Psychedelic music

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National Treasure John Peel on wonderful Radio Caroline.
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"Wugga, wugga and welcome back the Perfumed Garden Psychedelic Special hastily assembled because Dave Lee Travis appears to have fallen overboard and been harpooned by whalers. In the finest traditions of Pirate Radio I'm wearing an eye-patch and cutlass and you may be able to hear my parrot Syd squawking in the background. But tonight's show is brought to you live from my living room at Peel Towers due to car trouble stopping me getting to the ferry out to good old Radio Caroline. Let's hope the rozzers don't nick me! I say car trouble; I mean of course that the inside smells so badly of fish that it's impossible to spend more than a minute inside without gagging - a bit like attending a Peter, Paul and Mary gig. Actually, I'm fairly certain that Tony Blackburn has nailed a mackerel somewhere under the dashboard but that's not going to stop me playing the rather excellent "Arnold Layne" by The Pink Floyd.

"Ah, yes. Moonshine, washing-line, they suit him fine. And who can argue that a little cross-dressing of an evening isn't a good thing? You know, people often write to me and say "John, just shut up and play the damned records" but that's only because their mothers didn't love them. Others say "John, just what is psychedelia from whence did it come and why for did it do that?" And I'll tell you right after "I Can Take You To The Sun" by The Misunderstood - perhaps they'd be better understood if they stopped suggesting trips to an infinitely hot ball of fire some several millions of miles away. Just a thought...

"Splendid - best record of the decade, I'd say. So that's their career finished. Now, to answer your question by coining a phrase -"Good morning, Vietnam!" - What does that mean? Well, if you're hearing that phrase every day, you're in a war. Moreover, you're about to be assaulted by mortar-fire and with Psychedelic music loud enough to induce the profoundly-deaf Ludwig van Beethoven to roll over and mad enough to drive North Vietnamese peasants to march 1500 miles through jungle, Agent Orange and napalm in order to shut down the remaining FM transmitter in Saigon. Because it's my belief that without the whole-hearted participation of American youth in south-east Asian wars they'd never have taken to hallucinogenic drug use and would still be wearing Stetsons and listening to the Grand Old Oprey...

The Soft Machine: any blurriness around the edges is due to the action of hallucinogens on your visual cortex.

"Of course, not all the credit goes to the Viet Cong. We must also thank the mad scientist, Dr. Albert Hofmann, who was eagerly researching a cure for sanity in Switzerland when he hit upon the spark that ignited the psychedelic world. Hoffman, after an enlightening bicycle ride, handed the secret to John, Donovan's "Candy Man". From Donovan it was passed to Dr. Timothy Leary who gave it to the Mothers of Invention, The Third Bardo, The Beatles, The Yardbirds, Big Brother and The Holding Company, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, and other unsuspecting bands. After a collective "whoa!" amps were turned up beyond maximum to pay homage to the Gods of feedback. Or something. And here we are about to enjoy what I call Avant Garde Psych, it's "Feelin' Reelin' Squeelin'" by The Soft Machine - that's a euphemism for penis. But we're not allowed to say penis on the radio...

"Ah, the clarinet - one of classical music's great gifts to the world of rock and roll. You know, cacophonies like that are directly inspired by intensely curious strangelings such as Allen Ginsberg, Ken Kesey and Richard Alpert, who, together with the dregs of an entire generation, joined Dr. Leary and began expounding on Bhardo Thodal - The Tibetan Book of the Head. This discipline offered instant enlightenment through ingesting sacred mushrooms, LSD, and other mind-altering substances such as paint thinner, model airplane glue, and dried banana peel. The subtle catch being that it all leads to nothingness or voidism. If you're a musician then you'll understand the meaning of nothingness, because nothing is the contractual obligation all record companies pay their psychedelic bands.

Frank Zappa, of the Mothers of Invention, is considered by himself to be the father of Psychedelic music.

And talking of a man who'll never last in this industry - it's Freak-Out Psych-master Frank Zappa and his Mothers of Invention with Suzy Creamcheese. Whoops, wrong speed... or possibly not, it can be so hard to tell with Frank, can't it.

