I love those rare opportunities when I can showcase something that I’ve never seen nor knew existed—and this poster is exactly that.
If you take the time to click on the art and can decipher it, you’ll see it’s a poster for the Million Volt Light and Sound Rave, an electronic music and light festival held at the Chalk Farm Roundhouse in London, on January 28, 1967.
Sometimes referred to as the Carnival of Light Rave, the event featured live performances by the Soft Machine, Tonics (?), The New Vaudeville Band, and most importantly, the only playback ever of the legendary “Carnival of Light,” a fourteen minute sound collage by The Beatles, created especially for the event during the sessions for “Penny Lane” (and advertised on the poster as “Music Composed For The Occasion by Paul McCartney.”)
The genesis of the track came in December 1966 from designer David Vaughan, who had recently painted a psychedelic design on a piano owned by Paul McCartney. About the same time as he delivered the piano to McCartney’s Cavendish Avenue address, he asked if McCartney would contribute a musical piece for the upcoming event. To Vaughan’s surprise McCartney agreed, and drafted all of the Beatles to participate.
“Carnival of Light” was only played once, at the Million Volt Light and Sound Rave, and has never been released nor bootlegged. Beatles expert Mark Lewisohn, one of the few who have ever heard the track, says the song included “distorted, hypnotic drum and organ sounds, a distorted lead guitar, the sound of a church organ, various effects (water gargling was one) and, perhaps most intimidating of all, John Lennon and McCartney screaming dementedly and bawling aloud random phrases like ‘Are you alright?’ and ‘Barcelona!”
In 1996 McCartney tried to release the track on the compilation album The Beatles Anthology 2, but George Harrison voted to reject it, because according to McCartney “he didn’t like avant garde music.”
While I knew there had been a handbill for this event, this poster wasn’t something I knew existed (I’ve since discovered the existence of only one other copy, illustrated in the UK Poster book “High Art.”) It’s a great psychedelic image, and very desirable, as pretty much any British 60’s psychedelic concert poster is extremely rare. But it’s the Beatles connection that makes this a true killer collectible. Available on the Recordmecca website.
(Electric Poets, who also played the Rave, were a short-lived band featuring Soft Machine’s Daevid Allen and Robert Wyatt with Gilli Smith; Allen and Smith went on to found the progressive rock band Gong.)