For part two of this series, we'll begin with a phenomenal piece if moody British beat from 1965, and in fact the only 45 issued by this group in the US. The Poets (not to be confused with the US soul group of the same name, who scored a minor hit with 'She Blew A Good Thing'), were managed and produced by Andrew Loog Oldham, himself most famous (and notorious) as the manager/producer of the Rolling Stones. With its' chiming 12 string guitar, huge reverb drone, and punky vocals, its practically a precursor to the Velvet Underground but with a Scottish accent. The Poets were from Glasgow, released a few more singles that sank without a trace and sadly broke up before recording a full album.
While 1967's "Grounded" was the b-side (to the downright awful "Created By Clive"), this is the side that has lived on in the hearts of collectors and fans of British beat. It also blows my mind that two members of this band (Chris Squire and Peter Banks) formed progressive rock band Yes only one year after this record was cut; a massive indication of changing tastes in music.
Regardless of its' lineage, this is an incredible record featuring some of the finest songwriting of the freakbeat era.
For less than two years during '67-'68, London's Soft Machine (as headed by bassist/ vocalist/ songwriter Kevin Ayers) were occupying the same type of (inner) space as the Syd Barrett-led Pink Floyd. In fact, the two groups played together often at the legendary UFO Club. Much like Floyd after Syd Barrett, The Soft Machine carried on but in a wholly different style (jazz fusion) after the departure of Kevin Ayers at the end of an extensive tour supporting the Jimi Hendrix Experience (what a lineup!). The group was also managed by the Hendrix team of Mike Jeffreys and Chas Chandler, who also acted as their producer.
Fortunately, the group left behind an incredible debut single ("Love Makes Sweet Music" that I still do not own and has been on my want list for years) and their masterpiece debut LP. On the LP, the songs meld together as one long psychedelic suite, yet their US label ABC Probe was able to extract "Why Are We Sleeping" as a single, backed with Ayers "Joy Of A Toy" for the b-side of this 1968 release. Joy Of A Toy became the title of Ayers solo debut.
"Why Are We Sleeping" is my favorite 3 and a half minutes from the Soft Machine LP, as Ayers distorted bass (and baritone vocals) fights playfully for space with Mike Ratledge's organ swells, all the while drummer Robert Wyatt swings like a mofo (there's no guitar on this track), capped off by those haunting female harmonies. Forty five years later and the song is STILL relevant, perhaps even more so- so much happens all around us but so many folks walk through life filled with apathy.
The V.I.P's were a group formed in remote Carlisle, UK and have a very interesting history. The group released a few failed singles, became known as Art for one glorious 45 ("Rome Take Away Three") and an LP, then morphed into Spooky Tooth. Keith Emerson (pre-Nice) was also in the group at (I think) the time this record was recorded in 1966. This track is a superb cover of a highly sought after early 45 by the great Joe Tex.