A long, long time ago - around about 1989, or thereabouts - Mercury Rev must have imbibed some ancient medicine because goddamit they don't seem to age at all.
Seriously. Recent album 'The Light In You' emerged on Bella Union, a new home for a record packed with new ideas, reinterpreting that dreamy sound for fresh ears.
Set to play London's Barbican as part of Bella Union's 20th anniversary, Mercury Rev kindly sat down with Clash for a trip of a different kind - we asked them to chart their favourite psychedelic discoveries, and the impact this had on the band's ultra-dimensional consciousness...
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The Electric Prunes - 'I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night' (As picked by Grasshopper)
Released at the end of 1966, this tune lingered on through the Summer Of Love and eventually onto the 'Nuggets' compilation that informed so much of punk rock - a blueprint.
The song starts with what sounds like a swarm of insects (grasshoppers perhaps?), then segues into a pulsing shimmery wave of guitars followed by a driving beat and some freaky backwards guitars, over-driven vibrato guitars... and drones, baby, drones!
Have you ever had too much to dream? 'All Is Dream'!
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Pauline Oliveros & Randy Raine-Reusch - 'Whispers In The Ears Of Night' (As picked by Jonathan Donahue)
Proof by accordion that (p)sychedelia isn’t ‘up’ there on a stage, a screen or a t-shirt . It’s ‘in’ there, the moment we space ourself(s) out, the beat stops and words disappear.
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Tommy James and The Shandells - 'Crimson & Clover' (As picked by Grasshopper)
This 1969 guitar feast has tremolo guitars, a psychedelic lap steel solo, a wah-wah guitar freak-out, guitars, guitars, guitars! This song was an early inspiration for Mercury Rev, with all those layers and textures of guitars.
Tommy James said that he thought of the lyrics while coming out of a dream which featured his favourite color: Crimson and his favourite flower: Clover. Co-writer (and James' Drummer) Peter Lucia claims he came up with the 'Crimson And Clover' phrase while watching a high school football game between his home-town Morristown N.J. 'Crimsons' and the Hopatcong 'Clovers'.
A dream or a football game? Either way, it's a trip...
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Pharoah Sanders - 'The Creator Has A Master Plan' (As picked by Jonathan Donahue)
When you get ‘there’, wherever ‘that’ is for you, this is probably what ‘it’ will sound like.
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CAN - 'Mushroom' (As picked by Grasshopper)
I didn't know much about CAN when Mercury Rev recorded our first album 'Yerself Is Steam', but more than a few reviews of 'Yerself...' compared us to CAN, so I had to check it out! Man, what an education! 'Mushroom' has such an incredible beat, some really great guitar work, great psychedelic experimental freak-outs and lyrics.
Coincidentally I had my first magic mushroom experience shortly before hearing this track, a weird strange trip in The Lower East Side of New York, where I was throwing up my lunch (roasted red peppers) and I thought my innards were coming out!
"When I saw – mushroom head - I was born and I was dead..." Yeah, I could relate to that!
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Beck - 'Nobody's Fault But My Own' (As picked by Grasshopper)
Beck is one of the only artists in which I can say that I really like everything he's ever done. 'Mutations' was a great album and 'Nobody's Fault But My Own' was a stand-out track, psychedelic folk, unlike anything else on the album. The song was also a precursor of what would come four years later with 'Sea Change'.
With reverb-soaked acoustic guitars, droning harmonium, expansive waves of guitar and really great lyrics to boot, 'Nobody's Fault But My Own' is a dreamy head-trip and a mainstay on the tour bus in 1998 while we were touring for 'Deserter's Songs', as it came out a few months after 'Deserter's...'. I still listen to this one quite frequently.
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The Chameleons - 'View From A Hill' (As picked by Jonathan Donahue)
At a time when so many bands were rafting their music downwards the mainstream, leave it to The Chameleons to lead theirs by the hand farther and farther up to its headwaters.
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Catch Mercury Rev with Royal Northern Sinfonia at the Barbican, London on July 14th as part of Bella Union 20 - TICKETS.
For tickets to the latest Mercury Rev shows click HERE.