My Top 1000 Songs #203: Pictures Of Matchstick Men

Arguably the defining moment in late 60s psych-pop (or lite-psych), Status Quo's 1968 single pulls in the telltale psychedelic signifiers--plenty of reverb and wah-wah pedal--tethered to an absurdly killer guitar riff, arriving at a perfect little radio-ready pop nugget with just enough acid-trip energy to bewilder Top 40 listeners.

While these days Status Quo is probably better known for their run of 1970s hard rock & boogie (some of which I enjoy quite a bit), I don't think they get a fair shake for their psychedelic-era contributions. To be sure, their 1968 debut LP, Picturesque Matchstickable Messages From The Status Quo, leans more on bubblegum than a lot of their peers (including covers of the Bee Gees' silly "Spicks & Specks, Tommy Roe's "Dizzy," and the Lemon Pipers' "Green Tambourine"), but "Matchstick Men" and a few others slot in nicely alongside the post-Sgt. Pepper run of UK psychedelia produced by the likes of Pink Floyd, the Small Faces, and the Pretty Things. (Yes, there's a mix for that!) Their 1969 follow-up, Spare Parts, removed some of the bubblegum and was a surprisingly solid psych LP.)

Indeed, one can make a credible argument that, for all the great albums to come out of that era, "Matchstick Men" stands above its peers as distilling the whole ethos into a three-minute pop tune that manages to be both intrinsically of-the-moment yet still relentlessly fun today.

On Top of the Pops:

The song has been a sort of go-to cover choice for various bands over the years. For a slowed-down, mellow groove, recreating the distinctive guitar riff on violin, Camper Van Beethoven did a stellar job:
While 80s college radio indie act The Slickee Boys amped it up with a rousing pop-punk treatment: