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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Blues Magoos: Psychedelic Lollipop


1) (We Ain't Got) Nothin' Yet; 2) Love Seems Doomed; 3) Tobacco Road; 4) Queen Of My Nights; 5) I'll Go Crazy; 6) Gotta Get Away; 7) Sometimes I Think About; 8) One By One; 9) Worried Life Blues; 10) She's Coming Home.

One possible reason why the Blues Magoos' debut album made even less of an impression on the buying public than it could have is that the title is grossly misleading. A «psychedelic lollipop» would rather be something like a 1967 record from the Hollies or the Monkees — catchy pop strewn with trippy sound effects. These guys, however, were quite far removed even from «fake» psychedelia. What the Blues Magoos really loved was the blues (sorta evident), wimpy Byrds-style folk-rock, and garage vibes. This makes for a fairly diverse listen — yet there is nothing even remotely «psychedelic» about this album.

It was also kind of evident that the Blues Magoos wouldn't have a chance to go all that far. By the time Psychedelic Lollipop came out, they had already hung out around the Bronx and Greenwich Village for at least two years, without much success, and you can see why — there are no traces of «individuality» here, neither in the playing nor in the singing, neither in the attitude nor in  composition. Like gazillions of their contemporaries, the Blues Magoos sincerely loved their in­fluences, but lacked the talent, or the chutzpah, to build up on them.

The band's greatest moment of glory is here, of course, as the lead-in track. ʽWe Ain't Got Nothin' Yetʼ is based upon a riff that was nicked from Ricky Nelson's cover of ʽSummertimeʼ: famous session bassist Joe Osborn originally came up with it as early as 1962, but, frankly speaking, the idea of pairing it with the ʽSummertimeʼ vocals was fairly odd, and the Blues Magoos, singing in unison with its triumphant martiality, make much better use of the idea. (Naturally, such a great riff couldn't help but be re-pilfered later as well, most notably by Ritchie Blackmore on ʽBlack Nightʼ, but it plays a very different role out there). Not only that, of course, but the whole song is one of those perfect «youth-army-on-the-march» anthems of the mid-1960s that, spiritual-wise, puts it on the level of ʽMy Generationʼ — and the sharp guitar breaks, rising to ear-piercing heights after each verse, complete the tension.

However, already the second original, a bass-and-organ-dominated dark folk ballad (ʽLove Seems Doomedʼ), feels formulaic and clichéd, subscribing to a high school level (a.k.a. totally fumbled) understanding of a «broken heart» and how to translate the idea into music. And ʽSometimes I Think Aboutʼ, although also credited to the band, in reality owes its lyrics and basic structure to a traditional folk song, and its guitar / organ arrangement to ʽHouse Of The Rising Sunʼ, of which it could be said to be a poor man's version. (The Blues Magoos did adore the Animals above most other British Invasion bands, so it seems: there is a cover of ʽWorried Life Bluesʼ here that tries to ape the Animals' older version as closely as possible).

One more song deservedly made it from here to the Nuggets anthology — the band's take on ʽTobacco Roadʼ. It is similar in structure and mood to the Nashville Teens' 1964 version, but its main charm is, of course, in its being extended by two of the fastest, noisiest, most pissed-off jam sections of the year, with Peppy Theilhelm and Mike Esposito giving their axes a full-scale thra­sh­ing that presages the Velvet Underground's ʽEuropean Sonʼ by a good year or so. (It may be so that they were trying to match some of the Yardbirds' stuff, but couldn't due to neither of them being Jeff Beck, so they invented minimalist avantgarde noise music instead. Okay, so they didn't exactly invent it, but they did contribute their two cents).

The other covers consist of more lacklustre folk ballads; a tolerable, but unexciting escapist R&B track (ʽGotta Get Awayʼ, not the same as the Stones' title of the same way, but just as much of a throwaway as the Stones' song); and a totally unconvincing cover of James Brown's ʽI'll Go Cra­zyʼ (even Roger Daltrey sounded more authentic, or, at least, more hooliganish on the Who's early Brown covers). In other words, two great tunes, surrounded by quick-grown patches of filler — not a good start for a band that had at least two years all to itself to come up with a more in­volving sound or a fuller batch of original material.

Nevertheless, considering that there are no genuine embarrassments here (upon second thought, even the James Brown cover is listenable provided you are not familiar with the original), any al­bum that has ʽWe Ain't Got Nothin' Yetʼ and ʽTobacco Roadʼ on it, deserves at least a modest thumbs up. And besides, unlike so many of their quickie-mart garage contemporaries, the Blues Magoos weren't done yet — for them, the battle had only just begun.

Check "Psychedelic Lollipop" (CD) on Amazon
Check "Psychedelic Lollipop" (MP3) on Amazon


  1. Prime stuff by garage standards. Maybe the Seeds were the only other garage band to outlast the one hit/one album formula, unless you count Blue Cheer as a true garage band? In any case, they earned their spot on "Nuggets", and even had a respectable follow up with the "Electric Comic Book" album. The three or four albums after that are period-bound dreck of no account whatsoever.

    1. I wouldn't consider Blue Cheer a true garage band. They came along too late in time and were more part of the San Francisco "hippie" scene even though they were looked down on by many of those musicians. Also, I don't know if anything after Vincebus Eruptum was really worth listening to. They sounded like they ran out of steam by the second album.

    2. True, but groups of the vintage of Iron Butterfly and Blue Cheer (and even Grand Funk and Alice Cooper) definitely have their roots in the mid-60's garage scene. It's the major element that separates them from the British groups (Cream, Purple, Sabbath,etc.), which come more from a mixture of European elements and a more textbook derived appreciation of the Chicago blues sound.

  2. "but it plays a very different role out there"
    That's essentially the secret of DP Mark II.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Yes, but Blues Magoos were a garage level band essentially without advanced musical education, and starting from scratch. Deep Purple came from a far more sophisticated background, and also had a more accurate idea of what the musical scene of the times required. "Black Night" gets by, not merely on the strength of the riff, but by the sheer sonic force of the delivery.

  3. Love Seems Doomed=LSD=1966
    Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds=LSD=1967
    Down on Phillips Escalator=DOPE=1967

    Psychedelia in form if not in substance. But the Magoos weren't the only American band playing semantics:

    Psychotic Reaction=Psychedelic Reaction?

    1. 13th Floor Elevators, "Fire Engine". "Let me take you to DMT (the empty) place in my fire engine". One of the cleverest double entedres in pysch history, actually. That entire "Psychedelic Sounds" album is one huge advert for psychotropic drugs.