In 2017, Grapefruit Records released ‘Let’s Go Down & Blow Our Minds’, a three disc anthology bringing together psychedelic favourites, rarities and unreleased gems from 1967. The set proved so popular that similarly curated box sets covering 1968 and 1969 swiftly followed. A comprehensive voyage through an interesting landscape, capturing an era where new studio trickery pushed rock and pop music forward apace, between them, this trio of releases comprised an unmissable treat. For those who couldn’t get enough psych and freakbeat, the label even issued a further five discs’ worth of material from the era in the lavish ‘I Think I’m Going Weird’, a release that brought some of the biggest underground gems to public attention since Bam Caruso Records unleashed their ‘Rubble’ series of releases in the early 90s.
Despite the comprehensive amount of material from 1967 filling ‘Let’s Go Down’ and the ‘…Weird’ box set, Grapefruit have uncovered yet more gems from the year with ‘Too Much Sun Will Burn’. You might think at this point that another psych box would feel like overkill – but you’d be wrong. More so than ever before, this set brings a wealth of rare material via a set of tracks that were recorded in 1967, but not actually issued at the time, and a great selection of harder to find 7” sides. Obviously, some of these have crawled out on other comps over the years, but it’s great to have them easily accessible and in one place. There are also a few genuinely unreleased cuts to tempt the hardened collector, making it a release that should please a broad spectrum of psych lovers.
Digging through some of the previously shelved material, you’ll find some really good sounds. The 23rd Turnoff’s ‘Another Vincent Van Gogh’ is presented as an “alternative version”, but that’s not such a big deal when the original cut remains so overlooked. Despite being, presumably, a later take of the track, its heady 60s vibes still cut through when a hard guitar tone falls between hard R&B and psych, and a naive vocal that’s more about tone than melody dominates. In another world, it’s the kind of number that might have fit nicely on Status Quo’s debut LP, despite not quite having the same high production values. Seemingly sourced from an old cassette, a “Baker Street” version of Focal Point’s ‘Never Never’ finds the band taking old Zombies harmonies, a pinch of Mersey pop and a wave of gentle weirdness to create a fairly sappy but enjoyable pop number. It’s a pity this only exists in such a scratchy audio experience, as there’s a strong melody to be found here. Even though it wouldn’t have sounded that original at the time, heard decades on, it has the heart of a tune that deserves some love. More often associated with being a mod band, it’s great to hear The Action experimenting with floaty harmonies on ‘Icarus’, and daring to do so in a way that barely fits the tune in hand. This creates a genuine freakout that almost forces the listener to either focus on the music or vocal melody. It could be argued that it’s all the result of a wazzed band getting out of their depth, but there are still some superb sounds here. They come largely from a thin, jazzy guitar, but lurking at the back of the arrangement there’s also a massive, clattering drum part that would make Keith Moon proud.
An alternative mono version of Tomorrow’s ‘Revolution’ is a real treat for psych fans since its disjointed intro and guitar fills very much showcase Steve Howe’s distinctive style, whilst the bulk of the number abuses phasers and fey vocals in a way that’s so typical of the era. Together, these elements glorify the more heady elements of a late 60s sound, and with Howe wantonly dropping in the odd jazz chord, it shows off a band who were – unknowingly at the time – knocking on the door of prog. The Genesis debut ‘From Genesis To Revelation’ has been unfairly resigned to the dustbin of history. That’s particularly unfair; although it isn’t representative of the band they’d be just a year later, it’s a record bursting with life, and a youthful approach to some very alternative pop. The several out-takes from the era that have since been unearthed are no exception, and the sparse ‘She Is Beautiful’ applies a Moody Blues-ish core to a jazz rooted piano part and sharp acoustics, capturing a band ready to push forward. Tony Banks sounds like he’s hammering at his piano in another room and the percussive elements are non-existent, but it works despite itself. There’s a genuine atmosphere captured on the recording, and especially so in the way Peter Gabriel’s husky voice darts between the piano notes. Chances are you’ve heard this number on an unofficial Genesis compilation over the years, but it’s a superb fit here. A lesser known act, The Tickle, fill three minutes with a combination of heavy piano riffs and Kinks-ish vocal sounds on ‘Something Out of Place’, and although its only really the piano that sets this apart from fairly bog standard sixties pop/rock, they were clearly very competent musicians. Given how much energy has gone into the piano fills and a couple of novelty backing vocals, it’s a shame they forgot to write a memorable chorus or vocal hook of any kind, but if you’re happy to merely be absorbed by the music, it’s a fun listen.
