Various – Think I’m Going Weird
Released 29 October 2021
Subtitled Original Artefacts From The British Psychedelic Scene (1966-1968), Grapefruit Records reach their hundredth release in style with a book format 5CD set. Over the running time The Who, The Kinks and The Pretty Things rub shoulders with more obscure artists like The Virgin Sleep, Shyster and 117. Also included are a number of previously unissued items. Ian Canty turns the strange dial up to 11…
Looking at it from a 2021 perspective, if anything 1966 appears even more to be the pivotal year of the 1960s in UK music. Its summer brought Revolver, The Beatles’ most ambitious record to date, which was inspired by the early psych moves they had picked up on when touring the US. Partly as a result of this record’s experimentation, the word psychedelic soon became the hip term to drop. At the time the vast majority of the UK’s music making world checked what The Fabs were up to and found their way after that. In the wake these brave new moves, many decided to follow this path.
As psychedelia soon became the height of fashion, before long everyone wanted to have a go at this psychedelic lark. Apart from genuine psych acts, the new tuned-in conscripts included previously successful beat bands trying not to be left behind by latching onto the next big thing, cash-in merchants wanting to make a fast buck out of what they considered this latest flash in the pan trend and professional send-up spoofers. The irony was that these interlopers had almost as much chance as anyone of providing something exciting and novel as the trendy young things at the Tottenham Court Road nightspot UFO. Added to that, a host of interested kids up and down the country were also itching to be the first night trippers on the block. This new set Think I’m Going Weird takes an in-depth and considered look at the psych of late 1960s Britain, away from the obvious hit singles and The Pink Floyd.
With one hundred and twenty two tracks by different artists (apart from The Moles, who have both sides of their We Are The Moles single finishing off disc three here) over the five CDs presented in a book format sleeve with extensive notes on each band, there is plenty to get one’s teeth into. The set zigzags through the three year period from 1966 and 1968, when the psychedelic dream was in full effect. Disc one gets underway with the suitably wigged-out feedback mayhem of the title track by Art. They were previously known as soul act The V.I.P.’s, when they were an early stopping point for both Keith Emerson and The Only Ones’ Mike Kellie. Art’s previous in r&b shows in Mike Harrison’s impassioned vocals and a solid musical base, but soon this line up would shatter and re-emerge as Spooky Tooth. With the next track being July’s excellent My Clown, Think I’m Going Weird has a start that has plenty of good honest attack underpinning the more “out there” notions.
Caleb (Quaye) gives us the rolling drive of A Woman Of Distinction, a real pearl of subtle early psych and though The mighty Kinks were too much their own thing to follow any trend, their fine Lazy Old Sun has the kitchen sink of sound applied to it and it really works. Atlanta Roots, actually from Bolton, Lancashire, were no doubt being sincere on a swinging Plastic Daffodils, but today it sounds almost like a parody and the strange Psychedelia by Ron Geesin is reminiscent of Ivor Cutler (who crops up on disc three with his cool Shoplifters) messing about, which has the consequence of making me like it all the more.
The Strawbs’ Tell Me What You See In Me captures the Eastern vibe that was such a big part of this music explosion well, for what was really at heart a folk rock band. Though Sunny Cellophane Skies, penned by the late Alan Lancaster, certainly was in the same mode as their flower power hit singles, it still is a whole load of fun and Mrs Grundy by Plastic Penny is a masterclass from the downbeat late 60s character study school.
Accrington’s obscure Sleepy were once The Warriors, who had a membership that included future Yes vocalist Jon Anderson at one point. Their Rosie Can’t Fly’s acid folk strangeness helps it stand out and I Know, She Believes by The Picadilly Line conjures up an authentically dream-like atmosphere. The original Fairport Convention contribute a nicely playful tune The Lobster, one that ramps up the tension as it goes along and future 10cc stalwart Eric Stewart pilots beat band The Mindbenders into the new age successfully with a lively Yellow Brick Road. What is a great opening disc with much to enjoy for any fan of late 1960s’ music concludes with two neat items. They are the very pretty and bright Is Anybody Home? by The Mirage, a band that backed Elton John and were very unlucky not to make it and the more obscure Eyes Of Blond’s previously unreleased goodie Why.
At the start of disc two we have Dantalian’s Chariot, where Zoot Money updated his Big Roll Band for the changing times. I recently saw Zoot live on great form and although the track included here World War III understandably didn’t feature, it still marries a strutting r&b rhythm to toytown keys in a convincing manner. The very fine Salad Days by Procol Harum featured in Jane Arden’s classic film Separation and here it is followed by The Truth Is Plain To See performed by Freedom, a band formed by ex-Harum members Bobby Harrison and Ray Royer. They admittedly hadn’t strayed that far from the sound of their previous outfit, but this is a stylish piece of late-60s pop with a freaky organ break nonetheless.
It is only correct to admit that Image Worn Out by Genesis is an appealingly naïve and enjoyable pop sike sound a world away from what they later became. Also, in a right and proper world The Creation would of course have been massive, something that is proved here with the excellent Life Is Just Beginning. Adding to this strong section of Think I’m Going Weird, the post-Winwood Spencer Davis Group are always worth checking out and Taking Time Out (Alternate Version) is soulful and very stirring indeed. Richmond’s own Sands add acid guitar agreeably to a kitchen sink drama-style song Mrs Gillespie’s Refrigerator and beat-era hitmakers The Nashville Teens make the jump into the late 1960s with the groovy feedback touches and smooth harmony vocals of Last Minute.
