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Reissue CDs Weekly: The Misunderstood - Children Of The Sun The Complete Recordings (1965-1966) | reviews, news & interviews

Reissue CDs Weekly: The Misunderstood - Children Of The Sun The Complete Recordings (1965-1966)

Reissue CDs Weekly: The Misunderstood - Children Of The Sun The Complete Recordings (1965-1966)

Definitive statement on the John Peel-lauded psychedelic pioneers

The Misunderstood, in a Fontana Records promo shot from late 1966Cherry Red Records/Mike Stax

On 31 December 1966, the Daily Mail's Virginia Ironside got to grips with a new trend in pop music. Under the heading “The bleeps take over”, Jimmy Hendrix (sic) The Move and The Pink Floyd were gathered together as purveyors of something The Who had started with “feedback, violence, ripping strings from their guitars.” “New groups,” it was said “are taking it farther and farther out.

Tra-la-la has been ousted by bleep, squeak pee-oing and whee.” Ironside acknowledged that her article’s hyperbolic description of The Pink Floyd came across as “trendy psychedelic nonsense.” But whatever the paper thought, psychedelia became a better-known catch-all label than the Mail’s favoured tag: “space-age music.”

A fourth band was mentioned. One which became less well-known than Hendrix, The Move and the Floyd. The Misunderstood “come from America. At one point in their act they leave the stage to instruments fixed to play by themselves. A slide guitar produces banshee torture wails.” That week, Disc and Music Echo put forward The Misunderstood as one of the potential “’67 chartbusters.”

The Misunderstood Children Of The Sun The Complete Recordings (1965-1966)In the New Year and a week on, Daily Sketch columnist Anne Nightingale professed that “The Misunderstood may represent the pop music of the future.” The band’s Glenn Campbell (not that one – their pedal steel player) told her “colour is a vibration, so we have linked our music to colour…we play all sorts of weird patterns.” None-too convincingly, the band told Beat Instrumental “we have nothing do with drugs.” Singer Rick Brown would say “we want gullible minds to expand.”

The Misunderstood were on a roll. Boosters were seemingly everywhere. Fontana Records had issued their expanded-mind single “I Can Take You to the Sun” on 9 December 1966. In America, a man called John Ravencroft was an early acolyte. Then in California and working for a radio station there, he wrote that The Misunderstood were “Prophets of a new order, harbingers of a brilliant, soft and alive dawn for mankind.” Following his advice, the band came to London from California. Ravencroft (actually Ravenscroft: radio station KMEN billed him without the "s”) later became familiar as John Peel (pictured below left, as he was when he was with KMEN at the time he first saw The Misunderstood).

Based in the inland conurbation of Riverside, California and initally called The Blue Notes, they became The Misunderstoods (sic) in 1965 and tried to pass themselves off as English that summer. Demos were recorded and acetates pressed. Glenn Campbell, a pedal steel player who had been in The Goldtones and The Answers joined. Then, Raven(s)croft saw them playing in a shopping mall and was blown away. He paid for the recording of more demos and suggested they would do better in London rather than regional California. An indie single was issued just before they left America.

The Misunderstood Children Of The Sun The Complete Recordings (1965-1966)Following the move at the end of 1966 and in early 1967, The Misunderstood had the burgeoning profile of fellow US transplant Hendrix, The Move and The Pink Floyd: they were primed to blaze a head-spinning trail into inner and outer space. Yet, as it says in the essay of the booklet accompanying the double CD Children Of The Sun: The Complete Recordings (1965–1966), “by the first week of January [1967] the dream was over.” Their singer being caught by the American draft was the nail in the coffin. And despite what Beat Instrumental reported, drugs and the destructive fall-out from their effects were in the mix too.

Until 1982, their story was barely known. That year, “Children of the Sun” was reissued. The Before The Dream Faded compilation album also arrived in 1982. Many people’s introduction had come in 1980, when “Children of the Sun” was included on the Chocolate Soup For Diabetics collection. After 1982, a stream of EPs and compilations appeared, and unreleased tracks additional to those first heard on Before The Dream Faded were released. It became clear that The Misunderstood which issued a couple of UK singles in 1969 was essentially a different band to the one which had come over from California. Really, what counted most was the 1966 outfit and what came before their move to the UK in June 1966.

After it became possible to easily hear The Misunderstood, it was obvious that they were astonishing. The press they were getting in late 1966 and early 1967 was warranted. One listen to the UK-recorded “Find the Hidden Door” and “I Unseen” was more than enough to make the case. That they were recording these tracks as UK psychedelia was barely codified was extraordinary.

The Misunderstood Children Of The Sun The Complete Recordings (1965-1966)_California 1966Children Of The Sun collects everything that survives by the 1965/1966 Misunderstood. The band’s development from a relativity straightforward British-influenced outfit to full-on psych-nauts is easily assimilable for the first time. Where they were coming from is confirmed. The Yardbirds and, in particular, Jeff Beck’s flights of wonder were the basis from which they worked. In 1984, a 12-inch EP included a California-taped version of “I'm Not Talking” with a mind-frying extended feedback section way beyond anything The Yarbirds did. This was a band which took it, as the Mail said, “farther and farther out.” (pictured right, The Misunderstood in California, 1966)

Amazingly, Children Of The Sun includes a previously unreleased, alternate, UK-recorded version of “Children of the Sun”. Interestingly, and very surprisingly, it is revealed that an intro heard on one of tracks issued in 1982 was added back then – it was not there on the original Sixties recording. What was recorded when the band was extant is heard here with no after-the-fact jiggery-pokery, and in better sound quality than ever.

The drivers behind the definitive Children Of The Sun are Grammy nominated music archivist and producer Alec Palao and Mike Stax of Ugly Things magazine – the latter has written extensively on The Misunderstood, has researched them for decades and has contributed the booklet’s essay. These are the safest hands into which the legacy of The Misunderstood could be placed. Get the diligent Children Of The Sun: The Complete Recordings (1965–1966). It’s the last word on one of the Sixties’s greatest and most important bands.

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