If there is one thing that sums up the 1960s more than anything relevant to any decade before or since, it's the complete sense of 'anything goes' that applied to virtually any artistic statement, be it cinema, literature or, especially, music. In the 1960s it was felt that you could release any mad nonsense and there was a definite chance that it could be a hit. With musical pioneers like Lennon & McCartney and Brian Wilson continually pushing the boundaries of music, many others joined in the experimental free for all, not always with satisfactory results.
These days, unless you already sound like the next winner of The X Factor, or are prepared to churn out bland karaoke friendly M.O.R tripe, then you have practically no chance of scoring a chart hit.
So let's look back at a more adventurous time when musicians genuinely strived to achieve something unpredictable and original, or at the very least just a little left of center of the norm.
Here are a few choice cuts:
Jan & Dean
Okay, so we're off to a rather safe start with the pasty skinned, whitebread, milquetoast purveyors of 'the whitest music imaginable' that is Jan & Dean, but beneath their all-things-cornbread exterior there lay an element of mischief, and at times all out blathering stupidity.
Let's start with the rather bizarre 'Bucket T'; a song that blends elements of the Benny Hill theme tune with some overplaying of the cowbells and a completely loony vocal. To add to clownage we have a random clip of Pan's People dancing unconvincingly to the track and, just when things can't get any sillier, Dave Lee Travis appears sprechen sie Deutch....no, seriously! Watch and learn....
Next up is their bonkers track 'The Anaheim, Azuza & Cucamonga Sewing Circle Book Review and Timing Association', and YES, they do manage to fit that whole phrase repeatedly into the chorus. It all gets a little strained and the brass section seem to be deliberately trying to faff their playing for comedic effect...as if it were needed!
Albert De Salvo & The Bugs
Filed in the bad taste section, our next entry is credited to 'Albert De Salvo & The Bugs'....now, for those who don't know, Albert De Salvo was the man who confessed to being The Boston Strangler, the notorious serial killer of the early 60s. Evidence points away from it being him, and he was never actually jailed for the crimes but for other offences. However that didn't stop some bright sparks from recording this rather distasteful gem....
The Jelly Bean Bandits
"Look to the skies//The flying saucers will always be there!" There's a common myth/belief that people started to take a lot of drugs in the late 60s. Suddenly 'the kids' were popping Aspirin, vegging out on Bi-carbonate of soda, and finding a shortcut to the mystical inner mind experience by dabbling in cough linctus. And one can only ponder which weapons grade anti-inflammatories cause The Jelly Bean Bandits to see flying saucers all day, but see them they did! This track, 'Generation', is a pretty wild track with lots of slashing guitars, pounding drums and the sound of someone hitting the P.A. system, over which an excitable young chap lists all the looks and quirks of the new hip generation; leather jackets, long side-burns and 'engineer boots'(?) among the ephemera mentioned. Far out!
The Driving Stupid
Perhaps Kings of the wild psychedelic garage, The Driving Stupid achieved immortality through the Pebbles series of compilation albums thanks to their two mindbending tracks 'Horror Asparagus Stories' and 'The Realities Of (Air) Fried Borsk'. I'm including only the former on the Blog tonight though, as the version of the latter on Youtube is a re-recording with all the foaming-at-the-mouth delirium removed. However, the track I'm featuring more than makes up for this, containing as it does the superb last couplet "My cousin was a kangaroo//And I, my friends, am the square root of two".
A quick jaunt over the pond to England next, for a dollop of jabbering whimsy called 'Nightmares In Red'. Apparently this slice of musical anarchy and silly voices is all down to future King Crimson, Robert Fripp. Nobody does whimsy like the English....if only King Crimson had remembered this!
Next up is the track 'Rattle Of Life' by Oshun which dates from July of 1967. It's pretty hard to describe this 'song' other than that it sounds like an attempt to convey exactly what it sounded like to be in Haight-Ashbury at the time of the Love-Ins. How much of the background noise is authentic, I'm not sure, and if anyone can tell me what on Earth is going on in the last 30 odd seconds, then good luck! This was released by Mercury Records(although I'm guessing not THE Mercury Records that still exists today), and it's pretty difficult to see what commercial potential they thought this had....
