Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

The Cryan Shames—
Sugar And Spice/Ben Franklin's Almanac


Released 1966 on Destination
The Seth Man, October 2001ce
The A-side of this single was a massive hit in the summer of 1966 for this Chicago teen ensemble, and the band was promptly picked up by Columbia Records who issued their first full length album “Sugar And Spice” that October. Both sides appeared on it, but the fantastic thing about this single is how such an obvious pop hit on the A side was teamed up with such a raging monster on the flip in a total yin and yang arrangement. “Sugar And Spice” is a sweetly, jingle-jangled female-directed pop tune as one would assume from the title. But the flip side is firmly in the realm of snakes, snails, puppy dog tails with the incendiary qualities of the 1966 Yardbirds lineup with both Beck and Page. The flipside that is “Ben Franklin’s Almanac” shows a group altogether different from the one that Columbia signed. It’s an out of control, over-recorded slab of musical and lyrical mayhem, and even more damaged sounding as vocalist Tom Doody is still singing in his sweet “Sugar And Spice” voice. Just get this opening line:


“Inside Out
How I feel
Far and near
Can’t be real”


Got that? OK: Now imagine it set against a canvas of furiously strummed Chris Dreja on speed successfully overpowering Lou Reed on his finale to “European Son” as the drums just scatter at full speed, managing JUST to keep the beat as the bass player lurks in the bottom doing his best to outdo Paul Samwell-Smith’s descending ‘rave up’ bass lines, also at top speed. It’s a jumble and a blur at a mere 1 minute 58 seconds, but they manage to even fit in a successful middle break with a barely hinted at though completely spirited “All Day And All Of The Night” kinda Kinks krush krhythm (it’s not a typo, I’m just trying to keep the Kinks alliterative trip pure, OK, cuz it was a gas and a half and I’m sure The Cryans thought so, too) as both guitarist and songwriter of this tiny epic, Jim Fairs, squawks out some primo garage band fuzz/distorto riffs that probably even left him amazed at the end of the session. But they’re already mere seconds away from the ending freefall (Indeed, as they are for the entirety of the song. Not only because it’s so short, but since they’re all outgunning each other at such a hectically quick pace it only serves to make “Ben Franklin’s Almanac” compress in length, somehow). The economy of Fairs’ guitar is more than matched by the mega power-strumming of distorted guitar verging a hair away from feedback during the ending, going for it in the most flagrantly raw and unleashed manner ever while retaining the same level of attack and intensity to his guitar as Jeff Beck employed on his very best work with The Yardbirds. And I believe Jim Fairs did him proud on this scorching punker.

To make it more perfect, the title isn’t even in the lyrics, which number a mere three stanzas the length of the quote above. And these aren’t quotes from the Franklin’s collected tome of practical, Yankee Puritan epigrams or Ben in any way: except it’s about as electrifying as his encounter with key, kite and lightning.