“Take a drink from my magic potion, soon you’re gonna really feel fine, one sip and you will see, things you never saw before…”
This outfit from Putney in South London had previously been known as The Drag Set, rubbing shoulders with The Soft Machine and a newly-arrived-in-the-UK Jimi Hendrix, and coming to the attention of producer Joe Meek and recording a couple of songs with him just days before he took his own life. They released a fine mod/freakbeat single on the CBS subsidiary Go in March 1967, ‘Day and Night / Get Out Of My Way’.
Changing name to The Open Mind at the end of 1967, the group played hip London venues such as The Electric Garden, UFO and Happening 44, and gained a residency at The Marquee where they were sometimes fronted by future Yes man Jon Anderson, who at the time went by the name Hans Christian.
Boxing impresario Benny Huntsman landed the band a deal with Philips on the condition that his son Roger became their manager (though in effect it was Benny who ran the show), and their excellent self-titled album on that label was recorded in 1968, though not released until July 1969. It included both sides of their debut single ‘Horses and Chariots / Before My Time’ from May of that year, as well as a revamped version of the a-side of The Drag Set 45 with the new title ‘Girl I’m So Alone’. The group appeared in Philip’s New Faces of 1969 promotional film alongside the likes of The Barrier, Ambrose Slade and Procession, miming ‘Horses and Chariots’.
The Open Mind’s second single, released in August 1969, consisted of two new tracks and is perhaps the pinnacle of their recorded output. The a-side ‘Magic Potion’ is a sublime example of heavy psychedelia with its fuzzy rhythm guitar, snaking lead guitar lines, and druggy lyrics. The arrival of the wah-wah in the break is perfectly judged, and there is some truly thunderous drumming throughout, especially in the outro.
Flip side ‘Cast a Spell’ is a little less high voltage but retains the fuzzy guitars and perhaps is even more catchy with its “It’s all in the mind” refrain. This is a fearsome double sider. A jewel in the crown of Brit-psych you might say!
‘Cast a Spell’
When Benny Huntsman died of a heart attack the band ended up being financed by the Richardson family, part of London’s criminal underworld. Promoters were loathe to book them when they learned of this and with gigs petering out and psychedelia on the wane The Open Mind broke up.
Reissues: Both sides of the 45 are on the essential Rubble Volume 1 (what an eye opener that was for me into the delightful world of British psychedelia and freakbeat), and also on the vinyl British Psychedelic Trip Volume 3 (part of another great compilation series, though with a fair amount of overlap with the Rubbles).
- Horses and Chariots / Before My Time (Philips, 1969)
- Magic Potion / Cast a Spell (Philips, 1969)
- The Open Mind (Philips, 1969)