The Fee Fi Four Plus Two
"I'm outside the world and I can't find a way to get in// The cube I took just cut me a little too thin"; you have to admire their subtlety. I believe that hidden within the lyrics of this scorching Garage gem, 'I Wanna Come Back(From The World Of LSD)' are vague and obtuse lyrics about drug usage! Can't say I hear them myself, I've always believed this is a song predicting the decimalisation of British currency, hence I wanna come back from the world of pounds, shillings and pence. You really have to laugh at the naivety of people in the 60s....
(The) Jason Crest
There's a popular misconception that Heavy Metal originated in the West Midlands when A)a bunch of lank haired thugs called Earth changed their name to Black Sabbath and abandoned the psychedelic whimsy of their pop/rock for darker, doom laden material; and B)when golden haired, leather trewsed Rock God Robert Plant joined forces with Crowley worshipping guitar behemoth Jimmy Page to form Led Zeppelin. But, of course, we here at the ~Streetlamp~ say tish, pish and piddle to all that nonsense and suggest that people look back almost TWO years previous when a bunch called Jason Crest(sometimes referred to as THE Jason Crest) cut an alarming track called 'Black Mass'. Everything you associate with early Heavy Metal is present here; from the dodgy subject matter to the doomy atmosphere, from the backwards squalling guitars to the lead singers unbelievable caterwauling. All that AND the magnificent monastic chanting. None More Black indeed.....
When Pebbles Vol. 3: The Acid Gallery was originally pressed, it contained a mysterious, unknown track on Side 2 which subsequently disappeared on later pressings. It turns out that the track was called 'Prana' and was the product of a band called The Unfolding. Like the Oshun track before, this seems to have no commercial worth whatsoever, but just as Oshun appeared to trying to capture the experience of Haight-Ashbury, so The Unfolding seem to trying to encapsulate that whole inner-mind psychedelic opening of the doors of perception. Or of course, it could just be a bunch of bored studio musicians faffing about and talking bollocks!!
Walham Green East Wapping Carpet Cleaning Rodent And Boggit Extermination Association
Crikey O'reilly!! As if Jan & Dean didn't appear to be taking the piss with their ridiculously convoluted song title, here come a bunch of rum English coves with the type of name that had all the commercial possibility of 'Glitter & King's Babysitting Services'!! Did they really expect to oust The Beatles, The Kinks and The Who with a foolish moniker like that? Probably not, all told. It's more than likely that this was a bunch of(possibly famous) session musicians larking about, BUT...what they did capture was rather a cute slice of semi-detached suburban English life. The song, 'Sorry Mr Green' has a bored office worker hoping to find sexual promise in the arms of his new secretary, away from the ogre-ish spectre of his battleaxe wife....aaahhh, they don't do sexism like they did in the 1960s!!
Being a smug, I-know-everything-about-music bastard, there's nothing I like more than being proved right, especially in front of a bunch of philistines who THINK they know everything about music. Back in 1988/89, some of my more chemically enhanced friends had really gotten into the whole Spacemen 3-taking-drugs-to-make-music-to-take-drugs-to nonsense. However, I tried to point out that this was hardly a new thing and that there were songs released in the 1960s that seemed perfectly tailored to accompany the whole altered state mind-rot. As an example I proffered 'Take Me For A Ride' by Friday's Keepers, and sat back to enjoy the sound of jaws hitting the floor. 'Take Me For A Ride'(a VERY Spacemen 3 title) has woozy melodies, weird harmonies, backwards phased guitars, and an overall sense of chemical inbalance. But it's masterstroke comes exactly one minute in when a weird, subliminal noise starts working it's way through the song. Seeing my friends freaking out when this moment occurred still gives me goosebumps all these years later. Remember kids, Just Say No....if the doctor asks if your friend took anything suspicious before he passed out!
There....I rather enjoyed writing that Blog and delving into the weirder Sixties records in my collection. And the good news is that I have literally HUNDREDS more to dig up, so maybe there will be a few more of these down the pipe some time.
Remember....the flying saucers will ALWAYS be there!!