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The Smoke: My Friend Jack Eats Sugar Lumps

Four lads from York who shook the world – almost.

They may have been wet behind the ears when they decamped from the North to the Big Black Smoke in the mid-60s, but it didn’t take long for John ‘Zeke’ Lund, Mick Rowley, Malcolm Luker and Geoff Gill to acclimatise.

Their first managers were the Kray Twins, who put the frighteners on from the off. Sir Joe Lockwood intervened and The Smoke made their garage-psych entry with My Friend Jack, a blatant send-up of LSD culture that was far too graphic for radio consumption, though a censored version hovered around the charts.

So it went: The Smoke were sophisticated parodists who sat outside the trends and mocked them on High In A Room and If The Weather’s Sunny while still sounding authentic.

They rather lost their point with detours into faux country (Guy Fawkes) and the not-quite-as-good-as-The Move pastiche Ride Ride Ride (Dick Turpin). When the fancy took them they knocked off piss-takes of T. Rex and glam in general on the stompy Sugar Man and the ridiculous Shagalagalu.

A personnel change saw the arrival of Wilson Malone, fresh from Fickle Pickle and the immense Boback, Jons, Malone combo. Malone encouraged sonic progression; 1974’s Gimme Good Loving resembles a Supergrass prototype.

This three-CD collection gathers it all up along with oddities and some live-in-‘67 mod freakbeat./o:p

Max Bell worked for the NME during the golden 70s era before running up and down London’s Fleet Street for The Times and all the other hot-metal dailies. A long stint at the Standard and mags like The Face and GQ kept him honest. Later, Record Collector and Classic Rock called.