Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

The Blue Things—
The Orange Rooftop Of Your Mind/One Hour Cleaners


Released 1966 on RCA Victor
The Seth Man, October 2002ce
Produced in Nashville at RCA Studios under the monophonic direction of Elvis Presley producer Felton Jarvis, The Blue Things’ third 45 on RCA Victor was an astonishing slice of hazy, homegrown psychedelia way ahead of the curve. The core Blue Things lineup of Val Stecklein, Richard Scott, Mike Chapman were joined by newcomer Bobby Day on drums and produced a double dose 45 as a follow up their sole eponymous album. And it was a deftly executed and bewildering stash of stylistic approaches that would be the psychedelic promontory of their all too brief discography.

The Blue Things couldn’t fit more into the relatively brief confines of both sides of this 45 if they tried...and how they tried. You’d need a diagram with coloured, plastic overlays to them, because there’s so much going on you lose count as soon as “The Orange Rooftop Of Your Mind” begins with an unyielding cluster of fuzz guitar comparable to the ones The Kinks used on “Where Have All The Good Times Gone” as it bangs out and simultaneously points three years forward to the first Alice Cooper album. As fuzz guitars run rampant, the title is sung with extreme echo applications to the last word ‘mind’ to make it a cavernous burrowing into the subconscious. A single organ (and/or guitar) riff pins down the chorus and echoed vocals are calling out all around as though projecting vocally to the four corners of the world from their mental aerie until the middle instrumental passage breaks off from the song abruptly. Awakening in the form of a single acoustic guitar pattern, it then quickly rises with overdriven electric organ conjuring up a brief, pre-“In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” arabesque while a wall of grinding fuzz guitar pushes it right up against the studio walls until all halts with a slurred guitar run up the neck and then two unaccountable explosions that wipe the slate clean. It’s over and back into the main chorus before you realise that this audio cul-de-sac even really happened out loud: The electronic organ/guitar then reappears and fall back into the slower tempo behind the vocals, all rendered in a hurried/blurried Monkees-styled chorus. Then the opening Kinda/Alice Kooper hammering fuzz guitar chords return once more to drive it all home until yet another switching of gears as the title is repeatedly sung in a multitude of vocal harmonies all running together occur lapping waves over the rocks of a madly strummed acoustic and crashing drums. An unseating guitar solo runs into the fray backwards, dropping out and resurfacing as though a crude phasing experiment...a dense and jarring track that always ends far too soon.

The B-side, “One Hour Cleaners” is an equal companion piece in provincial chromosome damage. Beginning with a brief (and backwards) count off, there they are: playing “Taxman” in the murky garage over a stridently played, windscreen-wiping drumbeat. A nasal and drowsy vocal ala Beatle John’s “I’m Only Sleeping” or “She Said” once more points ahead to early Alice Cooper (specifically, the ending refrain of “Levity Ball”) while describing a mystery man at the one-hour cleaners who “sounded very smart/Telling me about my mind.” He was probably pushing more than just expert spot removal and dry cleaning. In fact, he’s The Blue Things’ very own Doctor Robert as it’s apparent he deals in not only cryptic phrases but more tangible substances, too as is apparent during the verses “he released the world upon me... with my mind wrapped in a cellophane bag” as a backwards guitar part passes through the smallest strainer mesh in the world and floats downstream to dissolve with the echoed, reverb-fried vocals. Electronic burbling sneaks in outta nowhere with the sung line “Don’t be going to the moon/I’ve heard it’s much too far” as well as the feather floating down to earth-ness vocals that describe how “he then painted me a picture/of an elevator door/And I rode down to Bleecker Street floor” as it erupts intermittently as if to accent the growing obliqueness of the lyrics. A piano starts banging out over the final repeated chorus, all soporific and joined by countless, overlaid harmony vocals voices all chanting “One Hour Cleaners” all at different times and joined by an further oscillating, theremin-like effects to the song’s fade.

It’s one of the earliest and most experimental records of primal psychedelia working it’s thing out and going places that their typical garage contemporaries wouldn’t or couldn’t dare. And although The Blue Things lacked ‘proper’ recording techniques, what they created was a bold, provincial stroke that drew together its best influences and screamed them out into something completely different and beautifully damaged.