Year of Release: 1967
No points for originality here, then. "Beeside" backed with "Vacuum Cleaner" (rather than "Vacuum Cleaner" backed with "Beeside" as would be logical) is one of the most collectible British Psychedelic discs of all time, frequently selling for four figure sums. Verily, I will bet that even David Dickinson is aware of the value of this one, such is its startling pricetag. And before you ask for my address so you can come around and burgle my flat, yes, my copy is one of the re-issues rather than the original, which I'd be lucky to get ten pounds for.
When the value of a record raises to such preposterous heights, questions must be asked about how it got way up there. In the case of this single, the fact that this is a marvellous piece of work helps - even Record Mirror acknowledged at the time of its release that Tintern Abbey were "one of the most promising new outfits in a long time". They continued to say that "This could be a first time hit; certainly is a value-for-money coupling". Sadly, a December release date probably meant that the trippy, summery vibes of the record got lost amidst the festive season, and it sold terribly. It took a long time before its quality was appreciated, as decades down the line it became ripe for appearances on numerous sixties compilation albums, beginning with the "Chocolate Soup for Diabetics" series and finishing (to the best of my knowledge) with an American appearance on the iconic "Nuggets II" box set.
Over the years, however, much has been made of the record's B-side "Vacuum Cleaner" over its perversely titled top side "Beeside", almost as if the title of that track has become some kind of self-fulfilling prophesy. That's a deep pity, because it is actually the superior song in my view, filled with tinkling piano lines, mellotron lines, shimmering effects, and some suspicously Syd Barretty "la la la la la" echoing effects - suspicious because I suspect Syd ripped off Tintern Abbey on "Jugband Blues" rather than vice versa, incidentally, as the dates of release conclusively prove. Syd even lived in the same Earl's Court block of flats as the band's bass player Stuart MacKay and borrowed his records; could a copy of this possibly have been amongst them?
"Vacuum Cleaner", on the other hand, is something of a club favourite purely for having a bit more of a groove behind it, and it's not without its merits either, but stops short of being amazing. The track was devised when the police believed the band had come into a lot of expensive amplification equipment through dishonest means, and they found themselves having to hoover up all evidence of drug use in their shared abode in case they dropped by to inspect the premises in more detail. The guitar solo on this track is treated with special "vacuum cleaner noise" effects which wouldn't (to the best of my knowledge) be repeated again until The Farmer's Boys used an actual vacuum cleaner on one of their records in the eighties. In a rather unconnected way, the lyrics seem to be concerned with a rejection of materialistic values.
For all the undeniable promise on display here, Tintern Abbey didn't last - after this single, the group splintered, but all was not entirely lost. Lead singer David MacTavish joined the frankly brilliant Velvet Opera, another unfairly overlooked act.
(Both sides are commercially available in all the usual places, and both Side A and Side B can be heard on YouTube).