Two previously unreleased tracks by Lisa & Francesca are more of an acquired taste. The two girls weren’t really musicians, nor did they have a career to speak of. After leaving The Sorbonne, they became 60s scenesters and if stories are to be believed, they were often seen hanging around Paul McCartney. This led to a trip to a recording studio. ‘Turn Your Face Away’ starts well enough with an acoustic guitar riff and haunting piano, setting up something that has elements of Nick Drake and Renaissance, but it soon takes a rather weird turn when the vocals arrive. Both women apply really affected, spooky voices, and when presented at almost full volume as they are here, this performance becomes arty to the point of challenging. This, unexpectedly, plays like a Linda Perhacs leftover, but unlike Linda’s strangely alluring work, this drones on a little too long at almost five minutes. Their‘Silver Man’, although still playing to a spooky blueprint, works far better since it’s sitar-like guitar parts and droning keys tap into a similar darkness as the early Doors work, and melodically, there’s a faint pre-figuring of the brilliant Mellow Candle. It’s still easy to hear why their limited musical palate and dour sounds wouldn’t have stretched to a full album, but this tune, when approached in the right mood, is good enough to make you wonder what could’ve been. A previously unreleased cut from Circle Plantagenet also edges towards the drone end of psych, thanks to a slightly detached and echoing voice. In contrast, that’s attached to a fairly run of the mill 60s tune that isn’t far removed from a Walker Brothers ballad, as heard through a hazy filter. The demo quality recording makes it seem even more otherworldly, but after tuning in, you’ll find a rather pleasant, almost autumnal tune. It would be remiss to call it a lost classic, but psych fans will be pleased that it’s finally available here.
No psych compilation covering ’67 would be complete without Elmer Gantry, and the Velvet Opera track that graces this set is one of their best. ‘Talk of The Devil’ is a brilliant R&B tune that’s subjected to vocal filters, phased guitars and heavy drums. With a heavy groove steering a pointed guitar solo to glory, it’s the kind of thing you’d find soundtracking party scenes in late 60s films, and despite sounding like a second rate Action with Floydian interludes, it’s utterly superb. Tintern Abbey’s ‘Snowman’ isn’t in the least bit shy in sharing more love for the early Pink Floyd, and their sinister tale about winter figures marching towards the sun even comes with a Syd Barrett inspired whisper and backing vocals lifted straight from the ‘Piper’ sessions. The sheer plagiarism doesn’t make it bad; if anything, it’s quite the opposite. The audacity of the piece is more than admirable, and the playing, although rarely more than rudimentary, captures a sinister sound that’s brilliantly effective. It’s a must-hear. Living Daylights sound like a mash up of Cream and The Mindbenders on ‘Up So High’, an ode to being “so far off the ground” set to fuzz guitars and loaded with 60s harmonies. It’s one of this sets true gems, insomuch that it not only captures the soft drugs spirit of so much psych, it also manages to be a hundred percent accessible and melodic. Much like The Byrds’ ‘Eight Miles High’, any alluding to drugs – whether genuine or implied – would have stopped this getting the kind of radio play it deserved, but it retains a genuine spark that makes it enjoyable time after time. There’s also a brilliant musical thread throughout The End’s ‘Lady Under The Lamp’, thanks to some great drumming and rhythmic organ work. It’s all rather more of the mod/beat group mould than psych, but lovers of the post-Winwood Spencer Davis Group will certainly find plenty to love. It’s likely to have found a home here purely through its vocal led climax where a melody wavers dangerously close to that of Pink Floyd’s ‘The Gnome’, but whichever way you approach this, it’s a superb number.
A genuine find, Great Uncle Fred’s ‘I’m In Love With An Ex-Beauty Queen’ manages to combine beat group sounds with the well known ‘Snake Charmer’ melody in a fashion that makes them sound like filler on a light entertainment show. It shouldn’t be as good as it is, as it tries far too hard to impress, but thanks to some great guitar work derived from Tony Hicks on The Hollies’ ‘Stop Stop Stop’ and a weird vocal that sounds like Davy Jones taking the piss, it has a serious cheekiness that makes it rather alluring. Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t a hit. The much-loved Blossom Toes, meanwhile, are represented by ‘Look At Me I’m You’, a wonky beat group banger augmented by a huge amount of back masking and vocals that occasionally descend into close harmony folkiness. It isn’t as good as their ‘Mrs. Murphy’s Budgerigar’ – a jaunty popsike masterpiece – but in representing them at their most freaky, it’s a winner. Being their best known track, it’s likely that most people will own this elsewhere, but to not include it here would’ve been a travesty, and especially remiss on behalf of the compiler.
