On The Bus Or...More Adventures in Psychedelia-land.
As Ken Kesey once said "You're either on the bus or........." yet more adventures in psychodelica-land!
Time for yet another 'trip' into the further reaches of the musical 'id' that is better known as psychedelic music. It's been a long time (for me anywaze) since I put finger to keyboard and unleashed a selection of the vinyl outpourings from the unhinged minds of those who regularly ingested that sugar cube of expansion and tried to interpret the multicoloured visions and fractured sounds that resulted during their out of body (and mind) experiences (note to self.... "that's quite enough hippiesh*t talk thank you Alan!!!"). Some 'journeyed' further, and never returned to 'normality', others used the experience to produce lush, harmony laden 'pop'. We'll be taking a look (or should that be a listen?) at both ends of that scale, and plenty of stuff in between too, over the next fourteen-ish tracks.
As usual, to ease us in, it's something different.... here's some of the finest harmonies around from a band who almost invented the hippie fashions which became prevalent from 1966 onwards, and gently subverted 'pop' with their references towards the burgeoning counterculture of the US West Coast from sunny San Bernardino California to the cloudier, but lusher Seattle, Washington State.
Mama's and Papa's- 'Twelve Thirty (Young girls are coming to the canyon)' ( from 'The Papa's and The Mama's' album released May 1968. Dunhill label)
Early 1965 saw John Phillips decide to branch out on a solo career from the 'conservative' folk group The New Journeymen and form a new group with his wife, the crystal voiced soprano Michelle Gilliam, and two escapees from The Mugwumps, Denny Doherty and Cass Elliot. It's alleged that Phillips was reluctant to include Cass due, in part, to her ongoing obesity problems, an abrasive temperament and, importantly, because of her extremely low vocal range. However, rehearsals took place in the Virgin Islands where Doherty convinced Phillips to abandon the constraints of 'pure' folk and embrace the electric folk rock of his former group, a sound which was being expanded by The Byrds, Turtles and others. It soon became obvious that this change meant that Elliot and Michelle's contrasting vocals would provide a sound which was unique in pop music at that time. After flirting with the name The Magic Cyrcle, the group expanded on the Hells Angels nickname for their female partners, 'Mama's', and relocated initially to New York before flying to LA for an audition with Lou Adler of the Dunhill label, organised by Elliot and Phillips friend Barry McGuire. A penny-pinching 'triple lock' contract was signed and the band went into the studio.... backing McGuire on his debut album ( see 'Original Versions of Well Known Songs' article). Their debut release, 'Go where you wanna go' failed to chart but it's follow up, 'California Dreaming', hit the US top five and the UK top thirty and the accompanying album 'If you can believe your eyes and ears' (containing the US number one single 'Monday Monday) reached number one in the album charts. Although the band's image seemed to embrace both musical conservatism and exotic harmonies, within the band there were already signs of their eventual demise. Elliot was besotted with Doherty who was conducting a clandestine affair with Michelle, who would also go on to have an affair with Gene Clark of the Byrds, an insult too far for Phillips who promptly sacked Michelle from the band before indulging himself with an affair with Mrs Frank Sinatra, Mia Farrow! Within months Michelle was back in the fold and the hit singles and albums continued over the next two years (with further internal disruptions between John and Cass) before the release of their swan song album from which 'Twelve Thirty.....' is taken. Initially its a song about the good natured hippie invasion into the Laurel Canyon area of LA but, in its final verse, a note of decay and menace are apparent and it's this verse which may reflect the arrival of acid mystics and gurus on the hippie scene, including a 'family' of young girls under the influence of Charles Manson. It's believed that Cass, in particular, had a more than casual acquaintance with Manson; her boyfriend at the time of her London arrest for stealing was Manson's drug procuror Pic Dawson and, unbelievably, Micheal Caine alleged that Cass had introduced him to Manson at a Hollywood party! Certainly Quentin Tarantino appears to have linked the song to Manson by including this song in 'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood' as the Manson family drive up Cielo Drive on their way to slaughter Sharon Tate and her friends.
