A recent thread (can’t remember if it was the cheese one or the unfashionable artists one) got me thinking about Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, and how they had this glorious disco second coming in the 70s (see also: Bee Gees). Poking around in their back catalogue on Spotify, I came across their 1969 concept album, The Genuine Imitation Life Gazette, a wildly ambitious and personal (and stupendously uncommercial, I should think) take on US life and politics of the time.
It wouldn’t be true to say that they’d gone psychedelic, more that their careers were on the skids, they were chafing under the restrictions of their own history, and they’d taken advantage of the new creative and artistic freedoms that the psychedelic era made possible. The music itself is more in the neighbourhood of MacArthur Park and other Jimmy Webb epics, with a bit of Van Dyke Parks thrown in – and of course the occasional sitar or wah-wah pedal. Have a listen to the title track (complete with Hey Jude quotes) and you’ll see what I mean.
This got me wondering if any other pop stalwarts from the early 60s had taken a similar route. Turns out they had. In 1968 Del Shannon gave us The Further Adventures of Charles Westover – try ‘Silver Birch’. Bobby Darin had already been through rock ‘n’ roller, Broadway crooner and folkie before he brought out Born Walden Robert Cassotto in 1968. Bobby Vee’s Gates, Grilles and Railings came out in 1969; a lot of it is probably more Association-style sunshine pop than actual psychedelia, but try The Passing of a Friend. Even Brian Hyland tried to bury the memory of that bikini with Stay and Love Me All Summer (1969) – try ‘Rainy April Morning’. Before he went country(ish) Rick Nelson had a go in 1967 with Another Side of Rick Nelson, stretching out to rather disastrous effect, as in ‘Marshmallow Skies’, co-written by him and James Burton, of all people.
A lot of people of course took the Rowan and Martin route and just donned frilly shirts, headbands and bells and carried on what they were doing before – I’m looking at you, Eric Burdon and Sammy Davis Jr…but I think (having entertained myself for an hour developing this theory when I should have been working) that there’s something there, even if it’s a load of blind alleys. What think you, people of a certain age? Anybody I’ve missed?