“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…”
Methinks that today we’ll kick off proceedings (so long as you’re all sitting comfortably) with a stern and authoritative direct order – next chance you get, pre-order your copy of MOOF Vol. 2. here. Featuring exclusive interviews with Mark Fry and Alison O’Donnell, a piece about the Beatles’ Apple Boutique which I’m very excited to read and heapings more (including a couple of little bits and pieces by myself) this really isn’t one to miss. Failure to order a copy will result in all of MOOFdom showing up at your doorstep chanting ‘one of us, one of us!’ until you succumb to our extreme charm and excellent manners for angry mob standards. If you don’t fancy getting a copy… Go on, you know where the door of the Shoppe is. Close the door on the way out. (I jest, of course. All visitors are welcome and will be serenaded with ‘Be Our Guest’ from Beauty and the Beast upon arrival…)
That said, let’s get down to the nitty and, if you’re so inclined, the gritty. Plenty of sounds to get through today- first of all, the Idle Race with their debut LP, ‘The Birthday Party‘ which more or less defines the blueprints of Jeff Lynne’s entire future output. This late period British psych is at once nostalgic and sardonic with tongue firmly in cheek, with Beatlesesque melodies and production reminiscent of the early Bee Gees. The group really shine on the sentimental ‘Follow Me, Follow’ and the melancholic title track. Highly recommended- this record will have you feeling like you’ve been spattered with warm honey, although in a nice way and without the connotations of scaphism.
I often wonder why the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band aren’t exalted as highly as their American contemporaries Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. Perhaps it’s because their satire is more delicate and affectionate and not so sharp and acerbic, yet this is a group that deserves a reputation beyond their current stature as a footnote in Beatles history owing to their appearance in the ‘Magical Mystery Tour’ film. Indeed, the comedic stylings of the group go some way in pre-empting the comedic stylings of Monty Python in the 1970’s – surreal but grounded with a knowing wink to the empirical past. ‘The Doughnut in Granny’s Greenhouse‘, their second album, showcases their broad range and surprisingly impressive musicianship. I’m particularly fond of ‘Humanoid Boogie’ and ‘Rockalizer Baby’ but this is one of those albums where the sum really is greater than it’s parts.
Also highly recommended is the sole album from the sadly short lived Skip Bifferty. The fuzzy guitar and baroque melody in ‘When She Comes To Stay’ can stand proudly alongside the very best of the British psych canon, perhaps it would’ve seen more recognition if it were released as a single, yet here it is buried on a comparatively obscure long player. The Beacon Street Union, also, managed to rekindle my interest with their second album, ‘The Clown Died In Marvin Gardens’, with it’s enigmatic popsike title track sounding like a long lost Future-era Seeds track albeit much more melodic and progressive.
On the singles front, since the summer of last year I’ve had a strong affinity with Turquoise. With ‘Woodstock’ and ‘Tales of Flossie Fillet’, they were instrumental in steering my tastes towards the heart of the currant bun with their distinctly British, Kinks style whimsy. The B-side to the former, ‘Saynia’, is a reflective and wistful little tune with some gorgeous Flowerpot Men style backing harmonies and a surprisingly heavy guitar line persisting throughout.
Some might say the Moles was a blatantly post-Sgt Pepper last ditch gambit for a group which was in actuality Simon Dupree and the Big Sound under a different moniker. However, given just how far out and non commercial their excellent single ‘We Are The Moles Pt1/Pt2’ is, clearly cashing in on current trends was not remotely on the radar. A much compiled and exalted ‘lost’ psych gem with it’s reverb laden vocals and irregular rhythmic changes, ‘We Are The Moles’ is a steamroller of a record which left me a flattened platter of wobbly matter after my first exposure. Popsike at it’s freakiest.
In parting I’ll recommend a couple of things you no doubt are already massively familiar with. ‘Wee Tam and the Big Huge‘ by the Incredible String Band is perhaps the most complete realisation of the ISB’s musical vision with it’s delicate china platter of simple songs full of a child’s wonder at the world. ‘You Get Brighter’ ranks among the most breathtakingly simple yet touching songs committed to record. To end with is a very old friend of mine and no doubt of you too – ‘Atlantis’ by Donovan. Fascinating that Donovan can make you feel so much unity with his mantra-like repetition of that blissed out chorus. Close your eyes and you can see those beautiful sailors in their ships with painted sails. Donovan’s music is a veritable shining garden of earthly delights that will always be something a home away from home.
Be sure to listen to the new MOOF radio show courtesy of Melanie Xulu, I for one am excited to hear the psychedelic spells cast by Magic Bus who will be guesting on the show and playing a live acoustic set. Be there or be cuboid.
Let us sing and dance and ring in the new – not forgetting, of course, to Hail Atlantis.
Your friend Jack.
Editors note: you may be aware that we’ve seemingly skipped “Jack Hopkins’s Curiosity Shoppe, No. 8” but fear not, we haven’t, it’s nestled comfortably in the second issue of MOOF which is available to pre-order here.
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