Various Artists – ‘March of the Flower Children – The American Sounds of 1967’
‘March of the Flower Children’, as well as delivering exactly what you might well expect, is cunning enough to throw in the odd curveball. Yes, three discs of sounds from 1967 include psych, pop, and daisy sniffing, but there’s also a reminder that The Velvet Underground, Captain Beefheart and The Mothers of Invention were at large, faffing around in thornier bushes and shouting at passing horses. However, their presence here doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb – the song choices are considered and relevant, and you’re reminded very quickly that 1967 wasn’t all peace and love. The war taking place thousands of miles away was not only morally troublesome, but it also left those at home confused, the future clouded and the present on pause. Some took the opportunity to update their image, with style being only limited by the amount of velvet you could survive wearing in a hot summer. Others were already mourning what they had yesterday but hadn’t fully appreciated, whilst others saw only neon gibbons and fizzing rainbows, their songs crafted with water jugs, stereophonic wizardry and an hour’s sleep every other week. 1967 was everything you thought it was and an awful lot more.
How do you introduce the world to the 1967 American music scene? 13th Floor Elevators? The Monkees? The Seeds? No – The Peanut Butter Conspiracy! A challenging choice! But maybe it’s bang on. A band with a preposterous name and a track which promised everything on the surface but is riddled with self-doubt. ‘It’s a Happening Thing’ was a semi-tribute to Rodney Bingenheimer, “The Mayor of Sunset Strip”, the omnipresent LA scenester who was a touchstone for the next big thing. It’s an odd song – slightly urgent; sort of catchy; slightly memorable. The transient nature of 1967 is writ large on their one-hit (well, top 100 on Billboard) face, but more than that, the strange minor key changes suggest that even they think the next happening might be cancelled.
It seems that ever since Hollywood honoured The Doors with a biopic the music intelligentsia changed their mind about their position at the pinnacle of the West Coast’s scene. Jim’s shtick was too hoary; they were too popular; they’d lost their cool. In their place was championed a band who they felt was much more than a bedroom poet; whose unassuming songs lingered like fireflies and who had more emotions than ‘intense’ and ‘morose’. Arthur Lee’s Love might or might not be better than The Doors (hey, why can’t we all just get on?) but there’s no doubt that they were long overdue a wider audience. One suspects for licensing reasons as opposed to artistic dictate that ‘Forever Changes’ isn’t plundered, but this doesn’t deny a stellar choice – ‘¡Que Vida!’ from their ‘Da Capo’ album, sees Arthur essentially talking to himself about how silly the world is (including the scene they were in) with a shuffling Latin rhythm and a bottle cork popping as a reminder that you’d better enjoy the easy ride while it lasts. Sleighbells at the end suggest they’re already halfway over the hill getting out of Dodge.
“How old d’you say your sister was? (sister was, sister was)
You know you’d better keep an eye on her (eye on her, eye on her)”
Englishman abroad there, Davy Jones, singing lines which still didn’t raise an eyebrow of The Monkees’ adoring fans. Of course, Davy wasn’t responsible for the song (stand up, Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller) but again, we’re faced with dubiousness and suspicion, ‘She Hangs Out’ being a song that postures to threaten and then simply can’t be arsed. A bit early to hit a lull but The Cryan’ Shames provide it. The most interesting thing about them is their name and even then, I still have more respect for you than to bore you with the background.
‘Morning Dew’ was already six years old and had changed hands at least half a dozen times before Tim Rose had a pop at it. The zeitgeist was in his favour, and his rockier interpretation of what had become a folk standard became an anthem of sorts for antiwar protesters. He had already poached ‘Hey Joe’ the previous year and all but claimed it was his own, Rose becoming something of a dab hand at tweaking history in his favour. The pass-the-parcel of songs in the sixties is somewhat alien to us now – to cover someone else’s song – especially one so recent – seems rather vulgar or, at best, lazy. But this was 1967 – everyone wanted to change the world, especially if it didn’t involve much work on their part.
