The original 1968 LP issue of McGough and McGear reprinted a handwritten list of “People on a Train.” These famous people included Jimi Hendrix, Spencer Davis, Gary Leeds of the Walker Brothers, Dave Mason, John Mayall, Graham Nash, Paul Samwell-Smith, Jane Asher and a certain Paul McCartney. The train, in fact, was the studio where Roger McGough and Mike McGear – real name, Mike McCartney – recorded their only album as a duo. The unconventional yet accessible art-rock classic, produced in part by the future Sir Paul and featuring all of those above-named talents, has recently been reissued as a 2-CD mono/stereo edition from Esoteric Recordings.
McGough and McGear rose to fame as two-thirds of The Scaffold. The Liverpool trio began as a comedy-poetry act featuring Post Office employee and actor John Gorman, English teacher and poet McGough, and apprentice hairdresser and musician McGear. Exposure on the late-night television program Gazette catapulted The Scaffold to the professional realm; it wasn’t long before the trio began adding songs into their stage act. No less an eminence than George Martin oversaw their signing to Parlophone Records, and their third single – “Thank U Very Much,” written as an onstage finale for the group to express gratitude to its audience – became a surprise No. 4 hit on the U.K. singles chart.
Though The Scaffold was still an ongoing concern, McGough and McGear began work on a joint LP as a side project. In Mark Powell’s comprehensive liner notes to Esoteric’s reissue, McGear recalls, “I talked with our kid [older brother Paul] and said, ‘Look, we’ve got these poems, I’ve got songs, and wouldn’t it be interesting to try them out?'” Paul arranged for McGough and McGear to begin work at publisher Dick James’ studio; sessions would later expand to De Lane Lea Studios and perhaps even Abbey Road, depending on the recollection. The sessions started in a frenzy of Beatlemania when, on the first day of recording, Paul confessed to the media that he had used LSD. (Powell has the whole entertaining story!) Soon, though, things quieted down, and the McCartneys and McGough got to work on an eccentric, whimsical and very quirky album blending poetry, music and spoken-word. McGear recalled Paul producing some sessions; Paul Samwell-Smith taking charge of others; and everybody generally pitching in. Hence, production on McGough and McGear was credited to “All of Us.”
Jimi Hendrix is heard on two tracks recorded at De Lane Lea Studios, most notably the uptempo opening “So Much.” Hendrix brought his instantly-recognizable, scorching guitar tone to add a heavy note to the radio-friendly pop song which also features Paul on harmonies. Hendrix bookends the album using his wah-wah guitar on the psychedelic closing track, “Ex-Art Student.” The 6+-minute freeform opus also has Mike, Paul and Graham Nash on vocals, and Dave Mason on sitar. “Do You Remember,” with Paul on piano and harmony, was later re-recorded by The Scaffold; the elder McCartney also plays on “Mr. Tickle,” though his participation on the latter track was a happy accident. It seems he was improvising on the instrument in the room next door when the microphones captured him anyway! Paul also produced the poem “Summer with Monika,” the title of which would lend itself to a book of McGough’s poetry in 1968.
Esoteric’s reissue brings together the mono and stereo mixes of the LP, one on each disc. (The stereo mix was last reissued on CD in the U.S. by Real Gone Music in 2012.) Paschal Byrne has remastered from the original master tapes housed in the Parlophone vaults, and this slipcased edition boasts a 20-page booklet with copious illustrations, liner notes and memorabilia images. The offbeat delights of McGough and McGear can be ordered at the links below!
CD 1 (Stereo) / CD 2 (Mono)
- So Much
- Little Bit of Heaven
- Basement Flat
- From: “Frinck, A Life in the Day of” and “Summer with Monika” – Prologue – Introducing (a) Moanin’ (b) Anji
- From “Frinck, A Life in the Day of” and “Summer with Monika” – Epilogue
- Come Close and Sleep Now
- Yellow Book
- House in My Head
- Living Room
- Do You Remember
- Please Don’t Run Too Fast
- Ex-Art Student