Tuesday, 7 June 2022

IPSISSIMUS: 'A heavy sound with walloping drums'

Ipsissimus released only one single, Hold On / Lazy Woman, which appeared in April 1969. The A-side is a belting cover of a song previously recorded by Rupert’s People and Sharon Tandy, while the B-side is a heavy psychedelic blues by their bassist Steve Oliver. Steve was kind enough to tell me the band’s basic history for posterity, as below...

"Len Deathridge, Reg King, Chris Evans and I met at Eastbury Secondary School in Barking in the early 60s. We formed a band called the Colts, with Len on lead guitar, Chris on rhythm guitar, me on bass, Reg on drums and a guy called Len Morgan singing. We were discovered in 1963 by Norman Newell, who produced Shirley Bassey for EMI. He didn’t sign us up but he did record Len Morgan as a solo act (under the name Tony Nelson), with us backing him. 


That opened the door for us to play on sessions for various other people including Frank Ifield, and to provide backings for demos or auditions at Abbey Road on Saturday mornings. One was for Gary Glitter, although he wasn’t called that then, and another was for Graham Bonney. We were in and out of Abbey Road up until 1970, but we only saw the Beatles on one occasion, in the canteen, and we didn’t speak to them. 


We used to rehearse in a youth club in Barking, which the Tremeloes also used, and produced our own demos there on a Revox machine. We got a contract with Pye as a four-piece, I can’t remember how, and made a single that came out in October 1965. The A-side was an American folk song called San Miguel and the B-side was a song of ours called Where Has Our Love Gone. The producer was Mike Smith. 


In 1966 we began to focus on covers of harmony material by The Beach Boys, the Byrds and the Mamas & the Papas. We gigged two or three nights a week all over the country, often at colleges, as well as having a regular Sunday lunchtime session at the Merry Fiddlers in Dagenham. We tended to play in local pubs or halls rather than London clubs, though we did once play at the Electric Garden in Covent Garden in 1967. We supported the Herd, Episode Six, Family and various others at this time. We were aware of drugs, of course, but we weren’t at all druggy ourselves and we didn’t see an awful lot of them around. 


Over the course of 1968 we developed a heavier style. Sometime that year my brother-in-law Tony Sales replaced Chris Evans on rhythm guitar and we decided to rename ourselves – the Colts seemed pretty naff by then, and our manager Dave Matthews saw the word Ipsissimus in The Devil Rides Out by Dennis Wheatley.


Dave’s brother Bob drove our van. When he heard Rupert’s People playing Hold On he suggested that we could do our own version. It was in our live set for a long time and always went down well. It became our signature song, I suppose. On stage we would stretch out on it, and Len used to do a section through an amplified Stylophone, which made various weird sounds – he even played it through a wah-wah!


We continued to provide backing for EMI auditions, some of which were performed at EMI’s head office in Manchester Square, where there was a small theatre. Various A&R men and producers and engineers would be milling around. At one Saturday morning session there we played Hold On as a warm-up and the producer Jonathan Peel and the engineer Norman Smith pricked up their ears and both offered to record us. In the end they agreed to proceed together. Dave negotiated with EMI and they paid us enough to buy new amps, for Len to buy a Fender electric 12-string (the first in the country) and for me to buy a 5-string Fender bass. 


Our single was recorded over the course of a long day (and into the evening) at Abbey Road in March 1969. If you listen carefully you can hear Len playing Stylophone behind the chorus on Hold On. Norman and Jonathan were both there, but Norman did most of the work. We taped more than the two songs that were released – one other song (whose title escapes me) featured Norman playing harpsichord. When the single came out in April Tony Blackburn played it and said how awful it was, adding that it was nowhere near as good as Tamla Motown. 

By then we were doing quite well as a heavy band, and often supported big-names at the Dagenham Roundhouse, the King’s Head in Romford and other venues in Chadwell Heath and Stratford. We played with bands including Led Zeppelin, Taste, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath. The problem was that they all tended to play so loudly that most of the subtlety of what they were doing was lost - at the Dagenham Roundhouse everyone had to play through the house PA system and drums were never miked.


