“I name this rubber ark, The Rainbow Ffolly”
English psychedelia was very much the merry little cousin of its American elder. Less portentous; artier; frothier and far nearer the Kasenetz-Katz stable of 1910 Fruitgum Company and Ohio Express. As a sweeping generalisation, English psych could care little for mind-expanding revelations, content instead to ride through meadows on neon pink hippos, overdosing of twee rhymes for marmalade.
Rainbow Ffolly are pretty much the ideal example of how English psychedelia permeated not across regional demographics but to an almost startling small network of like-minded souls, confined largely to little more than a grid of London streets. Whilst Pink Floyd rearranged their trousers in 1968 to become an album-based band and others cranked up the volume to morph into what we would now recognise as space rock, those who genuinely embraced the sunshine and frock coats were condemned to be the last Jif lemons of the dusty corner shop shelf.
Formed from the remains of the band Force Four, Rainbow Ffolly (a name, understandably, misspelled repeatedly in concert advertisements) were brothers John (lead guitar) and Richard Dunsterville (rhythm guitar), Stewart Osborn (bass) and drummer, Roger Newell. Art students by day (of course they were), they were taken under the [ahem] wing of manager John Sparrowhawk and suiting the flavour of 1967 very nicely indeed thank-you, were promptly signed to Parlophone. If this seems speedy, spare a thought for the band themselves who weren’t even aware that the collection of demos they’d recorded had duly been pressed up as the finished article and on the shelves of record shops the following spring.
Without the expected polish an album like this would normally be afforded, Sallies Forth has more in common with quirky comedy radio shows of the time, rather than challenging anything The Pretty Things were doing. The humour which regularly raises its head sometimes reaches peaks of oddball, though more often it is somewhat gratingly chummy, seeming dated even for the time. Lyrically dubious (“How very strange/At the Labour Exchange”), there’s no denying the harmonies class, nor the shifting guitar sounds which range from charmingly chiming to excited duck quacks. The new Cherry Red box set edition of this debut is presented in stereo on disc one and mono on disc two, should you be one of those genuinely odd types who insist chalk will always be better than a pen. For extra value, there’s a snapshot of the reality of Rainbow Ffolly’s ascent to glory with a selection of jingles for Wycombe hospital radio.
Disc three of the set showcases their long-awaited… to the tune of forty-nine years… follow-up, Ffollow Up!. Fears that this could be one of those well-intended but catastrophic resurrections are fuelled by a ‘jokey’ intro but by the time the album’s highlight, Noah, hits, it’s apparent that the Musical Gods have perhaps denied us a band who could have made significant headway back in the day. Still with fine voices, not every track squarely hits its target but songs like My Love Has Gone jangle and ripple with key changes like prime Teenage Fanclub. Cursed by over-zealous industry bods at the height of their creativity, this box-set ultimately chronicles a band who could so easily have become one of the most important British bands of the sixties and beyond.