Lost Classics of the 1960s, Vol. 8

A carefully curated selection of obscure musical wonders from an ex-disc jockey with a specialization in American and British psychedelia recorded from 1965 to 1972.

{Note: This series features ten lost sixties classics at a time, offered in no particular order but intended to be approximately the length of an LP. Among the genres and subgenres included in the series are rock, pop, folk, soul, funk, reggae, psychedelic pop-rock, psychedelic folk, folk-rock, folk-pop, proto-electronica, proto-punk, early prog, early glam, early trance, garage rock, art rock, and instrumentals. The reading of “60s” used here is what collectors call the “long 60s,” which ends in 1972. Dates are—to the best of my ability—recording, not release dates.}

The sixties: when heavenly pop songs were sung about cowboys, witches, and aliens.

After the Long Sixties ended in 1972, U.S. music entered a long period of seriousness in which—some notable exceptions excluded—the catholic approach of the decade preceding regarding what topics were acceptable for pop music began to wither on the vine. {Note: Keep in mind that some notable exceptions to this, like David Bowie, Parliament, Funkadelic and Hawkwind, got their start—including their interest in space-related themes—during the Long Sixties.}

In the 1960s, Ian Anderson could appear on stage for Top of the Pops wearing literal rags and no shoes, playacting as an insane medieval minstrel, and pretend to play his flute (an instrument over which he only ever held a dubious mastery) while standing precariously on one leg. Music’s Month Python—UK’s Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, later known as simply The Bonzo Dog Band or The Bonzos—could offer a combo of comedy rock, avant-garde art, and psychedelic pop that was every bit as strange as that string of seemingly unrelated terms suggests (and be aware that while the song from the Bonzos below is their most well-known tune, the band rarely replicated a sound or type of music in their work, so no one song from them is really illustrative of anything).

In the 1960s, French band Gong could launch a whole mythos—the World of Gong—via “Gong Song”, in which a tiny green alien offers surprisingly trenchant commentary on humankind. Cowboy could somehow pen country rock that simultaneously sounds like it emanated from Wyoming and California, while Horses could write a song about Wyoming that sounds unquestionably like it was recorded in California. South Africa’s The Flame could record one of the few songs of the 1960s about pure joy—a topic one might have thought would be a popular sixties theme—and then disappear from the U.S. music scene forever. Essentially, anything went in the sixties, and sometimes the more bizarre a work was, the more it received genuine appreciation and enthusiasm.

I miss those days, even though I wasn’t alive for them.

While one can’t make the argument that it was one of the best songs of the decades—as I think one could of Jethro Tull’s “The Witch’s Promise”The Monkees“Porpoise Song”, the theme song from a movie called Head that was intended to be the band’s A Hard Day’s Night, was undoubtedly the best work that group ever did, despite being unknown to all but sixties enthusiasts. In it, the band credibly explored psychedelia while also offering touching commentary on their own status as a studio creation—with “overdubs have no choice / an image cannot rejoice” being perhaps the best lyric the band ever sang, in an era when they were briefly as big as the Beatles and (unlike the Beatles) managed to create an enduring piece of multimedia longer than a film with the hit absurdist musical-comedy sitcom The Monkees.

Besides offering two truly lost songs by great forgotten bands—Michaelangelo and Lacewing—this entry in the “Lost Classics of the 1960s” series also gives not one but two songs by two men with as strange a professional history as could be imagined, and one that underscores everything that I’ve said about the sixties above. Mark Volman (known by his stage name “the Phlorescent Leech” or “Flo”) and Howard Kaylan (known, for reasons now lost to time, as “Eddie”) were the core of one of the great pop bands of the sixties, The Turtles (“Happy Together”). But one could tell from their TV performances with that band that what they really wanted to do, instead of recording bestselling pop songs, was… musical comedy. What? Yes. So the two ended up as a backing band for Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, went on tour with the bizarre stage show known as Alice Cooper, and in short found a way (somewhat like Cooper did) to build a bridge between, of all things, vaudeville and heavy metal. That phrase—”vaudeville and heavy metal”—is a pretty good example of the sort of phrase that only ever gets applied to musical byproducts of the Long Sixties, in this case the first two albums by The Phlorescent Leech & Eddie (later Flo & Eddie). These albums, two songs from which are below, might just be power pop perfection; while they are also filled with dated comedy, they can be admired in this century not so much for their lyrics but their resolute commitment to pursuing the idiosyncratic interests of their creators, even if those interests made no sense to anyone else. This is pop music which—in what seems a paradox—made no sacrifices for the sake of being popular.

I think at least a couple of the songs below will end up on your Spotify playlist if you listen to all of them—and perhaps even more than a few. I hope you enjoy the music!

1. Horses, “Cheyenne” (1969)

2. Jethro Tull, “The Witch’s Promise” (1969)

3. The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, “I’m the Urban Spaceman” (1968)

4. Cowboy, “5’ll Getcha Ten” (1971)

5. Gong, “Gong Song” (1969)

6. Michaelangelo, “Son (We’ve Kept the Room Just the Way You Left It)” (1971)

7. The Flame, “I’m So Happy” (1970)

8. The Phlorescent Leech & Eddie [a.k.a “Flo & Eddie”], “Thoughts Have Turned” (1972)

9. Lacewing, “Paradox” (1970)

10. The Monkees, “The Porpoise Song (Theme From Head)” (1968)

(Bonus) The Phlorescent Leech & Eddie [a.k.a “Flo & Eddie”], “Days” (1972)