Bands both familiar and utterly obscure inhabit the five-disc set Think I’m Going Weird: Original Artefacts from the British Psychedelic Scene 1966-1968, an exhaustively researched collection from Grapefruit Records that culls some of the best and strangest songs from Britain’s short-lived flower child era.
American psychedelic music conjures up visions of flower children ingesting massive amounts of hallucinogenic drugs, dancing naked through someone else’s farmland while guitars and sitars wail in the distance under a pop art spotlight. British psychedelic music had a far more whimsical sense, seeming to revolve around songs about people and their possessions.
Take, for example, “Mrs. Gillespie’s Refrigerator” by Sands, a song with lush and intricate harmonies describing the main vocalist’s infatuation with a woman on a refrigerator commercial. Written by the Bee Gees, the song is funny and poignant. Kaleidoscope’s tune “Mr. Small, the Watch Repairer Man” is a Kinks-like portrait of small-town life, imbued with a wonky penny-whistle opening. Plastic Penny’s odd tune “Mrs. Grundy” comes from the viewpoint of someone who escaped the titular Mrs. Grundy’s villainous clutches. “She won’t find me, this I knows/’Cuz I’ve taken all her clothes,” the first verse claims over a background of screeching guitar and Hammond organ.
While many of the bands represented in this set may not be familiar to most listeners, there are some well-known names for those who need a musical touchstone. The Who’s classic “Armenia, City in the Sky” is here, as is an early Genesis song called “Image Blown Out.” The Moody Blues slide in with the sad waltz “How Can We Hang On To A Dream?” which doesn’t answer its own question.
In a collection of this size, not every song is going to stick the landing. “Jabberwock” by Boeing Duveen and The Beautiful Soup puts the absurd Lewis Carroll poem to music. With all of the other wild and quirky songs in the set, using “Jabberwocky” as lyrics feels like a cheat. There’s also a cover of Cream’s “Tales of Brave Ulysses” by The Zany Woodruff Operation that doesn’t achieve the glorious madness of the original. The low point of the collection may be a hobbled poppy version of “All Along the Watchtower” by The Alan Bown! that would not have been out of place on a Pat Boone television special.
Think I’m Going Weird comes with a beautiful 100-page book that gives not only historical context for the music, but a bit of information about each individual song. Rock historians will revel in connecting the dots between these unknown bands and musicians that became popular later. Did you know that the band Tomorrow, represented in this collection by the single “The Incredible Journey of Timothy Chase,” featured Steve Howe on guitar? I didn’t. Howe would later experience massive success as a member of the prog band Yes.
For working within a two-year span, Think I’m Going Weird pulls together a tremendous amount of musical material. Together with the book, Think I’m Going Weird provides a gorgeous encapsulation of that period of time. One is left with the impression that the Brits had a lot more fun with this style of music than the more serious Americans did. The songs on Think I’m Going Weird are both groovy and wacky, making this set a delightful addition to any comprehensive music collection.