Classic Singles #103: The Barrier – Uh! / Spot The Lights (1968)

barrier-pic sleeveThe Barrier hailed from Fulham in South London and were originally known as The Purple Barrier, shortening their name in response to pressure from the management of Deep Purple (then a pop psych outfit themselves rather than the heavy rock behemoths they would become in the 1970s).

‘Uh! / Spot The Lights’ was The Barrier’s third single and appeared on the Philips label in December 1968 (in the UK in a plain sleeve, though it was also issued in the Netherlands in the picture sleeve shown). Despite the rather uninspiring title, ‘Uh!’ is in fact a very enjoyable slice of commercial pop psych / mod beat with a spiky guitar break and a few of the titular grunts thrown in for good measure.

But it is on the flip that the group really hits their stride. A discordant piano intro immediately grabs the attention and quickly gives way to pummeling drums (that hardly let up for the rest of the song) and driving fuzz guitar, underpinning a very melodic, catchy vocal line with simple but effective lyrics about a night out in the centre of town.

‘Uh!’

‘Spot The Lights’

‘Dawn Breaks Through’, the b-side of The Barrier’s debut single on the independent Eyemark label is also essential to check out – it is another high octane pop psych gem, unfortunately buried on the flip of the very forgettable ‘Georgie Brown’. It had initially been slated to appear with another song, the excellent ‘Shapes and Sounds’, but this 45 never proceeded beyond the acetate stage (though you can now hear the lost a-side on Incredible Sound Show Stories Volume 1 or on a 45 issued by Top Sounds in 2013 which also includes a demo version of ‘Dawn Breaks Through’).

A second 45 ‘The Tide is Turning / A Place In Your Heart’ was recorded by session men while the band were touring overseas.

A brief clip exists of the group, part of Philips’ New Faces of 1969 promotional film that also showcased the likes of The Open Mind, Ambrose Slade and Procession.

Reissues: Both sides of the single are on Rare 60’s Beat Treasures Volume 4; ‘Spot The Lights’ is on Rubble Volume 17 and English Freakbeat Volume 3.

Discography
  • Georgie Brown / Dawn Breaks Through (Eyemark, 1968)
  • The Tide Is Turning / A Place In Your Heart (Philips, 1968)
  • Uh! / Spot The Lights (Philips, 1968)

Classic Singles #99: Boeing Duveen and the Beautiful Soup – Jabberwock / Which Dreamed It (1968)

Boeing-pic sleeveThis prime slice of Carnaby Street-style UK psychedelia appeared on the Parlophone label in May 1968. The a-side brilliantly sets Lewis Carroll’s famous nonsense poem ‘Jabberwocky’ from Through The Looking Glass, the follow-up to Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, with a musical backdrop full of strange sound effects and bursts of sitar, keyboards, and fuzzy guitar.

Flip-side ‘Which Dreamed It’ continues in similar fashion, this time taking the words from the poem that concludes Through The Looking Glass, and matching them with a more laid-back sitar, flute and tabla-driven backing that has a raga-like feel to it.

Promotional copies of the single came in the art sleeve pictured, which reproduces the original illustration of the Jabberwock by John Tenniel. The 45 was the brainchild of Sam Hutt, a qualified doctor who was one of the signatories to the pro-marijuana advert paid for by Paul McCartney that appeared in The Times in July 1967. Hutt played guitar and had been learning the sitar but couldn’t write lyrics, hence the co-opting of Carroll’s poems – an inspired choice as it turned out.

Sam HuttIn 1969 Hutt joined a general practice aimed at young people in London’s Ladbroke Grove founded by Dr. Ian Dunbar, which among other things used tincture of cannabis (then legal to prescribe) instead of methadone to help recovering heroin addicts.

He later ran (by his own admission) a not-too-successful private practice from a flat on Exhibition Road that he shared with Roger Chapman from the group Family and Jenny Fabian, author of Groupie. Fabian recalled that “I did find it a bit weird…trying to lie around stoned listening to the sounds of vaginal inspections going on behind the curtain up the other end of the sitting room”!

Hutt moved on to become a so-called “rock and roll doctor” to bands such as The Who, Rolling Stones, and Grateful Dead. Indeed, he already had form in this area as the picture on the right shows – this was taken on Formentera in the summer of 1967, when Hutt accompanied the Pink Floyd on holiday to keep an eye on an increasingly erratic Syd Barrett.

