The thing is, define psychedelia. Ok, I think we we can all agree Hendrix is the master psychsman. Our recent top ten albums from the golden age of psychedelia came to the same conclusion. After Jimi though all bets are off, one man’s bongo and bass marathon in Marrakesh is another man’s annoying fey folk whimsy recorded on bad acid under a conker tree in Hyde Park in 1967.
In my definition, certain criteria have to be met, the resulting work should take your brain to the planet Hargapaphon in the Greater Mushroom Spiral arm, (turn left at San Francisco, go straight on for 867 light years, when you see God, you’ve arrived ) blatant recreational drug use is highly desirable, being darlings of the late Sixties, early Seventies counter culture is a good thing, the use of backwards guitar is a sure fire winner, a far out sleeve can work wonders, oh , and it must be met with critical bemusement, hostility or indifference. Ladbroke Grove based Pink Fairies and their debut 1971 album Never Never Land fulfills most of those criteria …with knobs on.
Theirs was a convoluted gestation (see Rich Deakins highly readable ‘Keep it together’ for further enlightenment) with their previous incarnation the Social Deviants with Mick Farren at the helm, but by the time of Never Never Land the band was Paul Rudolph lead guitar, John Alder (also known as Twink) drums, Duncan Sanderson , bass, and Russell Hunter, more drums.
Polydor signed them up in 1970 and they recorded a non-album single, ‘The snake’ in January 71. The label was impressed enough to offer them a deal for a debut album which duly arrived a few months later, housed in an iconic sleeve portraying the band cartoon-like as fairies and pixies sitting on a planet looking out into the universe, once seen never forgotten. Never Never Land was raw, it was rock but not overtly so, it had light and shade, it had elements of rebellion, nihilism and pure escapism, needless to say the band weren’t too happy with it. They felt they had failed to capture the wild freakoutness of their legendary live shows, but I disagree totally it’s an album that lights my fire every time I play it.
Let’s try and convey some of that magic to you dear reader. The album starts with Do It ( the b-side of The Snake single and features on this excellent compilation by Kris Needs), which introduces itself with a misleading acoustic strum, then suddenly erupts in your face with a rush of freaked out rock n roll, inciting us all to ‘do it, don’t talk about it maaaaaaaaan if you ain’t gonna do it, do it, do it’ ….
‘Heavenly man’ on the other hand is a gloriously sublime slice of slippery psych with Paul pulling out a repeated guitar effect that takes your breath away, is it about God ?, is about a gay relationship ?… who cares ?!…when the lovely lyric hits ‘ smiling down on me’ it is beyond brilliant.
‘Say that you love me’ is like a powered up mad Indian pow wow dance; crazy riff, crazy guys. Towards the end Paul pulls off effortless spiraling notes, Twink hits those skins hard as hell and lyrics seem secondary. ‘War girl’ is the most beautiful tune, a delightful rolling thread of bass and drums over Paul’s sustain laden guitar, and what a solo; restrained, yet disgorging emotion like you wouldn’t believe. It is blues through the haze of a Hendrix soundtrack inspired acid vision.
The title track is a slowly building bonfire of amazingly dexterous drum rolls and crashes. Paul then comes in with guitar, weaving and phasing, and those drums, they jump out and take you to never never land, cue wah wah build up, higher and higher as it reaches a plateau, then blisses out with backward guitar overdubs and gentle feedback.
‘Track 1 side 2’ Is actually track 1 track side 2 (who said hippies had no sense of humour ?). It has a mournful piano, drum and vocal intro, most untypical of The Pinks, that is until the two minute mark when as if from nowhere the boogie arrives, the band mesh perfectly and hit meta psych riffola, my favourite solo of Paul’s ever, if it don’t move ya, you’re dead ….or a Tory. It’s mad, it’s far out, it’s too bloody short.
‘Thor’ is a moments guitar FX respite before the onslaught recommences. ‘Teenage rebel’ is a playful rockin’ romp complete with a biting solo from Paul, at one point it tries to leave earth’s orbit before Twink throws in a solo for no apparent reason, then it’s banquet time , the centrepiece of the album rears its trippy head ‘Uncle Harry’s last freakout’, an ode to rolling joints and ‘doing it’ for the people. It is ragged, it is lengthy and it is only rock ‘n’ roll but I love it as Paul pulls out all the rabbits, lead, rhythm, riffs oh ! he’s all over it. Twink and Russell keep superhuman time, it is a planet sized monster of indulgence, but guess what? It works, with its closing lament of ‘you and me can be so very free’, it eases down only to build for the big crescendo, ‘scuse me while i die. It is better than sex, it is the best drug ever, it is….the finale to Uncle Harry’s last freakout and it’s delirious !…..peace reigns. The closing track ‘The dream is just beginning’ leaves us on an optimistic vision of the future, ‘we’re winning, we’re winning’.
So, all that’s left is for you to do is buy a copy.
by John Haylock