Stillroven- 'Cast thy burden upon the stone' (unreleased in UK. This from 'Cast the burden upon the Stillroven' LP released late 1996. Sundazed label)
A snappy b-side to the bands third single (1968's 'Little Picture Playhouse') featuring the by then de rigeur sitar break, the group were never more than wannabe's whose recorded output featured a plethora of cover versions. In addition to the 'usual' covers ('Hey Joe', 'I'm not your stepping stone') there was obviously someone in the band who kept their eye on the UK as the band also covered this Simon Dupree and the Big Sound's album track, the Small Faces 'Tell me (have you ever seen me)', The Moodies early 'And my baby's gone' the Animals 'Cheatin''and the Yardbirds 'Little Games'. My guess is that not many US garage or psychedelic bands were covering those tracks at the time. Formed in Minneapolis in 1965 as the Syndicate, they were signed by local manager Peter Huntingdon May who placed them in the local Nic-O-Lake studios to cut the band comped 'She's my woman' for the Falcon label. A visit to the the more prestigious Dove studios saw the release of a fiery version of 'Hey Joe' which peaked locally in the Twin Cities charts at number 13. This led to the disc being issued by New York's famed Roulette label and tours with the Castaways, the Litter and even Sonny and Cher. There were changes to the line up around this time which saw Jim Larkin drafted in on vocals and Dave Berget on bass, just in time to record 'Little Picture Playhouse'. Issued on May's own August label, the track gained plenty of radio exposure but, strangely, within weeks the single disappeared from the playlists despite its showing on many local charts. May moved to Tucson for radio and TV work but he didn't relinquish his role as manager, and it's this geographical distance, and probably his lack of interest, which could explain the singles failure. The disappointment within the band to May's career move initiated further line up changes, not all of them an improvement over the outgoing musicians, and the release of their final single, a cover of Moby Grapes superb 'Come in the morning' which was inexplicably pulled at May's insistence and re-released with the Small Faces track as the a-side. Despite further tours (supporting a late era Buffalo Springfield) the band folded in late 1968 after demoing their debut album, which remained unreleased for over 40 years. Caught between the garage band era of the mid sixties and the onrushing psychedelic scene the band were bound to struggle, but the inclusion on 'Cast thy burden....' (the album title references a Biblical reference taken from Psalm 55:22a fact fans) of the five minutes plus studio jam entitled, errrr, 'Freakout' showed that they were not afraid to face the new musical challenges.
GONN- 'Black Out of Gretely' (unreleased in UK. This from 'Rough Diamonds Volume 9/GONN: Black Out of Gretely' released March 1985. Voxx label)
Another garage/psych crossover, this time from 1966, and what a monster sound it is! Predating Robert Duvall/Lt Colonel Bill Kilgore's (kill, gore.... get it?) famous "I love the smell of napalm in the morning" by thirteen years, here's vocalist Craig Moore opening 'Blackout.... 'with "The universe is permeated with the odor of kerosene" followed by a killer riff, Vox organ and a scream Daltrey would struggle to beat. Starting out as The Pagans in 1965, Moore regularly changed musicians until he walked into a rehearsal by Fort Madison band The Rogues and, fifteen minutes later, exited with their lead guitarist and drummer to form the original version of GONN. Making their recording debut backing the (still) unknown Bill Egan on his cover of 'C'mon everybody', the band were given spare studio time to record the 'Black Out of Gretely/Pain in my heart' single which was released on Bob Meffords EMIR label, with just 1500 copies pressed by RCA. Further unfinished demos (mainly covers) were recorded in late '66 before the band relocated to Freddie Tiekens studio in Quincy Illinois to prepare another batch of demos to gain gigs and recording time in Florida. There was no success in that venture and so, in mid '67, the band returned to Quincy to record the LSD inspired 'Come with me to the stars', released on their own 'Merry Jaine' label. Despite regular gigs the steam was running out and the band limped through to early 1968, changing their line up and becoming 'heavier' with the advent of Vanilla Fudge, Cream and Iron Butterfly before splitting up. On the strength of just those two singles however, the band have been inducted into Iowa's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and reformed to tour the UK and Europe in 1997, 2001 and 2007. And the single's strange title? It's taken from the 1942 spy thriller 'Blackout In Gretley' (a fictional Midlands town) written by J B Priestley. Organist Gerry Gabel had the book with him at a rehearsal so, with a few minor changes, it inspired the name of the song.
