The Wire

The world's greatest print and online music magazine. Independent since 1982


Dr Strangely Strange: Fitting Pieces To The Jigsaw by Adrian Whittaker

Dr Strangely Strange: Fitting Pieces To The Jigsaw by Adrian Whittaker with Tim Booth, Tim Goulding and Ivan Pawle

Published by Ozymandias Books, paperback, 304 pp (2019)

Price: £14.99
Postage and packing:
UK – free
Overseas airmail – £4 Europe, £6 Rest of the world
Subscribers to The Wire get a discount of £2 off each copy

Publisher Ozymandias Books writes:

“This is a book about 1960s Irish psychedelic folkies Dr Strangely Strange and the Dublin counterculture from which they emerged.

“Most fans of 60s music will know a little about Dr Strangely Strange: that they were Irish, that they were psychedelic folkies, that their most famous song was “Strangely Strange But Oddly Normal”. Rock fans will have heard something about the two orphanages, the Dublin communal houses where the band lived on and off from 1966 to 1970, from references by Thin Lizzy and Gary Moore. Incredible String Band cognoscenti will know Ivan Pawle guested on Changing Horses. And in most cases that’s probably it.

“The Strangelies had no hits, virtually no one covered any of their songs, they only recorded two albums, and they were around on the British music scene for rather less than three years. So what kind of book is this anyway? It certainly isn’t a traditional music biography.

“A large section of the book aims to give a picture of the emergent counterculture in Dublin. After some scene setting in Part One, Part Two is thematic rather than chronological, focussing on the Strangelies’ Dublin milieu, then on the cusp of a beatnik into hippy transformation, and what it was like living and playing weird music in Ireland in the 60s. There are lots of fascinating archive photos. The book is mostly a collage of oral and written history drawn from the three key band members.

“Part Three of the book – recording sessions, album releases and life on the road – is approximately chronological and perhaps more akin to a traditional biography. But the Strangelies’ touring days were remarkably eclectic. As well as the student circuit, gigs included appearances at an Irish agricultural fair and Belgian village halls, as well as a week’s run in a Dublin cabaret revue. Along the way there were encounters with Ivor Cutler and with Joni Mitchell, who set some of Goulding’s lyrics to her own music, and a run-in with The Edgar Broughton Band; not to forget a pre-planned onstage custard pie attack on Terry Woods. They recorded and played with some great musicians too, including Gary Moore and Dave Mattacks, and, at different points, all of Sweeney’s Men. The band never really split up, but moved into an extremely part-time mode from around 1972 onwards, so Part Three ends there.

“The final part brings the story briefly up to date: the last decade has seen something of a Strangelies renaissance, bringing the band critical acceptance from some unlikely quarters. Iain Sinclair has always carried a torch for them, but other admirers range from Genesis Breyer P-Orridge to film director Olivier Assayas, Stewart Lee, Richard Herring, Scritti Politti’s Green Gartside and Simon Cosyns of The Sun newspaper. As well as playing Dublin’s plush Sugar Club, in recent years they have appeared at The Barbican in London and, in October 2011, played a well-received Heavy Petting gig at Camden’s Jazz Cafe.

Adrian Whittaker has written for The Wire, Shindig! and Record Collector. In 1995 he edited Be Glad, An Incredible String Band Compendium, the definitive book on The ISB. He has also presented a range of documentaries for art radio station Resonance FM on topics including The Chelsea Hotel, 1970s art/performance outfit The Moodies, the ISB and Dr Strangely Strange. Working with Hux Records, he has curated three CDs of early Strangelies recordings. He lives in North London, where he works teaching adults in Further Education.”