Get this crazy baby off my head!


Tony McPhee

Tony McPhee - Two Sides of Tony (T.S.) McPhee - 1973 - WWA

A rare album from one of the stalwarts of British Blues, Tony McPhee. McPhee, leader of the great Groundhogs is a blues-rock cult legend, and this album is an ambitious, gripping, and often introspective album. The music incorporates psychedelic rock, delta blues, and experimental synth sounds with beatnik sounding spoken words, but manages to avoid being self-indulgent. Tony 's unrestrainred and frantic John Lee Hooker type guitar sound pervades the album, and makes this one of Tony McPhee's most engaging and original works. Tony McPhee and the Groundhogs have often been overlooked as great blues rock artists. They created some superb albums such as "Thank Christ For The Bomb", and "Hogwash". Many blues fans never related to the Groundhog's powerful, grinding, and unorthodox blues style. If you're looking for good old fashioned 12 bar blues, you won't find it here, but there is no denying the Groundhog's or Tony McPhee's potent musical qualities. Listen to The Groundhogs "Hoggin' the Stage" @ GHOGS/HTS and "Extremely Live" album @ GHOGS/EXTLVE Tony McPhee's great "Foolish Pride" album is @ TMCP/FP


A1 Three Times Seven
A2 All My Money, Alimony
A3 Morning's Eyes
A4 Dog Me, Bitch
A5 Take It Out
B1 The Hunt [ Side B is wholly electronic composition, and is split into 4 tracks, but only one is listed. It features 2 x Arp 2600 Synthesizers ]

All songs composed by Tony McPhee

Acoustic Guitar - Tony McPhee (tracks: A1 - A5)
Drum Programming, Electric Piano, Synthesizer - Tony McPhee (tracks: B1)


Aptly titled, Two Sides of Tony McPhee not only explores McPhee's conceptions about love, relationships, religion, and aging, but the album is divided up musically, showcasing his talent as both a guitarist and a keyboard player. After displaying his keenness for composing a concept album with Split, a piece that he recorded with his band the Groundhogs based on the complexities of schizophrenia, McPhee decided to record an album that was more exclusive and personal. The result was Two Sides of Tony McPhee, with McPhee playing an acoustic and electric guitar for the first four tracks, then switching to three different synthesizers and an electric piano for side two, a lengthy spoken poem entitled "The Hunt." What results is an extremely entertaining and engrossing conceptual production that is equal to anything he's done with the Groundhogs. McPhee's writing is penetrating and resonant, unleashing his thoughts on the transcendence of life ("Three Times Seven"), the bitterness of failing relationships ("All My Money Alimony"), the pain of loss ("Morning Eyes"), and pure anger ("Don't Dog Me Bitch"), with each song accompanied by the guitar and nothing else. The second half of the album is comprised of "The Hunt," which is just as esoteric and sagacious as it is long and opens up with the ARP 2600 synthesizer mimicking an eerie, echoed howl of a dog in the distance. McPhee bellows and rants in a penetrating manner about the unethical nature of war and humankind's inhumanity throughout the ages, switching ever so smoothly to his abstract philosophies about the corruption of power and the mystery of fate, life, and death. Not only is his poetry forceful, but the overlapping of the electric piano and drum synthesizer shroud the piece with an ornate progressive ambience, adding a deeper sense of intrigue to his words and creating a rather bizarre electronic climate. The entire album is riveting, and Two Sides of Tony McPhee hinted at McPhee's fondness for progressive rock, an area in which he eventually led the Groundhogs into with their next few albums. Although this album has been eclipsed by what McPhee has accomplished with his band, its revelations about McPhee as a musician and a philosopher are quite gripping, and this is a must-hear for all Groundhog fans. © Mike DeGagne, allmusic.com


