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January 25, 2007

Two Perfect Songs: The Story of Tintern Abbey

Filed under: Artist Profile — RadioFly @ 12:55 am

Tintern AbbeyIn London’s Summer of ’67, “psychedelic” was the word on everyone’s lips, while the Beatles, Hendrix, and Syd Barrett’s Pink Floyd were the sounds in everyone’s ears. As a result, lots of middling R&B groups became lots of middling psych groups. Amidst this craze, many new psych outfits managed to churn out an LP and many more managed a single or two. All these groups, virtually without exception, faded into obscurity, to be heard from again only on compilations like the (wonderful) second volume of Nuggets. One of these bands was Tintern Abbey. With a total output of only one single, Tintern Abbey’s odds of being remembered were all but nonexistent. Fortunately, great music has a way of being heard.

While tracks like The Move’s “I Can Hear the Grass Grow,” Kaleidoscope’s “Flight from Ashiya,” or The Syn’s “14 Hour Technicolor Dream” sound like artifacts from a forgotten era, Tintern Abbey’s songs hold up to this day, delivering on a movement largely characterized by wasted potential. Tintern Abbey’s sole a-side, the ironically titled “Beeside“ may never have been a hit, but it stands alone with Tomorrow’s “My White Bicycle” as a perfectly forward-thinking psych pop single from London ‘67. The flip side, “Vacuum Cleaner” (actually the more anthologized song of the two), does not reach the soaring heights of its counterpart, but it’s nothing if not flawless, recalling The Who in many ways.

“Beeside” opens with a beautiful, gentle piano that continues throughout the song, sounding as good as anyone tripping on LSD thought Rick Wright sounded. Then, in a beautiful rush, the rest of the instruments descend into the music, including an uncommonly graceful mellotron. John Dalton’s deliciously psychedelic drumming provides the backbeat for Dan Smith’s understated guitar. Perhaps most impressively, however, front-man Dave MacTavish manages to turn in perfectly elegant lyrics while adhering to the whimsical psych style of the time. Even such giants of the scene as Barrett and Keith West struggled with corniness in similar songs. All in all, “Beeside” is the perfect song to play in your car on a sunny day or in your headphones and get lost in or, best of all, when you can’t think of anything else to listen to.

Unless you want to drop a grand on ebay for the original, you can buy a repressing of the single from VVMO. Also, check out their unofficial myspace.

2 Comments »

  1. I love both these songs. Also of interest are the 2 songs they demoed for a follow up single which was never released – I recall one track was called ‘You Must Do As You Must’. A great little article!

    Comment by Ben Coleman — February 17, 2007 @ 6:45 pm

  2. Thanks for reading!

    I\’ve heard those songs as well and they certainly are very good, but they\’re not the perfect pop of \”Beeside\” or \”Vacuum Cleaner.\” They can certainly stand up with the best of some great bands like Blossom Toes, The Move, etc. Actually, the best touchstone would probably be Dantalian\’s Chariot or The Smoke\’s \”My Friend Jack\”

    Comment by RadioFly — February 22, 2007 @ 10:01 am

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