So Old It’s New set list for Monday, June 3, 2024

An obscurities set list drawn from a series of three, 3-CD box set compilations released between 2016 and 2021 under the title I’m A Freak Baby that take the listener, according to the series subtitle, on ‘a journey through the British heavy psych and hard rock underground scene’ covering the years 1968-1973. My track-by-track tales follow the bare-bones list.

1. Wicked Lady, I’m A Freak
2. Creepy John Thomas, This Is My Body
3. Iron Claw, Clawstrophobia
4. Distant Jim, Cosmarama
5. Eugene Carnan, Confusion
6. The Velvet Frogs, Jehovah
7. The Human Beast, Brush With The Midnight Butterfly
8. Crushed Butler, My Son’s Alive
9. Tear Gas, I’m Glad
10. Second Hand, Rhubarb!
11. Third World War, Hammersmith Guerrilla
12. Andromeda, Let’s All Watch The Sky Fall Down
13. Monument, First Taste Of Love
14. The Mooche, Hot Smoke And Sassafras
15. Sam Apple Pie, Winter Of My Love
16. Bram Stoker, Born To Be Free
17. The Gun, Race With The Devil
18. Hard Stuff, No Witch At All
19. Leaf Hound, Stagnant Pool
20. Curtis Knight Zeus, Mysterious Lady
21. Fuzzy Duck, Afternoon Out
22. Geordie, Keep On Rockin’

My track-by-track tales:

1. Wicked Lady, I’m A Freak . . . Motorhead-like propulsive track – and, like Motorhead, Wicked Lady, named after the cocktail, was a trio. The song features the lyric “I’m a freak baby on a losing streak” that also serves as the title track for the “I’m A Freak Baby” compilation series from which I’m drawing tonight’s set. This track is from the debut I’m A Freak Baby compilation, released in 2016. Wicked Lady existed from its formation in 1968 to 1972, played gigs throughout England but, according to the compilation’s liner notes, never released a formal album as the band couldn’t afford studio time. So, they taped a handful of rehearsal performances, like this one, which much later surfaced on releases such as 1994’s Psychotic Overkill . . . and then nicely packaged on the I’m A Freak Baby comp.

2. Creepy John Thomas, This Is My Body . . . Mid-tempo sort of psychedelic rocker, nice guitar work on this one from I’m A Freak Baby 3. The band was formed by a gent named John Thomas, who added the “Creepy’ to try to make his group stand out. I think his story alone – like that of many of these obscure artists – stands out, as told in the compilation’s typically detailed liner notes. Thomas hailed from Australia, then moved to Germany where he worked as a DJ, sold dope, apparently to touring acts like The Jefferson Airplane and also formed a pop group, concurrent with Creepy John Thomas, called Rust. Creepy John Thomas, the band, played the harder stuff, described in the compilation liner notes as “frazzled Lemmy-meets-(Captain) Beefheart blues rock’ although I hear more Beefheart than Motorhead. This Is My Body is from the 1971 album Brother Bat Bone, which was supposed to be called Brother Bad Bone but the producer, Conny Plank (and what a name that is) misunderstood Thomas’s accent regarding the title of the album during a transatlantic phone call, so Brother Bat Bone it became. There’s another fun story in that vein, re what a band or album was supposed to be called as opposed to what it wound up being called, in a few tracks. It concerns an Apollo astronaut. The well-travelled John Thomas, meantime, left the UK for a brief time in San Francisco, then returned to Great Britain to join the still relatively obscure but more well-known Edgar Broughton Band. The Broughton Band has some tracks spread over the various I’m A Freak Baby comps, but I’m not playing one today. Perhaps next time.

3. Iron Claw, Clawstrophobia . . . From compilation 2 in the Freak series. Black Sabbath-like stuff from 1970, also reminds me of much later California stoner rock band Fu Manchu who of course are derivative ‘sons’ of Sabbath. Iron Claw, who took their name from the last two words of the opening line – Cat’s foot iron claw – of King Crimson’s song 21st Century Schizoid Man – actually incorporated Sabbath’s entire first album into their early live gigs.

4. Distant Jim, Cosmarama . . . Psychedelic stuff from 1971. According to the third Freak compilation liner notes, band member Craig Austin likely made more money as, apparently, the first person to design flared pants with no pockets. I don’t recall having a pair of those but for we Canadians, remember those I think it was GWG brand flared jeans with the Canadian flag in the flares? I digress . . .

5. Eugene Carnan, Confusion . . . Here, in this boogie rocker from 1972, is the NASA astronaut I mentioned a few songs ago. Sort of. This trio mined the songs of Sabbath, Rory Gallagher’s early band Taste and Wishbone Ash as cover material but also wrote their own stuff, like Confusion. It’s an appropriate title, turns out, because the band was supposed to be called Eugene Cernan in honor of the Apollo 17 astronaut who was the last man, so far, to walk on the moon, in December, 1972, unless you’re one of those conspiracy theorists who believe humankind never actually went there.

Anyway, similar to Creepy John Thomas and that band’s album name that was supposed to be Brother Bad Bone but turned out as Brother Bat Bone due to a misunderstood phone call, Eugene Carnan was supposed to honor the astronaut Eugene Cernan but the printer screwed up the band’s business cards and like many of these obscure artists, the group didn’t have the money to pay for a reprint so they just went with “Eugene Carnan”.

6. The Velvet Frogs, Jehovah . . . Velvet is in the band name which suggests a Velvet Underground influence which is what the liner notes in the I’m A Freak Baby first compilation notes suggest. I respect that opinion and it’s a dark tune, also Doors-ish, to me. But I also hear Iron Maiden of the Blaze Bailey on lead vocals era, on epic-length Maiden songs like Sign Of The Cross. And isn’t it interesting, albeit perhaps natural, perhaps, that with these obscure bands we tend to analyze them in terms of bands we think they might sound like or were influenced by, rather than just, actually, themselves?

7. The Human Beast, Brush With The Midnight Butterfly…Dark, heavy, somewhat spooky guitar-drenched tune from 1970.

8. Crushed Butler, My Son’s Alive . . . Yet another Black Sabbath-influenced rocker by a band that the Freak liner notes suggest has been considered the first British punk band. Not sure about that; it’s a so-called classic rock sound to me, although the driving nature of it is punky. In any event, a great tune.

9. Tear Gas, I’m Glad . . . Wicked guitar from a band some of whose members, according to the Freak 3 liner notes, later became members of The Sensational Alex Harvey Band.

10. Second Hand, Rhubarb! . . . It’s been termed a Jimi Hendrix type tune … and I agree. But as the band explains in the I’m A Freak first compilation liner notes, they were apparently hung out to dry by the record company in terms of lack of promotion so the album, Reality, with the cool cover of an X-ray of a hand, and the song faded without a trace.

11. Third World War, Hammersmith Guerrilla . . . Interesting track from 1972. It’s epic, eight minutes and change, good straight ahead continually cascading bluesy rock to my ears, some nice prog-ish keyboard breaks…but the UK media didn’t like it or the band . . . one reviewer, according to the Freak 3 liner notes, wrote “they are the worst band I have ever heard perform. I felt like soaking myself in vodka, setting myself alight and flinging myself from a balcony in protest.” Well, that’s a guy I’d like to get to know but as for his musical opinon, I beg to differ. As did future Clash man Joe Strummer and The Who’s Pete Townshend, who pulled some strings and got Third World War’s album released on The Who’s Track Records. So there, music critics.

12. Andromeda, Let’s All Watch The Sky Fall Down . . . Driving prog metallic stuff that never quite made a dent on charts. One of the band members, guitarist John Cann, later going by the stage name John Du Cann, eventually joined Atomic Rooster.

13. Monument, First Taste Of Love . . . Organ-heavy driving rocker featuring a tasty guitar solo from a gent named John Truba, from 1971.

14. The Mooche, Hot Smoke And Sassafras . . . Not confirmed but apparently and almost certainly named for the Duke Ellington song The Mooche, the band does a heavier take on this fine tune and top 20 hit originally done in 1969 by Texas band Bubble Puppy.

15. Sam Apple Pie, Winter Of My Love . . . Bluesy, psychedelic 7-minute track from 1969, from a band who had associations with Frank Zappa and Atomic Rooster.

16. Bram Stoker, Born To Be Free . . . Driving rocker from a band that never quite made it but did open for The Who, also recorded by invitation at Who singer Roger Daltrey’s home studio and worked with members of the Deep Purple entourage. Interesting how some bands ‘make it’ and some don’t but even those that don’t sometimes hang around with those that do.

17. The Gun, Race With The Devil . . . The band was also known as just ‘Gun’. A White Room (by Cream) related intro evolves into a great galloping tune from 1968 that unlike most songs on the Freak compilations actually charted; it made the top 10 in the UK and was later recorded by Judas Priest during sessions for the Stained Class album and was later added to expanded releases of Priest’s 1977 album Sin After Sin.

18. Hard Stuff, No Witch At All . . . Straight ahead rocker from 1972 from a band whose various members had been in groups like Deep Purple family tree band Episode Six, Quatermass and, later, Roxy Music.
19. Leaf Hound, Stagnant Pool . . . Led Zeppelin derivatives for sure and critics derided them as such but it makes me laugh whenever people talk about people ripping off Led Zeppelin, considering the ripping off Zep did of blues artists. I like Zep, the music is irresistible I just am not a fan of their methods.

20. Curtis Knight Zeus, Mysterious Lady . . . These Freak compilations are to do with British rock but Curtis Knight, like the Aussie John Thomas I played earlier in the set, was a relocated American. His claim to fame perhaps is the fact Jimi Hendrix had played in Knight’s band Curtis Knight and The Squires. This bruising Hendrix-like track is from 1973.

21. Fuzzy Duck, Afternoon Out . . . Bluesy rock from a band whose members included former members of Tucky Buzzard, who have maintained a musical relationship with former Rolling Stones bassist Bill Wyman since the days he produced some Tucky Buzzard albums during the 1970s.

22. Geordie, Keep On Rockin’ . . . From the first album, 1973’s Hope You Like It (and I do) released by Geordie, whose first lead vocalist was future AC/DC singer Brian Johnson.

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