Looking Back: 80 Mod, Freakbeat & Swinging London Nuggets (RPM Records)


Looking Back’s cover – a photo of a well-dressed couple dancing in Swinging London with overlayed pop-art graphics – is a pretty good indication of the kind of music you’ll hear over 80 tracks on this 3-cd box-set. I’m not a huge fan of the terms ‘mod’ or ‘freakbeat’ (try describing their defining characteristics) so let’s just say this is the music the youth culture in England embraced in-between the peak of the British Invasion and the rise of psychedelia. It’s a high-energy mix of cheap teen thrills, dancefloor fillers, and blue-eyed soul.

Unfortunately the biggest proponents of this sound (The Who, The Small Faces) aren’t found here, but a tremendous wealth of B-and C-level bands are, each given a bio in the liner notes, which also feature great vintage photos. However, for all of the uber-cool fashion and lifestyle aspects of Mod culture, about 3/4 of the music here is pretty weak. Most of these bands were still teens, and their inexperience shows in tentative musicianship and almost uniformly terrible lyrics. Perhaps they sounded brilliant blasting out of teen dance clubs in 1966 after swallowing a couple of amphetamine pills, but if you’re listening on your stereo at home, there’s not much to excite the brain. Some of the highlights are the Shel Talmy-produced thumper ”Daddy Long Legs” by Lindsay Muir’s Untamed and the psychotically unhinged “Crawdaddy Simone” by The Syndicats (a Joe Meek production), but for each winner there are several cheap rip-offs like “But She’s Mine” by John’s Children (a dumbed-down rewrite of “Can’t Explain” featuring a young Marc Bolan) or inconsequential instrumentals like “Bond Street P.M.” by Mood Mosaic. Interestingly, several musicians who went on to superstardom in hard rock and heavy metal have their mod pasts revealed here: Lemmy plays in The Rockin’ Vickers, Bon Scott sings on a surprisingly fey Soft Machine cover by The Valentines, and Roger Glover and Ian Gillian of Deep Purple were both members of the pre-Purple outfit Episode Six whose “Jack D’Or” is as campy as it is meaningless.

Tracklist:

DISC ONE

1. THE SPENCER DAVIS GROUP – Looking Back 2. THE ARTHUR BROWN SET – Don`t Tell Me 3. THE UNTAMED – It`s Not True 4. THE SYNDICATS – Crawdaddy Simone 5. THE BATS – On The Waterfront 6. JOHN LEE`S GROUNDHOGS- I ll Never Fall In Love Again 7. LLOYD ALEXANDER REAL ESTATE – Watcha Gonna Do (When Your Baby Leaves You) 8. THE IN CROWD – Things She Says 9. LINDSAY MUIR SUNTAMED – Daddy Long Legs 10. THE ROCKIN` VICKERS – I Don`t Need Your Kind 11. THE MIDNIGHTS – Show Me Around 12. THE OTHER SIDE – Out My Light 13. THE TRIBE – Gamma Goochie 14. RAY SINGER – Ah Oop 15. MOOD MOSAIC – Bond Street PM 16. LAUREL AITKEN – Bongo Jerk 17. THE OTHERS – Oh Yeah 18. RAY HOFF & THE OFFBEATS – My Good Friend Mary Jane 19. THE MINISTRY OF SOUND – Mary Mary 20. THE TREKKAS – Please Go 21. THE ALLEYKATZ – The Friendly Undertaker 22. TOMMY BRUCE – Can Your Monkey Do The Dog 23. THE COURIERS – Done Me Wrong 24. THE QUIET FIVE – Tomorrow I ll Be Gone 25. A WILD UNCERTAINTY – Broken Truth 26. THE THOUGHTS – Call Me Girl (previously unissued) 27. EARL PRESTON`S REALMS- Daddy Rolling Stone (live)

DISC TWO

1. SOUL PURPOSE – Hip Huggin Mini 2. THE BROTHERS GRIMM – Looky, Looky 3. J.J. JACKSON – Come See Me 4. THE ARTHUR BROWN SET – Baby You Know What You`re Doing 5. LLOYD ALEXANDER REAL ESTATE – Gonna Live Again 6. THE MIRAGE – You Can t Be Serious 7. LAUREL AITKEN & THE SOULMEN – Last Night 8. THE KNAVE – Ace Of Clubs (previously unissued) 9. FADIN` COLOURS – (Just Like) Romeo & Juliet 10. GLENN INGRAM – I ll Be Doggone 11. TONY RIVERS & THE CASTAWAYS – Can t Make It Without You Baby (previously unissued) 12. A WILD UNCERTAINTY – La La La Lies (previously unissued) 13. THE MIKE STUART SPAN -Workout 14. THE SPENCER DAVIS GROUP – Every Little Thing 15. THE COURIERS – Take Away 16. BOBBY JOHNSON & THE ATOMS – Tramp 17. THE CORDUROYS – Too Much Of A Woman 18. MAYNELL WILSON – Motown Feeling 19. WATSON T. BROWN & THE EXPLOSIVE – I Close My Eyes 20. RAM JOHN HOLDER- Yes I Do 21. HOAGY BENSON – Kangaroo 22. JOHN LEE SGROUNDHOGS- Over You Baby 23. THE IN CROWD – Stop Wait A Minute 24. THE TREKKAS – We Got A Good Thing Going (previously unissued) 25. THE VALENTINES – Love Makes Sweet Music 26. THE SORROWS – Ypotron 27. JOHN`S CHILDREN- But She’s Mine

DISC THREE

1. KRIS IFE – Hush 2. WATSON T. BROWN & EXPLOSIVE – Crying All Night 3. STU JAMES & THE MOJOS – Until My Baby Comes Home 4. THE MINISTRY OF SOUND – White Collar Worker 5. KATCH 22 – Baby Love 6. JOHN`S CHILDREN – Just What You Want, Just What You ll Get 7. THE FLIES – I m Not Your Stepping Stone (Demo) 8. THE BIRDS – No Good Without You 9. THE RENEGADES – Thirteen Women 10. THE KIRKBYS – It sA Crime 11. THE MIRAGE – Hold On 12. THE ALAN BOWN SET – Jeu De Massacre (The Killing Game) 13. THE SORROWS – Which Way 14. HARDIN & YORK – Little Miss Blue 15. THE PICADILLY LINE – Gone Gone Gone 16. THE SALON BAND – Sweet Motion 17. SUGAR SIMONE – Take It Easy 18. TWINKLE – Micky 19. VAL McKENNA – I ll Be Satisfied 20. JACKI BOND – Reviewing The Situation 21. BARBARA RUSKIN – Pawnbroker Pawnbroker 22. THE McKINLEYS – Sweet And Tender Romance 23. SHE TRINITY – Climb That Tree 24. THE EXPLOSIVE – Step Out Of Line 25. RAY SINGER & THE FENMEN – What`s Done Has Been Done 26. EPISODE SIX – Jak D Or