MANDRAKE PADDLE STEAMER - 'Strange Walking Man'/'Steam' (Bam Caruso PABL 033) June 1985 - original release on (Parlophone 5780) May 1969

I'll continue my "Made In Britain" series of reviews with this fabulous record by a group of teenagers from North London calling themselves Mandrake Paddle Steamer. The core members of the group formed at Walthamstow Art College in 1968 with an influence of and a love for American West Coast psychedelia and the hippie ethos.

Brian Engel (vocals)
Martin Briley (lead guitar/vocals)
Paul Riordan (bass)
Martin Hooker (farfisa)
Barry Nightingale (drums)

After securing regular gigs at the Asgard Club in Streatford their reputation grew but were somewhat fortunate to find that a demo tape of a song called 'October Country' had made it's way to EMI. They were sufficiently impressed to invite Mandrake Paddle Steamer to one of their studios to make a set of demos of their original material.

This then led them to a record deal with EMI where they were teamed up with producer Rob Finnis and engineer Jeff Jarrett at Abbey Road studios during February and March 1969 to record 'Strange Walking Man' and 'Steam'.

'Strange Walking Man' is an absolute classic example of late 60s UK psychedelia tinged with a progressive edge. I first heard this mindblowing song on the Bam Caruso re-issue pictured. This 45 was released in mid 1985 and I bought it because of the psychedelic front cover. I thought anything housed in a cover like that had to be wyld....and I was right of course (as usual).

According to the notes written on the sleeve of this re-issue single, Mandrake Paddle Steamer insisted on playing every instrument during the sessions. They refused all attempts by the producer to use session musicians. Rob Finnis (producer) did however splice a tape of music played by sessionmen playing 'Maybe Sunday' by The Incredible String Band as an end coda of the song that completely adds to it's psychedelic appeal.   

As is usually the case with new groups Mandrake Paddle Steamer got no publicity for their new single on Parlophone. According to bass player Paul Riordan they wanted the record to come out on Harvest Records and that total advertising was one three inch advert in Melody Maker the week of release in May 1969.

The group recorded four songs for John Peel's "Top Gear" Show in April 1969. These were as follows:

The Ivory Castle Of Solitaire Husk
Cooger and Dark
The Janus Suite
Senlac Lament

Bootlegs exist containing these songs (I've not heard them) but the sound quality is by all accounts appalling and dubbed from second or third generation tapes.

Mandrake Paddle Steamer also released a Swedish only single 'Sunlight Glide'/'Len' on Parlophone. According to the liners of Psychedelia Volume Two (The Fairy Feller's Master-Stroke) released on Tiny Alice Records during the early 90s, both songs were written by the film producers of 'Skottet', a 1969 Swedish film. The music was produced by Brian Engel. This single came out under the moniker Mandrake.

Mandrake Paddle Steamer were no more by the end of 1969 but members did continue in the music business. Martin Briley and Brian Engel recorded an album as members of The Liverpool Echo in 1973. Briley then joined Greenslade for a short time before moving to New York in the 70s becoming a session musician for Meatloaf and Mick Ronson. He then had a hit record with 'Salt In My Eyes' as a solo performer in 1983. It hit the Top 40 on Billboard.

Brian Engel joined MOR group The New Seekers in the 80s and even wrote a couple of songs used in The Muppet Show.

Paul Riordan moved into recording film library music and TV commercials. When Nick Saloman conducted his interview with him in 1991, Riordan confirmed that he was gigging with his own band called The Disciples at venues such as Dingwalls and the Mean Fiddler.


Ptolemaic Terrascope #23 (1997)
Bam Caruso 45 release 


  1. Beautiful! UK psych is the best!

  2. I'd all but forgotten "Sunlight Glide" very trippy little tune! Thanks for knocking the brain cobwebs loose. I'll have to dig that Tiny Alice LP comp out (I've got four LP voulmes in that series, I wonder how many they did?).


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