Now Playing: Inland Empire 60s vol 2 -- CDR comp
After a dry spell on the review front I wondered if the Psychedelia buzz was fading already, but a Google Quest netted a brand new and very welcome review of the book written by none other than 'Youth', legendary UK musician and scenemaker with Killing Joke and the influential Dragonfly label. Youth's review in Classic Rock magazine is something else and needs to be read even without the Psychedelia aspects, as he goes off on several trips down acid memory lane with entertaining results. An autobiography or at least a lengthy interview with the man seems warranted.
As for the actual critique, Youth is quite enthusiastic over the book and awards it 9 out of 10, which is the best rating so far, along with those at Amazon.com. However, the favorable view doesn't mean that he doesn't have objections to certain aspects to Psychedelia, which he prefaces with a sort of apology, which certainly makes me appreciate the guy. I tried to attach a note to say thanks and bring a brief point up, but the 'Comments' section at the website was turned off, so I'll do it here instead.
First off, thanks Youth! Secondly, among the criticisms voiced I can definitely accept some of them without comments (such as the music section leaning 'too much' towards American acid rock sounds), but a couple need to be addressed. The Pretty Things' "£.S.d" is NOT an early acid tune, but is a song about money: Pounds, Shillings and whatever. This is a frequent misunderstanding, but if someone doubts me, ask any Pretties specialist and they'll confirm that there was nothing psychedelic about that 45. Of course, the band did get acidized later on with glorious results.
Secondly, I'm not sure I agree that the Ibiza connection is poorly covered--pages 399-403 cover the development from Ibiza '87 via acid house and onto Goa Trance, and it should be sufficient in a non-specialized book like mine. To a reader it may be possible to miss the first Ibiza paragraph which stands a few pages apart from the other London club scene coverage, but it's there alright, with a million tabs of MDMA on top. Although the purpose of that chapter was introductory rather than comprehensive, I regret not mentioning Dragonfly somewhere, not least since I have several of their early releases here.
Two reviewers have taken offense by my questioning of the psychedelic qualities of some early Pink Floyd recordings, so for clarity's sake: I love a good 2/3rds of the Syd era Floyd recordings, and the book praises tracks like "Matilda Mother" and even the obscure "Julia Dream". It's all there on page 315:
...While fulfilling the basic qualities of Psychedelia, Floyd’s recurring depictions of space travel seem to lack the inviting human presence found in old Space Exotica records or "Dark Star", and they deprive the listener of a crucial step towards his or her full immersion in the experience. Instead, Pink Floyd’s music finds its most effectively psychedelic form on tracks in which the human element is clearly pronounced...
This view is not something I've pulled out of thin air, but is based on discussions with fellow acid heads/record collectors, several of whom have found the Floyd material to lose a little of its sheen over time. I make a comparison between "Dark Star" and "Interstellar Overdrive" to clarify my point--that there is at times a lack of human warmth in the Floydian music. I also bring in an excellent quote from ex-Deviants Mick Farren, who was in London at the time and sums it up better than I could:
The Floyd sang about Neptune and Titan, and setting the controls for the heart of the sun, but all was not science fiction, and I often regretted that the Floyd assumed such a crucially influential role in the London version of Psychedelia. They seemed so Oxbridge cold in their merciless cosmos: the Stephen Hawkings of rock & roll. They lacked the Earth-warmth of, say, the Grateful Dead, and things might have been a whole lot different if their sound hadn't permeated so many of those formative London nights.
Finally, Youth takes the book to task for not covering the European tradition of pastoral occultism, with witches and druids and so forth. It's true that the druid tradition is not dealt with in Psychedelia, and this may have been a mistake. I could not find convincing signs of drug-related activities, and also it seemed to me to be a regional rather than pan-European phenomenon. But I will look into this more indepth if there is a second edition, and I appreciate the comment.
Regarding the European witch tradition there is however substantial coverage, both in a lengthy section that deals specifically with this (pages 76-82), and also scattered about in other parts of the book. My viewpoint is that while a West European shamanism in the classic Mircea Eliade sense is missing, the witches and 'wise women' worked as bearers of a pre-Christian tradition of holism and pantheism, including the use of psychoactive drugs. The witch aspect is important, and I certainly hope this is clear from the book.
Youth singles out the Apocalypse Now chapter as particularly interesting, as have at least two other reviewers. I must admit that the hidden transition from Apocalypse Now to The Tempest was one of the more psychedelic things I wrote for the book, and I am delighted to see hip readers singling it out.