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Vinny Peculiar - How I Learned to Love the Freaks

  by John Clarkson

published: 25 / 10 / 2023

Vinny Peculiar - How I Learned to Love the Freaks
Label: Shadrack and Duxbury
Format: CD


Literate and thought-provoking concept album about hippy culture from Vinny Peculiar, who remains one of our most individual and unique musical talents

The front cover of Vinny Peculiar’s thirteenth studio album, ‘How I Learned to Love the Freaks’ – a close-up of a drably Brutalist 60’s block of flats – at first seems a very unusual choice for a record about hippy culture. The back cover shot of a murky, rain-torn ‘Coronation Street’ terraced set of houses is odder still. Peculiar has always had an angular take on the world, and after listening to it a few times ‘How I Learned to Love the Freaks’ starts to make. Many of the characters who inhabit the lyrics of these ten songs are trying to escape, themselves, their backgrounds and parents, and presumably through the counterculture their upbringings in dull tower blocks and houses like those portrayed on the sleeve. Vinny Peculiar has written and recorded several concept albums in a row now and his subjects have included modern art, his return to his native Worcestershire after decades away living in Manchester, and on his 2016 masterpiece ‘Silver Meadows’, which was inspired by his years working in mental health, he told of the lives of a group of patients and their charges in a psychiatric institution. Always empathetic, while clearly conscious of its flaws, he clearly has a lot of time for hippy philosophy and thought, while musically ‘How I Learned to Love the Freaks’ moves convincingly from heavy, psychedelic pieces to softer, droning numbers to brisk Indian-influenced work-outs. The ringing opening track ‘Death of the Counterculture’ namechecks several of the main figureheads of the late 1960s including Ken Kesey, Allen Ginsberg and Joni Mitchell. Turning its attention latterly to 50’s Teds and the late punk icon Jordan, it acknowledges that while they are usually brief, youth has always had its movements (“Tomorrow never knows it can never be the same”). The young naïve Texan protagonist of the breezy ‘Going to San Francisco’, which throws in a glorious harmovica solo., is disowned by his conservative father after he hits the hippy trail to California and has his eyes opened by the music, drugs, philosophy and communes of the era. Dark forces – possibly from the twin horrors of the Manson murders and Altamont which brought the 1960s to a nasty close– however, turn the dream sour, and it all comes to an abrupt end (“We made love to strangers/Then it got out of hand”). Elsewhere the main character on the elegiac title track tries to atone for his guilt after becoming involved in hippy-bashing (“There’s an ugly feeling when you join the mob/And it’s brutal, cruel and infectious”), while on the rippling, keyboard-driven ‘Peter and the Rainbow’ a former commune leader finds himself filthy rich and lost from his roots and previous values (“It’s not the ending you might have expected/Peter left the camp he defected/Wrote a show made a lot of money/Now he’s living in LA with playboy bunny/View of the hills the canyon and the ocean/It’s a very cold place devoid of all emotion”). “And when things were good they were very very good/But when we looked away it was over,” Peculiar also sings on ‘Peter and the Rainbow’, and on the last track, the hazy, spoken-word ‘Flower Ppwer’ he again mourns the loss of hippy valyes, but takes some comfort that some of them in these harsh, uneasy times are coming back ((“And what comes around comes around my friend/And right now looks like it’s happening again”). Literate, thought-provoking, compassionate and not without hope. ‘How I Learned to Love the Freaks’ is another fine record from Peculiar. It serves as further proof that Vinny Peculiar, who has always remained somewhat under-sung, is one of our most individual and unique talents.

Track Listing:-
1 Death of the Counterculture
2 Going to San Francisco
3 Peace and Love
4 Headshop
5 Ashram Curtains
6 Hippy Kids
7 How I Learned to Love the Freaks
8 Peter and the Rainbow
9 All Property Is Theft
10 Flower Power

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Interview (2022)
Vinny Peculiar - Interview
Singer-songwriter Vinny Peculiar talks to John Clarkson about his 'three quarters' modern art-themed latest album, 'Artists Only'.
Interview (2020)
Interview (2019)
Interview (2016)
Interview (2015)
Interview (2014)
Interview (2007)


The Image That Made Me Weep (2020)
Vinny Peculiar - The Image That Made Me Weep
In our new series 'The Image That Made Me Weep', we are inviting a different guest with each edition to write of a music image that has had an impact on them. Singer-songwriter Vinny Peculiar writes about a photograph of his uncle Jim Wilkes, who was a trad jazz musician.
Broadcast, Glasgow, 22/9/2016 and Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh, 23/9/2016 (2016)



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