By 1968, there was a new breed of long-haired U.K. bands sprouting, armed with gigantic amps and loud, aggressive, songs influenced by the high-volume noise coming from Cream, Jimi Hendrix and Blue Cheer, among others. I’m A Freak, Baby is a three-disc set celebrating these bands, who from ’68-’72 played new forms of angry blues, deranged prog-rock, and brain-melting psychedelia that would set the stage for the heavy metal and punk rock lurking just around the corner.
It’s a mostly under-celebrated scene which defies easy categorization and doesn’t even have a widely accepted genre name that can be slapped on it (you could call it proto-metal or heavy-psych, but I’ve also heard it called freak-rock, a more accurate catch-all). This new boxset gives you the best tracks from 48 freak-rock bands, running the gamut from Rock and Roll Hall Of Famers (Deep Purple and Fleetwood Mac on the ascent, and The Yardbirds’ last gasp before morphing into Led Zeppelin), to songs that were previously unreleased until now (The Kult, Hellmet and Barnabus).
While most of these tracklist is dedicated to hard rockers, the scene’s punkier side comes out in streamlined tunes from Stack Waddy, Crushed Butler, The Deviants and The Pink Fairies (whose “Do It” is one of the all-time great proto-punk anthems). Jerusalem and Iron Claw show how quickly Black Sabbath’s influence spread with doom/downer classics “Primitive Man” and “Skullcrusher”, the latter of which provoked legal threats from Sabbath’s management for sounding so much like them. The seeds of the next generation of heavy metal are here too, with songs that would be later be covered by Judas Priest (Fleetwood Mac’s “Green Manalishi (With The Two Prong Crown)” – a stone killer that has nothing in common with the soft-rock they’d later be known for) and Iron Maiden (“All In Your Mind” by Stray), as well as a song called “Falling” by a completely different band called Iron Maiden from the late-1960s. However, it’s the ghost of Lemmy that looms largest over this set, which is dedicated to his memory. First he’s there as the singer on Sam Gopal’s 1969 song “Escalator”, which sounds a lot like Motorhead would have if Phil Taylor played tablas instead of drums. Then there’s his pre-Motorhead band Hawkwind, who are here with an unreleased pre-Lemmy single, “Sweet Mistress of Pain”, from 1969 when they were still called Hawkwind Zoo. Lastly, while there’s no direct connection, I’ll be damned if the box-set’s title song, recorded by Wicked Lady in 1972, doesn’t sound exactly like Motorhead’s amphetamine rock, three years before their first album.
There’s tons of great material, with remastered sound and informative liner notes to boot. With a reasonable list price (currently $25 on Amazon), it pretty much a no-brainer purchase.