“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…”
Another edition of the Curiosity Shoppe means yet another opportunity for me to empty my brain’s chamber-pot, and hopefully you enjoy the contents because they certainly like you very much.
That is to say, there are plenty of worthy sounds to be added to the roster today. For a start, the doorbell to this shoppe is sure to chime “Ching-a-Ling”. For those in the know, in between being the razor sharp mod responsible for ‘Can’t Help Thinking About Me’ and ‘I Dig Everything’ to morphing into the cosmic troubadour behind ‘Space Oddity’, David Bowie was a member of a folk trio by the name of Feathers, which a little sparrow tells me (courtesy of a friend of a friend of a friend) was active in late 1968 for a few brief months. Highly reminiscent of early Fairport Convention, the trio released no records but made the grade at such hip venues as Middle Earth at the Roundhouse and Mothers Club in Birmingham. However, the two other members of the trio contributed to David’s unreleased single ‘Ching-a-Ling’ which is now freely available to hear online and is very much worth a listen. A good record in it’s own right, it also serves to fill in an often neglected period of the Starman’s all encompassing history. The particularly astute among you will notice similarities in the melody with ‘Saviour Machine’ from the 1970 LP The Man Who Sold The World.
‘A Child’s Guide To Good And Evil‘ by the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band (quite the mouthful, and we all know how dangerous it is to eat on an empty stomach) is one of the most worthy long players on the basis of how strange it is – upon inspection of the tracklist and beholding the title of a song named ‘A Child Of A Few Hours Is Burning To Death’, it’s impossible to think this trip will be anything but unusual. There is a marked juxtaposition present throughout here of childish naivety and marked venom which is interesting, along with the curious instrumentation- many of the songs are buried in layers of sitars and lavish production. As such, the album encapsulates the increasing bitterness of the late 60’s counterculture just as well as ‘Helter Skelter’ or ‘Gimme Shelter’, yet is not without its charming concessions to the spirit of the age – see the fabulous ‘Until The Poorest People Have Money To Spend’, which sounds like an enumeration of late 60’s hippie stereotypes without being cringeworthy which many fans of the genre will respect as being a very fine and difficult line to straddle.
The debut album by the ill fated folk rock group Ecletion on Elektra is also well worth the time, including the single “Nevertheless”, a hit which never was which nonetheless reportedly garnered plenty of airtime in the UK in the summer of 1968. The album reaches an earth shattering conclusion with ‘Confusion’, which dazzles with crashing production and sublime harmonies, a folk rock ‘A Day In The Life’ if you will.
On the singles front there’s plenty of oddities dredged up in my net (think Forrest Gump in his faithful ship Jenny gathering delicious shrimp after Hurricane Carmen, except instead of fishiness he’s seized gems from the Rubble connection.) Whilst the World of Oz’s single ‘The Muffin Man’ is decent, the B-side is the real popsike treat. ‘Peter’s Birthday’ (Black And White Rainbows)’ sounds like Turquoise‘ Tales of Flossie Fillet’ and is very much worth your time. Similarly, Katch 22’s offering of ‘There Ain’t No Use In Hanging On’ opens with a jangling Latin guitar riff before launching into some Swinging London pop. ‘Light Of Your Mind’ by David is a wrongfully neglected piece of lysergic magic with a fabulously intricate guitar line weaving in and out of earshot, fit to rival the genre defying efforts of Tintern Abbey. Musical ambrosia sure to open up the third eye, if you’re willing to allow it. Meanwhile, ‘Sunny Day Blue’ by Fargo is gorgeous and melodic with its plaintive reflective lyrics and sunny harmonies. There are marked similarities with the Sunshine Company and the Parade. Enjoy whilst the sun still shines.
Much like a dog reluctant to take medicine without peanut butter intervention, I have wrongfully disregarded Leonard Cohen’s debut LP until very recently. A rare, spectral experience best enjoyed at night. I defy you to listen to ‘Master Song’ and not be serenaded into tranquility. Furthermore, ‘Waiting For The Sun’ by The Doors is hardly obscure but it’s power to move me is undeniable. ‘Love Street’ must surely rank among the greatest songs ever committed by Jim &co to wax. ‘I guess I like it fine, so far.’
A final rushed recommendation to the spoken word poetry LP, ‘The Incredible New Liverpool Scene‘. Featuring the poems of Adrian Henri and Roger McGough, there is a timelessness in the subject matter and an earnestness in the delivery, whilst the chortles and laughs in response to the performances contained herein conjure up an intimate atmosphere where you can almost smell cigarette smoke. A bow in the general direction to the stark, startling anti-war work ‘Mother, The Wardrobe is Full of Infantrymen’ which warns against nuclear Armageddon in an oblique manner (“I did, I tried to bring in the cat/ But it simply came to pieces in my hands”) whilst ‘For You, Everything Is Going To Be Alright’ jumps easily between saccharine sweetness and unnerving discomfit.
Indeed, it appears it’s time I close the Curiosity Shoppe once more, to return again in a couple of weeks. Apologies that this has been rather long and convoluted- I do notice the length too, fear not, stretching over the horizon like a fruit winder casting it’s fruity surface over the warm grass. It simply shames me that there are so many more sounds I still need to share with you all and so little time. The response to the first couple of editions has been marvellous and it makes my day every time to hear from you personally, you have my gratitude. Come back next time to hear all about Principal Edward’s Magic Theatre, a rustic communal troupe very deserving of your time. Please do reach out and say hello if you get the chance.
Love, peace and sunshine from your friend Jack.
MOOF claims no credit for any images posted on this site unless otherwise noted. If there is an image appearing on this blog that belongs to you and you do not wish for it appear on this site, please E-mail with a link to said image and it will be promptly removed.