Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Hapshash & The Coloured Coat—
Feat. Human Host & The Heavy Metal Kids


Released 1967 on Minit/Liberty
The Seth Man, December 2000ce
The great promise of late sixties freakout rock albums -- generally, that all will be revealed in a highly transcendental manner upon its initial listening -- oftentimes fall short of its reality. Namely, that for the first time a bunch of hollering freaks banging percussion in an approximation of musically climbing up the walls zonked out on high potency drugs were finally free -- from endless blues variations, lyrics, The Man and all commercial viabilities -- and it was a chance to just get out there, throw everything you could never release as a single against the studio wall just to see what (if anything) stuck to it. And if it didn’t, at least it was a rave up to be remembered, depending on the dosage ingested before the tape started rolling.

Well, this album is just that -- It’s wayward, repetitive, freaky, and VERY 1967. The record was pressed on red vinyl, and the sleeve it came in...well, just look at that cover: drawings of Little Bo Peep, flying saucers and supernatural fairy tale figures surrounding a benevolent sun head emanating rays of light over the mirror-imaged, hand drawn lettering is probably one of the most psychedelic album covers ever designed. Which should come as no surprise as Hapshash & The Coloured Coat were Nigel Waymouth and Michael English, the poster artists who created extremely bright and trippy posters for psychedelic venues such as UFO and Middle Earth. ‘The Heavy Metal Kids’ was an alter ego for Art: the proto-Spooky Tooth group comprised of Mike Harrison, Greg Ridley, Mike Kellie and Luther Grosvenor who appear with full group backing. But who was ‘The Human Host’?

Judging from just the title and production credit on the album, it was none other than Guy Stevens, the eternal groover who would typically dream up a fantastic concept; concoct an equally great name for it and only THEN set about creating it. And although Stevens produced this album, he wound up spending most of the four and a half hour late night session in the studio with the additional thirty ravers -- many tripping on LSD -- on assorted percussion and ecstatic cries as he directed the whole freewheeling affair. The first cut, “H-O-P-P-Why?” sees the entourage jangling along with jarring hits of gongs as the hushed vocals spell out the nickname of John Hopkins, the early English psychedelic dropout and underground pioneer. “A Mind Blown Is A Mind Shown” continues with further bongo galloping, blowing of both harmonica and minds as it quickly fades. Who knows how long this particular segment went on for, because it fades probably ages before it finally broke down.

“The New Messiah Coming 1985” is another group tambourine, bells and finger cymbal freak out, although at a stoned, relaxed tempo with general background chattering and one voice intoning indecipherable and unknown mysteries. There are no lyrics, but voices do wind up chanting “We are...we are...we are...” to fade back in later against “I am...I am...” As you can probably guess by the title, “Aoum” is the group “Ommmmm” which quietly lands side one as the now calmed ensemble assemble for a group vocal drone.

Side two is completely taken up by “Empires Of The Sun,” an instrumental driven by the group reiterating the barest skeleton of backing with more dangerously-hit gongs and general anarchic background mayhem. And it continues as every conceivable space is filled by SOMETHING over the insistent rhythm section of Kellie and Ridley (the only elements that do not degenerate into freeform-ness): chanting voices, bells, guitar strings plucked as complement to the innumerable chimes and bells, bongos, tambourines and multiple plastic flutes that blat out. It does start to build, but only as when someone starts to war whoop and that creates more vocal craziness as everybody is soon screaming, faking orgasms or speaking in completely fake languages. The obligatory “Krishna, Krishna” gets thrown in, as does the whole psychedelic kitchen sink and when those gongs get hit far too hard again, hard enough to fall from their suspended frames, they brutally cut through everything. When the extended backing track and communal blow out that is “Empires Of The Sun” finally recedes, a quiet flute theme and sparse vocal cries emerge behind a stark, dramatic narrative of the coming of Ragnarok until the whole trip gets blown by an inquisitive Cockney voice. The magic and visions of “a sight to stagger the senses” vanishes with a quick flute trill, and it’s over. An abrupt ending to an album whose extremely primitive yet effective qualities are probably best revealed at nighttime by candlelight (incense optional.)