Where rocking horse people eat marshmallow pies. (More Pop/Psych)

There is a definite shortage of  tangerine trees and marmalade skies at the moment. The summer is a long time coming around to these parts this year but I keep finding these shiny happy British pop-psych gems which are made for sunny daze, green fields, good company & perhaps (y’know, for the kids) something decent to smoke. This is the kind of music I mean.

What can I tell you about the Kinetic ? I could put names to faces but would that really help ? The lead guitarist Bob Weston made a couple of records with Fleetwood Mac in that period between blues busting & La-La Land lame. The other 4 Dapper Dans ? Well, I think that “Suddenly Tomorrow” was as good as it got & I think that it is pretty good. The nifty threads allow the musical paleontologist to place this absolutely nearer Mod than Hippie on the pop/rock continuum. It is early 1967 & just a year later the bass player would be picking brown rice out of his beard, the goofy singer tripping over his kaftan & that short, smart guitar solo would be twice as long. The Kinetic worked & recorded their only LP in France where every girl’s crazy ’bout a sharp dressed man. They certainly seem happy enough in this clip. “Suddenly Tomorrow”…cool song.

There are 2 clips on the Y-tube of World of Oz & this is the rare one, like less than 1500 views rare. “The Muffin Man”, that was their hit in Europe but not in the UK. Click on the link at your peril because it is a song of nursery rhyme simplicity that sticks in your head for a little too long. “Jack”, from the sole LP & a b-side on one of the 3 singles, is similarly facile. The lead singer called himself Christoper Robin…it’s a clue. World of Oz were a little too heavy on the pop & light on the psych for my taste but they loved it in Holland & Germany. The orchestral flourishes, by Mike Vickers off of Manfred Mann, are fine enough but a bit more guitar & more substance would help.

There were big plans for the Birmingham band. They shared management with the Foundations, a successful pop-soul unit. There was plenty of work but cracks showed before the LP was finished & half the group had left before its 1969 release. This is 1968, the singer’s trousers are a crime against humanity & the bow-tie a misdemeanour. The Mod haircuts are growing out but these guys have their eyes on being pop idols…will you tell them or shall I? Hey, I’m a nice guy…it’s a period piece.

Jeez…I find out about these almost-forgotten bands so that you don’t have to. I’m a geek, it’s my job. Rupert’s People are proper work, at first there was a 45 which was getting some attention but no actual band. Later there was less attention & a revolving door on the tour van as no-one stayed for long. The first single “Reflections of Charlie Brown” is a song by Sweet Feeling which was given an “Air On A G String”/Procol Harum revamp. “Reflections” is a minor British psychedelic classic, it’s on the “Nuggets” box set, it’s around. The record was made by Les Fleur de Lys, also in that box with “Circles”, a Who cover .FdL were there & abouts when so much of this freakbeat/psych scene was being made. The only live clip of them was filmed on a day that a member told the others he was leaving. It is desultory, they were a better band than that. When asked to be Rupert’s People they declined.

A new band was formed which did not record. Sweet Feeling, around from the beginning, took on the name & made 2 singles. So here is the last one “I Can Show You” from 1968 & here, amazingly, is a promo film for the record. I could try to name the band but I would be guessing. The boys, in their ritzy Carnaby clobber, visit that trendy thoroughfare, loon about on the Heath &, for little good reason, get muddy by the Thames. All with their best dolly bird by their side.It’s not as magical or as mysterious as some were at the time but the song has the Small Faces R&B vibe with a beefed up organ & it’s good. Man, the 1960s is the gift that keeps on giving & I am a little trapped in that decade. I do love these Brit pop-psych 45s that I can just about remember the first time around. To find actual video of these tunes…well one day I’ll just go Meh ! Not yet though.

Psych In Black And White. Beatles-Lite (1968)

By the mid-1960s, however assiduously the mass media tried to swing like a pendulum do, they just did not get it (and they still don’t). OK, the Beatles were bigger than Jesus but did “Magical Mystery Tour” have to be so strange ? The Stones only made the newspapers when one of the members got busted or died. In 1966 the 2 major music programmes on commercial TV were scrapped, A year later offshore radio stations which played records 24/7 were made illegal. As youth culture moved through Mersey Mop Top to Mod to Marijuana it was left to the BBC, with the weekly “Top of the Pops” & the new Radio 1, to supply our musical rations. The Beeb assured us it was very exciting but really it wasn’t. Something was happening but you don’t know…you get me.

