THE GREATEST SONGS OF THE 1960s THAT NO ONE HAS EVER HEARD
552) Kaleidoscope — “Flight from Ashiya”
Kaleidoscope was one of the great unsung (until years later) U.K. pop psych bands (see #154, 336) and “Flight from Ashiya” was its first A-side. As Vernon Joynson relates, it was “an amalgam of pop and psychedelia, it told the story of the pilot of a crashing aeroplane. It picked up quite a lot of airplay but failed to chart.” (The Tapestry of Delights Revisited) Mike Stax calls it “a fabulous example of pop-psych storytelling . . . . [though] it is difficult to discern exactly what is happening . . . [involving] an ill-fated airplane trip and a stoned pilot. A deliberate sense of confusion reigns throughout. Is the flight doomed? Or is it a case of mass paranoia brought on by the smoke?” (liner notes to the Nuggets II comp) David Wells describes the song as “[p]redominently a lyrical rehash of The Bee Gees’ recent hit New York Mining Disaster (protaganist delivers in neurotic warble his thoughts on being cut off from the rest of civilization following a tragic accident). Flight from Ashiya was nonetheless a superb release that deserved to make more of a mark than it actually did.” (Record Collector: 100 Greatest Psychedelic Records: Hight Times and Strange Tales from Rock’s Most Mind-Blowing Era)
Dave Thompson writes that:
Between 1967 AND 1972, Kaleidoscope were one of the most adventurous, and intriguing, bands on the U.K. psych scene as they morphed into prog, folk and a wealth of other structures. . . . Signed initially to Fontana Records before shifting to the label’s prog imprint Vertigo, Kaleidoscope/Fairfield Parlour released some of the most glorious records of the era, three albums and a clutch of glorious 45s [including] “Flight From Ashiya,” [and] “A Dream for Julie[.]”https://www.goldminemag.com/music-history/kaleidoscope-reignite-the-heady-days-of-u-k-psych-rock
Regarding the Bee Gees’ influence, Kaleidoscope singer and lyricist Peter Daltry recalls that:
[T]he Beatles’ Revolver changed everything. “Tomorrow Never Knows” was the catalyst. I was never entirely happy as the lyricist writing endless soppy love songs. The Beatles showed us all the way, followed closely at the time by the Bee Gees who wrote amazingly weird songs like “Lemons Never Forget” and the flawless “New York Mining Disaster 1941”. It didn’t kick start me into writing songs like “The Murder of Lewis Tollani” and “Dive into Yesterday”, as I used to assume; I have since found out that “Horizontal” came out after we were writing such songs – but it did show we were heading in the same direction. But don’t forget that psychedelia was very short-lived. It lasted not much more that eighteen months. It was that truly magical period between late ’66 to early ’68.https://bigtakeover.com/interviews/AConversationwithPeterDaltreyofKaleidoscopeUK
Daltry laments regarding Fontana, the band’s record label, that:
Fontana said they were going to give [“Flight”] a massive boost. It was the first single they’d ever put out in a colour sleeve, and I think its failure was our biggest disappointment. We were really expecting very big things . . . . It was a great track, and I still love it now. (Record Collector: 100 Greatest Psychedelic Records) [Regarding the band’s future single “Jenny Artichoke”: W]e all looked at one another and said, ‘Bloody hell, that’s a hit record, and the radio … because it was so limited in those days … they never stopped playing it. You could literally walk down the street and hear window cleaners whistling the thing. But the distribution arm of Fontana was absolute rubbish. They never got on board, they never got in tune with anybody else. It was never in the shops, and it didn’t get the sales.” (https://www.goldminemag.com/music-history/kaleidoscope-reignite-the-heady-days-of-u-k-psych-rock)
Might the song have been inspired by the ’64 Yul Brynner film Flight from Ashiya? —
Featuring an all-star cast and on-location shooting in Japan, where the story is set, three US Air Force rescue pilots must overcome their personal problems and differences to embark upon a dangerous mission to save raft-bound Japanese survivors from a murderous storm-tossed sea. As they head for their location, the film flashes back to chronicle the pasts of each pilot to make clear their mixed feelings about their upcoming assignment.https://letterboxd.com/film/flight-from-ashiya/
Well, that’s not what they told the BBC (see the video below), but???
“Bursts of white cotton passing the window. Everyone talking, oh, so very low. And Captain Simpson seems to be in a daze. One minute high, the next minute low. Nobody knows where we are. Nobody knows where we are. Cigarettes burning faster and faster.
Everyone talking about the ever after. And Captain Simpson seems to be in a daze. One minute high, the next minute low. Nobody knows where we are. Nobody knows where we are. Nobody will ever know why. Nobody will ever know why. Visions of childhood rush past my eyes. In seat number 30 somebody cries. And Captain Simpson seems to be in a daze. One minute high, the next minute low. Nobody knows where we are. Nobody knows where we are . . . .”
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Here is a “live” version from French TV:
Here it is actually live from the BBC:
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