Lullabies For Catatonics. British Avant-Pop/Art Rock Scene 1967-74 Disc 1: “Spontaneous Underground”

This is Disc 1 of another three disc box set from Grapefruit Records. The baroque pop/art sensibility of these songs still sounds fresh and imaginative 50 years later. Gary Brooker of Procul Harum is quoted in the sleevenotes as saying “There didn’t seem to be any boundaries and if there were, you completely ignored them”. Ignoring boundaries: brilliant. Unless you go to a Supermarket where you must wear a mask.

released 2019, recorded 1967-1974

Disc 1 Track 1 “I Should Have Known” by The Soft Machine. In 1967, this band were known as The Soft Machine but in 1970, they changed their name to Soft Machine. They were named after “The Soft Machine”, a book by William Burroughs using the cut up technique that David Bowie used when recording “Low” and “Heroes”. The theme of the book is how control mechanisms invade the body. This previously unreleased recording exemplifies the cut up technique (the musical parts don’t always seem to fit together well) and the unsettling feeling of the body being invaded by spooky electronic sounds. At the time of recording, the great Kevin Ayers was still a member of the band which had been formed in Canterbury. This was before he quit The Soft Machine (or was fired) after an extensive and exhausting tour of the USA. This track also includes a drum solo from Robert Wyatt. The sessions that produced this track were produced by Georgio Gomelsky who owned The Crawdaddy Club where The Rolling Stones were the house band. He also owned Marmalade records, releasing albums by Brian Augur, Julie Driscoll and members of 10cc. He managed The Yardbirds and produced sessions by Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Graham Bond and Alexis Korner. These sessions were cut short when The Soft Machine’s manager, Mike Jefferies, refused to pay for the studio time. The Soft Machine, along with Pink Floyd, played at The Roundhouse in October 1968 at an event to celebrate the first publication of International Times. An advertising board for IT is still on display at Lewes Football Club. The event was part funded by Barry Miles and Paul McCartney and, as well as the musical events, included a happening by Yoko Ono (two months before she first met John Lennon) as well as readings by William Burroughs.

Disc 1 Track 2 “I’m Waiting For The Man” by The Riot Squad featuring David Bowie. Ken Pitt was responsible for publicising the U.K. tours of Frank Sinatra, Duke Ellington and Jerry Lee Lewis. He moved into management and was successful with Manfred Mann and Cristian St. Peters. In 1967 he became David Bowie’s manager and on a trip to New York in 1966, he met Andy Warhol and Lou Reed who were seeking publicity in the U.K. They gave him an acetate copy of The Velvet Underground first album which Ken Pitt gave to David Bowie on his return. The Riot Squad was a London based band whose membership at various times in their career included Mitch Mitchell (of The Jimi Hendrix Experience) and Graham Bonney (who had a Top 20 hit in 1966 with “Super Girl”). At the time of recording this cover, they were a six piece band with David Bowie playing guitar and mouth-harp in a style not dissimilar “Jean Genie”. This was 1966 and do it was quite witty to sing “I’m just looking for a good friendly behind” instead of “I’m just looking for a dear dear friend of mine”. David Bowie also sung “ He gives you sweet taste, then you’ve gotta spit” instead of “then you’ve gotta split” – was this a little joke or did he mishear the lyric?

Disc 1 Track 3 “Conquistador” by Procul Harum. A conquistador was either a knight, soldier or explorer from Spain or Portugal who opened trade routes and/or conquered new territories. In the song, the singer at first mocks a dead conquistador and jeers at his failure but by the end of the song offers pity for a lonely death. This version was on Procul Harum’s first eponymous album and a live version, taken from their 1971 collaboration with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, reached the U.K. Top 30. Gary Brooker, the lead singer and pianist, wrote the music and Keith Reid wrote the lyrics. It wasn’t unusual for bands to have a non-playing member writing lyrics. Pete Sinfield did this for King Crimson, Pete Brown wrote the lyrics for many Cream songs and Larry Beckett co-wrote many songs by Tim Buckley. Gary Brooker is a member of The Countryside Alliance. Matthew Fisher, the organist with Procul Harum win a 2009 court case in which he successfully claimed part writing credits for “A Whiter Shade Of Pale”. Five of the members of Procul Harum in 1967 are still alive. Drummer B.J. Wilson died in 1990.

Disc 1 Track 4 “Bypass The By-Pass” by The End. Bill Wyman managed The End and sessions for their “Introspection” included Charlie Watts on tabla and Nicky Hopkins on piano. Despite being recorded in 1967, the album was not released until December 1969 by which time they had changed their name to Tucky Buzzard who went on to release five albums between 1971 and 1973. Terry Taylor was the guitarist with The End. He co-founded The Rhythm Kings with Bill Wyman in 1997 and is still a member. In 1976 he joined The Arrows for their weekly teenage TV programme. Nicky Graham, the keyboard player with The End played on the Ziggy Stardust tour with David Bowie before writing hit songs for The Nolans, Bros and Art & Dec.

Disc 1 Track 5 “World War Three” by Dantalian’s Chariot. This band consisted of Zoot Money, Andy Somers, Pat Donaldson and Colin Allen. Zoot Money was heavily involved with many well known acts in “The Swinging Sixties” (The Animals, Fleetwood Mac, Kevin Ayers etc). He later became the musical director for the BBC series “Tutti Frutti”, starring Robbie Coltrane, Emma Thompson, Richard Wilson and the brilliant Maurice Roeves. He also became an actor, appearing in episodes of “Shoestring”, “Bergerac” and that lost classic “Travelling Man”. Andy Somers later changed his name to Andy Summers and was a member of The Police. Pat Donaldson went on to join Fotheringay, Sandy Denny’s post-Fairport band. Drummer Colin Allen went on to join Stone The Crows with Maggie Bell and his Wikipedia page shows him drumming with Focus in 1974.

Disc 1 Track 6 “Butcher’s Tale (Western Front 1914)” by The Zombies. The 100th best album of all time (according to Rolling Stone in 2003) is “Odessey and Oracle” by The Zombies. They called the baroque psychedelic-pop arrangements “still fresh”, 36 years after its recording. The song was written by Chris White and he was annoyed to find a typo in the song’s title with 1916 mistakenly written as 1914. The battles in 1916 took place in Gommecourt, Thiepval and Mametz Wood and these place names are all mentioned in the song along with a reversed sample of a piece of music written by French composer Pierre Boulez. The song was released as a single in the USA, as the record company thought it would sell to anti Vietnam War protestors.

Disc 1 Track 7 “I Talk To The Wind” by Giles, Giles & Fripp. Brothers Peter and Michael Giles were looking for a keyboard/vocalist to join their band so they hired Robert Fripp who couldn’t sing and played guitar. After releasing one album, Peter Giles dropped out and Greg Lake joined the band who renamed themselves King Crimson. Their first album, “In The Court Of The Crimson King” includes a different version of this song.

Disc 1 Track 8 “Tramcar To Frankenstein” by The Liverpool Scene. The sleeve notes describe The Liverpool Scene as “an anarchic blend of poetry, art, jazz, rock and folk”. Adrian Henri was one of the three poets in the anthology “The Mersey Sound” along with Roger McGough (who was a member of The Scaffold along with Paul McCartney’s brother, Mike). The poem on this track was written and is read by saxophonist Mike Evans. The musical arrangement is by guitarist Andy Roberts, who later went on to form Plainsong with ex-Fairport member, Iain Matthews.

Disc 1 Track 9 “The Battle” by The Strawbs. Everything is connected. Here is how this song connects Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, Elton John, The Beatles and Bob Dylan. John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin plays bass. Nicky Hopkins (of everybody but particularly The Rolling Stones) plays piano (he also played on “Bypass The By-Pass” by The End (track 4)). This is an alternative version of the song that closed The Strawbs eponymous first album which was produced by Tony Visconti who produced the vast majority of David Bowie’s albums. The engineer on the album was Gus Dudgeon who produced many of Elton John’s albums. The sleeve photography was by Barry Feinstein who shot the iconic photos for the cover of “All Things Must Pass” by George Harrison as well as the front cover of “The Times They Are A’Changin’” by Bob Dylan. The song features cello player Lionel Ross who also played on “I Am The Walrus”.

Disc 1 Track 10 “Xoanan Bay” by Woody Kern. The lead singer of Woody Kern was Rik Kenton who played bass with Roxy Music for a while and appeared with them when they played “Virginia Plain” on “Top Of The Pops”.

Disc 1 Track 11 “In The Beginning” by Genesis. I know this track really well because it is on the awesome Decca Sampler “Wowie Zowie. The World Of Progressive Music”. Quite possibly, this is the only song by Genesis that I like. The members of the band were 18 years old when this album was recorded.

Disc 1 Track 12 “Wasted Ground (Memento Mori)” by The Velvet Frogs. It’s hard to believe that only two or three acetate copies of this remarkable song were ever manufactured. The song is a successful attempt to reproduce the mood achieved on Nico’s “The Marble Index”. The group were inspired to take their name by their love of The Velvet Underground and Private Eye’s description of Charles Aznavour (which was a parody of Mel Torme’s “Velvet Fog” nickname).

Disc 1 Track 13 “Beyond And Before” by Yes. YES

Disc 1 Track 14 “Druid One” by Third Ear Band. Third Ear Band’s first album, from which this is taken, was produced by Ron Geesin who was heavily involved in the composition of Pink Floyd’s “Atom Heart Mother”.

Disc 1 Track 15 “Through The Eyes Of A Child” by Bachdenkel. Not The Moody Blues’ song from “To Our Children’s Children’s Children”, this terrific unreleased single was recorded by a band from Birmingham, whose name was generated by a computer and who spent ten years in France, releasing two albums which were ignored in their own country.

Disc 1 Track 16 “All Over The Country” by The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown. When Arthur Brown submitted this to Polydor for release, they told him “You haven’t got the fucking material. You’re off your fucking rocker”. Surely that was the point? I must ask Peter to discuss this with his good friend Arthur.

Disc 1 Track 17 “Merry Go Round” by Eyes Of Blue. “Up Your Teddy Bear” is a sex satire film starring Julie Newmar (Catwoman in the 60s Batman TV shows). Quincy Jones arranged for Eyes Of Blue to provide the music for the film and this nine minute song was a centrepiece. They later changed their name to The Bloody Welsh.

Published by wilfulsprinter

Music lover

One thought on “Lullabies For Catatonics. British Avant-Pop/Art Rock Scene 1967-74 Disc 1: “Spontaneous Underground”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: