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Second Hand - Reality (1968)

Second Hand - Reality (1968)

Album: Second Hand - Reality
Released: 1968 (2007)
Label: Sunbeam Records - SBRCD5031
Genre: Psychedelic Rock; Proto-Prog

Re-issued and re-mastered. The first album, from 1968, by this UK band is a much more psychedelic work than the rarer follow-up. A trippy mixture of hard guitar riffs, psyched-out mellotron excursions and weird lyrics. The classics "Fairy Tale"( In both full and single edit) and "The World Will End Yesterday" are here along with other mind benders. Complete with fully informative 8 page booklet and four bonus tracks - Freak Emporium

Nice to see this early English proto-progressive/psychedelic classic reissued. With the original 'second hand' cover, that made everyone paying hundreds of dollars for an original upset because, "You said it was mint condition, but the cover is all beat up..."
An acknowledged landmark of progressive acid rock, this 1968 classic combines top-notch songwriting with vicious guitar, swathes of mellotron and dense arrangements, to unique and unsettling effect. Late-period UK psychedelia with weird strings, flute melodies other synthie orchestral moments. Sunbeam's long-awaited official reissue includes comprehensive liner notes, rare photographs and two bonus tracks, making it a must-have for lovers of true British psychedelia. - Wayside Music

Recorded by precocious London teenagers in 1968, Reality is a prog-psych landmark combining classic songwriting with swathes of mellotron and vicious guitar to unique, unsettling effect. This long-awaited official reissue has been painstakingly remastered to offer the best possible sound, and comes complete with rare photographs, four bonus tracks and comprehensive liner notes from band leader Ken Elliott and producer Vic Keary, making it an essential purchase for all lovers of British psychedelia. - Sunbeam

This still holds its ground after 38 years. Its unusual mix of poetic psych with heavy episodes and progressive structures is inventive... 'The World Will End Yesterday' is an acid-drenched classic. - The Tapestry Of Delights

Have been pondering giving this one the big 5 stars, but it falls just below what I'd call a masterpiece, so 4.5 for this great album. Much more of a long lost psych classic than prog (it was only 1968 when made) A real mixture of influences can be heard. Vocals reminicent of late 60's Arthur Brown. Musicianship sounds akin at times to Hendrix or maybe even the Small Faces, though not quite as tight or well produced. Dont let that put you off though, despite the sometimes sloppy musicianship and muddy sound lies some highly interesting tracks, all of which have a certain amount of added humour and general weirdness to make this the gem it is. More keyboard dominated than guitar, the album goes from flower power style to doomy freakouts. Some tracks even benefit from an orchestral backing which works well. In my opinion, any fans of Late 60's Floyd, Arthur Brown, or generally anything underground from '67-'69, would LOVE this album. - George Prior

Is there an exact limit between Psychedelia and Prog Rock?
After listening “SECOND HAND”, the only answer possible is no and that’s the main reason why Proto Prog was created as a link between the two genres. Outside Prog Rock’s petite universe it would be easier to describe what these guys were doing and that’s why you will find them in almost every Psychedelia site or catalogue something that is not wrong but neither truth, “SECOND HAND” is somewhere in the grey area between both genres. The story of this British band starts around 1965 when the keyboardist Ken Elliot formed a band named THE NEXT COLLECTION but in 1968 they signed with Polydor Records and the label suggested them to change their name that could lead to a confusion (maybe mistaken with any compilation) so they chose MOVING FINGERS but this name was already taken, so as joke in reference to their used instruments they went with SECOND HAND.
The band was formed by the already-mentioned Ken Elliot playing keys and singing, Kieran O’Connor on drums, Bobby Gibbons on lead guitar, Nick South playing bass and they invited Chris Williams to add flute, cello, violin and saxophone in their debut album “Reality”. This first release is clearly more oriented towards late Psychedelia but very advanced for the genre, anybody can feel the characteristic early-Prog sound, hidden somewhere. Despite being an excellent album, it never reached a great popularity in the charts, and stayed an undeservedly obscure and underrated gem from the late 60’s.
They had to wait almost three years to release another album, but this was too much for Bobby Gibbons and Nick South who left the band, being replaced by George Hart (bass, violin and backing vocals), Moggy Mead on guitar and they recruited Ken’s brother Rob as a new lead vocalist and a frontman, seeing that Ken was too busy working with his new mellotron and organ. With this line-up they left Polydor Records and joined the new Mushroom Records label with whom they release their second album “Death May Be Your Santa Claus”. Now, this album is really weird as it is described not as Psych, Prog, Rock but all of them at the same time. Dark, obscure, excellent arrangements, with a clear influence of Arthur Brown, it’s definitely a tremendous advance in SECOND HAND’S career but at the same time was the beginning of the end.
After some members quit, the band changed their name to CHILLUM (who knows why?) and released an eponymous album, which is also included in the discography of SECOND HAND but they eventually split after its release. Ken Elliot and Kieran O’Connor joined later to form a new band named “SEVENTH WAVE” with less success.
If you are not a Psychedelic fan, avoid the band but if you like the genre and Proto Prog you’ll probably like them. - Ivan Melgar Morey,

