Tag Archives: The Beatles

Psychedelia and Other Colours by Rob Chapman

Rob Chapman – Psychedelia and Other Colours (Faber)

From the appearance of the cover, one might think that this is going to be a fab book with all kinds of wonderfully groovy colourful photos of bands performing with a backdrop of psychedelic lights projected behind them. Well, you know the old expression about a book and its cover. In fact, there is not one single photo contained in the over 600 pages of this tome.

What you do get in this book is a hefty amount of information relating to the progress of the drug culture and its impact on the music scene in the latter half of the 1960s. It’s a book that fits in right between two other recent volumes – 1966: The Year the Decade Exploded by Jon Savage and Never a Dull Moment: 1971 – The Year That Rock Exploded by David Hepworth.

No mention of things exploding in the sub-title of this book but, the text inside certainly does relate a lot of heads exploding as psychedelic drugs (more specifically LSD) began to make inroads into the counterculture movement of the sixties.

Jon Savage’s book goes into great detail about the social and cultural times leading up to the year 1966. There’s a bit of a sense of deja vu when reading Chapman’s book but, that is what I was expecting. So, not much of a disappointment there.

After a general introduction, Chapman divides his time towards firstly concentrating on the scene in the USA and then on the UK. This shows both the parallels and differences in the way in which psychedelia took shape in the midst of both (counter)cultural situations.

While you’ll see familiar names from this era appear – such as Timothy Leary – there are also many more people discussed who may not have been as vibrant on the radar (at the time or since).

Throughout the book, Chapman does an enviable job of connecting the dots which relate to musical events in both the live performance realm and the release of specific recordings. Of course, a fair amount of time is spent on such artists as The Beatles and their turning (on) into the direction of pot and LSD and Pink Floyd’s areas of cerebral and sonic explorations.

But, as you’d expect in such and exhaustive cultural and musical survey, it’s the efforts of the countless minor figures that accounts for a great deal of the story. Some of the here today, gone tomorrow artists mentioned include The Drivin’ Stupid, Fe-Fi-Four Plus Two, The Factory, Jason Crest, Tintern Abbey etc… Of course, there are a lot of the more familiar bands like, Love, Moby Grape, The Incredible String Band, Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead and other usual suspects.

To conclude the volume, the final section – Afterglow (Which Dreamed It?) – attempts to tie up some loose ends and reflects on the aftereffects.

For anyone with a keen interest in this era and specifically psychedelic music, this book stands as a well-researched and extremely detailed survey. It sent me scrambling to my music collection to find out if I had recordings of many of the songs mentioned on my various psych LP and CD collections. That’s usually the sign of a good book for me.

 

1966 by Jon Savage

For hit latest tome, British music writer Jon Savage has chosen to zoom in on the year 1966. The reason for this is revealed in the subtitle – The Year the Decade Exploded. That’s a pretty  bold statement. So, the question is – Does he have the evidence to back it up?

The book is presented in a series of twelve chapters which each represent a month as it progresses through the year. If you were expecting a book about music, you will get that plus a great deal more.

Savage deconstructs events leading up to the year 1966 in order to put things into proper perspective. He divides his views over events happening on both sides of the Atlantic. Since the relationships in both the UK and the US can have a different effect, this approach works well as a way to compare and contrast the social, political and cultural developments.

As with many British writers, he spends some time relating the changes in the UK since the end of the Second World War. This was a touchstone for many areas of social progress for the last half of the twentieth century. By the 1960s, its atmosphere was seeming more distant to the current day youth and they had their own issues and problems to deal with.

In the area of music, many of the usual suspects are sited including  The Beatles, Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Yardbirds, Bob Dylan etc… He also includes Dusty Springfield, The Velvet Underground, The Grateful Dead, Motown, Stax plus a host of references to quite obscure groups like The Ugly’s.

Each chapter reveals more events which would influence the direction of music and possibly vice versa. There are stories about the CND movement in the UK as well as race demonstrations and riots in the US. The war in Vietnam was also a large factor in the ideologies of many people. The feelings about these and many other subjects managed to inform the music of the youth culture of the day.

He also talks about the fight for women’s rights and the fight to have gay culture recognized at a time when it was classified as illegal.

Of course, there is also quite a bit of discussion about the widening pervasiveness of drugs within the youth culture. This spans the use of amphetamines to pot to LSD. In fact, at the beginning of 1966, LSD was not an illegal substance in either the UK or US. However, this did change before the end of the year.

The juxtaposition of social and political events analysed alongside the music that was happening in the radio charts and in the clubs shows in interesting cultural correlation. At times it may seem difficult to distinguish which is having an influence on which.

In the end, Savage’s case is well stated. Through a vivid word painting of the times, he succeeds in creating a portrait of a year which hold a special place within an era.

 

 

 

George Martin 1926 – 2016

Producer George Martin began his career at EMI Records in 1950 as the assistant to the boss of the Parlophone Records imprint. Initially, he recorded classical and soundtrack music. Towards the end of the 1950s, he worked on a number of novelty records which included people like Peter Sellers and Flanders & Swann. He would also work with the likes of British crooner Matt Munro.

Of course, Martin will always be remembered foremost as the producer of The Beatles. It was his work in the studio which helped the group to attain a crisp, clear vision of their sound… and to make it a hit.

As the ideas of the group began to blossom in the coming years, Martin was also able to help the group realize a much larger vision. This was a vision which regarded the studio itself as an instrument.

This was the concept that created the other-worldly sounds first heard on The Beatles’ 1966 LP Revolver is the shape of the song Tomorrow Never Knows. This hypnotic Indian influenced track featured backwards sounds along with tape loops of manipulated recordings. It marked a time when an abstract sound in the heads of the group could become a reality.

This work continued along to their 1967 classic Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band where Martin was able to guide them though the monumental orchestration of A Day in the Life.

As a producer, George Martin was a part of a musical revolution that began in the mid-’60s. After the break-up of The Beatles, Martin continued to work with some of the group members as well as other new groups on the music scene such as America.

George Martin will ultimately go down in history as one of the most successful producers of all time but, he should also be remembered as a sonic innovator, as well.