Rattle Of Life / Ridin' With The Milkman

Released 1967 on Mercury
The Seth Man, December 2021ce
Was Oshun a group, a single person, a collection of studio musicians or a combination of all three? With the exception of the names of two producers, Ben Mullarkey and Mike di Vilto, and the arranger on the B-side, Horace Ott, all other person or persons responsible for this one-off single on Mercury are all but unknown. But what can be known and easily discerned upon first listening is that the A-side, “Rattle Of Life,” manages to fit within a mere 2 minutes and 13 seconds as much psychedelic freak out per second as possible. The opening musical accompaniment of out of tune electric guitar strumming, tambourine, maracas, and scattered drum and cymbal hits gets quickly swamped by a stream of disconnected sound effects ranging from the cha-ching of a cash register, train announcements, merry-go-round calliope, crickets, frogs, and electronic oscillations as if it were a portrait of Charles Fort as a young Foley Artist. On top of all this shifting sonic slop issues forth stentorian narration and proclamations barking out a stream of consciousness series of impressions relating to metamorphosis and imminent birth with such lines as: “The butterfly you possess / will spin on nature’s merry-go-round,” and especially: “Go up and go down / Down up, down up / Turtle brain / Your shell’s no window / Inside you won’t age / but outside you’re in a cage...”

As the ever-vanishing backing band disappears, bells chime and clang while outer space oscillations expand and contract until:

“Multi-snail / Losing yellow veil / Losing your trail...”
(Cue gravel tramping foot tracks)
“Swim in your rainy mood / crystallizing your dehydrated food...”

Against stormy wind song effects, the final intonation arrives, encased with great reverb used for nothing less than affirmation: “Live…

Silence. Then a cork pops.

Then, against an encroaching wilderness of crickets, a newborn being haltingly spouts: “DU...DU...DU...DU...DU...”Followed by birdsong. Then abruptly and for no reason, a grand finale crescendo blares, complete with cheering crowds. Song ends. WHAT?!!

The most distinctive thing about the B-side is its 28-word title (inhale): “Ridin’ With The Milkman (The Travels And Deliveries Of An Early Morning Milkman And One Lonely Hitchhiker, Log II, Section 5, Page 29, Wagon N°. 23, Route 10).” Three words longer than the title of Shawn Phillips’ 1970 epic “SWWFHMATSITAYKILYBBIGTH” (otherwise known as: “She Was Waitin' For Her Mother At The Station In Torino And You Know I Love You Baby But It's Getting Too Heavy To Laugh”). While it’s a wonder they were able to fit the whole parenthetical title on the label by typesetting the fucker on three lines the type size reserved for the songwriting credits, it’s nowhere nearly as fucked up sounding as the A-side. Unless if you consider a rejected Brill Building re-arrangement of “I Was Kaiser Bill’s Batman” bolstered with a chirpy string section during the chorus, an ineptly played Rickenbacker guitar jangle pastiche that occasionally apes the opening of the Byrds’ “Mr. Tambourine Man,” and lyrics that are fairly difficult to discern fucked up. What IS fucked up is that THIS wasn’t the A-side as it’s far more saleable a song and more befitting of 1967 DJ radio airplay than the bizarre disorientations that is “Rattle Of Life.” Ah, sweet mystery of life. Where did we come from? Where are we going?! In this in-betweeness that is life, you can locate “Rattle Of Life” on the appended CD reissue of PEBBLES VOL 3 as a bonus track and with any luck, be able to discover for yourself as a result of several spins.