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Sunday, 26 August 2012

A Nippy Sweeties/Musical Prozac Hybrid 2: A Decade Went Madder

About a year ago, I wrote a Blog looking at some of the more bizarre and 'out there' songs from the 1960s, a decade whose grasp of reality seems all the more unstable the further we move away from it! The article proved quite popular (well, Griff liked it anyway), so I've decided to open up my box of 60s nonsense once again and have another rummage through some of the obscure, whacked out and downright demented  examples of 60s Pop and Rock.
And they don't come much more demented than...

The Monocles

....with their loony tune 'The Spider & The Fly'. Taking the entire premise of the 1958 movie 'The Fly' in which, due to some scientific faffing around, a man becomes a fly and a fly becomes a man, this seething slab of pulsating garage rock provides the backdrop over which a rather hysterical (in every sense of the word) psychodrama unfolds. A doomy voice paints a nightmare scenario of a spider closing in on the tiny man/fly hybrid who yells 'Help Me!' in what appears to be a Helium accentuated voice. Then the victim of the nightmare is awoken by his concerned wife who panics when she realises her husband has turned into a giant fly! Soon she is screaming 'Help Me!' along with the tiny fly! If you haven't heard this before the strap yourself in as this is one of the most memorable and insane 60s Psychedelic Garage tracks. Why wasn't this a hit?

John Trubee

So, who's all heard 'Blind Man's Penis' then?
I first became aware of the song when the Jesus & Mary Chain used the track as part of their intro tape when I saw them at the Barrowlands back in 1989. Then a few years later Mark E Smith of The Fall declared it one of his favourite all time records when he appeared (utterly sozzled....surprise!!) on the Adam & Joe Show.
Written by John Trubee and sung rather laconically by Ramsey Kearney, reportedly in the late 1960s, the track is a real period piece with blatant references to LSD (which other acts only hinted at at the time), and all kind of mad jabberings about UFOs and Martians. The song was originally called 'Stevie Wonder's Penis' and was passed around as a bootleg cassette gaining much Underground acclaim until it was released around 1975 on a 7" single. By this time the potentially libellous reference to Stevie was replaced with the more generic 'Blind Man'.
And remember, the blind man's penis is erect because he's blind! And with that kind of skewed logic, who's arguing?

The Beach Boys

By 1968 the Beach Boys' hipster stock was in tragic decline. Having turned down the chance to play at the Monterey Pop Festival, they were viewed by the long haired hippy radicals as a bunch of cornbread Conservative milquetoasts. How different it may all have been however had they followed up one of the greatest Pop albums EVER ('Pet Sounds') with an even GREATER one! Which they would have done had Brian Wilson not gotten cold feet over the genius of follow-up album 'Smile'. After aborting the 'Smile' project, Wilson was still expected by Capitol Records to turn out something akin to the Beatles 'Sgt Pepper'. What they got was a half-baked, uninspired dollop of unlovliness called 'Smiley Smile'.....what an absolute disappointment! Apart from outstanding lead-off singles 'Good Vibrations' and 'Heroes & Villains', this was a collection of weak and weedy soulless embarrassments, reaching it's nadir with 'Fall Breaks And Back To Winter', an instrumental based around the five note call of Woody Woopecker! For phux ache Brian....what are you playing at?!?!
'Fall Breaks...' frequently tops the polls as the Beach Boys worst ever song....yes, even worse than 'Johnny Carson' or 'A Day In The Life Of A Tree'(now, that IS bad shit...)

After the 'Smile' debacle, Dennis Wilson found himself less and less involved with the creative process. He no longer played in the studio, only sometimes drummed as part of the touring band, and was reduced to backing vocals and the occasional lead, often on songs nobody else wanted to sing. Around this time he began hanging out with a long-haired, mad-eyed, hippy freak who called himself The Wizard. The Wizard could procure drugs and young women with apparent ease, two things Dennis was very interested in. The Wizard was also a songwriter and claimed he auditioned for The Monkees (this has since been declared false!). The Wizard gave Dennis one of his songs which he hoped the Beach Boys would cover, and Dennis took the song to the next session. Big bro Brian, immediately sceptical of the song's negative title 'Cease To Exist', agreed to record the song on the basis they change the opening line to 'Cease to resist', and the song's title to the bewilderingly awkward 'Never Learn Not To Love'. Awkward syntax would be the least of the Beach Boys' concerns when The Wizard and his cronies committed mass murder at the Spahn Ranch in Los Angeles, killing the actress Sharon Tate and several of her friends. It now probably didn't seem too wise not to have given a writer's credit to The Wizard aka Charles Manson on their album....something Manson is reportedly still pissed off about!!

