Since the label’s launch in the late noughties, Grapefruit Records has worked tirelessly to bring top quality reissues to fans of cult 60s and 70s sounds. Thanks to their archive digging skills, previously unaffordable vinyl albums by Skip Bifferty and Picadilly Line were no longer an extortionately priced mystery; Jeff Lynne’s early years with The Idle Race were reappraised, and dark psych combo Zior reached the ears of many people for the first time.
For all of their well loved archive releases, it’s a trilogy of psych themed box sets featuring hits, misses and rarities from 1967 (‘Lets Go Down And Blow Our Minds’), 1968 (‘Looking At The Pictures In The Sky’) and 1969 (‘Try A Little Sunshine’) that best advertises the label’s eye and ear for great reissues. With that in mind, it seems only natural that the label would raid the archives of psychedelia’s peak years for their hundredth release, and ‘Think I’m Going Weird’ is Grapefruit’s biggest and most adventurous release to date. With over 120 tracks spread across five discs, a larger format book sharing a wealth of important historical detail and rare photographs (with no obvious overlap from the previous 60s psych sets) this British take on ‘Nuggets’ is something of a jewel in the label’s crown.
The great news for all fans of similar anthologies is that there’s almost a 60s length album’s worth of unreleased tracks waiting to be discovered. They’re not all of a gold standard, but most represent something of a pleasing new discovery. One Step Beyond’s 1968 recording ‘Scene of The Lemon Queen’ is a little rough, but if you can stretch your ears through the demo quality recording, you’ll be immersed in a jam that mixes garage rock sounds with surf guitar leads and a deep psych mood. Traces of Pink Floyd’s ‘Interstellar Overdrive’ collide with sounds more in line with bands like The Creation, and when dropping into a bass led groove topped by spooked out harmonies, the track proves it has no obvious boundaries. One Step Beyond eventually became Stoned Rose and had tentative links with the early Ultravox, so this is an interesting find in lots of ways, regardless of general roughness. Far less proggy, Tinsel Arcade’s ‘Life Does Not Seem What It Seems’ works a heavy drone against pounding drums, leaving various inebriated sounding harmonies and wah-wahed guitars to deliver a drugged out melody. Within thirty seconds, it’s clear that this is a slice of deep psych from ’67. With huge influences from the earliest Floyd, Blossom Toes and even a hint of a proto-Gong sound in places, it’s very much the kind of thing psych devotees and crate diggers always hope sets such as this will unearth.
Reaching for peak psych, Mother’s Pride’s ‘Mother’s Magazine’ is loaded with crashing drums, a guitar part that sounds like a twanging elastic band and unsettlingly long pauses. When it all comes together – as it does on the instrumental break – echoes of The Who circa ‘Sell Out’ come through in waves, thanks to an especially Keith Moon like rhythmic clatter, whilst a vague Syd Barrett-ish oddness occasionally presents itself through a set of everyday lyrics. There’s so much to enjoy spread throughout this set’s five discs that this tune is in danger of being swamped, or perhaps, written off as merely a piece of by numbers psych, but Mother’s Pride capture the underground vibes of the times better than most. For those hoping to dive into something much more expansive, 117 come to the rescue with their eleven minute opus ‘Venusian Moonshine’, recorded live at the Middle Earth Festival. Their sound is very much more rooted in space rock and proto-prog than psych, with vibes driven by heavier keyboards playing a heavier riff, sometimes at odds with the fuzzy guitars. By the time the band hit their stride, however, the music could almost pass for something derived from ‘Saucerful of Secrets’ or a Hawkwind deep cut. What’s clear by this time, though, is that they’re so into their circular, droning sounds, the audience may as well not be there. Despite the bootleg sourced material being made even harsher through tape drop out, it’s another piece of history that psych and prog fans will love.
