Just got word that The Free Design‘s main songwriter, Chris Derrick, passed away over the weekend after his battle with cancer. He was 62. While the feel good sunshine psychedelic pop of The Free Design never really achieved the notoriety of many of their paisley-clad peers in the late ’60s and early ’70s, The Free Design’s baroque pop has truly never aged, thanks to its influence and relatable themes of innocence and summer whimsy. Moreover, there was a sense of genuine excitement when you heard The Free Design for the first time as opposed to, say, The Byrds, because it was a feeling of discovery. How was this not a top 40 hit? The Free Design even addresses this in the lyrics of “2002 – A Hit Song” wherein they break down the formula for a radio hit “at a teenybopper’s pace” and resign with tongue firmly in cheek “there’s just one fact that we cannot skirt / we tried all this last time / and it did not work.” While I’m bummed that we’ll never see a reunion of any sorts, the truly important thing is the flawless and important body of work left behind. If you don’t have them in your own collection, the anthology Kites Are Fun is a place to start (also see the remix album from Light In the Attic, The Now Sound Redesigned). The Free Design is one of my absolute favorite artists of all time, so I’m sharing a couple of my favorites below in remembrance.
The Free Design – Kije’s Ouija
The Free Design – Now is the Time
The Free Design – 2002 A Hit Song
The Free Design – Felt So Good
The Free Design – Girls Alone [Nobody Mix]
The Free Design – An Elegy [Kid Koala Mix]