It’s tempting to wonder what Frank Zappa would’ve made of the inclusion of Peaches En Regalia on a compilation with the subtitle ‘3 CDs of Huge Hits from the Hippie Trail’. Zappa, of course, despised the hippie movement, savaging the idea across an entire album (We’re Only In It For The Money) and making a big point of declaring himself a ‘freak’ instead.
Whatever his allegiance, it’s curious to note how easily the subculture of the 60s lent itself to cosy nostalgia for future generations, with its regulation imagery of kaftans, beads and peace signs. Or, in the case of this collection’s sleeve, a picture of Ken Kesey’s old Harvester bus, newly psychedelicised by Photoshop. Currently priced at just £8 on the web’s largest and most tax-efficient megastore, Magic Bus features a massive 57 tracks across its three discs, and it will either thrill or dismay you, depending on your appetite for cynicism. On one level, it’s a thoroughly predictable round-up of the tried and tested. Barry McGuire’s Eve Of Destruction is here, along with Scott McKenzie’s San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair) and the likes of The Lovin’ Spoonful, Donovan and Matthews Southern Comfort. And just when you’re waiting for The Mamas & The Papas to come breezing around the corner, dispensing mellow vibes and wafty harmonies, here they are with California Dreamin’. At the same time though, it’s very hard to argue against so much of the music on offer here, however many times it’s been trotted out before. The Hollies’ King Midas In Reverse is still a masterpiece of vaulting psych-pop, as is Love’s Alone Again Or and The Beach Boys’ still-jaw-dropping Good Vibrations. Numerous Prog regulars are here too: Tull (Living In The Past, of course), the Moodies (Nights In White Satin, natch) and Arthur Brown (Fire, what else…). Despite the fact that some of these tracks wouldn’t be caught dead on a hippie trail (Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Sweet Home Alabama, anyone?), the quality is such that you can almost forgive the marketing men for this shameless trawl through the vaults.