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Charlie Tweddle

The late 1960s and early '70s saw many weirdo singer/songwriters issue barely distributed albums that were also graced by bare musical competence, as well as some influence from the psychedelic hippie era, even if many of them were based around acoustic folk. Charlie Tweddle's Fantastic Greatest Hits was one such dusty relic, recorded in 1971 and pressed in an edition of 500 copies in 1974, hand-distributed to minimal sales. Tweddle belongs to that addled school of acid-folk singer/songwriters that included, at the highest artistic edge of that diving board, Skip Spence, and at its, dregs the likes of Wild Man Fischer. Unlike Spence or Fischer, however, Tweddle didn't benefit from fairly high-quality studio facilities, and much of Fantastic Greatest Hits sounded as if it might have been recorded on a quite low-grade portable cassette. Its contents, too, sounded not too far off some of the lo-fi efforts that would be distributed throughout the cassette underground in the '80s, with its rambling, somewhat incoherent country-folk songs doing battle with sound effects like animal noises, lapping waves, and bomb explosions. To further seal its uncommerciality, all eight of the tracks were untitled. And to yet further cap mainstream exposure, the last of those untitled cuts, occupying all of side two and clocking in at 22 minutes, consisted primarily of chirping crickets, occasionally interrupted or embellished by a bit of country-folk song or burst of sound effects.

Charlie Tweddle was not some in-joke, but an actual person, raised in a Kentucky cabin without modern conveniences. He played in a Kansas City garage band, the Prophets of Paradise, before landing in Haight-Ashbury for a few years. Fantastic Greatest Hits was recorded in San Rafael, just a few miles north of San Francisco, in 1971, though it took three years before he self-released the LP, originally billing it to "Eilrahc Elddewt" ("Charlie Tweddle" spelled backwards). An extremely rare item, it was reissued on CD by Companion in 2004, with the addition of six previously unreleased bonus tracks recorded between 1971 and 1973. ~ Richie Unterberger
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