The following is the ’Directors Cut’ of a ‘Home Taping’ feature I did for Mojo magazine. My original title was ‘Cake Out In The Rain’, in homage to Jim Webb’s perfect imagery in the magnificent and much maligned MacArthur Park. Mojo, being a bit literal about these sort of things changed the title, and tweaked the emphasis a little. I wasn’t taking the piss. I love all of the songs mentioned below. And I don’t believe in real psychedelia anyway. I don’t believe in real music full stop.
I’d long since lost my original draft, so I’ve rescued the below from the wonderful Marmalade Skies website. I’ve left their original intro in ‘cos it don’t half make me look good.
*** CLASSIC REPRINTS: Part I *** The following short article by Rob Chapman, is, in our opinion, the best ever piece of prose writing on Psych Pop*. Rather than getting overly bogged down in the "informative" trainspotterly, tedious minutiae of ever-changing band line-ups, release dates, songwriters, catalogue numbers, arrangers, producers...and other assorted and useless factoids, which add zilch to the aesthetic experience, and frankly often bore me shitless and so actually impair my enjoyment, Mr. Chapman instead opts for an amusing (and amused) take on the music, one of personal response. Unlike most other commentators, he has something to say and says it most assuredly well (sleevenote scribblers, record reviewers, hacks and other blaggers of all kinds would do well to take note: You have much to learn and would do well to attempt to emulate his work). He is stylish, obtuse, mischievous and thoroughly entertaining. It is a great shame that apart from his work on Syd Barrett, Rob Chapman has not often enough dipped his peacock quill in the tangerine flavoured ink of UK Psych. Still, we should be grateful that he has written at all on this subject. I would readily and without a single regret, sacrifice such "informative" tediae as endless rounds of sleevenotes, the entire RC "British Psych Trip" and 'Tapestry of Delights' for writing as good as this.
Sharp-eyed readers will notice that the introductory section of the following article also formed the intro to Sequel's 'Paisley Pop' collection. The whole sleevenotes of which constitute (in our most humble but well-informed opinion) by far the best ever sleeve notes to a Psych-related release. If only the lazy compilers would employ him more often, the intellectual standard of the "scene" would improve and it would also be a much jollier place! Three cheers for Rob Chapman! Hip Hip Hoorah!
Mojo, June 1997
Once the psychedelic bandwagon picked up speed, it also picked up some unlikely passengers. Rob Chapman hops on board for a 90 minute ride down Dementia Lane
There is a splendid moment on the 1968 Troggs track Purple Shades when Reg Presley sings the line "bamboo butterflies, twice their normal size, flying around in my mind" with such disturbingly drawling West Country conviction that you want to reach for the Andover phone directory to call him up and explain that, well Reginald, a butterfly twice its normal size still isn't very large, you know. Guru Reg recently revealed on Channel 4 what inspired his flight of fancy: nothing more potent than Rich Tea biscuits and a nice cuppa...
Ah, the synthetic side of psychedelia. It matters not a jot whether the artist in question had dropped a tab or just put on a paisley shirt for the day and pretended. For an all-too-brief period in the late '60s we all got our tan from standing in the English rain, cakes went soggy, and we were reliably informed by Jim Webb that we would never have the recipe again. Sitars were wielded brazenly. Words like "saffron" and "mind" were dropped without due care and attention into choruses which had previously consisted entirely of "you're", "my" and "bird". Pop stars who only months earlier had aspired to being chassed through Carnaby Street by a gaggle of screaming typists on their lunch breaks now came on in disc & Music Echo like Krishnamurti togged up by Lord Kitchener's Valet. (Although no matter how cool the threads, one member of the group always had to look like Barry Wom of The Rutles)
Other stylistic options: a liberal sprinkling of Penny Lane trumpets; a kitchen sink approach to flange, echo and, if available, stereo panning. For vocalists the two simple syllables of the word "away" had to be spread over several bars; if combined with "blown", the song could go on indefinitely. Mercifully, it didn’t. Thanks largely to lab-cost wearing producers beamed in from Planet Straight, clarity and conciseness continued to be the watchwords, and most of these products of the Tizer-aid acid test came in at under three minutes. Even after the summer of 1968, when lengthy Hey Jude endings became obligatory (thus replacing the previous year's model, the "oh my mind's completely blown" rambling acoustic outro), most groups undertook the return trip to Pixie land in the time it takes to boil an egg.