The Virgin Sleep’s ‘Love’ is another Mindbenders-ish affair, purely psych by association, since its vocals sound half asleep and the mid tempo arrangement is augmented by some then-fashionable sitar, and The Accent’s ‘Red Sky At Night’ sounds like an out-take from ‘The Who Sell Out’ subjected to a wall of distortion. Neither are bad in any way; nor are they especially interesting for those well-versed in psych history, either – you’ll find similar or better elsewhere within this set. Not least of all from the bizarrely named Paper Blitz Tissue, who were very much a product of their time. Their ‘Boy Meets Girl’ falls somewhere between brilliant freakbeat and the Quo debut, and there are massive future echoes of that album throughout this recording, from its use of reverb, its lead guitar sound, and tempo. Even the lead vocal sounds like some of Rick Parfitt’s work from the 60s. For those who enjoy guitar driven sixties pop, it is another essential listen, whilst Our Plastic Dream opt for something freakier on ‘Our Shangri-La’, a number where the breakneck tempo is tiring, the guitars sound like kazoos and a backing vocal offset from the lead accentuates the arrangement’s urgency. Somehow, though, despite creating a somewhat wearing number that often values energy over actual tune, this is fascinating…and again, an unsurprising flop.
Compilation regulars The Orange Bicycle sound great on ‘Hyacinth Threads’, a harmony drenched 7” side that failed to make massive waves upon release. Armed with a busy rhythm and a world of harpsichord sounds that suggest 1967 like very little else, the music sits squarely within a very British take on a psych sound, but it’s the vocals that really make the track. Adding a lot of melody to a very cluttered arrangement, a wall of harmonies is hugely influenced by Byrds recordings from the era, and their other worldly pop perfection really works for the band. Also taking full advantage of the fashion for harpsichords and orchestration, ‘No One Else Can See’ by The Picadilly Line sounds like a later Zombies cut colliding with a traditional English tune and the heart of Incredible String Band’s soft drugs hippiedom – assuming, that is, ISB were actually capable of a melody. It’s massively twee, but at the same time, strangely enjoyable. It’s hard to imagine this existing in a world where Hendrix and Cream were ushering in new, harder sounds, but at the same time, it feels like a forerunner to some of prog rock’s more whimsical fancies. It’s always great when comps such as this cast a spotlight onto lesser bands, and you’ll wonder why these guys aren’t better known.
The Flower Pot Men’s ‘Let’s Go To San Francisco’ is certainly one of the better known cult recordings found here, but it’s also tune that never seems to get old. The psudo Beach Boys harmonies are spot on throughout, and as if to hammer that point home, they’ve also nailed the Carol Kay-esque bass sound, and the occasional harpsichord stabs really lift everything. The Artwoods – naturally, featuring Ron’s brother Art Wood – supply some solid beat pop on ‘What Shall I Do’, and its blend of twangy lead guitar and swirling organ provides an easy link between the pop of the mid 60s and the ongoing experiments of ’67. In a lot of ways, the song itself is rather ordinary, but between some great musicianship and their knowing the value of a strong “la la” (a secret withheld from The Tickle), it more than holds its own. As for the short-lived John’s Children, their ‘Go Go Girl’ scores highly for aggressive drumming and incessant hookiness, but if anything leaves an indelible impression, its an ugly organ solo that’s so loud, makes The Who’s excesses seem trivial. This is a superb mod friendly workout where the whole band are absolutely on fire, and despite being best remembered for their brief associations with Marc Bolan, this is a fantastic reminder of Andy Ellison’s tremendous vocal presence.
