Monday, March 07, 2005
And I'm back. Thanks again to Sleeve for taking the helm last week!
Assuming that I didn't overlook a web page, I'm thinking more and more lately that what the internet really needs is a site devoted to the catalog of Pickwick International, Inc. I was reminded of this by a recent post over at An Idiot's Guide To Dreaming, featuring a lovely cover version of Kraftwerk's Autobahn from a Pickwick Top Of The Pops compilation. Does anybody know if the UK Pickwick behind that is the same (or related to) the Pickwick from Long Island City? They seem to share a philosophy of quality.
Those of you who've studied your Lou Reed probably know that one of his first jobs was working for the US Pickwick as a crank-em-out songwriter, trying to cash in on current trends in rock with tossed off retreads of the top songs of the day, and that The Velvet Underground was the result of Lou trying to form a band to tour behind his prospective hit single The Ostrich. Details on Lou's Pickwick days, including Realaudio streams of a bunch of his pre-Velvets songs, are here.
I'd guess that the bulk of the Pickwick catalog could generously be described as crap, but I have a soft spot in my heart for one album in particular: Tribe sing the creative genius of George Harrison, John Lennon & Paul McCartney. And for so many reasons. I love that George Harrison is listed first in the title. I love that the word "Beatles" doesn't appear on the cover. I love the little button in the cover photo that says "British Power" and the fact that there's a joint tucked discreetly beneath the cover model's hand. On the back cover it's slightly more smoked and sitting in an ashtray and the model has melded with a guitar. I love the fact that Pickwick was so fucking cheap that you didn't even get an inner sleeve (and I bought my copy sealed, baby).
But most of all, I love the song selection. And I don't mean Let It Be or Something. Or great Beatles hits like My Sweet Lord or Isn't It A Pity. Or Mother, or even Maybe I'm Amazed. What I love is the thought of somebody's grandmother picking up this album at Woolworth's, bringing it home to her Beatles-loving grandson, and introducing him to the glory that is Tribe's take on Yoko Ono's Why. Yes, here we get to the heart of the "the best examples of the Beatle decade, rocked by the Tribe in brilliant new stereo arrangements."
Two of the main guys behind Pickwick were Jerry Vance and Terry Philips aka Jerry Pellegrino and Philip Teitelbaum. Both of them were also involved in a band from the late sixties called The Hobbits, who were very un-Hobbity aside from the name. The best web page I can find dealing with that band is here. The Hobbits' debut album Down To Middle Earth is pretty good sunshine pop, and includes one utterly essential and fairly bizarre track called Daffodil Days. If you're going to listen to this, I'm pretty much ordering you to stick around for the end as the song progressively derails from the tracks of normalcy and spirals down the Hobbit hole. And it didn't exactly begin with the dignity of Gandalf either, if you know what I mean.
As a new service for the Mystical Beast reader on the go, I'm going to start posting the day's tracks at the end as well, so you won't have to wade through all that distracting word stuff up above. Enjoy!
[Update: a smart reader pointed out that at the time this album probably came out, 1971, George Harrison had the most succesful solo career of the ex-Beatles, which might explain why his name comes first. Developing on that thought, I wonder if they included a Yoko song on the off chance that she might turn out to be a big post-Beatles star. Kind of a canny approach, if that's the explanation.]
Why by Tribe
Daffodil Days by The Hobbits