Aye aye, it’s another compilation from Cherry Red Records covering a set time span in an underground scene that you might not have known existed. This time it’s the turn of British Psychedelia between 1986 and 1990 and the title of the collection; Losing Touch With My Mind.
Excepting the fact that you’re probably familiar with the Spacemen 3 track that gives this release its title, you might not think the period between Live Aid and MC Hammer’s U Can’t Touch This was an especially fruitful one for UK psychedelic music, but Cherry Red have come through again, collating together three CDs worth of drones, loops, feedback, flange, sitar, drug references and, of course, Hammond organ. They promise “sixty of the finest scene hits, lesser known deep cuts, obscurities and underexposed nuggets”. You can almost smell the incense as soon as you open the box.
The music is a trip too. Sun Dial pay exhilarating tribute to Jimi Hendrix and The Third Bardot with the awesome, cosmic, acid rock of Exploding in Your Mind, while the Prime Movers go full-on classic rock, channelling Led Zep and Deep Purple for I’m Alive. Gaye Bykers on Acid blast out their wah-wah heavy, turbo-grebo on the track TV Cabbage, while Paul Roland interprets the psychedelic brief in a completely different way, with his ambient soundscape, In the Opium Den.
Then there’s Thee Hypnotics, showcasing the imposing, vintage psych-rock that would see them become the first British band to sign to Sub Pop with the epic, head-banging, freak-out, Justice in Freedom.
Losing Touch With My Mind is a sequel to Cherry Red’s 2016 compilation, Another Splash of Colour. That collection covered the early-eighties neo psychedelia scene which was one of the less obvious reactions to punk rock. There are similarities and a clear lineage from that music to this – in fact plenty of artists, like Mood Six, Magic Mushroom Band and the Legendary Pink Dots have songs on both collections. But what’s more striking is the one big difference. While the better known acts on Another Splash of Colour were still pretty niche – Julian Cope, The Revolving Paint Dream and Captain Sensible – Losing Touch With My Mind features bands that are now household names, like Primal Scream, The Stone Roses and The Charlatans, just before they all went mainstream.
Losing Touch With My Mind finds psychedelia within a variety of subgenres as the nineties approached. There are peak, Velvet Underground-inspired C86 tracks like the sonic paisley of The Honey Smugglers with Smokey Ice-Cream, A Morning Odyssey by The Sea Urchins, Imperial from Primal Scream’s early, jangly period and the inexplicably named, Please Don’t Sandblast My House by One Thousand Violins.
At the other end of the spectrum, there’s plenty of Pebbles-esque garage rock, like the loose, ultra-catchy We Dig Your Earth by The Moonflowers and The Aardvarks covering Save My Soul by sixties freakbeat band Wimple Winch.
There are some excellent, proto-shoegaze tracks included too, like the Boo Radleys’ with the uplifting Aldous from their classic 1990 Kaleidoscope EP and The Telescopes with their single Everso, also from 1990. Meanwhile The Charlatans bring some baggy, indie pop with Opportunity from their debut album Some Friendly, accompanied by Inspiral Carpets with 26, from their Dung 4 demos.
The Shamen also put in an appearance, three years before releasing their ubiquitous single Ebeneezer Goode. Their contribution is Christopher Mayhew Says, a pounding, techno track featuring samples from the UK politician of the title taken during the mescaline trip he volunteered to take on camera in 1955 for an infamous, never-aired BBC documentary.
Robyn Hitchcock – a psychedelic pioneer since the mid-seventies with The Soft Boys – previously featured on Another Splash of Colour and is here again, backed by the Egyptians with the psych-folk of Lady Waters And The Hooded One.
And of course, there’s Spacemen 3, with the thunderous and enduringly brilliant, Losing Touch With My Mind. This version is taken from the early demos which went on to become the bootleg album Taking Drugs to Make Music to Take Drugs To.
Other tracks worth highlighting include the towering two-chord anthem Found Love by The Darkside, the atmospheric, slide guitar-heavy Empty Sea by The Sneetches and the upbeat, baroque lunacy of Smash Hit Wonder by The King of Luxembourg.
Look To The Sun by Sleep Creature And The Vampires hits a grungy, MC5-influenced spot and finally, a mention for Phil Smee, writer of the trippy Colliding Minds by The Sugar Battle. Not that it’s the best song in the collection but he does have the totally separate distinction of having designed Motörhead’s logo, so credit where it’s due.
So, rather than documenting a definite psychedelic scene, Losing Touch With My Mind illustrates a period when aspects of psychedelia were incorporated by myriad bands in myriad ways. This disparate collection documents these reimagined psychedelic sounds, developing under the influence of acid house and as a reaction to the overblown, over-produced, cookie-cutter pop of the era and shaping up to break through into the mainstream in the next decade.
Losing Touch With My Mind is out now on Cherry Red Records.