Various Artists - When the Alarm Clock Rings

Various Artists – When the Alarm Clock Rings

Hey, maaan. We’re putting on our multi-coloured bell-bottoms and phosphorescent tie-dyes, daubing our faces with day-glo paint and dropping acid here at TPA in preparation for 90-minutes of British psychedelic rock. Hang out, just been told we’re out of acid so a strong cup of tea and a Hobnob will have to do.

But we don’t need drugs to turn on, tune in and drop out – a new double LP of way-out sounds from Cherry Red Records’ Grapefruit imprint will be enough to blow our minds. These poptastic vinyl platters contain thirty psychedelic nuggets from 1966 to 1969, some by bands you’ve heard of but most by groups that flared briefly (rather like our trousers) before being consigned to the bargain bin of history.

So there are early recordings by Genesis (the excellent In the Beginning), Alex Harvey, Barclay James Harvest, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown and The Spencer Davis Group. But there are also lost gems by Paper Blitz Tissue, Rupert’s People, Plastic Penny, The 23rd Turnoff and The Fruit Machine – some of them rare B-sides or cancelled singles that no-one has listened to for nigh on 50 years.

What they all have in common are essential psychedelic rock ingredients such as loud, fuzzed-up guitars, over-strung plinky-plonky pianos, weird out-there sound effects, nursery-rhyme lyrics inspired by Alice in Wonderland and Edward Lear, backwards percussion going ‘shoop-shoop’, and vocals drenched in echo.

And they all owe a debt to the psychedelic drug LSD – that’s why the music was called psychedelic – and The Beatles, who inspired record companies to give young people with long hair and strange substances the freedom to indulge their creative fantasies in recording studios.

Indeed, without psychedelic music there may have been no progressive rock. Many of the classic bands and artists we love made the transition, and a few are included here. Others briefly jumped on the multi-coloured bandwagon, only to jump back off again when their psychedelic dabblings turned out to be less than convincing.

Some of these bands and artists disappeared without trace, while a few went on to become very big indeed under different names: John’s Children guitarist Marc Bolan turned into T Rex; Dantalian’s Chariot included future Policeman Andy Summers; The Syn’s Chris Squire and Peter Banks moved on to Mabel Greer’s Toyshop, which became Yes; The Shame were an early venture for Greg Lake; Elmer Gantry’s Velvet Opera featured Richard Hudson and John Ford, both of whom went on be Strawbs and formed a short-lived but successful duo.

One or two of the tracks in this compilation stretch the definition of psychedelia to its limit. The Merseys’ saccharine offering I Hope You’re Happy is really just a pretty pop song that could have been on an early Monkees album, while The Action’s dreary Things You Cannot See is an acoustic guitar strum with some pleasant harmonies. But there are some absolute gems here, ranging from the power pop of The Attack’s Magic in the Air, the catchy, organ-led The World Goes on Around You by The Mirage, the proto-heavy rock of The Voice’s The Train to Disaster, to the sheer craziness of Arthur Brown’s Spontaneous Apple Creation.

My other small criticism is that I’m reviewing lossy MP3s, so I can’t tell you what the quality is like on the vinyl release. But overall, this is a most enjoyable collection of early sound experiments by bands stretching the limits of what could be achieved with four or eight-track recording. And they all have something else in common – they are all damn good fun!

Side One:

1. Magic in the Air – The Attack (3:38)
2. The Madman Running Through The Fields – Dantalian’s Chariot (4:11)
3. Magic Horsemen – Tintern Abbey (2:49)
4. Maybe Someday – Alex Harvey (2:49)
5. In the Beginning – Genesis (3:44)
6. The Wall – The Fruit Machine (2:43)
7. The World Goes on Around You – The Mirage (2:16)

Side Two:
1. Dream in My Mind – Rupert’s People (3:23)
2. Mary Jane [single version] – Elmer Gantry’s Velvet Opera (2:34)
3. Midsummer Night’s Scene – John’s Children (2:35)
4. I Hope You’re Happy – The Merseys (2:25)
5. Teagarden Lane – Jason Crest (4:07)
6. Pools of Blue [Advision studios version] – Barclay James Harvest (3:09)
7. Leave Me Here – The 23rd Turnoff (2:55)
8. I Unseen [IBC Studios version] – The Misunderstood (2:01)

Side Three:
1. The Train to Disaster – The Voice (2:48)
2. Remember the Times – Mike Stuart Span (2:52)
3. Jane – Living Daylights (2:09)
4. Wake Me Up – Plastic Penny (3:08)
5. Don’t Go ‘Way Little Girl – The Shame (3:07)
6. Spontaneous Apple Creation – The Crazy World of Arthur Brown (2:56)
7. Created By Clive – The Syn (2:31)
8. Mr. Second Class – The Spencer Davis Group (3:15)

Side Four:
1. The Laughing Man – John Carter and Russ Alquist (3:25)
2. Mr. Universe – Episode Six (4:17)
3. Things You Cannot See – The Action (2:53)
4. The Otherside – Apple (3:19)
5. Rosemary’s Bluebell Day – Picadilly Line (3:11)
6. Grey Man – Paper Blitz Tissue (3:20)
7. When the Alarm Clock Rings – Blossom Toes (2:26)

Total Time – 1:30:39

Too many to mention

Record Label: Cherry Red Records
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 27th October 2023

When the Alarm Clock Rings – Cherry Red Records Info