7 December 2022

Reupload - Carnegy Hall - The Bells of San Francisco/ Slightly Cracked


A psychedelic Christmas single? Oh, go on then

Label: Polydor
Year of Release: 1967

Let's face it, it's doubtful anyone's surprised by the fact that a psychedelic Christmas single was released at the tail end of 1967 - what's truly surprising is that the market wasn't flooded with kaleidoscopic Christmas elves and festive carols with groovy phasing. (Though at the very least Syd Barrett said that "Apples and Oranges" had a 'touch of Christmas' about it, I suppose).

Sadly, anyone expecting anything authentic here is going to be sorely disappointed. It's a rather flippant novelty cash-in, and while it starts promisingly with its bells and an ominous whirring sound, it quickly descends into child-like whimsy. While we're informed that Father Christmas is on his "psychedelic way", the track itself is more akin to Scott MacKenzie on a tight budget than Soft Machine. "Ting-a-ling-a-ling, ting-a-ling-a-ling-a-ling, a very hippy Christmas Day" the track continues, making you wonder if this was one of the key markers towards the "hippy wigs in Woolworths" moment in society. 

The songwriter Geoff Stephens seems to be the driving force behind the track, who by this point had already chalked up an impressive tally of enormous hits for Manfred Mann ("Semi Detached Suburban Mister James"), Dave Berry ("The Crying Game"), The New Vaudeville Band ("Winchester Cathedral"), and The Applejacks ("Tell Me When"). He would later go on to write "There's A Kind of Hush", "Sorry Suzanne", "Silver Lady" and "Lights of Cincinnati" among others, so the fact this record flopped probably hasn't featured in his nightmares much over the last fifty years. 

He does go for a very nightmarish effect with the B-side, though, which is an instrumental version of the A-side with painful Les Dawson-styled bum notes littered throughout. If you have finely tuned ears, it may very well drive you madder this Christmas than any of the usual fare that gets piped out through the in-store radio stations. 

Polydor would, of course, go on to have an enormous Christmas hit with Slade's "Merry Xmas Everybody" whose origins were in a psychedelic tune Noddy Holder penned, so at the very least they cracked it in the end. 

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