|Mac christened the group Hurdy Gurdy and they quickly became the biggest ‘home grown’ band on the scene, blowing minds wherever they played. Breaking all previous attendance records the group played two solid weeks at the concert hall in Tivoli, record companies were lining up to sign them, promoters were hassling them day and night... and then Mac got busted.
Spending the Christmas of 1967 in jail Mac wrote to Donovan, keeping the mood cheerful and telling him about the new group and how he planned to bring them back to the UK as soon as he could untangle himself from his present predicament. In January Mac was released and deported back to the UK, securing a flat in French Row, St Albans, just behind the Record Room, where the owner Mark Green was happy to have him back behind the counter. On hearing of Hurdy Gurdy’s success in Denmark, Mark was convinced that they could mirror their achievements in the UK and the other two members were brought over from Copenhagen. Mac contacted Donovan, who had been busy after receiving Mac’s letter from jail. He had written a song while in India and offered it to the group as a special gift (from a flower to a garden...) the song was ‘Hurdy Gurdy Man’, and Donovan wanted to produce them doing it. The band were knocked out at such an offering (it had even been tweaked by George Harrison who had supplied an extra verse) and took Donovans’ demo, complete with celeste, bells and acoustic picking, and set to work on it. They visited Donovan at his Little Berkhamstead home, plugging-in outside on the lawn to play their live set, so Don could hear what they sounded like as he wanted to produce them doing ‘Hurdy Gurdy Man’. Their heavy power trio sound, echoed vocals and trippy guitar wasn’t what Donovan had expected but they obviously stirred something deep inside him, because less than a month later, while travelling south, the band heard Donovan’s own version on the van’s radio. He had hijacked his own song, and gone electric with Mickie Most at the controls, and Jeff Beck on guitar, scoring a number 4 hit, at Hurdy Gurdy’s expense.
Having the rug pulled from beneath them, the group decided to record another number for a single. They chose a commercial song written by a friend from the folk days, Richie St John, entitled ‘Tick Tock Man’. They envisaged a swinging Kings Road heavy pop sound, not unlike the Small Faces ‘Lazy Sunday’ - “Cor Blimey mate, how’s yer mum’s lumbago...” type of thing, with a heavy Cream semi-improvised middle bit. For the B-side the group chose ‘Neo Camel’, a complex improvised instrumental inspired by the painting of a camel on the wall of the flat in French Row... where life was one long party, where people came, stayed, and left, minds were blown and the whole St Albans’ scene revolved around - or so it seemed. The painting was so powerful that people under the influence of various hallucagenics could be heard muttering from the floor, “I can feel the sand!”.
Sessions for the new recordings were produced by friends Rod Argent and Chris White of the Zombies, who did an admirable job, although the results were a tad heavier than your regular pop 45! Meanwhile the group played on, at Middle Earth (headlining over Spooky Tooth and Azoth - the name The Action used for one gig, discarding it in favour of Mighty Baby), and the usual haunts. A lone surviving 12” acetate recorded in late ‘68 and owned by Mac, shows the group powering their way through a 15 minute opus, with screaming guitar and pounding rhythm section - feedback lives!! ‘Tick Tock Man’ was cut as a test pressing, and copies distributed around the major record companies... but fate dealt a bum hand when the Musician’s Union refused the Danish members’ work permits and without permits the single couldn’t be promoted and therefore the record companies showed no interest.
Claus and Jens had to return home. Mac was back in French Row considering the future, and Mark Green was left waving the pressing of “Tick Tock Man” shouting “Look at it, the most expensive piece of plastic in the world!”.