a dilemma - either sweeten the sound a little in the studio, or else just buy them a cute song off the peg in Denmark Street and say to them "Here chaps, see how this fits on your amphetamine slimmed little bodies".  This is largely what happened to Simon Dupree and the Big Sound with "Kites", and it's what the Penny Peeps are doing here as well.  "Little Man With A Stick" is a gentle piece of carefully arranged pop which - like "Kites" - is commercial fare, but that doesn't stop it from being good.  The band have since stated that they despise it, but "LMWAS" is at turns absurd, charming, sweet and endearing, focussing on the mystery of a stick-wielding man lurking around in some Autumn mist.  "What are you doing there?" the band harmonise in a manner which would seem frankly disturbing in real life, only for him to reply with various unlikely scenarios.  He's conducting an orchestra.  He's a knight about to go into battle.  Except of course he's not really, you daft sillies.  You get the picture.

"Little Man With A Stick" hasn't been talked about much, probably as a result of the band's dismissal of it, which is a shame as this is, let's face it, prime toytown psych.  But a quick listen to the admittedly superior B-side should cause any casual listener to realise why the flip has become a dancefloor filler at certain sixties nights.  The lyrics are no less twee, focussing on somebody's fantastic model village - hey, Frank Sidebottom could have written that - but the track rocks like nobody's business, and you'd think the model village in question was a euphemism for something related to sex or drugs.  Or both.  It's a mini-explosion of celebration about nothing in particular apart from some scaled down rural architecture.  If only there had been more of this sort of thing, how different would rock's landscape be today?  Spinal Tap wouldn't have been mocked for their mini-Stonehenge for a start.

"Model Village" is available online through all the usual commercial outlets, and can be listened to on YouTube here.  Cheers Johan Ventus for the upload.  

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