The 60s was a curious time for music that wandered into uncharted territories, much in the same way that the rave/techno/electro DJ world today is curious time for extended mixes. Both share similar goals: get people dancing, punctuate the mood with a variety of sounds and effects, leverage the likelihood that said people dancing are under the influence of at least some alcohol and perhaps other chemically derived substances. And generally make sure everyone has a good time.
Also like todays electronic music, there is often so much being churned out by producers in search of a hit of the moment status, that ultimately the music begins to feel like audio wallpaper, bearing a same-i-ness that bears the imprint of the time it was recorded in.
So here I take a look at a couple of late 1960s albums that fell between the cracks of bigger — and probably better marketed — hits from the period, lost amidst the rapidly changing music scene of the time. These are records that might have had a fighting chance if they’d been put out a year or two earlier when the scene was growing and the Acid Tests were still happening en masse. Instead the records became underground favorites among collectors of obscure garage psychedelia.
These albums, which you probably have never heard or even heard about (I hadn’t!) have been reissued in recent years from the good folks at Sundazed — on nice high quality thick black vinyl!
I will be honest with you: I probably wouldn’t have taken a chance on buying them had they not been on clearance sale (for $6!). Yup. I suspect these pups undersold, much in the way that they undersold back in the day when they were first released. That is too bad because there is some interesting and good music here… well at least on one of the albums.
Lets start with that album named Creation by a band from New York called The Druids of Stonehenge. Released on the UNI label in 1968, I urge you to put aside your Spinal Tap mental images for a moment and revel in the notion of rough ‘n tumble garage-flavored group whose sound falls somewhere between early Animals and Stones and some of the more hard rocking West Coast psychedelic bands like Big Brother and Quicksilver.
There are a few choice and well done covers of tunes by Bob Dylan (Its All Over Now Baby Blue) and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins (I Put A Spell On You) and Love (Signed D.C.). But its their originals that have made me a fan of The Druids. “Bring It On Home” sounds like a sort of snottier Rolling Stones with kickin’ lead guitar solo very reminiscent of the guitar sound Frank Zappa had in the mid 60s. And the song “Speed” sounds sort of like a 45 RPM single by The Ramones (made on a handful of Quaaludes) played at 33 1/3 RPM. Its a pretty cool tune with its catchy refrain “Hey hey hey! I’m talking about speed!” Ok, so Zappa probably wouldn’t have liked this song but its a very interesting period piece.
This album is a keeper that I will be happy to play for friends and at parties. Its that groovy, kidz. In fact, I like it so much I’m ordering the 10-inch colored vinyl EP that Sundazed is selling (with other tracks not on the album) for $13. Hopefully the band is getting some royalty money for this reissue!
]]>Now, this other album I bought from the Sundazed website clearance sale I might also play for friends (as background music at a party) but I will keep this one for different reasons; it is a piece of pop history.
First off, consider the name of the band: Haphash And The Coloured Coat Featuring The Human Host and The Heavy Metal Kids.
This beats out Lothar & The Hand People for most awkward group name.
Also worth noting is the noting that this 1967 album may mark the first appearance of the term Heavy Metal in a band name; it pre-dates Steppenwolf’s “heavy metal thunder” line from “Born to Be Wild” by a year or thereabouts. It is at least a very early reference. Todd Rundgren had a song called called Heavy Metal Kids on his 1974 album, Todd.
According to the Wiki: William S. Boroughs’ 1962 novel The Soft Machine includes a character known as “Uranian Willy, the Heavy Metal Kid.” I guess I need to read this book.
Anyhow, according to the sticker on the cover, this album from 1967 “is one of the most sought-after of all ’60s cult LPs.” This Haphash album has a way cool cover and boasts just five tracks spread over the two sides of the nicely pressed vinyl, with period-accurate Imperial Records (Liberty Records subsidiary) labels. Recorded in London by renown and influential poster artists Michael English and Nigel Weymouth along with producer Guy Stevens, this record is pretty much the epitome of that sort of rambling, trippy dance-oriented music I was talking about at the start of this review. The kind of stuff that might have been played during the 60s equivalent of a rave. It goes on.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing if it is done well.
For a quick reference, if any of you have heard the jamming parts of the long tracks on disc two of Frank Zappa’s 1965 opus Freak Out (check out “Return of the Son Of Monster Magnet” for starters) then you can use that sound as a model for much of this album. Only, you don’t get the focus the Zappa record has. Instead you hear a band jamming — sometimes well, sometimes not so much — on a riff for long periods of time while others in the studio chant along. On one tune, a woman makes faux orgasmic sounds (again, mimicking the flavor of Zappa’s earlier and much better album). Still, its kinda cool and with titles like “A Mind Blown Is a Mind Shown” and “Empires of the Sun” how can you not want this in your collection? “The New Messiah is Coming 1985” was certainly a misguided prediction. And the opening track “H.O.P.P. Why?” does leave the listener pondering that question, or perhaps in current Interwebs parlance it might be H.O.P.P. WTF?
Still the cover is groovy and its just cool enough to warrant my adding it to the collection.
As of this writing you can still get both of these gems for $5.99 each at the Sundazed site.
Get ’em while they’re still available.
Mark Smotroff is a freelance writer and avid music collector who has worked for many years in marketing communications for the consumer electronics, pro audio and video games industries, serving clients including DTS, Sega, Sony, Sharp, AT&T and many others. www.smotroff.com Mark has written for EQ Magazine, Mix Magazine, Goldmine/DISCoveries Magazine, BigPictureBigSound.com, Sound+Vision Magazine and HomeTechTell.com. He is also a musician / composer who’s songs have been used in TV shows such as Smallville and Men In Trees as well as films and documentaries. www.ingdom.com Mark is currently rolling out a new musical he’s written: www.dialthemusical.com.