notes from "Return to Catatonia"
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.
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".
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."
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.
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
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
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.
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.
Player. #17 Summer 1999
plot will start to thicken", sings Pete Miller, "just
like gravy in a well..."
Return to Catatonia
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
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.
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.
one - the chipmunk-voiced "Henry Nut (Part Two)"
does the joke wearout before the song finishes.
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
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