(You can check out both the Beach Boys and Charlie's own version below...)

The Sunday Funnies

Take a slice of sparkling, pure Garage Pop, full of chiming guitars, nifty time signatures, and a spiralling, swirly Farfisa organ running through....aaahh, all is good! Now get the singer to deliver his profound vocals....hang on....what's happening? What's up with the vocals? What's up with the vocalist, more like?
'A Pindaric Ode' is a superb example of Pop Psychedelia, but you really have to wonder what is going on with the vocals? The singer sounds so out of it that he doesn't even appear to be able to sing directly into the mic. In fact he doesn't appear to able to sing...period; drawling and mumbling away all kinds of gibberish. Was it supposed to be like this? Were they not allowed a second take? Did the rest of the band not question why their singer had apparently forgotten to, you know....sing?
Despit all that, this is one of my favourite all time Garage tracks, and I hope at least that it was all a glorious accident....

Bo & Peep

So who is Bo & Peep then?
Well, actually the're nobody. Bo & Peep's take on the Tab Hunter classic 'Young Love' is one of those conundrums that puzzled Rock historians for years. It has always been claimed that it was one of the biggest bands of the 1960s just pissing about and having a lark...was it The Beatles? Was it the Rolling Stones? Was it The Who? Was it early pre-fame Pink Floyd or David Bowie? was one of them....sort of!
It became evident, years later, that the track had been recorded under the auspices of legendary Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham, who wanted to create a kind of Rock and Pop Orchestra that would record various sessions and interpretations of hits of the time. On the session that produced 'Young Love' were, it is alleged, all five Rolling Stones (six if you include Ian Stewart), Gene Pitney, and legendary L.A producer, songwriter, and madman Kim Fowley. Who is doing what on the track is lost to the mists of time, but this is a cracking version of the song, powering along with full Garage bluster, Beach Boy-esque backing vocals (Jagger & Richard were huge BB fans), and deliriously infectious lead vocals.
If this does indeed feature the Rolling Stones then this is undoubtedly my favourite performance by them....

Crystal Chandelier

An early Doors demo I hear you ask? No, but you wouldn't be the first to think this. 'Suicidal Flowers' by Texas's Crystal Chandelier has always been mistaken by 60s music afficianados as an actual recording by The Doors, but it isn't....the vocalist just happens to be a remarkably good impersonator of Mr Mojo Risin', right down the little grunts, inflections and ad-libs...maybe a bit too good!
The song has often been interpreted as an anti-Flower Power song, and I would even go as far to say that this may well be the first Goth Rock song; it's doomy atmosphere and over-wrought vocals may be the very foundation of all purple hair-dye sales....

Jimmy Cross

Necrophilia hasn't been a very marketable commodity in the music industry really (well, except some Operas maybe), but Jimmy Cross's 1965 song 'I Want My Baby Back' is probably the most famous, even if you've never heard it before! Arriving at the tail-end of the Death Disc boom which had seen some of the greatest records of all time; the Shangri-Las' 'Leader Of The Pack', Ricky Valance's 'Tell Laura I Love Her' and Twinkle's 'Terry', to name but a few, Jimmy Cross delivers what is surely the most tasteless of all, in which wracked with self pity at the death of his girlfriend, he does what any normal man would do and digs up his girl's corpse...."I GOT my baby back" he rather creepily intones at the records fade-out.
The fact that it's also quite badly sung is the reason that it regularly tops the 'Worst Record Of All Time' polls....

13th Floor Elevators

I'll end tonight's Blog with something a little spiritual and quite moving.
I'm sure everyone knows 'May The Circle Be Unbroken', one of America's greatest contributions to the modern songbook, and one of Griff's favourite songs I believe, as performed by the Carter Family. Well, as the 13th Floor Elevators recording career began to wane, and as the drugs got harder and the albums susequently poorer, Roky Erickson decide to have a crack at the song for the finale of the massively disappointing 'Bull Of The Woods' album. Performing what can really only be described as a delay-pedal solo and drawling laconically the title over and over again, there are contributions on organ, and someone plays occasional percussion, but it's pretty much a solo effort and should, on paper at least, be quite awful. In fact, it's brilliant, and has an odd haunting, almost moving quality to it.
And it's the perfect outro to my latest trawl through my 60s Box Of Nonsense....

Keep Your Mind Open!


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