And the breeze would touch your hair
Kiss your face and make you care
About your world, your summer world
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Beechwood Park School
The song “Beechwood Park” was written by The Zombies’ bassist Chris White, and shares a memory from his childhood in Hertfordshire. “I remember driving round there and seeing steam rising off the road in the summer after rain.” (“Do you remember summer days, just after the summer rain, when all the air was damp and warm, in the green of country lanes?”
According to White, the song name is a reference to a private primary girls’ school called Beechwood Park, where his shop-owning father would make deliveries. However, there seem to be some factual problems with White’s memory. Beechwood Park School did not exist until 1964, when two local schools merged and took up residence in the crumbling Beechwood Park Mansion. Considering that the newly accepted first intake of Beechwood Park School girls would have been listening to The Zombies’ first big hit in 1964, “She’s Not There,” on the wireless (and, no doubt, screaming hysterically, as was their wont), it is doubtful that White’s recollection can be trusted.
“Beechwood Park” was recorded in 1967 and released the following year to an extremely underwhelming national and international response. This song appeared on the famously misspelled album Odessey and Oracle
. The spelling error was Terry Quirk’s fault, the bassist’s semi-literate but highly artistic roommate who designed and painted the gloriously psychedelic, tie-dye cover. Zombies keyboard player and songwriter Rod Argent admitted that “for years I used to say, ‘Oh, that was intentional. It was a play on the word ode.’ But I’m afraid it wasn’t.”
Sadly, this was The Zombies last album for 23 years. Discouraged by the disappointing reception of their music and ripped apart by internal disunity, these school friends from St. Albans disbanded shortly after to pursue other musical interests. Misspelled or no, Odessey and Oracle
was of high musical significance, later taking up the prestigious number of 97 on Mojo
’s “100 Greatest Albums Ever Made” list, and number 80 on “The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.” It seems that by letting feelings of inferiority get the better of them, The Zombies jumped the gun and shot themselves in the foot simultaneously.
Although “Beechwood Park” has a sound conventionally associated with psychedelic music from that era, White commented that none of the members ever used any drugs, hallucinogenic or otherwise. “I think the word psychedelic is confused with experimental,” White said. “In fact, the only person who smoked cigarettes was the drummer. I just think the ideas were pouring out of us anyway.” And apart from his childhood memory loss, signs of the premature onset of dementia, there is a definite mind-manifesting quality about the lyrics. “Oh roads in my mind, take me back in my mind, and I can't forget you.”
The music and lyrics of the song show that, although they may not have been on LSD, they were definitely under the influence of “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” or more specifically, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
. Both these albums were also recorded at Abbey Road Studios within the space of a year, giving them a similar production style. The hypnotic mood of the song shares some similarities with the subdued and picturesque quality of “Strawberry Fields,” which was intended to be included on Sgt. Pepper’s
, but was released earlier. It also shares the pristine anecdotal moment described in “Lucy,” without the overtly psychedelic connections.
Those familiar with the Small Faces song “Itchycoo Park” (also released in 1967) may cause one to associate, as I did, Beechwood Park as some type of hippy meeting-ground, but there is purity to White’s “Beechwood Park” that is wrought with the true inspiration of a real, personal, and emotion-loaded memory (even if the details are a bit foggy “in [his] mind.”) When combined with the watery tremolo Vox guitar effect, and a lazily meandering solo melody that plays like a distantly remembered folk song from a bygone era, you really feel yourself taken back to Beechwood Park as if aboard a slowly drifting gondola, where “the breeze would touch your hair, kiss your face and make you care about your world.”
~ Douglas MacCutcheon
(Thanks to Dappled for the Songplace suggestion.)
Beechwood Park Songfacts
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