Index: Psychedelia

More Cake, Please…



{RERUN: Originally Published Apr 1, 2009}
 In the crowded field of choice rock obscurities the Cake rank among the choicest. Musically they were a strange hybrid of Phil Spector-esque girl group, baroque folk, and weirdly medieval psychedelia – the Ronettes crossed with a a distaff Left Banke. Their considerable aura was further intensified by a wicked fashion sense and enough personal melodrama to out-beyond Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.

Besides their sonic adventurousness, the Cake is worth celebrating for the splendid design of their two sole records. The logo is a typographic masterpiece. Set in ornate hand crafted blocks and nearly square, each letter reads as both a decorative tile and as type. The motifs are a motley mix of psychedelia, Eastern European embroidery, and circus signage – a fine metaphor for the band’s composite sound. The sophomore record ups the ante with a splendid Carnaby street pop cartoon worthy of anything by Guy Peellaert or Hapshash and the Coloured Coat.

After years of scarcity, Rev-ola finally reissued both records on a single CD with generously thorough liner notes that do justice to their sound and their story.

For your pleasure, some selections.

Baby That’s Me:

Rainbow Wood:

Annabelle Clark:



I’m a bird. Ha Ha!

Generally, I’m not keen on Peter Max. I get it, he’s nailed some iconic images, and I firmly acknowledge the pioneering aesthetic. But, it’s just so wacka-wacka – the Billy Joel of psychedelic art is surely cruel – he’s far less hateful – but that’s what comes to mind (especially compared to the sexy sci fi kaleidoscope cool of someone like Michael English or Hapshash and the Coloured Coat.)

But these paper airplanes are splendid. They were published in a small format paperback in 1971, exhorting readers to “get your message across with a paper airplane in cosmic colors” It could be the geometric restraints on the the design, or just the small throwaway nature of the subject, but these panels are note-perfect. Even the chirpy lines like “I’m A Bird,” “I love the Earth don’t feed me to the streets,” are, like the artwork, genuinely endearing rather than cloying. Wright-on Wright Brothers, indeed!