It was a fateful meeting with Gram Parsons, who had been sent to see Hutt by Keith Richards, that led to the good doctor’s discovery of country music, and he later adopted the alter-ego of Hank Wangford, who continues to record and perform live to this day.

‘Jabberwock’

‘Which Dreamed It’

Reissues: ‘Jabberwock’ is on Rubble Volume 14 and ‘Which Dreamed It’ on The Perfumed Garden Volume 3 or Rubble Volume 20 – or you can find both sides on the Rubble box-set. There is also a vinyl reissue of the single on the Captain High label, though this doesn’t have the picture sleeve.

 

Garage Gold #28: The Black Watch – Left Behind / I Wish I Had The Nerve (1967)

Black Watch-labelWith its driving fuzz guitar riff, swirling keyboards, and breezy vocal delivery, ‘Left Behind’ by The Black Watch is the sound of a band embracing the psychedelic sound of the Summer of Love, though the slightly primitive but very entertaining fuzzy solo shows their garage roots.

This track was the a-side of the group’s only single released in August 1967 on Fenton Records. The label was based in Sparta, Michigan – just a few miles west of The Black Watch’s home town of Cedar Springs – and was a  hotbed for exciting new local bands (we’ve already encountered The Quest’s for example in a previous post).

By way of contrast, flip ‘I Wish I Had The Nerve’ is more typical garage band fare – a wistful b-side ballad with strummed acoustic guitar and another dose of neat keyboard work.

Reissues: ‘Left Behind’ is on the excellent Scream Loud!!! The Fenton Story or Teenage Shutdown Volume 7. ‘I Wish I Had The Nerve’ has not been commercially compiled to my knowledge.

‘Left Behind’

‘I Wish I Had The Nerve’

Classic Singles #98: The Aquarian Age – 10,000 Words in a Cardboard Box / Good Wizard Meets Naughty Wizard (1968)

AquarianAgeThis 45 appeared on the Parlophone label in May 1968 and was recorded by two members of the recently defunct band Tomorrow. Drummer John ‘Twink’ Alder and bassist John ‘Junior’ Wood were joined on the single by Clem Cattini on drums and Nicky Hopkins on piano. The 45 was arranged and produced by Mark Wirtz (the mastermind behind the uncompleted A Teenage Opera project, which only yielded a couple of singles at the time), who had worked with Tomorrow on their self-titled album released in February 1968, an essential artifact in any collection of UK psychedelia.

‘10,000 Words In a Cardboard Box’ is a perfect slice of psychedelic pop, with prominent orchestration that adds to the impact of the song. It doesn’t always have to be about fuzz guitars!

‘10,000 Words In a Cardboard Box’

‘Good Wizard Meets Naughty Wizard’ combines an Eastern influenced, quite enjoyable Mark Wirtz backing track with the whimsical story of the two wizards. This will not be to most people’s taste (it probably wasn’t at the time either) and I don’t expect you to listen to the end if it all gets too much!

‘Good Wizard Meets Naughty Wizard’

Later in 1968, Twink joined The Pretty Things in time for their seminal S.F. Sorrow album, a masterwork of the highest order that all should know, and appeared with the rest of the band in British comedian Norman Wisdom’s film What’s Good For The Goose (the group recorded several numbers for the film that appeared on the last of their releases on the De Wolfe sound library label under the alias The Electric Banana, Even More Electric Banana in 1969).

Twink had another go at the a-side for his Think Pink album in 1970, recorded with ex-Tyrannosaurus Rex man Steve ‘Peregrine’ Took and members of The Deviants. This is an excellent slowed down, heavy psychedelic version with treated vocals and stinging guitar. (And Wirtz also included a version, re-titled ‘Love and Occasional Rain’, on his own Come Back and Shake Me LP from 1969.)

The collaboration with The Deviants eventually lead to the formation of The Pink Fairies, though Twink left the group in mid-1971 following the band’s Never Never Land debut, and after that was only occasionally in the line-up on tours. More infamously, in 1972 he formed the band Stars with Syd Barrett but this collaboration lasted only half a gig before Barrett wandered off the stage.

Reissues: ‘10,000 Words in a Cardboard Box’ is on Rubble Volume 3 (or the CD box-set The Rubble Collection Volumes 1-10), Psychedelia at Abbey Road, and both sides are included as bonus tracks on the EMI CD issue of the Tomorrow album.

 

 

Classic Singles #97: The Third Bardo – I’m Five Years Ahead of My Time / Rainbow Life (1967)

ThirdBardo_labelThe Third Bardo’s ‘I’m Five Years Ahead of My Time’, though perhaps a little more well known that some of the singles covered in previous posts, is yet another punkadelic monster that simply cannot be ignored!

The band were from New York and released their only single on Roulette in May 1967. In stark contrast to the stagnation of today, rock music was changing and evolving at such a frightening pace in the late 1960s that to have actually been five years ahead of the time would have been the sonic equivalent of a UFO landing in the Stone Age and its occupants dispensing wisdom upon the uncomprehending minds of those present to witness the event.

In fact, the Third Bardo perfectly captured the heady days of the Summer of Love, not least in their evocative name – which was taken by lead singer Jeff Monn from The Tibetan Book of the Dead and refers to the moment after death when the consciousness is reborn into a new body.

Both sides of the single were written by Rusty Evans of The Deep / Freak Scene fame and Victoria Pike, who was married to the record’s producer, Teddy Randazzo, a successful singer and songwriter in his own right. ‘I’m Five Years Ahead of My Time’ opens with an ominous guitar figure, quickly joined by a slightly more fuzzy Eastern influenced lead, pulsating bass, and subtle keyboards. Jeff Monn imbues the vocals with a sneering swagger and the break is a searing slice of top drawer raga-esque fuzzadelica.

‘I’m Five Years Ahead of My Time’

Flipside ‘Rainbow Life’ is a trippy little number with its Eastern style melody, cryptic lyrics, and swirling sound effects. I’m not sure which instrument is making that high-pitched sound but it is very distinctive. Another reasonably effective version of this song appeared on the Freak Scene’s 1967 Psychedelic Psoul album on Columbia. In fact, if you like ‘Rainbow Life’ you would probably enjoy Rusty Evan’s other work, notably The Deep’s primitive but charming Psychedelic Moods album from 1966 on Cameo-Parkway.

‘Rainbow Life’

ThirdBardo_bandThough short-lived, the band did play hip Manhattan clubs such as Arthur’s and Ondine, and appeared on Upbeat, the Cleveland-based syndicated television show. The 45 received some airplay on the East Coast, but it was pulled from the radio because of perceived drug references in the lyrics.

The session that produced the single also yielded four other tracks, including an alternate version of ‘Rainbow Life’, that are all well worth hearing. The six cuts have now been collected on a 10” vinyl EP by Sundazed Records.

After the Third Bardo broke up in 1967, Monn went solo and released an album for Vanguard in 1968 called Reality, then changed his name to Chris Moon for The Chris Moon Group LP that came out on Kinetic in 1970.

Reissues: Apart from the Sundazed EP, both sides of the 45 are on Psychedelic Microdots Volume 3. The a-side is also on Ah Feel Like Ahcid, the Nuggets box set, and Best of Pebbles Volume 1.

Classic Singles #96: The William Penn Fyve – Swami / Blow My Mind (1966)

WPF_labelThough their only single was issued under the name The William Penn Fyve, this band actually performed as William Penn and His Pals. They formed in late 1964 at the College of San Mateo in California and had many personnel changes prior to the release of the 45. Original singer Neil Holtman took the stage name William Penn (after the founder of the Province of Pennsylvania), but after he left the group vocal duties were mainly handled by keyboard player Gregg Rolie, who went on to join Santana and then Journey. At one point the band had two drummers, one of whom was Mickey Hart, later of The Grateful Dead.

To fit in with the historical associations of their name, the band played in old fashioned English long coats and tri-cornered hats, though they updated their image when they opened for Paul Revere and The Raiders, as they didn’t want to be seen as imitating the American Revolutionary War-era uniforms that the headliners often wore.

WPF_bandAside from high school and junior college gigs, the group also played at the likes of the Longshoreman’s Hall in San Francisco, took part in a Battle of the Bands against The Warlocks (the early Grateful Dead), and were supported on one occasion by Big Brother and the Holding Company.

