MIND DE-CODER 32
“Some of you guys may be uncool, and we may be getting busted tonight. Now I know the usual thing in clubs is to kind of throw everything on the floor. But we don’t want the fuzz to close UFO down. So, like, if you’re uncool, will you please go out, and come back when you’re cool.”
ARS NOVA ZARATHUSTRA
…and we kick off a cosmic show with an intense psychedelic re-working of Also Sprach Zarathustra by American rock band, Ars Nova, who managed to record two albums in the 60’s before splitting following a disastrous performance supporting The Doors at the Fillmore East in mid-1968. Zarathustra is taken from their first album, ARS NOVA, released in 1968.
APRYL FOOL THE LOST MOTHER LAND PT.1
Apryl Fool were an extremely cool and long-haired Japanese rock group who released just the one album – a self-titled fairly half-hearted bar room post-Animals blues affair with the odd Dylan cover thrown in, released in 1969. Despite being cool and long-haired, the band would otherwise remain unremarkable were it not for the psychedelically unhinged The Lost Mother Land which, amidst the rest of the album, approached genuine meltdown. As Julian Cope laments of the album in his trusty JAPROCKSAMPLER, if only there’d been more of this magic in its grooves…
KALEIDOSCOPE FLIGHT TO ASHIYA
Despite much radio play at the time, Kaleidoscope never achieved the kind of recognition they deserved and became, instead, one of the great unsung psychedelic bands of the 60’s. Flight To Ashiya was released as the lead single from their debut album TANGERINE DREAM, released 1967, but sadly, the record buying public weren’t interested in their dreamy, whimsical, psychedelic proto-prog sound and the album remains a cult pleasure amongst those of us who discovered it in later years.
PINK FLOYD THE SCARECROW
…and speaking of psychedelic whimsy, here are Pink Floyd with a track from PIPER AT THE GATES OF DAWN, of course; perhaps the most pastoral and evocative of a certain kind of English psychedelia of them all. Recorded in one take, and released as the B-Side to See Emily Play in 1967, it strikes a peculiar meeting between innocence and sophistication that Piper At The Gates Of Dawn carried off so perfectly.
GANDALF CAN YOU TRAVEL IN THE DARK ALONE
You’d expect a band with a name like Gandalf to hail from some misty meadow in Oxfordshire or the like, and have songs about elves and unicorns, but in fact they’re from new New Jersey and used to be called the unfortunately named Rahgoos, a garage-band specializing in cover versions, until the drummer read Lord of the Rings and suggested a name change and a subtle change of direction, resulting in the band writing a couple of their own songs and releasing a self-titled album in 1969. It’s generally a low key affair that enjoys some lovely psychedelic flourishes– you can play it at dinner parties without upsetting anyone – but it only features two self-penned songs, one of which is the lovely Can You Travel In The Dark Alone, the rest are an interesting selection of cover versions, including Nature Boy by Eden Ahbez. They were badly let down by their record company, however, who released the album some two years after it was recorded in 1967, with the wrong record in the sleeve. After the album was recalled any interest in the band was long gone and that was pretty much that – these days, of course, GANDALF is a much sought after psychedelic artifact.
SAVAGE RESURRECTION SOMEONE’S CHANGING
The Savage Resurrection were formed in 1967 in San Francisco, in the midst of the summer of love. Possibly the most remarkable thing about them was the age of their lead guitarist, who was only 16 at the time. They only released the one album, the self-titled SAVAGE RESURRECTION, released in 1968 – a punky, raw bluesy affair characterized by two guitarists whose duels would spew out fuzz and feedback; but they were also capable of spacier, folkier songs such as Someone’s Changing. As is often the case, the band split after one album before they could develop some of their ideas further, so we’ll never know just how good they could have been.
THE CHURCHILLS SO ALONE TODAY
Now here’s something you don’t come across everyday: an Israeli psychedelic rock band that started in 1965 and lasted well into the 1970’s, head starting a nascent Israeli rock scene. The madly psychedelic So Alone Today is from their debut album CHURCHILLS, released in 1969. Can’t honestly say I know that much more about them.
HOUSE OF NIMROD SLIGHTLY-DELIC
At long last, a New Zealand psychedelic group finally joins Mind De-Coder, though arguably they barely hung around long enough to be called a group. The semi-legendary House Of Nimrod formed in Auckland in 1967, began rehearsing a couple of songs by guitarist Bryce Petersen and released the slightly wonderful Slightly-delic as their first single a couple of weeks later. It garnered some radio play but the band were unable to tour because that song, and the B-side, were the only two songs they knew how to play, and Petersen was having way too much fun enjoying the gifts of the 60’s (as it were) to write anymore, so the band went in to semi-retirement. Petersen eventually wrote a few more songs and the band released a second single in 1968 but it didn’t sell well and that was pretty that. Shortly after Petersen wrote the song Gracious Lady (Alice Dee) for NZ pop sensation Lew Pryme but it was banned on the radio for its suggestible references to LSD. THE HOUSE OF NIMROD EP collected all four of their songs and was released in 2000. The A-side runout quite rightly reads: “Acid is good for the mind?!!”
