Thursday, 21 August 2014

The Dave Miller Set - "Mr Guy Fawkes"


In the history of Australian Music there is always going to be someone who is all but forgotten about amid the rush to celebrate anniversaries and define legacies. It's hard to remember every musician who ever released a single, but the history of popular music created in this country is so deep and rich that inevitably someone is going to miss out.

The Dave Miller Set released a number of singles for Festival sub-label Spin between 1967 and 1970, pushing the barrow locally for Psychedelic music. They largely performed elongated covers of overseas hits, like "Get Together" by the Youngbloods and Chicago's "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?". However, their biggest success was taking an obscure album track by an odd British act and turning it into one of the defining psychedelic singles this country has ever seen.

The band took a track by a now-forgotten band called Eire Apparent (who apparently were championed initially by Jimi Hendrix). The song "Mr Guy Fawkes" was a strange experience in the hands of its original creators, the vocalist having a rather odd timbre to his voice. In the hands of Dave Miller and pop producer du jour Pat Aulton, it is a masterpiece.

Taking a slight left turn away from the typical sunshine-y psych pop, this song takes a melancholic, almost sinister edge to it, making for some compelling listening. As such, it is highly regarded as a classic freak-beat single in high demand for collectors (with the inseparable high prices that go along with it).

It sounds as though house producer Aulton threw every resource they had available at the time into the production of this track, almost as if to compete with Russell Morris' hit "The Real Thing" which was also released in 1969. Bomb blast sound effects, strings, phasing and flanging, you name it - its all on here, crammed into 4 and a half short minutes. Considering the very limited, 4-track mono recording equipment Festival Studios had to content with, the richness of the production is truly a marvel of audio engineering.

It is a strong arrangement, with plenty of instruments hogging the limelight, but the runaway star of the record is the bass player, who is running all over the fretboard for the entire record, creating counter-melody after counter-melody. The use of the strings is chilling, giving an extra dimension for added goosebump effect.

I discovered this song in 1991 in the resources of the music department at my high school. It completely fried my little teenage mind and it still sounds fresh today.

Take a listen below.

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