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Return to Catatonia

Big Boy Pete

1998. Tenth Planet Records (Vinyl Album)
1.'Twas Not So Short Ago (1967)
2. Me (1967)
3. Summerland (1967)
4. Nasty Nazy (1968)
5. The Raid (1968)
6. Creosote and Cream (1967)
7. Crystal's Tune (1966)
8. Strontium Ninety Nel (1967)
9. Convercircles (1967)
10.The Day Stares Straight Back (1968)
11.Henry Nut. part two (1966)
12.Hung up (1969)
13.Sums (1968)
14.The Shelter (1967)
Drums: Robert Newton, LukeWatson
Bass: George Parsons, Harvey Platt, Pete Miller
Guitars, sitar, harmonica: Pete Miller
Organ: Peter London
Piano: Paul Gunnell
Sax: Johny Byles
Violin: Alan McClennan
Percussion: Robert Newton, Granville Hornsby
Trumpets: Norman Samways
Vocal backing: Ricky Southern, Luke Watson, Roger Moon
All tracks written and produced by Peter Miller
Artwork by Phil Smee at Waldo's Design and Dream Emporium

Liner notes from "Return to Catatonia"

While not masquerading as blissed-out psychodaisy Big Boy Pete, English composer, guitarist, and singer Pete Miller also wrote and recorded a number of more conventional songs. Some of these were covered by such artists as Freddie and the Dreamers and Sounds Orchestra!, but Pete's only recording in this vein that actually reached the stores was the wired garage pop of "Baby I Got News For You", an October 1965 single on the Columbia label.This 45 has become a collector's item and commanded a reserve price of $400 in last years Rock 'n' Roil auction at Sotherbys in London. The opening track on this CD is the never-before-heard demo of this song, recorded in his flat in Maida Vale London, featuring Micky Waller on drums and members of Pete's band "TheJaywalkers". The remainder of the songs on this CD are all previously unreleased.

Miller left the Jaywalkers in 1966 and was replaced by Terry Reid. He began a solo career with the release of the psychedelic single "Cold Turkey"under the name Big Boy Pete. A classic slab of English psychedlia. Pop criticJon Savage noted that "it makes everything else pretty redundant". (This song was covered recently by "The Damned" under the pseudonym of"Nazz Nomad and the Nightmares".

The origins of Big Boy Pete can be traced back to asummer's day in 1966, With the rest of the country basking in the twin glories of Swinging London and England'sWorld Cup triumph, Pete Miller left his flat in Maida Vale to return to his rural roots where he embarked on a rigorous investigation into the propensities of a wide variety of chemical stimulants. "I spent four or five hours of my first acid trip one sunny Sunday afternoon milling around the gravestones of a tiny country church, along with my drummer Robert Newton", he recalls."Towards the end of the day, as the sun was setting, we drove a few miles in our '57 American Packard to a nearby airfield, disused since WorldWar II. There we discovered a secret pond and, giggling profusely, we conversed vaporously with the dragonflies and the millions of other insects skimmering across the water. It was there I wrote a song - apologising to the insects for intruding into their evening fly-about around their home. At dusk, were turned to our sixteenth century cottage, cooked up a ton of spaghetti, loaded it with melted cheese, and suitably revived from a brainful of hashish, relaxed to the hilarious antics of some old BBC Goon Show tapes. Before retiring , I taped the song I had written a few hours earlier."

The doors of perception now wedged firmly ajar, Pete embarked upon a musical journey without maps, conjuring up spectacular feats of proto-psychedelia a full year before the release of ground-breaking English acid rock extravaganzas like 'Sgt. Pepper' and 'Dark Side of the Moon' - Surrounded by all kinds of weird and wonderful custom built electronic gadgetry, Pete experimented relentlessly in order to locate some hitherto uncharted musical fourth dimension.

Recording his chemically imbalanced material during the day, by night he left Big Boy Pete in the attic and moonlighted with his band in the area's most notoriously seedy nightclub. The club had a reputation for attracting a rather dubious clientele: the gamblers, whores, and gangsters of the local underworld would make their clandestine business connections as strippers performed their bump 'n' grind routine and Pete's band played mechanically on.

Back home, surrounded by lava lamps and Hindu visuals, Pete Miller and Big BoyPete grappled with each other to gain musical supremacy - straight romantically inclined pure pop or savage, foaming-at-the-mouth acid rock. He continued to confound general perceptions of musical boundaries - The record companies declared most of his virgin soundscapes to be unmarketable. After "ColdTurkey", in an act of pure punkish bravado, like a small child presenting mummy witha severed hand, Pete submitted his follow-up single to Polydor,the German owned record company- They were aghast at the title "NastyNazi", and recoiled in horror. Big Boy Pete's career was killed stone dead overnight, but that was okay - he hadn't wanted a career anyway .. he didn't even exist.

He continued recording in England until 1969. and following three years of rocking for the GIs in Vietnam, Bangkok, and Singapore, eventually landed in San Francisco (where else?). For the past 25 years Pete has been a resident there, spending most of his time recording new material and engineering/producing many other artists in his 24 track analogue studio.

A huge selection of his sixties recordings remained stockpiled in an English friend's attic for the past 30 years. These tracks have sat untouched untilvery recently. Thanks to the interest of David Wells at Tenth Planet records, Pete was persuaded to send for and restore these tapes. Here, from the twilight zone for the first time, are 15 hitherto -unissued tracks. The disclosure that these tracks were adjudged at the time to be too weird for public consumption should act as some kind of preparation for the prospective listener. These strange fractured epiphanies are a window into the curious mind of an idiosyncratic, iconoclastic writer and performer who was one of the era's most criminally neglected talents.

Guitar Player. #17 Summer 1999
Return to Catatonia

"The plot will start to thicken", sings Pete Miller, "just like gravy in a well..."

And so it does here on Return to Catatonia, subtitled "The Further Psychedelic Adventures of Pete Miller" in which more unreleased home studio recordings by the guitarist/singer/artistic schizophrenic are unearthed for our pleasure and frequent bewilderment.

Take for example "Nasty Nazi", submitted by Miller to Polydor in 1968 as a possible follow-up to "Cold Turkey"; it features a twisting fuzz riff over a jackboot stomp beat and a hate-filled robot vocal suggesting: "Final solution - cut off your dick". Needless to say, Polydor declined.

"Nasty Nazi" is just one stand out of set of lunatic concoctions every bit as memorable as Homage to Catatonia. "Twas Not So Short Ago" and "Covercircles" are particularly strong, utilizing sitar to superb effect, while "Creosote and Cream" employs a straighter, melodic pop approach as revealed on the recommended Summerland collection (reviewed last issue). "The Day Stares Straight Back" shows the after-effect of Miller's earlier flirtations with bluebeat and ska, though infected by some electronic gimmickry and typical skewed lyrics, and the primary acoustic"The Shelter" is a lovely, atmospheric album closer.

Only one - the chipmunk-voiced "Henry Nut (Part Two)" does the joke wearout before the song finishes.

Although this volume lacks the deluxe gatefold sleeve of its predecessor (which featured the lyrics in all their mad glory), I wouldn't let that stand in the way of your enjoyment. Miller's homecooked crackpot psychedelia may not be for everyone, but the adventurous will not be disappointed: this is remarkably good gravy. (MS)


Return to Catatonia Although the name may not be familiar to many, Big Boy Pete (aka Pete Miller) has been flogging around the music scene for nearly five decades. He first played in a rock & roll band called the Offbeats, who recorded an EP in 1958, and in 1961, he joined the beat group Peter Jay & the Jaywalkers. With the Jaywalkers, he recorded a number of singles, which were produced by Joe Meek, from whom Pete learned many new and innovative recording techniques. In 1965, he quit the band to concentrate on recording solo projects, and turned to session work to support his recording career. During this period, he became a part-time member of the legendary underground freakbeat band the News, while continuing to write songs for Britain's major publishing houses. Many of these songs would eventually end up being recorded by some of the U.K.'s most popular bands. In the mid-'60s, Miller, now sporting the solo name Big Boy Pete, returned to his native Norwich to continue working on his solo projects. His influences during this period came from a wide variety of sources, including the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's, the Stones' Their Satanic Majesties Request, Pink Floyd, and Jimi Hendrix. He recorded a number of demo songs that were seeped in East Indian influences, psychedelic guitar, and experimental production, but they were all rejected by the record companies for being too far off the mainstream sound of the day. In 1969, Big Boy Pete relocated to the United States, where he opened his own recording studio and formed his own record label. Many of his songs that were recorded between1966 and1969 lay around in boxes at his studio until the mid-'90s, when suddenly, long-lost psychedelic recordings became sought after by collectors around the world. Tenth Planet Records, a European-based collectors label, contacted Miller and resurrected a number of these recordings, some of which were compiled on the 14-track Homage to Catatonia retrospective. Return to Catatonia contains14 more long-lost tracks, all recorded between 1966 and 1969. While a bit self-indulgent in places, these songs contain all of the influences that make British psychedelic music what it is. For fans of such artists as early Pink Floyd, Syd Barrett, or the Beatles, Return to Catatonia is a must. --Keith Pettipas

Return to Catatonia

Return to Catatonia concentrates on Miller's more experimental and psychedelic efforts from the period of 1966 to 1969. While the music on this disc can be broadly classified as psychedelic, it actually covers a fairly diverse array of styles. The lead-off track, "Twas Not So Short Ago", features the exotic sounds of a sitar. "Summerland" is a pastoral folk-pop ballad with acoustic guitar and a string section. "The Raid" and "The Shelter" are also acoustic folk-oriented numbers. With"Nasty Nazi", Miller unleashes a snarling heavy metal assault. "Creosote and Cream" is a catchy pop number that would have sounded equally at home on (his) Summerland (album). "Crystal's Tune" is a trippy raga rock in the vein of the Yardbirds. If psychedelic music is your cup of tea, you can't go wrong with this. -- Geoff Cabin

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