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VINYL CAVE

Vinyl Cave -- Orgasm by John's Children


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Legendary albums are often hard pressed to live up to their reputation once a listener actually hears them. There are also albums legendary more for the circumstances surrounding their release than for the actual music; Orgasm by the British band John's Children is definitely in the latter category. It's actually been reissued at times as The Legendary Orgasm Album, a self-fulfilling prophecy that very few releases could live up to.

The band's backstory (recounted in this LP reissue's liner notes) mirrors that of many other British beat-era teens: enthusiastic, untrained dudes form band, play covers to local audiences. It goes sideways, however, with the entrance of Svengali-like manager Simon Napier-Bell. Beating Malcolm McClaren's antics with the Sex Pistols by a decade, Napier-Bell recognized the musical limitations of his new charges and employed a campaign of controversy to bring them to fame. It worked, but not necessarily in the way he may have wanted.

The band's first single, "Smashed Blocked," actually was a big late-1966 hit in some US markets on the independent White Whale Records, which subsequently planned to release an album. Napier-Bell recorded more songs with the band, dubbed audience noise over the whole thing and declared the whole thing so exciting that it needed to be called Orgasm The move succeeded in drawing attention, but complaints about the title in the U.S. managed to scare White Whale into shelving the album. It went unreleased at the time in the U.K. as well, and eventually snuck out without fanfare in 1970, shortly before the label sank.

The album itself musically shows the group's genesis in the UK beat boom, and that's not a bad thing; maybe the world needed a vaguely angry Herman's Hermits. While there's some definite silliness going on, such as the "Wooly Bully" rip-off "Killer Ben," there's also some interesting Who pastiches like "Jagged Time Lapse" buried under all the overdubbed crowd noise.

This version of Orgasm gets bonus points for including the singles versions of the first two 45s along with the overdubbed LP versions. But it gets negative points for presenting the whole thing in a somewhat random track order, and for sporting a different (and cheesy) cover as compared to the White Whale release. But who knows, maybe that was the original plan for the cover!

Those who are interested in the band (which included a pre-fame Marc Bolan shortly after the White Whale debacle) would probably be better served tracking down a compilation, but Orgasm stands as an interesting side note in the history of rock 'n roll craziness. (Get Back/Abraxas, 1998; available as an import CD from Cherry Red)

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