William Penn and His Pals had recorded demos for Fantasy Records, including an early version of ‘Blow My Mind’ with the dual drummer line-up, but in the end opted for their 45 to be released on the Thunderbird label in November 1966. ‘Swami’ is another headswirler that I first discovered on that fantastic agglomeration of mind mangling sounds that is Pebbles Volume 3: The Acid Gallery. It was recorded at Coast Studios in San Francisco and was composed by lead guitarist Mike Shapiro, though the lyrics were thought up by the group as a whole in the studio as the producers didn’t like the ones that Mike had written.

‘Swami’ opens with jangling guitar and Eastern style chanting, which is quickly augmented by scything fuzz guitar and some breezy piano. It’s probably a bit much to say that the lyrics are a comment on the fashion at the time for seeking out mystics and gurus. They are a little more tongue-in-cheek than that, describing the kind of fake fakir you might encounter as a fairground attraction rather than the real deal. There’s an excellent raga-esque break from Mike as well.

‘Swami’

‘Blow My Mind’ continues the great work. It has a driving, insistent beat with confident vocals, this time delivered by drummer Ron Cox rather than Gregg Rolie, a swirling keyboard break and a wigged out rave up ending with searing guitar.

‘Blow My Mind’

Reissues: Both sides are on the retrospective William Penn and His Pals: San Francisco’s Historic Band From The Sixties and also the vinyl Sounds Of The Sixties San Francisco Volume 2. The a-side is on Pebbles Volume 3 of course and Garage Beat ’66 Volume 6.

 

Classic Singles #94: The Heard – Exit 9 / You’re Gonna Miss Me (1967)

Heard-labelThe Heard were from Longview in East Texas and were formed in 1965 by twin brothers Andy and Randy Clendenen and three of their high school classmates. After gaining notoriety playing locally, the band travelled further afield to the metropolises of Dallas, Austin and Houston. While taking part in a Battle of the Bands contest at Houston’s Catacomb Club, they caught the attention of the manager Bob Cope and he invited them back to play the venue several times, including an opening slot for The Five Americans.

‘Exit 9’ was recorded at Robin Hood (Brians) Studio in Tyler (like The Basement Wall’s ‘Never Existed’). A short, raga-like introduction and the announcement “Collision course – Exit 9” introduce a punkadelic monster with pulsing fuzz guitar and swirling keyboards. There’s even a touch of what sounds like harpsichord in the song’s more reflective moments, and it culminates in a nicely tripped out solo accompanied by bizarre chanting.

‘Exit 9’

Heard-band

The recording used a new electronic delay device called the Cooper Time Cube, which included a length of garden hose as one of its components, and this helped to make Andy Clenenden’s lyrics rather difficult to understand. They are in fact pretty scathing of the counter culture – the opening lines for example are “You wake in the night but the light’s so bright, You lie in the corner with your eyes in fright, You run for your trip most every night, You know it’s wrong but you think it’s right” and later he exclaims “take your hippies and leave me child”!

The band originally decided to end the song with the sound of a toilet flushing but this was omitted from the final version as they felt it might put off DJs from playing the record.

Having used up all their time at the Robin Hood Studio, the band moved to the less expensive Steve Wright Studios a week later to record the single’s flipside. They chose to cover The 13th Floor Elevators’ ‘You’re Gonna Miss Me’, a number that always went down well when they played it live. Theirs is a very spirited extended version, adding keyboards and replacing the harmonica with an excellent fuzz guitar solo, and the bass even does some impressive Tommy Hall style jug-like runs to finish.

‘You’re Gonna Miss Me’

500 copies of the single were pressed on the band’s own One Way label in June 1967 and were sold mainly at gigs. The 45 did receive some local airplay, though its success was limited to making number 1 in Center, a small town 75 miles south of Longview, leading to a gig there and a radio station interview.

Reissues: both sides are on Texas Flashbacks Volume 4. ‘Exit 9’ is also on The Cicadelic 60s Volume 5 (vinyl) and the flip is on Songs We Taught The Fuzztones. There is also a vinyl EP on Break-a-Way Records coupling The Heard’s 45 with a 1966 single by another Texan band The Only Ones.