One thing you learn, sleuthing for obscure psychedelic music from the sixties, is that for every "White Rabbit" there is a "Night Sounds Loud." And a "Crystal Forms." And God knows how many other brilliant songs grown out of the same protoplasm, but forgotten to history. There is just no shortage of mind-exploding songs that have long ago slipped away into The Nothing – standout songs from bands less consistent, or just less lucky than Jefferson Airplane.
Even knowing that so much great overlooked music is out there, buried deep in record stacks and on YouTube, I was unprepared for "Introspection" by The End. Ironically, seeing that it was produced by Bill Wyman and engineered by Glyn Johns actually lowered my expectations. Let me explain. For an album with such a pedigree – produced by a Rolling Stone in 1968 – to have completely fallen between the cracks, it couldn't actually be any good, or surely I'd have heard about it before now. Even the album cover is great – is that Charlie Watts' eye?? It was just too good to be true, so it had to be lousy.
But it's not lousy. In fact, it's incredibly not lousy. Not just one or two of the songs, either – the whole album is a full-bodied technicolor blowout. Exquisite production, hooks galore and whiplash transitions... you might want to take a minute to dig out your good headphones:
The album was set to come out on Decca (the Rolling Stones' label) in 1968, and by all rights conquer the world. But, bafflingly, it was shelved for about a year. Which, in the music scene in the late sixties, might as well have been twenty. When Decca did finally release it, they put nothing behind it, and it sunk like a stone.
It will get another chance this November, when Demon Records reissues the album in a deluxe four-disc edition, designed by the legendary Phil Smee.
I contacted singer Colin Giffin to learn more about the backstory – and to see if he could explain why such a great album had been so shabbily mistreated. We communicated over email and telephone. The following has been edited for length and clarity.
Why don't you start by taking us back to the earliest days of The End.
Dave Brown and I formed The End in 1965. Before that, we'd been together with Mike Berry & the Innocents, and we'd done a couple of tours with the Stones in '64. We had got on well with both Bill and Charlie so when The End went out on tour with the Stones in 1965 it felt familiar. Mick was very friendly and made a point of checking that the other acts were settled in as it were. I was never sure if they really noticed us, but then I ran into Mick somewhere in London, twenty years later, and when I mentioned The End he didn't miss a beat. He said, "Oh, yeah, that was Bill's band!" (laughs) So clearly, it registered with him.
We got to know Bill fairly well during the course of those two tours. He had always said to us, "Well, if you want to do anything later on, just give me a shout, let me know." When we eventually got in touch it was, I guess, when he was looking to extend his interests into production and management and it seemed to be a good fit. The End were doing some reasonably good quality work, but we weren't playing what we really wanted to play. We were very influenced at the time by the stuff that was coming out of Stax and Atlantic. Artists like Otis Redding and Don Covay and Major Lance. We wanted a manager who would understand and who wasn’t one of the traditional suits.
The End, L-R: Dave Brown, Hugh Attwooll, Nicky Graham, Terry Taylor, Colin Giffin
Where does "Introspection" fit into the band's timeline?
"Introspection" is toward the end of the timeline. We'd been playing, what do you call it... Blue-eyed soul? We had twin sax and organ, which were the key instrumental elements. If you listen to "Shades of Orange," for example, that's got the twin saxes on it. I suppose that was kind of a transitional piece, still retaining what we had been doing for some time, in terms of the soul influence, but starting to head toward what became the more psychedelic stuff.
"Introspection" certainly sounds more psychedelic than Stax...
Well exactly, but if you listen to "Shades," the elements from the Stax/Atlantic stuff we used to do are in there. The twin saxes are fairly prominent.
It's just been turned on its ear.
Yeah! Looking at it now, it sounds like a transitional piece. At the time, we weren't thinking that. We're just going to record the song! You know, but when you look at it in retrospect, you can see how it was kind of a bridge between what we were doing before and what came when we got deeply into "Introspection."
Let's talk a bit about the recording sessions for "Introspection" – how that came about and what it was like.
As far as I recall, it wasn't a question of saying, "Right, let's record an album." We were doing a lot of recording anyway, and we would go off to Spain – we were quite popular in Spain – and we would write a bunch of songs and come back and record them. And we gradually built up a body of recorded material which became the "Introspection" sessions. We recorded those over a period of time, some at Decca Records' studio in northwest London, in West Hampstead. Incidentally, the house sound engineer was Gus Dudgeon, who went on to produce David Bowie's "Space Oddity" and all the big Elton John records. I used to bump into Gus occasionally in later years, and he would always remember The End sessions. So obviously it struck a chord with him. So he was the house engineer at Decca West Hampstead, and then we were recording at Olympic with Glyn Johns engineering.
The sessions we did at Olympic, where the Stones and a lot of other big bands at the time used to record, were very much the standard night time sessions, shall we say. You'd start early evening and just go through until you fell over. Lights out, and all that kind of stuff.
