Jack Hopkin’s Curiosity Shoppe, No. 12

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…”

The bruised sky is a cracked mosaic, the trees are lined with feathered sirens and the morning zephyr plays whispered concertos through the chimney. The air crackles with blitheful urgency as the second Fairport Convention LP charts a thousand timetable miles. The sun shines within and without the Curiosity Shoppe – yet admittedly, after such a long hiatus it’s tricky to know where to begin. This shall be such an exercise in brisk brevity that there simply shan’t be the time to divulge in detail the edge of seat excitement of my TinTin style adventures with Custer and the 7th Cavalry (wherein the Americans declared peace on the Indians and the common cold was given a hot water bottle).

Instead, this column will be a largely rapid fire series of recommendations rhymed off before I forget to spread their marmalade onto our collective piece of toast, the Proletarian Pumpernickel, if you will. Do try and keep up because stragglers will be tickled with feathers and fed big jam buns until both of us are in tears. Why read of death marches when you yourself can partake in a mirth march?

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First up is a group rather aptly named Clouds who have an excellent single by the name of ‘Make No Bones About It’, a gem of folky psych which skips to and fro through it’s minotaur’s maze of tempo changes. A curious comparison to make, but the hooks brought to my mind what the Warm Sound’s acid freakout ‘Nite Is A Comin’ would sound like if performed in a folk rock styling like that of Fairport Convention or Eclection. The B side, ‘Heritage’, is a rather competent slice of keyboard-led early prog. Definitely worth your time.

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Among the other singles that have raised the ecstasy count to boiling point are the Ugly’s ‘I See The Light’ featuring vocals reminiscent of early David Bowie and ‘It’s What You Give’ by The Actress, both from 1969. Also worthwhile is the surprisingly well crafted and catchy popsike theme song to the early 70’s children’s TV series ‘Ace of Wands’, ‘Tarot’ by former Herd member Andy Bown. Indeed, at the time of release there was reportedly some controversy over the occult symbolism present amidst the swirl of the jubilant chorus. That the delivery and tempo here is similar to the chorus of the Herd’s ‘I Can Fly’ cannot be mere coincidence, but this is a criticism we shouldn’t break this butterfly on the wheel over.

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Also try to hear both sides of Brute Force’s ‘King of Fuh’/‘Nobody Knows’ for some top notch Beatlesesque Apple Records production. No doubt you’re already aware of the magic of East of Eden so I shan’t wax lyrical on them this time around but ‘Northern Hemisphere’ must be one of the greatest singles to emerge from Britain’s psychedelic/progressive scene. I very nearly neglected to mention Jon Plum (in actuality a two piece act, from what I gather) and their baroque pocket symphony ‘Alice’. This was compiled on one of the renowned ‘Circus Days’ albums and is without doubt one of the standout tracks with it’s Penny Lane-esque arrangement. Sometimes when my mind turns to static I almost subliminally hear the sharp tongue of Deep Purple’s lacerating guitar work on ‘Emmaretta’. Let it whisper to you too.

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If you haven’t already, seek out the film ‘Feast of Friends’ for a glimpse of the Doors in the midst of their famed 1968 European tour. Whether you’re a Doors fan or not, there’s no denying Jim Morrison is a totemic force of nature onstage. Furthermore, if ‘The Doors Alive’ are making trouble in your neighbourhood, mark them well. A premier tribute group, I had the pleasure of catching them back in December and I was amazed at their ability to recapture the shamanic magic of the Doors at their peak. Lovely chaps too, as it happens.

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I’m all too aware that this column is quickly beginning to resemble a shopping list but do bear with me. Gabor Szabo’s ‘Dreams’ LP is one you really ought to own or at least visit from time to time, with it’s gorgeously ornate sleeve and the wonderfully intricate sounds within. The opening track ‘Galatea’s Guitar’ is nothing short of magic. Beware of closing your eyes for the duration for Szabo is a mage of such skill you may awaken to find yourself in a different world entirely. ‘Dr Byrds and Mr Hyde’, for me, is the band’s best work since their twin psychedelic opuses ‘Younger Than Yesterday’ and ‘The Notorious Byrd Brothers’- heretically, I couldn’t get too jazzed about the country stylings of ‘Sweetheart of the Rodeo’. The stripped back version of ‘Child of the Universe’ on ‘Dr Byrds’ is superior to the brass augmented one on the ‘Candy’ soundtrack as the mix allows the excellent drum work to breath.

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The first side of the Amboy Duke’s ‘Migrations’ album is rather wonderful- the title track is part homage, part pilfered from Jeff Beck’s ‘Bolero’. Paper Garden’s LP is worth it’s weight in gold for the dreamy psych of ‘A Day’ alone, a track which somehow evokes the feeling of flying and the smell of candyfloss. Kak’s sole album is full of West Coast sunshine- hear ‘Lemonade Kid’ and ‘Golgotha’ and you’ll see the sunken ruins of the Haight Ashbury scene flourishing once more in a new antediluvian manifestation. Manfred Mann’s soundtrack to ‘Up the Junction’ is surprisingly impressive, the theme song essentially a Swinging London version of the Porpoise Song, laden with Beach Boys harmonies.

There really are too many wonderful sounds to even attempt to catalogue and too much love in circulation amongst too few. Watch out for the new instalment of Moonlight Ride, which will feature such confections as Caravan, Tinkerbell’s Fairydust and the Amazing Friendly Apple along with some world music and poetry. In this brief boost of motivation the following volume is already underway too, expect Umm Kulthum, Family and the illustrious Captain Beefheart.

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Artwork by Dawn Aquarius

London dwellers and gentiles from further afield should make the pilgrimage to the Factory de Joie and visit Hélène there for a night of burlesque, psychedelia and hedonism. I haven’t gotten the chance to visit (yet) but it looks to be a living, breathing modern day marriage between the UFO club and Warhol’s Factory- and if that doesn’t excite you I’m afraid rigour mortis is just around the corner. ★★Factory de Joie★★ returns to Paper Dress Vintage, Hackney, on Saturday 28th April. With music from The PacersFlare Voyant, The Liquorice Experiment, and the Diamond Jones Duo + a whole host of amazing DJs and dancers…tickets available to buy here

I trust you’ve been keeping up with Melanie Xulu’s radio shows. I would say that punishment for not doing so should result in having to listen to them twice consecutively, much like having to write your homework out twice after failing to complete it, but this is simply no chore. In fact, the show makes repeated listens worthwhile, doing so allows the sounds therein to marinate and soak into your pores.

Although it may cover some similar ground to upcoming volumes of Moonlight Ride, I’ve compiled a little Curiosity Shoppe playlist over yonder on Youtube. It features much of the music discussed here as well as plenty of surplus tracks that I didn’t get around to listing courtesy of the World of Oz, Cherry Smash and the Honeybus. Make yourself at home:

The sky outside is straining to snow. You can almost see the veins on the sky’s forehead as it clenches and pushes and yet the fall is sparse. Floating dust in the sun. I’ve had enough of sky sugar dropped from tiny flower saboteurs in invisible gliders and I’m ready for the honey of the springtime. When will it be time to twirl around the maypole and sing ‘Sumer Is Icumen In’ to our Wicker Man?

You’ll be absolutely free- but only if you want to be.

Love from your friend Jack.

Editors note: you may be aware that we’ve seemingly skipped “Jack Hopkins’s Curiosity Shoppe, No. 11” but fear not, we haven’t, it’s nestled comfortably in the third issue of MOOF which is available to pre-order here.

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