thu 02/07/2020

Reissue CDs Weekly: A Slight Disturbance In My Mind | reviews, news & interviews

Reissue CDs Weekly: A Slight Disturbance In My Mind

Reissue CDs Weekly: A Slight Disturbance In My Mind

Provocative canter through ‘The British Proto-Psychedelic Sounds of 1966’

The Misunderstood: 'A Slight Disturbance In My Mind’s' most out-and-out heads

Two of the 84 tracks on A Slight Disturbance In My Mind: The British Proto-Psychedelic Sounds of 1966 are covers of songs from Revolver. One is a rendering of “Tax Man” (sic) by a band named Loose Ends which was enterprisingly issued as a single on the same August 1966 day The Beatles’ album was released. Despite the addition to the arrangement of bongos, spiralling soul-type organ and an odd spindly guitar line it’s pretty faithful to the original and not too exciting.

The other is Hertfordshire band The Mirage’s re-rendering of “Tomorrow Never Knows”, which hit record shops in December 1966. Plundering Beatles’ albums for single material was commonplace but choosing to have a go at Revolver’s most far-out cut showed remarkable chutzpah. The result was great, if hardly commercial. This lesser-known “Tomorrow Never Knows” had a thin, metallic, otherworldy sound, cascading harmonies and, unsurprisingly, sold barely any copies.

A SLIGHT DISTURBANCE IN MY MINDRevolver wasn’t the only evidence that something new, peculiar and worth buying into was in the offing. In February 1966, The Yardbirds had released “Shapes of Things”, their first band-penned A-side. Keith Relf sang of what might have been previously interpreted as synaesthesia: “My eyes just heard my brain.” Psychedelia was going overground.

The year 1966 has become a perennial for those behind compilations, as it represents the point when pop music definitively became more than moon, spoon, June, etc. This column has previously looked at a couple of other 1966 comps, so A Slight Disturbance In My Mind enters a moderately crowded market. Indeed, “The Quiet Explosion” by The Uglys – heard here – also appeared on 2015’s 1966: The Year The Decade Exploded. Different tracks by David Bowie, The Tornados and The Yardbirds are on both collections.

Within the stylistic remit of the operative part of the title – "Proto-Psychedelic" – there’s the tracks mentioned above, The Hollies’ “Clown”, The Ivy League’s “My World Fell Down”, The Kinks’ “Fancy”, The Riot Squad’s “I Take it We’re Through”, The Smoke’s “My Friend Jack” (a demo version) and much more. The questing flavour of 1966 is captured in excelsis by this three-disc clamshell box with more than enough obscurities, including some previously unheard material, to please anyone. As ever with releases of this nature, The Beatles and the Stones do not appear. The Who aren’t heard either. But the spirit of all three courses throughout.

A SLIGHT DISTURBANCE IN MY MIND_The RenegadesAs for proto-psychedelia – or even psychedelia – the parameters of what fits into that bag are not adhered to. The Pretty Things went full-on freaky in 1967 but a year earlier they were still a hairy R&B outfit. David Bowie’s “I Dig Everything” is switched-on lyrically. Musically, it’s soul. The Renegades’ crunching version of Bill Haley’s “Thirteen Women” is great, but it’s hard mod-garage-rock. The Kirkbys’ Revolver-ish “It’s a Crime” is in the Hollies-pop vein. Notwithstanding its wonderful-ness, the pre-Slade band The ’N Betweens’ romp through Otis Redding’s “Security” has nothing to do with psychedelia (a previously unheard, longer version of the track is collected). Mod bands The Action and The Creation were pushing towards psychedelia but weren’t there yet. The Fingers billed themselves as psychedelic but their version of Ray Davies’ “I Go to Sleep” is moody pop.

In contrast, the remarkable John Peel-favoured Misunderstood (formed in California but based in London) are A Slight Disturbance In My Minds out-and-out heads. They explored the mysteries of inner space more energetically than anyone else in this box. “There is no sense in this dimension, If I could leave there'd be no question, Of what I'd find, Peace of mind,” they indignantly declare on the feral, frazzled “My Mind”.

A SLIGHT DISTURBANCE IN MY MIND_The Kirkbys It's A CrimeThe abundant slippages mean A Slight Disturbance In My Mind is not as per its sub-title. Instead, some of Brit-pop 1966's movers grapple with change; facing it without certainty of where it would lead. In the booklet's introductory essay, The Hollies’ fence-sitting Graham Nash is quoted as saying his band were “trying to create an LSD session without the use of drugs.”

Equally illuminating is a piece drawn from The Sun, which had the headline “Psychedelic, the new and dangerous sound in pop music.” Apparently, readers were “about to be bamboozled with a new pop word: psychedelic. The music it describes is little different from other pop sounds. It is just another gimmick to draw money from the gullible. But unlike beat, surf-beat, drag music, raga-rock and all the others, this one could be dangerous. Psychedelic music, according to its American creators and its British disciples, induces in audiences the hallucinations and other effects that they would experience if they took LSD. Psychedelic music…let’s call it Sham music, shall we, and all have a good laugh?”

Undoubtedly, A Slight Disturbance In My Mind: The British Proto-Psychedelic Sounds of 1966 includes gimmick-mongers and shammers. Whatever. In this spirit, straying from the advertised remit says more about the state of play in British pop during 1966 than the narrowly focussed compilation it seems to be. Don’t take the “Proto-Psychedelic” part of the title literally.

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