Climb Aboard My Roundabout. The British Toytown Pop Sound 1967-1974

Recorded 1967-1974. Released 2022

Primo Levi’s book, “If This Is A Man”, describes the year that the author spent in the Auschwitz concentration camp between February 1944 and January 1945. I’m not sure I have the resilience to read such a harrowing book these days, but I do know it had a powerful impact on me. I can remember one aspect of the story which seems to have a universal application. He wrote that he imagined that the prisoners in the camp would work together to fight their oppressors, but the opposite was true: they were treated so badly that they would fight amongst themselves to gain favour with the guards, even (or especially) if it meant that their fellow inmates suffered as a consequence. This has always stayed with me – if a persecuted minority are treated very badly, the consequence is likely to be more acquiescence to those with the power, rather than less, since those that are suffering are desperately trying to achieve some advantage over the rest.

In recent days, this has given me cause to think about immigration. It’s clear that there are some people who have fought so hard to achieve a better position than other immigrants that they have lost all empathy. I speak as the son of a mother who emigrated from Australia to the U.K. in 1947 and was not subsequently tolerant of other immigrants.

Suella Braverman is the daughter of immigrants from Mauritius and Kenya. As Home Secretary, she has made a number of statements that I find abhorrent. For example, she told The Daily Telegraph last month that it was her dream to send asylum seekers to Rwanda. There’s an important distinction to be made between illegal immigrants and genuine asylum seekers. On Monday, the Home Secretary claimed that there is an “invasion” of people seeking asylum along the south coast of England. The truth is that there are 17 countries in the EU who have had more asylum applications per 10,000 people than the U.K. (For example, there are 23 asylum seekers in Germany per 10,000 people. The equivalent number for France is 18 and for the U.K. it is eight). The raw numbers of asylum seekers for 2021 (under 60,000) is 25% smaller than it was in the early 2000’s. Most of the people claiming asylum come from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq and Syria, all of whom will have a very high chance of being successful. Suella Braverman’s comments seem to be particularly unpleasant and mean-spirited.

What makes someone so mean? Is it as simple as I’ve suggested – the child of immigrant parents strives to get to the top and leave others behind? Or is it more complex than that? No one is born bad, in my opinion. A cruel, unpleasant, arrogant, merciless and hateful personality is learned, normally in childhood. Listening to some of the people who phone Samaritans, it’s clear that there are some unkind, even sadistic people out there. Those callers that are prepared to explore their feelings with us, often refer to some hateful incident as a child. Our childhoods tend to shape our attitudes. Mainly these attitudes are inward looking and can often be described as self-hatred. The consequence of such darkness can manifest itself as a revengeful mindset. The problems come when such people gain positions of power and influence.

John Lennon had a troubled childhood, being rejected by both his parents before the age of five and, when effecting a conciliation with his mother, he felt the pain of her violent death in a road accident. He became sarcastic and vindictive, very possibly as a result of his childhood experiences. “Revolver” has recently been re-released with a series of outtakes. Perhaps the most remarkable moment on the five discs is an early version of “Yellow Submarine”, in which John Lennon sings, over and over, “In the town where I was born, no one cared.” A few months later, whilst filming “How I Won The War”, he wrote “Strawberry Fields Forever”, to which Paul McCartney was inspired to write “Penny Lane”. The double A-side single, released in February 1967 is, arguably (no – definitely) the finest single release in the history of popular music.

What makes this such a great double A side? In my opinion, it’s the ying and the yang, the light and the dark, the positive and the negative. “Penny Lane” is bright and breezy and full of happy memories in which we see nurses, barbers, bankers and firemen along with a hint of some early sexual fumblings. “Four of fish, and finger pie“. By contrast “Strawberry Fields Forever” describes a confused childhood which the author described as “psychoanalysis set to music”. Darkness and a forbidding landscape are hinted at to generate uneasiness. “No one I think is in my tree”. The arrangements, orchestration, playing and singing on both songs are unparalleled.

The consequence of the most successful band at the time (or any time?) releasing two ornate, orchestrated songs describing a simpler, more straightforward past, where children’s experiences seem so brightly illuminated was to inspire a whole new genre of music, often referred to as “toytown” music. Ian MacDonald, in “Revolution In The Head” claimed that “the true subject of English psychedelia was nostalgia for the innocent vision of the child” and thus the 87 songs on this remarkable compilation allow us to experience late 60’s/early 70’s British pop music, as seen through the eyes of (mainly high) musicians seeking to recapture the pure experiences of their youth. This is not to say that all the lyrical content is positive. Some of the songs are like “Penny Lane” and some are like “Strawberry Fields Forever”. For every “Jenny, climbing up a flagpole. Jenny, looking through a pothole. Jenny with her hair of fire. How could anyone ever pass by her?” there’s also “Father comes home late from work as hard as nails. His stony footsteps on the stairs ends the fairy tales“. In this way, these songs reflect a myriad of experiences of the writers of the songs. However, in most cases, the sound of the music is uplifting, colourful, interesting and exciting. In other words, kaleidoscopically psychedelic.

DISC ONE

1 THE SKELETON AND THE ROUNDABOUT (mono single mix) – The Idle Race

The Idle Race was, by 1968, under the direction of songwriter and lead vocalist Jeff Lynne, who would reunite with ex member Roy Wood in ELO. This single failed to chart despite a fairground sound which seemed to borrow heavily from the theme tune to “The Magic Roundabout”.

A year is passing, lots of food and money come my way. Oh, lucky man am I, but who’s this telling me, “You’re fired”? “You’re much too fat to be a ghost. Be on your way!” So here I am.”

2 JENNY ARTICHOKE – Kaleidoscope

It remains a mystery why this infectious song never made the charts. Lead singer Peter Daltrey says “It was played to death on the radio, we heard people singing it in the streets. It was perfect”. Kaleidoscope would later transform into Fairfield Parlour (Disc 2 Track 10)

Jenny, climbing up a flagpole. Jenny, looking through a pothole. Jenny with her hair of fire. How could anyone ever pass by her?”

3 CUDDLY TOY – Fruit Machine

This Nilsson song was initially covered by The Monkees. Mike Nesmith claimed to never understand the double entendres and innuendoes that permeate the song which was written as a put-down of a promiscuous girl who had taken part in a Hells Angels gang-bang. Fruit Machine were a studio-only band who included three members of a band called The Walham Green East Wapping Steam Beating, Carpet Cleaning, Rodent And Boggit Exterminating Association. Lead singer Stephen Gould would go on to have a big hit with Rare Bird, when their single, “Sympathy” sold over one million copies, world-wide. He later formed Runner and subsequently played with Alvin Lee.

You’re not the only cherry delight that was left in the night and gave up without a fight.”

4 PHENOMENAL CAT – The Kinks

“The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society” is often cited as The Kinks greatest album and one algorithm places it as the 185th best album of all time. Ken Rayes, a music academic, posits that “Phenomenal Cat” is a song about conspicuous consumption, with its story of a flying cat who discovers the meaning of life and spends the rest of his days eating a tree. Ken Rayes also contrasts the description of the cat with the way that Ray Davies described Allen Klein.

Once when he was thin, he had flown to old Hong Kong and had learned the secret of life and the sea and the sky beyond. So he gave up his diet and sat in a tree and ate himself through eternity.”

5 LITTLE LESLEY – The Alan Bown!

Alan Bown played trumpet in his band and lead singer Jess Roden (later to form Bronco before embarking on a short but wonderful solo career) joined in 1966, one year after the band was formed. This B side to a single called “Story Book” is 130 seconds of pure 1966 pop.

“Little Lesley, sweet and lovely, helps her mother, loves her father, helps her daddy wash the dishes, gets the food and feeds the fishes. All grown up and four years old, loves to mother all her dolls, keeps her house incredibly smart. A little girl with a large heart.”

6 EMILY SMALL (THE HUGE WORLD THEREOF) – The Picadilly Line

The Picadilly Line’s subsequent album, “The Huge World Of Emily Small”, included virtuoso playing by Nicky Hopkins, Danny Thompson, Herbie Flowers and Harold McNair, a Jamaican flautist who died in 1971, aged 39, having added superb accompaniment to albums by John Martyn, Donovan and Ginger Baker’s Air Force. This is a magnificent song, not a million miles away from “See Emily Play”.

Emily Small so sad to say, Emily Small too bad this way. You’re going to drift down the line unseen and nobody knows where you’ve been.”

7 MAN IN THE TEAPOT – Fire

Future Strawbs guitarist, Dave Lambert, was the leader of Fire. He briefly became a member of Mungo Jerry when the rest of the band temporarily removed Ray Dorset. Fire briefly reformed in 2006. “Man In The Teapot” has ridiculous lyrics, but is hugely enjoyable.

Someone dressed up as Robin Hood is coming all the way from Hollywood. But you ought to look for me – dance with the man in the teapot – that’s me.”

8 MR LIGHT – John Carter and Mickey Keen

Clinking milk bottles and giggling squirrels embellish yet another masterpiece from the prolific John Carter.

“That’s the way the day goes by. People feel the time and sigh “oh what went wrong with the cosmic song”

9 THE DUBIOUS CIRCUS COMPANY – Clifford T. Ward

Clifford T. Ward’s second album, “Home Thoughts”, reached the U.K. Top 40 and the first track, “Gaye”, was a Top ten hit when released as a single, with lyrics such as “You’re the tray of nice things I upset yesterday. The mainstay of my dreams that I let slip away.” However, “The Dubious Circus Company” was a song about a murderous circus troupe that roamed the countryside looking for victims.

“Would you like to see our show? Would you like to meet the lion tamer on the mat? If you come when it’s late at night, we’ll give you a performance you never will forget”.


10 ICE CREAM MAN (alternative version) – Kidrock

The children’s chorus that proved so popular on “Excerpt From A Teenage Opera” by Keith West in 1967 was milked to death on this creepy song by Tony Taylor.

“Ice cream man – he’s a funny man – waiting in the dark outside the park”


11 LOLLIPOP MINDS – Wimple Winch

A group from Manchester called Just Four Men changed their name to Wimple Winch before fading into oblivion which was a shame because this song has a sublime Summer feel to it.

Tulip is a girl and she’s always in a whirl, we call her Rainbow. Velvet is her dress and she never gets depressed. She never goes home.


12 PETER’S BIRTHDAY (BLACK AND WHITE RAINBOWS) – World Of Oz

Lead singer of World Of Oz, Chris Evans, changed his name to Christopher Robin. In this song, after eating too much birthday cake, Peter has a nightmare in which all his limbs were cut off by gingerbread men.

“They drank his health in orangeade and wished him all the best”


13 HA! HA! SAID THE CLOWN – Tony Hazzard

Tony Hazzard wrote many hits for The Hollies, The Tremeloes, Lulu and Herman’s Hermits as well as Manfred Mann. This is from an album called “Tony Hazzard Sings Tony Hazzard”.

In a whirl, see a girl with a smile in her eyes. Never thought I’d be brought right down by her lies.”


14 SAD SIMON LIVES AGAIN – Tim Andrews

Chris Andrews sung with the outstanding and sadly overlooked Fleur De Lys, where he was known as Tim Andrews, having changed his name to avoid confusion with the singer of “Yesterday Man”. “Sad Simon Lives Again” features a baroque orchestration and a hugely catchy chorus.

“Waiting for the phone all on his own. A long way from his home, all on his own. Sad Simon lives again.”


15 UNCLE JOE, THE ICE CREAM MAN – The Mindbenders

Eric Stewart, the lead singer of The Mindbenders was later to team up with the writer of “Uncle Joe, The Ice Cream Man”, Graham Goulden, in 10CC. The song was arranged by John Paul Jones. When Mick Jagger visited the studio during the recording of this song he understandably commented “Jesus Christ, Eric. What are you doing crap like this for?

Behind the counter selling ice-cream, there stands a man the kids all know. He’s got a smile that makes them love him and they call him Uncle Joe.


16 PHOEBE’S FLOWER SHOP – The Cortinas

The Cortinas’ only single, “Phoebe’s Flower Shop”, was written by Graham Dee and Brian Potter, who also wrote songs for Fleur De Lys. Graham Dee was twice asked by Van Morrison to join Them. The “toyshop” element of the music is typified by the child like lyrics – they could have been written by a child.

“Oh Phoebe I love you so. ‘Cos you’re lazy like a daisy.”


17 COPLINGTON – Persimmon’s Peculiar Shades

Four soldiers, based in West Germany, won an army musical talent competition, were signed by Major Minor and renamed Persimmon’s Peculiar Shades. Their only single is charming.

“They are the people of Coplington. Saturday night, they have a sing song”


18 COLOUR SERGEANT LILLYWHITE – West Coast Consortium

The West Coast Consortium’s follow up to “Colour Sergeant Lillywhite” was “All The Love In The World” and reached Number 22 in the U.K. Charts in 1969. This song is spoiled by heavy reverb.

“Colour Sergeant Lillywhite marching out to war. Little children wonder if they’ll see him any more”


19 OUR FAIRY TALE – The Herd

“Our Fairy Tale” was the “B” side to “I Don’t Want Our Loving To Die”, The Herd’s seventh single which reached Number 5 in the U.K. Charts in April 1968. Their follow up single, “Sunshine Cottage”, failed to make the Top 40 and Peter Frampton left the band to join Humble Pie. The determined effort by The Beatles to release excellent “B” sides didn’t have the long lasting effect that they may have hoped for.

“Can you imagine our love at all, but real, not pretend. It will work out like a fairy tale. You’ll love me in the end. I’ll feel good again; I’ll start to live again; I will smile again; I’ll never cry again; I’ll go to work again; You can go to church again.


20 TEENAGE LOVE SONG – Hetherington

By contrast, Hetherington’s “Teenage Love Song” is a masterpiece and, surprisingly, never became a hit despite being played on Radio Luxembourg throughout July and August 1973. John Hetherington retired from the music business in 1975.

“Mama’s gonna buy you a movie star. Daddy’s gonna take you out in the car. Sister’s gonna teach you to rock and roll. brothers – it’s just a teenage love song. “


21 EBANEEZER BEAVER (demo version) – The Mirage

The Mirage’s most notable release was their 1967 single, “The Wedding of Ramona Blair”. They were under contract as house band to Dick James Publishing and backed Elton John at some of his early concerts. Bassist Dee Murray later worked Elton John’s band. Dave Hynes and Murray replaced Pete York and Eddie Hardin in The Spencer Davis Group in October 1968. Dave Hynes and other members of the Mirage formed the Portobello Explosion, who changed their name to Jawbone. This demo version sounds like more work needed to be done to it to make it listenable.

“Ebaneezer Beaver, don’t you know how to run? Just sitting in the sun with a silly grin on your face.”


22 FAIRY TALE (demo version) – The Next Collection

In March 1967, Mud won a competition at The Silver Blades Ice Rink in Streatham but the appearance of the teenagers who comprised The Moving Finger, led to a record contract and a change of band name. A creepy song which hints at child abuse.

“Someone knocking at the door. Don’t let him in. My mother cooks nice things to eat and tells us tales to go to sleep. Go to sleep by sun, to the land of the fairy tale. Father comes home late from work as hard as nails. His stony footsteps on the stairs ends the fairy tales.”


23 BROTHER JACK – Barry Wigley

The Mustangs changed their name to The Majority when they relocated from Hull to London in 1965. They cut eight singles, including a cover of a Ray Davies song, “A Little Bit Of Sunlight” but none of the songs charted. They backed Barry Ryan, moved to France, changed their name to Majority One and group member Barry Wigley also recorded a single with his wife Jo-Ann on lead vocals.

“When he talks across the wall to his neighbour, when he smiles to his wife at the door. He’s a friend you can always ask a favour. If you want, you can always ask him for more.”


24 TRAFALGAR SQUARE – The Good Time Losers

“Trafalgar Square” was written by Barry Fantoni, who was a cartoonist for Private Eye and, in 1966, hosted a BBC programme called “A Whole Scene Going”. I’m not sure that the lyrics to this song represent his greatest achievement.

“She said she’d be there: Trafalgar Square. She said she’d meet me: Sunday at three. But the members of the CND had come to demonstrate, and they crowded out our rendezvous and made me half an hour late.”


25 SADIE AND HER MAGIC MR. GALAHAD – The New Generation

Iain and Gavin Sutherland would later form The Sutherland Brothers and teamed up with Quiver. This song features some inventive lead guitar and some badly recorded harmony vocals.

“Who’s a luck girl? Sadie. Who’s very happy? Sadie.”


26 MARJORY DAW – Morning Glory

Peter Green (not the founder of Fleetwood Mac) started his musical career with a band called The Beachcombers who became The Bruisers when they backed Tommy Bruce in 1963, reaching Number 31 in the U.K. Charts with “Blue Girl”. Peter Green released a single under the name Lee Stirling in 1963. Changing his name to Peter Lee Stirling, he released eight singles between 1964 and 1970, but none of them charted. However, he wrote “I Belong” which was the runner-up in the 1965 Eurovision Song Contest, sung by Kathy Kirby. In 1971, he changed his stage name to Daniel Boone, reaching Number 17 in the U.K. Charts with “Daddy Don’t You Walk So Fast”, co-written by Geoff Stephens, who had written many songs with John Carter. In 1972, Daniel Boone released “Beautiful Sunday” which reached Number 21 in the U.K. Charts and became a world wide hit (selling over 2 million copies in Japan). Between these two hits, he released a single as The Doggs and two singles as Morning Glory. This is a bland re-working of an old nursery rhyme in which rich kids mock poorer ones.

“See-saw Marjory Daw. Ride on round to the edge of the rainbow. Slip and slide into beautiful truths”


27 THE LAST PERFORMANCE OF THE ROYAL REGIMENTAL VERY VICTORIOUS AND VALIANT BAND – The Syn

When Jimi Hendrix played his first U.K. gig at The Marquee Club in 1967, the opening act were The Syn. Chris Squire and Peter Banks were both members of the band, before joining Yes. All that’s missing from this busy song is the kitchen synk.

As Johnny puts his trumpet to his lips while he can’t play, the pain this day he’s feeling inside, it clearly shows and it’s bad, don’t you think it’s sad? The last of the royal regimental, very regimental, very victorious and valiant band”


28 RAINBOW ROCKING CHAIR – Majority One

Despite Barry Wigley’s recordings with his wife on vocals (see Disc 1 Track 23), the rest of Majority One resisted their management’s attempt to add her to the band. Instead, they recorded an album featuring Barry Wigley’s falsetto vocal which became a hit in The Netherlands. Languid. Listless. Impassive. Lackadaisical. Sleepy. Sluggish. Lovely.

“When my plane is upside down it looks as if I’m in a rainbow rocking chair”


29 EXCERPT FROM “A TEENAGE OPERA” – Keith West

A classic song that has been described as “Phil Spector scoring Camberwick Green”. Keith West was the lead singer in Tomorrow, one of the first British psychedelic bands along with Pink Floyd and Soft Machine. The children that sung on the track were from The Corona Theatre School in West London and the song was produced by Mark Wirtz, who was working as a producer with Geoff Emerick at Abbey Road Studios. Steve Howe, later of Yes, plays lead guitar. The song reached Number Two in the U.K. Charts (behind “The Last Waltz” by Englebert Humperdinck (who wasn’t content with blocking “Penny Lane”/”Strawberry Fields Forever” from reaching Number One with “Release Me”)). Mark Wirtz wanted to develop the song into an opera which would be “a kaleidoscope of stories, a bouquet of allegorical, tragiccomic tales about a variety of characters and their fate, all related to each other by the common thread of living in the same imaginary turn-of the-century village. Each character distinguished him/herself by rebelliously pursuing a dream or lifestyle against all odds and in defiance of conformity, their ageless celebration of youth and individuality embodying the very spirit of Rock’n’Roll.” However, a follow-up single, “Sam” was not successful and Mark Wirtz and Keith West lost interest in the project and ended their partnership. Keith West would go on to form a band called Moonrider with John Weider of The Animals and Family and Bruce Thomas who would be a member of Elvis Costello’s backing band, The Attractions. He also recorded a solo album with Glenn Ross Campbell, of The Misunderstood, on steel guitar.

Counts the days into years. Yes, eighty-two brings many fears. Yesterday’s laughter turned to tears. His arms and legs don’t feel so strong. His heart is weak, there’s something wrong. Opens windows in despair. Tries to breathe in some fresh air. His conscience cries, “Get on your feet. Without you, Jack, the town can’t eat”.

The people that live in the town don’t understand. He’s never been known to miss his round. “It’s ten-o’clock!” the housewives yell. “When Jack turns up, we’ll give him hell”. Husbands moan at breakfast tables. No milk, no eggs, no marmalade labels. Mothers send their children out to Jack’s house to scream and shout.”

“It’s Sunday morning, bright and clear. Lovely flowers decorate a marvelous square. People cry and walk away and think about the fateful day. Now they wish they’d given Jack more affection and respect. The little children dressed in black don’t know what happened to old Jack.”


DISC TWO


1 LAVENDER POPCORN – Scrugg

When John Kongos visited London for the second time in 1967, he put together a band whose name was inspired by Earl Scruggs. “Lavender Popcorn” was written by Scott English, having already written “Hi Ho Silver Lining” and “Bend Me Shape Me”. He had also written a song called “Popcorn, Double Feature” for The Searchers, presumably a dry run for this gorgeous, harmony-rich song.

“Lavender popcorn – waiting for you. Lavender popcorn and Mr. Magoo”


2 KNOCKING NAILS INTO MY HOUSE – Ambrose Slade

The “B” side to “The Skeleton And The Roundabout” by The Idle Race (see Disc 1 Track 1), this Jeff Lynne-composed track about impending homelessness is given an aggressive and impressive treatment by a band that would soon drop the “Ambrose” from their name.

This house is mine, but the men, they say it’s not. You see, this house is the only place I’ve got. Running ’round, they work so hard and fast but they don’t know my house is built to last. They’re knocking nails into boards upon my walls. They run and hide as the old grey ceiling falls. Gleefully, they gather in my shed. They’ve gone for now, so I can ease my head. They work so hard, all that’s left is my front room. There goes a wall, oh, I think I spoke too soon.”


3 MR JOB – Jigsaw

Jigsaw’s hard work and resilience finally paid fruit in 1975, when they had a Top ten hit in the U.K. with “Sky High”. “Mr. Job” was written by Jess Roden and Tony Catchpole of The Alan Bown! Two minutes of Kinks-inspired fun about a man who, presumably took no satisfaction from knocking down Jeff Lynne’s house.

“Mr. Job. Forty years at home. Your life is not your own, it’s your mother’s.”


4 UNCLE ARTHUR – David Bowie

The narrative continues with the opening track from David Bowie’s debut album. Having knocked down Jeff Lynne’s house but being frustrated with life at home, Uncle Arthur decides to leave home, if only temporarily. Worshipping Anthony Newley was never going to make David Bowie successful.

Round and round the rumours fly, how he ran away from Mum. On his 32nd birthday, told her that he’d found a chum. Mother cried and raved and yelled and fussed. Arthur left her no illusion, brought the girl round, save confusion. Sally was the real thing, not just lust. Round and round goes Arthur’s head, hasn’t eaten well for days. Little Sally may be lovely, but cooking leaves her in a maze. Uncle Arthur packed his bags and fled back to mother, all’s forgiven, serving in the family shop. He gets his pocket money, he’s well-fed.”


5 THE BITTER THOUGHTS OF LITTLE JANE – Timon

Stephen Murray changed his name to Tymonn Dogg and, for this remarkable song, he was known simply as Timon and he was backed on this song by Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones. The darkness of the lyrics to “The Bitter Thoughts Of Little Jane”, which describe a child suffering so much that she just wants to die, are in complete contrast to the psychedelic, joyful sound of the music. Released as a single, it sold 127 copies. Tymonn Dogg later shared a squat with Joe Strummer, wrote two songs for The Clash and became a member of The Mescaleros as well as releasing seven solo albums.

“The bitter thoughts of Little Jane are locked away and will remain unspoken. Been let down and kicked around. Been sent away without her token, but she’ll find her place, she’ll find a head to pound on. Never cries or even tries, so no-one really knows she wants to die. She’s been too long on her own. She’s growing old. She’s growing cold.”


6 CELLOPHANE MARY JANE – Astronaut Alan and The Planets

After his Teenage Opera concept collapsed, Mark Wirtz released songs under the names Astronaut Alan And The Planets, Fickle Finger, The Guards and The Matchmakers. “Cellophane Mary Jane” is perfect bubblegum music which means that it’s extraordinarily catchy or downright infuriating, depending on my mood.

Cellophane Mary Jane sitting at her window pane. Not a single hair is out of place when I go by.”


7 MR KIPLING – Tuesday’s Children

Tuesday Children’s lead singer and guitarist said he wrote “Mr Kipling” “as an advert for Kipling cakes. I wrote to them telling them that I had written this number, but they replied and told me that they didn’t want a tune for their ad, just a voice.” An exceedingly ordinary song.

“Mr Kipling: driving, eating, Sunday school meeting, meeting, greeting, faces, places, selling, buying, happy, crying, happy, sad, joyful, sad.”


8 IT’S THE BEST SEASIDE IN THE WORLD – Frabjoy and Runcible Spoon

Future members of 10cc, Kevin Godley, Lol Creme and Graham Gouldman, wrote and produced this catchy song that remained unreleased for 53 years.

“The lark in the sky. How do you feel this morning. I feel high”

9 AND NOW FOR A LITTLE TRAIN NUMBER – Kenny Everett

Having just secured the Saturday morning show on the newly created Radio One, Kenny Everett recorded two songs that had been written by a young Granada producer called John Birt, who would later become the Director-General of the BBC. This is quirky and highly enjoyable. A bit like Kenny Everett.

I sit on Sunday afternoon at Birmingham Station watching British Rail pass famously through the heart of Britain.”


10 GLORIOUS HOUSE OF ARTHUR – Fairfield Parlour

After Kaleidoscope recorded a set for Radio One DJ David Symonds, he convinced the band to change their name to Fairfield Parlour. Perfect pop.

Guinevere danced a tiny circle. Nobody was there that she knew. Lancelot had long since disappeared through a maze of laughter he flew.”


11 LAUGHING BOY FROM NOWHERE – Simon Dupree and The Big Sound

Despite recording this song with Reg Dwight on piano, Simon Dupree and The Big Sound were unable to secure a contract for an album release after all attempts at following their big hit, “Kites”, failed to materialise. Brothers Derek, Ray and Phil Shulman went on to form Gentle Giant, but this song is very tuneful.

“No one knew his name or from where he came. he’s the laughing boy from nowhere”


12 AUNTIE MARY’S DRESS SHOP – Tomorrow

Tomorrow transformed from brave experimental songs, such as “My White Bicycle” after lead singer Keith West scored a big hit with Mark Wirtz’s “Teenage Opera”. “Auntie Mary’s Dress Shop” was a “spoof based on ‘Granny Takes A Trip’ going a bit commercial’“. Twee, but there’s nothing wrong with twee.

Yes the business is terrific all year round. High class customers come all the way to town to Auntie Mary’s Dress Shop, 44a King Street. Actresses, Duchesses, Countesses, Czar buy sixty guinea dresses for the royal ball.


13 THE EQUESTRIAN STATUE – The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band

The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band’s first album, “Gorilla”, from which “The Equestrian Statue” is taken, was produced by Eleanor Bron’s brother, Gerry Bron, who had produced “Ha Ha Said The Clown” by Manfred Mann (see Disc 1 Track 13). This is, of course, magnificent.

Once a month on a Friday there’s a man with a mop and bucket in his hand. To him it’s just another working day, so he whistles as he rubs and scrubs away.”


14 JAMES IN THE BASEMENT – Denis Couldry

A bright singalong song with a catchy hook and arresting melody about a junkie attempting to score from James, a local drug dealer.

“I’ve got the bread to lose my head. Is that you? I’ve got some time to lose my mind. Is that you?”


15 TALES OF FLOSSIE FILLETT – Turquoise

Ewan Stephens, Vic Jansen and Jeff Peters were friends and neighbours of Ray and Dave Davies in Muswell Hill. Dave Davies produced some demos for their group, The Brood and through his connections, they were subsequently managed by John Mason, “the car dealer to the stars”, who had his clients Keith Moon and John Entwistle produce another session for them in 1967. John Mason then introduced The Brood to Tom Keylock, The Rolling Stones’ tour manager, who, along with Kirk Duncan of the Spencer Davis agency, secured them a recording contract with Decca and a publishing deal with Apple at which point, they changed their name to Turquoise. The Rolling Stones allowed them to use their rehearsal space in Docklands and the group hung out with The Who and The Kinks. They were young musicians in London in the late Sixties. Life couldn’t get any better. Unfortunately, neither of their great singles became hits and they split up in 1969.

“Flossie Fillett, it’s time for her to go. Say goodbye to Moon the Loon”


16 MY BEST FRIEND – The Picadilly Line

Every time I hear a song by The Picadilly Line, I wonder why I don’t play them all the time. (see Disc 1 Track 6). “My Best Friend” was the “B” side of their last single before they split up.

Yes my friend will help you if you’d like to find the way


17 HAPPINESS IS TOY-SHAPED – Harmony Grass

Before assisting Cliff Richard with his world tours in the 70’s, as well as arranging and singing the harmonies of such hits as “Devil Woman”, Tony Rivers had minor success with The Castaways and Harmony Grass. It’s Tony Rivers’ voice singing the theme tune to “Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads” and he sings the version of “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles” which is played before every home match at West Ham United. “Happiness Is Toy-Shaped” features wondrous Beach Boys-esque harmonies.

“This is the place where all the toys go when they die.”


18 BIRMINGHAM BRASS BAND – The Bullring

Herbie’s People released this infectious novelty single under the pseudonym The Bullring, employing a comedy midlands accent.

Once you’ve heard the sound, you’ll understand. Listen to the Birmingham Brass Band.”


19 WATCHMAKER – Persimmon’s Peculiar Shades

Persimmon’s Peculiar Shades was a pseudonym used by the German-based group Shades Of Blue, all of whose members were members of the British Army.

“He sits with his specs on his nose working on a bench that’s made of oak. Look at him working alone in his little shop where 1000 cuckoos sing on every hour”


20 ROOM AT THE TOP OF THE STAIRS – Timothy Blue

Timothy Blue was a pseudonym used by Tom Briggs. “Room At The Top Of The Stairs” was written by Eric Woolfson, who co-created The Alan Parsons Project and reworked the song on the band’s first album “Tales of Mystery and Imagination” in 1976, calling it “The Cask of Amontillado”.

“High living place with snow on the ground. Looks like a Christmas card all the year round. Up in my room, not a sight or a sound and if you ever want me, you know that’s where I will be found.”


21 AFTER TEA – Spencer Davis Group

“After Tea” was the first single by The Spencer Davis Group not to reach the U.K. Top Fifty. Maybe the idea of eating a goldfish was a bit of a drawback, but it’s a classic song by one of Britain’s best pop/rock bands.

You may ride a horse, made of wood of course. The Wooden Horse of Troy in comparison a toy. The rabbit and the goldfish, a very tasty cold dish eaten up today, eaten right away.”


22 DREAM DREAM DREAM – Kidrock

The B side to “Ice Cream Man”, (Disc 1 Track 10), was “Dream Dream Dream”.

“He drifts off to sleep. He’s counting the sheep one by one. His face is a mess – teddy feels his caress. Mummy says he’s always wrong. She never keeps her patience long.”


23 LEMON PIE FAIR – Complex

Complex produced two albums in the early 70’s that were for promotional purposes only but this failed to land them a record deal. Decades later, record collectors decided that these were collectible items and this is a brilliant example of toytown pop.

Everything happens when my mind is walking. I go to Lemon Pie Fair. Where the beaches are talking I can play there in my sleep instead of counting sheep. Lemon Pie Fair, yes I wish I was there. Trundling along on a pineapple bike, introducing His Worship, the Pear.”


24 UNCLE HENRY’S MAGIC GARDEN – David Matthews

“Uncle Henry’s Magic Garden” was written by David Matthews and inspired by the Cannock Chase child murders that took place between 1965 and 1967. The vocals are by Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway.

“Uncle Henry’s magic garden – you’ll be safer if you stay away and play elsewhere”


25 BRIC-A-BRAC MAN – Bill Niles

Tony Hazzard sings lead vocals on a song written by Bill Hiles who had allegedly turned Brian Jones away from his Cheltenham band in the early Sixties. Listening to the lyrics of this song makes me wonder if it wasn’t the other way round.

“Bric-a-brac man will do what he can to tell you nothing to lose. See his shop. Gotta stop and look around at the wonders of the world he has found. Curios and antiques.”


26 WHAT’S GOOD FOR THE GOOSE (full version) – Chas Mills and Mark Wirtz

Mark Wirtz wrote this song in an attempt for the song to be used in the Norman Wisdom film of the same name.

“He was in the garden eating fruit. He took the apple from the tree. I can see him in his birthday suit.”


27 EVERYBODY LOVES THE CLOWN – Nirvana

This song is taken from the British band’s second album, whose full title is “The Existence of Chance Is Everything and Nothing While the Greatest Achievement Is the Living of Life, And So Say All Of Us”. This is truly terrible.

He’s not the greatest man the world has known, but everybody likes the clown. He leaves behind him a thousand laughs. Everybody loves the clown.”


28 SHARKEY – Christopher

This is even worse. The main protagonist is an obnoxious snotty-nosed schoolboy.

“Sharkey kicked a ball straight through Steven Murdoch’s window. And that wasn’t all ‘cos it hit his sister Linda”.


29 POOR JOHNNY – The Secrets

Clifford T. Ward was the lead singer of The Secrets. Luckily, this song never got beyond the demo stage.

“Johnny is six years old with a snotty nose”


30 FAIRGROUND – Pure Gold

This is not a great run of songs.

“Into the fairground I lose my mind. Into the fairground I’m feeling fine. Everyone says incredible Joe. Into the fairground I will go.”


31 TOY SOLDIER – The Riot Squad

David Bowie was given a copy of “The Velvet Underground And Nico” after his manager returned from New York in 1966. He stole chunks of “Venus In Furs” to turn a sadomasochistic frenzy into a psychedelic bagatelle. Inventive. Interesting. Unpleasant. Disc Two finally ends. Thank goodness.

Little Sadie loved her little toy soldier and she run home from school each day. Little Sadie loved her little toy soldier and she’d lock the door so she could play. Little Sadie got ambitious and wound the clockwork soldier tighter so he could whip her harder and harder.”


