Skip Bifferty: Brace for the Obscure (60s rock)! — December 18, 2021

288) Skip Bifferty — “On Love”

OK, after the precious “Pentecost Hotel”, let’s switch to some heavier British psych. “On Love”, Skip Bifferty’s* jaundiced dissertation on the subject, was their first A-side and the band’s crowning achievement, with Vernon Joynson calling out its “very catchy, insistent riff” and the liner notes to the Skip Bifferty comp saying — entirely accurately — that it had “a blistering killer fuzz guitar riff underpinning [the] superb soulful Spencer Davis like vocals.” The single, though, failed to chart. The liner notes explain that the leading pirate radio stations, Radio Caroline and Radio London, “loved it, and gave it heavy rotation, but due to the BBC’s playlist policy at the time, [Radio One] failed to pick [it] up . . . .” Bruce Eder in All Music Guide explains that after the single’s failure, the band “redefined themselves more in the direction of flower power with their next few records . . . . A dispute with [manager Don] Arden caused the band to walk out en masse, and they next appeared together under the pseudonym Heavy Jelly, cutting an eight-minute single (“I Keep Singing That Same Old Song”) that charted in a few European countries.”

Bifferty was “discovered playing an early gig at the Marquee by . . . Arden, who soon secured them a contract with RCA. Based in London, they regularly appeared on John Peel’s ‘Top Gear’ . . . .” (Vernon Joynson). Arden had told them that “in 9 months you’ll be as big as the Stones” (Skip Bifferty liner notes). Yet, Joynson points out that “[d]espite having more commercial appeal than many underground acts, they failed to break through . . . .” Bruce Eder sums up the essence of the band:

At its core, this was a ballsy, hard-playing band that recognized the need for a solid rock & roll base to this kind of [pop psych] music. . . . . In all, it’s cheerful psychedelia with a hard edge and some great virtuoso playing, pleasingly heavy guitar, soaring choruses, and eerie psych-pop lyrics evoking variant states of mind, somewhat akin to Pink Floyd’s early singles laced with the kind of heavy edge that the Creation brought to the genre.

“Self described illusion here, the game that you see is called loving. Hear my point before the game, at least let you know what’s coming. . . .”

* There was no one named Skip Bifferty in Skip Bifferty. Vernon Joynson explains that, apparently, the band named itself after a “cartoon character of their own invention.”

Oh, and the Kingsmen — yes, of “Louie, Louie” immortality — gave the song a shot:

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