The English Pet Sounds

Billy Nicholls is one of British pop’s best kept secrets, and with his 1968 orch-psyche masterpiece, Would You Believe, he made a record that could well be England’s answer to Pet Sounds.

Wouldnicholls
Deprived of a full release by record company Immediate, due to serious financial problems, this rich and colourful album has been recently re-issued in a deluxe double CD package (Castle Music/Sequel Records) with demos, outtakes, extra tracks and extensive liner notes.

Here at Pop Junkie we can’t get enough of it. We especially like the acid-crazed, guitar freak-out of Girl From New York, the syrupy strings on the psychedelic, soul-tinged title track, Portobello Road’s wonderful whimsical charm, the Tijuana brass on the blissed-out Being Happy, and the cheeky Carnaby Street stomp of London Social Degree (could that be a coded drug reference, kids?) Stick this CD on your stereo and you’ll be immediately transported back to a time of hallucinogenic substances and Turkish cigarettes.
Would You Believe was produced by Stones svengali Andrew Loog Oldham, himself a fan of the Beachboys and Phil Spector. Oldham uses multilayered harmonies and Brian Wilson-esque chamber pop to create a symphonic soundtrack to London in the swinging’ Sixties. In 2005, Record Collector voted Would You Believe one of the 100 Greatest British Psychedelic Records of all time.
At the time of its release, the title track was described by one critic as “the most over-produced record of the Sixties”, which just goes to show how far out it is, man.
To create Nicholls’ baroque pop classic, Oldham also drafted in The Small Faces, John Paul Jones and legendary session guitarist, Big Jim Sullivan.
Over the next 25 years, Nicholls went on to write songs for Roger Daltrey, Leo Sayer, Justin Hayward and, er, Phil Collins. Would you believe it?

SEAN HANNAM

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