But these beat boom defectors all seemed to bottle out so soon. Within a year of discovering their inner Scouseness and writing songs about meter maids and circus posters, The Beatles were pounding away at Fats Domino riffs and getting back to basics. Ditto most of the acts featured here. But for those of us who prefer Jelly Jungle (of orange marmalade-lade-lade) to Green Tambourine, and Ice In the sun to Down the Dustpipe (or indeed who even care enough to make the distinction), it's time to stand up, sprout fins and be counted; time to bounce up and down upon what Dave Diamond knowingly dubbed "the latex trampoline of tomorrow's promises" and claim back our scorched legacy. Oh, and the Walrus was Reg.
The Cedars - For Your Information (2.38) Single (Decca) 1968
Lebanese five-piece create balalaika-driven psych-pop classic with rather fetching pidgin English chorus: "It's time I settled down/Stopped roaming like a nomad/It's time I looked around/For a girl who would keep me glad" Group perform said platter on TOTP's new releases spot. Record sinks without a trace.
Paul and Barry Ryan - Pictures of Today (2.25) Single (MGM) 1968
The story so far: after a couple of breezy beat ballad outings, Mrs Ryan's lovely boys are transformed into shining-brained psychsters. Cue play-in-a-day sitar intro and conspicuously clever wordplay ("Ever blowing, ever glowing/never showing signs of latent fear at all"). At one point they appear to sing "someone's reading from a book and turning into Lucozade". All delivered in butter-wouldn't-melt-but-blotting-paper would harmonies.
Locomotive - Mr Armageddon (4.35) Single (Parlophone) 1969 Album: The Great British Psychedelic Trip Vol 3 (See For Miles)
"I am everything you see and what is more/I am father of a thousand children/Mother of a thousand million more". Blimey. Tony Blackburn's Radio One Record Of The Week, but best enjoyed in full LP version with extended intro, this heavy-on-the-swell-pedal piece of profundity was the work of Norman Haines, whose solo albums are now so rare you aren't even allowed to point at them.
Topo D. Bill - Jam (3.05) Single B-side (Charisma) 1969
The B-side of the legendary Withi Tai To, a cod Indian war chant originally done by American group Everything is Everything. Topo D. Bill featured 'Legs' Larry Smith and probably other contract-busting chums of Bonzo too. On the evidence of this oddball B-side penned by Tom E Cross ("We're covered in jam/Tommy and me"), a certain Who drummer wasn’t far away either. Complete with sound effects and bib-dribbling chorus of "they washed it away boo-hoo…"
The Nerve - Magic Spectacles (2.46) Single (Page One) 1968
Larry Page's record label was a rich source of second division paisley pop and this gem was produced by Reg "sprinkle some fucking fairy dust on it" Presley. With the aforementioned spectacles you could apparently see "magic everywhere", although you half expect Ronnie Bond to put them on during the outro and go "ere Reg, oi can zee your 'ouse in these".
Wallace Collection - Daydream (4.10) Single (Parolphone) 1969
"I fell asleep amidst the flowers/For a couple of hours/On a boo-tee-fool day". The majestic string intro has been sampled by everyone from Pharcyde to Portishead. Unfortunately daylight gradually encroaches upon magic during the Hey Jude ending as the singer shouts out what he presumably thinks are convincing rock 'n' roll exhortations to "get amidst the flowers. Yeah"
Cliff And Hank - Throw Down A Line (2.45) Single (Columbia) 1969
Strung out on cake and still smarting from losing the Eurovision Song Contest to a Spanish entry which bore a distinct resemblance to Death Of A Clown, Cliff teams up with his old Shads spar for a venture into the unknown. Accompanied by a trade secret guitar sound that’s nearer to Bolan's Beard Of Stars than Foot Tapper, Cliff sings of "hanging in a nowhere tree". A hit, so they try to repeat the formula with the eco-conscious Joy Of Living. A miss, so Hank goes back to selling Watchtower, and Cliff follows Lennon down the revolutionary trail with Power To All Our Friends.
Studio Six - Strawberry Window (2.58) Single (Polydor) 1967
Scottish beat merchants who sounded like they would rather be playing soul covers: "Ok boys, we're going to try and entice the flower children with this one, so Ronnie, if you could quote from Molly Malone and The Association's Windy in your 'freaky' intro, then we'll bring in the Strawberry Fields Forever coda before hitting Tremeloes tra-la-la territory at full tilt. Oh, and don't forget the Ivy League harmonies. We don’t want to alienate Radio One…" Warning: a strawberry window can only be looked through while wearing "magic spectacles"
Roger Earl Okin - I Can't Face The Animals (2.40) Single B-side (Parlophone) 1967
A true obscurity. Even the freak-beat faithful don’t know about it. That’s because it owes its cult status to the Northern Soul crowd, whose role in retrieving psych oddities has frequently been overlooked. Earl Okin now makes his living as a Radio Two-friendly song-and-joke man, but back then he was hiding genius like this on Bsides. Animals is what reviewers at the time would have referred to as "a brass-led stomper". Baton-wielding by Zack 'Mr Bloe' Lawrence.
