‘Night Comes Down’ reviewed

❉ A bracing collection of British Mod, R&B, Freakbeat & Swinging London Nuggets.

“There’s a lot going on in this unexplored version of the 60s… from smokestack R&B through to power pop psychedelia… a powerful, poignant, funny, funky document of a decade where anything seemed possible”

Everybody has their own 60s. The people who were there, the people who were too young to take part, the people who discovered their own slice of it decades later through hand-me-downs and oldies radio, and those who were there but don’t remember a thing. Hell, even those who can’t be bothered with it at all can’t fully escape it, thanks to those bank holiday repeats of Austin Powers movies. The past is a different country, and some parts of it could almost be a different world. After decades of sifting through the tonnage of hits, misses, out-takes, and rarities out there, it’s still refreshingly possible to go digging through crates and come back with gems.

Night Comes Down from RPM is 3 CDs and 87 tracks of the ‘other’ 60s, a bracing collection of nuggets that you could call a secret history of pop. It’s far more interesting than even the best 3CD collection of solid gold 60s belters you could lay your hands on, its sheer unfamiliarity makes it fresh. This box makes Nuggets look positively mainstream. And it’s brilliant, cosily housed in a cute box with a booklet of exhaustive sleeve notes that act as a sort of spotter’s guide.

This is the 1960s of teenage dreams and transit vans, of one-off singles, hard knocks, and pure enthusiasm. It’s not the story of the great Beat Boom bands or soul legends of the time, but the story of the kids who were so fired up by them that they formed a million bands in sheer wonder. The music here is as much “Come on, let’s GO!” as it is “Come on, let’s have a go!”, and Night Comes Down charts it all. It’s all here from smokestack R&B right through to the power pop psychedelia of the end of the decade, via some amazing slabs of groovy cash-in, like the British Lion Orchestra’s theme from Girl On A Motorcycle, kitsch covers from Mark Wirtz, and top gun sessioneer Big Jim Sullivan’s sitar version of Sunshine Superman.

There are some more familiar names here, a lot of them either at the beginning or end of their careers, but they’re only part of the vast map unfurled by Night Comes Down. The title track, a 1965 B-side by The Mickey Finn is a queasy, haunted masterpiece – paranoid, teeth-grinding R&B filled with dread. “I hear you tapping on my window pane!” yelps singer Alan Marks against a chaotic chug laden with early backwards tapes, compressed within an inch of its life by Producer Shel Talmy.

There’s a lot going on in this unexplored version of the 60s. The bonkers Big Fat Spider from Heinz & The Wild Boys. The slightly cheesy but irresistible Eurovision-flavoured girl-pop of The Caravelles’ The Other Side Of Love. The funky-tough Short Change by the post-Steve Winwood Spencer Davis Group. Oliver Bone’s endearingly thuggish, foghorn take on Knock On Wood. The unhinged soul stylings of Kevin ‘King’ Lear. The agreeable harmony-pop of Noel Redding’s Fat Mattress. The Truth’s gnarly instrumental reinvention of Donovan’s Hey Gyp (Dig The Slowness). Ian Gillan testing out future Deep Purple moves with Episode Six. Arthur Brown doing James Brown. The acid-frazzlement of John’s Children. Sounds Incorporated and the Mike Cotton Sound blasting the house down with brass. The Rockin’ Vickers outrageous lift of The Who’s The Kids Are Alright. The strutting, yet completely barking tale of cat-envy that is Gnomes Of Zurich’s Second Fiddle (“I ain’t playing second fiddle to that PUSSY!”). Mirage’s manful, yet failed attempt to reinvent Tomorrow Never Knows into a Byrds-soundalike single. Twiggy’s When I Think Of You, which, despite the Twig’s deep love of Mod, shows that she was right to stick with the day job as she couldn’t hold a tune in a bucket hat. Glenda Collins’ gloriously sassy You’re Gonna Get Your Way, backed by future Bowie collaborators The Riot Squad.

We Are Cult could go on, and on, dear reader, but that would take ages. Night Comes Down is a powerful, poignant, funny, funky document of a decade where anything seemed possible. For a while, and for some, it was. As secret histories go, this one’s up there.

❉ ‘Night Comes Down: 60 British Mod, R&B, Freakbeat & Swinging London Nuggets’ (RPMBX535) is released 26 May 2017 by Cherry Red Records, RRP £17.99 

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