Try A Little Sunshine! The Psychedelic Sounds of 1969 are curated in a new 3CD Box Set this week.
1967 was undoubtedly the high-water mark of the era, but the psychedelic genre’s influence lingered for some while afterwards. Nevertheless, there were significant changes during that period, and by the end of the decade the British music scene had largely polarised into two distinct camps: the influence of the counterculture saw the burgeoning college/university circuit grow as “serious” pop evolved into rock, while the more exploitative, commercial element of the industry reacted to the success of manufactured bands like The Monkees to instigate a sub-genre dismissively dubbed bubblegum.
That dichotomy saw the British pop and rock scene exhibit a strong element of musical schizophrenia, as can be heard on Try A Little Sunshine: The British Psychedelic Sounds of 1969, the latest instalment in Grapefruit’s acclaimed late Sixties series.
A significant number of great, heavily lysergic records were still appearing (if psychedelia was dead, clearly nobody had told the likes of The Factory, Fleur de Lys or Jason Crest), but the musical template did mutate. The Attack’s chunky mod-pop vignettes gave way to Andromeda’s power trio riffing, Status Quo moved from day-glo popsike to a looser, bluesier approach, The Pretty Things reluctantly left behind their neglected masterpiece S. F. Sorrow to explore more introverted territory, Grapefruit traded their gossamer-light harmony pop template for a relatively stripped-down sound, and Colin Giffin eschewed The End’s psychedelic dreamscapes to dabble in post-‘Eleanor Rigby’ baroque pop.
In addition to such cornerstone creations, our overview ranges from ultra-commercial (but still unsuccessful) bubblegum-flecked singles by the likes of Pure Gold, Balloon Busters and Strawberry Jam to the arrival of prog-rock underground groups such as Woody Kern, Pussy and the righteously-obscure Irish band Taxi. We also feature some of the more pop-oriented folkies/singer-songwriters, including Ralph McTell’s attempt at a summer pop hit single and Marc Brierley’s sitar-laden non-LP nugget ‘Flaxen Hair’, while a number of harmony pop acts (Harmony Grass, Tapestry, Angel Pavement, The Orange Bicycle and others) were eager to move with the changing times. For other, more commercially successful bands like The Spencer Davis Group, Procol Harum and The Move, it was a case of attempting to maintain their high-profile status while also showing signs of progression.
Housed in a clambox with a 44 page booklet that includes biographical information on every band as well as rare photos, Try A Little Sunshine covers every aspect of the 1969 British pop sound to provide not just four hours of vital late Sixties music, but a fascinating look at how the mode of the music changed as a tumultuous decade drew to a close.