Psych Special: The Bevis Frond
Meet Nick Saloman - the man who has kept the freak flag flying for the last 30 years
No man is an island. But some, by accident or design, are destined to create their own little enclave away from culture’s mainstream continent. Nick Saloman is one of those men. For nearly 30 years he has been a standing stone in the British psych underground as leader of lynchpins The Bevis Frond, as well as championing home-grown independence as a record label owner, publisher of esoteric magazines and, more recently, internet radio show presenter.
These days, when Saloman isn’t busy making music – he’s recorded 21 albums as the Bevis Frond, and another, Example 22, is set to join the list imminently – or following his beloved Queens Park Rangers FC, he’s absorbed in his latest adventure: second‑hand record emporium Platform One Records. Situated inside an antiques market in a former Victorian railway station, the shop is just a 10-minute stumble from the beach promenade in Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex.
Today a pleasantly rumpled Saloman greets us warmly as we step into his compact but well-ordered unit. It’s the start of the working day, but already two regular customers are getting stuck into the prog, psych and ‘New In’ crates.
“Considering we don’t advertise it’s going pretty well,” Saloman says, brightly. “We’ve got dealers who visit from London, Japan, the US, plus kids who are just getting into things like Tim Buckley and John Martyn. People seem to have a radar for stuff like this.”
In his 62 years on the planet, Saloman’s own musical radar has been well-honed too. Raised by a single mother in St John’s Wood, North London – home of the historic Abbey Road Studios – young Nick saw The Beatles when he was 10. By 16 he was checking out hairy hipsters at the Camden Roundhouse, Belsize Park Country Club and the Marquee. His mum, Joanna, a pianist and author, was his musical bellwether. “She came in one day after being over to see a friend of hers who had teenage sons, saying: ‘Oh, you’d really like this new album they’ve got. It’s by a band called The Doors…’” he says.
Influenced by The Kinks, The Who, The Move and The Beatles, by his early teens Saloman was writing his own quintessentially English songs, which he sung in an all-important indigenous brogue. His first band was called Museum, but it would be his former school friend and neighbour, future film director Julien Temple, who suggested he adopt the name of a delicately sweeping fern discovered by Victorian botanists. “He said: ‘You want to call it Bevis Frond,’” recalls Saloman, who was impressed enough to compress the two ideas into The Bevis Frond Museum.
A pivotal moment came in 1968, when Saloman looked out of the classroom window at St Marylebone Grammar School in central London and spotted a press frenzy across the street at the local magistrates’ court. “John Lennon and [wife-to-be] Yoko Ono had been on trial after being busted for cannabis possession,” he remembers with a grin. “I knew they’d be coming out, so I stuck my hand up and said: ‘Please, sir, can I go to the toilet?’ And the teacher went: ‘Mmm… yeah, alright.’ And I ran out of the school, went across the road and got in the crowd. Out come John and Yoko, and I was two yards away. I remember thinking: ‘Wow, Yoko Ono is really pretty.’ I hadn’t realised.”