DISC THREE


1 (HE’S OUR DEAR OLD) WEATHERMAN – Mark Wirtz

The third installment of the Teenage Opera, (after “Excerpt” and “Sam”) understandably failed to chart. See Disc 1 Track 29, Disc 2 Track 6, Disc 2 Track 12, Disc 2 Track 26 and Disc 3 Track 27.

“He is very old. Got a heart of gold. He’s our dear old weatherman.”


2 ZEBEDY ZAK – Cardboard Orchestra

Andrew Lloyd Webber composed the string arrangement for this song for Carboard Orchestra, who included future Kursaal Flyers pedal steel guitarist, Vic Collins. This song lies halfway between “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Chocs Away!”

He starts the day with no breakfast in bed. He looks around and then he stands on his head. Oh, Zak, Zebedy Zak, Zebedy Zak, Zebedy Zak.


3 FLORENCE – Tapestry

Organist Graham Stansfield went on to join Rare Bird. Vocalist Mike Hutson became managing director of RSO’s international operations. This song lies below “Sympathy” and “Saturday Night Fever”. See Disc 1 Track 3.

“Florence beneath the sun. Tell me what you’ve done”


4 MR MOODY’S GARDEN – Gilbert O’Sullivan

Gilbert O’Sullivan has been described as a cross between Paul McCartney and George Formby, and he encapsulates the best of both worlds.

Now lying on the garden fence is a man (at great expense). History tells us will outgrow his youth, but only until such a time he finds out why he’s been lying and then of course he’ll tell the truth.”


5 MUTINY – The Alan Bown!

“Mutiny” is taken from “Outward Bown”, the band’s excellent first album. It contained a cover of “All Along The Watchtower”, which inspired Jimi Hendrix’s version. See also Disc 1 Track 5 and Disc 2 Track 3

“The Captain’s carrying a pistol in his hand. Pulling him up ‘I’d like you, Sir, to stand. We’ve decided you, Sir, should walk the plank. By which, I will take your rank. ‘”


6 UPTIGHT BASIL – Magic Valley

Pete Dello, the lead singer of The Honeybus, recorded this song under the pseudonym Magic Valley. This is classic toytown music.

“Uptight Basil. You really razzle dazzle in the morning time when the washing’s on the line.”


7 BANG BANG – Kidrock

Kidrock’s plan to release a concept album, called “Bang Bang”. This gentle title track references “Ice Cream Man”. See also Disc 1 Track 10, Disc 2 Track 22 and Disc 3 Track 17.

“Sarah’s singing songs about an ice cream man. Everybody looks and they see a shiny ice cream van”.


8 TOYMAKER – Wild Silk

The song was written by Allan Davies who said that it was inspired by “the constant winding of a clockwork toy, with which my young daughter was playing, together with the thoughts of the film ‘Pinocchio’.” This song, in my opinion, appeals more to the head than the heart.

“Toymaker, toymaker. Why do you sing? Does it make you feel you happy when you wind up the spring?”


9 LANTERNLIGHT – Peter and The Wolves

Sounds Around were renamed Peter And The Wolves for this song which features a lead vocal sounding like an out of tune Davy Jones.

“I had to leave you in the dark to make the picture right. I mean, you ‘d never see a lantern in the light.”


10 LOVE AND THE BIG BRASS BAND – Dave Christie

Terrible.

“Bam bam bam bam went the band while I was hoping and praying.”


11 PICCOLO MAN – Friends

John Carter co-wrote and recorded “Piccolo Man” under the alias Friends. Understandably, he didn’t want to be associated with the song.

“Hey ho nonny no. Can you hear the piccolo? Hey ho nonny nay. Can you hear him play?”


12 UWE AUS DUISBERG – The Hi-Fis

The Hi-Fis were, for a time, resident at The Star Club in Hamburg. This song is a paean to the club’s caretaker, Uwe and is two minutes of pure fun.

“Uwe puts the crates of beer down in the cellar. Uwe washes glasses behind the bar. Uwe puts the jackets and coats in the cloakroom. Without our Uwe, we wouldn’t work any more.”


13 EINER KLEINER MISER MUSIK – Tony Rivers and The Castaways

Three members of The Castaways went on to join Grapefruit. This song is equal to anything made by the band whose name was inspired by Yoko Ono. See also Disc 2 Track 17.

Tantalizing thoughts of treasure locked away for none to see.


14 THE HAPPY KING – Music Box

Rob Armstrong made guitars for George Harrison and was a member of Music Box. Only 300 copies of their album “Songs Of Sunshine” were ever pressed which is surprising, considering this is lovely.

“And then one day disaster struck. It was on the sunny day. A storm rose from Satters Land and it blew the town away.”


15 MRS DAISY – Tintern Abbey

Tintern Abbey’s only single, “Beeside” has sold to collectors for more than £1000. “Mrs Daisy” was never released until this compilation, which is a shame as it is a messy masterpiece.

“She sits beside her window, darning her frocks and looks at her light through a hole in his socks.”


16 MRS MURPHY’S BUDGERIGAR – Blossom Toes

Blossom Toes were managed by Giorgio Gomelsky, owner of The Crawdaddy Club, and manager of The Yardbirds. Jim Cregan was in Blossom Toes; he later married Linda Lewis and co-wrote many of Rod Stewart’s hits. This is from Blossom Toes’ first album, “We Are Ever So Clean”, which has been described as “One of the happiest, most underappreciated relics of British psychedelia.”

Mrs. Murphy’s budgerigar is lost today. Nobody’s really certain why it ran away. It wan’t that she didn’t feed it, cause she was very kind. So if you see it, would you mind just phoning?”


17 ANNIE’S PLACE – Gene Latter

“Annie’s Place” was written by two members of Kidrock but never recorded after the band broke up. Welsh born singer Gene Latter’s real name was Arthur Ford. This is an excellent example of toyrock music at its very best. See also Disc 1 Track 10, Disc 2 Track 22 and Disc 3 Track 7.

