Neo Maya/Episode Six — “I Won’t Hurt You”: Brace for the Obscure (60s rock)! — May 1, 2023


811) Neo Maya/Episode Six — “I Won’t Hurt You”

If great songs deserve convoluted tales, this pop psych gem, spooky and unforgettable, has got one. The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band (see #197, 488) recorded two great versions of the song, and then Neo Maya came along and recorded the definitive version, adding a killer female backing chorus and unexpected bursts of horn. Neo? No, I’m not talking The Matrix! The song was laid down by the British group Episode Six (Neo Maya being a pseudonym for member Graham Carter-Dimmock).

Let’s start with WCPAEB and their first version. Stewart Mason writes that:

[It’s] a small gem of lightly psychedelicized folk-rock. Bracketed by double-tracked and highly reverbed 12-string guitars that keep threatening to break into the Searchers’ version of “Needles and Pins,” Shaun Harris’ delicate voice delivers the heartfelt lyrics in an unpretentious, charming way. It’s all rather slight, but it’s really kind of pretty and sweet and nice, and there’s a place for that in pop music.

Happycyclings tells us that the song comes from the band’s LP “Vol. 1, originally issued in 1966 on the tiny ‘FIFO’ label, which was a Hollywood concern specializing mainly in R&B. Probably only 100 or so were ever made.” (

Then came the second version, on Part One, the band’s debut LP for Reprise. Richie Unterberger says of the album and the song that:

The[ir] first album for Reprise was the best of the group’s career, in large part because it was the most song-oriented. It was still plenty weird, almost to the point of stylistic schizophrenia, but when you got down to it, much of the record was comprised of fairly catchy songs in the neighborhood of two and three minutes. . . . There was an undercurrent of unsettling weirdness and even paranoia, though, in some cuts with otherwise pleasing tunes, like . . . “I Won’t Hurt You,” with its heartbeat bass and disconnected vocals . . . .

[It is a] pretty psych-pop tune[] with a bizarre edge . . . .,

As to the album, Round and Round Records says that “[t]his fantastic 196[7] set remains one of the very best albums from the psychedelic era”. (

OK, the acclaim was not unanimous. Stewart Mason opines that:

Unfortunately, the [WCPAEB] chose to remake “I Won’t Hurt You” for their 1967 Reprise debut, Volume One, and basically ruined the song by adding discordant percussion and a bass pattern that’s supposed to sound like a heartbeat, plus [Shaun] Harris now sings the lyrics in a halting, disconnected monotone. It’s a pretentious, self-consciously “weird” adaptation of a song that didn’t need to be messed with in the first place.

And Altrockchick calls the album “breathtakingly uneven . . . with a few lovely splashes of post-Rubber Soul melodic pop unable to cover the smell of some of the stinkiest crap you’ll ever smell on record. . . . Anyone trying to spin Part One into a psychedelic masterpiece is either stoned or stone deaf.” ( Well, call me stoned and stone deaf!

Who were WCPAEB? Tim Forster tells the tale:

After seeing the Yardbirds play at a hip Hollywood party, teenage hopefuls Shaun and Danny Harris and Michael Lloyd found themselves locked into a Faustian pact with the host, eccentric millionaire Bob Markley. The deal? He would promote their band and buy expensive equipment if they let him bang a tambourine on stage. According to Lloyd, music was the last thing on Markley’s mind. “He had seen the incredible amount of girls that thought rock and roll was really cool and that was his only motivation.” . . . Bob . . . acquir[ed] an impressive state-of-the-art light show, book[ed] the band into trendy local venues . . . and financ[ed] the release of . . . their debut LP . . . . Better still, he used his society contacts to swing them a prestigious three album deal with . . . Reprise. But things swiftly took a turn fo the worse. . . . Markley had already saddled the band with their ludicrously cumbersome moniker. Soon it emerged that he had registered the name instead of the group’s . . . members — enabling him to replace anyone he chose– as well as channeling all of the publishing and other potential royalties through his own company . . . . [I]t wasn’t long before Bob began demanding more creative input. As Shaun ruefully recalls: “The part that was frustrating was that he had no musical aptitude of any kind and so what he was trying to do to be different and innovative . . . was an embarassment.”

liner notes to the CD reissue of Part One

And Mark Deming adds:

In 1962, the [Harris] family relocated to Los Angeles and the Harris Brothers joined a local rock band called the Snowmen . . . . Danny and Shaun attended the same high school as Michael Lloyd . . . in another, more successful local group called the Rogues; Shaun was recruited to join the Rogues . . . and soon Michael, Shaun and Danny began working together on music of their own. They . . . cut a handful of fine singles under the name the Laughing Wind [and became] acquainted with noted L.A. producer and scenester Kim Fowley [who] introduced the band to Bob Markley, the Oklahoma-born son of a wealthy oil tycoon who had . . . ambitions of making a name for himself in music, having released an unsuccessful single for Reprise Records. . . . Markley was impressed by the attention the band received from the audience of music business insiders and teenage girls, and decided he wanted to form a band rather than work as a solo act. [He] liked the Laughing Wind well enough that he made them an offer . . . .

Ah, so it’s all Fowley’s (see #89, 449) fault!

Let’s skip to Episode Six. Richie Unterberger tells us that:

Most famous for including bassist Roger Glover and singer Ian Gillan before they joined Deep Purple, Episode Six managed to release no less than nine British singles between 1966 and 1969 without coming close to a hit record or establishing a solid identity. Also prominently featuring organist/singer Sheila Carter-Dimmock, the group’s 1966-1967 singles were rather light pop/rock harmony numbers, with an occasional ballad and a bit of a soul influence. Light years removed from Deep Purple, Episode Six was nothing if not eclectic in their choice of material, trying their hands at numbers by the Hollies, the Beatles, the Tokens, and Charles Aznavour, as well as a British hot-rod tune (written by Glover). While their repertoire lacked focus, their singles were actually pleasant and their fine cover of Tim Rose’s “Morning Dew” would have been a deserving hit. In 1967, they began to fuse pop and psychedelia with reasonably impressive results, especially the single “I Can See Through You” (written by Glover), one of the finest British psychedelic obscurities. Their final two singles showed the band going in a much more progressive direction and anticipating some of the most indulgent art rock of the ’70s with “Mozart Versus the Rest,” which assaulted one of the composer’s most famous riffs with manic electric guitars. Episode Six folded in 1969, after Gillan and Glover had joined Deep Purple.

And Vernon Joynson adds:

“[Drummer] Harvey Shields left the band to form a duo with a belly dancer he’d met during their spell in Beirut. He was replaced by John Kerrison. The first recording by the new line-up was actually a single, I Won’t Hurt You, credited to Neo Maya . . . . Since no one had heard of Neo Maya very few people bought it”. . . .In April 1969 the band entered the studeo to begin recording tracks for a long-delayed album . . . but it wasn’t to be. Ian Gillan was lured away to replace Deep Purple’s departing vocalist Rod Evans and Roger Glover joined . . . a few days later.

The Tapestry of Delights Revisited

Here is WCPAEB version #1:

Here is version #2:

Here are the Pop Art Toasters, with a quite good version from ’94:

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