July is perhaps best known by the eclectic group of UK 60′s psychedelic album collectors. Do not let this specific title draw you away from this post. If you are a fan of psychedelic music, modern or original, this post should be of interest to you. I will reserve “Journey to the Center of the Mind” posts to explorations into the eccentric world of psychedelic music. Occasionally blogger Peter Mosur will join us on our trip down mind-bending, kaleidoscopic lane. Today we will explore a single released by July in 1968 and the coinciding album that has garnered much attention even in its mediocrity.
July came out of a verdant psychedelic scene in Britain. Hallucinogenic music still maintained its cult popularity and bands were still experimenting with different sounds. July was the product of a merger between two separated bands. In the early 1960s a band named the Dreamers began playing pop music. The band changed its name to The Tomcats because of Freddie and the Dreamers and also changed their genre to blues/rock. In 1965 the band consisted of guitarist and vocalist Tom Newman, bassist Alan James, guitarist Peter Cook and drummer Chris Jackson. And, in typical band fashion, this incarnation of The Tomcats broke up in 1965.
Also exploring the London music scene was a band named Second Thoughts. They also broke up in 1965. Second Thoughts were an R&B band that featured conga player, flautist and keyboardist Jon Field, guitarist Tony Duhig, singer Patrick Campbell-Lyons future Thunderclap Newman vocalist and keyboardist Speedy Keen. Keen wrote Thunderclap Newman’s one-hit-wonder “Something in the Air.” Also, just for those who are interested, Thunderclap Newman was created by the Who’s Pete Townshend to showcase Keen’s songwriting (which produced one huge hit). Keen was the Who’s chauffeur. The music business is all about connections.
Anyway, the two bands combined forces and a new Tomcats line-up was created with Newman on vocals, Duhig on guitar, Field on flute/keyboard, James on bass and Jackson on drums. Newman and former Tomcats member Peter Cook began writing more psychedelic music for the Tomcats and in 1968 the band changed its name to July. They were picked up by Spencer Davis (of his group) and
produced by watched most attentively by Tommy Scott on their 1968 eponymous release off Major Minor Records Limited. Those who have the record understand that joke. I actually have the CD.
The band broke up in 1969 after their singles and album flopped. Newman actually went on to produce Mike Oldfield’s work. But their legend lives on.
July is overall a mediocre psychedelic album. But, the first two tracks on side one are exceptional pieces of psychedelic music. “My Clown” and “Dandelion Seeds” were released as a single in 1968. Today, 43 years later, this single is widely regarded as one of the best psychedelic singles ever released. No. I am not kidding. This London-based psychedelic band managed to slip through the cracks of obscurity and are now finally being recognized. Let’s explore these two songs.
The track immediately sends us into the normal psychedelic repetition. I just love the track manipulation that is a constant in psychedelic pieces of that era. You also can spot some classic British elements of psychedelic music in that it maintains solid pop harmonies. The chorus is wonderful. The voices are precise and melodic. The song shifts into hard psychedelia at around the 1:25 mark. It is there that we hear a guitar solo. We can also hear vocal manipulation which is interesting and well done. Perhaps my favorite part of the song is the conclusion. The voice echoes and then falls into some conga and distorted flute.
“Dandelion Seeds” is immediately different. This is what makes this single so great. What you hear immediately is rhythmic and distorted blues. The verse follows this progression with awesome mind-melting lyrics. Then at 50 seconds the verse becomes almost poppy and effervescent. It’s cool. You can really hear the R&B influences. Then something odd happens. At 2:30 the song changes completely. It becomes drawn out with keyboards and almost seems like a scene out of a psychedelic movie. It has a soundtrack feel to it. But, in the background (almost like a nightmare) is the originally beat of the song which replaces the odd sound and we come back again. The song ends with a guitar solo (no backing).