McGough & McGear: McGough & McGear

This 1968 album of psychedelic rock and folksy poetry became a collector's item due to its rarity and long list of celebrity contributors. What happens when you strip away that mystique with a reissue?

McGough & McGear

McGough & McGear

US Release: 2012-02-21
UK Release: 2012-02-21
Label: Real Gone

The magic of some albums is predicated on obscurity. Take the self-titled 1968 release by McGough & McGear, newly reissued by Real Gone. If you were to stumble upon a beat-up vinyl copy of this patchwork of British psychedelic pop, quaint music hall- and folk-inspired tunes, and spoken-word pieces in a used record store, you'd probably treasure it for its unique place in pop history. That still doesn't mean you'd listen to it much.

Roger McGough and Mike McGear were two-thirds of '60s Liverpool music/poetry/comedy act the Scaffold. Performance poet McGough remains a popular figure in the U.K., and McGear went on to a brief solo career and acclaim as a photographer. He's also Paul McCartney's brother, which brings us to the key to McGough & McGear's popularity among record collectors: the famous contributors who went unmentioned in the original liner notes due to contractual restrictions. In addition to McCartney, who sang, played piano, and co-produced with McGear and Yardbirds bassist Paul Samwell-Smith, other notables include Dave Mason, Graham Nash, John Mayall, and Jimi Hendrix, responsible for some Jimi-by-numbers psych-blues on two songs.

Naturally, this is all documented in the reissue's liner notes, which is part of the problem. Minus the thrill of uncovering the album's secret contributors and the cultist pride of owning a weird piece of '60s pop history on rare vinyl, McGough & McGear just isn't all that exciting. Hearing McCartney's harmony vocal sharing space with Hendrix's guitar (for example) may be intriguing in theory, but the rock songs on McGough & McGear are forgettable variations on swirling pop that bands like the Small Faces and the Creation did better. The lion's share of the album is taken up by spotty spoken word pieces (including McGough's legitimately touching, funny and out-of-place "From Frink, A Life in the Day Of And Summer With Monika") and cloying, repetitive in-jokes disguised as old-timey pop.

You have to admire Real Gone for making McGough & McGear widely available for a niche audience of classic British pop completists that may still eat it up. At the same time, easy availability makes it far easier to hear it as a curiosity that was probably lots of fun to record, but isn't particularly fun to listen to.


Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.