Published 27 September 2012
THE FREE DESIGN
With their clean-cut image, easy-on-the-ears sunshine pp and mainstream TV appeal, it's no wonder THE FREE DESIGN were misinterpreted as just another group of singing siblings in a late '60s marketplace overcrowded with such entities.
But beneath their wholesome exterior lurked a supremely talented and fiercely experimental songwriter/arranger in Chris Dedrick, whose meticulous deployment of those four voices draws few, if any, parallels to this day.
Over seven albums that filtered jazz and pop influences - coloured by the happenin' love generation that surrounded them - they veered from the middle of the road to the edges of the avant-garde, stopping off at most points in between. Of their era, but never defined or dated by it.
It wasn't until the group's work was rediscovered by the likes of Stereolab, The High Llamas, Super Furry Animals and Belle & Sebastian in the '90s that their star began to ascend as an entire new generation of curious audiophiles and '60s pop freaks fell under The Free Design's spell.
Shindig! bows down as RACHEL LICHTMAN gets to the heart of the band with singer Sandra Dedrick. "Music was a life saver for the harmony of our family"
With a rabid cult reputation and fearsome outsider status that stems from a triad of early '70s albums and a collection of his '60s demos, Bill Fay's name continues to engender a rare reverence and hushed tones among connoisseurs of introspective, leftfield pop songcraft. Now, in his mid-60s, he's back with his fourth, critically acclaimed album and a young, hip supporting cast. But did he ever really go away?
"It wasn't me who left the music, it was the music business that left me."
Hugh Dellar meets the North London enigma
"This is fun, I'm remembering things I'd forgotten years ago!" chuckles IAN HUNTER halfway through recalling anything and everything, from earliest performing memories to his rambunctious new album, When I'm President; another career peak in six decades of carving an idiosyncratic path through rock 'n' roll's rich pantheon.
To celebrate 40 years since becoming president of the Mott The Hoople fan club, KRIS NEEDS grills the great man, resulting in the motherlode of interviews, which we're spreading across two issues. You have been warned…
THE STRAWBERRY ALARM CLOCK
THE STRAWBERRY ALARM CLOCK saw out 1967 with a US #1 single, a Top 20 album and an opening spot on The Beach Boys/Buffalo Springfield national tour.
1968 dawned with a starring role in the Hollywood exploitation classic, Psych-Out, the "difficult" follow-up single and a killer second album that contains some of the best music they, or any other band of the era, ever cut.
And then the cracks started to appear. The three Ms – mismanagement, money trouble and, eventually, musical differences, not to mention a work schedule so gruelling it resulted in the contriving of an entirely bogus second SAC – conspired to crush our heroes.
Members left, others rejoined. Tapes were lost, as were thousands of dollars. Guitarist Ed King "fled to Arizona for a week" before joining Lynyrd Skynyrd. And finally, the inevitable reunions began. In the second half of our exclusive in-depth story, MIKE FORNATALE watches and listens as the clock winds down
KEN STRINGFELLOW is something of a powerpop renaissance man. He formed The Posies with Jon Auer in 1987, joined the rejuvenated Big Star in '93 and found himself in REM in '99. He's recorded three solo albums and made appearances on countless albums as sideman, writer and producer.
On the eve of the release of Ken's fourth solo outing, CHRIS TWOMEY meets a modest music lover "who cries at movies and sunsets" but whose star continues to rise
TORBJÖRN AXELMAN worked with the exile LEE HAZLEWOOD on a string of projects in Sweden during the mid-70s.
GRAHAME BENT talks to him about A House Safe For Tigers, solitude and becoming part of the Hazlewood extended family
SWEDISH RETRO ROCK
Ever since Hendrix jammed with Hansson and Karlsson, Swedish musicians have punched above their weight. This nation of less than 10 million inhabitants may excel in pop music, but they've also produced some of the best modern garage, psych and hard-rock records released in the last 25 years. How have they done it?
AUSTIN MATTHEWS looks back at some of the factors that have created this Nordic musical crucible