A really nice and surprising thing happened to me the other day; I was idly Googling something about record shops which led me quite by chance to a music forum I’d never seen before. On it was a post from someone last year mentioning “the girl” who worked in his local record shop in the 1980s who had once compiled him a tape of her favourite ‘60s psychedelic/freakbeat gems. He’d even kept copies of a fanzine she used to put out in the shop back then, 30 years ago.
Ohh! The girl was me!
I remembered him as one of our lovely regular customers and I remembered doing that tape. I can’t remember, however, exactly which tracks I’d put on it – but I could take a pretty good stab at what it might have included. And so this lovely moment of serendipity got me thinking all about those obscure and incredible records that were given a whole new lease of life in the ‘80s when labels like Bam Caruso, Psycho, Big Beat and See For Miles mined the rich seam of 1960s psych and beat and presented them to new audiences like me. We had never heard anything quite like it before. For anyone who wasn’t into the mainstream chart music of the era, it felt quite magical. A little later it was to play a part in cementing a long-lasting friendship too.
In the sweet way that things can sometimes coincide, in the last week or so there have been some more unconnected references to what I might broadly term as ‘sixties underground and psychedelia’ here in this little corner of blogland. Over at the wonderful What’s It All About?Alfie, Alyson has recently posted Jefferson Airplane’s 'White Rabbit', complete with its trippy lyrics. Swiss Adam at the eminent blog BaggingArea gave us a number from US garage punk group The Chocolate Watchband. And across the pond, Brian from the excellent Linear Tracking Lives! shared an obscure cover version from the Driscolls of ‘Father’s Name Is Dad’ by late '60s band Fire. Back here, Rol at the brilliant My Top Ten posted a number from Kenny Rogers & The First Edition and mentioned their track ‘Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Is In)' which was another reminder of an unexpectedly psychy discovery from the past. All of those originals were songs I knew and loved from that period when my interest in psych and beat became something of an obsession.
I was working in the best place for it too, being able to order the albums I wanted directly from the distributors (often without having heard a single track first!) and then buying them with a staff discount too. It got to the point where I was bringing home two to three new album purchases just about each and every week. These were a mixture of various artist compilations (like the Bam Caruso ‘Rubble’ and Psycho’s ‘Perfumed Garden’ series), US garage comps then getting fresh exposure (such as the wonderful ‘Pebbles’), new album issues (e.g. The Creation’s ‘How Does It Feel To Feel’ put out by Edsel) and reissues of other obscurities (like ‘ Waleeco’ by US band The Flat Earth Society).
Then there were the new groups making great music inspired by it –and so a whole wave of other artists helped to part me from my hard-earned cash: The Fuzztones, The Lyres, The Nomads…. I started buying comps of Swedish bands, Dutch bands, Australian too…. and digging into the back catalogues of more popular groups I hadn’t really explored before such as the Kinks, Jefferson Airplane and The Easybeats … Plus also taking side roads into the more Mod end of the spectrum with the Action and Small Faces… Oh there was SO MUCH! No wonder I was skint most of the time.
Anyway, not surprisingly, this week my thoughts have returned to those days and the musical discoveries that excited me so much in my twenties. So much so that I was inspired to make my own fanzine on the subject. I used to sit at home and labour intensely over every page on my Thursdays off from the shop, all hand-written and hand-drawn, researched, laid-out and designed without technology. It provided a platform for both a love of writing and drawing/design. And a love of the music too, of course. I managed six editions of this A4 zine, got them photocopied in small batches (mostly free of charge if a certain someone could get them done in his work time) and sold them for 30p at the shop. I never even told anyone who bought them that they were my own creation, I was too embarrassed!
some sample pages
Here I am 30 years later doing something similar in a way – using the platform of blogging for expression and, whilst Sun Dried Sparrows has never been confined to it, music still plays a fairly big part. So, on revisiting some of the songs that inspired me to write and compile tapes in an age where the idea of everyone being connected via a computer was barely imaginable, I thought I could bring them together now for a new series.
I’ve dug out my last few copies of the fanzine from storage in one of my old portfolios under the bed. They look naive, over-effusive and a bit cringey to my eyes now, but I have to remember I was only in my early twenties, doing it solo and I just wanted to have a go. So for this new series, erm, if I can manage to sustain it, I’m going to try and post some of the tracks I wrote about then, along with snippets of whatever it was I said. As the strapline of my fanzine rather grandly announced, it's ‘A trip into the world of real psychedelia and more’.
Well, this has been a very long ramble by way of an introduction to a series (I promise to keep it shorter in future). Let's get on with the music. Just one track here today… The Open Mind with ‘Cast A Spell’.
Here’s what I was saying in 1986!
Transcript from above:
The Open Mind (ANTAR 2)
The Open Mind were a band from the late 60s, who have reached a legendary status amongst fans of psych and progressive music. They made two singles, one was an excellent double-sider, 'Magic Potion' and 'Cast A Spell', both tracks of which can be found on the brilliant compilation, 'The Psychedelic Snarl' (Bam Caruso KIRI 024). These are perhaps the two best Open Mind numbers, and are included on this re-issue of their only album, which has been re-packaged in a different sleeve and did not include that single originally. The rest is good, progressive, mostly quite heavy stuff, though maybe the actual music has been over-rated - London collector's shops are paying over £50 for the original LP! Anyway, it's a pretty tasty record - not exactly psychedelic but more progressive rock - and if you wanna save a lot of money but still hear the Open Mind, then this re-issue is for you.