London has been one of the truly spiritual homes of psychedelic music ever since the early 1960s. The Tornados’ “Telstar” (Joe Meek) is often mistakenly quoted as being one of the earliest examples (1962), but it was really when fuzztones began to be added to guitars, as well as innovative experimentations with reverbs and other sounds that would be particularly interesting when enjoyed in an altered state, that the music became recognisably psychedelic.
Since then, psychedelia has influenced a plethora of genres, with psychedelic trance bursting onto the scene in the 1990s, with multiple venues across our city offering all-night mind-expanding extravaganzas. Most of those venues are now gone, converted into luxury flats, and psytrance is not what it used to be, becoming faster, harder and darker, often lacking the fluffiness that used to be the norm, with some rare exceptions. However, when it comes to the original psychedelic scene, it thankfully has refused to ‘move with the times’, instead catering across London to devout lovers of mindbending rock and garage.
Most psychedelic rock parties appear to be in the Hackney area these days, with the Moth Club, Oslo, Paper Dress Vintage and even tiny Helgi’s providing fantastic live music and club nights dedicated to the psych scene. But there is one club that is the grandaddy of them all and still going strong, and it’s not in Hackney but in Finsbury Park: Orleans Wine Bar.
For 29 years, this unpretentious place has been home to some of the most colourful and up-for-it crowds this side of California. In these days, when clubs are closing every other weekend, this is a massive achievement. Of course, it used to be much larger, on two floors, with a metal spiral staircase joining the two, and with psychedelia mainly in the basement, as it is today. Last night, GIGsoup attended one of their many parties, an allnighter which rotated between sets from the main promoter and resident DJ Rob Bailey, Rhys Webb (from the Horrors) and Glaswegian Holly Calder (Eyes Wide Open).
Rob Bailey is a bit of a polymath, and a legend on the scene. He set up The New Untouchables (NUT) (https://www.newuntouchables.com/) with Jason Ringgold in 1997 promoting Mod, psychedelia and Northern Soul. Both Mousetrap and Crossfire are part of the NUT family, as well as the yearly Beat Bespoké parties and record label, whose many garage and Mod compilations no doubt feature in many of our readers’ valued collections. We spoke to Rob about his next plans, the most imminent being the second Rock and Roll Circus New Years Eve Party at the Paper Dress Vintage, at which The Baron Four, The Cretins and Liquorice Experiment will be performing live.
However, it is Le Beat Bespoké’s three-day festival from 10th-12th April 2020 that Rob and everyone else are most excited about. These will include live music from King Khan & The Shrines, The Kaisers and Wolf People among others, spread over three different venues (Oslo, The Strongrooms and Paper Dress Vintage). This is the 15th year that Le Beat Bespoké will be holding these legendary parties, and GIGsoup hope to be there to report from the dancefloor. Rob let us in on an exclusive secret: LA quartet The Electric Looking Glass, who have been getting rave reviews lately, and all-girl Detroit psych trio SHADOW SHOW, have just been booked to play. The party will be a hoot as ever, with a psychedelic lollypop lady steering the crowd from the live shows at Oslo to the afterparty at Paper Dress Vintage away from traffic. More info at https://www.lebeatbespoke.com/
As for last night’s psychedelic allnighter, it was brilliant. We do not think we heard a single tune being played that dated from after 1970 (we remember J. C. Heavy’s 1970 “Mr Deal” at some point, which is one of the latest tracks we identified), and certainly many of the packed crowd appeared to be invoking the 1967 Summer of Love as we do not recall ever seeing so many people snogging in one place, ever. Love was everywhere. People also dressed up for the occasion (including myself), but nothing seemed contrived. Orleans Wine Bar is a place where locals go, and have been going for years. Everywhere around us people were greeting one another, as though the last psych evening was years ago and not just a few weeks at most.
We heard some great music. Rob played some classics, including many tracks that will be familiar from his Beat Bespoké compilations, such as The Estes Brothers’ “Tomorrow’s Sunlight”, Paul Martin “It Happened” and the outstanding 1968 “Please”, the first single by the Swiss outfit The B-G System. Other tracks we remember him playing and which we very much enjoyed were State of Mind “Move”, and the glorious Farfisa organ-filled psychedelia that is “I Wanna Be With You”, by Yesterday’s Children. We loved hearing the crazy “Psychedelic Siren” by Iowa garage band The Daybreakers which has a piercing ghostly siren sound made by a very early synthesizer built by the singer’s college classmate. It sounded awesome in this small venue.
We also heard Jacki Bond’s version of the Oliver! classic “Reviewing the Situation”, which was never released in 1967 (when it was recorded). Eventually it saw the light on the Dream Babes (vol 4) compilation 36 years later, and then again in 2017 when it appeared on the AA side of a 7″ single on the Spoke Records label, along with the equally unreleased “Let the Music Play” by Gene Pitney. Do check it out below, it really is dreamy.
Rhys Webb from the Horrors took over the decks and played a number of familiar tunes, including “When the Night Falls” by short-lived British psychedelic band The Eyes, and The Pretty Things’ first single “Rosalyn”, with Dick Taylor’s swirling guitar sounds bouncing off the walls of the club.
He ended his first set with the The Sharades’ 1964 version of the song originally recorded by Ginny Arnell, “Dumb Head”, to introduce who for me was the most exciting DJ of the night, the fabulous Holly Calder from the vibrant Glasgow psychedelic scene, who was furthermore celebrating her birthday.
Holly played some amazingly obscure stuff. Even when it came to music from more mainstream bands like The Sweet, she chose to play “The Juicer”, the oft-ignored B-side to the “All You Ever Get From Me” single. At one point, she played this crazy French-language track we had never heard before, which we had to ask her about: it was “Messe Blanche” by the Belgian band of the same name. We loved the dramatic female harmonising in the background. We had to look it straight up on YouTube. Unfortunately, we have not been able to find anything else they did (apart from the B side, “Mon amie la fleur”), mainly because they were a bunch of students for an avant-garde art performance in Belgium. We don’t know how many of these singles were pressed, or quite how Holly not only discovered it but got her hands on the original vinyl which, following a quick perusal on Discogs, exchanges hands for a not insignificant amount.
However, this is nothing compared to a track she played in her second set, by a garage rock band hailing, like the aforementioned far more famous band The Daybreakers, from Iowa. This band is called, catchily, The Guys Who Came Up From Downstairs, and the single (“Growth”) is like gold dust, impossible to find anywhere for less than three figures. A real privilege to hear such rare vinyl on a good speaker system surrounded by an appreciative audience. Another great song from her stack was “1906” by West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, an odd song which includes spoken lyrics, a fabulously infectious beat but also some really twisty sounds.
It’s hard to describe what a fun night it was. We did record a few seconds of video which we uploaded below, but you really need to come to these nights in person and support this fantastic, long-living scene. On 7th March 2020, the venue will celebrate its 29 continuous years of entertainment with a free night and a strict 7″ vinyl-only policy. Agatha Christie’s play “The Mousetrap” has been running continuously in the West End for 67 years. Clearly it’s a good name for longevity.