Tackling a dark blues sound, Crystal Ship’s ‘The Blue Man Runs Away’ clings onto psych through its head expanding lyric rather than the music itself, but even so, it’s heady collision of Hammond organ and live sounding drums fits quite well with some of the other material here. There’s an energy in this performance that’s great – often at odds with a dark and ominous vocal – and decades on, its combination of beat group sass, Pete Brown lyrics and semi-aggressive stance makes it seem like the band could’ve really been on to something, despite no real record company interest (and no recordings issued) at the time. Using this track as evidence, they should appeal to lovers of Graham Bond and some of the more marginal, experimental R&B sounds. The name Zany Woodruff should be familiar to anyone who bought the ‘Crawling Up A Hill’ anthology of British blues back in 2020, on which he and his Operation had a decent stab at the John Mayall number that gave the box set its name. Here, he and his perfectly adequate musical friends don’t fare quite as well on their cover of the Cream classic ‘Tales of Brave Ulysses’ – the main riff is too fast, almost as if they’re battling an attack of nerves, and the echoing vocals are horrible in comparison to Jack Bruce. Still, in terms of spirit, it means well, even if you only ever listen to it a couple of times out of curiosity. It might be a masterpiece compared to Eyes of Blond’s version of The Byrds’ ‘Why’, though, since the Norwich band suck all the joy from the jangle pop classic, replacing its sheen and shimmer with the kind of gruff extended soloing more in keeping with an old Ten Years After jam. It isn’t helped that it is sourced from an old rehearsal tape – complete with really flat vocals throughout – but looking past those obvious flaws, aside from a reasonably played solo at the end, it really isn’t the best way to fill seven minutes.
A 1967 cut from Friday’s Chyld, ‘Boys & Girls Together’, never manages to rise above servicable beat group fare, but considering the band’s young age and relative inexperience, it’s a passable cut that probably should have graced a Pye or Deram 7” at the time. It’s become a little more interesting historically, though, since their guitarist Dave Lambert would form The Fire a short time later (issuing a bona fide psych rock classic ‘Father’s Name Is Dad’ in ’68, not included here, but can be found on a complete anthology appeared earlier in 2021), before finding relative fame as a member of Strawbs by ’72. With a spooky melody and rising and falling vocal, Medium Rare’s ‘Plastic Aeroplane’, on the other hand, is immediately striking. Here is a tune that sounds like Strawberry Alarm Clock channelling The Doors, but with all of the lo-fi qualities of a Monks LP. In terms of ugly 60s rock and a snapshot of counterculture noise, its thundering rhythm section battling against a swirling organ would be enough to make it succeed, but a spoken word section and a vocalist who sounds a little out of his depth really add to an all round intensity. It’s sort of clear why it sat in the vaults for sixty years; there’s no way you’d have heard this on the fledgling Radio 1 between The Move and Sandie Shaw at the time\. Even the likes of Radio Caroline might have baulked at its vaguely aggressive presence. Needless to say, this is a great addition to this collection.
Regular buyers of psych comps will need no introduction to Tintern Abbey, so the presence of an unreleased cut from the most cult of pop bands is a definite plus. Recorded in 1967, ‘My Prayer’ mixes some fairly solid R&B chops with a hazy eastern flavour. The guitars swoop and dive throughout the faster sections of this five minute jam, taking on the mantle of a sitar, whilst slower droning moods appear to pre-figure Pink Floyd’s soundtrack work from later in the decade. These moodier moments would certainly have fared better without the constant distraction of wordless wailing, but between loose jazz-oriented drums and a guitar tone that screams heavy psych, fans will find plenty to love. The archive nature of the source material, unfortunately, shows its age via a little tape dropout, but it shouldn’t spoil most people’s enjoyment of another rarity. Another lovely find is ‘Smile At The Sad Sun’, a Champagne recording from ’68 which mixes mournful Procol Harum-esque grandness with angry swirls of organ straight from the early Rick Wright school of playing. The push and pull between the two musical moods creates a pleasing tension that’s somehow diffused by a soft and suitably downbeat vocal. Although fairly succinct, it shows off a band with strong musical ideas that would have made them cult figures on the prog scene had they managed to stick it out for a couple more years.
Naturally, in expanding the usual triple disc format to a more extensive five CDs, this collection isn’t shy when it comes to raiding the vaults for its deep cuts. Keener sixties collectors will undoubtedly own lots of these already, but there’s a genuine pleasure in experiencing them within a new framework and – as with most of Grapefruit’s other sets – the sleeve notes are informative, but very accessible, helping to give old favourites new life.
Giving the box set its name, Art’s ‘I Think I’m Going Weird’ is the ultimate crossover between the louder end of beat group sounds and emerging psych. Overdriven guitar sounds hint at a love for The Who, but a contrasting piano part lends the track a strident grandness that’s far beyond the standard pop rock of the time. In addition, a booming, theatrical voice – falling somewhere between Arthur Brown and Phillip Goodhand-Tait – steers everything even further towards the weird. It’s a bit of a mess, yet at the same time, its three minutes is utterly thrilling, never letting up from the first note to the last, before a fade adds one final twist. Loaded with a vocal demanding the listener follows the band to who knows where, the last few bars convey a sinister oddity like very little else. As for the band, they eventually reappeared as the core of the first line up of Spooky Tooth, taking them to slightly bigger success and cult stardom.
With its heady blend of acoustic guitar lines, heavily treated vocals and buoyant pop groove, ‘A Woman of Distinction’ – a 1967 b-side from Caleb – is a fantastic addition to any alternative 60s anthology. Somewhere between the early cuts of The Marmalade and The Idle Race, it wears its rainbow colours quite proudly, wandering through some great, wonky sounds, cheerily delighting in how something very melodic has been twisted into a deliberate counter-culture oddity. Caleb later found fame as guitarist in Elton John’s regular band, but no further connection should be sought here, despite the young Reg Dwight finding his feet as session man on a wealth of the era’s singles. Argosy’s ‘Mr. Boyd’, a tune featuring Reg teaming up with future Supertramp man Roger Hodgson would’ve been an amazing addition to this set, too, but it wasn’t to be… From the sessions for the often ignored Genesis debut, Peter Gabriel and friends offer ‘Image Blown Out’, an outtake that blends rumpty-tumpty piano lines below flutes and echoing harmonies, evoking near perfect late 60s pop. Far closer to the work of The Zombies than the prog sounds Genesis would explore within a year, it’s a lovely tune which should appeal to almost everyone with half an interest in a psych-pop box set such as this. Having already found fame as a member of The Moody Blues, Denny Laine embarked on solo work in the mid-late 60s, but had no real success. ‘Catherine’s Wheel’ – the b-side to his 1968 single ‘Too Much Love’ – is an adventurous and experimental piece where deep piano lines and strings collide with chiming guitars in a way that suggests a band like Blossom Toes with a greater grasp of melody. Opting for obvious weirdness, the idea of “melody” is relative, and the track careens almost carelessly across two minutes whilst Laine moves between an impassioned cry and Tim Buckley-esque shriek, providing an experience that’s both thrilling and upsetting all at once. A semi-familiar tune, though no less enjoyable for that, The Idle Race’s ‘The Birthday’ (an album cut from ’68) finds the future ELO head honcho Jeff Lynne in fine form. A cello-heavy, Beatle-ish piece of whimsy, it not only sounds like The Move, but also includes a few harmony vocals that hint at Lynne’s own future greatness. With the addition of harpsichords, a really complex bassline and some unexpected wailing, it resembles solid but off-kilter pop. Those discovering The Idle Race for the first time here should seek out their debut album at the next opportunity. In terms of Beatle-y pop quirks, it’s one of the forgotten greats.
Always a welcome addition to any alternative leaning 60s comp, John’s Children deliver on one of their signature tunes ‘Sara, Crazy Child’, a mix of heavy beats and reverbed guitar lines that manages to be uplifting and sinister all at once. A tune that’s bigger on atmospheres than hooky melodies, it shows the band’s willingness to take Who-ish sounds into very dark places and the way Andy Ellison’s voice weaves in and out of the heady rhythms with a deliberate unease really makes the piece. Presented here in its extended version (released in Germany) it allows more of an insight into the band’s explosive potential and it’s great to hear future megastar Marc Bolan warbling over an especially haunting coda. Although the one album from Granny’s Intentions, an early vehicle for guitarist Gary Moore, has more of a light rock feel, their ‘Story of David’ blends gentle blues and rock tropes with swirling circus melodies via an organ, off-centre harmonies and a hazy, lazy feel in places that allows it to edge onto psych’s fringes. It isn’t their best song by any stretch, and Gary’s input is sleight, but as part of this anthology it works fine. Despite also having connections with a more famous act, Neo Maya’s ‘UFO’ is of far less interest. A pseudonym for Episode Six’s Graham Carter-Dimmock, Neo Maya recorded just one single for Pye Records and this b-side presents a jazz drum solo overlayed by voiceovers talking about unexplainable sightings. Mildly diverting at best, it isn’t the sort of thing you’d want to wade through more than once or twice. Luckily, it’s very much in this box set’s minority in representing the era’s misfires.
Screaming “sixties” like very little else, Boewing Duween & The Beautiful Soup’s ‘Jabberwock’ takes words from Lewis Carroll and melds them to a light waltz, driven by jazz drums and melodic organ work. An echoey vocal chews its way through various familiar elements, helping to form something that falls between the works of Pete Brown and the second phase of Manfred Mann in a particularly obtuse mood. It isn’t quite as grand as some of Traffic’s early psych noodlings, but there’s plenty within to broadly entertain. The Lion & The Fish aren’t the most familiar name in sixties pop circles, but their flop single ‘Green’ is very reminiscent of some of the more sedate elements of Pink Floyd’s ‘More’ soundtrack. The acoustic guitar work is never flashy, but conveys a hazy feel very much tied into the era; the flutes really lift the otherwise ordinary melody in a really hippie-friendly manner and a slightly dour vocal fits nicely with the mournful mood. A shift into a brief jazz interlude is quite unexpected, and yet it brings an important change of pace, allowing the last verse to take shape without the three minutes feeling too laborious. Making a very welcome change from the omipresent ‘Kites’, Simon Dupree & The Big Sound’s ‘Like The Sun, Like The Fire’ has traces of early material from Roger Chapman’s Family, but doesn’t always give such progressive pop styles the best send off. Echoing vocals alternate with hard keyboard stabs; slightly atonal strings and oboe sounds float in and out, eventually taking centre stage for a brief instrumental interlude, and despite the tail end of the number becoming a little too obsessed with kazoo oriented honking, there’s plenty here that suggests the band valued multi-layered arrangements far more than vocal hooks. Most of the music is rich in late 60s flair, and the teasing melody that runs throughout certainly evokes so much of the era. Despite this track having too much of an obsession with something akin to a wonky circus ditty, it’s enough to make you wonder how the band would have turned out in the 70s, had the Shulman Brothers not decamped for the ugly Gentle Giant…
Although he would later achieve cult status by recording a soundtrack to ‘The Body’ with Roger Waters and co-writing arranging Pink Floyd’s divisive ‘Atom Heart Mother’, Ron Geesin had already made several recordings in the 60s. A casual observer might think his ‘Psychedelia’ will do exactly what it says on the tin, but the track (originally featured on his ’67 LP ‘A Raise of Eyebrows’) features manipulated tape noise, spoken voices and accordion. It barely resembles actual music, and yet there’s an odd amusement to be had in hearing the Scottish avant garde composer given free rein. ‘Sun Sing’ by Force Four is a really enjoyable piece of light pop with clean guitar underscoring some great harmonies that almost make the performers sound like a British Grateful Dead crossed with a mod oriented beat group. The sound of a band in transition, they’d later achieve a cult following under the name Rainbow Ffolly, but even heard in isolation, this fairly melodic and very trippy slab of pop is definitely one of this set’s highlights. Another well known name to collectors of 60s ephemera, Elmer Gantry’s Velvet Opera appear in typically quirky style and their ‘Dream Starts’ works rigid basslines, light piano and brass in a way that isn’t a million miles from one of Dave Mason’s early Traffic tunes. However, its extra kazoos, backwards masking and excessive vocal mangling could make it a difficult listen if not in the mood. It would certainly be hard to argue against it being archetypal psych, though, to the point where it actually sounds like a psych pastiche from years later.
Most of the slightly less familiar material is great, but the real heart of the deeper cuts is supplied by three Yes related recordings. Mabel Greer’s Toyshop play through a slightly jangly workout on ‘Jeanetta’, and although in psych terms it’s more understated than some of the era’s other acts, it’s great to hear bassist Chris Squire and guitarist Peter Banks dropping in a couple of riffs that would form better music on the Yes debut in ’69. On its own merits, though, ‘Jeanetta’ is decent enough: loaded with fuzz guitars and a contrasting fey vocal, it’s another curious piece of an underground past. The forerunner to Mabel Greer, The Syn’s (featuring Chris Squire) sound really strong on ‘Flowerman’ (a 7” side from ’67). From its opening bell noises, through a bouncing verse where frontman Steve Nardelli chews through various gardening ideas including “giving attention to rhododendrons” in a soft drugs haze, there’s immediately much to love on this cool piece of popsike. A hazy middle section changes the mood as the rhythms fall away to explore a wandering, non committal trippiness, but the other-worldly feel is still present. Holding it all together, there are strong R&B roots, with Gunnar Hakonarson’s drums and Squire’s bass taking bits of Small Faces’ 1967 ouvre and melding its angrier parts to something that isn’t a million miles away from a deep cut from ‘The Who Sell Out’. Making the big even bigger, a world of harmonies and a brass section aim for the jubilant…and mostly succeed. It’s fair to say that although this is very much of its time, it’s also quite charming. Best of all, though, Tomorrow (featuring Steve Howe, and most famous for their ‘My White Bicycle’) offer a far more melodic track that sounds very much like a Traffic pastiche with mid tempo rhythms, chiming guitars and clear vocal throughout. Decades on, it might sound rather more ordinary, but there’s still plenty of magic demonstrated when Steve punctuates a fluid bassline with hard strummed chords, and brief ragtime interludes tease melodies that almost sound like the launching point for ‘Clap’ and ‘Disillusion’.
Fans of 60s psych comps will undoubtedly be pleased to see several more familiar names all present, especially the Zoot Money & Andy Summers vehicle Dantalion’s Chariot, a nine month flash in the pan that only recorded a handful of tracks. ‘World War III’ is about as perfect an example of their style with its wah-wahed, fuzzy guitars, chaotic vocals and proto-Pink Fairies noise coupled with a great rock/pop hook and mod-baiting rhythms. If this doesn’t make you want to explore the rest of their scant output, nothing will. The Alan Bown drop in a very spirited version of Bob Dylan classic ‘All Along The Watchtower’ which mixes hard edged R&B guitars and organ with horns and a very “stage” oriented vocal that makes it sound like a Hair outtake; The Tickle’s ‘Rose Coloured Glasses’ is a fantastic Zombies-esque romp where pianos and harpsichords underscore a lovely buoyant rhythm and the layered vocals stoke up the sunshine. Despite relying heavily on obvious psych tropes – bright orchestration, wavering harmonies and fey vocals leaning towards the non-committal – it results in something that should have been massive at the time. As it is, the Blossom Toes LP (of which this is the de facto title cut) failed to sell. It’s a hit and miss experience, to be fair, but the good bits are superb.
Perfumed Girl’s ‘Cover Girl’ has many elements that are more of a beat group throwback and between a solid rhythm and confident vocal, it supplies a couple of minutes’ worth of decent pop. However, especially for the freaks, a slightly out there interlude derails everything with falsetto shrieking and atonal organ. By the time a guitar break rolls around, the band really start to cut loose with the discordant elements. It won’t please everyone, but somewhere within is a decent tune that the band seemed keen to sabotage. Often remembered for a darker take on psych, The Deviants’ ‘Bun’ isn’t typical of their work, but some subtle guitar lines and a reasonable amount of reverb show a more melodic touch on a minimalist instrumental piece, and The Orange Bicycle turn in a likeable piece of harmonic pop (‘Amy Peate’) that sounds like Manfred Mann ’66 in a late night, half asleep mood. It mightn’t have too much zip, but there’s a decent bass groove and some fine harmonies to carry everything well enough to make potential fans want to dig further. [For the record, this is one of many good tunes from ‘The Orange Bicycle’, but their most enduring three minutes comes from their cover of Elton John’s classic ‘Take Me To The Pilot.’]
Elsewhere, you’ll hear great beat sounds driven by pumping bass from Rupert’s People (‘Dream On My Mind’), maximum fuzz and stoned coolness from July (‘My Clown’), and an one of the better Incredible String Band cuts (‘The Mad Hatter’s Song’) which shows an adept approach to acoustic guitars and sitars. Unfortunately, like most ISB stuff, it falls over pretty quickly – pretty much at the point that the vocals arrive, killing any of the musical interest. As before, if you love ISB – and some people seem to – you’ll understand why they’re included here. If you don’t like them, this track certainly won’t change your mind.
Rounding out an already great package, you’ll also bump into a bunch of household names, contributing material that captures the era in a near perfect way. With its stabbed pianos and wistful manner, Bee Gees’ ‘Spicks & Specks’ shows master songwriters taking some early steps on some consummate 60s pop, whilst at the other end of the scale, The Yardbirds’ ‘Happening Ten Years Time Ago’ is first class sixties rock, The Who reach for the stratosphere on their uneasy and quite noisy ‘Armenia City In The Sky’, and a post-Steve Winwood Spencer Davis Group work through some tight rhythm and blues with a slightly psychedelic tint on ‘Taking Out Time’. Although credited to Tyrannosaurus Rex, ‘Beyond The Rising Sun’ is actually a Bolan recording taken from the ‘Beginning of Doves’ compilation (where it is credited as an “alternative version”, not to be confused with the electric John’s Children-esque recording from ’65), but regardless of whether its actually a Tyrannosaurus or Bolan recording, it provides a great era snapshot as Marc works through some folky acoustics coupled with a distinctive bleat, and The Zombies’ ‘Hung Up On A Dream’ is one of the most perfect pieces of pop with Colin Blunstone’s slightly melancholy tones soar above mellotron sounds and stately piano. There’s not likely to be anyone interested in a box set such as this that hasn’t heard their ‘Odessey & Oracle’ album, but just in case: go and buy it as soon as possible; you won’t be sorry.
An important part of the psychedelic scene before becoming one of the 70s finest rock bands, Traffic’s ‘Utterly Simple’ isn’t one of their best known tunes, or even that representative of other Traffic works from the period, but it’s a great sitar domiated piece that whips up a late 60s feel in record time. Status Quo might not have stood on psych’s coattails for long, but their debut album ‘Picturequesque Matchstickable Messages is a masterpiece of the genre. From the dark and gloomy ‘Paradise Flats’ with its spoken word interlude, jaunty cover of The Lemon Pipers’ ‘Green Tambourine’ to the well known ‘Pictures of Matchstick Men’, the album is full of musical joys, and ‘Sunny Cellophane Skies’ (featured here) is no exception. With its ringing riff, overdriven lead guitars and harmony vocals, it’s a great piece of psych from the bluesier end of the scale, and although Alan Lancaster (RIP) does a great job of providing a different lead vocal slant, it’s more than recognisable as being the band behind the popular ‘…Matchstick Men’ hit. A deep cut from the second era of Manfred Mann, ‘Funniest Gig’ drops the listener into a world of flutes, drums and finger cymbals, whilst a phased vocal seems over-obsessed with fruit-based message that may or may not be a dream. Although not always associated with psych or anything genuinely alternative, The Kinks were actually the first band to record a hit single with a prominent sitar (1966’s ‘See My Friends’) and Ray Davies’s obsession with cups of tea showed a strong empathy with psych’s whimsical side. Presented in an alternative take, ‘Lazy Old Sun’ acts as a reminder that Ray really could tap into a slightly trippy vibe, and the track’s slow, slightly drony feel really evokes the feel of an overly hot day. A world away from his popular kitchen sink narratives, it fits into this anthology with a seamless ease.
It’s difficult for a box set such as this to please everyone, but ‘Think I’m Going Weird’ has a bloody good go. Covering an array of hits, misses, cult classics, and taking in a world of sounds from the largely forgotten, all in all, it’s a fantastic release. With almost an album’s worth of unreleased cuts, a huge supply of hard to find sides, and just enough over familiar material to lend the musical journey some chart-related context, this is an essential dip into an era of ever evolving rock and pop. Those willing to take the far out journey are guaranteed a good trip.
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