Cilla Black - Abyssinian Secret (2.11) EP: Time For Cilla (Parlophone) 1968 Album: Liverpool 1963-68 (See For Miles)
Cilla wants to show you something that’s "quite unique" which she picked up on a "trip" to Abyssinia. (You can be sure she didn’t inhale. Better hide it in the pantry with your cupcakes). Our Cilla's one and only entry into kaftan-and-bells territory was penned by - well knock me down with an eight-foot chillum - Roger Earl Okin. He also wrote Helen Shapiro’s psych-soul classic Stop And You'll Become Aware. Step forward, sir, your 15 minutes await.
Stavely Makepiece - I Wanna Love You Like A Mad Dog (3.40) Single (Pyramid) 1969
A phasing-drenched bit of English oompah whose flip, Greasy Haired Woman, was 30 seconds long. Alan Freeman regularly featured both sides in Unit 2 of Pick Of The Pops. But what's this? The tack piano, the bouncing beat, the Woodward-Fletcher writing credit. Can it be the future Lieutenant Pigeon? 'Fraid so.
The Fortunes - The Idol (2.50) Single (United Artists) 1967
Lieber & Stroller rated their Greenaway & Cook-penned You've Got Your Troubles as one of the best English pop records ever, but by the Summer of Love The Fortunes were floundering. This self-penned, Glyn Johns-produced, raw-edged item was all about a pop icon with designs on saving the world but meanwhile he had all these groupies to service. Lots of pirate station foreplay. Zero chart penetration.
Harpers Bizarre - I Love You Alice B. Toklas (2.20) Single (Warner Bros) 1969
"I love you Alice B. Toklas and so does Gertrude Stein/I love you Alice B. Toklas/I wanna change your name to mine." Well we've all been there, haven't we? Peter Sellers starred in the film of the same name, loosely based on the woman who indeed gave us the recipe that we'll never have again.
The Hollies - Pegasus (2.35) Album: Butterfly (Beat Goes On) 1968
"I'm Pegasus the flying horse" tweets the lead singer. No you’re not. You're Alan from Salford and you'd be happier supping a pint than dressed in a kaftan and embracing all this mythological malarkey. Within a year you will be so annoyed with your mate Graham for making you sing this twee nonsense that you will banish him to the West Coast of America where he will be forced to make records with David Crosby. He'll be back with his tail between his legs before you can say Jennifer Eccles. You'll see.
The Garden Club - Little Girl Lost And Found (3.00) Single (A&M) 1967
Covered in the UK by the less convincing Peter And The Wolves, this swirling fairground organ opus in 3/4 is, in its own sweet way, as beautiful a song about the loss of innocence as Brian Wilson's Caroline No. "They are all searching for clues for the whereabouts of the girl with the polka-dot eyes" chirps the singer. Weren't we all?
Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick And Tich - The Sun Goes Down (2.55) Single B-side (Fontana) 1967
Cue Gregorian-lite chant and an ultra-brittle wah-wah guitar solo for a lost epic tucked away on the B-side of Zabadak. Not so surprising-Dave Dee could always enunciate his Os in the fluting Syd style. The final verse commences with Dee screeching, apropos of nothing. "The mentals!" Probably a Wiltshire thing.
DBM&T - Mr President (3.05) Single (Fontanta) 1970
"When I grow up to be a man/I wont lie for you/I wont die for you…" DBM&T from their post-Dave Dee 'going heavy' period. (A doctor writes: "Going heavy was a condition which afflicted many otherwise sane beat groups in the late 1960s. In extreme cases it resulted in a shortening of the group's name - eg Love Affair became LA and an immediate withering away of the 'hit' gland. The Tremeloes are thought to have been the source of the virus") Naturally Mr President failed to dent the charts but it does contain the best wooh-weeeeow synth solo this side of ELP's Lucky-Man.
Manfred Mann - Ski 'Full Of Fitness' Theme (3.05) Single (Ski) 1971
Like many others of a purist persuasion (The Yardbirds, Simon Dupree, Jethro Toe, etc) the Manfreds were not content with just making great pop singles; they couldn’t wait to inflict their technical proficiency upon us. Ask yourself this: would you rather listen to For your Love or Renaissance? Kites or Gentle Giant? Life's A Long Song or Passion Play? Manfred Mann's Earth Band or a chirpy yoghurt commercial. Lets ask the girls first, shall we?
