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A Symphonic Poem.

Big Boy Pete

2000. GearFab Records CD
1. Overture
2. Movement 2 (Largo)
3. Movement 3 (Transience)
4. Movement 4 (Echelon)
5. Quietus
6. Finale
All vocals and instruments played by Pete Miller except on "Overture":
Drums: Robert Newton.
Bass: Pat Barriskill
Organ: Granville Hornsby
Sax: Johnny Byles
Trumpet: Norman Samways
All tracks written and produced by Peter Miller
Cover painting by Mrs. Paul Gunnell

Liner notes from "WORLD WAR IV"

Pete Miller's previously unreleased Masterpiece "World War IV... A Symphonic Poem" is being heard for the first time since its original recording in 1968. Almost released on the Apple label in 1969, it finally comes to you with the messages and predictions so prevalent during these turbulant times.

(Roger Maglio)


Gear Fab unearths yet another psychedelic oddity from the warped mind of Big Boy Pete (aka Pete Miller), this time an entirely unreleased masterwork from his prodigious and endlessly creative 1966-1969 period. World War IV is labeled a "Symphonic Poem," and whatever that exactly connotes in pop terms is anyone's guess. It is certainly not a conventional song-based effort but a true epic, one that is segmented into extended classical-like sections with titles such as "Overture" and "Movement One", certainty is that the album is wide-lensed, a sweeping and ambitiously panoramic experimental piece of avant-garde psychedelia that shares numerous qualities with the equally idiosyncratic but still commercially minded psyche that Big Boy Pete had previously created, while transferring those qualities to a much larger, mural-sized canvas.

As can be expected, the storyline (if it can be called that) is willfully obscure and far-out even by psychedelia's standards, loosely imagining a fourth world war peopled not by military personnel but rather a host of eccentric characters. While World War IV is not exactly designed to be accessible in the manner of a collection of Big Boy Pete's pop songs, it sustains both a painterly and literary quality that is every bit as enveloping. In fact, John Lennon loved the album and Apple Records nearly released it in 1969. Miller's uncanny penchant for wordplay is vaguely Beatlesque, although a more appropriate comparison might be that World War IV is a British counterpart of sorts to Love's Forever Changes, betraying the same kind of warped worldview shared by Arthur Lee.

Demented observations and mad, darkly humorous puns often undercut the whimsicality of the piece. Miller imagines a world in which the crucifixion of Christ, Nazi Germany, Hansel & Gretel, Oz, Alice's wonderland, Barnum & Bailey's circus, mediaevalism, and Wordsworth seem to coexist and intermingle in a freakish alternate universe in the countryside of England. Biblical imagery abounds, as do fairytale characters, gypsies, and armies of children straight from the "outsider" art of Henry Darger.

Without immediately dating itself, the album contains embedded commentaries on war, spirituality, political power, and a great number of other subjects that were especially endemic to the era. There must be fragments of 20 or 30 individual songs spliced into the mix -- ranging in style from mindbending psychedelia to Baltic folk melodies -- including perhaps the most beautifully sustained example of backwards phasing (during the dirge like fifth section, "Quietus") in the entire psychedelic canon. The cycle culminates in the stunningly ambitious "Finale."

Prophetic, unpredictable, labyrinthine, and frequently disturbing, World War IV is just about as imaginative as pop music gets. It is ultimately impossible to follow the path that Big Boy Pete is trying to burn through the forest, but it is thrilling even when the listener gets lost along the way. The album, as one lyric during "Movement 2" has it, is "deformed so beautifully." Not the first stop for neophytes looking to understand the Big Boy Pete legacy by any means, World War IV may nevertheless be his definitive artistic statement, and the premier slice of "outsider"pop from the period. -- Stanton Swihart


Big Boy Pete (aka Pete Miller) was lead guitar for the Jaywalkers, a renowned British band, for a few good years before holing up in his home studio and creating a colossal catalog of enchanting shapes that orbited anywhere from smiley-face pop dandies to twisted microdot inspired mayhem. Well, Pete is still actively playing music today but "World War IV" was initially recorded over a one year period, from March of1968 to March of 1969. The project was never delivered in album form, although John Lennon was so impressedby what he heard that he wanted to sign Pete to the Apple label. Better late than never, and what a racket "World War IV" would have produced had it been issued at the hour of its birth. This is incredibly heavy stuff, both lyrically and instrumentally. Sounds to meditate by, "World War IV" flickers to a tranquil environment that is almost chant-like in nature, while the poetry paints a vivid scene of death and destruction. Music that makes you think and sends chills up your spine.-- Beverly Paterson

ROCK BEAT INTERNATIONAL World War IV is Miller's crowning achievement of the sixties - an extended 45-minute piece structured like a symphony with an overture, three movements, quietus and a finale. The music shifts like a kaleidoscope through a wide variety of musical styles, ranging from acoustic folk music to hymn-like passages to spacey psychedelic rock. The impressionistic lyrics are filled with apocalyptic war imagery. This was a highly ambitious undertaking and Miller pulled it off in very impressive fashion..-- Geoff Cabin


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