WHITE NOISE HERE COME THE FLEAS
I’m a big fan of experimental noise band White Noise, especially their first album, which included Delia Derbyshire and Brian Hodgson of the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop in the line
-up, but I’m usually drawn to their fractured pop songs on which they gleefully overlay musique concrète effects, weird bits of radio theatre, and long stretches of gothic horror which nowadays could be mistaken for a sort of proto-Hauntological approach to music making; so I thought I’d play Here Comes The Fleas, instead – the bizarrely ‘playful’ track from their 1969 debut AN ELECTRIC STORM.
THE LEFT BANKE PRETTY BALLERINA
The Left Banke are more or less known for two tracks these days – Walk Away Renée and Pretty Ballerina, both of which made the charts in 1966, and resulted in the band releasing their debut album, the daringly titled WALK AWAY RENÉE/PRETTY BALLERINA in 1967. It was an album that pioneered a more artful use of strings in pop music, incorporating a small string section, harpsichord, and woodwinds to give their songs a light yet dramatic Baroque flavor that was unique in rock at the time, but internal divisions soon got the better of them and before too long they fell apart leaving little more than the two great singles, and the term ‘baroque ‘n’ roll’, to account for their ever being here.
LOVE SHE COMES IN COLORS
I’m not a great fan of Love’s second album, DA CAPO, released in 1967, but really like She Comes In Colors, one of Arthur Lee’s loveliest songs (if you’ll pardon the unintended pun) – possibly because it points the way to the sound they were to fully explore on their next album, the gorgeous Forever Changes, which they would release later that year.
MESMERIZING EYE SIDE 1
PSYCHEDELIA: A MUSICAL LIGHT SHOW, released in 1967 by The Mesmerizing Eye, is as about far out as it gets, or as one reviewer put it: “It’s a brain frying mindfuck – searing acid guitar, air raid sirens, crying babies, thunderstorms, telephones ringing and ringing, detuned marching bands staggering past…and all of that in the first few minutes”.
It was created by two producers and a few studio freak musicians who played what tunes there are to fit around the sound effects, of which there are plenty. It’s a very short album; it barely last 25 minutes, and all the tracks run into each other: and I like it so much, I thought I’d play all of Side One which runs like this: 1)Birth Of A Nation, 2) Rain Of Terror,
3) Tempus Fugit, 4) Opus 71, 5) Twenty-First Century Express.
THE MOTHERS OF INVENTION THE RETURN OF THE SON OF MONSTER MAGNET
…and speaking of brain frying mindfucks, here’s Frank Zappa and The Mothers Of Invention with a proper 13-minute freak out, taking up all of Side 4 of their debut album FREAK OUT!, released in 1967. The Return Of The Son Of Monster Magnet is an experiment in musique concrète, amelodic dissonance, shifting time signatures, and studio effects that broke new ground in just what a rock LP could be capable of; introduced the world to the legendary Suzie Creamcheese, and was the first double album ever released, to boot.
THE FORMLESS DREAMER PRAIRIE DOG
A bit of filler, really, from The Formless dreamer, a psychedelic act about which the internet is deafeningly silent. I came across him (for I believe it to be a he) on You Tube where he seems to have provided the music for a 45-minute psychedelic head trip of a video called PSYCHEDELIC SALVIA TRIP MUSIC IV: THE BREAD OF GOD, which you can find at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MpnuqJUmUN8 and you really ought check it out, not only is it very good, I suspect it’s the future). So, I’m guessing this track is called Prairie Dog by The Formless Dreamer from the album THE BREAD OF GOD, which may have been made in 2011. Unless it’s made by Sage Bodisattva.
FRIENDSOUND LOST ANGEL PROPER STREET
Friendsound seems to be at least three members of Paul Revere and the Raiders and a bunch of friends who got together for a pretty cosmic sounding jam session which they released as JOYRIDE in 1969. It largely taken up with instrumentals, but they’re full of studio experimentation, including backwards tapes, sound effects and lsd-inspired ramblings of which Lost Angel Proper Street is a very good example.
BOEING DUVEEN AND THE BEAUTIFUL SOUP JABBERWOCK
Boeing Duveen and the Beautiful Soup only made the one single, the 1968 release Jabberwock, which remains one of the oddest psychedelic obscurities of that time. A slightly menacing and yet playful re-telling of the Lewis Carroll poem, it was backed by a gentle acid-folk recording that was completely at odds with the A-side (see Mind De-Coder 16).
Boeing Duveen, of course (he said, for those of you that remember Mind De-Coder 16) was Sam Hutt, known to the British ’60s counterculture as a “rock & roll doctor” who administered to rock musicians and practiced homeopathy and holistic medicine, as well as dealing with drug casualties at festivals. If this still isn’t ringing any bells, then you probably know him as Hank Wangford, who enjoyed a successful career playing Country and Western throughout the 80’s, and for all I know, still does.
