May 23, 2024

Banging Colours – “Hallucinogenic Treasures from the Convolution of an Imaginative Brain” – review of a souvenir from a time that maybe never was

DIGITAL – BANDCAMP     4th December 2020

It is fifty-three years since the Summer Of Love and the heyday of hippy music in the swinging London scene. Matthias Derer has delved deep (who knows where….) to find tapes of a band so immersed in Sixties hardcore psych that hardly a trace of them remains. I’m used to being surprised at the quality of taping that American contemporaries, the Grateful Dead could achieve whilst high on LSD but the quality of the tapes Derer has found is so good they could almost have been made today.

Featuring jazzy drumming, washes of mellotron, guitar and, remarkably, a scratchy violin, the ensemble fill two discs with their entire output. I can only think of one other band from the period with a violin; the eminently bananas Holy Modal Rounders, so the lack of mention of Banging Colours in the contemporary press would be remarkable, if it wasn’t that so much else was going on and that the entire music press were off their tits on Yellow Bentines or Clarky Cat. It is rumoured that the legendary Thamesmen opened for Banging Colours once, giving David St Hubbins and Nigel Tuffnel an early platform.

Standing out from the crowd, songs differ from their contemporaries not only in sound quality but in extended jams that owe more to modern bands such as Phish than blues-based sixties scene bands. The opener, The Love And Fun Brigade serves as their “Hey Hey We’re The Monkees” anthem but breaks down into a thoughtful jam in the middle of its six minutes. Other songs go up to ten minutes or more with sounds that are almost post-modern and playing that would not be out of place on a Les Claypool and Sean Lennon track. The washes of keys and glorious Mellotron (or is it a Memotron?) are, of course, very welcome, as are the dreamy early-Floyd-ish instrumentals or the pastoral song about sunny London parks. Lyrics such as “I’m part of you, you are part of me” or “before receiving, there must be giving” sum up an era of hopeful, if naïve songs, almost as a synthesis of received ideas about the period.

Disc two collects studio jams and radio sessions. Some would find the radio DJ almost unbelievable, but I suppose DJs quite possibly did say things back then like “their far-out sounds are a little out there for my tastes but they might be your cup of tea”. Those who claim to remember such things are now too old to be trusted or took too many drugs to be sure. We may never know……

The whole set is an enjoyable collection of a band no-one seems to remember, except, perhaps Nigel Tuffnel and David St. Hubbins, who went on to have much bigger success than the band they opened for, eventually turning those amps up to 11 as Spinal Tap.

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