Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Chico Magnetic Band—
Girls Of Ocean/Phantasm


Released 1972 on Tuba
The Seth Man, July 2004ce
The final chapter of Chico Magnetic Band came in the form of “Girls Of Ocean”/“Phantasm” and both sides maintain the same wild and relentless drive and fever dream-weaving as their outstanding sole album with a singular and explosive chemistry. And chemistry, heaviness and impenetrable vocalisin’ are all things that Chico Magnetic Band were the kings of. Why they weren’t bigger (let alone how did they fly under everybody’s radar for decades) is almost as mysterious as the band themselves. They’re so focused, it’s ridiculous, man: Chico’s gotta blow off a head and a half full of steam, and both of the non-LP tracks that comprise this single are the soundtrack to a fast motion clip of the sun’s trajectory steaming across the sky looped over and over again. Can’t puzzle out all that much of the lyrics, but since literal meanings don’t amount to much in a lot of the very best rock’n’roll, I’m not overtly concerned. In fact, it’s the impenetrability of Chico’s delivery enthralls me as much as the band’s wrecked and unshackled and just-going-for-it qualities.

“Girls Of Ocean” is a stampede with the all the swiftly rampaging scorched earth qualities of “The Immigrant Song” fused with the stop-and-start-nesses of Jimi’s “Fire.” Dunno if this was exactly same personnel that barnstormed through their one and only album (Namely, Patrick Garel: drums; Alain Mazet: bass; and Bernard Monneri: guitar) but I gotta feeling Garel’s on drums here as they are right-on syncopation every single time: finding windows of opportunities throughout to lay down another deftly executed fill or another splendidly wrecked set of tom-tom concussive blasts within the setting of fuzz-laden reinforced guitar fills. The guitar solo is a truly blistering thing running rampant for twice the length it should through lexicons of garage punk and proto metal riffing and it yanks me, cranks me and doesn’t even stop to thank me, boo hoo, HOO YEAH. The whole thing is a collision course amphetamine-fuelled dune buggy race about as errant as Chico’s coolly megaphonic and heroically placed vocals. “I am you/child of ocean...” Owwww...

Weird thing is, not only is “Girls Of Ocean” misprinted on the label as “Girl Of Ocean” AND slapped on the wrong side of the 45rpm single, I don’t even think it’s the ‘real’ title of the song seeing as Chico continually issues forth with the words “child of ocean” throughout. It isn’t really important but it’s hard to nail down. Almost as hard as figuring out if this was released prior to or in the wake of their only album cos as usual: there’s a dearth of hard information on the record except for the studio (Europa-Sonor Wagram), the photographer and the label, Tuba Records.

Yes: Tuba Records.

What the hell was REALLY going on in France in the early seventies, anyhow? Sure they had Magma, Gong (Pip Pyle-era) and The Bataclan, but what was the deal what was the deal what was the deal WHAT WAS THE DEAL WITH CHICO MAGNETIC BAND?!! Were they the Sir Lord Baltimore of France with all the other bands on the level of Blacks Pearl and Oak Arkansas and/or If/Ekseption jazzbo keyboard/flute hacks? Damn, they were unbelievable and perpetually confound me with their unique genius and their down and dirty rock’n’roll that kicked ass and messed head so hard. So what were they doing signing to some unknown label like Tuba records before/during/after/whatever their respective stints on CBS and Disques Vogue? I’ve come across plenny of weird labels before, but in all my livelong days I have never but never come across TUBA RECORDS. Have you? The name screams “tax shelter.” Dammit, why weren’t these guys just signed to Philips; they were weird and uncategorisable enough. But TUBA RECORDS... I mean, is there a Vic Saywell 45 on this label or what?! Should be! And its logo is the sort of generic weirdness more in keeping with type stylings of the far side of the seventies, and makes me ponder deeper than before exactly WHEN this damn stellar single was released? 1970? Or 1971, just before they signed to the now legendary Box Office subsidiary arm of Disques Vogue? Or maybe 1972? It’s ONE of these years and the pop flavour of the arrangement on the flipside makes me intuit it’s after the heaving collision that was their 1971 album, so 1972 it is.

Gotta be, ‘cos there’s femme vox during the psychic breakdown on “Phantasm” after the Iommi-as-fuck guitar playing a shorthand version of “Lord Of This World” at the speed of “Cornucopia” with Chico stuttering all spazzo/Chappo/Bolan-like as this slowed by mud in the tank treads blitzkrieg consequently strips gears excellently between said hard Sab assault and gentle interludin’ with female choir and tinkling, descending piano of compassion. Shoulda been used in the party scene from “Road To Salina” instead of the anonymous and straight pop number that did. It woulda worked wonders to hear “Phantasm” with its vibe of crawling on bloody knees desperately seeking the last unspoken truth JUST out of reach while interfacing with the visual of Mimsy Farmer and pals dancing and toking on joints in the company of Ed Begley, Jr. and Rita Hayworth. Best part is when Rita comes THIS close to taking a hit, but smiles and waves it under her nose, as though content for a contact high alone (But if Chico Magnetic Band was playing in the soundtrack behind this scene, Rita Hayworth WOULD HAVE not only taken a hit, she would’ve taken a hit for her whole family and all five of her husbands, leaving a mere stubble of a roach more a thin cross section of Rizla in the shape of a hollowed out, 3-hole notebook reinforcement.) But “Phantasm” is both a rocking and painfully reflective epic of rebirth. Most notably after the searing guitar solo as Chico opens up his five senses wide and high as though channeling from a place of impenetrable dream and bringing it back down to this dimension in its pure, undiluted form: But “Phantasm” is both a rocking and painfully reflective epic of rebirth. Most notably after the searing guitar solo as Chico opens up his five senses wide and high as though channeling from a place of impenetrable dream and bringing it back down to this dimension in its pure, undiluted form:


“Let your spit
Moving darkness of the clothes I left behind
Of me and mine/I have regained
Alone I have be gained
By my torch of my ways
Are you, are you an awful image of...

Let me sweep our come
And must appear
Anyway, through the up and fun and game
Yeah, yeah
Fun and game, fun and game...
Lord, oh blasted man,
Blasted... blasted...
Blasted...”


The final female choir fades and then gently sets the burning pyre barge of Chico Magnetic Band out to sea.

“I am you, child of ocean.” Damn.