LOST TREASURES – Loving Awareness

Posted on 17 June 2014



“Loving Awareness”

Loving Awareness album cover

By Peter Marston

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Concept albums nearly always have the same origins. A band struggles to establish themselves with successful singles and albums, and then at some point tackle something more ambitious, usually behind the vision of the principle songwriter in the band. Oh, there are a few exceptions, where a band decides to break through via a concept piece (The Mothers of Invention’s Freak Out! is one good example). The Loving Awareness album is even more exceptional: in this case, the concept preceded the formation of the band itself.


In the early ’70s, Ronan O’Rahilly, the founder of British pirate radio station Radio Caroline began to use the radio station to promote an pseudo-Eastern philosophy called Loving Awareness. This philosophy promoted social and personal change through the awareness and encouragement of loving feelings. Disc jockeys, especially Tony Allan, interspersed their programs with Loving Awareness adages and jingles.

Loving Awareness band

In 1974, O’Rahilly decided to put together a band—a sort of “new Beatles”—to carry the message of “All You Need is Love” to the new decade. The core of the band consisted of Mick Gallagher on keyboards and John Turnbull on guitar (both of whom had played in Skip Bifferty and then later in Arc), along with Norman Watt-Roy on bass. After a few months of developing material and rehearsing, the trio was joined by drummer Charley Charles. An album was financed by O’Rahilly and recorded in California in 1976 with the explicit mission of expressing the ideals of Loving Awareness.


Promotion for the resulting album (simply called Loving Awareness) explicitly drew the connection of the band to the heritage of the Beatles. At a press conference announcing the release of the album, an open letter to the Beatles was read, which asked for permission to use the Beatles’ name to promote the Loving Awareness cause as well as the album. A placard behind the band at the press conference stated plainly, “Meet the Beatles.” This connection was also an important theme on the inside gatefold for the album. On a chalkboard next to the band, a one word question appears—“Beatles?”—along with the phrases “A is for apple” and “B is for Beatles.” On a cupboard behind the band, four 8×10 portraits of the members of the Loving Awareness band are placed directly below the photos of the individual Beatles that were included with the White Album.

 Loving Awareness gatefold

All this Beatlizing no doubt led to incredulity and cynicism and likely turned many critics and listeners off to the record—if they ever heard it. The album was released on a one-off label created by O’Rahilly (More Love), pressed in Holland and received rather indifferent distribution by Phonogram. The album did end up selling around 10,000 copies and, of course, received heavy airplay on Radio Caroline.


Now, the album itself contains a lot of magnificent music—melodic, catchy  and soulful—but it does not sound very much like the Beatles. Conceptually, though, it does pick up right where “the End” from Abbey Road leaves off. The opening track, “Let Us Get to Know You,” is a brief invitational piece based upon a series of guitar riffs, one of which is very similar to Rufus’ “Tell Me Something Good.” It breaks immediately into “Free Your Soul” which is cut from the same cloth, but adds echo-laden answering vocals and some impressive organ work. One of the standout cuts is “Love You to Know” which previously appeared on the Skip Bifferty album under the title “Guru.” It fades in on a tom and snare hook in somewhat the same vein as David Essex’s “Rock On” and features gently psychedelic backing vocals. “No Other High” opens with dueling lead guitars, a motif that is cleverly reprised in the breakdown with dueling bass guitars, all supporting a song that is almost reminiscent of mid ’70s soul groups like the Stylistics and Dramatics. “The Vibes Inside” is a ballad with psychedelic lead guitar fills and a hypnotic bass and drum arrangement. “Voice of Love” is a gentle acoustic guitar song that for the first time explicitly introduces the idea of Loving Awareness: “Love is living/Love is giving/Love is singing in song/So, keep on towing the line for the loving kind of awareness.” Another standout track is “Like What I Like” which is similar in tone to some of Peter Sarstedt’s early work. “In a Movie” is the most pure pop song on the album and would be right at home on John Howard’s Kid in a Big World. The closing track, “Existence” is an ambitious suite of songs that reprises several of the lyrical and musical themes from throughout the album. It is neither as developed nor as varied as the medley on Abbey Road, but it is has an impressive arc and is beautifully realized.


The album was released with two different sleeves, one all black with “Loving Awareness” in simple white text and the other all white with black text. Only one single was released from the album (“Love You to Know”). It suffered the same indifferent distribution as the album and failed to chart. After the Loving Awareness album, the band went on to much greater success as the Blockheads, the backing band for Ian Drury.


The Loving Awareness album has been reissued twice on CD by Offshore Echoes, a merchandising arm of Radio Caroline, the second time on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the record, featuring several bonus tracks including some of the original Radio Caroline Loving Awareness jingles. Both CD versions of the album were mastered from vinyl, but the transfer is excellent. Offshores Echoes also occasionally sells copies of the original vinyl album. It’s an outstanding record and one that deserves far more acclaim than your typical cult album. Plus, Loving Awareness works!


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Pop Pioneer and “Lost Treasures” writer, Peter Marston is the leader of long-running power pop band, Shplang, whose most recent album, “My Big Three Wheeler” has been described as “the Beatles meet Zappa in pop-psych Sumo match.”  You check it out at this link:  http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/shplang



Blog Post:  http://www.hippy.com/modules.php?name=Reviews&rop=showcontent&id=606

Blog Post:  http://themagicrobot.wordpress.com/2008/06/28/loving-awareness-band/




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