What is “Toytown Pop”? The label, coined by fans and collectors, refers to the more mundane and child-friendly aspects of the psychedelic era and psych pop movements. It is chiefly concerned with everyday life, shops, buses, swings in the park, and has an obsession with being home in time for tea. In terms of lyrical concerns and overall concepts, you’d be hard pressed to find anything more…1967.
For those who aren’t regular visitors down the rabbit holes of cult 60s pop, The Beatles’ ‘Penny Lane’ is a good example of this musical niche with its busy narrative driven by people and casual observations, and to a lesser extent, the optimistic tone and bounce of ‘Good Day Sunshine’ could also fit the remit. Obviously, due to licencing agreements and costs – as usual – you won’t find The Fab Four anywhere on ‘Climb Aboard My Roundabout’, but Grapefruit Records has unearthed a whole world of other treats to ensure that this three disc set is a very comprehensive journey through Toytown, and is never less than interesting.
It’s hard to underestimate the impact Slade had in their prime. With their hybrid of hard rock volume and glammy kitsch they spent a huge amount of time in the UK top 40 between 1972-1984 and they were a phenomenal live act.
1966 was very much a turning point for pop music. Many acts that were considered beat groups had started to branch out and to think beyond live performance. With orchestral tracks like ‘Eleanor Rigby’ and ‘For No One’ Paul McCartney pushed forth the idea of baroque pop. John Lennon, meanwhile, was experimenting with tape loops and early forms of electronica. His ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’, closing The Beatles’ 1966 masterpiece ‘Revolver’, is often considered to be at least partially responsible for the birth of true psychedelia. While it’s obvious Lennon’s sound collage took a massive leap towards the mind expanding sounds of ’67, many other bands were sowing the seeds for change a little earlier. As early as 1965, The Kinks pushed boundaries with their single ‘See My Friends’ – a mix of jangling sixties pop and raga music – while even the Dave Clarke Five had occasionally sounded a bit…out there for the era with an increased use of reverb. While the roots of psychedelia could be argued over almost indefinitely, The Yardbirds’ ‘Shapes of Things’ – a fuzzy mish-mash of beat-pop and soft druggy haze – pre-dates the release of ‘Revolver’ by several months and is very much in the mould that would come to be known as freakbeat. An important branch of the psychedelia family tree, freakbeat took the bones of the sixties sound, loaded it with fuzz and wasn’t shy in exploiting the left/right split for stereo head trips. In 1966, this was very much at the forefront of emerging alternative sounds.
In the US, Christmas music is big business. You can find a festive album to suit pretty much every one of your holiday moods. There are countless Christmas albums from country artists; you can play it traditionally with the easy listening approach with She & Him’s retro pop or Lowen & Navarro’s world of log fires and woolly jumpers. You can opt for retro rock ‘n’ roll and a swingin’ yuletide with the brilliant Brian Setzer, or even funky festivities with James Brown. In a world where even Bad Religion – a punk band fronted by one of the world’s most outspoken athiest academics – have a Christmas album, the gloves are off. We live in a post-irony world.
In December 2019, L.A. Guns’ ‘Another Xmas In Hell’ appeared on streaming services with little to no fanfare. A five track release, it finds the US hard rockers putting their own slant on a couple of very familiar festive favourites and a couple of lesser known gems.