Saturday 29 December 2012

Do You Take Acid With Your Tea?

I must admit that as much as I love American psyche, my favorite part of sixties psychedelia came not from San Francisco or L.A. but from English Countryside. I was therefore very excited when I got for Christmas this box set - Real Life Permanent Dreams - A Cornucopia of British Psychedelia 1965-1970. It was first released in 2007, but since little information about it is available online, I thought I could do a little post about it.

As the connoisseurs of the genre know, British psychedelic bands differed significantly from their American counterparts. American bands, fueled by Anti-Vietnam protests  and teachings of Timothy Leary, were usually either radical hippies (like Jefferson Airplane, The Doors or Country Joe & The Fish), stoned blues-rock guitar virtuosos  (Grateful Dead, Mike Bloomfield) or just plain angry teens wanting to 'turn on, tune in and drop out' (The Seeds, The Standells, 13th Floor Elevators and  any other band that appears on Nuggets compilation). The approach of British bands was different. As sleeve notes (written by David Wells) of the box set explain: The homegrown pop scene spent 1967 wallowing in the dim and distant past (...) UK bands who employed the word 'revolution' were primarily seeking to establish the right to drop out while wearing cavalry red double-breasted Regency jackets and some really groovy crushed velvet trousers (...) As perfidious Albion dropped in, tuned up and turned out, the imaginations of the nation's leading pop acts were fired by the indigenous culture that had informed their childhoods on what was still, to use Thomas Dibdin's phrase, a snug little island. Following the releases of Sgt. Pepper, The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn and S.F. Sorrow,  British bands suddenly rejected American blues, Rn'B and three-minute pop songs as an influence , in favour of writings of Lewis Carroll, Edward Lear and Dylan Thomas. The social observations and character portraits of Charles Dickens, fantasy world of Tolkien, Arthurian legends, music hall songs of George Formby and absurd comedy of The Goon Show also played important role in shaping the sound and lyrical content of British Psychedelic acts. This sudden turn to the past was also expressed in fashion - the futuristic, space-age designs of Pierre Cardin, sharp suits and Pop-Art excesses of Mod popular in 1965 and 1966 were replaced  by a nostalgia after lost days of the Empire - Edwardian military jackets and Victoriana from such boutiques as I Was Lord Kitchener's Valet or Granny Takes A Trip.
Although the trendsetters, like Beatles, Stones or the Who, would leave psychedelia behind by mid-1968, the psychedelic scene developed a life of its own. Plenty of bands, mostly  from outside London, would continue, with various degrees of success, recording psych singles and albums till the end of the decade. Constantly experimenting and expanding their sound , the bands from late 60's British psychedelic scene formed grounds for most important genres of early 1970's - hard rock , glam rock and prog. And that's the story told through 99 songs on Real Life Permanent Dreams.

Clearly a lot of thought had been put into compiling a track list for the box set. There are plenty of compilations of 60's British psyche, and to avoid repetitions, auteurs of Real Life Permanent Dreams focus on long-lost obscurities rather that 'hits'. For that reason, a lot of important bands that defined the genre are not featured on this compilation. The list of deliberate omissions include such acts as The Move, The Pretty Things, The Blossom Toes, Kaleidoscope, July, The Attack, The Creation, The Herd, and few others. Even the box set's title song by Tomorrow is rejected in favour of lesser known, slightly faster version by a band called The Orange Machine.
The box set consists of 4 loosely themed discs. The first one (and probably the best one) is called Sowing The Seeds. Sleeve notes read: The beginning of the journey without maps - fey folkies, beatniks out to make it rich, pilled-up mods, art-school dropouts, RnB hoodlums and mop-top beat merchants assemble like pied pipers at the gates of a new and strange dawn...

The disc starts with demo version of 'My Friend Jack' by The Smoke with the original lyrics which had very explicit drug references. The label, EMI, fearing that song could be banned from radio play forced The Smoke to change the lyrics, but the toned down version which was eventually released in February 1967 was banned anyway. It did, however, go to number 1 in German charts. Today, It's an undisputable pop-psyche classic.
Next, we get former Joe Meek's protegees - The Tornados (a line-up that did not feature any members from 'Telstar' era) and Screaming Lord Sutch giving a shot at Psychedelia with surprisingly interesting results.
What follows is possibly the most catchy song on the whole box set - 'Doctor Doctor' by The Frame.

The Frame

The Frame were a johnny-come-lately mod band which released ultra-saccarine 'Doctor Doctor' in early 1967. For some reason song failed to chart and The Frame split up soon afterwards. Their single, however is a true lost pop-psych gem.

 Track 5 is a great mod-on-acid (Freakbeat) standard - 'Day And Night' by The Drag Set from 1967. I know this song quite well, as it's an obligatory play in Beat/Psych basement at New Untouchables clubnights. Great dance number indeed... 

At the end of 1967 The Drag Set morphed into heavy rockers The Open Mind. They achieved a cult status thanks to their song 'Magic Potion' from 1969 which was an underground psychedelic blues-rock classic.

Another great track from disc one is 'The Lilac Hand Of Menthol Dan' by John's Children with Marc Bolan on vocals. The song was written by Marc Bolan, and recorded in midd-1967, but  never released, as Bolan quit the band soon after...


  Marc Bolan (left) with John's Children, 1967

Another interesting track on disc one is 'Rubber Monkey' by Santa Barbara Machine  Head - a mod studio 'supergroup' consisting of former members of  The In-Crowd, The Birds and The Artwoods. Those members included John 'Twink' Adler (of The In-Crowd), Jon Lord of The Artwoods and Ron Wood of The Birds.'Rubber Monkey' , recorded in 1966 and released in 1968 as a part of Blues Anytime compilation, is a Hammond-led instrumental. By the time it was released, all the musicians involved moved on to bigger things: Twink and some former members The In-Crowd formed Tomorrow, Jon Lord started Deep Purple, and we all know what happened to Ronnie Wood...

Among those great obscurities there are some well-known songs: Sunny Goodge Street' by Donovan, 'Hippy Gumbo' by Marc Bolan, 'Circles' by Fleur de Lys, and one of my all-time favorites 'Up The Wooden Hills To Bedfordshire' By The Small Faces. There are also two songs by The Kinks - 'Fancy' from Face To Face album (1966) an Dave Davies'  'Love Me Till The Sun Shines' from Something Else (1968). Although The Kinks were one of the first bands to flirt with psychedelia as far back as 1965 ('See My Friends') they never turned fully psychedelic, not even in summer of 1967. They did however, record a few tracks that delicately hinted at psychedelia, like the two fore-mentioned ones, or great ''Creeping Jean' from 1968 (also written by Dave Davies).

Second disc is titled Plant A Flower Child Today. From the sleeve notes: Do not adjust your mind, there is a fault in reality...Psychedelia's high summer in full and glorious bloom as sweet floral Albion passes its London Social degree and sets the controls for the heart of the currant bun...

Songs that stand out are Skip Bifferty's 'Man In Black'..


Skip Bifferty, 1968

'The Clown' by Eire Apparent..

Eire Apparent were an Irish band based in London. 'The Clown' is a great track from their 1968 album Sunrise, which was produced by Jimi Hendrix and it featured Noel Redding on bass and Soft Machine's Robert Wyatt on organ.

In 1967 Eire Apparent went on a package tour with Jimi Hendrix Experience, Pink Floyd, The Move and The Nice.

'Boy Meets Girl' by Paper Blitz Tissue - a brilliant piece of heavy psych from 1967

Other great songs from disc two are Billy Nicholls' saccharine ode to Swinging London - 'London Social Degree', 'When The Wind Arises' by The Rokes, and 'Love, Hate, Revenge' by Episode Six - a band which featured two future Deep Purple members Roger Glover and Ian Gillian.

Disc three, probably the weakest one, is called Happydaytoytown (after Small Faces track). Songs that stand out are 'Nodnol' by Spectrum, classic 'Hey Mr. Carpenter' by The Fox, and Arthur Brown's novelty track 'Give Him A Flower'..

There is also a song by Gun titled 'Sunshine' - a b-side to their proto hard rock hit 'Race With The Devil' from 1968.


Now, I have a little bit of a problem with this track - It is one of the favorite songs of Noel Gallagher. It is not hard to see why.The formula presented by Gun on 'Sunshine' - nursery rhymes combined with simple repetitive chorus, is exactly what Oasis mastered 25 years later. In fact, if you take out the guitar solo, this song could easily pass for a lost Oasis track (I did spoil it for some, didn't I?)

Disc four is called Circus Days Are Here Again. Sleeve notes say: (referring the cult film Withnail & I) The slow, but inexorable slide into Prog Rock: both London and the Sixties swing themselves to a standstill, and party revellers wake up with a Camberwell carrot-sized hangover...

Stand-out tracks are: 'No Home Today' by The Kult (1969)


'Go Your Way' by Andromeda (1969)

'My Gration Or?' by Opal Butterfly (1969) - psychedelic heavy rock gem - easily one of the best tracks on the whole box-set.

Opal Butterfly, 1969

The ever-changing line-up of Opal Butterfly at some point included Dave O'List (ex member of the Nice and The Attack) and future heavy metal god Lemmy. A very different incarnation of this band had recorded an awful soundtrack to a film Groupie Girl in 1970.

Other great tracks from disc four are 'The Diamond Hard Blue Apples Of The Moon' by The Nice, 'Cold Embrace' by Sam Gopal (a Hendrix-style guitar freakout; Lemmy - briefly a member of Sam Gopal - played  bass on this 1969 song) and proggy 'Venus' by Samson from 1970.

All in all, It is a very enjoyable compilation. The only criticism could be that there are too many average songs on disc three - some of the tracks seem to have been dug out purely for the obscurity value.Also, putting the unreleased versions of 'hits' does not always work, either. It makes sense in case of  the Smoke's demo of 'My Friend Jack' seeing as the lyrics are completely different, but the BBC session versions of Arthur Brown's Fire (disc two) and Status Quo's 'Pictures Of Matchstick Man' (disc three) are barely discernible from 'official' versions. Wouldn't it make more sense to put a different track entirely, like for example, Quo's 'Ice In The Sun' or Arthur Brown's 'Spontaneous Apple Creation'?

For those who are new to the 60's British Psychedelia, I would also recommend few other compilations: John Peel's Perfumed Garden, Piccadilly Sunshine and first ten volumes of Rubble Collection (which is now available on Spotify). Also check out Marmalade Skies - one of the best pages devoted to 60's British Psych. It looks like hasn't been updated for a while, but it still contains a lot of interesting information, photos, links, etc.. 

I'll end with these wise words from John Peel...

No comment necessary.....

Saturday 22 December 2012

Talitha Getty - Icon of 1960's Hippie/Bohemian Style

Talitha Getty with her son Tara, 1968

It is not often that I do a post about a female fashion icon, but since I never wanted this blog to be exclusively about male fashion (or exclusively about fashion, for that matter), I don't see a reason not to. In the late 1960's, Talitha Getty was one of rich and beautiful (and doomed) people - part of European Jet Set. She was also one of the first adopters of a posh-hippie style, now referred to as 'bohemian chic'.

Talitha Pol was born in Java in 1940 to Dutch parents. She was a step-granddaughter of a painter Augustus John - one of the leading figures of early 20th century Chelsea bohemian movement. Talitha spent her early years in Japanese POW camp, and when the war ended in 1945, she moved with her mother to London.  In her late teens, she enrolled to Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts with an intention of becoming an actress. She did subsequently play few bit parts in a handful of movies - most notably in The System by Michael Winner (a 1964 kitchen sink-y drama starring young Oliver Reed and even younger David Hemmings) and in Return From The Ashes with Maximillian Schell (1965).
In 1965, after an affair with a Cabinet minister and near-affair with ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev (Nureyev, a homosexual, claimed that he had never felt so erotically stirred by a woman) Talitha met John Paul Getty II at the dinner party of Claus Von Bulow - a personal assistant of Getty's father - an American oil magnate. J.P. Getty Jr. was an heir to one of the biggest fortunes in the world. He started an affair with Talitha whom he eventually married in October 1966 (After divorcing his first wife, with whom he had four children).
After marrying Paul Getty, Talitha gave up her acting career (although she did play a cameo in Barbarella in 1968), and the two became a part of international jet-set sharing their time between London, Rome and Marrakech. Their palace in Marrakesh (known as 'Pleasure Palace') became a 'a place to be' for anybody who was anybody in the 1960's. Christopher Gibbs and The Rolling Stones (Mick, Keith and Brian) were their guests. Patrick Lichfield took  one of the most famous photos of his career there - it depicted Talitha, with hooded Paul in the background, on the terrace with a view of the city. The photo is said to have captured the mysterious and mystical atmosphere of Marrakesh.   Yves Saint-Laurent reminiscing about The Gettys said: I knew the youthfulness of the Sixties (...) Talitha and Paul Getty lying on a starlit terrace in Marrakesh, beautiful and damned, and a whole generation assembled as if for eternity where curtain of the past seemed to lift before the extraordinary future (Saint Laurent is reffering to a book by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Beautiful and The Damned).
But beneath the facade of beauty, wealth and glamour, there was a dark reality - by late 1960s, both, Paul and Talitha had become heroin addicts. Their addiction would  result in a tragedy...

 Talitha Pol, 1961 






Talitha Pol and Paul Getty, 1966

Talitha with actor Michael York and ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev in a Rome nightclub, 1966

Wedding of Talitha Pol and Paul Getty, 10.12.1966

Talitha Getty, 1966

Paul and Talitha Getty, 1966

Hippie-Jet Setters: (from left) Paul, Talitha, Prince Dado Ruspoli and unknown girl, 1967

Talitha, 1967


Talitha Getty's blink-and-you-miss-it appearence in Barbarella as a girl who enjoys 'the essence of man'...

 Jane Fonda and Talitha Getty

with a director Roger Vadim, 1967

Paul and Talitha Getty, 1967

Paul and Talitha, 1967

Talitha with her son Tara, 1968

Talitha, 1968


Possibly the most famous photo of Talitha and Paul Getty, taken in Morocco by Patrick Lichfield in 1969

Feature in Vogue magazine about Paul and Talitha's Moroccan lifestyle. The interior of their palace looks, to put it mildly, breathtaking..(1969)

Talitha, 1969

Paul and Talitha in Rome, 1969

With their son, Tara, 1969

Talitha in Rome, 1970


 Talitha on the cover of French Vogue, April 1970.



With Rudolf Nureyev, 1970


Talitha and Paul Getty, 1970


Talitha with Ossie Clark, 1970

Talitha Getty, 1970

In 1968, Talitha gave birth to her son, whom she named Tara Gabriel Gramophone Galaxy Getty (not surprisingly, as a grown-up, Tara would remove 'Gramophone Galaxy' from his name). Although the baby temporarily brought a little bit of stability into their hectic lifestyles, they still struggled to control their drug addictions. Their relationship started deteriorating , too. In 1971 Paul had an affair, and Talitha left their Rome apartament and went to London. In London she started her own affair - with a shady French aristocrat Count Jean De Breteuil. De Breteuil stayed at Keith Richards' house in Chayne Walk and was a self-proclaimed 'drug dealer to rock stars'. After some time, Talitha decided to go back to Rome to fix her marriage (around the same time, Count De Breteuil went to Paris with Marianne Faithful, where he sold a lethal dose of heroin to Jim Morrison). On 14 July 1971, Talitha died in Rome of heroin overdose. The exact circumstances of her death are unknown. She was taken to a private clinic, where initial verdict was 'death from a barbiturate overdose'. It wasn't until six months later, when it was reaveled that the drug in question was heroin (Count De Breteuil's stuff, most likely).
Guilt stricken Paul Getty, thinking in paranoid state, that he might be arrested in connection with Talitha's death, fled Rome and came to London. Several dark years followed. He never completely recovered from Talitha's death and he succumbed deeper into his heroin addiction. In 1973, another tragedy happened.  Paul's son from his first marriage - 17 year-old John Paul Getty III  was kidnapped in Calabria. Kidnappers demanded $17 million ransom. Because Paul's trust fund was not enough to cover such sum, he turned to help to his father, J.P. Getty Sr., who refused saying: I have fourteen other grandchildren. If I pay a penny now, I will have fourteen kidnapped grandchildren. But when kidnappers cut off young Paul's ear, and posted it to an Italian newspaper, He agreed to lend Paul II money with a 4% interest. Paul III was eventually freed (just like his father, he was a drug addict. In 1981 he took an overdose, which resulted in stroke, which left him paralysed from a neck down and nearly blind at the age of 25. He died in 2008).
Paul Getty II started overcoming his addiction in early 1980's, thanks to a lenghty and expensive (£500 per day for approximately 500 days) period in London Clinic. After inheriting his father's money in 1976, he started making a slow transformation from a drug addicted jet-setter to a prolific philantropist. He shared his $3 billion fortune with poor and needy. His donations included £50 million to National Gallery, £20 million to British Film Institute and £5 million to St. Paul's Cathedral. He purchase Canova's Three Graces for National Galleries of Scotland for £1 million. During miners' strike in 1984 (even though he was a lifelong Conservative supporter) he was helping financially miners' families. He set up Paul Getty Jr. Charitable Trust which he claimed supported 'unpopular' causes - rehabilitation for young offenders, assistance to victims of domestic abuse, preserving dilapidated buildings, etc. Countless little businesses around the country benefited from Getty's generosity. For his charitable work, he had been rewarded KBE (Knight Commander of the British Empire) in 1987, although he could not use a title 'Sir' because of his American citizenship  - which he eventually renounced when he was granted British citizenship in 1997.
Paul Getty Jr. died in 2003, aged 70 - a respactable, slightly eccentric English gentleman,a philantropist, friend of many Conservative politicians - a very far journey from young American Playboy of 1960's, who, along with his' beautiful and damned' wife, led a life of pleasures. And tragedies.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Most of the photos used here come from personal collection of Ms. Jayme Franklin who runs The Beautiful And The Damned website.

Source of the story - "London Babylon" by Steve Overbury, 2009.