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“Hag Rag” is the most hard-rock / proto-metal sounding track from the “Earth Harmony” album by prog/psych band Hokus Poke. Oddly enough, it’s also the only song written by drummer Jonnie Miles.

Previous to Hokus Poke, Jonnie had been part of an Scottish band called EARTH (not to be confused with the pre-Sabbath group of the same name). As he recalls: “EARTH was my first band and we mostly played covers of songs that we dug. The guitarist and myself lived on the same street in Kilmarnock and we were lucky to hook up with two older musicians who had already made a record in London called The Anteeks”.

Earth – photo courtesy of Jonnie Miles

EARTH setlist from 1968:

Crossroads / Politician / Spoonful / Strange Brew / Foxy Lady / Red House / Crosstown Traffic / Pretty Woman / St James Infirmary / Tobacco Road / Walk On Gilded Splinters / Albatross / Milk Cow Blues / I Can Tell / Season Of The Witch / The Midnight Hour / Roadrunner / How Can We Hang On To a Dream / Fire / I’m A Man / Hold On

After his tenure with EARTH, Jonnie moved to London and formed the band Hokus Poke with his friends Smith Campell, Clive Blenkhorn and Roger Clarke.

Their sole album, “Earth Harmony”,  was produced by Kenny Lynch and recorded at George Martin’s AIR Studios, subsequently released on the cult Vertigo label.

Regarding “Hag Rag”, this is what Jonnie recalls:

The inspiration for the song “Hag Rag” came from a poem by Robert Burns called “Tam O’ Shanter, which I knew about from schooldays. I was born in a town in Scotland called Kilmarnock which is not far from Alloway where Robert Burns was born and wrote his poems (in fact I have walked over the old bridge which features in the poem). I thought I would rock up the original story which Burns turned into Tam O’ Shanter. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tam_o’_Shanter_(poem)

The poem has been described as a celebration of life-affirming enjoyment of the joys of this world and a recognition that human pleasure is fleeting, but all the more precious for that.

It was my first attempt at songwriting and I always looked on it as a bit of a joke, but maybe not! Listening back again to the track, I believe it showcases the band’s instrumental abilities powerfully. I wrote the song and arrangement, Roger plays a superb guitar solo in the vein of Leslie West/Mountain and Clive came up with the title “Hag Rag” – he decided to sing it in a kind of Ozzie/Black Sabbath voice – such fun!

After the demise of Hokus Poke, Jonnie went punk/new wave, playing with Chiswick/Stiff band Albania (under the Jonnie Kilometer name) and then he formed powerpop band the Prostitutes in the late 80s.

He also became a professional photographer. Check his work (including cool portraits of many famous musicians) here: https://www.jonniemiles.com/gallery-1

Alex Carretero

Pre-order our LP reissue of “Earth Harmony” here:

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