Deep Grooves: Great psyche rock gems unearthed from the Blossom Toes. Grab some acid and get down, baby!

Blossom Toes – We Are Ever So Clean
Blossom Toes – If Only For A Moment

Thanks to the fine folks at Sunbeam two rare, much-overlooked psychedelic treasures are once again available for all to enjoy. To be sure, Blossom Toes is a band you will never hear too much about, but after listening to these two albums you will wonder why the band’s name isn’t on everyone’s lips. The band has the distinction of putting out a psychedelic album as good as anything The Beatles, Small Faces or The Kinks had done, and then follow it up with an album so heavy Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin could have stolen ideas from it (and probably did).

Unfortunately, the band put out their whimsical, slightly-twee psych-rock album when there was a glut of like-minded music flooding the market and put out their heavier record before the taste of the public had moved towards heavier rock music. Much revered by fans of late ’60’s psych, these two Blossom Toes albums have been much sought after for years by collectors and music zealots who swear Blossom Toes were putting out some of the best music of the ’60’s.

Take a few listens and find out for yourself how right they were!

Originally known as the Ingoes (the band had taken their name from an obscure Chuck Berry song) when they first started playing British pubs, the band hooked up with Yardbirds impresario Giorgio Gomelsky (he also helped the Rolling Stones and The Soft Machine during both bands’ early days) who helped the group work on their image as well as suggesting they change their name to Blossom Toes. Back in those days, Gomelsky was a legend in London, and if Gomelsky told you to change the name of your band, you changed the name. Why Gomelsky picked the name Blossom Toes for the band remains a mystery shrouded in time (and was probably influenced by some potent alcoholic and pharmaceutical indulgences, to be honest).

After several tours through France (where they built up a huge fanbase) to build their chops and the subsequent joining of guitarist Jim Cregan to the band, Blossom Toes began making waves on the British rock scene shortly after the bands’ return. The chief songwriters for the band were Jim Cregan and guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Brian Godding, who both provide great rememberances and pictures to the liner notes to these albums, as do other members of the band.

we-are-ever-so-clean.jpgBlossom Toes’ first album, We Are Ever So Clean, is a hallmark of British psych-rock. Once the band had built a solid name as a live act, Gomelsky made the band take an extended hiatus from performing in order to write and perfect their own songs. Though the band had consistently thrown their own songs into the mix when playing live gigs, Gomelsky felt the band was up to the task of creating something incredible and wanted to make sure the band were serious about creating a great set of songs for their album. It took the band close to two years to get enough solid songs.

While taking two years off to write an album would have been the death knell for most bands, the mid-’60’s were a time when only musical excellence could survive. With the Beatles releasing Revolver and The Beach Boys putting out Pet Sounds (to mention just two masterpieces released during this time) Gomelsky knew the band had to come up with something astounding or they would be just another band gigging around London, playing the exact same places the other bands did. Luckily for Gomelsky (and their fans) Godding, Cregan and the rest of the band were more than up to the task.

With lyrics and melodies filled with the kind of whimsy, absurdest humor and pure British-ness as, say, Ray Davies of the Kinks and The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, the band ended up crafting a psychedelic album on a par with anything else put out at the time, with many even now referring to it as the greatest psych-pop album ever released. At the time, several members of the band itself didn’t care for the album as the orchestral parts and interludes played by studio musicians didn’t translate well live when only the four people in the band were left to play the songs. As if to prove that point, there are many bonus tracks added to this re-issue edition of the album which feature several songs from the album played without the orchestral overdubs. Though the songs lose some of the studio wizardry which made them unique, the songs still stand up well and show the solid foundation the band gave their compositions. Many famous songwriters have said the true test of a good song is to play it stripped down and see if it still sounds good. Well, these songs do and would have made a great album even without the added psychedelic sweetening.

if-only-for-a-moment.jpgThe band’s second album, If Only for a Moment, sounds like it could have been made by a completely different group but, though several members did come and go during the two years it took to release their sophomore disc, the band’s core songwriting team of Cregan and Godding remained in the band and created these gloriously heavy songs.

Even though the band waited another two years to make their next album, they didn’t take a hiatus this time. Instead, they worked on songs as they originally wanted – by playing them live and working out the kinks. In other words, they rebelled against the orchestral sound forced upon them by their label and Gomelsky and instead wrote songs for an album which could only be called the depressed flip side to their lighthearted, whimsical debut.

Becoming much better musicians in the interim between albums, the more serious musical tone the band constructed translates to the lyrics as well, which are full of weighty topics and reflective of the social upheaval happening in the late ’60’s. As much as the first album mirrored the flower power ideals of the mid-’60’s, this album caught and tried to translate the spirit of how people felt when they realized peace, love and understanding weren’t enough to right the world. In addition, a blazing twin lead guitar sound began to emerge. Instead of the tightly structured guitar parts on their first album, these songs featured guitars which blurred the lines between lead and rythym even as the intricate guitar playing spiralled, swooped and curved. The first to develop such a sound, the band’s music from this album is simply thrilling.

Sadly, after their albums failed to make any real mark on radio or in the charts the band splintered. Three of the bandmembers went on to form the short-lived psychedelic folk outfit B.B. Blunder along with Reg King and his brother Bam from Mod R&B group The Action and released one album. Jim Cregan went on to become a well-known studio musician until he hooked up with singer Rod Stewart and joined Stewart’s backing band when Stewart split from the Faces in 1975. Yes, that’s right. The person who played such fantastic guitar on some of the most sublime psychedelic music ever made (not to mention writing most of it) also played on Rod Stewart’s uber-narcisistic disco hit Da Ya Think I’m Sexy. Sad, isn’t it? See what happens when artists aren’t appreciated?

If you enjoy great psychedelic rock, you will love these two albums. They contain possibly some of the best little-known acid-influenced music you have ever heard, and are a true find. Don’t worry about the fact it has taken too long for them to be reissued. That’s just displaced anger and will not get anybody anywhere at this point. Blame the big record companies. That’s what I always do. Coffee too hot? Blame Warner Bros. Too cold outside? Blame CBS Records. Two rare psyche masterpieces sitting in the vaults for about forty years? Blame the people who never bought the record when it came out, you know, maybe punch someone with a British accent in the eye – then blame the record companies for not seeking it out and not providing it to us for all of these years. Bastards. In any event, these two albums will blow your mind, moreso if you play them back to back. They will sound like the works of two different bands and, best of all, they will sound great.

Scott Homewood