When I was young they gave me a mongrel piano.
Spent all my time inventing the cup of tea.
Writing your name in the sea.
Banging my favorite head.
Missing the last bed, waving the cheery herring,
Balancing brass bands on the tip of my toe.
Phoning your home from a tree.
Drinking my favorite loch.
When I was old they gave me a mortal factory.
I met three salads out on the motorway.
Leaving your name at the door.
Breaking my favorite egg.
Missing the walrus, sharing my last banana,
Balancing zeppelins on the end of my nose.
Calling your name in the zoo.
Blowing my favorite mind.
Cream’s album Goodbye wasn’t the first formal shutdown of a psychedelic-related group (Last Time Around by Buffalo Springfield, released in July 1968 gets that honor), but it seemed to signal an accelerated shutdown of several groups in the 1969-1971 period—Last Exit by Traffic, Let It Be by the Beatles were obvious farewells; others were unplanned: Bridge Over Troubled Water by Simon & Garfunkel; Cry of Love by Jimi Hendrix; L.A. Woman by the Doors; and Pearl by Janis Joplin. Goodbye used the same format as Wheels of Fire, with both live performance and studio music, but this time the whole was placed on one disc. Each member of the group wrote one song for the studio cuts. The most famous of these is Badge, written by Eric Clapton and George Harrison, which sonically is akin to Harrison’s While My Guitar Gently Weeps. But the most psychedelic of the studio songs on the album is Doing That Scrapyard Thing.
The very title of the song Doing That Scrapyard Thing suggests odds & ends after a vehicle had been demolished. In this case, the “vehicle” is psychedelia. I hear bits of Donovan’s Scotish is the word “loch” and the trilling vowels; and I hear several musical and lyrical references to a rather inferior Beatles psychedelic record from the Summer of Love—Baby, You’re a Rich Man. (The Beatles’ tuned to a natural E from Rich Man is note for note Cream’s inventing a cup of tea with the same discordant melody; and both tunes reference a zoo.) The famous Beatles walrus shows up too.
The musical progression, with Jack Bruce on organ aided by Clapton’s lead guitar through a Leslie speaker, and Felix Pappalardi on piano and mellotron, is extremely repetitive. The intro, break and coda are essentially the same musical unit shuffled around, and the verses are just a couple of paired quatrains of nonsense verse. Generally the second pairing reflects the first: When I was young becomes when I was old; your name appears in the sea, at the door, in the zoo. The poet misses the last bed and also misses the walrus; he balances brass bands and zeppelins. He bangs his head, breaks an egg, and blows his mind. In the psychedelic period, one would expect a song scrapyard to sound more like the Beatles’ Happiness is a Warm Gun than this tight little puzzle, but this is scraps contemplated not from the viewpoint of pieces of songs but from an abstract and ironic view of the psychedelic aesthetic. Looking back on the era, the poet seems to feel the psychedelic period was goofy but all in good fun. At any rate, it had produced enough tropes to create an entire (cast off, scrapyard) song through their reproduction in a different context.