I grew up in Streatham, South London, and was a 15 year-old choirboy-turned-mod when I met Kieran O'Connor in about 1965. We didn't really know each other, but were both into art class at school. When a mutual friend told me Kieran was forming a band, and suggested I should try to join, I jumped at the chance and quickly learnt the harmonica, then the piano. Kieran was friends with Bob Gibbons, who was an absolute guitar prodigy and already had his own local fanclub! Taking our inspiration from a postbox, we called ourselves the Next Collection. Bob's family was Irish and his dad had been in a showband, so he taked us through the basics of the blues, which gave us a kickstart.
After a few months it became apparent that our original rhythm guitarist, Grant Ramsay, wasn't progressing as fast as Kieran, Bob and I, so we replaced him with another local teenager, Arthur 'Bounce' Kitchener, on bass. Arthur was a very imaginative guy, and extremely energetic when it came to finding gigs. We left school, began to enter competitions, and played all over the place in 1966. Our main influences were the Creation, the Small Faces and the Who, and we began to build up our own material. We called what we were doing 'progressive pop', but when Procol Harum came along we had to start all over again, to avoid accusations of being derivative.
Sometime in 1967 we won a 'battle of the bands' at Streatham ice rink, and the prize was to make a demo at Maximum Sound Studios in the Old Kent Road. We asked our friend Mike Craig along to produce the session. He'd been in a band with Arthur before becoming an assistant at Olympic Studios in Barnes, where he'd worked on albums by Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones and the Small Faces. Vic Keary, who owned Maximum Sound, liked us and decided to take us on. He was a bohemian who'd grown up in India and worked as a roadie for Screaming Lord Sutch before becoming a technician and engineer. He was older than us - more of a beatnik than a hippie, you might say - but on our wavelength, and we worked well with him. Two of the tracks we recorded with Vic at that first demo session are included here as bonuses - A Fairy Tale and Steam Tugs. They're the first things we ever recorded, in fact. Early in 1968, after rehearsing in Davy Graham's house in Blenheim Crescent, we laid down the basic tracks for Reality.
Vic then secured us a £500 from Polydor, which didn't seem much at the time, and still doesn ! now, We decided to rename ourselves the Moving Finger, inspired by Omar Khayyam ('The Moving Finger writes; and having writ / Moves on...'), and went into the studio to complete the album at odd times of the night, in what was called 'dead time'. The central theme was the tension between fantasy and reality, which in my mind strongly informed concepts such as 'flower power' and even religion. A Fairy Tale was about the loss of innocence that accompanies growing up, and the notion of people living out their childhood fantasies as adults - a lot of which went on in the 60s, perhaps because so many of my generation had unhappy experiences as children. Rhubarb! was about all the bullshit we perceived in the world. Though on the one hand we were young and idealistic, on the other we were increasingly disenchanted by the hype and cynicism surrounding our generation. Often the most important news is that stuff you have to scour the media for most carefully, and 'rhubarb' was our word for all the idle rubbish that surrounds it. Steam Tugs was Cockney rhyming slang for 'bed bugs', and I used it as a metaphor for the drug addiction, prostitution and rats that lurked under the veneer of the decadent, glamorous hippie dream. The song was about going out for a good time, but realising how different things are once you've sobered up and come down. Mainliner was about what I feared would happen to a lot of the people we met and knew - and sure enough, various of them died from drugs, drink, exposure... you name it. Good Old '59 (We Are Slowly Gettin Older) concerned my awareness that as a band we were growing up and changing all the while, even becoming disillusioned. I realised that 'psychedelia' was just the latest fad, and it gave me a sense of futility to think that, ultimately, nothing we were doing was going to change anything. Holding hands and discovering the child within was all very well, but we were just young people in an ephemeral situation, hoping to enjoy it while it lasted. The reference to 1959 in the title was an acknowledgement of the original rock and roll fans, who'd been dismayed by the musical and cultural changes swamping them by 1967. The Bath Song was a joke, really.
