Stemming from Rolling Stone rumours after the bootleg Bob Dylan collection, Great White Wonder, The Masked Marauders’ is a rare little bolt of lightning that could never happen now. Built from interest and fiction, The Masked Marauders is an out-of-hand publicity stunt that linked The Beatles with The Rolling Stones and Dylan. Shrouded supergroups, pitch-ready pieces to blow non-existent albums out of the water. What a traipse through weird history The Masked Marauders now makes for. For what is, essentially, what The Residents were doing for album covers of the time but worse, The Masked Marauders have moments of parody brilliance but they are few and far between. It is no Weird Al Yankovic, but the history behind this alleged, falsified supergroup is interesting.
That history is far more interesting than any of the tracks here, which range from the satisfactory Jagger-mocking on I Can’t Get No Nookie, which would work well as a Tim Heidecker B-Side now, to the patience-testing Saturday Night at the Crow Palace. But those other moments, the amusing jangles of Duke of Earl which are surprisingly freeing if a little dumb, knock back the supergroup idea. Dylan would become a member of a supergroup over two decades later, yet the impersonation of him here is a fascinating likeness. Duke of Earl accidentally channels the boo-wop sways of The Beach Boys, neutering the joy with a melodic simplicity and brushing acoustics. For those that did not know what it was, for those that truly believed this was a supergroup of the time, it is a genuinely convincing record.
Does that mean The Masked Marauders succeeds as a musical piece? Sort of. Cow Pie and More or Less Hudson’s Bay Again are charming pieces that could slot into the thematic and instrumentals of the great artists allegedly behind them. But the lyrics are the key disconnect. I Am the Japanese Sandman is the swinging bash at oriental stereotypes that lands as poorly now as it did then. Later gives the impression of a mildly sweet band on the ride but it is as the follow-up track, More or Less Hudson’s Bay Again says, too much beer and nothing to say. That marks Season of the Witch, a cover of Donovan’s classic, a difficult listen. A flowing and essential rip of The Rolling Stones’ instrumental style but not, once again, of their lyrical prowess. Despite some powerful guitar work on The Masked Marauders throughout, the loose and spongey vocals provide little of humour or grace.
Considering the storm that surrounds this piece and The Masked Marauders as an entity though, this release is a strange and complete part of history. A what-if in the making that does not sound too terrible in places. What could have been, had McCartney, Jagger, Lennon and Dylan formed. It sounds great on paper but in practice would likely have been as disastrously messy and fraught with ill concepts as the latter half of The Masked Marauders. To their credit or mercy, they are the real deal in the face of parody and myth. The Masked Marauders do stand on the firm shoulders of legendary musicians, but they also find time to lay down some slick and expectedly strong beats from a time of musical mastery.