Over the past week, there have been about three or four days of torrential rain. This morning was no exception and the forecast for tomorrow is even worse. A deluge is forecast.
As it happens, “Before The Deluge” is one of Roo’s favourite songs of all time. It’s the last song on “Late For The Sky“, the sixth best album of all time. It’s about the passing of the hippy generation from the 60s to the 70s and describes the ebbing away of the idealism of the 60s and the despairing understanding that the world would never change for the better. The pillars of capitalism could not be overthrown in order to make way for a more egalitarian, peaceful and better way of life. The reason that Roo loves this song so much is not so much for the lyrics as the fiddle playing of David Lindley, whose first band was Kaleidoscope. They formed on the West Coast of the U.S.A. in 1966 and released their first album, “Side Trips”, in June 1967. Their music is a mixture of psychedelic folk and jug band music with Arabic influences provided by Solomon Feldthouse, the father of actress Fairuza Balk, famous for her performances in many films (including “Gas Food Lodging”, which would inspire the title of Green On Red’s second album).
At the same time as Kaleidoscope formed in Los Angeles, another band were forming 5500 miles to the East. They were also called Kaleidoscope and produced psychedelic rock music and acid folk music. They released their first album, “Tangerine Dream” in November 1967. The two groups were musically similar but, lyrically, they were entirely different. The American band’s words were a reflection of the anti-war sentiments brought into the consciousness of many young people by the Vietnam war. David Wells’ brilliant notes that accompany the re-release of the British Kaleidoscope’s first album state that they “wrote and performed wistful, mildly pretentious, perfectly-sculpted pop songs about the lost domain of childhood, populated by characters that wouldn’t have sounded out of place in the fairytales that the group members had grown up with.”
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 many of the great songs that have lasted since the late Sixties were written by (mainly high) musicians seeking to recapture the pure experiences of their youth. (Remember “I climbed on the back of a giant albatross which flew through a crack in the cloud to a place where happiness reigned all year round and music played ever so loudly” from Traffic’s “Hole In My Shoe”).
These sentiments are displayed most clearly on the eight-minute closing song on “Tangerine Dream” which is called “The Sky Children”. Over seven verses, each consisting of ten lines, Kaleidoscope sing of a journey made by some children to a magical land in the sky in which they encounter turtles, ice cream cake, tiny silver bells, a beautiful white horse, a porcupine captain, diamonds, Neptune and magic pink seashells. In the last few lines, although their journey has ended, the children flew “through the white clouds of no time ’til forever it seems. And the children stayed children and they lived in their dreams.” The end of the Sixties is three years away and we can still all believe that “Life is a cosmic play, a continuous beautiful game, a beautiful hide-and-seek–not leading anywhere” as Osho, the leader of the sect that would, in later years, poison a community in order to take control, put it so succinctly.
Most of the rest of the other ten songs on the album are under three minutes long. The band’s first single, “Flight From Ashiya”, is a perfect pop song that unaccountably failed to chart. A plane is about to crash, and the singer finds that “visions of childhood rush past my eyes”. The song ends with the line “Nobody knows where we are” repeated seven times which could very well sum up the whole of the Sixties.
Lead singer and songwriter Peter Daltrey recalled the conception of “Flight from Ashiya” “It was actually a novel from the late fifties or early sixties, it was also filmed. I think we had the book at home at my parents’ house. I think I must have seen the title on the spine of the book and for some reason it appealed to me and I created this little story about a plane crash.”
The “B” side to “Flight From Ashiya”, is Holiday Maker”, which is another brilliantly crafted two-and-a-half-minute song in which a perfect beach scene is described with just a hint of danger: a swimmer is drowning, and a middle-aged man has a keen eye for the girls. Nevertheless, the “Penny Lane”-inspired trumpets, the catchy chorus and the sound effects combine to produce an impeccable encapsulation of 1967 music at its most memorable.
David Wells correctly describes “Tangerine Dream” as “a high-water mark of British psychedelic pop, crammed to bursting point with ambitious, melodic story songs, hook-laden choruses and inspired arrangements“. Kaleidoscope recorded a second album, called “Faintly Blowing”, but after neither album sold in any quantity, the band changed their name to Fairfield Parlour in 1970. This was a name suggested by their new manager, DJ David Symonds. Sadly, their new persona was as commercially unsuccessful as their old one and, after one more album failed to capture the imagination of the record buying public, they broke up at the end of 1970.
Here’s a great interview with Peter Daltrey.