"Wasn't that lovely! "The best record I've heard since... well, since tea-time. Mind you, I had a late tea. Getting back to my little history of our great music, I'd say that broadly speaking there are two distinct styles of Psychedelic music, separated by nothing but several thousand miles of ocean and hundreds of years of mutual suspicion. That's African Psychedelia and its Chinese equivalent - I jest. I mean of course, American and British Psych. And to illustrate the depths that our colonial cousins are prepared to plumb in search of a dollar here's The Monkees with "The Porpoise Song". This one starts a little quietly - let's hope it carries on like that.

"Ah, The Monkees - the best band of that name in the world. Now it seems to me that in the 1950s and 60s the USA brought freedom to the world by occupying and oppressing various nations previously occupied and oppressed by other freedom loving nations like Britain, France, Japan and Mordor. Due to the brainwashing inflicted upon them by decades of colonial persecution, many of these newly liberated peoples failed to recognise the installation of kleptocratic local despots backed by American arms as a sign of progress. They began to form guerrilla armies, which necessitated ever more American troops to be deployed in order to maintain the level of repression which democracy needs to thrive.

"All over the country, young boys were sent draft cards and employed weed to forget about the future, to protest against their government's foreign policy. And because they enjoyed getting very, very high. A new music evolved based around thin "plunk plunk" guitar, rinky-dink drums, cool funky clothes, long, messy hair, and the need to buy more weed. American psychedelic bands wrote lyrics which concerned themselves with heroically protesting against the draft, pretending to have read the works of Aldous Huxley and convincing stoned chicks that agreeing to pre-marital sex demonstrated their freedom.

The Move: nothing says, "Trying too hard to be groovy" than a red, crushed-velvet smoking jacket.

"American psychedelic bands acknowledge the existence of British psychedelia but tend to think that our whimsical approach to getting stoned and laid lacks true rigour. And talking of lacking intellectual rigour, here's the archetypal phony psychogenic band, The Move with "The Fire Brigade" - a record best appreciated while wearing a crash helmet and sitting under a loud siren.

"Mmm, just when you thought music had become really boring and predictable - along came The Move. There are better British Psychedelic bands, thank God. But where did they come from? Well, at some point in the mid 1960s, mods began to swap Speed for Hash. They stopped buying Brylcreem, laid down their cutthroat razors and sold their scooters. Now that the British Empire extended no further than Anglesey, they were no longer needed to oppress browner races so the draft was not a worry. Consequently, their main concern were pretending to have read the works of Aldous Huxley and convincing stoned chicks that agreeing to pre-marital sex demonstrated their freedom. British psychedelic bands write lyrics about gnomes named Grimble Cromble and tired starlings.

A very short album - just a sleeve and liner notes really.

"They're largely unaware of American psychedelia because there are just so many stoned chicks just waiting for a little attention. Even so, most of us know of Jimi Hendrix who was too black for America, and too American to be English. That's why he was forced to record in the UK with a British band while pretending to be Welsh. And who wanted to be Jimi Hendrix more than everyone in The Nice? Here they are with "Diary of an Empty Day" Is there really a day empty enough to need filling with Keith Emerson?

"The Nice. Couldn't you just rain kisses on their eager upturned faces? Or blows, either's good. Now getting back to the history lesson... In America The Grateful Dead were putting the tree back into country-psych, while over here the British groups were into a BIG sound, ultra loud, metallic-sustain guitars, maniacal drumming, explosive performances, and random destruction - such as, but not limited to, blowing up a bass drum with TNT and other pyrotechnics. Such were the Swinging Sixties in London, where those in the know shopped at "Granny Takes a Trip" and puffed casually on their filtered spliffs, while their American counterparts wore blue jeans and sucked furiously on roach clips. And did any American group do more to save the rest of us from low-grade dope by consuming as much as they could on our behalf than... "The Doors". If Mozart were alive today I'm sure he'd join us in getting down with the Goth Psych you'll hear on their stand-out track "The End".

"There are those who say that The Doors are a waste of vinyl and that Jim Morrison will wind up as a fat, drug-addled loser in a Florida jail. But not me, I doubt he'll live that long. But moving swiftly along... from the brash and bold beginnings of Psychedelic music in the 1960s the new genre gradually devolved into many sub-categories.

Like, whoa!