Future ‘Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da’ hitmakers The Marmalade truly exploit their ability to harmonise throughout the perfect 60s pop of ‘There Ain’t No Use In Hangin’ On’. Making the best of a jangly rhythm and applying sitar-like guitar parts akin to The Yardbirds, It’s half a world away from Desmond and his barrel…and all the better for it. With a world of flutes, tack pianos and a marching beat, the arrangement on Scott Henderson’s ‘Saturday Night’ meets somewhere at the crossroads of light psych and toytown pop. Sounding like a distant cousin to an Andy Ellison solo piece, the mid tempo arrangement allows Scott plenty of room, and although his vocal skills are somewhat limited, he really sells this weird tale of loneliness and detachment in a way that’s quite charming. Episode Six need no introduction, and ‘Love-Hate-Revenge’ is a suitably off-kilter tune demonstrating their almost unique blend of psych, beat group sounds and chorus harmonies worthy of The Seekers. Often a confused band when it came to identity, this track demonstrates that better than most, but it’s a fine vehicle for future Deep Purple vocalist Ian Gillan.
For those looking for further great listening, but might want something a little more familiar from this compilation experience, a bit of early Bowie courtesy of ‘Silly Boy Blue’ acts as a reminder of a talented man who’d not quite figured the best use of his voice; The Who get weird on the whimsical ‘Silas Stingy’; a pre-ELO Jeff Lynne champions pure novelty on the McCartney influenced ‘Man In A Tree’, and The Kinks’ Dave Davies is in superb vocal shape on the catchy ‘Susanna’s Still Alive’, a solo single release that features musical backing from the rest of the band. A little more interesting is The Hollies’ brief flirtation with psych – instigated by Graham Nash – and ‘King Midas In Reverse’ does a superb job of applying the distinctive Clarke, Hicks & Nash harmonies to an arrangement that mixes heavy acoustic guitar strums with Beatle-esque orchestration and, eventually, some unsettling brass, determined to derail everything. It’s one of those late 60s tracks that will forever sound brilliant.
There’s even time for a pre-fame Elton. Although he would make the first big inroads into his long career with the underappreciated ‘Empty Sky’ album in 1969, he and Bernie Taupin put in some hard yards on the songwriting front for two years prior to that album’s release. The plan was to become jobbing songwriters for others; the trouble was that their demos were a bit too weird for mass acceptance, even for the time. After all, what exactly is ‘When I Was Tealby Abbey’ all about? A huge raft of demos from the late 60s eventually saw official release on Elt’s lavish ‘Jewel Box’, and a shelved album, ‘Regimental Sgt. Zippo’ was finally released in 2022, some fifty five years later than it should have been. For those yet to have explored those demos or the frankly oddball LP, this box allows for a taste in ‘Nina’, an otherworldly jam where Reg Dwight gets in touch with his dark side, throwing organ shapes over a tune that has more in common with a heavy Moody Blues track than ‘Your Song’. The vocals are unmistakable; the music, however, could be the work of anyone, but there’s still a magic to be gleaned from its unsettling orchestration, occasionally doom-laden riffs and crashy drums. Caleb Quaye, a man who’d soon become associated with the Elton John band is here, too, and his ‘Baby Your Phrasing Is Bad’ supplies another prime slice of ’67 oddness with its fascination with chiming guitars and half-stoned drumming. The trebly music is pure proto-psych – another arrangement that’s not far removed from the fledgling Quo – but if anything really works here, it’s the studio trickery/production values. A workmanlike tune is lifted much higher due to an abundance of phased effects occasionally muffling the music, a world of back masking on the instrumental break, and old Caleb being made to sound like he’s singing into a plastic bucket. Of all the material here, this track is probably the most 1967 of them all. [This single’s equally good b-side can be found on the Cherry Red/Grapefruit set ‘I Think I’m Going Weird’.]
There was always the risk of this set playing like leftovers or also-rans, but it’s really not the case. 1967 really was a treasure trove of superb alternative pop and rock sounds, and here’s the proof. This isn’t just a great companion to ‘Let’s Go Down’, but a great listen in its own right. Come for The Orange Bicycle, Elmer Gantry, John’s Children and all the other archive regulars, stay for the less tuneful rarities, and glean nostalgia from a few big names. It’s all here, in another celebration of a pre-hard rock past that’s all very of its time, and yet never grows old. You’re unlikely to devour it all in one go, but when approached in a cherry-picked fashion, ‘Too Much Sun Will Burn’ is a highly recommended anthology for fans of alternative sixties sounds everywhere.
Buy the CD: TOO MUCH SUN WILL BURN