Tony McPhee was part of the first generation of young British blues disciples influenced by Cyril Davies and his band Blues Incorporated. A member of the same generation of young blues buffs as Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Brian Jones, he never ascended to the heights achieved by the future Rolling Stones, but has recorded a small, highly significant body of blues-rock. Originally a skiffle enthusiast, he received his first guitar as a Christmas present and formed his first band soon after, while still in school. He gravitated toward the blues during the early '60s, and soon discovered Cyril Davies. After seeing a few performances by Davies with Blues Incorporated at the Marquee Club in London during 1962, he became hopelessly hooked on blues and RB, and decided to try and make it as a blues singer/guitarist. McPhee's first group was the Dollarbills, a pop band featuring John Cruickshank on vocals, Pete Cruickshank on bass, and Dave Boorman on drums. He quickly steered toward blues, most notably the sound of John Lee Hooker, and with the addition of Bob Hall on piano, the group changed its name to the Groundhogs, in recognition of Hooker's "Ground Hog Blues." the Groundhogs were a very solid blues/RB outfit, playing soulful American RB and raw American blues at venues such as Newcastle's ~Club A-Go-Go, and they subsequently became the backing band to Champion Jack Dupree at a series of gigs at the -100 Club. Finally, in July of 1964, the Groundhogs reached their zenith when they were chosen to back John Lee Hooker himself during his current British tour. Hooker later selected the group to back him on his next tour, and also sent an acetate recording of the group to executives at his label, Vee-Jay Records. That acetate, the hard-rocking, piano-and-harmonica-driven band original "Shake It" backed with a very powerful and persuasive cover of Little Son Jackson's "Rock Me Baby," was released on the Interphon label, a Vee-Jay subsidiary. It failed to reach the charts, but it did mark the group and McPhee's first American release. Meanwhile, back in England, the group recorded a studio album with Hooker, somewhat misleadingly entitled Live at the A-Go-Go Club, New York. The group's fortunes seemed to improve in 1965 when producer Mike Vernon recorded three tracks, "Big Train Blues," "Can't Sit Down," and "Blue Guitar," but none saw any major release or success, and only "Blue Guitar" ever received much U.S. exposure, appearing on the 1970s Sire Records collection Anthology of British Blues. By the end of 1965, the British blues boom had expended itself, and soul was becoming the new sound of choice. McPhee had already shown a predilection for soul music in his writing, especially "Hallelujah," which the group cut with its newly added brass section in 1965. the Groundhogs transformed themselves into a soul band, and were persuaded to record a song called "I'll Never Fall in Love Again." As a first soul outing it was a promising beginning, despite a beat that was too reminiscent of Otis Redding's "Can't Turn You Loose" -- the dissonant guitar in the break was a refreshing change that would never have made it out the door at Stax Records. The song failed to get much airplay or achieve a chart position, and its B-side, the upbeat, haunting McPhee original "Over You Baby" disappeared as well. the Groundhogs split up soon after, and McPhee did session work for a time, as well as recording some blues sides on his own, under the auspices of producer Jimmy Page, that later turned up on various British blues anthologies released by Andrew Loog Oldham's Immediate Records label, backed up by Jo-Ann Kelly and fellow Groundhog Bob Hall. Unlike a lot of other blues enthusiasts from the early '60s, McPhee remained true to his roots, and was good enough to rate a berth as a sessionman on Champion Jack Dupree's 1966 Decca album From New Orleans to Chicago. In August of 1966, McPhee and bassist Pete Cruickshank teamed up with drummer Mike Meekham to form Herbal Mixture, a Yardbirds-like outfit mixing psychedelic and blues sounds at a very high amperage. They were one of the more soulful and muscular psychedelic outfits, reflecting their RB (as opposed to pop) roots, and even their spaciest material has a bluesy feel. "A Love That's Died" relies on fuzz-tone guitar, and would have made good competition for anything by the Yardbirds had anyone been given a chance to hear it. Their cover of "Over You Baby" is, if anything, superior to the Groundhogs' original, and deserved a better hearing than it got. Herbal Mixture had some success playing the ~Marquee and ~Middle Earth clubs in London, and were good enough to get a gig opening for the newly-formed Jeff Beck Group at the ~London Roundhouse. Their records, however, didn't sell, and at the end of 1967, following Meekham's departure, the band ceased to exist. McPhee continued playing blues in his spare time, however, and passed through the John Dummer Blues Band during early 1968. His music had left an impression on at least one record company executive -- in 1968, Andrew Lauder of United Artists' British operation offered McPhee the chance to record a complete album if he could put together a band. He formed a new Groundhogs, carrying over bassist Pete Cruickshank, and the album Scratching the Surface was duly recorded and released that year. Ironically, this incarnation of the Groundhogs, put together for the one album session, ended up lasting far beyond its origins -- five additional albums, including his best-known long-player, Me and the Devil, were recorded through 1972, and the group has remained a viable unit, continuing to perform in England and the European continent (where there's always work for British blues bands) with McPhee as its leader. © Bruce Eder, All Music Guid


A.O.O.F.C said...

LINKp/w aoofc

zappahead said...

I was there at the roundhouse for the concert but....for the life of me I cant remeber Jeff Beck playing....must have been another one of those hazy crazy sunday afternoon/evening "Implosions"...they used to do back then.....anyways, a fine album from Mr, Tough Shit himself....thanks for the share.

A.O.O.F.C said...

Hi, zappahead. Maybe it wasn't the Jeff Beck Group. Info like this isn't always entirely accurate. It's woth checking out. It must be chronicled somewhere. Hey, you weren't smoking some of that nice medicinal herbal mixture that I have never heard about were you?!!!! ttu soon ZH!

Slidewell said...

After buying the Split album based entirely on the cover(the American version, with the 3 members in hand-tinted photos superimposed on desert scenes), I became a Groundhogs fanatic. So, when I came across an import version of this record, I snapped it up. At that time, being 16 yrs old, T.S.' take on raw blues didn't intrigue my hard rock sensibilities, but THE HUNT!!! Shit! After a few bong hits, I'd spring The Hunt on my friends, and, like WOW! One dude ran out of the room holding his head and saying "The music is pulling my brain!" LOL! I still have my vinyl, but no longer have a turntable, so I'll look forward to hearing this one again! (Tho' sadly, without the conscious-expanding herbal mixture)

A.O.O.F.C said...

Hi,Slidewell. Glad you appreciate Tony McPhee/Groundhogs. He's not to everybody's taste, but I think his brand of blues block is pure raw explosive. You don't need the wacky backy to enjoy this album, but hey, you only live once! TTU soon

Slidewell said...

you know, the blues side sounds a whole lot better to me now . . . I never noticed how much TS's voice sounds like John Lee Hooker!

I tried to play the Hunt, but my wife and my dog didn't like it, so it'll have to wait 'til they're out of the house! Thanks again!

A.O.O.F.C said...

Hi,Slidewell. Ain't nuthin' but a hound dog cryin' all the time. Now the good lady wife could pose a slightly more dangerous threat!!