feb 7 2017
The band was originally formed as The Apaches in 1965 by four musicians from Putney, South London. A personnel change a year later brought about the new name “The Drag Set,” which consisted of Mike Brancaccio (guitar, vocals), Timothy du Feu (bass guitar), Phil Fox (drums), and Terry Martin (a.k.a. Terry Schindler – guitar, vocals). They enjoyed a solid reputation and a modicum of success on the London blues circuit throughout 1966, backing such visiting luminaries as Wilson Pickett and John Lee Hooker.
In 1967, they laid down some tracks with a “very enthusiastic and encouraging” Joe Meek, but his suicide less than a week later quashed any potential release. In March, the CBS subsidiary Go released their debut single, the Mod-inflected “Day and Night” b/w “Get Out of My Way.” Despite favorable reviews in Record Mirror and NME, the single sank without a trace (although the band would rework the A-side in the future – more about that in a moment).
About this time, the band’s management were “muscled out” of the picture by well-known boxing promoter Benny Huntman, who installed his son Roger as manager. By now, “a lot of bluesy bands were starting to go psychedelic, and we were no exception,” exclaims bassist Tim du Feu, who “thought up the name The Open Mind to reflect our attitude towards life.”
Armed with a new moniker and wardrobe (“At the same time we got leather suits made, which were very unusual for the period. You could say we started the look that people like Iron Maiden took up a few years later”), The Open Mind became staples on London’s psychedelic scene, playing at legendary venues like Middle East, the UFO Club, the Electric Garden (supporting Pink Floyd on opening night!), and The Marquee (opening for The Electric Prunes), and enjoying the company of such burgeoning talents as Jimi Hendrix, the Soft Machine, Joe Cocker, Arthur Brown and Jon Anderson. The latter, then ensconced as lead vocalist with The Syn was actually offered the lead vocal spot in The Open Mind to allow lead guitarist Mike Brancaccio to concentrate on his six string, but, as du Feu tells us, “Mike’s refusal to be sidelined put paid to that….” Anderson, of course, later enjoyed the spotlight that seemed to eternally fail to shine on The Open Mind when The Syn evolved into Yes.
In the spring of 1969 set to work on what would be their only LP release which would be self-titled. Engineered by Johnny Franz, du Feu relates that it was actually engineer Fritz Fryer who was “far more interested in helping us find the right sound, as well as experimenting with double tracking, echo and so on.” Rhythm guitarist and lead singer Terry Martin (nee Schindler) agrees, adding “Franz was probably the wrong producer for us, but he did an OK job all things considered. Fritz was far more engaged, constantly making suggestions and trying different things out.”
The band’s most well-known single, “Magic Potion” (c/w “Cast A Spell”) was actually a post-LP effort. The track immediately became a favorite on John Peel’s legendary BBC 1 radio program. Its monotonous rhythm guitar anticipates the stoner rock of Hawkind while double bass drum fills and doom-laden fuzz guitar ragas combine bombastic rock power with Eastern-influenced psychedelia. It has been included on many recent psych & garage compilations and is frequently cited as one of the ten greatest UK-psych singles of all time.
The Open Mind disbanded in 1973; its members wanted to move into jazz-influenced music, but The Open Mind was too well-known as a psychedelic band. The band members (minus Phil Fox) went on to form Armada, which lasted about three years but did not release any recorded material.
Despite their paucity of recorded material, The Open Mind have proven to be influential in the psychedelic rock genre. The noted 1990s psych group Sun Dial paid tribute to the band with a cover of Magic Potion on their 1993 album Return Journey.