John’s Children – Desdemona
b/w Remember Thomas À Becket
(SP, 1967, Track / Polydor)
John’s Children (1966-1968) are one of those groups I’d always been aware of as being something of a ‘cult’ (I hate that word) psychedelic-mod-freakbeat band, having often seen them referenced as “influential” and “inspirational” in articles and interviews about music – though mainly their influence lay in their raucous live shows. On a tour of Germany supporting The Who, they managed to out-Who The Who by going a bit mad on stage, resulting in the arrival of the riot squad. They were kicked off the tour and fled back to England. Legend also has it that when Yardbirds manager Simon Napier-Bell saw them for the first time he said, “positively the worst group I’d ever seen”. A few drinks later and, “I’ll sign you”.
Researching them was a joy – but to be honest there’s no way I could do the story justice in a few brief lines here . So, if you’re anything like me, you love a good rock ‘n’ roll story – and therefore I command you to read this, part of which was written by Andy Ellison, one of the members – who among other things says: “Still we were all now exactly the same height, a thing that was very important that year” – which I just love!
However, what John’s Children are perhaps most famous for is being the home of the young Marc Bolan for about 6 months in 1967. Now, I love T-Rex – always have done and am not ashamed of it, nor of my fondness for Glam Rock in general – so I was quite excited when I saw that the lead track, Desdemona, was written by the electric warrior himself! Even though I did know that at this time Bolan was in his I-wanna-be-a-folky-hippy-like-Donovan phase, and was expecting the worst.
However, I’m glad to say that there’s nothing particularly Donovanesque about this song at all really. In fact, it’s totally rockin’ and not at all what I expected to hear. I guess I’d call this hard-psychedelia, and to be fair, it took me more than a few listens to really appreciate it. But its infectious – I found myself several times today humming it to myself.
It starts off like its going to be a standard rock ‘n’ roll song, but once the drums and the MASSIVE bass kick in, its a wild ride. It’s all over the place like, but it really works. And it gets bonus points for being banned by the BBC for containing the line “lift up your skirt and fly”. The single was reissued with the line “why do you have to lie”, but still received fuck all airplay.
The lyrics, by the way, are nonsense, but when did that ever matter with Bolan?
The B Side instantly loses points for calling him Thomas À Becket – which was not his name! Unless they were referencing this chap that is. However, that minor quibble aside, this is another fine song.
Begins with what sounds like a squealing car, before turning into another bass and tom heavy rocker (with nonsense lyrics, this time not penned by Bolan) . Top stuff.
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