It says something when The Spike Drivers come across as a more fun proposition. Hailing from Detroit, they give the impression that Motor City was more centred on manufacturing mattresses, such is the almost horizontal lugubrious and sporophoric ‘Strange Mysterious Sounds’. The Blues Magoos were a band that had doomed themselves with listeners getting their name incorrect for their entire existence. There’s a Half Man Half Biscuit song which covers this:
“If you’re going to quote from the Book of Revelation
Don’t keep calling it the Book of Revelations
There’s no “s”, it’s the Book of Revelation
As revealed to St John the Divine
See also Mary Hopkin
She must despair”
‘Pipe Dream’ is a good track but so similar to not only their tracks but every other garage band who’d thrown an organ into their mix, that it sank with barely a ripple. The Blues Project featured Al Kooper, a tremendous flag-waver for 1967 and indeed the 60s and 70s overall, and he left his mark with ‘No Time Like the Right Time’, a very minor hit. A very minor hit was still an outrageous success – even the stingiest, most work-shy layabouts could cobble together enough money to cut a 7″ single, and it felt like most people did. The garage rock sound is present in much of this collection, largely because they were recorded exactly as they’d been rehearsed, with the ‘record’ button being pressed once as they were shuttled through the studio in as much time as it took for them to reach their fade-out ending. Kooper, being a cut above, wanted to create something less transient and had jumped ship before the band had a cut a live album featuring fake applause. By 1968 he had formed Blood, Sweat and Tears.
The Youngbloods are tremendously 1967. ‘Merry-Go-Round’ features discordant recorders, lollipops and la-la-las, but somehow lacks a little something that would make it a psych-pop classic – it feels a little too forced and maybe shows their folk roots a little too readily to pass off as soaked-in-substance revelry. You could never accuse Kim Fowley of trying to hide his true colours. Countless years ago I tried to interview Fowley but we had a falling out over who was going to pay the phone bill. I imagine the indignity of dialling a number from his solid gold bath was too much to contemplate. ‘Strangers from the Sky’ is amazing – it pulls on television (‘The Twilight Zone’ and ‘The Outer Limits’ most obviously), the space programme and knowledge of the ‘Nuggets’ scene years before anyone else was studying it. It should be pure novelty but shows 60s America in all its wayward glory, dreaming of Alpha Centauri as they send young men into the jungle to die. The musician behind Fowley’s showmanship is Michael Lloyd, soon to join the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band and later to become one of the most successful commercial producers in America. This single was released on Reprise, a year before they put out Tiny Tim’s debut record, surely making Frank Sinatra one of the coolest hippies in the world.
It’s to the set compiler’s credit that The Troyes don’t sound terribly inadequate in the wake. Few chords are unduly troubled by the strumming guitarist but what’s so arresting about ‘Love Comes, Love Dies’ is singer Lee Koteles‘ voice – somewhere between an overacting 1930s theatre actor and someone trying to call an ambulance whilst running away from a swarm of wasps. They only released two singles and are a nice reminder of how the provincial garage band scene never gave up knocking on Billboard’s door. If only they’d themed it with a bit more foresight, The ID‘s ‘Boil the Kettle Mother’ could easily have become another ‘Monster Mash’. As it was, it’s a bizarre ode to a kitchen appliance, with Wrecking Crew guitarist, Jerry Cole orchestrating the madness and Jack Good, the British rock ‘n’ roll impresario and pioneer of music television shows (Six-Five Special for the BBC, Oh Boy! for ITV, and the equally influential Shindig! for a US network), providing his rounded Oxford vowels.
Thursday’s Childrens‘ ‘Help, Murder, Police’, in truth, is a much better title than it is a song. The verses plod over a ‘Louie Louie’ type riff, whilst the chorus tries its best to be infectious but fails. The Beau Brummels, of course, were far more distinctive, with Sal Valentino’s tremulous tones teetering over the band’s baroque folk backdrop. ‘Two Days ‘Til Tomorrow’ is tremendously accomplished but oddly unloveable – a little too overworked and deliberate. Valentino cut loose rather more readily when he joined Stoneground, immortalised as the house band in ‘Dracula A.D. 1972’. It’s a nice surprise to see The Vagrants‘ cover of ‘Respect’ on here flying in direct from the ‘Nuggets’ comp. Originally only a B-side, The Vagrants feature a pre-Mountain Leslie West, already in excellent form.
