Tuesday, 25 September 2007

THE HERD: Paradise Lost


Another hopeful assemblage of post-Mod beat boys whom Ken Howard and Alan Blaikley used as an experimental crucible for ideas too outrĂ© even for Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich, featuring puppy-eyed teenage guitarist and lead singer Peter Frampton, the Herd’s time was relatively brief; “From The Underworld,” their debut hit with funereal bells, undertaker’s plunking bass, Gregorian chanting and an Oedipal lyrical complex (though Scott Walker’s “Oedipus” offers a subtler and yet somehow far more hysterical variation on the same theme), still gets the occasional radio play, but the follow-up has seemingly become lost to follow-up and never gets revived. A shame, because as gaudily great as “From The Underworld” is, “Paradise Lost” is arguably much, much stranger. The kind of single which could only have appeared in 1967 – it was released at the very end of the year, reaching the Top 20 in early 1968 – its beginning is enough to make the listener wonder whether they have purchased a Frankie Vaughan single by mistake; sliding “Stripper” brass, high-kicking “Don’t Bring Lulu” drums, awaiting the arrival of top hat and cane; but then it meticulously dissolves into a sombre variant on the “Underworld” model with mournful motets of plainsong as Frampton muses: “In the deepest dungeons of my mind/I dredge the shadows” ...as I said, only in 1967 could something like this occur. As he cries over the “scene of my innocence departed,” the song opens up to allow pirate radio beat boom harmonies and cavernous chambers of choir and brass.

Essentially dwelling on the loss of a certain kind of sexual innocence…remember, Frampton was sixteen going on seventeen at this stage…he wanders confused, thinking of the now surrendered self-pleasures of youth (“Once I could love without desire/Her glance could warm me without fire”) but sounding hurt and almost enraged about his inability to…get the real thing (“Experience has dulled my eyes/With repetition, wonder dies”) or his agony over the fact that he can never experience it again for the first time (“She was my promise and my dream”).

As the cascades of “Teenage Opera” trumpet fanfares make metaphorically clear, “Paradise Lost” is less to do with Milton than with “Pictures of Lily” (do you see the alliteration there?), but since he hasn’t actually lost his virginity yet (the tantalisingly unreachable sweetness of the Vaughan Williams solo violin balanced with the irretrievable loss of childhood of the lullaby glockenspiel) all he can do is wearily turn the pages again and go through the mechanics as the dream fades and the crass “Stripper” stomp returns, this time not to be moved, until someone finally comes to show him the way.