This piece is part of the Detours series. Detours are deep dives, because music deserves time and context. Listen, breathe deep, take the scenic route.
What does it mean to be a lost classic? The Action’s Rolled Gold is not just an album that got lost in the shuffle — it never made it out there in the first place. Had it been released in 1968, it would likely be a classic, mentioned in the same breath as The Zombies’ Odessy and Oracle, The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society, or The Small Faces’ Ogden’s Nut Gone Flake. Alas, it never got that chance.
The Action started out as a mod band. They had a solid club following, and released a few singles produced by George Martin, but for reasons unknown they failed to gain any traction. “I loved the records I made with them,” Martin recalled years later. “I am baffled they did not achieve superstardom.” They were subsequently dropped by their label, endured some lineup changes, and then moved to more psychedelic sounds for the collection of demos that became Rolled Gold.
I came across the record when I was in high school. I was obsessed with The Who growing up, and I was on a quest for more music that resembled The Who Sell Out and singles like “Pictures of Lily.” I feel lucky to have stumbled across this gem of a record. It’s sad that the songs never got the proper studio recordings they deserved, but in some ways it’s to the music’s benefit. Rolled Gold has no high-minded, overly-wrought concepts, no embarrassingly dated tracks. I wish the fidelity was better, but the muddiness makes the record evocative of late ‘90s lo-fi indie rockers such as Elephant 6 collective or Guided By Voices — for those unfamiliar with The Action looking for a frame of reference.
The album’s rawness cuts right to the heart of its songs, and these are songs with a lot of heart. “Four!” the album opens, capturing the tension of the “lost classic” status — you know the “one, two, three” are there, but you’ll have to imagine it yourself. Opener “Come Around” has a very British vibe, with its graceful descending bass line and some lovely, free-spirited lyrics characteristic of the time:
Let us be one another,
Let us put our hearts together.
Let the god in each of us reach out and kiss the sky above.
Rolled Gold deftly balances understated, sensitive rock with soaring anthems, and at its best it achieves both with muscle and melody. “Something To Say” starts with soulful guitar and builds to a transcendent climax. Thick harmonies (“Things You Cannot See” and “Climbing Up The Wall”) and standout guitar (“Look At The View” and “Brain”) are all over this record.
My favorite track is “Strange Roads.” Kicking off with an elemental riff, the drums hit and launch into a lead guitar line that sounds like what an electric guitar was made to do. Reg King’s impassioned shout, the gorgeous backing vocals, sung lyrics that feel classic but not cliche. By the end of the song the drums are practically tripping over themselves with energy. Play it loud.
Who knows how The Action and Rolled Gold would be remembered if the record had gotten the attention it deserved. But it’s never too late to start. In today’s landscape, Rolled Gold probably won’t sound revolutionary or alarmingly new, but its raw vitality is refreshing and it still deserves our ears. It’s just got some magic, and it has it in spades.