In 1967, The Grateful Dead were still oikish upstarts looking to plug into the teen pound – ‘The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion)’ failed in that respect, despite being mercifully slim on jamming, but older, some might say duller, ears were soon to open. The Sound Barrier’s, ‘Hey Hey’ is a real grower, starting off rather copy-and-paste garage band but developing a somewhat sinister snarl to both the echoed vocal and the fuzzed-out guitar. Whilst they never made an impression, Paul Revere and the Raiders had become one of the jewels in Columbia’s crown the previous year, with ‘Him or Me – What’s it Gonna Be?’ featured here, from their seventh album, ‘Revolution!’. Singer, Mark Lindsay, is a much-overlooked songwriter, though not as overlooked as the musicians who brought them to life – tucked away are the likes of Ry Cooder, Van Dyke Parks, Hal Blaine and Glen Campbell. One of the best reflections of 1967, the track was written at 10050 Cielo Drive, shortly to become infamous for the Tate-LaBianca murders.
‘Six O’Clock’ sees The Lovin’ Spoonful still at their peak, though audiences were starting to thin a little. It throws everything at the track, from thumping drums to charming keyboard frolics and some delicious key changes, and it’s orange skies all the way…until a drugs bust saw guitarist Zal Yankovsky and bassist Steve Boone arrested. It seems somewhat perverse that this could be troublesome to a band at the fore of bacchanalia, more so that it should only be over possession of marijuana. Regardless, the authorities were ready to throw the book at Yankovsky and deport him back to Canada. In retrospect, this was the sensible option but instead, the guitarist squealed like a stuck pig and told the police who his dealer was. The result was a national press advert from the police recommending people don’t buy the band’s records and pickets from the hardcore fraternity of the counterculture at their gig, with ‘fink’ placards and much hissing and booing abound. Don’t do drugs, kids.
The Young Rascals‘ ‘Groovin’ feels like it’s existed forever, as likely to have been recorded in the 50s as it was yesterday. One of the early examples of blue-eyed soul, it does the song a huge disservice, giving up a little extra every time you listen to it. Harpers Bizarre‘s ‘Come to the Sunshine’ had already been released by its writer, Van Dyke Parks, who volunteered his keyboard services here too, as you would if there was the threat of a double payday. Harpers Bizarre are so full of sunbeams that you become suspicious. It’s too bright; too gorgeous; too heavenly. It reeks of duplicity and signposts the worst is surely yet to come. Decades later, it features in Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’, no doubt for exactly these reasons.
It says much that when The Mothers of Invention appear, it isn’t out of place. Frank’s vocals on ‘Why Don’t You Do Me Right’ is the devil on the shoulder that every hippy ignored, not offering advice as much as pointing out the obvious consequences of being so narrow-minded. Recorded, inevitably, as an attempt to infiltrate the charts by masquerading as the flotsam that Zappa saw residing there, the public (literally) didn’t buy it, but it still nails it. West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band follow in The Mothers’ wake, doomed to look fake, phoney and trite. Remarkably, ‘Transparent Day’, a fine but drippy jangling dirge was given a back seat as the band’s label pushed a cover of…Zappa’s Help, I’m a Rock!’ instead!
The Morning Dew might be the most expendable entry across the whole set, alas, but The Kaleidoscope‘s ‘Egyptian Gardens’ gets us back on track, with a preposterous journey into a bellydancer’s private quarters, a fest of finger cymbals, ouds and plucked frivolity which, of course, didn’t trouble the charts, but remains hugely enjoyable. The Blue Things, sadly, got lost in the sea of bands joining the flower revolution. ‘You Can Live in Our Tree’, funnily enough, features a guitar sound not dissimilar to psych devotee Gary Lee Conner of Screaming Trees‘ sound, buzzing with heavier-than-lead energy, only to float off into celestial streams. There are some inspired and oddly chilling moments in the track that more than deserves its place here.