And if that doesn’t ring any bells – then just enjoy the single.
LORD BUCKLEY THE NAZ (excerpt)
I play around with some backwards psychedelia and while that’s going on include the legendary Lord Buckley in the mix – Lord of Flip Manor, Royal Holiness of the Far out, and prophet of the Hip (as one obituary sung of him) , a 50’s cat whose improvised jazz wordplay defined cool as having ‘the sweet fragrance of serenity’ and referred to Jesus as The Naz, calls him a ‘carpenter kittie’ who heals ‘a little cat with a bent frame’ and who implored us all to Dig Infinity, and we dug it. This is just an excerpt from perhaps his most famous monologue, but if you’ve never come across this hipster saint and tongue dancer before, then check out, at the very least, LORD BUCKLEY IN CONCERT (1964), which was originally released as WAY OUT HUMOR in 1959, a year before his death, and prepare to be blown away.
MELODY’S ECHO CHAMBER IS THAT WHAT SHE SAID
I’ve unfairly, perhaps, played this track from the debut album by classically trained French chanteuse
Melody Prochet because she doesn’t appear to be on it very much – what you get instead is searing backwards guitars from Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker who collaborated and produced the eponymous album for her. Released in 2012, it’s an album of dreamy sonics and saccharine vocals (or the other way round – whatever you prefer) that creates a shimmering psychedelic gauze through which traces of dream-pop and shoegaze reverberate. But I played the backwards one where you can barely hear her. Oh, well, another show, perhaps.
FIFTY FOOT HOSE GOD BLESS THE CHILD
50 Foot Hose are what we’re choosing to call an avant-psychedelic group, whose only album CAULDRON, released in 1968, is an ambitious mix of contemporary rock sounds with electronic instruments and avant-garde compositional ideas that was never quite as good as you’d hope. The album plays around with an intriguing fusion of jazzy psychedelic rock tunes with primitive electronic sound effects layered on top – eerie electronic swoops and jolts swam through the background and foreground of the tracks, enhanced by techniques like putting instruments through an FM transmitter. Ultimately, the jazzier and spookier tunes worked better than the bluesier hard rock items as exemplified on the Owsley-dosed coffeehousing of Billy Holliday’s “God Bless The Child.” Acoustic guitar and hissing jazz hi-hat and traps are surrounded by incongruous space whooshes and bleeps in a proto-synth, fifties sci-fi movie manner that makes the song sound as if it’s playing on an old-fashioned valve-fitted radiogram on a Russian space station.
FAR EAST FAMILY BAND ENTERING/TIMES
Two tracks from the Far East Family Band that segue into each other on their 1976 album PARALLEL WORLD, released 1976. The Far East Family Band were a pleasingly obscure 1970’s Japanese psych-rock band whose sound was heavily influenced by Pink Floyd, and they specialised in long, multi-part pieces of music complete with all the trappings of the psychedelic era, up to and including crazy cosmic cover art; their nearest relatives these days would be Cranium Pie whose debut Mechanisms owes quite a lot to Parallel World, the band’s fourth album and masterpiece. It was produced by Krautrock legend and one-time Tangerine Dream member Klaus Schulze, and recorded at Manor Studios in the UK and is very much a full-on psychedelic odyssey of rare quality. Entering/Times begins with fluttering bird like sounds, drifts into a zone of cosmic ambient silence and ends with an extended acid freak-out. Marvellous.
CHEVAL SOMBRE ONCE I HAD A SWEETHEART
MAD LOVE, released in 2012 by Cheval Sombre, a New Yorker by the name of Christopher Porpora, is one of the most unhurried records you will ever hear – soft acoustic guitar, organ and strings are made drowsy by a plethora of psychedelic effects, with every song slow in tempo, and generally just letting things happen. It features contributions from Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser of MGMT, Pete Kember of Spacemen 3 and Dean Wareham of Galaxie 500, all Mind De-Coder favourites and none of whom appear to make any difference at all to anything. Once I Had A Sweetheart, a well known traditional perhaps made most famous by Pentangle (see Mind De-Coder 3)is one of the loveliest songs on the album – the Cheval Sombre version is saturated in reverb yet the simplicity of this mesmerizing track shines through the haze. The distortion, however, does give it a glittering quality that permeates the whole record, elevating it to something meditative, entrancing, and gorgeously druggy. Lovely.
THE DUKES OF STRATOSPHEAR MOLE FROM THE MINISTRY
XTC’s finest moment on their acid-laced homage to the psychedelic records of their past. Mole From The Ministry is the closing track on their 1985 album, 25 O’Clock, released as their alter-egos The Dukes Of Stratosphear, one of the greatest psychedelic albums ever released in its own right. Produced by the great John Leckie, 25 O’Clock plunders the psychedelic toy box and comes up with a brilliant, clever distillation of the sounds of 1967, filled with knowing allusions and outright thievery from psychedelic classics – it comes closer to pop-art than homage and is in every way a joyous celebration of everything Mind De-Coder stands for.