BACK TO TOMORROW

The Sixties began in the summer of 1956, ended in the October of 1973 and peaked just before dawn in 1 July, 1967 during a set by Tomorrow at the UFO Club in London.

 So begins the entertaining memoir of Joe Boyd, educated middle-class American and key player in the much mythologised ‘swinging London’ scene of the mid-sixties. The band he named were short-lived and not well known – other than the single ‘My White Bicycle’ that provided the title of Boyd’s book – and these days are usually referred to as the band Steve Howe was in before he replaced Peter Banks as the guitarist in Yes. Sometimes one hears of drummer Twink’s role as a pre-punk force of nature or a reference to singer Keith West’s execrable hit ‘Excerpt From A Teenage Opera, Part 1’, yet Tomorrow soundtracked the birth of psychedelia in all its underground acid-fuelled glory.

Joe Boyd - White Bicycles

 

UFO was the weekly club started by Joe Boyd and John ‘Hoppy’ Hopkins in December 1966 in a dingy basement on London’s Tottenham Court Road. Boyd had seen Tomorrow at another club and responded positively to their live energy. It is hard to envisage now, but the alternate scene of late ’66 and spring ‘67 was the secret of a very small number of ‘freaks’ (Boyd’s preferred tribal label) who identified with radical social change, committed (if naïve) leftist political views and a desire to forge an alternate (not necessarily confronting) path forward. As Boyd observes, the freaks pitied rather than despised the ‘straights’.

Now popularity (or is it innovation?) draws business like gold attracts dragons. Pink Floyd, the unknown ‘house band’ of early UFO events, were quickly lured away from the co-operative scene, emerging into the commercial light slowly and inexorably like a butterfly from a chrysalis. Some might say more like a pterodactyl from an egg, but that’s a matter of opinion.

Just in passing, if you only know Floyd from, say, Meddle onwards, try to get hold of the music recorded for the film Tonight Let’s All Make Love In London. The rambling, trippy improvisations of ‘Interstellar Overdrive’ and ‘Nick’s Boogie’ give probably the best sense of what those long-gone happenings were like. A lava lamp is an essential accessory, in addition to whatever chemical enhancements you favour.

Pink Floyd - Tonight Lets All Make Love

Back to Tomorrow.

Tomorrow did not last very long at all. They broke up in April 1968, not long after their sole album came out. Steve Howe, ambitious and restless, then formed the short-lived and daftly named BODAST (utilising the first two letters of band members’ names: BObby, DAve, STeve). Their one-and-only album missed out on release at the time, eventually appearing in the early 80s. It is probably of interest only to dedicated Yes fans and serious diggers of the swinging 60s. Personally, I love ‘Nether Street’, a terrific slice of psychedelia moving towards progressive music that includes the very same guitar riff Howe brought to the Yes classic ‘Starship Trooper’ (final section, ‘Würm’).

But back to Tomorrow.

Their album is unbelievably collectable in the original vinyl form, but freely available on CD. The 1999 version has a swag of bonus tracks, the pick of which is the fabulously phased mono version of ‘Revolution’ – though b-side ‘Claramount Lake’ is also terrific.

Psychedelia CD set Yardbirds

The CD I listened to again for this piece was part of a brilliant little package of semi-precious psychedelic gems re-released in 2014 in the Parlaphone / Warners Original Album Series. These budget boxes are not flash – card facsimile sleeves and no notes or other information – but offer amazing value and in this case at least, great richness and rarity. Here’s what you get for a very modest outlay:

Yardbirds – Little Games [released 24 July 1967]

Tomorrow – Tomorrow [February 1968]

July – July [1968]

The Idle Race – The Birthday Party [October 1968]

The Gods – Genesis [October 1968]

I paid $18 for the box. A quick detour to Discogs reveals that to purchase these five albums in their original vinyl form would set you back considerably more. Using the listed median prices, your piggy bank would require a girthbusting $350 to purchase all five records. That’s without postage. Back in the real world, adding a further five dollars to my bill for a magnifying glass to read the miniscule CD cover text still makes the CDs a bargain.

But today we are focussing on Tomorrow.

The quartet comprised the previously mentioned singer (Keith West), guitarist Howe, drummer ‘Twink’ (later of Pink Fairies fame) and John ‘Junior’ Wood. Keyboards were added by producer Mark Wirtz. Other than the cover of ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’, the songs were written either by Keith Hopkins (West’s real name) or by the team of Hopkins and Ken Burgess. The latter tells a terrific anecdote of working on ‘My White Bicycle’ in the Abbey Road studios when John Lennon swung by. Lennon liked the song, later praising it in music mag Melody Maker as ‘the anthem of the psychedelic era’, which didn’t hurt sales at all.

