MONDAY, MARCH 23, 2015
WEEK 12: UK PSYCHEDELIA
San Francisco may have been the epicentre of US psychedelia, but it was a world away from the chilly, rain swept UK. Consequently, when LSD hit London like a tidal wave in 1966, Britain’s counterculture developed quite separately. Notwithstanding the initial influence of The Stones, one time mods The Creation and The Yardbirds, the most noticeable change to the beat formula came with The Beatles aptly titled B Side ‘Rain’ and Revolver.
Any remaining R&B influences were ditched in favour of our own cultural heritage. Victorian literature, fairy tales, music hall and Lewis Carroll were all absorbed to create something wholly original yet hugely commercial, bearing absolutely no resemblance to the extended blues jams of San Francisco. Syd Barrett’s Pink Floyd, the original house band at the infamous but short-lived UFO Club, enjoyed massive cult success before going overground, while Procul Harum and Traffic took the new age straight into the top five and the collective mind of the nation.
Subsequently, every possible musical direction was given a hefty sprinkling of psychedelic dust, yet no single figure did more to further the futuristic agenda than London’s adopted American son, Jimi Hendrix. His first album Are You Experienced examined every aspect of the acid rock template in superlative detail before he returned to conquer his homeland at Monterey Pop. Nonetheless, despite the absence of such a major, formative figure, London carried on swinging in its own, Carnaby Street kind of way.
Following their infamous drug bust, the Stones flirted with prison, stuck two fingers up at the establishment then half-heartedly dipped their toes in the psychedelic pond. Similarly, the Small Faces left their own brand of R&B behind to cut one of the greatest acid pop singles of them all. And they weren’t the only ones as a host of long established beat acts rendered obsolete reinvented themselves overnight. The Herd, The Pretty Things, The Zombies and literally a thousand others followed the beat into psych path, their records somehow retaining the flavour of the times.
In most folks minds, psychedelia is associated with just one year so it’s fortunate that 1967 proved to be the most glorious adventure of them all, especially in the hip London clubs where groups like Tomorrow and the Fleur De Lys waved the freak flag high without so much as a sniff of a hit. But as soon as the summer flame of optimism gave way to the harsh realities of the English winter, what the British media had jokingly dubbed flower power began to wither and die. Of course, psychedelia still lingered as High Street fashion, and great, heavily lysergic records continued to be produced by provincial bands like the wondrous Skip Bifferty, Apple and Sam Gopal but they were long past their sell by date.
It’s fitting that sad, mad Syd ends this odyssey because to many people he epitomised the psychedelic age, moving from innocent beauty to the edge of reason in four short years, lost in the woods with his equally unhinged American peers Skip Spence, Roky Erikson and Sky Saxon. All made their mark on a generation intent on burning away centuries of greed, bigotry and the suffocating moralities of the past. While they were always doomed to fail, at the very least they introduced a spirit of freedom, change and revolution, opening the door musically to all sorts of possibilities, even if all their visionary artiness would soon turn to sludge.
01 ROLLING STONES ‘Paint It Black’ (A Side May 1966)
02 THE CREATION ‘Making Time’ (A Side May 1966)
03 THE BEATLES ‘Rain’ (B Side June 1966)
04 THE YARDBIRDS ‘Happenings Ten Years Time Ago’ (A Side October 1966)
05 JIMI HENDRIX ‘Are You Experienced?’ (Are You Experienced LP May 1967)
06 TRAFFIC ‘Paper Sun’ (A Side May 1967)
07 TOMORROW ‘My White Bicycle’ (A Side May 1967)
08 PROCUL HARUM ‘Whiter Shade Of Pale’ (A Side May 1967)
09 PINK FLOYD ‘See Emily Play’ (A Side June 1967)
10 THE ATTACK ‘Colour Of My Mind’ (B Side June 1967)
11 SMALL FACES ‘Itchycoo Park’ (A Side August 1967)
12 THE HERD ‘From The Underworld’ (A Side August 1967)
13 KALEIDOSCOPE ‘Flight From Ashiya’ (A Side September 1967)
14 DATALIANS CHARIOT ‘Madman Running Through The Fields’ (A Side September 1967)
15 23RD TURNOFF ‘Michael Angelo’ (B Side October 1967)
16 PRETTY THINGS ‘Defecting Grey’ (A Side November 1967)
17 ART ‘Supernatural Fairytales’ (Supernatural Fairytales LP December 1967)
18 NIRVANA ‘Rainbow Chaser’ (A Side March 1968)
19 THE ZOMBIES ‘Hung Up On A Dream’ (Odyssey And Oracle LP April 1968)
20 DONOVAN ‘Hurdy Gurdy Man’ (A Side May 1968)
21 FLEUR DE LYS ‘Gong With The Luminous Nose’ (A Side May 1968)
22 SKIP BIFFERTY ‘Follow The Path Of The Stars’ (Skip Bifferty LP July 1968)
23 APPLE ‘The Otherside’ (B Side November 1968)
24 SAM GOPAL ‘The Sky Is Burning’ (Escalator LP January 1969)
25 SYD BARRETT ‘Golden Hair’ (B Side November 1969)