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JOHN’S CHILDREN – DISSTORY: and a connection to the “Miniatures” collection of 2020

Here is an abridged extract from my book “Within You, Without You: A Sociological, Cultural and Musical History of Britain, 1945-1967.”

NOTABLE RECORDINGS: Desdemona/ Remember Thomas A Beckett Midsummer Night’s Scene/ Sara Crazy Child; Come and Play with Me in the Garden (withdrawn); Go Go Girl/ Jagged Time Lapse; Just What You Want – Just What You’ll Get/ But She’s Mine (all track singles, 1967); Orgasm (Track LP, 1967)

Managed by Simon Napier Bell (who had earlier overseen the affairs of The Yardbirds), John’s Children’s first single actually featured Californian session men, and among studio tricks to disguise the weakness of the vocals was a soundbite of Arsenal football club supporters. Its original title was ‘Smashed Blocked’ but due to record company sensitivities this was changed to ‘The love I Thought I’d Found’ and released on Columbia in the US in 1966, scraping into the top 100 chart there. Renowned psychedelic/ pop music archivist Vernon Joynson described the group’s “Orgasm” LPas “one of the worst albums ever recorded. Much of the music was eminently forgettable and drowned by screaming girls.” (The soundtrack to The Beatles film “A Hard Day’s Night” was used).

John’s Children was one of the groups who played in the 14-Hour Technicolour Dream all-nighter in 1967. Marc Bolan wrote the group’s best-known number ‘Desdemona’ which was banned because of suggestive lyrics about Toulouse Le Treque bedding some ‘chick’ on the roof, and a reference to skirt lifting. It starts with a lift of the ‘Jailhouse Rock’ riff but much heavier with fuzz bass (John Hewlett) and Andy Ellison on lead vocals with Bolan as back-up. ’Sara Crazy Child’ signalled the mythical lyrics TYRANNOSAURUS REX would perfect. Their final single, ‘Just What You Want’ Just What You’ll Get’ has phasing, military style drumming, an aggressive vocal and primitive organ, sounding like some early precursor of Punk, the ‘ba b aba ba’ vocal harmonies juxtaposing with the ‘in your face’ chanting. Its B-side ‘But She’s Mine’ is a powerful rock number sounding very much like THE WHO’s ‘I Can’t Explain’; it features a mini guitar duel. The withdrawn single ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ is weird in a nice sort of way, with Bolan’s distinctive vocal.

John’s Children’s self-inflicted ignominy proved to be their downfall. Supporting The Who in Germany the band scattered hotel room pillows and staged mock fights with The Who’s manager Kit Lambert, who threatened to throw them off the tour. In the words of John’s Children’s drummer Chris Townson were determined to defy Lambert as he declared, “Bollock’s, let’s do it!” The result was unbridled mayhem. As Townson hammered out an incessant beat and Bolan began thrashing his guitar with chains, Ellison and Hewlett threw punches. After showering the venue with feathers and running amok they were chased by security guards. Reputedly, Ellison started smashing up chairs. The crowd went wild and suddenly chairs were flying through the air of the 12,000- seater Ludwigshafen auditorium like missiles. The group escaped through a back door into manager Simon Napier-Bell’s Bentley leaving scenes of mayhem and water cannons and the group’s equipment was confiscated by German police. And so, they were thrown off the German tour. Bolan left two months later.

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