Sunday, July 03, 2022

Keith West: Excerpt from A Teenage Opera

In 1967 Keith West was one cool dude. His psychedelic band Tomorrow was a favourite of the critics and of John Peel in particular. Steve Howe, the future guitarist in Yes, was a fellow member.

Tomorrow has twice featured here. Once with their song White Bicycle, which was later a hit for Nazareth, and once under their previous name The In Crowd with Blow Up, which was intended to be the theme song of the Antonioni film but not in the event used in it.

West had just one big chart hit, reaching number 2 with this near novelty record which he wrote with the producer Mark Wirtz.

It was Wirtz's idea to call the track Excerpt from A Teenage Opera, and when it became a success people wanted to hear more from that opera. Trouble was, there was not yet any more of it to release.

A second single connected with A Teenage Opera was written and released, but it only just crept into the top 40.

Wirtz did not give up on the concept, continuing to write music for it. Eventually a CD of all the fragments was released in 1996 under the title A Teenage Opera. I have it somewhere and will play it again when I've sorted out my collection.

Listening to it today, the Excerpt is very much of 1967, particularly as it takes the form of a nostalgic character sketch. The lyrics needed more work though. "Marmalade labels"?

There is a myth that this record destroyed Keith West's credibility and career, but that ignores the fact that Tomorrow, though a critical success, never sold many records.

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