In 1968 if you did not make the Radio 1 playlist then you did not get heard. I have a vague memory of the Breakfast Show clown choosing VU’s “Who Loves The Sun” as a Record of the Week but I think I must have dreamed that. A generation of children who received a guitar for Xmas 1963 were ready to make some records by 1968. There were a lot of them & there was not a one who had not been influenced by those Beatles boys. There were few opportunities for them on UK screens but, lucky for us there was a little room for some of Pop’s new wave on French TV.

Blossom Toes made LPs on either side of 1968 but neither sold many. In between times the band covered a Dylan song & released “Postcard”, a hoped-to-be chartbound sound which just wasn’t enough of an ear worm to stand out in a very competitive market. It’s a lovely slice of melodic whimsy, more pop than psych, definitely more McCartney than Lennon. Between their baroque, hashish harmonies & the acid dissonance of the 2nd LP the Toes nailed it with “Postcard”. Enough of us remember it but not too many of us bought it & the band broke up. Guitarist Brian Godding had one more try at pop with B.B.Blunder before becoming a noted player of (Jah help us) jazz-fusion. The other one, Jim Cregan played with a who’s who of British rock. Family, Cockney Rebel, Rod Stewart. He also married singer Linda Lewis (left)…lucky, lucky,lucky.

Kaleidoscope are another band remembered as being on the psychedelic side of the street but listening to my favourite of their singles “Jenny Artichoke” I am hearing a good pop song. the band were on it in 1967 with a debut 45 “Flight From Ashiya” (see Nuggets II) causing a ripple. Now I really like these British Love generation reveries, not as abrasive as acid-rock nor as experimental as the folk pixies. from the reaction of my friends I know that I am in a minority but I’m sticking with this, it’s fun. The same line-up morphed into Fairfield Parlour & “progressive rock” making less of an impact than the original band. Here is Kaleidoscope in their Carnaby finery. The clip may be from 1967 & loosehandlebars, as you know, is all about context & the real nitty-gritty.

In 1968 out there was getting further out & there was an audience who had little interest in this magical mystery music. They wanted shiny, happy music like the Beatles used to make. Nothing wrong with that &, of course,  if there is a demand then the market will supply it. In the US there was the rise of “bubblegum”, groups who were cartoons like the Archies or almost cartoons like the Monkees. In the UK there were new teen groups happy to replace those bands now “getting it together in the country”. The Beatles were always able to straddle any divide but it’s a pity that this new breed of pop kids did not quite catch the ear of a bigger audience. A little too much artifice perhaps, good pop records did not always need to over-elaborate & keeping it simple has always been a thing.

Absolutely Beatlesque, Grapefruit signed to the Fab 4’s label Apple & were named after Yoko’s book by John Lennon. The group got plenty of publicity from this connection & seemed set to make a mark. The 1st LP “Around Grapefruit” was pretty much all released on 45, “Yes” is, I remember, a double A-side with “Elevator”. Grapefruit’s mainman was George Alexander (born Alexander Young) who had stayed behind when his family emigrated from the UK to Australia. His younger brother George returned as a member of the brilliant Easybeats while 2 other brothers were in the mega-successful AC/DC. A talented bunch.

If there were a couple of hits they are best described as minor then 1969’s LP “Deep Water” was less distinctive. Before the end of the decade the group, like the previous 2, were done. By 1970 the generation that followed the Beatles had a keyboard player in the band & were making prog-rock. The clips of these bands are in colour too. To finish here is Grapefruit, suited & booted but phasing & flanging with the best of the pop-psych bands with “Dear Delilah”

 

From The Soul Train To The Hippie Highway

The bands who played the Saturday afternoon “Teen Beat” club were loud, the first live amplified music I heard. They were also. looking back all the way from here, straight from the fridge. The template was both the Rhythm & indeed the Blues, the first Stones LP. They all, as best I can remember included “You Can’t Judge A Book By It’s Cover” & the brilliant Phil Upchurch groove “You Can’t Sit Down”. Man, I was young, the big boys took me, watched out for me, showed me how to lift 45s from the back of the jukebox. The talk was of the latest groups who had appeared on the previous night’s “Ready Steady Go”. A TV show I was not yet allowed to stay up & watch. Good times.

