“Jack Hopkin’s Curiosity Shoppe is a bucolic place populated by gnomes and faeries, stocked with musky muskets and antiquated leather bound volumes in ancient tongues. A village green with a resident town crier (yours truly) shouting old news over the clopping cobbled streets. In other words, a column dedicated to recommendations from the peak of the psychedelic era, undiscovered in plain sight, and often fabled much like Atlantis. Make yourself at home and look among the wares on display…”
Written on the wings of an epochal fortnight of open air festivals and bucolic far removed getaways soundtracked by some very fine sounds indeed, this edition of the Curiosity Shoppe picks up exactly where the last left off- the middle of nowhere, lost on a meandering path, battered and well trodden yet leading to unknown horizons. And who am I to ask for directions?
Our first rendezvous down this garden path comes courtesy of the debut single of Jethro Tull, misprinted as Jethro Toe on some very early issues. Those who know Tull solely based upon their work as 70’s prog monoliths will be surprised no end by this 1968 offering, ‘Sunshine Day’ backed with ‘Aeroplane’. Both are lilting, jazzy slices of British psych pop befitting of any piece of Pathé news footage showcasing King’s Road in it’s first flush of grooviness. The B side, ‘Aeroplane’, is marginally better than the A, with a deep keyboard groove and Traffic inspired vocal, interspersed with a pretty baroque harpsichord interlude which no doubt took some heed from the sterling work of George Martin in The Beatles’ ‘In My Life’.
The Skip Bifferty single ‘Man In Black’, and, indeed, their eponymous debut LP, is also well worth the rummage. I have noticed a number of parallels with Skip Bifferty and the embryonic Spooky Tooth outfit ‘Art’ of ‘Supernatural Fairy Tales’ fame – a prematurely heavy sound coupled with typical freakbeat era concise song structures. Also recommended on the 45rpm front is the Purple Gang’s lesser known follow up to the UFO club anthem ‘Granny Takes A Trip’, a quirky jaunty number called ‘Kiss Me Goodnight Sally Green’, stylistically very similar to the campy debut but worth hearing nonetheless.
Recounting the seedy lysergic days of February and March, I find much of my memory of devilish revelry were soundtracked by the excellent Chocolate Watchband long player The Inner Mystique, a patchy work that nonetheless makes up for it’s flaws with pure period charm. Whilst not particularly indicative of the Watchband’s work- indeed, this Frankenstein’s Monster of an album is recorded by a group that is a skeleton of it’s former self, the raunchy garage rockers of ‘Are You Gonna Be There (At The Love in) in all but name thanks to heavy casualties in the lineup – it is a mystery as to why the version of ‘In The Past’ included here was not released as a single. The arrangement, replete with clamouring sitars, and shimmering mirages of keyboard along with breathy vocals deeply reminiscent of the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band sounds about as ‘1968’ as Tricky Dick growling ‘Sock it to ME?’ intertwined with the Hari Krishna mantra. Indeed, it sounds as though it could share vinyl room with The Tea Company’s similarly period imbued anthem ‘Make Love Not War’. The instrumentals, ‘The Voyage of the Trieste’ and ‘The Inner Mystique’ are Eastern-inspired trips best suited for listening in the inky blackness of night whilst watching the patterns shifting on the ceiling.
Unreserved heapings of adulation to the collected instrumental and ever so intricate guitar works of John Fahey; listen to ‘Spanish Dance’ or ‘Beautiful Linda Getchell’ for a sample of his gorgeous rustic and infectiously DIY style- indeed, he resembles a sandier sounding Bert Jansch or John Renbourn. An equal amount of admiration for Roy Harper, with his album Come Out Fighting Genghis Smith, being particularly masterly. ‘Freak Street’ and ‘You Don’t Need Money’ being worthy additions to any summer playlist.
On an rather stranger detour, try Mort Garson’s follow-up to the blissed-out period piece Zodiac: Cosmic Sounds, the exceedingly strange Wozard of Iz which re-imagines the classic film in a 1960’s setting replete with period jive talk, indeed, instead of seeking out the wizard, Dorothy is in search of ‘Where It’s At’. Dated but charming nonetheless. Perhaps not to everyone’s taste as with all my recommendations, yet I suppose even disgust is involvement of a sort and variation of opinion is preferable to simple unanimous applause for each.
On a closing note, be sure to revisit Pink Floyd’s Saucerful of Secrets and Tyrannosaurus Rex’ debut My People Were Fair And Had Sky In Their Hair. Both well known amongst our tribe but nonetheless excellent soundtracks to these lilting summer days befitting of both T Rexes and T Roxannes, what an ingenious way of denoting gender difference, oh me oh my.
I hope this column finds you happy and content. Communication remains important as ever, and I hope I’ll get to speak to each and every one of you personally. Perhaps you’ll have some unearthed gems to share with me.
Go if you’re able and come if you can,
Your friend Jack
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