Poisoned Electrick Head (Mk 1) were together twelve years (1986 – 1998), and probably spent ten of them in tourbuses of various types (the band officially reformed in 2009 and are now actively gigging and releasing albums). As an eight-piece touring psychedelic outfit, the choice of listening was never going to be a simple affair, exacerbated by multiple influences, and copious substance abuse brought on by the tedium of life on the road. Here’s a selection of the ones I remember (as their long-suffering keyboard player).
‘Calypso’ – Jean Michel Jarre
Not what you would immediately imagine as listening fare for LSD ravaged reprobates, this track from the 1990 album ‘Waiting For Cousteau’ awakened some dormant carnival gene, and rapidly became a post-gig mayhem clarion call, heralding imminent chaos and the hasty departure of rational behaviour on any level. Just like the ecstatic protagonists of ‘The Italian Job’, dancing away, gleefully unaware of that cliff that were about to go over.
‘Jocko Homo’ (live) – Devo
From the 1988 album ‘Now It Can Be Told’, this live acoustic version of their signature tune ticked all the boxes for waking up in a new city after a heavy sesh, none more so than trundling into Amsterdam one time, hungover and strangely euphoric.
‘Alton Towers’ – The Macc Lads
Against my better judgement I introduced this into the fold, expecting the same wry appreciation of pisshead-parody honed by years of reading Viz. Instead most of them took it at face-value, and endless choruses of “Where’s the fucking pub?, where’s the fucking ale?” ensued. Still, it kept things lively in a slightly un-nerving 70s stand-up comedian kinda way.
‘The Orchids’ – Psychic TV
Gained a perennial place solely by reputedly being recorded via a holophonic glass head named Ringo.
‘I’m Going Slightly Mad’ – Queen
The poignant descent into auto-immune-difficiency and subsequent death of Freddie Mercury was totally lost on singer A.F., who thought this was a comedy song up there with ‘Ernie, the Fastest Milkman in the West’. He found the lyrics side-splittingly hilarious (especially “I’m a banana tree”), and howled his trademark banshee cackle with every pathos-drenched stanza.
‘Divided Reality’ – Bo Hansson
It wasn’t all mayhem and drinking contests, sometimes it was a slow trawl down a strange foreign dual carriageway, and this proggy offering from Swedish instrumentalist Bo Hansson was all the soundtrack you needed.
‘Welcome to the Cabaret’ – Christy Moore
Initially this didn’t go down too well at all, and several empty beer cans flew at the person responsible…until we heard the chorus. Diddly daddly diddly daddly!
‘Walk’ – Pantera
Frustration? Boredom? Alcohol? Something triggered neanderthal chest-beating, and this was the song that drove some band members to behave in a frightfully boisterous manner, resulting in damage to things and themselves. ‘Lord of the Flies’ in a tin can on wheels fuelled by Special Brew.
‘The Hole’ – Poisoned Electrick Head
We recorded every gig (whenever possible) and listened to the results immediately, re-living every bum note and shoddy riff as some kind of drunken penance. The studio albums suffered the same scrutiny, but this song from the 1994 album ‘The Big Eye Am’ came out of it the least unscathed.
‘The Aerospaceage Inferno’ – Robert Calvert
Anything Hawkwind related was always welcome, such as this solo effort from Calvert’s 1974 WW2 space-rock opera ‘Captain Lockheed and the Starfighters’.
‘Dumb All Over’ – Frank Zappa
Perfect for driving away into the night after a gig, Thunderbird wine flowing, reefers passing ’round and to hell with tomorrow’s humungous hangover.