It tied up the loose album concept in the persona of 'Denis James', and at the same time it amused me to think of a disc jockey playing a song about the romantic failure and suicide of someone whose initials were 'DJ'.
Vic was very supportive and happy to experiment in the studio, but he was also overworked and exhausted. A bigger problem was that Bob's dad had died just before the sessions, and it absolutely floored him. He was just 16, and from a very poor family. The pressure on him to earn money to support them was immense, and the ensuing tension basically wrecked his life. Nonetheless, we went ahead, with the help of Manfred Mann's equipment - they were in Maximum Sound at the same time, and later bought the place from Vic, so we helped ourselves to their gear after hours. Their mellotron was especially useful. They must have known, but never complained! Halfway through the sessions came another setback: Arthur left. Kieran had always been a bit of a control freak, and he basically ordered him out. Through a Melody Maker ad we found a brilliant 16 year-old called Nick South to take his place, but no sooner had we finished recording than he was poached by Alexis Korner, leaving us briefly unable to play gigs.
Then, in September - just as our album was being manufactured - Polydor told us that another band was about to put out a single on Mercury under the name 'Moving Finger'. Even though they'd already pressed some copies of Reality under that name, we (very reluctantly) had to change it. Because we were always broke, I had a part-time job in a market selling old clothes, so the name 'Second Hand' occurred to me. The name-change badly delayed the release of the LP, which didn't appear till right at the end of 1968. By then we were really losing morale, and matters weren't helped by Polydor's complete lack of | promotional support - I don't think there . was even a single press ad. Having final- j ly found another bassist, a great player named George Hart, we played gigs at various underground clubs - the Electric Cinema, Middle Earth, the Roundhouse, you name it - but the album sank like a stone. It wasn't in the shops, it didn't get reviewed, it wasn't played on the radio... it was like it never existed. I don't recall ever seeing it around, and I fell into the trap of assuming it wasn't very good.
I think perhaps most bands of our sort had already been signed, so when our chance came along it was very tough to get anywhere. After making a single backing another of Vic's proteges, the organist from Felius Andromeda, Denis Couldry (included here as bonuses), we decided to go abroad to play some shows early in 1969. Progressive bands always seemed to go down better on the continent than at home, so we embarked on a tour of Holland and France. The gigs were great, but Bob was going to pieces. We were too young and preoccupied to recognise the signs, but in hindsight, as we were getting wilder in image and ideas he was getting straighter, in an attempt to conform to his mother's wishes. She was determined for him to leave the band, failing to understanding that he had the soul of a musician. When we got home he announced that he was quitting. It wasn't exactly a shock, but it was very upsetting and demoralising - especially as he was a genuinely brilliant player. Like a lot of young people who have breakdowns, he'd had a crisis of conscience, being pulled in two different directions. I tried to keep up with him over the following years, but he was in a bad way and committed suicide in 1977. It took me a long time to get over his death, and I miss him to this day.
Though Bob was irreplaceable, we did make a couple more albums at Vic's new Chalk Farm Studios, for his Mushroom label - Death May Be Your Santa Clam as Second Hand, and another under the name Chillum, both in 1971. Neither sold at all, and by the end of the year we'd given up. I went on to play with Kieran in an electronic rock band called Seventh Wave, and released a couple more albums before focusing on session work. Sadly, Kieran drank himself to death in the late 80s, but I'm still in touch with Vic and Arthur Kitchener. It was a real pleasure listening to Reality again in the studio for this reissue, as I found it a lot better than I'd remembered. I can see now that when we made the album we were too young and ambitious to understand that talent is by no means always rewarded. Coming to terms with that period has been hard, but I accept it now, and even look back on it and our music with pride. - Ken Elliott, February 2007

''"This album features a large sound recorded on multi-channel equipment. There are cascading strings, cascading drums, Steve Miller-type guitar, buzz-bomber guitar, slow organ, echoing voices running round the room, flute playing over crackling and thundering noises - everything bar sitar. A lot of thought and planning has gone into this album, which was recorded over two years, and Second Hand are a group with a lot of potential" -
I first came across the Next Collection, as they were called then, towards the end of 1967, after they'd won a competition to make a demo in my studio. I was always on the lookout for talented and unusual bands, for two reasons. Firstly, the only effective way to run a studio is to work 24 hours a day, and secondly, I have always been a great believer in the idea that massive hits are just as likely to come from being original as they are from being derivative. As a result I was much more interested in making records that might become hits.
The first thing that impressed me about them was how young they were - fifteen or sixteen at the most. I was amazed by their music, too. They were imaginative and mature songwriters, especially Ken (who was unquestionably their leader, and an unusually philosophical teenager), and already playing the songs that would end up on Reality. On the strength of their demo I offered to give them more studio time and produce them. Though they had no proper management, I thought they had commercial prospects. They didn't gig much, though, and their equipment was pretty primitive, so we had to be as imaginative as possible. On one memorable occasion, I went to buy a Wurlitzer organ with Ken. When we went to the pub to celebrate, we were refused a drink because of our long hair!
Once we'd recorded quite a bit of the album, I approached various labels -Decca, Apple and so on - and was offered £500 by Polydor, which was barely anything. I recorded, produced and engineered the whole of Reality, but was a bit fazed at the time, to put it mildly, and had a nervous breakdown halfway through the sessions. That may have contributed to its somewhat despondent atmosphere. I think of Reality as a very loose concept album about Ken's life and thinking at the time. They weren't a particularly druggy band, though the songs seem to reflect that at times. They were more influenced by problems with Catholicism, and how it drove people to drink and drugs. I'm especially proud of Mainliner, which was only recorded on a two-track, with Ken playing the church organ at St. Gabriel's in Cricklewood. Goodness know what the vicar must have thought!
The artwork was meant to have a pale, metallic finish applied with some unusual technique, but it didn't work brilliantly. As a result the sleeves were very prone to wear, which has given rise to a complete myth that they were designed with built-in damage as a visual pun on 'Second Hand'. When the album finally came out there was no publicity, no reviews and no gigs. Try as I might, I couldn't get airplay, and it vanished overnight - even John Peel didn't pick up on it, though Tony Blackburn played The Bath Song once!
Though no one appreciated what we were trying to do at the time, I think it stands up well today and deserves to be heard. - VicKeary, February 2007

Ken Elliott - lead vocals, keyboards
Bob Gibbons - lead guitar
Arthur Kitchener - bass guitar (tracks 2, 6, 8, 10)
Nick South - bass guitar (all other tracks)
Kieran O'Connor - drums, percussion
Chris Williams - string direction, cello, flute, saxophone

1 A Fairy Tale 03:19
2 Rhubarb! 03:47
3 Denis James The Clown 02:21
4 Steam Tugs 03:14
5 Good Old '59 (We Are Slowly Gettin' Older) 02:19
6 The World Will End Yesterday 03:50
7 Denis James (Ode To D.J.) 03:15
8 Mainliner 06:17
9 Reality 08:31
10 The Bath Song 03:11
11 A Fairy Tale (Alt. Mix) 02:13
12 Steam Tugs (Alt. Mix) 05:32
13 James In The Basement (With Dennis Couldry) 02:48
14 I Am Nearly There (With Dennis Couldry) 03:17