"In America, Country Joe and the Fish proved they could count to eight by extending psychedelia into war protest while Janis Joplin swam through vats of bourbon to prove that you don't have to be out of your mind on drugs to appreciate the music when there are other, more traditional substances to be out of your mind on. The Byrds and The Mamas and Papas showed us it was possible to be absolutely in harmony while simultaneously despising each other. Love showed us - well, they showed us what love means - while the goof-balls of The Lovin' Spoonful convinced thousands of pre-pubescent fans that love wasn't required while motels were cheap and the clap was yet to gain resistance to penicillin. Butterfield Blues Band turned the blues inside out as well as over, under, sideways and down. And even as 3rd Bardo explored nihilism, Jefferson Airplane showed us how best to avoid the apocalypse through the liberal application of mescaline, strange chord changes and white rabbits. Santana proved that even Mexican goatherds can wig out and Iron Butterfly demonstrated the down side of allowing your drummer to be as intoxicated as your guitarist. Hmm, Iron Butterfly - why did they never take off on this side of the Atlantic? Something to do with power-to-weight ratios, I expect. Maybe they should have tried an aluminium alloy. Or an aluminum one, since they're of the American persuasion. We don't have any Iron Butterfly on the show tonight because I inadvertently spread marmalade on my 45 of "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" while making toast this morning. The stylus keeps sticking but actually, I think it sounds better that way. However, in their place here are the champions of Baroque-Psych, Procul Harum with "A Whiter Shade of Pale" a single sure to be used on a paint advertisement one day. Not that they'll ask me to do the voice over - Kenny Everett gets all the lucrative jobs. I just get to do ads for haemorrhoid cream.

"Wasn't that terrific? If that doesn't make it to number one I'll come round and individually defecate in each and every one of your living rooms. Procul Harum, of course, one of the UK's leading psychedelic bands and, speaking of Blighty, while the Yanks did their own Psychedelic thing across the pond we Brits were plugging away in our own, more restrained manner. The Yardbirds specialised in feedback, distortion and losing talented lead-guitarists, Donovan concentrated on looking pretty while the ironically titled Pretty Things proved that it is possible to own a face that appears to be melting even after the acid has worn off.

Like, also whoa!

Tyrannosaurus Rex demonstrated that you can record hit albums armed with nothing other than a set of bongos and a cute haircut, before selling out to show that having a cute haircut and an electric guitar is really what gets chicks wet. The Beatles invented far-out Zen Psych in an attempt to find themselves and avoid the need to audition a new guitarist, while The Who proved that mellowness is hugely overrated.

"Whatever its form, psychedelic music is always five years ahead of its time and always searching for new ways to express itself. Even established bands incorporate psychedelia into their acts creating, in the case of Led Zeppelin, Sex-Psych. Similarly, The Rolling Stones briefly invented Satanic-Psych while The Moody Blues pioneered Lame-Psych - all with rather more commercial success than the Electric Jug Psych of The 13th Floor Elevators, the Keyboard Psych of The Zombies or Kaleidoscope's Kaleidoscopic Psych. Mind you, for most of 1967 everything looked much like it does through a kaleidoscope - that was before I swapped green-grocers and started buying the mushrooms for my breakfast from someone without a goatee, twelve inch flares and a criminal record for supplying gear.

"In conclusion then, just what is psychedelia? It's very hard to put your finger on it - mostly because if you concentrate on your fingers for more than a few seconds it's like "Wow! they're so finger-y!" One of the most famous psychedelic tracks of all time is "Help! I'm a rock!" - music by Frank Zappa, lyrics by the Reverend Jimmy Swaggart. I think that song tells us all we need to know about the whole genre. Psychedelia is a music produced by and consumed by people who have opened the doors of perception, people who have also opened the doors of the medicine cabinet and consumed a selection of the pills from bottles that say "May cause drowsiness". Alternatively, we are all nothing but bacteria living on the sides of the Cosmic Toad and psychedelic music is merely the vibrations of his beating heart. Something to think about when Coronation Street has finished this evening.

"And now, as I wish you all good riddance, I'll leave you with a psychedelic number by Capt. Beefheart and his magic band. Remember; don't do anything I would do! Good Night all!"

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