Although several of their singles are coveted by collectors of '60s British rock, Les Fleur de Lys remain obscure even by cult standards. That's partly because they never came close to getting a hit, but also because their furious pace of lineup changes makes their history very difficult to trace, and also precluded any sense of consistent style or identity. The group did release a number of fine singles in the mod-psychedelic style that has become known as "freakbeat," with more of a soul music influence than most such British acts.
Les Fleur de Lys changed lineups about half-a-dozen times during their recording career, which roughly spanned 1965-1969. Drummer Keith Guster was the only constant member; some of the musicians passing through went on to commercial success with Journey and Jefferson Starship (keyboardist Pete Sears) and King Crimson (bassist Gordon Haskell). At the outset, they recorded a couple of singles for the Immediate label that were produced by Jimmy Page (there remains some controversy about whether he played guitar on these as well). A cover of the Who's "Circles" featured the fluid, slightly distorted guitar lines that would become Fleur de Lys' most distinguishing characteristic. The 45s made no commercial impact, however, and Fleur de Lys helped sustain themselves in the late '60s by backing relocated South African singer Sharon Tandy.
Continuing to record intermittently on the side, the band managed a few decent slabs of freakbeat with "Hold On," "Mud in Your Eye," and their most psychedelic outing, the memorably titled "Gong with the Luminous Nose. As if the musical chairs of personnel weren't enough, they further confused record buyers with tracks issued under different names like Shyster and Chocolate Frog, as well as playing on singles by Tandy, Waygood Ellis, and John Bromley. One single issued under the moniker Rupert's People, the Procol Harum-like "Reflections of Charlie Brown," became a European hit of sorts; subsequent singles by Rupert's People, however, are not Fleur de Lys playing under an assumed name. The confusing saga came to an end in the late '60s. Several of the group's better tracks repeatedly showed up on collector-oriented reissues of rare '60s British rock, and an entire CD of their work was issued in 1996. ~ Richie Unterberger