Leviathan (The Mike Stuart Span) — “Through the Looking Glass”: Brace for the Obscure (60s rock)! — December 4, 2022


658) Leviathan (The Mike Stuart Span) — “Through the Looking Glass”

Glorious late-60’s UK heavy psych from the Mike Stuart Span (see #225, 268) for John Peel, done even better a year later by the same band with a name change ordered by its new label. And then the label president wouldn’t even release the song (or album). Talk about being sunk by a big white whale. Well, call me Ishmael!

Steve Elliott opines that “a holdover from their Mike Stuart Span days, ‘Through the Looking Glass’ was re-recorded . . . to excellent effect using stinging, driving guitar with the full-throttle sonic force of the band.” (https://m.facebook.com/mssleviathan/posts/review-24leviathan-leviathan-the-legendary-lost-elektra-album-2016by-steve-ellio/1348349631897901/?locale=zh_TW&_rdr)

David Wells (as always) plumbs the songs’ depths:

Largely . . . the intended album comprised ramped-up re-workings of late -period Span material like “Through the Looking Glass”, a song that the band had premiered more than a year earlier during their John Peel session. Stuart Hobday remembers the inspiration for the song’s opening lines extremely well. “We were driving down to the West Country after a gig in Southampton the night before. It was about nine o’clock in the morning, very misty and autumnal. We were driving past this area of forest, and this phrase came to me . . . ‘Shades of autumn in the morning mist’. I wrote it down somewhere and later built it into a song.”

(liner notes to Leviathan : The Legendary Lost Album)

As to Leviathan, Richie Unterberger says:

Although inaugurated in December 1968, Leviathan evolved out of UK, Brighton-based pop unit, the Mike Stuart Span. . . . Signed to Elektra Records, the renamed quartet’s first two singles were issued as a package in April 1969. Dubbed ‘The Four Faces Of Leviathan’, each song deliberately showed contrasting musical styles, but this ambitious idea failed to generate the anticipated enthusiasm.


And Ian Canty:

Luckily a deal with US label Elektra, home of the Doors and Love amongst others, came out of the blue on the proviso that the group’s name be changed to the more 1969 sounding Leviathan. Though not that enamoured with the new moniker (and the decision on this came right from the top, from none other than Jac Holzman, Elektra president), the band generally welcomed this unexpected upswing in fortune. [The album] is a beaut. Though looked upon as a change from the “Psychedelic” Mike Stuart Span to a more “Progressive” sound, it’s not a startling alteration of style. Leviathan do occasionally fall back on the kind of “Blues” jamming that tended to rule in Blighty at the time – but for the most part inventive, catchy Heavy Psych/late period Freakbeat is the order of the day.


But then, and I think I’m going to blubber, per Steve Elliott:

[T]heir lone album was held back from release at the last minute by Elektra president Jac Holzman, who supposedly wasn’t happy with some of the songs and wanted them to go back into the studio to record more. At that critical point, with their finances in dire straits and their morale destroyed by this action after years of trying to make it, Leviathan broke up. . . .


Here is Leviathan:

Here is the Mike Stuart Span’s version on the BBC:

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