Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Psychedelic Fruitbasket, Pt. 2: Tangerines

Few individual tracks, as far as I can tell, have been so thoroughly mined for imagery and sounds as John Lennon's utterly unique and epoch-making "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds". One of my very favorite moments in all the world of LPs is the brief moment of silence which separates the end of "With A Little Help From My Friends" and the eerie, otherworldly sound of the Lowrey organ which begins the journey into John's hazy dream-world. Virtually every noun in the song has begotten sonic children: tangerine trees, marmalade skies, kaleidoscope eyes, cellophane flowers, marshmallow pies—this is the vocabulary of acid rock. Even though the Beatles initially denied that the title acronym was a drug reference, there is no doubt that the song's colorful imagery, swirling sounds, and references to floating with one's head in the clouds were at the very least inspired by something more psychotropic than British ale. For this edition of The Psychedelic Fruitbasket, I want to focus on this legendary's track's first fruit, the tangerine.

First, here's the mono version of "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds":

When the pop world started going psychedelic, more commercial artists quickly followed suit. Tommy James & The Shondells started off as a brilliant garage rock singles act, with huge hits like "Hanky Panky" and "I Think We're Alone Now". Their transition to psych pop was made in 1968, when they released the huge smash "Crimson and Clover", which in my opinion is a brilliant extrapolation of Lennon's "Strawberry Fields Forever" (strawberry : crimson :: fields : clover). Their 1968 album Crimson and Clover contains, besides the title hit and the groovy "Crystal Blue Persuasion", one of my favorite attempts to copy "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds", the absurdly silly but fun "I Am A Tangerine". Check out the lyrics!

Tommy James & The Shondells, "I Am A Tangerine" (1968):

Americans weren't the only ones smitten with Lucy in the sky. The little-known UK band Kaleidoscope (note their trippy name, shared with at least two other psychedelic bands) named their first album Tangerine Dream, as good a description of Lennon's song as can be made in two words. Their 1967 album may or may not have given the more famous German electronic band its name, but this rare album is a gem of melodic, Beatlesy psychedelic pop.

From 1967's Tangerine Dream, here's Kaleidoscope's "Flight From Ashiya", replete with Lennonesque lyrics (e.g., "Puffs of white cotton passing the window", "One minute high, the next minute low":

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