Monday, January 10, 2011

Touched by the Hand of Mayhem

As the beat phenomenon gave way to the experimental nature of psychedelia, an exciting hybrid emerged in Britain, then on through Europe and then spread to Australia between 1966 - 1967. During those months, the bands playing this type of music - frantic, outrageous r&b beat music "touched by the hand of mayhem" - created a new genre of rock'n'roll without even knowing it. In 1984, Bam-Caruso label head and legend in his own right, Phil Smee, coined the term "freakbeat" to define this type of music. That year, Smee released the first Rubble LP (an essential compilation series) entitled The Psychedelic Snarl, which featured the term freakbeat on the cover. A later volume in the Rubble series was entitled Freakbeat Fantoms, and boasted several essential cuts.

Over the years, debates have raged among collectors as to what songs are really freakbeat, and which are not. (Smee tends to leave out the pop art groups, like the Eyes and the Creation.) However, some groups stand out among the true progenitors of the freakbeat sound. I've included some photos of bands and some YouTube clips to illustrate some of the top bands and songs from the era. It remains one of my favorite genres of music, alongside traditional beat, garage, psychedelia, etc. Hey, it's all rock'n'roll...

In Spring of 2001, Phil Smee wrote a special article on freakbeat for Mojo, in which he chose his top 50 tracks within the genre. The top 30 are as follows:

1. Wimple Winch - Save My Soul (at the time, an original single was worth 250 pounds) Truly a masterpiece. A YouTube clip is included for your listening pleasure. This deserves the top spot.

2. The Craig - I Must Be Mad (Another Fontana masterpiece)

3. Adjeef the Poet - Iekk! I'm a Freak (Dutch DJ Ad Visser under a pseudonym; can be found on Rubble 13: Freakbeat Fantoms)

4. Southern Sound - I Don't Wanna Go (also on Rubble 13)

5. Birds Birds - Daddy Daddy (Ronnie Woods' excellent group; all their singles - three under the name The Birds - are phenomenal!)

6. The Masters Apprentices - Undecided (The Aussie Greats!)

7. Pee White & The Magic Strangers - Balla Balla (from The Hauge, Holland)

8. The Attack - Anymore Than I Do (Blistering, killer track from an all-around fab group.)

9. The Answers - It's Just A Fear (Features legendary - among those in the know - guitarist Tony Hill, later of the Misunderstood and High Tide.)

10. The Monks - Oh, How to Do Now (I think Smee says it best: Ex-US servicemen based in Germany with shaved heads and amplified banjo." Yes!)

11. The Syndicats - Crawdaddy Simone (Features pre-Yes Steve Howe, a great bluesy track with a touch of freakbeat)

12. The Motions - Everything That's Mine (Let me tell you, the Dutch had it in spades! The thriving beat scene there, from The Outsiders, Q65, the Zipps, Groep 1850, and the Motions, etc. Robbie Van Leeuwen went on to form Shocking Blue.)

13. Shel Naylor - One Fine Day
14. The Who - The Ox (the great instrumental from their first album)
15. Wimple Winch - Rumble on Mersey Square South
16. Miller - Baby I've Got News for You (Backed by members of the Herd, which included Peter Frampton; a standout track on the Perfumed Garden series of comps)
17. The Buzz - You're Holding Me Down (from Edinburgh; produced by Joe Meek!)
18. Q65 - From Aove (Can't say enough about Q65! Another group from The Hague.)
19. Paul & Ritchie & The Cryin' Shames - (Lead singer went on to join Gary Walker & The Rain, which also featured a pre-Badfinger Joey Molland)
20. The Troggs - Lost Girl
21. Jimmy Page & The Talismen (Yes, that Jimmy Page. His session work, contributions to the Yardbirds, and work on acetates like this one trump Led Zeppelin for me.)
22. Majority One - Get Back Home
23. The Fleur De Lys - Mud in Your Eye (So many different line ups of this band! It's so confusing, but to me, each line up produced excellent music.)
24. Thor's Hammer - I Don't Care (Icelandic group recorded this snot nosed punk track in England.)
25. Fire - Father's Name Was Dad (If the Beatles did freakbeat, maybe? They did have a publishing deal with Apple...One of my favorites from this list. McCartney offered them advice on changing the song, so it was released twice, but neither sold well. Dave Lambert went on to the Strawbs later.)
26. The Masters Apprentices - Buried and Dead (another smoking track from the Aussie legends)
27. The Score - Please Please Me (A totally demented Beatles cover!)
28. Keith Sheilds - Hey Gyp (Dig the Slowness) (Cover of Donovan's song)
29. Lee Kings - On My Way (Swedish group)
30. The Loot - Try to Keep It a Secret (This group ended up as Hookfoot and backed Elton John on his early recordings!)

Other top groups within this genre: The Eyes, The Creation, the Red Squares, the Syn, the Game, and the Fairies, etc. I've also included scans of the top 200 British freakbeat and R&B singles compiled by Dr. Andrew Few and Andy Davis for Record Collector, March 1993.


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