January 15, 2024

The Pink Fairies identity is stamped right through this album sonically and visually like a stick of Acid Rock, if we can pardon the pun. This is an album which works on two distinct levels: what it sounds like, and, almost more importantly, what it represents.

As devotees of the Pink Fairies – one of the ultimate ‘underground’ bands to emerge in the fertile years of the early 1970s – will attest, any new recording bearing the name today is as unexpected as it is welcome. In recent times, Larry Wallis, Duncan Sanderson and most recently Russell Hunter have all sadly passed away, leaving the only representatives of the band’s original tenure as guitarist Paul Rudolph and drummer Twink. Indeed, that pair have Fairies recording legacy between them as recently as the 1990s, when they teamed up for the excellent albums Pleasure Island and No Picture, but this time around it is Paul Rudolph who is flying the original Fairie Flag. A follow up to 2018’s Resident Reptiles, recorded with the same line-up, this album certainly keeps things right within the branches of the extended Fairies family tree, as the other musicians here all hail from bands with a great affinity to them. In the early ’70s, the Fairies played a lot of shows with Hawkwind, their like-minded counter-culture brothers, many of which were for free outside of festivals, and sometimes under the casual banner of PinkWind. When Lemmy was ousted from Hawkwind after a bust in Canada (‘sacked for takng the wrong drugs’, as he later put it), he formed Motorhead and enlisted ex-Fairies guitarist Larry Wallis (who joined for the classic Kings Of Oblivion album) into the fold. The drum stool was occupied by Lucas Fox and, while both were replaced – by Phil Taylor and Fast Eddie Clark respectively – by the time of the debut Motorhead album in 1977, the Pink Fairies track City Kids popped on the B-side of the self-titled Motorhead single, and the aborted album by the original trio was later released as On Parole by United Artists, after they realised their mistake in originally dropping the band. The Fairies link was even strengthened here by former roadie Dez Brown writing lyrics to two of the album’s tracks. Lucas Fox is happily still around and very much active, and he is here on drums to make a very welcome appearance.

To continue this oddly alternative history lesson, following that removal of Lemmy from the Hawkwind ranks, Paul Rudolph stepped in as his replacement, though this time on bass duties rather than guitar. He appeared on the album Astounding Sounds, Amazing Music before being replaced by Adrian Shaw during the recording of Quark Strangeness And Charm. Most of his parts were redone, but he does still appear uncredited on his co-write with Bob Calvert, the timeless Hassan I Sahba. It was a very appropriate crossover between the two bands, and the connection is restored here with another Hawkwind alumnus, Alan Davey, completing this latter-day Fairies line-up on bass. As such, you might expect this album to have a cross-pollinated flavour encompassing the spirit of all three of these legendary bands, a sort of PinkHeadWind if you will. In many ways, you’d be absolutely right, as all of those ingredients can be readily found here, although making up a whole which has its own identity.

Most of the material among the eleven tracks here is new, with two reworked songs making an appearance. One of these is a remake of Hassan I Sahba, of which more in a moment, but the other might be less easily recognised, as the title track Screwed Up, a co-write between Rudolph and Mick Farren, dates back to a Farren EP from 1977. You wouldn’t guess it, as it gets things rolling with an absolute vintage early Fairies blast. It’s rawer than a vampire sandwich, and makes you believe that these three guys are still in their 20s, rather than the time-served veterans they are. It’s a cracking opener, but the vintage Fairies attitude and firepower is ramped up even higher for the heavy, churning Digital Sin and the righteous blast of Whatchagonnado, the latter something of a spiritual successor to the Fairies favourite Do It to these ears. Digital Sin in particular is a masterpiece, the bottom end rattling your innards while Rudolph’s guitar squeals over a veritable maelstrom of barely-controlled chaos as the song unfolds. It may well be the outstanding track here, but there is some competition – starting immediately, as the reworked Hassan makes its appearance.

Now, I must come out right away and say that no album can suffer for the addition of Hassan I Sahba in any form. I don’t care who it’s by. It could be Slayer, S Club 7 or Simply Red doing it for that matter, it makes no difference. If Hassan is on there, it’s a better album. That certainly holds true here, as Rudolph leads the band through a rendition which keeps very close faith with the Hawkwind original, and also incorporates an appearance on violin by another prime Hawkmember, Simon House (like the song itself, anything is better with a bit of Simon House on it in my book). There’s a bit of different focus and emphasis in the vocals, and the song is a little harder and less trippy, but the result is a fine rendition which does more than adequate justice to this top class piece of epic rock. The Hawkwind influence continues right on into the next track, as it happens, with the ambient, and appropriately ‘dreamy’ sound of the Davey-led Dreamzzz. It’s not dissimilar to Hawkwind tracks such as Chronoglide Skyway or City Of Lagoons, from the Astounding Sounds album, and closes the first vinyl side beautifully.

The second vinyl side opens in an odd fashion with the two-minute sound collage which is It Came From Zeta-77073, but whatever it is which arrived from there had better be partial to a bit of early Motorhead, as the following two tracks, the stop-start garage rocker Punky and the steamrolling We Can’t Get Any Closer conjure up the long lost spirit of those bygone On Parole sessions as clearly as if we had joined hands around a table and invoked the departed. Great stuff. Straight up after that one-two punch comes the groan-inducingly titled Big Pink Chopper. which may sound like a Viz Comic anthology, but is actually an experimental piece accompanied by the sound of a helicopter (you see what they did there). It’s certainly not what you’d expect following the previous two tracks, but it’s quite dramatic and tense in its own Revolution #9 sort of way, and ploughs a similar furrow to Zeta-77073, but more successfully. The final two tracks again contrast with each other in a startling manner, with Wayward Son being absolute prime early Fairies, and would have fitted like a glove onto the 1971 debut Never Never Land. Full of attitude and grit, it’s another highlight, and evocation of the Fairies spirit, but it gives way to the very different In The Either, which wraps things up in a soporific, relaxed manner, like smoke rings drifting up into a setting sun. Put it in the middle of a side and it wouldn’t work, but it ends things on just the right note.

For my part, I first encountered, and fell in love with, the Pink Fairies via an old mid-’70s mid-price Polydor compilation album, simply called Pink Fairies, which I picked up alongside another in the same series dedicated to Golden Earring. My 14 year old imagination was captured for life by songs like Do It, The Snake, City Kids and Street Urchin among a tracklisting which still stands up as excellent, and I would never have dreamt that I would have been experiencing that same fire and raw energy on an album under the Fairies name almost 50 years later, yet here we are. There’s even some classic ‘flying pig’ cover art, carrying on a long Fairies tradition through the timeless Pigs Of Uranus, and the covers of Kings Of Oblivion and the 1976 Between The Lines single on Stiff records. It ensures the Pink Fairies identity is stamped right through this album sonically and visually like a stick of Acid Rock, if we can pardon the pun. This is an album which works on two distinct levels: what it sounds like, and, almost more importantly, what it represents. Against all the odds, there is a Pink Fairies for the 21st century. Embrace this and treasure it. Do It.