“Dear old lady, will you take us in. We have no money and never have we sinned.”


18 GLASSHOUSE GREEN, SPLINTER RED – John Pantry

Time for another tune from John Pantry, who was the lead singer of Sounds Alive and Peter & The Wolves. Micky Dolenz had the better voice anyway. However, this is a remarkable song about a newly-retired widower who bought a greenhouse in order to take his own life. See also Disc 3 Track 9.

“Old woman gone. Living alone. Made up his mind it was time to go. Once he dreamed and now he’s dead. Glasshouse green, splinter red.”


19 HENRY EVERYDAY – Timothy Blue

54 years after it was recorded, here’s 144 seconds of a delightfully sounding throwaway song about a man who appears contented with his lot but really yearns for a more materialistic life. Annoyingly infectious, Tom Briggs’ voice reminds me of Pete Atkin. See also Disc 2 Track 20.

“Well I don’t ask for much, just a soft tender touch and two mistresses at my door. One who can talk and one who can love. I don’t really want any more. yes I’m really quite contented to go on living this way. Yes it’s all right by me. It’s my cup of tea to be Henry every day. Well I don’t want a car or an indoor bar or a coat made from leopard skin pearls. Just a pony and trap, a bit of tickle and slap and a pad in the stockbroker belt. I’m not greedy as such but it wouldn’t take much to have a tennis court on my back lawn. An electrical loo and an underground zoo and my own sunset and dawn.”


20 DEAR OLD MRS BELL – The Shadows

The Shadows’ 32nd single failed to chart. By contrast to the John Pantry song (Disc 3 Track 18), this is a true story about a widow, who was living a lonely life.

“She will tell you of the days when she was young. It was then upon the stage she danced and sung. Until to all her precious memories she hung. It’s her memories she likes to be among”


21 MR NICE GUY – Dragonmilk

Another single that sunk without trace despite a banjo sound which was reminiscent of “In The Summertime”.

“You must fight for your survival, Mr Nice Guy”


22 MISTER WHITE’S WHITE FLYING MACHINE (album version) – Ayshea

“Lift Off With Ayshea” was a music programme on ITV, that ran from November 1969 and December 1974. 119 of the 122 episodes were accidentally erased when they were sent to be digitised. At various times Ayshea Hague was the girlfriend of Steve Winwood, Chas Chandler, Roy Wood and Rod Stewart, before marrying Chris Brough who was Cat Stevens’ record producer although their marriage only lasted a year. Ayshea was a regular on quiz shows such as “The Golden Shot” and “Celebrity Squares”. As an actress, she appeared on “Jason King” and had a recurring role on “UFO”. In 1975, she represented Great Britain at the World Popular Song Festival in Tokyo with a song written for her by Elton John, entitled “The Flowers Will Never Die”. She moved to Los Angeles in the early 1980’s and appeared in a couple of movies (“Gotcha” and “Demolition Man”). She recorded two albums and “Mister White’s White Flying Machine” was her third single.

Mister White lives in a dream of cascading sunlight and clouds and Mister White is always high up in the sky that’s where he can be seen where all he does is fly up above, he’s got a genuine love for his flying machine.”


23 MAGIC SHOES (demo) – Fire

Fire recorded a fairytale song-cycle called “The Magic Shoemaker” and this is a dynamic demo version of a song that, like the rest of the album, was badly recorded. One of the highlights of the set.

“He turns and looks upon the shoes that he’s making. Doesn’t really care how long they’re taking. He can see through all his tears they’re the best he’s made in years just like the cottage loaf his wife is baking. And he hears a funny sound like a voice from out of the ground. It’s the shoes are making conversation. ‘Put me on we’ll see the nation.'”


24 KING OF THE CASTLE – Jason Crest

Jason Crest were a band, who used to be called The Good Thing Brigade and later transformed into High Broom. “King Of The Castle” sounds very much like The Small Faces.

“I was the king of the castle. You were the dirty rascal.”


25 THROUGH MY TELESCOPE – Marty Wilde

Having faded from the spotlight when The Beatles took over the world, Marty Wilde returned to the charts through his songwriting partnership with Ronnie Scott. (“Ice In The Sun” by Status Quo, “Jesamine” by The Casuals and “I’m A Tiger” by Lulu). This is a badly recorded demo version of a song that, unsurprisingly, was never released.

“Through my telescope today” (so badly recorded that I can’t make any other words out)


26 TIME TO GO HOME – The Tots

Co-written by John Carter and his wife, Gillian Shakespeare, this is a re-working of the closing song for “Andy Pandy”

“Time to go home. Time to go dreaming. Mmm mmm mmm mmm”


27 THE SAD STORY OF SIMON AND HIS BUGLE (correct version) – Mark Wirtz

The fourth (and last) part of the Teenage Opera that Mark Wirtz composed. Drums by Clem Catinni of The Tornados, who played on 42 Number One singles including “Telstar”, “Tears”, “Two Little Boys”, “Grandad”, “Ernie (The Fastest Milkman in the West), “Whispering Grass” , “Welcome Home”, “Barbados”, “No Charge”, “Save Your Love”, and “(Is This The Way To) Amarillo” and “Hurdy Gurdy Man”. See also Disc 1 Track 29, Disc 2 Track 6, Disc 2 Track 12, Disc 2 Track 26 and Disc 3 Track 1.

(instrumental)

Most of Disc 3 is very strong and, apart from the second half of Disc 2, this whole set is an unbridled joy. Childhood memories set to psychedelic beauty and, with very few exceptions, every song is reduced to under 3 minutes of pop perfection. What could be a better way to spend four hours?

Published by wilfulsprinter

Music lover

One thought on “Climb Aboard My Roundabout. The British Toytown Pop Sound 1967-1974

  1. Another epic post with a very thoughtful and perceptive introduction. Excellent stuff. The titles of these songs, alone, encapsulate an era of hope and creativity: the polar opposite of what we seem to be living through now.

    Like

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