Monday, 23 February 2015
Oliver: Magic Mushroom Band - Pictures in my Mind (1 December 1991)
No doubt people who went more often than I did will deny it, but if ever you wanted an example of the age old Cornish complaint, "The rest of country thinks Britain stops at Plymouth" it would be in the pathetic state of live music in Cornwall when I was a teenager. Don't get me wrong, there was plenty of live music made up of covers bands and some local bands trying to build up a following, but when it came to bands who actually released records or got played on Radio 1, forget it.
It hadn't always been so. The Flamingo Club in Redruth hosted many of the leading bands of the 60s. The Sex Pistols came to Penzance in the 70s as part of the impromptu SPOTS tour in late 1977. And I met numerous people who went to the Cornwall Coliseum in Carlyon Bay near St Austell in the 80s to see no less than Paul McCartney play there. But by the early 90s, most of those venues had closed or become such shitholes, no one would play there.
Nevertheless, occasionally the county could surprise you and when I heard Peel play this on the 1/12/91 recording, my mind flashed forward 2 years to seeing promotion for a gig at Truro City Hall - Ozric Tentacles supported by Magic Mushroom Band. Now there's a couple of names to take you back to the days when there were crusties on every street, aren't they. Being a censorious teenager, I had no interest in going to that gig which threatened, in my mind, to be nothing more than a stream of Grateful Dead-esque droning. And that name, Magic Mushroom Band - you're not even trying.
Well it turned out to be my loss. For while a listen to Magic Mushroom Band's 1991 album, Spaced Out, features a few long, meandering Eastern tinged instrumentals, there are some cracking pop songs on there as well. Sometimes, tracks get selected because a band sound like someone else. That could be the case here, because while there's evidence that when left unchecked, Magic Mushroom Band tried to be Quintessence, when they applied pop smarts to what they did they came on like an updated version of The Move and any band that invokes Birmingham's finest, whether by intent or accident is alright by me.
As for bands coming to Cornwall, progress was painfully slow. Radiohead came to Truro City Hall just before they released The Bends (and who wanted to go and see a bunch of one hit wonders....). I did see my favourite 90s band, Marion, at the Pirate in Falmouth but they had cancelled on at least 2 separate occasions prior to that. Truro City Hall was eventually refurbished and renamed the Hall for Cornwall. One of their first events was a concert from the Bluetones, the enormity of which was marked by Select magazine doing a feature. Mark Morriss noted how grateful the fans seemed to them for coming down and remarked that it was preferable to being ignored at a more blasé venue like the Hammersmith Apollo. But the Bluetones were only followed sporadically to Cornwall by the odd band/performer until 2002 when a double whammy of Coldplay coming to the Hall for Cornwall shortly before the release of A Rush of Blood to the Head and the first set of Eden Sessions in front of the biomes at the Eden Project started to effect a gradual improvement in the number of bands coming to Cornwall.
But Magic Mushroom Band were there first and on the evidence of Pictures in my Mind, I'm grateful.
The Sex Pistols in Penzance, 1 September 1977. Thanks for making the drive down, fellas.