Friday, 17 October 2014

Dante's Dragons

Today’s post was inspired, once again, by WWR follower Graham Clayton who, by bringing one of these discs to my attention, reminded me that I had not posted the other.

The first disc, one I had never heard before Graham mentioned it, comes from the New York-based psychedelic act the Blues Magoos. Pretty much unknown in the UK, they scored a solitary hit in the US in 1967 with the single We Ain't Got Nothin' Yet. Originally formed in 1964 as the Trenchcoats, by 1968 – after releasing a string of flop singles - the band had fractured in two and, after issuing a couple of poorly-selling albums, by 1972 they were gone for good.

Or so it seemed. In 2008 the Blues Magoos (featuring original members Ralph Scala, Peppy Castro and Geoff Daking) reunited for two concerts, including one supporting The Zombies at the Fillmore New York. Since then the band has continued to play live and, in 2012, they issued their first new album in 42 years, Psychedelic Resurrection.

However the track we feature today comes from the B-side to their 1967 flop single One By One. The utterly peculiar Dante’s Inferno, credited to all five members of the band, is a shockingly awful psychedelic jam that should never have been committed to tape and, quite obviously, took about as long to record as it does to listen to. The Brian Auger-like keyboard stabs, ridiculous guitar work and Yoko Ono-esque wailing make it sound like a Mothers of Invention live outtake. Ignore the crackling at the beginning of the disc: it’s not scratched – them’s ‘flames’ you can hear.

Hearing that abomination reminded me of another B-side by another 60s US outfit, this time the much more successful – with well over a dozen hits on the Billboard charts - The Turtles. The band, led by vocalists Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman (who would later become known as Flo and Eddie and would join Zappa in the Mothers of Invention) are best known for their international hit Happy Together, although they scored their first hit with a cover of Bob Dylan’s It Ain’t Me Babe in 1965 and would continue to make the charts until 1970. 

Umbassa and the Dragon was originally issued as the B-side to their 1968 single Sound Asleep: the backing track to the ‘song’ is actually the fade out of the A-side slowed down. Such invention! This ridiculous noise was ignored when the band came to compile their next album and was all but whitewashed from musical history until Rhino Records decided to include it on their collection The World’s Worst Records Volume One (Hmm…where have I heard that phrase before?)


1 comment:

  1. 10/17/14
    You may laugh, but it was the "satire" of "Umbassa The Dragon" that got Frank Zappa's attention to consider Howie Kaylan & Mark Volman to perform as "Flo & Eddie" with The Mothers Of Invention once The Turtles were defunct in 1970. To go from "Umbassa The Dragon" to "Billy The Mountain" in a span of two years, what a career move.


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