The Music Machine announced themselves to the world with one of the most powerful musical statements of the 1960s. ‘Talk Talk’ remains to this day an as tightly focused moment as has ever been witnessed in rock’n’roll. But what is not known to those only casually acquainted with the Machine is that the group ended their career a scant two years later with the equally awe-inspiring, if far more obscure, ‘Dark White’. In-between lies a quantity of compelling performances, all directed by lead singer, principal songwriter and sergeant-at-arms, Sean Bonniwell.
Big Beat’s previous anthology of the monochromatically-garbed combo, “The Ultimate Turn On” (CDWIK2 271), was very well received indeed, so now our focus turns to the latter half of the Music Machine’s career. The hits may have dried up, but to their audiences the Machine was as popular as ever. Their second album, “The Bonniwell Music Machine”, was released in early 1968 and consisted of outtakes and single sides by the band’s original line-up, along with newer recordings featuring a second set of personnel; all made under the watchful eye of producer Brian Ross.
All of the outfit’s non-LP singles and outtakes for Warner Bros are included on Disc 1, in fully remastered sound. First-generation Machine rockers such as ‘Bottom Of The Soul’ and ‘Talk Me Down’ sit well with ‘You’ll Love Me Again’ and ‘Everything Is Everything’ by the second incarnation. To revisionist ears, even the once unfairly maligned ‘Tin Can Beach’ and ‘To The Light’ now come across as tremendous pop-psych.
Disc 2, subtitled “Inside Eternity”, gathers gems from the beginning and the end of the Music Machine saga, drawn from Bonniwell’s largely untapped tape collection. These include early demos by pre-Machine trio the Ragamuffins (produced by Boyce and Hart); outtakes and rehearsals by various line-ups, including ‘Point Of No Return’ and ‘Closed’; and the final Music Machine release, ‘Mother Nature-Father Earth’ (recently sampled by Miles Kane), along with ‘Dark White’, their parting shot and one of Bonniwell’s greatest performances.
During the mid-60s Machine era, Bonniwell was incredibly prolific, writing over 100 tunes, most of which would remain unheard and unknown. We are proud to feature a selection of these fragile gems, acoustic in nature but captivating nonetheless. The later life of the Music Machine has long been a mystery, and the extensive liner notes, based on interviews with all the members of both line-ups as well as producer Ross, help clear up some of the confusion.
Finally, on a personal note, this release bears great importance. When I spoke to Sean Bonniwell a few days before his death in 2011 (see obituary here), he asked me to see to it that his music legacy continued. “The Bonniwell Music Machine” is therefore respectfully dedicated to him.
By Alec Palao