As a teenager in the mid ’90s I was obsessed with English psychedelic music from the late ’60s. Between 1995 and 1998 I even ran a website called A Very English Trip dedicated to recording all I could find out about bands like Kaleidoscope, Bulldog Breed, Jason Crest and so on.
The standard of writing was absolutely terrible, but the web was a smaller place in those days and the site brought me into contact with many of the forgotten names of the 60s pop and rock world… I even got the inside story on Bulldog Breed’s classic Austin Osman Spare from Rodney Harrison, one of the band members!
Considering my love of psychedelic music and the experimental approaches to sound that the aesthetics of psychedelia precipitated I was rather honoured when Kim Cascone asked me if I’d contribute to his compilation 70 Years of Sunshine, to be released on the 16th of April by Monotype Records. This double-CD set celebrates 70 years of mind-expansion in the wake of Albert Hoffmann‘s first excursion into the unknown.
My track, Lifting the Veil, was recorded at sunrise on 08/02/13 while contemplating the famous ‘Flammarion engraving‘ – to me a beautiful emblem for the search for things beyond the material world. The compilation also includes tracks by Kawabata Makoto (Acid Mothers Temple), Legendary Pink Dots, Rapoon, Robert Wheeler (Pere Ubu) and scores more!
As a brief aside, Camile Flammarion‘s books on meteorology contain many other incredibly striking plates:
With the above in mind, it’s high time that I wrote something about Andy Roberts’ Albion Dreaming: A Popular History of LSD in Britain. Last year, Andy was kind enough to send me a complementary copy of this, as well as his book of shorter articles entitled Strangely Strange, But Oddly Normal. Albion Dreaming is a fascinating book, taking the reader from the notorious experiments on British service men at Porton Down, through the worlds of controversial psychiatrists like R.D. Laing and the underground of communes, acid revolutionaries and evangelists to the rise of the free festivals, and the police crackdown on Operation Julie.
I also found Albion Dreaming a rather melancholic read: for a brief period an underground subculture flourished in such a way that it became considered to be a realistic threat to the established order. The counter-culture had popularised ideas about anti-capitalism, communal living, anarchy, natural foods, spiritual experiences and so on. Government, media and the legal system all had to be mobillised to quash the threat that a revolution in consciousness potentially presented to mainstream society. Albion Dreaming is a well-researched piece of work and a truly compelling read – if you’re interested, you can get a copy for £7.99 from the Guardian Bookshop.
Andy also has quite a prolific back-catalogue. I first discovered his writing in beGLAD: An Incredible String Band Compendium, which compiled a wealth of articles from a the magazine of the same name and devoted to the archetypal psych-folk band. The anthology Strangely Strange, but Oddly Normal collects together articles from Fortean Times, Encounters, UFO Brigantia alongside previously unpublished work.
Among the wide range of articles, I found the one on The Big Grey Man of Ben Macdhui most interesting, since it contains a number of notes and sources on how our environment may potentially incline people to experience the sensation of a ‘presence’ in their midst. On the topic of ‘landscape sentience’, there is also a great article on Alan Garner’s enigmatic Thursbitch. The article on John Michell and the 60s underground’s fascination with flying saucers is also good, a theme which also surfaces in Albion Dreaming, paving the way to Glastonbury Fayre.
It’s also worth noting that Andy’s son, Kai, runs a couple of excellent blogs which cover all kinds of peculiar goings on, predominantly in West Yorkshire. Layla and I have spent many a happy weekend exploring the places he has flagged up – thanks, Kai!