Various Artists

Looking at the Pictures in the Sky: The British Psychedelic Sounds of 1968

Grapefruit

Nov 30, 2017 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


As the sequel to Let's Go Down and Blow Our Minds: The British Psychedelic Sounds of 1967, Looking at the Pictures in the Sky picks up right where its predecessor left off, with a spectacular collection of British (and Irish) psych-pop from 1968. The previous year may have been the Summer of Love, but this three-disc, 78-song set proves that there was no shortage of inspired, musical experimentation one year later.

Like Let's Go Down and Blow Our Minds, this set proves that the best is not always the most recognized. The vast majority of tracks here will likely be unknown, at least to the American listener. Known commodities include The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, a pre-SF Sorrow The Pretty Things, The Move, The Status Quo, and a post-"A Whiter Shade of Pale" Procol Harum. But the rest is arguably more interesting.

Decca Records' The Fire features future Strawb Dave Lambert, who's single "Father's Name Is Dad" was recalled after Paul McCartney heard it on the radio and didn't think it good enough. Boeing Duveen & The Beautiful Soup was led by an artist who vacationed with Pink Floyd's Syd Barrett and Roger Waters, and one of his two songs included here adapts its words from Lewis Carroll. The Attack's "Mr. Pinnodmy's Dilemma" features a deaf and dumb boy, preceding The Who's Tommy by over a year.

There is a song called "Music Soothes the Savage Breast" (and no, that's not a typo) by The Spectrum, a band that was marketed as Britain's answer to The Monkees. There's the debut from a 17-year-old Timon, who was later known as Tymon Dogg and played with The Clash and The Mescaleros. Jethro Tull's debut single, "Aeroplane," is present, on which the band was miscredited as Jethro Toe on the record's label. And, perhaps the most bizarre of the bizarre, Ramases & Selket consisted of a heating salesman and former Army PT instructor and his wife, presenting themselves as a reincarnated Egyptian pharaoh and goddess making psychedelic rock. One could go on and on.

The tracks herein may not be as groundbreaking as those on Let's Go Down and Blow Our Minds, but it's clear that new bands were still springing up a year later and taking forays into the psychedelic future with melody and exuberance to spare. One of the chief selling points of this set is the liner notes. Each single is given a brief history, set in context of its musical surroundings, and the stories are fascinating. 1968 jumps off the page with as much excitement as it blares from the speakers. And, as if the slew of bands whose singles were relegated to the forgotten LSD heap of history wasn't enough, many of the tracks here never even saw formal release, for one reason or another being grounded before they even took off. Some of these musicians went on to greater things (Richie Blackmore soloing on Sun Dragon's cover of "So You Want to Be a Rock and Roll Star" being one of only a handful), but most did not.

In sum, Looking at Pictures in the Sky is another thrilling and wonderfully engrossing exploration of Britain (and Ireland)'s psychedelic underground of 1968. Let's hope Grapefruit Records keeps this series going and digs up another batch of rarities from 1969. (www.cherryred.co.uk

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