Play it again, Sam
It all began with a quest for Sam Gopal in the beautiful Swedish city of Gothenburg. Last summer, while ambling around in Haga, the once rough but now-gentrified suburb of Gothenburg, we went browsing in a quaint little shop called Iris Second Hand, which sells vintage second-hand clothes (great stuff, actually), where I heard something vaguely familiar playing in the background but I just couldn’t put my finger on what band it was. It definitely was psychedelic Sixties fare but what exactly was it? I went across to the two long-haired guys at the counter in front and asked and they said it was Sam Gopal. “Oh, okay,” I said, nodding my head knowledgeably in what I’m sure was a completely failed attempt to mask my ignorance. In reality, a) I had never heard of Sam Gopal; b) I simply loved the track that they were playing; and, c) it was something that I knew I simply had to have.
Thus, began my search for Sam Gopal’s music. I’d read that they had just one album to their credit and it was called Escalator but it was no easy task trying to get my hands on it. That’s how I came across The Psychedelic Salvage Company compilation. It was a fortuitous find but it yielded a whole bunch of new bands that gave me a peek into the kind of music that must’ve been playing in the UK psych circuit in the 1960s and ’70s from bands that never quite made the charts but very clearly wrote their influence on the psychedelic wave that emerged. The standouts in the compilation include, besides Sam Gopal (who have two tracks on it), the Roland Kovac Set whose two tracks have some satisfyingly fuzzy lead guitar riffs and extra length in terms of play time.
Not all of the Salvage Company tracks are great, several are quite forgettable, but as a novelty piece in your collection, especially if you’re a Floyd, Cream, Traffic or even The Who fan, it’s a collectible.
Sam Gopal’s sound is one of mellow psychedelia with hardly a rough edge. Their traditional guitar-keyboards-bass combo has no drums but a flourish of the tabla that gives it an exotic edge. All 13 tracks on Escalator are good ones that work nicely on an audio system as well on the headphones but I think it’s the kind of music that ought to be listened to in an old-fashioned LP version with a few crackles and rumbles. After all, they’re a band from the mid-1960s. Sadly, I haven’t managed to lay my hands on one of those. It’s a pity that Sam Gopal didn’t last too long. And I don’t know whether there are any other recordings besides Escalator in existence. I’d love to know if anyone can tell me.