Rasputin and the Mad Monks- 'I had too much to dream last night' (unreleased. From 'Beyond the Calico Wall' V/A LP released 1990. Voxx label
Another band who based their set around cover versions of the current hits of the day, moving from Wilson Pickett, James Brown, Otis Redding etc to the more left field Doors, Airplane and the Beatles. The band formed at Jersey City State Teachers College in late 1965 and, after signing with the Jack Fisher Agency, proceeded to play virtually every club in downtown New York. Things looked good when, in June 1968, they became one of the first rock groups to play Carnegie Hall where, dressed in their de rigueur monks habits, they took part in The Kasenetz and Katz Singing Orchestral Circus musical extravaganza. However, December 16th 1967 had seen the band ensconced in the Eastern Sound Studio where, in addition to limp versions of the contract fulfilling 'Don't let the sun catch you crying', 'See you in September' and 'The rain, the park and other things', the band and engineer Pat Costa were seemingly overcome with the desire to 'rock out'.... or should that be 'freak out'? The result? This even more psychedelic cover of the Electric Prunes Top 40 groundbreaker, is taken to new limits thanks to an overload of echo and a middle eight/dream sequence which, I'm assured, features a backward tape loop of the band singing nursery rhymes! Three weeks later the band were headlining at a 'Happening' at the 'Mystic Melt Coffee Shoppe', apparently located in the Holy Rosary School Hall in Lawrence, Mass. Seems like a pretty liberal Catholic school to me!!! The gig also featured a 'Psychodelic (sic) Light Show' and could be enjoyed for a modest 99c!! The band lasted until 1968 when the members all went their various ways, some forming other bands, but only lead guitarist and vocalist John Mulrenan achieved any small amount of success when his band, Godzilla, supported Bruce Springsteen's Steel Mill a few times. Mulrenan then reached the lower reaches of the US charts in 1976 with the funky 'Heaven's here on earth' by his new outfit, Hudson County. Finally, I can find no trace of this monster gaining any kind of release in any format other than the 'Beyond....' album............ surely someone should push out a 7"er???
The Pulse- 'Burritt Bradley' (7" single b-side to 'Can Can Girl' released mid 1968. ATCO label. UK release on 'Beyond the Calico Wall' LP)
More musical mayhem, this time courtesy of 'six young men' from New Haven. Described on the Popsike website as a "Heavy Psych Bad Trip Deather", the top side to the single, 'Can Can Girl' gives no indication as to why these 'SYM' should carry out the (morbid) ideas of the deceased Burritt Bradley, or even who he was and how they may be connected to him. A seance perhaps? Although the band released several singles and a self-titled album on the Poison Ring label, details are sketchy. Formed from the ashes (or should that be the remains?) of New Haven's Bram Rigg Set and the Shags, it's marginally easier to find records by the Bram Rigg Set, who took their name from two gravestones in a Cheshire, Conn. graveyard and went on to record a cover of Them's 'I can only give you everything' (along with a hundred other garage bands!) for the Kayden label plus a slew of demos (including a great version of 'I can't explain') at the 'famous' Trod Nossel Studios.