Fast forward just a couple of years to youth clubs & the odd night that we were able to blag our way into a gig on licensed premises (You need to look 18 to get a beer in the UK). The bands now played soul, Southern Stax soul because Motown could not only get a bit complicated at times but often needs James Jamerson around to funk it right up. “Knock On Wood”, “Hold On I’m Coming”, “Mr Pitiful”, they all did those because it was what the Mods wanted to hear. Our local boys were called The Dimples after a John Lee Hooker jam but it was all that was left of the bluesy times. They were on the soul train now. Then, in 1967, it all went a bit nuts. Kaftans & love beads, weed instead of speed. Flowers in your hair & scuse me while I kiss the sky. What can a poor boy do ?

So Dean Ford & the Gaylords (well…OK), “Scotland’s Top Group” became Marmalade, moved to that London & got some new duds from Carnaby St. “I See The Rain” is a classy piece of psych-pop with a great guitar sound. Written by 2 of the band it was a hit in Holland but not in the UK. A further single failed & CBS insisted on choosing the band’s material. 1968’s “Lovin’ Things” is a piece of stinky cheese-pop which went into the Top 10. In the same year a cover of “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da”, the Beatles fluffy faux-reggae nursery rhyme gave the band their only #1 record.

A generation of British pop people were moving right along with Jimi & the Beatles & there was a gap in the market for pretty-boy, custom made bubblegum pop, y’know…for the kids. Marmalade, smiling & mugging for the cameras like former Gaylords, fitted the bill. For all their claims to be serious musicians & some later inoffensive soft rock they were there with the Tremeloes, Love Affair & Amen Corner, grinning & singing other people’s songs. It’s a pity that “I See The Rain” was not a smash because it was as good as the band got & is up there with the Move’s early acid pop singles.

Wow ! & again Wow ! There is no more classic development through the 1960s than that of the Alan Bown Set. Trumpet player Bown was appointed leader of the jazzy John Barry Seven when Barry left to concentrate on Bond scores & other lucrative movie work. In 1965 he & 3 others of the 7 formed the aforementioned Set to play the R&B that was getting the gigs at this time. Despite a bit of a revolving door for members they were proper players, had a great horn section. They hired singer Jess Roden & became an outstanding live soul attraction who did not sell records. In 1967 the band recorded the soundtrack for a French movie “Jeu de Massacre” &, I assume, this is the French-only single from the film.

It is great, the band are still Mod suited & Chelsea booted but seem to be on a stoned weekend jaunt to Paris & ready to go with the Summer of Love flow. What a smashing mess of a promo & of a song. The band was between labels in the UK, they were leaving behind the soul & swapping the “Set” for an exclamation mark. The Alan Bown ! went for psychedelic whimsy, pleasant enough but not outstanding when there was a lot of that about. So between covers of Edwin Starr & the first time around Nirvana came this crazy racket which was never released in the UK & is the best thing you will ever hear either by the Set or the !

This time I have to choose the track just before the switch to the hippie high road. Simon Dupree & the Big Sound, formerly the Howling Wolves (R&B name) & the Road Runners (Soul name), were the kings of Portsmouth pop. The 3 Shulman brothers had a good thing going live but, there’s a pattern here yeah, the record label, Parlophone, wanted to sell more discs (as if all the Beatle money was not enough). The debut single was a spirited cover of the 5 Americans garage-pop “I See The Light”. “Day Time Night Time” from 1967, was the third to miss out. Is it blue-eyed soul ? Is it freakbeat? Like I give a flying one ! It is a cracking 45 which still has that 60s freshness about it plus a dude playing French horn on-stage.

The next 45 was the big one for Simon Dupree & the rest. They were encouraged to “go psychedelic” & “Kites” was the result. Man it was pretty lame which is why “Day Time Night Time” gets the nod from me. There were diminishing returns from the follow-ups & the Shulmans had one last re-launch left. Gentle Giant made an LP a year through the 1980s. I have not heard one of them & have no intention of starting now. British prog-rock…bag of shite. Me, I’ll stick with the Big Sound of Simon Dupree.