I've read that you were recording during the Rolling Stones' down time in their actual studio.
Well, I don't know exactly how it was all structured. Bill used to organize all of that, and obviously it would be organized around what his Stones commitments were. Because of our relationship with Bill we were in the circle, but it was very much on the periphery. We didn't have any direct contact with the Stones as a band, or even as individuals very much. I certainly can't recall us going in as the Stones were coming out or anything like that.
Charlie Watts played on the album, right?
Charlie played tablas on "Shades of Orange" and Nicky Hopkins, who was a regular sideman for the Stones, played harpsichord on "Loving, Sacred Loving." Previously, when Dave and I were on the earlier tours, we'd also got on quite well with Charlie, so there was kind of a loose ongoing relationship. It was nice to have him on the session!
What kind of producer was Bill Wyman? Was he involved in the arrangements or the songwriting at all?
Bill and [engineer] Glyn Johns were both musos and performers so there was a common language and approach. I think we would rehearse the stuff pretty thoroughly before going into the studio and then perform it for Bill and Glyn to listen and make comments and suggestions. As producer, Bill was final arbiter but I don’t recall any great divide between him and us. And I don’t recall any real arguments or tensions. I’m sure there wasn’t always total agreement – that would’ve been unnatural – but we never came to blows.
The other extreme, in terms of producers – I saw a TV documentary about this a little while ago – was Blondie's "Parallel Lines" sessions. Particularly how Mike Chapman put "Heart of Glass" together note by note almost. We never worked that way. We couldn't have worked that way. That wasn't our style, because the core stuff would be done live. We weren't doing click tracks and jumps in and out, and all of that. We would play the basic stuff as a live piece, and then add overdubs and elaborate on things as and when necessary.
I do remember very clearly one very personal event. We were deep into a night session, everyone was in the control room, possibly a supper break, when I suddenly collapsed on the floor from what felt like a stab in the back with a red-hot poker. I remember looking up at a circle of worried faces – nice to know they cared – and then being rushed off to Epsom hospital. Somehow some sort of rumour about the Stones went round the hospital which caused a bit of a stir amongst the nurses and I remember seeing small groups of them sneaking a look at me from doorways or behind screens. Took my mind off the pain for a moment but they soon realized I wasn’t Brian Jones or Mick and things calmed down. Turned out to be some kind of kidney problem. Not recommended.
How big a role did Glyn Johns play in the overall sound?
Glyn’s track record speaks for itself. Even at that relatively early stage of his career he was on it. So we got the benefit.
The segments featuring George Kenset are fascinating to me. At first I kind of dismissed them as filler, but the more I listen to him, the more I think of him as a key performer on the album.
George was Bill's gardener. We’d be hanging out or rehearsing at Bill’s house and George would wander in during a break and just drop these little gems of nonsense into the conversation. And it would make us laugh. And at some point in the proceedings, somebody said, "We should record this stuff! Because if it makes us laugh, it'll make other people laugh." It's the kind of thing I might have said, but I have no idea if I did.
Was that unusual at that time – to put something like that on an album?
It was a bit unusual. I don't know that we were the first people to do something like that. We thought it would add a bit of colour to the album, and just make people sit up and take notice – "Hello, what's that all about?!"
It's a great little time capsule.
It is. He was an archetypal English character. A guy from the country who would have these weird little stories that came out of nowhere.
Do you remember completing the album? Was there a moment when you delivered the final album to the label?
Not really. I don't recall the album being done as a piece. I may be completely wrong in my memory, and other people might have a completely different recollection of it. We were aware that we were putting stuff together for an album, but it wasn't like, for example, if somebody's got a concept album, they'll go in and start on day one and go through to day twenty or whatever it's going to be. It wasn't done like that, as I recall. So I don't remember a day when we said, "Right, the album is now finished."
But there was a point at which you were expecting it to come out, and it wasn't coming out.
Yeah, that's a whole different thing. There wasn't a last day of shooting, as it were, but what happened with it not coming out when it was completed? I've filed that under "don't want to know what happened." Because it was a big disappointment, and it happened, and there's nothing we could do about it. I don't know exactly what the situation was. I suspect that might be something Bill would have talked about somewhere, and he's probably the only one who knows exactly what was going on, and why things didn't happen. I'm guessing it was tied into some of the Stones' business affairs at the time. But why it came out nearly a year late? Who knows. I certainly don't.
Hopefully the new Demon box set which covers pretty much everything we recorded will redress the balance a little. The interest in "Introspection" seems to have grown in the last few years. Be nice to get some wider recognition.
Colin Giffin currently resides in Guildford, UK. He continues to record and perform as a solo artist, and as a member of the band Reed Maxfield, who are currently recording their third album, the first involving Colin.