C. J. Walsh
Pink Fairies - What A Bunch of Sweeties
What A Bunch of Sweeties
Design by Edward Barker
Photograph by Pennie Smith
Years before serving as soundman for the Sex Pistols, Dave “Boss” Goodman jobbed as a roadie with anarchist-rockers the Pink Fairies. It's his badge-laden hat appearing on the front of the What A Bunch of Sweeties sleeve, with a veritable head shop's worth of gear nestled thereon. One imagines you could get off just by wearing the damn thing. The cover photograph came from Pennie Smith, whose bravery years later in the face of rampaging bassist Paul Simenon gave us the cover of the Clash’s London Calling, and also their Combat Rock sleeve. In WABOS, we see some of the threads of the early 70s Ladbroke Grove scene cohere with the nascent punk rock milieu of 1977.
The lineup for WABOS consisted of Russell Hunter-drums, Sandy Sanderson-bass and Paul Rudolph, who was joined on guitar by Trevor Burton ex-Move, a man who understood the importance of confrontation in performance. Original members Mick Farren and John “Twink” Alder had already made their exit.
Goodman’s hat bears a who's who of other (mostly American) bands who shared the Fairies’ vibratory affinity; so a badge each for Big Brother and the Holding Company, Captain Beefheart, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Doors, Grateful Dead and Canned Heat. Even Elvis Presley can be seen peeking out at the very bottom, near chess pieces, forest animals and a gnome. Elsewhere a toy knight holds a (freak, surely) flag aloft when confronted with a Rizla rolling papers wrapper. There are flowers here and there, but they are wilting and most of the space on the hat is taken up by pipes, various narcotics and related paraphernalia, all resting uneasily near a sheriff’s badge.
The Pink Fairies’ counterculture credibility was second to none and politics is covered by badges for the Soledad Brothers, (the California prison inmates, not the band) and The Georgia Straight, a Canadian underground newspaper, whose anarchic launch occurred in 1967 and is still on the fringe all these years later. The band’s omnipresent sense of humor is also evident in a joker card; while MC5 manager John Sinclair’s White Panther seems to be leaping on a mouse figurine; another simply says “RUN”. Other badges proclaim “I AM AN ENEMY OF THE STATE”, and the Fairies’ well-known admonition to “Do It”, adding “You can always get out on bail.” While Gilbert Shelton of Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers fame co-wrote the lyrics to “The Pigs of Uranus”, he also drew the cartoon on the inner sleeve; a theme continuing with several images of pigs on Goodman’s hat. It was common for underground bands of the period to have a long freak out song on their album and in keeping with the Fairies’ habit of excess in all things, WABOS has three. “Right On, Fight On”, “I Went Up, I Went Down” and particularly unhinged is their amphetamine take on the Ventures “Walk Don't Run”- nine minutes of heaviness buzzed through a Leslie speaker.
Having been kicked to the curb by glam, by 1972, London's underground scene had begun to go septic, but think of this lavishly detailed cover as a dope-hazed postcard of a time when it was still dangerous to be in a band.