Saturday, 9 May 2009

The Cambridge Concept Of Timothy Clover

There's a school of thought, that says nearly all of the buried vinyl treasure has now been exposed and now we're are just scavenging for the left overs. Hunting for the overlooked 'classic lost album' is apparently an endangered sport because the record companies are finally getting their acts together and digitising their back catalogue for user friendly online consumption. Soon every obscure album will be available, with just a quick search and a touch of a button, thus depriving us of the thrill of the chase. This article from the Observer Music Monthly by Tom Cox on record hunting bemoans this loss of opportunity to hunt for the pop equivalent of the Holy Grail.

It's also true to say, that there's something approaching saturation coverage of every hot new album released, from the music meedja to the wittering of a million music blogging monkeys and even the stuffy national newspapers getting in on the act. This has meant that any new act which manages to stand out from the crowd will probably get showered with plaudits these days, thus diminishing the likelihood of them falling into a hole of obscurity, only to be discovered many years later by an obsessive middle aged man, rooting around the dusty deitrus of the pop archives.

Well, it's it's a fair bet so say that, if the benchmark is set to unearth some lost nugget of garage rock gem of the Sixties or a Velvet Underground acetate demo, your average collector, like myself, is almost certainly going to fall short. However, there's still plenty of enjoyment to be had from this hobby and it's a case of not digging deeper, but to go lateral! Burrowing into the seams of genres that are often overlooked and simply broadening one's horizons is the way to go folks and can unearth some satisfying curios.

A good example of the rewards of this policy that I have undertaken, is this little beauty from 1968 "The Cambridge Concept of Timothy Clover - A Harvard Square Affair" subtitled "The Bean Town Sound" (Tower st-5114) It was recorded at Olmsted in New York City. I can only presume, of the actual album and the reason it was overlooked by other fellow vinyl vultures, must have been due to the understated cover design, for a flower power era album, is a rather underwhelming collage with a clunky title.

Now, I'm not saying that this a lost classic by any stretch of the imagination, but it does have a certain appeal and deserves more that a footnote in the development of the Sixties bubblegum psych-pop. The songs are a mish mash of traditional soft pop fused with a sunshine-baroque beat. The pleasure is in hearing the blossoming ambition of the creators, as they have obviously been inspired by the cataclysmic expansion in people's expectations of pop music in the aftermath of The Beach Boys Pet Sounds in 1966 and The Beatles riposte in the following year with Sgt Pepper.

This idea of throwing away the standard three minute pop song formula and begin to investigate the possibilities of this still adolescent genre of music reminds me of The Monkees soundtrack album to their film 'Head' from 1968 which by all accounts was a commercial disaster at the time, yet in time, has been retrospectively re-assessed as a bold musical statement and become cult viewing/listening. Another comparable bubblegum (mod) act who pushed the boat out during this fertile period was The Small Faces in 1968 with Ogdens' Nut Gone Flake.

A closer inspection of 'Timothy Clover' reveals a man who has aspirations to be smoking reefer, but he ain't ready to drop a tab and leap onto Ken Kesey's Magic Bus bus quite yet. For this wasn't a case of the squares fully turning on tuning in and dropping out like his namesake, but more like a trip to Carnaby Street to buy some new threads and keeping in vogue.

A quick root around the origins of this project reveals more band wagoning in the background to the whole story of it's inception. The creative trio behind the music were producer Larry Jaspon, Bruce Patch and Lenny Petze, who went on to co-write three songs on the sole album of cult Boston garage band Teddy and the Pandas who were signed Patch's company - Tea-Pot Productions.

The 'Timothy Clover' project was conceived as fitting into part of a made up 'catch all' label covering bands from the Boston area on the East coast of America. The scene was called 'The Bosstown Sound' 'The sound heard round the world! (refered to on the front cover of The Cambridge Concept as 'Beantown') It was dreamed up to compete with and act as a counterpoint to the established West Coast San Francisco scene. This was the brainchild of Alan Lorber of the MGM Record Label, he hoped that the resulting publicity would bolster his roster of groups including The Ultimate_Spinach, The Beacon_Street_Union and Orpheus.
An excellent overview of this scene with first hand recollections can be found here..

These notes by Larry Jaspon, on the back sleeve, give a flavour of what they were trying to achieve with this album...

"For years the names "Harvard Square" and "Cambridge" were synonymous with old world traditions and vine covered colleges. A place for the rich and famous only, where football rivalry was the main topic of discussion and the "Hasty Pudding Club" created havoc among the shop keepers . . . now it's different!!! A wave of revolution has swept thru the age-old streets. Walk here . . . and you will find yourself in a flower garden of youth. Colorful beads, strange clothing, hanging guitars...dominate the scene. Songs never before heard . . . of love and dreams, of great expectations and sad regret, of truth and existence are being sung everywhere. They are the key to this new, exciting concept of life finding birth here.

Come now - with Timothy Clover - one of them... into this world of strangeness and beauty - with words you have never heard - in a place that is now beyond your understanding.. but, perhaps. . . if you listen with an open mind. . . and without prejudice . . . the ethereal meaning of it all will become majestically and realistically clear to you . . .

"There's a lesson in ev'ry flower, misty rain can't take away" (A Harvard Square Affair)

"The Cambridge Concept of Timothy Clover - A Harvard Square Affair"

Track Listing
Side 1
1.Timothy Clover
2.Trolley Car Line
3.One Day Your A Rich Man
4.When Your Dreamin'
5.Tear Drop Mobile

Side 2
1.A Harvard Square Affair
2.His Life To Live Over
3.Cotton Candy (Can Be Yours)
4.Mt Friend John
5.Great World Next Door

The highlights of the album for me are Tear Drop Mobile which has an eye on the finer moments of 1960's psychadelic rock band H.P._Lovecraft and Cotton Candy that has hit potential, as a psych sun bleached bubblegum tune. The whole album can be downloaded for your listening pleasure at sirpsych.blogspot.com/2007/08/cambridge-concept-of-timothy-clovera.html

The best I can do for visuals is this little snippet of Teddy and The Pandas



http://www.punkblowfish.com/TimothyClover.html


3 comments:

Anonymous said...

It sold at least one copy. I bought it used around 1980. Interesting, but a bit simplistic.

J. D. King said...

Thank you for posting this!

About fifteen years ago I stumbled onto a copy of Timothy Clover's LP.

It, along with Eric Andersen's "More Hits From Tin Can Alley," Matthew Sweet's "Girlfriend" and a dose of John Cage inspired our Ecstatic Peace LP, "Ten Compositions: New Frontiers in Free Rock" by The Coachmen (now J.D. King & The Coachmen).

In fact, one of "Ten Compositions" tracks is titled, "Timothy (Whirled) is a Clover Today."

My one criticism of the LP is that it could've used some punch in the production department. a boost to the guitars. Or something. Other than that, lovely.

Sir Richard Wentworth said...

Really a great oddball of a record... I actually dig the bubblegum psych production. "When You're Dreaming" and "Rich Man" are two of the standouts for me. Really like the drum work on this record too...