NME, April 26th 1969
Our EMI contract called for a minimum of two singles, with an option for further singles and an album. The problem was, by the middle of 1969 we were moving back towards folk-rock and wanted our second single to be a cover of Someday Soon by Ian Tyson, with The Gallery by Joni Mitchell on the B-side. We recorded it but EMI had signed us as a heavy band, so they turned it down and it never got released. We also had our own material in the same style, but they didn’t like that either so they dropped us. Jonathan Peel was unimpressed by our change of style and it all fizzled out. 

Chris White of the Zombies then showed an interest in recording us independently, so we made some demos with him, but they didn’t get anywhere. We never split up, we just evolved into different line-ups and styles. For several years in the 70s we played pub-rock as Jerry The Ferret, then morphed into more of a country band. I had no idea anyone was interested in the Ipsissimus single until fairly recently. Sadly Len Deathridge and Tony Sales have passed away, but I’m still in touch with Reg King."

Wednesday, 9 March 2022


In the course of researching my current book I have been looking through old copies of Varsity, the main student newspaper at Cambridge University, published every Saturday during termtime. For the eight issues of 1967's Christmas term, Rick Hopper - an undergraduate at Jesus College - contributed a pop column.     

Rick had been a prefect at Eltham College, a private school in southeast London, where he was friends with Mick Jagger's brother Chris. Upon leaving they travelled around Europe together, and Rick's interests tilted towards the emerging counter-culture. He began at Cambridge in October 1966 and was closely involved with underground music there, singing with the Pineapple Truck, one of the university's two psychedelic bands, the other being 117. Sponsored to an extent by Mick Jagger, both groups spent the summer of 1967 in London, where Rick developed trenchant views on the pop scene that are reflected in his columns.     

The Pineapple Truck in 1967 (Rick is second left)

On February 23rd 1968 he compèred Under The Influence, a 'happening' in Cambridge at which Nick Drake made his formal live debut. He went on to work as an A&R man at Transatlantic Records, but I don't know what became of him thereafter. Perhaps his most lasting contribution to the musical world was his early championing of Kate Bush, whom he apparently introduced to his friend David Gilmour.     

If you know what happened to Rick, or whether he's still among us, please drop me an email or say so in the comments below. In the meantime, enjoy his columns, which provide a candid and immediate insight into a lot of music that is now regarded reverentially. (As ever, click to enlarge them.)


October 14th 1967

October 21st 1967

October 28th 1967

November 4th 1967

November 11th 1967

November 18th 1967

November 25th 1967

December 2nd 1967

Monday, 20 May 2019


Needless to say, 1960s California was full of weird and wonderful individuals. One such was the late Lewis Beach Marvin III.

Wealthy and well-connected, he was espousing hippie values (in particular vegetarianism) well ahead of the curve, and as of 1957 he occupied a peculiar temple / menagerie / home named Moonfire (the moon apparently being a symbol of death and fire of life) high up in Tuna Canyon, where he hosted numerous 'happenings' as of the mid-60s.

In 1966 he published a manifesto called Moonfire: Ancient Life & Death Symbols, which outlined his passionately held 'live and let live' philosophy.

He was featured in the Mondo Hollywood documentary (from which the image above is taken) the following year, and made a documentary himself in 1968, entitled Moonfire, which was released that June; he screened it inside a tent on Sunset Boulevard, with the Common People performing before and after.

He was a familiar figure at rock festivals, protest marches and other counter-cultural gatherings in the late 60s, typically holding a placard bearing slogans such as 'LOVE YOUR ANIMAL FRIENDS, DON'T EAT THEM' (that one was at Woodstock); he also handed a lamb to Jim Morrison backstage in Miami in 1969 (there's a well-known photo of Morrison holding it).

He was intermittently covered in the local media, but little is known of him as of the mid-70s.

Here's what I have found.

Los Angeles Times, Sunday September 19th 1965

Los Angeles Times, Sunday June 12th 1966

Mondo Hollywood review, Los Angeles Times, Sunday October 1st 1967

Los Angeles Free Press, June 14th 1968

Los Angeles Free Press, June 14th 1968

Los Angeles Free Press, June 21st 1968

World Countdown, July 1968

The Los Angeles Times, Thursday June 27th 1968

Los Angeles Free Press, July 12th 1968

The Province (Montreal), Monday October 7th 1968

The Miami News, Saturday October 4th 1969

The Independent, Friday July 23rd 1971

Los Angeles Times, Sunday June 24th 1973 (i)

Los Angeles Times, Sunday June 24th 1973 (ii)

Los Angeles Times, Sunday October 28th 1973 

The Delta Democrat Times, Thursday November 1st 1973

Los Angeles Times, Friday November 9th 1973 

Los Angeles Times, Monday January 24th 1977

Los Angeles Times, Thursday October 15th 1992

Friday, 8 March 2019

GALACTIC RAMBLE - revised and expanded edition

Ten years after the first edition of Galactic Ramble came and went, I'm delighted to say that a revised and hugely expanded second edition is now exclusively available HERE as a limited hardback costing £100 (plus p&p). 

It completely supersedes the first edition, being more than twice as long (well over a million words) and containing a massive amount of new information and imagery. 

They will not not be reprinted; when they're gone, they're gone!

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

THE MOVE by Michael English

Between December 1968 and May 1969, the British teen monthly Rave published a fantasy comic strip featuring the Move, by the great Michael English (half of the Hapshash & The Coloured Coat design duo). I'm not sure if it's been seen since, so here it is in full.

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

XXXRECORDS and a spot of Confusion

Having devised their instantly recognisable sound at rehearsals, Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker made their live debut as Cream on July 29th 1966, and gigged prolifically thereafter. One early performance was at the London club Klooks Kleek on November 15th 1966 (shortly after the release of their debut 45, and shortly before the release of their debut album). 

Someone recorded the show, which consisted of Lawdy Mama, Sleepy Time Time, Crossroads, Stepping Out, Sweet Wine, Meet Me In The Bottom and N.S.U.. Sometime thereafter, the recording was pressed onto vinyl, with no label or artwork, but the matrix codes ‘CJG LP 1A’ and ‘CJG LP 1B’ stamped into the respective run-outs. 

It can be seen on Discogs here:

Though Discogs has disallowed sales of bootlegs, copies of it occasionally surface on eBay; one fetched 50 GBP there on February 13th 2018, and can be seen here:

On April 9th 2018, the well-known UK record dealer Graham Cross - aka xxxrecords - sold an intriguing album on eBay, which fetched 576 GBP. It was, he wrote, the work of a band called ‘Confusion’, and can be seen here:

No band of that name was previously known to have been operating in the UK at the time. As if that weren’t enticing enough for collectors, he added that the disc was an ‘UNKNOWN PRIVATE PRESSING’ containing ‘AWESOME PSYCH BLUES’, and was ‘ONE OF THE RAREST LPs ON THE VERY SOUGHT AFTER DEROY LABEL’, and ‘A ROUGH LIVE RECORDING WHICH CLEARLY THE BAND MUST HAVE GOT MADE’. 

Cross confidently dated his discovery to 1966, and suggested that it had been pressed by Island Records, as well as Deroy. The only hard clue as to manufacture was that ‘MACHINE STAMPED ON EACH SIDE IS 'CJG 1 LP A' & CJG 1 LP B'.

Knowing of the Cream bootleg, you might assume that he was mistaken, and had somehow failed to identify one of the most famous bands in rock history as the performers in question – but you would be wrong. ‘CONFUSINGLY (THOUGH HE OBVIOUSLY ISNT PLAYING ON THIS LP!) THERE ARE REFERENCES MADE ON THE LP TO ERIC CLAPTON BY THE BAND, AND THERE ARE 2 OR 3 CREAM COVERS, AS WELL AS A FEW OTHER TRACKS I CANNOT IDENTIFY!!!!’ continued his listing.

For the time being, the identity of Confusion must remain a mystery; only one other copy of their album is known to exist. It was sold on eBay in July 2012 for 636 GBP (also by Graham Cross) and can be seen here:

Were you a member of Confusion? Do you know someone who was? Do you have a copy of this lost recording by them? If so, please drop me a line!