Burgess had an unusual life path. He met and partnered an Israeli singer, converted to Judaism after a two year study period and lives in Israel where he released a ‘kosher’ version of his own 1970 solo album in 2008. Asked by ynetnews.com whether he thought the album could be successful outside Israel, he replied with a definite ‘maybe’ and this codicil: “But even if this happens, I won’t be there to reap the fruits of success. I have taken an oath to never leave the Land of Israel, and I won’t violate it under any circumstances.” So Steve Howe’s hopes for a Tomorrow reunion look to be in vain.

Back to Tomorrow.

Tomorrow - back CD

This is the point (actually, it is way past the point) where I’d run through the album and its stand-out songs. But Richie Unterberger, writing for the Allmusic Guide, summarizes the LP so neatly that rather than re-hash, I’ll reproduce:

Tomorrow’s sole album was a solid effort, with quite a few first-rate tracks. “My White Bicycle” was one of the first songs to prominently feature backward guitar phasing, “Real Life Permanent Dream” has engaging English harmonies and sitar riffs, “Revolution” is an infectious hippie anthem, and “Now Your Time Has Come” features intricate riffing from Steve Howe. “Hallucinations,” with its irresistible melody, gentle harmonies, and affectingly trippy lyrics, was perhaps their best track. The more self-conscious English whimsy — populated by jolly little dwarfs, Auntie Mary’s dress shop, colonels, and the like — is less successful, although the band’s craftsmanship is strong enough to avoid embarrassment.

So there you have it. An artifact, sure. But an entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable one. Granny, take the trip.

It is fitting to give the sleeve notes of roger fennings (no upper case, thanks) the last word. Welcome to Tomorrow, February 1968.

Today’s today,

Today’s OK

But then there’s Tomorrow (Keith, Steve, Twink, Junior)

and that’s something else.

Here, now, today, tonight.

In the wide-eyed listening dark,

hear and feel,

feel and dig

Now, today the sound of Tomorrow (Junior, Keith, Steve, Twink).

Here are four as one with but the sound of the future,

(Tomorrow) (Twink, Junior, Keith, Steve),

to offer.

Yesterday, (the past) is known was seen, was heard, was loved,

is dead.

But the sun of today is yet still warm

and excites

and creates

and conceives

new lives, new things, new days,

and one of these is Tomorrow (Steve, Twink, Junior, Keith).

Driving, changing, moving, building, sometimes gentle,

sometimes fierce, always creating, never still.

This is Tomorrow.

 Tomorrow CD

 

 

 

17 comments

  1. Brilliant – so you did get the Joe Boyd then? I really enjoyed that one. My folks went a few times to UFO, weren’t there that night though.

    Like

    1. Yep, read it over summer hols.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Shhh! I’m trying to read your post here!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Really enjoyed this post a lot. I’ve had it on my MP3 shelves for a while and MWB is simply one of the very best songs made in the 60’s. As we’ve discussed before whimsy makes me retch, mostly, but the bits with the real energy are just incredible.

    When I get my time machine sorted I’ll see you down the front on 01/07/67.

    Like

  3. That has to be one of the more intriguing opening quotes I’ve read

    Like

    1. It’s a very entertaining memoir, certainly.

      What I think Boyd may be hinting at is a version of an idea to which I give considerable credence, but using different year markers.

      Here we go…

      What we think of as ‘The 60s’ – innovation, musically and socially, a flowering of youth culture in fashion, music, art, TV etc – is actually best embraced by the decade from mid-1966 when The Beatles stopped touring and became studio innovators (and started taking drugs!) until mid-1976 when English punk exploded.

      I’d be interested in responses… I find it very persuasive!

      Like

  4. I enjoyed Revolution. Sounded a tiny bit like Frank Zappa in places with a little sound of Alex Harvey at the beginning, I think. I really enjoyed it, thanks for sharing it.,

    Like

    1. Glad you enjoyed the song and found something to connect it to.
      Thanks for reading!

      Like

  5. Oh! Now here’s something I need to check out. Haven’t heard of Tomorrow at all, and had to go check them out. Really pretty super.

    Like

    1. The good news is, there’s only 1 album! But yes, it is a good one.

      Like

      1. That certainly is good news … just looked up a copy on Discogs. Oooft. Might need to be saving some pennies …

        Like

        1. Hence my fiscal analysis in the post. Good argument for CDs, I reckon!

          Like

  6. future landfill · · Reply

    I’m with Eno on Joe Boyd’s book!

    Like

    1. Yep, it is a refreshingly above average book. Talking of Eno, I’m now reading the Sheppard biography of the domed polymath. It’s pretty good too.

      Like

  7. […] In addition to the two guitarist-writers, the band comprises bass player Nicole Howell, Christopher Sandes on keyboards and drummer/percussionist Jay Anderson. It’s a five piece that makes a big, space-rock noise. Indeed, although the swirling guitars and descending minor key vocal lines evoke echoes of earlier psychedelia, on listening you are reminded most of Hawkwind and Nuggets-era garage psych rather than the English whimsy of, say, Tomorrow. […]

    Like

Comments and responses welcome for all posts: present or past. Go on, join in!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: