Listen zis baybee. Julian Cope has a lot to answer for. I’ve been reading ‘Japrocksampler’ on and off for the past couple of months, but to be honest I’m finding it hard to get into. For me it’s hardly a page turner and reading it is becoming more of a chore than a pleasure. And I really want to like it. Problem is, I’ve never heard any of the music he’s writing about and that makes it difficult to stay focussed on all the characters, groups, albums and scenesters he goes on about. I liked ‘Krautrocksampler’, even though my knowledge of German music was limited to Neu! and Kraftwerk (of course) and ’99 Red Ballons’ by Nena, but that was enough to get me to the end of the book without any bother. So. To help me get into the book a bit more, a bit of poking about in the far flung corners of the web has uncovered some tracks by the impossibly named Flower Travellin’ Band.
Flower Travellin’ Band were a psychedelic, blues-based hard rock band. Created by Yuya Utchida (a main protagonist in Cope’s book) they originally featured Remi Aso, considered at the time to be the Japanese equivalent of Janis Joplin. Utchida wanted them to shock, and their debut album featured all group members (oo-er) nude on the cover. Much of their material was made up of barely recognisable cover versions. Extended acid-frazzled freak-out soloing and radical rearrangements meant that the simplest of songs took on a new lease of life. Seek out their version of ‘House Of The Rising Sun’ and you’ll see what I mean. Their 1970 album ‘Anywhere’ featured the first known cover of a Black Sabbath track, ‘Black Sabbath’. On the cover of the album, the four members of the band ride their Honda motorbikes naked (naked again!) down some lost highway. This image got them into a bit of bother with the Japanese authorities (again!), but the music on the grooves itself got them signed to Atlantic Records, and it even briefly charted in Canada.
If the MC5 had came from Tokyo
Cope first freaked out over Flower Travellin’ Band when he heard the 1995 ‘From Pussies to Death in 10,000 Years of Freakout ‘ bootleg album. He says that the 20minutes+ (!) tracks ‘I’m Dead part 1’ and ‘I’m Dead part 2’ are the outstanding moments in the band’s history. To these ears, they sound a bit stoner-rock, long-haired, prog-rock scary. Drugs may well have been involved during the recording process. I certainly need them to listen to all 20+ minutes of each track. Personally, I prefer the more accessible versions of Hendrix‘s ‘Stone Free’ and Howlin’ Wolf‘s/Led Zeppelin‘s ‘How Many More Times?’. As an introduction to Flower Travellin’ Band, they’re as good an entry as any.
A couple of quick facts. In 1973, Flower Travellin’ Band were booked to open for The Rolling Stones. But Mick Jagger’s previous conviction for drugs meant that the tour was postponed. Thems the breaks. However, the band may yet still get the opportunity – a bit of research has revealed that they got back together in January this year and are due to appear at July’s Fuji Rock Festival. Watch zis space, baybee!