And now, a slight change of pace:
Bryan Maclean- 'Old Man' (Demo recorded 1966. Released on Love 'Forever Changes' LP issued November 1967. Elektra label. This from 'Ifyoubelievein' LP, US only released summer 1997. Sundazed label )
Surely every RPM'er has a copy of Love's 'Forever Changes' in their collection? If not, why not!!! There's no denying the quality of leader Arthur Lee's songs and musicianship but there could have been so much more to Love if............ Well, to answer that we have to look at Bryan's personality and background. Born into an upper middle class family with show business connections, Bryan could be viewed as a spoiled rich kid. His mother was an artist, and a keen flamenco dancer who would drag Bryan along to her lessons. It was there that he developed a love for the flamenco rhythms and furious guitar strumming which would later become a staple part of some of Love's classic songs (think 'Alone Again Or') His architect father loved show tunes and Bryan not only developed a love for Lerner and Loewe, Rodger and Hammerstein etc, Frederick Loewe declared Bryan a 'musical genius' when he heard him playing the piano at aged three. Bryan learnt to swim in his neighbours pool, that's Elizabeth Taylor's pool by the way, and his first steady girlfriend was Liza Minneli. He began playing blues songs and Indian modal instrumentals in LA's clubs aged 17 and it was there that he befriended Jim McGuinn, Gene Clarke and David Crosby who were in the process of forming the Byrds. Their shared love of Indian music and the Beatles saw Bryan hanging out with the Byrds, eventually becoming a go-fer/road manager when they began to become popular. However, he was left behind when the band flew to the UK in 1965 and it was this event which saw Bryan's desire to be in a group become a reality. Returning home late one night, he called in at Ben Franks Beanery, a popular hang out for musicians (akin to the Watford Gap in the UK, but probably posher!) and was invited into a parked car belonging to Arthur Lee. Now, whether, as some suspect, Lee was there deliberately to seek out Bryan, who was well known thanks to his club appearances and his friendship with the Byrds, or that the stars were favourably aligned, Lee asked Bryan to join the nascent Love (then called the Grassroots). There's no doubt that Lee, famous for using people to meet his own ends, would have been aware of Bryans business contacts but it's also certain that he would also have been aware of Bryans musical talents as they were both playing the same circuit. Bryan joined the band soon after and, as there was already a record release by a band called the Grassroots, the group were swiftly rechristened Love. Despite being a prolific songwriter by this time, Bryan would struggle to have his work included in the Love canon with just four of his songs being placed on the band's first three albums. There are sixteen songs from this period on the 'Ifyoubelievein' album and many of them would have fitted in perfectly on any of those initial three albums. Because of Lee's domineering personality, his predilection for setting band mates against each other, his own (and the rest of Love's members) prodigious drug use and a deserved reputation for no-shows, Love in general, and Bryan in particular, regularly gave in to Lee's demands. By late 1967 Bryans confidence was at rock bottom and, aware of the huge backlog of songs, label owner Jac Holtzman offered Bryan the chance of a solo career. He was spirited away to Hawaii to record some demos but, such was Bryans mental state that Holtzman turned the results down. There were further unsuccessful demos for Capitol and, at the end of his tether, Bryan decided, quite simply, to pray for guidance and, a couple of weeks later, had a revelation of sorts in a New York bar and joined a religious sect called The Vineyard (later to become the relious home for born again Christian Bob Dylan). Bryan turned his back on rock music, initially opening a Christian nightclub called The Daisy and, when that closed in 1978 he was approached to re-join Love for two dates at the Whisky-au go-go in LA. Lee then asked Bryan to join the band full time to tour the UK but, as he had still not been 'allowed' to perform his own songs and, crucially, wasn't paid for the two gigs, he declined and formed his own group. The band was short-lived and Bryan retreated into isolation again before recording several albums of religious songs and appearing occasionally with his step sister Maria McKee's band Lone Justice. In 1996 Bryan's mother found the Elektra demos in a box in the family garage and began contacting record labels with a view to their release. New York's Sundazed label prepared the fine package (my numbered limited edition.... 267 of 1000 worldwide) which includes a colored vinyl bonus 7" and reproduced handwritten lyric sheet for the title song, comes in a lovely gatefold sleeve with expansive sleeve notes. Poignantly, Bryan states "This is just the beginning, so to speak. I feel as if I'm, kind of, just starting out on life....". Unfortunately, on Christmas Day 1998 he suffered a heart attack and passed away. 'Old Man' sees Bryan, perhaps naively, conjure up the proverbial 'wise old man' who, for some reason gives the singer gifts and trinkets before he dispenses advice regarding 'love' (not the group I would imagine) which the singer relates as approval of his current paramour. A gorgeous string laden ballad on 'Forever Changes', here it's a touchingly emotional ballad from a person who was already showing signs of the crisis in self confidence which would forever blight his career.
Meanwhile, here in Blighty:
Mike Stuart Span- 'Children of Tomorrow' (7" single released 16th February 1968. Jewel label. My copy a 'semi-legit' reissue)
Exploding onto the scene when Brightons Mighty Atoms split (sorry!!!!) the band evolved from a fairly standard beat group in 1965 to an expanded soul group in late 1966. Signed to Columbia, their first two singles (covers of the Drifters 'Come on over to our place' and Cat Stevens 'Dear) were commercial failures and EMI dropped the band. Not only were the band dropped, but the band also 'dropped' acid which resulted in lead guitarist Nigel Langham exiting an upper floor bedroom through the window and sustaining fatal injuries. Reverting to the standard four piece, the band were courted by Decca but their demo was deemed 'too uncommercial' and no contract was offered, so the band decided to ditch the covers and self finance a single of their own songs. Retiring to the famed R G Jones studio in Morden, the band recorded 'Children of tomorrow/Concerto of thoughts' and offered it to the newly formed Melodisc subsidiary Jewel and just 500 copies were pressed up. Despite it's small run, the disc created considerable interest and the band appeared in the film 'Better a widow', toured Europe, appeared with Cream and Jimi Hendrix and performed a 20-minute science fiction fantasy entitled "Cycle" at London’s 100 Club. After a John Peel Top Gear session the band was chosen to be featured in a series entitled 'A year in the life' following their progress over a 12 month period. That series saw the band fire their manager and, after recording a slew of further demos, sign to Elektra Records in early 1969. There was a major clause in the contract however. Elektra insisted on a name change, which saw them re-christened Leviathan and it was under that name that their debut singles were released. So, any recognition the band had yet to acquire here in the UK was lost thanks to the name change and, of course, they were an entirely unknown unit in the US. A brace of singles were simultaneously released in the US in April 1969, along with an advertising campaign entitled 'The Four Faces of Leviathan'. It failed of course, as did their third single 'Flames', a 'taster' for their album (which remained officially unreleased until 2016) and the band were dropped by Elektra in November 1969, just one month after the showing of BBC's 'A year in the life' series. Unsurprisingly the band split with members going on to careers with further minor groups, BBC production work and a casual building site labourer. This mammoth double-sider should have propelled the band into the same bracket as, say, the Move and Creation but Madame Fortune turned her attention elsewhere and left us with just a handful of collectable singles with 'Children of Tomorrow' currently valued at around £500.
(The) Craig- 'I must be mad' (7" single released June 1966. Fontana label. My copy a 'semi-legit reissue)
A short lived Birmingham band 'famous' for two reasons. Firstly, of course, this proto-psych/Who style slab of mayhem plus, less importantly, an early appearance by renowned tub thumper Carl Palmer. Initially known as the Castaways (of which there were at least several including the better known surfers Tony Rivers and....) and then The King Bees (with the London KB's featuring one Davy Jones/Bowie), the exact meaning of (sometimes The) Craig is lost in the mists of time. However, February 1966 saw the band introduced to the Troggs manager Larry Page who signed them to Page One (possibly enforcing the change of name on the band at that time) and placed them in the studio to record a cover of The Exciters 'A little bit of soap'. Page thought that Palmer's drumming was not up to scratch and a session drummer was bought in, leading Palmer to rethink his whole playing style, especially his time keeping and the use of differing drum tunings. The single was leased to Fontana but, in common with the Exciters excellent original, the record failed to break through. At the follow up session Page wanted the band to cover Georgie Fame's 'Getaway' (surely deemed to fail as that record was already high in the charts) but pressure from lead vocalist Geoff Brown saw the band lay down two of their numbers, the distinctly mod-styled 'Suspense' (featuring a lead guitar break by labelmates the Troggs Chris Britten who were in the studio recording 'Wild Thing') and this outstanding early psychedelic classic(even the band probably didn't realise it was psychedelic at the time!) which may well have bent the ear of Pete Townsend thanks to the similarity of 'I can see for miles', released a year later in September 1967. 'I must be mad' was played by the band just once in the studio to Page who immediately agreed to its recording and it was duly laid down in one take, no overdubs!!! Following its release the band became dissatisfied with the direction Page wanted the band to follow, plus there were still grievances regarding the choice of the band's name, and in May 1967 the band inexplicably folded. Brown and band mate Richard Pannell went on to form Galliard who recorded two albums for Deram Nova, supported Led Zeppelin and, according to reports at the time, sounded like " A pop band who've gone progressive are performing at the same time as a brass section who were soul but have now got into free-style jazz; or like listening to two radios, one tuned to pop one tuned to jazz (but without the discordance). It is a great mix.... like Blood Sweat & Tears meets The Soft Machine." Bassist Len Cox went into the ministry and, of course, we all know what happened to Palmer. There were a few more demos (unreleased as far as I know) but what we're left with is a classic, collectable single which was voted number 2 in an Observer poll of the greatest psychedelic singles of all time. Number One? 'Arnold Layne'!!! Oh, and the price if you have or want a copy? Discogs has the lowest sale at £199 and the highest at £850.......... phew!! My £6 purchase still sounds like a bluddy bargain!
Paper Blitz Tissue- 'Boy meets girl' (7" single released December 1967. RCA Victor label. My copy a 'semi legit' re-issue)
Paper BlItz Tissue! Was there ever a more cliched name for a psychedelic band? (Answers on a tab of blotting paper please!!). Not only that, very little is known about the band so this one will be pretty short........... band members were Derek Needham, Terry Keatley, Bernie Lee and Dave DuFort, who later moved on to East of Eden and Kevin Ayers whilst Lee went on to appear as a member of Orange Bicycle, Onyx and Cupids Inspiration. Other than support gigs for Jimi Hendix and Pink Floyd at UFO and Middle Earth, this was their one shot at fame which was strange really as RCA seemed to have spent some cash on music paper ad's at the time. However, there may well be other stuff in the can as the band co-wrote the music for a BBC programme called 'Death of a Private' with Ron Grainer. There is speculation that Bill Brufford and Miller Anderson may have been one time members but this has never been substantiated. 'Death of a Private' also featured 'Boy meets girl' by the Ron Grainer Orchestra which was also released as a single. One other curiosity was another track released on the same day by RCA, 'Happy Tramp', with the next sequential catalogue number, which was also credited to PBT. This was actually by Charles Stuart who had featured as 'The Pop Singer' in the BBC play.
Meanwhile, back in the US of A:
Seeds- 'Tripmaker' (from 'Web of sound' US release October 1966. GNP Crescendo label. My copy re-release Line Records, Germany 1983)
Released a year before their opus psychedelic LP 'Future', their sophomore album saw the band cementing their reputation as one of America's foremost garage/psych groups. Led by Sky Saxon (quite possibly his real name!), the band formed in LA in 1965 and, soon after, were awarded a residency at Bido Lito's shortly after the Byrds hit the road to success. Their 1965 debut single ('Can't seem to make you mine') was a local hit, as was it's follow up 'Pushin' too hard', but it would be another year before national recognition came with that second singles re-release and that success was consolidated with three more US charters over the next 12 months. Their self titled debut album, unusually for the time, consisted entirely of band composed songs and charted at 132 in the US album charts. 'Web of sound' followed but, strangely, made no impression on the record-buying public. Pete Johnson, in a 1967 Los Angeles Times review, stated that "with 'A Web of Sound', the Seeds had "been adopted by the hippies – the flower children – because of their open-ended songs which generally skirt neatly plotted thoughts and didacticism." whilst author Clinton Heylin compared the extended 'Up in her room' to the Velvet Underground's 'Sister Ray stating "both songs work much the same way [...] listening to them is humming in a room where another dozen people are humming also, in a constant pitch, never varying,unchanging". Perhaps feeling the strain of their nationwide success, the band recorded the primitive' A full spoon of Seedy blues' LP in an effort to break their contract with GNP, a ruse which failed to achieve its purpose when the album duly charted. Saxon's plan succeeded with their next, final album though. "Raw & Alive: The Seeds in Concert at Merlin's Music Box" failed to sell, although it is actually a great document of how the band sounded at its peak, and the band were dropped by GNP but, unforeseen by Saxon, two of the bands members decided enough was enough and left. Saxon formed and reformed the Seeds several times before joining the Yohawha religious cult for several years. The 1980's saw Saxon recording with Red Kross and the Chesterfield Kings before reinstating the Seeds as a live band until his death in 2009. 'Tripmaker' is one of Saxons most overt drug songs with its lyrics referring to the 'underground' LSD manufacturers (think Augustus Owsley Stanley III) viz 'a thousand signs saying STAY AWAY' 'and their 'crystallized powders in colourized bottles causing the earth to tremble' all topped off with a wailing police siren interspersing the song throughout.
Thirteenth Floor Elevators- 'Fire Engine' (from 'The psychedelic sounds of....' LP. US released November 1966. International Artists label. UK release Radar label 1978)
And speaking of sirens............ Here's one of the most legendary psychedelic bands of all time, and with good reason. Their debut album ('The Psychedelic sounds of...' ) had to wait over ten years for a UK release and during that time much of their UK reputation centred on just one track ('You're gonna miss me') on the original 'Nuggets' album released in October 1972. I purchased mine from an import shop in Rotherham following a pre-release review in the OZ magazine by, I think, Mick Farren of agit prop group the Deviants. Only the Holy Modal Rounders and The Deep had namechecked the word 'psychedelic' with regards to their music but here, the Prunes plastered it across their day-glo debut album sleeve and, more importantly, made music that could only have come from minds altered by LSD. Lead singer Roky Erickson had recorded an early version of the Prunes first single ('.... Miss me') with his Texas band The Spades, who had scored a regional hit with their lone single 'We sell soul' in 1965, before Erickson left the band and joined local Austin band the Lingsmen. Also joining the now rechristened band was co-lyricist and electric jug player Tommy Hall and it was his 'instrument' which became not only the bands signature sound but, later, also a major cause of irritation between Erickson and Hall. It's generally accepted that, despite Roky's reputation for taking LSD, it was Hall who insisted that the band dropped acid before every show!!! Around the time of the Elevators early gigs in Texas no less than Janis Joplin asked to join the band but she was talked out of that by her friend Chet Helms who took her to the more liberal environs of San Francisco to join Big Brother and the Holding Company. Despite TV appearances on the 'Sumpin' Else' and 'The Larry Kane Show', constant police harassment in Texas, coupled with the initial relative success of a rerecorded '....Miss me' for the Contact label initiated the bands relocation to SF where they made two appearances on the networked Dick Clark Show and appeared at The Fillmore and The Avalon ballrooms. The band were signed to the International Artist label who reissued the single and were rewarded with a number 55 listing on the Billboard chart. Returning to Texas in summer 1966 the band went in to the studio to record the 'Psychedelic sounds of....' album which, despite modest sales (rumoured to be the entire initial run of 40,000), led to greater acceptance with the 'hippie' crowds at the larger concert venues they were now playing and a cult following throughout the wider Western Seaboard teens. Returning to Austin in early 1967 the band released a second single (the excellent 'Levitation') and recorded their second album, the even more impressive 'Easter Everywhere' which was released in November 1967. Despite their quality, the single and the album failed to sell (said to total just 10,000) and the band hit a major problem when two members tired of Hall's proselytizing of LSD and International Artists running of the bands affairs and left. Strangely, the band concentrated their live appearances around Austin for the next year where they were seen as the guiding lights for many other Texas bands, but their problems were exacerbated when there were further departures coupled with both Hall and Erickson beginning to suffer mentally from the constant use of LSD. There was just one more 'official' album ('Bull of the woods) which was cobbled together with very little involvement by Erikson, who had been self committed to a mental hospital by that time, plus a 'live' album that wasn't ... demos and outtakes with overdubbed audience apparently, before the band folded. Their music has been covered by REM, Jesus and Mary Chain, ZZ Top, Echo and the Bunnymen, Spacemen 3 and Primal Scream amongst others.
Two linked groups now:
Both short lived and both the brainchild of the same person; academic, musician and experimental composer Joe Byrd. After forming several country and folk groups in the late 50's, Boyd attended Stanford University where he befriended three of 'electronic/minimalist' music's most famous names, Terry Riley, La Monte Young and Steve Reich. After achieving his M.A. he relocated to NYC where he signed up to study with minimalist legend John Cage and became a member of the movement soon to become famous as 'Fluxus'. It was here he befriended Yoko Ono who hosted his first ever concert, in conjunction with Young, in her loft. This took place in March 1961 and became known as the first 'happening' and included songs with titles such as 'Loops and Sequences', 'Four*Sound Poems' and 'Prelude to 'The Mystery Cheese-Ball'. He was signed to Capitol Records where he and his girlfriend Dorothy Moskovitz collaborated on 'The Life Treasury of Christmas Music' LP in 1963. 1965 saw him back at UCLA studying music history, acoustics, psychology of music, and Indian music, and joining the Communist Party, before realizing his music could reach a larger audience if he incorporated rock music. The conclusion to a series of 1965 concerts entitled"Steamed Spring Vegetable Pie" (taken from the 'Alice B Toklas Cookbook') saw a concert by a blues band, fronted by Byrds friend Linda Rondstat, perform some of his new work. Moskovitz returned to NYC in 1966 until Byrd contacted her in 1967 to ask her to return to front his new 'electronic sound avant-garde political/musical rock group' called The United States of America. The band included electric violinist Gordon Marron and featured ring modulators built for the band by Tom Oberheim, with Moskovitz on vocals, playing music influenced by The Red Crayola, Country Joe and the Fish, and Blue Cheer and maverick American composer Charles Ives. Signed to Columbia, the band released their self titled album in early 1968 and commenced touring as support to the Troggs and Velvet Underground, as seperate touring entities one presumes! Perceived lack of support by Columbia and internal friction saw the band dissolve in late 1968 whereupon Boyd ditched both the band and his girlfriend Moskovitz and, after gaining support from Columbia's Masterworks division John McClure, he recorded 'The American Metaphysical Circus' under the banner of Joe Byrd and the Field Hippies in just a few weeks using session men including saxophonist Tom Scott, guitarist Ted Greene and bassist Harvey Newmark. However, he was forced to replace Moskovitz with differing female leads and on 'The Elephant at the Door' it's Susan De Lance who, although vocally similar, did not seem to have the same icy, ethereal quality as her predecessor. Even more daring than his debut album, 'TAMC' became renowned for the inclusion of "The Sub-Sylvian Litanies", a three-part suite which has been described as "an entire acid trip in 11 minutes" and the equally psychedelic 'The Elephant at the Door'. Although neither album charted at the time, their reputation grew over the years (with 'TAMC' remaining on Columbia's Masterworks release schedules for over 20 years) which has led to their re releases on several occasions since the mid eighties. Since then Boyd has produced artists as varied as Phil Ochs and Ry Cooder and released music ranging from 'yankee doodle' nursery rhyme style music (done electronically of course) to Christmas carols (utilising the then latest synthesisers). In the early 21st Century he worked with Norwegian improvisors Spunk and the UK's 'sound art' unit Dreams of Tall Buildings before returning to California where he still teaches music history and theory at the College of the Redwoods in Eureka.
United States of America- 'The Garden of Earthly Delights' (from 'The United States of America' LP, released March 8th 1968. Columbia label. this from Edsel reissue 1987)
Joe Byrd and the Field Hippies- 'The Elephant at the Door' (from 'The American Metaphysical Circus' released October1969, Columbia Masterworks label. This from US Columbia Masterworks reissue circa 1990)
Time to finish on a 'high' so it's over to...
Blues Magoos- 'Gloria' (from 'Electric Comic Book' LP released April 1967. Mercury label This from Sundazed label reissue 2011. Includes 'comic book'.)
Originally The Trenchcoats (!) in 1964, this NYC band changed that perennially unfavourable name to the hipper Bloos Magoos the following year and then, in 1966, the slightly more grammatically correct Blues Magoos saw them signed to the Verve label. Their debut single, "So I'm Wrong and You Are Right" failed to sell and, by late 1966 the band had moved to the Mercury label. The band quickly issued their debut single 'We ain't got nothing yet' (ripping off Rick Nelson/James Burtons intro to 'Summertime' and setting the template for Deep Purple's 'Black Night' of course) which hit number five in the US charts a couple of months later which was accompanied by their album 'Psychedelic Lollipop' (the third album in 1966 to use that word) which topped out at number 21 in the album charts. Despite these successes their follow up singles and albums failed to follow those into the charts, despite a prevalence of fine band compositions which were mainly absent on the debut. One thing that was shared by both albums however was a sense of 'pun'!! with the debut having track entitled 'Love seems doomed' (LSD) whilst the follow featured 'Albert Collins is dead' (acid), plus the latter album had had the novelty numbers 'Intermission' and 'That's all folks' (a rock version of the Loony Tunes cartoon endings) at the conclusion of each side. There was just one unsuccessful single release from the album, plus two from the equally disappointing followup album 'Basic Blues Magoos', after which the band split in 1968. There were several attempts to rekindle the flame by various members, and a couple of later albums which seemed to end the story until a reformation of most of the band in 2008 saw the band play several high profile gigs and, in 2014, they released a well received new album and re-commenced touring on a regular basis. I'm not sure how many versions of Van the Man's garage classic but this one is up there with my favourites and a great way to end this selection methinks!!!!
Hope you enjoyed the ride on the bus...........?