Love is weird! Gnostalogia is All! Have yourself a Countercultural Ball!

So, now that WordPress has (finally) sent me my annual report, I have hunkered down in the final hours of 2014 to crunch some numbers – such as they are – and pull together a few of the highlights from the past several months. At least to provide a rationalisation of my lack of blogging.

Thankfully the kids were distracting themselves on the Wii with a one of their gaming Christmas presents. But something strangely familiar kept tugging at the edge of my attention (OK: admittedly this doesn’t take much) – I looked over and this is what I saw:

During the last few days I had seen the kids play Just Dance 2015 out of the corner of my eye and I finally realised what it was I had heard that had been bugging me – this was a cover of one of the first music videos I ever saw:

Within the first few bars I was suddenly transported: a 6 year old boy in a darkened room at my local municipal library, sitting knee to scrapped knee with other kids on a Saturday morning, feasting our young mind’s eyes on this strange old 8mm film with its psychedelic soundtrack.

But why the library? I had a hunch I saw it straight after a reading of a children’s book; I had a few childhood memories along those lines. You could’ve guessed that I emerged from the rabbit hole some time later with the answer:

The Butterfly Ball and the Grasshopper’s Feast is a concept album and subsequent live rock opera appearing in 1974 and 1975 respectively, based on the children’s poem of a similar title. The album cover design is from Alan Aldridge‘s design for a 1973 book based on the poem.

Go ahead and have an internet party on me, but if you’re pressed for time because you’re going to a real one, allow me to summarise – an adaptation of an 1803 Georgian children’s poem made famous in the Victorian weirdness of Lewis Caroll’s England

And on the smooth Grass, by the side of a Wood, Beneath a broad Oak that for Ages had stood, Saw the Children of Earth, and the Tenants of Air, For an Evening's Amusement together repair.

And on the smooth Grass, by the side of a Wood,
Beneath a broad Oak that for Ages had stood,
Saw the Children of Earth, and the Tenants of Air,
For an Evening’s Amusement together repair.

was illustrated in 1973 by arguably the 20th century’s greatest album and science fiction cover designer

Alan Aldridge

'Dreamy in the afternoon Froggy went a-wooing' Alan Aldridge

‘Dreamy in the afternoon
Froggy went a-wooing’
Alan Aldridge

'Swallowtail, the real Me Behind the painted mask you see (Truthfully I must reply) Is someone most extremely shy.' Alan Aldridge

‘Swallowtail, the real Me
Behind the painted mask you see
(Truthfully I must reply)
Is someone most extremely shy.’
Alan Aldridge

inspired a concept album which was to be a vehicle for an ex-singer of Deep Purple

A concept album and subsequent live rock opera appearing in 1974 and 1975 respectively, by Roger Glover

which was to be animated in its entirety by Halas & Batchelor (who got a lot of the government PSA work after WWII) but which never ended up being made, except for the short for the single, which is – yes, you guessed it – ‘Love is All’.

It never made much of an impression in the UK market for which it was intended, but its subsequent international history ensured that it continued to haunt us, verily, unto to the present generation:

The single “Love Is All” … accompanying animated short movie …  gained unexpected success in France, where the newly launched second TV channel Antenne 2 used it as a fill-in every time it experienced “technical difficulties”. These random airings, together with the psychedelic tone of the clip and the lack of subtitles, made it very popular amongst young viewers.

Many Americans in the late 70’s, 80’s and 90’s recall seeing the animated song clip “Love Is All” being regularly played in children’s TV programs like the The Great Space Coaster and Nickelodeon morning shows.

It was in this way that it wormed its war into the inner ears of Australia:

It became something of a favourite well into the 1980s on pioneering Australian music show Countdown (1974–1987), and was also regularly used as an interstitial program on the ABC. With its rousing lyrics and parade of animals marching through the forest on their way to the mythical Butterfly Ball, the song attained Top 10 status ‘Down Under’ four years after it was recorded.

Got that so far?

And as I knew I might not get around to writing anything else tonight, this is my party-ing gift to you, dear reader, to help you navigate the path between the aeons: a pure piece of forgotten throaty hauntology distilled from the cumulative tailings of the mid-20th century counterculture that then fell between the cracks in our collective television screens and is seemingly still being beamed from the Scarfolk Broadcasting Corporation.

Also, an ear-worm shared is an ear freer of worms.

'And although we're wearing different faces, nobody wants to hide!' Until now ...

‘And although we’re wearing different faces, nobody wants to hide!’ Until now …

You’re welcome! Anyone else have any memories about this film? Ring the bell and let the people know by leaving your comments below.

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