Release Date: Jul 29, 2016
Record label: Grapefruit
What do most of the bands on this magnificent compilation have in common? Well, to begin with, they generally smell of greatcoats, blim burns, and dust singeing on the hot valves of Simms-Watts, WEM and Hiwatt amplifiers. More to the point, they all came to ROCK, in one way or another. They represent the cold, rainy front that swept in before the blackbirds had stopped singing in the Summer Of Love – even if it took some outfits longer to extricate their stack heels from the festival mud than others.
It may sound strange to say that this anthology of music recorded between 1968 and 1972 took me back to the 1990s, but Grapefruit Records’ David Wells has compiled the kind of collection that was once so common during what we might call “the golden age of the CD box set” that occurred during that final decade of the millennium, just before the download revolution. Sets like Rhino’s expanded Nuggets anthologies opened up a world of unknown sounds and performers to curious music fans. Oftentimes, too, the expansive liner notes in the accompanying booklets were as valuable as the songs themselves in guiding listeners to new discoveries.
A few years ago, the film-maker Adam Curtis unearthed two alternately bleak and inadvertently hilarious BBC documentaries about Hells Angels. One was a 1973 film positing them as a terrifying threat to Britain, a sentiment slightly undercut as the film progresses by the discovery that their vice-president “Mad” John and his sergeant-at-arms, cross-eyed Karl, can’t even successfully organise a weekend break on a barge near Aylesbury, let alone the destruction of society as we know it. The other was a 1969 doc following the fortunes of the sweet-natured but implausibly dense Sylvia and her delectable boyfriend, Paul, or as he prefers to be known, Hitler.
This compilation album offer a comprehensive trawl through Britain’s hard-rock genealogy Although it’s widely accepted that the mutation of the UK’s somewhat twee brand of psychedelia into fuzzed-up proto-metal was heavily informed by northern industrial wastelands and a depressing working-class experience, the contribution of minor bands from across the country is less examined. .
The story of rock music’s evolution from 50s blues and country to the sonic pomp and lyrical pageantry of the 1970s is often told in terms of a growing sophistication, of a genre moving beyond its initial teenage pop audience and showing itself worthy of serious critical consideration. But perhaps more pertinently it’s also a journey into noise, one that constantly pushes at the limits of acceptability and makes a bid for transcendence through a combination of raw power and wilful experimentation. I’m A Freak Baby: A Journey Through The British Heavy Psych And Hard Rock Underground Scene 1968-1972 dives down into the chaotic loam of the late 60s/early 70s UK rock underground and unearths a secret history of bands committed to the righteous cause of making an infernal racket.