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Rose Simpson - Muse, Odalisque, Handmaiden(Book) [Strange Attractor Press - 2020]

Rose Simpson states that she never wanted to write a book about her time with the Incredible String Band, however she points out that the women of the psychedelic music scene have long been underrepresented in print. Rose has written this book for all of those women who have been largely forgotten or ignored, who in their own way helped to change the face of the political, cultural and spiritual landscape of the 1960s and beyond.

Rose’s story begins with her first meeting with Incredible String Band main men Robin Williamson and Mike Heron at Temple Cottage, the home of folk fan Mary Stewart on the outskirts of Glasgow. Rose had arrived from York for a hiking trip and left a changed woman. This could be just another Incredible String Band, however it is much more than that. It is the story of a young woman’s rise to fame during the hedonistic days of the 1960s counterculture from young university student in York to internationally famous acid folk star performing in front of half a million people at the world’s biggest music festival, Woodstock.

Muse, Odalisque, Handmaiden allows us to get a glimpse of the lifestyle that was being led by Rose and the rest of the band. The music, the tours, the personalities, the spirituality, the drugs, from the band’s flirtations with eastern mysticism and Scientology, to attempts at domestic bliss and the band’s dissolution, it’s all here. Rose has written a truly compelling tale that takes in the great and good of the 1960s counterculture and beyond. The book features a wealth of fascinating anecdotes centred around Billy Connelly, Joe Boyd, Nick Drake and a host of other such luminaries that litter the pages of the book and keep the reader hooked. Rose’s writing style flows well and is easy to read. One gets the sense she is being incredibly open and very honest about things and this really adds to the readers enjoyment of the book.

On top of that, the book is peppered with a succession of great photos from Rose’s own collection, that catch the band at their most relaxed and really help to expand upon the written word and give a sense of the times. Overall, Muse, Odalisque, Handmaiden is an excellent read that takes you back to the heady days of the 1960s counterculture and gives a fascinating insight into the lives of one of the most influential bands of the era. The first 500 copies come in a hardback edition with an insert signed by Rose Simpson.

Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5Rating: 5 out of 5

Darren Charles
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