Music

Majority One: Rainbow Rockin Chair

Two unjustly obscure 1960s pop-psych bands from England get a fresh opportunity to be heard.


Majority One

Rainbow Rockin' Chair

Label: RPM
US Release Date: 2005-12-05
UK Release Date: 2005-11-28
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iTunes
Turquoise

Tales of Flossie Fillett

Label: Rev-Ola
US Release Date: Available as import
UK Release Date: 2006-07-18
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iTunes

Though they came from the same late 1960s UK pop-psych scene, the career paths of the Majority One and Turquoise couldn't have been more different. Majority One slogged it out in pubs for four years as the Majority (releasing eight singles on Decca) with no luck, added a word to their name and moved to France without finding much success, and then, in a cruel twist of fate, had their lone hit ("Because I Love") in 1971 after they broke up. Turquoise, though, had an improbable string of good fortune, managed to rub elbows with the Kinks, Who, Rolling Stones, and Beatles within little over a year, and garner a few write-ups as well -- yet they didn't have the same luck commercially.

The one thing the bands have in common, however, is that their recorded outputs were both worthy of rediscovery -- and in fact, get their first reissues on these comps.

With Majority One's move to France in 1969 came a slight change in direction from the beat or psych of their Decca singles (1966's "One Third" is classic freakbeat) to a smoother pop-psych direction in the vein of early Bee Gees, or McCartney's Beatles ballads. But while such shifts often point to a more commercial direction with less compelling material, it was just the opposite for Majority One, who recorded some of the best stuff of their career in this phase.

Not even the dawn of the 1970s could prevent Majority One from holding fast to the innocent pop-psych sounds of the 1960s. Out of step as they may have been, their sides from this period form an impressive body of work, including the supremely melodic, acoustic-guitar-driven "Because I Love", the subtle "Morning Dew" rip of "Friday Man", the brilliant harmonies of "Charlotte Rose" (actually recorded in 1969), and introspective ballads like "I See Her Everywhere", "Looks Like Rain", and "Rainbow Rocking Chair". There's also the surging fuzz-freakbeat of "Get Back Home" and the Badfinger-esque power pop of "Feedback", a sound revisited on a solid cover of "No Matter What".

So why didn't anyone notice this before? Simple: None of it was released in the UK, and it took years for the sleuthing of collectors to sink in. But don't be surprised to see that change with the release of Rainbow Rocking Chair. Even by underground standards, Majority One is grossly underrated.

Turquoise, on the other hand, has at least garnered some degree of respect thanks to the inclusion of two of their Decca sides -- "Woodstock" and "Tales of Flossie Fillett" -- on a number of UK 1960s-psych comps. Recorded a year before the field was muddied (hence not about the festival at all), the former is a streaming burst of late-blooming freakbeat featuring nice vocal harmonies, a harmonica solo, and a folksy overtone. "Tales of Flossie Fillett" is even better, expounding on the pop-psych idiom with a combination of the freakbeat fading from view in 1968 with the burgeoning UK hard-rock sound. Balanced with acoustic guitar and Jeff Peters's country English vocal, it's much in the vein of the Kinks -- which is perhaps not surprising given that Peters grew up just blocks from the Davies brothers.

Dave Davies, in fact, produced the first demos the band recorded as the Brood in 1966, "You're Just Another Girl" and "Wrong Way" (both included), which weren't great but were nevertheless impressive for a teenage band. The promise was borne out by their next venture into the studio a year or so later, when John Entwistle and Keith Moon -- in a deal that landed them Bentleys from the band's car-dealing manager, John Mason (remember the Who Sell Out commercial?) -- produced a demo of "Village Green". Also from the Ray Davies school of songwriting (albeit not the Kinks' song of the same name), the song nevertheless is strong enough in the melody department to avoid being a mere rip-off.

As the flip of their first Decca single in 1968, "Fillett" continued Turquoise's Kinky path, but the "53 Summer Street" A-side was a nice, harmonium-enhanced pop-psych harmony number that certainly deserved better than the obscurity that befell it. But it was also out of fashion, as was their second and final single, "Woodstock" b/w the edgy love ballad, "Saynia" -- which was produced by the renowned Jimmy Miller of Rolling Stones fame. But neither the Miller connection (he's uncredited on the original single, actually) nor the good fortune of signing with the Beatles' Apple organization was enough to put Turquoise over the top, and the otherwise fine second single also stiffed.

That was it for Turquoise's released output, but they had a few more good sides in them, including the catchy hook of "Flying Machine", the quieter pop of "The Sea Shines", and the bouncy "Stand Up and Be Judged". Tales of Flossie Fillett also contains some post-Turquoise finery by the band's late drummer, Ewan Stephens, including covers of the Kinks' "Mindless Child of Motherhood" and the Three Man Army's "What's Your Name" (with no songwriting credit in the CD booklet -- what's up with that?). (Also, the 1969 recording date listed for "What's Your Name" seems highly unlikely, given that the Three Man Army's version wasn't released -- as "What's My Name" -- until 1971.)

Other Turquoise outtakes like "Sister Saxophone" and "Sunday Best" are just silly Cockney-accent pop, and the breadth of their output -- let's face it, they barely lasted two years -- is rather slight. But even if they didn't get a chance to reach their full potential, it's hard to imagine any UK psych fan not finding something to like here.

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