The Virgin Sleep dug into their local Hanworth folk law for Halliford House, a pleasant paisley pop number that concerned a local asylum that was demolished ten years before the song was written. Catherine’s Wheel by former Moody Blue Denny Laine is suitably eerie too and Grapefruit’s Elevator is simply wonderful pop music, psychedelic or not. Neo Maya, actually Episode Six’s Graham Carter-Dimmock, contributes a weird percussion and spoken word item entitled UFO and unissued items by Tinsel Arcade and Preston’s One Step Beyond close this disc. The swirling assault of the former’s Life Does Not Seem What It Seems is particularly arresting.
We kick into gear on part three of Think I’m Going Weird with The Yardbirds’ groovy if familiar Happenings Ten Years Time Ago. The Smoke’s reverberating Have Some More Tea does have more than an echo of their My Friend Jack hit, but it is still good fun and Walk Upon The Water by The Move takes Who-style mod pop and turns it inside out. After this blazing start we take in sedate surroundings for a good time, beginning with The Incredible String Band’s The Mad Hatter’s Song, which is burnished with rolling blues piano and sitar. It makes sense to also mention Tyrannosaurus Rex at this point, their acid folk contemporaries, who work up a head of steam a few tracks later with a demo of Beyond The Rising Sun.
Shyster, actually one of a few aliases used by Southampton band Fleur de Lys, take things us a notch with a rollicking Tick Tock and Tomorrow’s The Incredible Story Of Timothy Chase bounces along nicely. Summer Shines Here by London-based outfit The Fresh Windows is a charming pop nugget, with Weymouth’s Crystal Ship coming next with a brooding psych soul work-out The Blue Man Runs Away. Atlanta Roots spin-off Mother’s Pride offer the listener a smart unreleased item Mother’s Magazine with a tough freakbeat sound and The Cortinas, who contained a future member of new wavers Split Enz, motor along nicely with In The Park. This disc ends with The Zombies’ majestic Hung Up On A Dream and the nuts Simon Dupree spin-off We Are The Moles parts 1 and 2.
The sound of The Who Sell Out track Armenia City In The Sky Launches disc four and for me this is one of the more convincing psychedelic outings for a band always built more for rock and roll explosions. Co-writer Speedy Keen provides the link to the next offering, as One In A Million’s Jimmy McCulloch joined him later in hitmaking act Thunderclap Newman. Their Fredereek Hernando is a bit of an unheralded classic of lysergic pop/rock and the duo The Lion And The Fish, represented here by the gentle folk strangeness of Green, come with an interesting history. Gary Farr was the son of boxer Tommy and not fancying a tear-up, he chose to focus on music instead. The other half of this brief partnership was Kevin Westlake, the drummer of cult act The Blossom Toes (featured on disc five here with the tunefully crazed What On Earth). Farr utilised Green again later on his solo album Take Something With You.
The Soft Machine, Pink Floyd’s only true rivals to being leaders of the UFO club-centred underground, have magical Kevin Ayers tune I’m So Low present and a demo take of Children Of The Sun by The Misunderstood is absolute dynamite. Graham Bond took to the new sound with zeal and the result was his unsettling You’ve Gotta Have Love Babe. Once enshrouded in mystery, Manchester’s Wimple Winch are now a trusty standby of many of psych/freak comp. But this fact thankfully doesn’t make the atmospheric Rumble On Mersey Square any less fabulous.
Police Is Here by Scottish band A New Generation provides the perfect bridge to marching stately pop of The Bee Gees’ Spicks And Specks. Friday’s Chyld, soon to become Fire, give us the ebullient attack of Boys And Girls Together and Louise, an all-male band not a female singer, yield the jarring but interesting Toymaker’s Shop. We end disc four with another couple of rare offerings. Bristol’s Medium Rare offer the stop-start Plastic Aeroplanes and 117, a band that have been a subject of much conjecture over the years, are finally heard live and direct from Middle Earth, the club that took over from UFO as psychedelia’s European epicentre. Their lengthy Venusian Moonshine is as rough as a bear’s backside sonically and wanders all over the place, but the organ and guitar work is pretty neat.
Moving onwards to the final disc of this set, The Attack had the wonderful John Du Cann aboard for the excellent riff-frenzy of Freedom For You and The Pretty Things, who negotiated every change on the music scene with the kind of aplomb that few could aspire to, air the much-heard but still vital Walking Through My Dreams. Welsh outfit Jade Hexagram sound as ready for the hard rock to come on Phantom Eye as anything trippy and Cover Girl by Perfumed Garden, taken from an acetate, has hints of surf in the percussions and soaring vocals. A cool Dream In My Mind by the second Rupert’s People line up is a real gem. The Downliners Sect had a history going back to the early 1960s r&b boom, when they gave a few pointers for a certain Billy Childish. But by the time of the unusual but very fine Spider, Don Craine had quit and the band were led by bassist Keith Grant.
Some choppy guitar chords help make Mandrake Paddle Steamer’s cool Pandemonium Shadow Show a breeze and Champagne’s stylish and eerie multi-tempo Smile At The Sad Sun is a really different sound I was please to clap my lugs on. Yorkies The Zany Woodruff Operation harness the wah wah on a good Cream cover Tales Of Brave Ulysses and The Action bring down the curtain on Think I’m Going Weird with a blissed-out number called Brain. If any band demonstrated the long journey from the mid-60s to 1968, it was Reg King’s Mod heroes, but whatever they did was always stamped with true quality.
Think I’m Going Weird offers the listener a wide-ranging and very enjoyable survey of the UK’s psychedelic years. A fair bit of it is already available elsewhere, but seeking it all out would necessitate hunting around through a lot of different releases. It’s all here ready to go, packed with lots of information and period photographs in the sleeve book which has been very nicely and creatively designed. Allied to the music, this all makes for a very enjoyable set that captures those turbulent late 1960s times perfectly.
All words by Ian Canty – see his author profile here