Thursday, 1 March 2018


On Thursday, December 1st 1966, the Philadelphia Inquirer's New York correspondent, Leonard Lyons, reported that 'Andy Warhol just made his first Velvet Underground recording for MGM' (adding the odd statement 'He used his banana theme for the label's decor'). In fact, most of the album had been recorded that April and May, with Sunday Morning being added in November.

The widely accepted / repeated release date for the album is March 12th 1967, but it's obviously wrong, not least because it was a Sunday. In fact, the LP was evidently released in January; on the 14th of that month, the weekly trade magazine Cash Box covered MGM's 'gala convention and product presentation' in Acapulco, where 'distributors were treated to tropical sun and swimming, and were also shown the new line of album products for the first quarter of 1967'. According to the piece, 'the second album from the Mothers Of Invention and a new Andy Warhol / Velvet Underground & Nico LP were received well'.

The album was included in the 'New Release Inventory Checklist' in Billboard of January 28th (on sale the previous week), and advertised in Cash Box the same day. It was advertised elsewhere with the dumb tagline 'SO FAR "UNDERGROUND," YOU GET THE BENDS!' I think it's safe to assume that the band didn't have any input there.

The first review I've seen appeared in the Tampa Bay Times (of all places) on Monday, February 27th. Its unrigorous author was named Chick Ober:

Next up was the Honolulu Advertiser, on Wednesday, March 1st. Its author, Wayne Harada, was one of the most consistently perceptive and open-minded pop critics of the time:

Also in Hawaii was this skimpy piece in the Honoloulu Star-Bulletin of Saturday, March 4th, by Dave Donelly (who covered the first West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band LP the same day):

On March 4th, Cash Box had this to say; as ever, their remarks were aimed at dealers and not consumers:

The same applies to Billboard, whose 'review' also appeared on March 4th:

It was back to Florida for this snide item, penned by the less-than hip Vance Johnston, which ran in the the Tampa Tribune of Sunday, March 5th: 

On Friday, 10th March, this snippet appeared in the Oil City Derrick in Pennsylvania. It was part of a syndicated column by Jeanne Harrison entitled 'Platter Patter' (so might have appeared elsewhere earlier), and lazily lumps the LP together with new releases by Ella Fitzgerald and Johnny Mathis:

A couple of weeks later, on Saturday 18th, and rather closer to the band's stamping ground, came this vapid dismissal by Don Lass of New Jersey's Asbury Park Evening Press. As well as insulting their music, he confesses to having peeled the banana, like 99% of people who acquired the LP at the time:

The following day came an anonymous pundit's glib thoughts in the Pensacola News-Journal, back in Florida:

The April issue of the San Francisco underground rag Electric Frog offered this unsigned nonsense:

April 13th brought the opinion of New York's influential Village Voice, which was surprisingly equivocal, and presumably upset the band:

In the May 1967 issue of High Fidelity (on sale in April), Morgan Ames was typically conservative and reactionary:

The same month, an unnamed writer in the American Record Guide (which, I believe, was sent out to public libraries and other institutions) was much more thoughtful, delivering the most sensitive review the album received at the time:

The June 1967 issue of Jazz magazine (later Jazz & Pop) ran this:

Timothy Jacobs had this to say in the July edition of the Boston underground magazine Vibrations:

And then, on Saturday, July 15th, Fred Hulett of the Courier-Post in Camden, New Jersey, weighed in. His remarks typify the response of many critics at the time; already suspicious of Andy Warhol, they were only too happy to assume the VU was nothing more than his latest hype:

The September issue of the superb teeny magazine Hullabaloo (on sale two months earlier, as per its schedule) offered this assessment:

On September 28th, Bob Watkins covered the LP in the WSC Acorn (published out of Worcester State College in Massachusetts):

Finally, in the October issue of Crawdaddy! (by then being published out of New York), Sandy Pearlman reflected thus:

I hope this post will debunk the ubiquitous myth that the album was barely reviewed at the time of release. If you have other early US reviews, please send them along, and I'll gladly add them.