Dave Diamond And Higher Elevation - Diamond Mine (2.10) Single (Chicory) 1967
Dave Diamond was a DJ on KFRC Los Angeles who specialised in alliterative gobbledegook - a cosmic Slim Gaillard, if you will. On this number he uses up a lifetime's quota of psychedelic wordplay in just over two minutes. But here's the twist: at a time when the authorities were looking for drug references in every innocuous sentiment, Dave sneaks through a song of explicit carnality dressed in druggy imagery. "The fur lined volcano"? "The peach fuzz forest"? "The gentle radiation of the one-eyed cufflink"? I mean, c'mon.
Napoleon XIV - I'm Normal (2.16) Album: They're Coming To Take Me Away Ha Ha (Warner Bros) 1966
"I painted everything in my house purple/My fingernails/My potato peeler/STAY AWAY FROM MY FROGS!" Using the same backing track as They're Coming To Take Me Away Ha Ha (a zeitgeist record if ever there was one), Napoleon once again exploits the misfortunes of the unstable. Apparently they did come and take him away as well.
Matt Munro - We're Gonna Change The World (3.35) Single (Capital) 1970
A rousing affair in which the former Luton bus conductor with the Sinatra tonsils adopts a social conscience, urges us all to "throw away our ostrich notions" and join those nice flower children on the long march towards peace and free duffle coats on the National Health. Possibly the only protest song to contain the line "stopped and had a Thermos brew".
Vince Hill - When The World Is Ready (3.11) Single (Columbia) 1967
An Exodus-style opening. The clouds part to reveal the likeness of Vince in convincing Afro wig and love beads. "When the world is ready/All wars will cease", he decrees. A session sitarist wails plaintively. Come to think of it, has anyone tried smoking Edelweiss?
Grimble Wedge And The Vegetations Aka Peter Cook - Bedazzled (2.23) Album: Bedazzled soundtrack (Decca) 1968; and Circus Days: Pop-Sike Obscurities Vol 1 1966-70 (Strange Things) 1988
From Stanley Donen's irreverent take on the Seven Deadly Sins in which Cook ("Does the name Prince of Darkness mean anything to you?") plays the devil and ruins Dud's dreams (many involving Eleanor Bron). Although conceived as a pastiche, some of the go-go dancing is the best ever seen in a '60s film. "You drive me wild" coo the girls. "You fill me with inertia" drawls Cook, with drop-dead ennui. We'll not see his like again.
Friends - Mythological Sunday (5.16) Single (Deram) 1968 Album: The Flowerpot Men Lets Go To San Francisco (Beat Goes ON) 1988
Aka Carter-Lewis and heavy friends. Aka The Ivy League. Aka The Flowerpot Men. Never let it be forgotten that these guys wrote the Nuggets classic My World Fell Down. Mythological Sunday is the full kitchen sink job. Every psych cliché in the book is dusted down and given a fresh coat of day-glo. Bassist Neil Landon subsequently joined Fat Mattress. Singer Tony Burrows joined Edison Lighthouse. It’s a thin line, all right.
Dick Shaw - Love Power (2.45) Album: The Producers soundtrack (RCA) 1967
The best moment in Mel Brooks The Producers occurs when they audition the Fuhrers. Onto the stage steps our Dick aka Lorenzo Say Dubois (geddit?) as the befuddled off-Broadway hippy. Backed by a swinging chick trio he commences a gentle ode to the joys of flowers before rising to a Manson-esque crescendo of thwarted ambition and crushed petals. "THAT'S OUR HITLER!"
The Four Seasons - Genuine Imitation Life (6.15) Album: The Genuine Imitation Life Gazette (Philips) 1969
Reviled at the time as an ingratiating attempt to get a little underground action, the Seasons Four indicate that you can still pull it off if you had a lead singer as good as Frankie Valli and producers as sharp as Gaudio and Crewe. Genuine Imitation Life is a bittersweet an observation on hippy foibles as Joe South's Games People Play. Contains obligatory Hey Jude ending.
The Beatles - What's The New Mary Jane (6.07) Album: Anthology 2 (Apple) 1996
"She like to be married with yeti/He groovin' such cookie spaghetti/She jumping as Mexican bean/To make her body more thin" Imagine a parallel past in which this had been seriously offered up as the new Beatles single. By now we would all have evolved into other dimensional cube beings with suction pads instead of senses. Lennon's lysergic visions could be as out there as anything Syd Barrett conjured up. No one, I think, was in his tree.
Richard Harris - Paper Chase (2.13) Single B-side (RCA Dunhill) 1968
Pressed neatly underneath the epic MacArthur Park was this baroque little gem from the inky quill of Jim Webb. "Accompany me on your trusty harpsichord, James" spoke Richard. "For I am going to apply my finest thespian brogue to your delightful ditty of unrequited lust. And this time I will endeavor to hit some of the right notes.