Talking of chilling, Eternity’s Children, ‘You Can’t Put a Thing Over Me’ has less of an LA feel than a noir-ish breakdown in a Chicago detective TV show. The descending bassline, rattling drums and eerie horn (at least it sounds like a horn) are trippy without ever really becoming psychedelic – groovy! The Human Expression stared immortality in the face and blew it, rejecting ‘Born to be Wild’ on the grounds that its lyrics were ‘trite’. Included here is a demo of their track, ‘Optical Sound’, which has an ethereal, spooky vibe but not quite a good enough chorus to become a hit single. Indeed, they only managed three in total. The Sandals keep up the creepy with ‘House of Painted Glass’, a B-side which has some lovely rolling verses, a bassoon-heavy chorus and some ghoulish laughing which feels like it’s appeared in a mixing error (but hasn’t). It’s a brilliant track, daft and self-confident, The Sandals secured more than their 15 minutes of fame by being featured in the film, ‘Endless Summer’. The disc concludes with Englishmen imposters, Chad & Jeremy, whose ‘Rust in Peace’ is exactly as cynical as you’d expect outsiders to sound amongst such free-living ladies and gentlemen. Features the gem of a line: “It’s so prestigious, even though you’re not religious“.
Only another two discs, strap yourselves in! I’d struggle to think of a better track to get you in the right headspace for trippy nonsense than Zodiac‘s ‘Aries: The Fire Fighter’. Bringing together pioneering electronic whackjob, Mort Garson; Moog magi, Paul Beaver; Wrecking Crew stalwarts Carol Kaye and Hal Blaine, plus narration from Cyrus Faryar, it’s one of the great psych records full-stop, a concept album connecting cosmic dots for the star children. The album sleeve demanded that it ‘MUST BE PLAYED IN THE DARK’, signposting exactly how horizontal it expected the audience to be. Faryar’s delivery is far more Jim Morrison than Ken Nordine, which allows the Wurlitzer sounds to sing out and not clash over who’s in charge.
Musos will gravely intone that artists such as Sinatra, Cash and Bennett are the great interpreters of the American Songbook. That they are but let’s include, with a straight bat, Vanilla Fudge. Far more than simply a covers bad, Vanilla Fudge lived and breathed the material they worked with, capturing the emotion of Motown soul, the pop sorcery of The Beatles, but also the emerging fascination with the ultra-heavy. It’s no novelty that Led Zep opened for them in their early days, nor that it largely informed Deep Purple’s early sound. Their versions of songs are those which are regularly used in TV and film, not the original artists. ‘You Keep Me Hanging On’ sounds like a mammoth forging forward through shoulder-high snow drifts, bellowing into the icy wind.
The big surprise is not that The Electric Prunes appear – it would be perverse if they didn’t – but that it isn’t ‘I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night)’ which is featured. Instead, we get, oddly, a relatively obscure B-side from their second album, ‘Hideaway’, powered by ritualist drumming and chanting, it’s dark psych and superb. Even darker is Red Krayola‘s, ‘Hurricane Fighter Plane’, the surf rhythm guitar misleading you into believing the spume surrounding you is safe to lick. Signed to the same label as 13th Floor Elevators, and featuring Roky Erickson on organ, this is a track which has had me deep diving into their back cataloguing and reminding myself of how exceptional they were at using darkness, space and tone to grab hold of your ears and give them a good seeing to.
Moby Grape is another band which I’d encourage you to revisit – if many singles in 1967 seemed like they simply existed for the moment, ‘Fall on You’ feels like it’s created for the ages, though it works better as an album track than a standalone single. Another track which doesn’t work as a single is ‘Evergreen: Part One’ by Stone Poneys. It got to number 13 in the charts, which shows you what I know. The tickled sitar and monastic vocals by Kenny Edwards and a young Linda Ronstadt didn’t scream ‘commercial’, but clearly caught the ears of ‘refreshed’ listeners. Ahoy, The Seeds! Their inclusion, with the title track of the boxed set, is short but sweet, a rare example of a track including both a tuba and a whip cracking.
I can’t really cope with The Byrds. I’ve always found them cynical and dull, droning on with their harmonies a bit too perfect to engage with. They’re what AI would come up with if you fed in all their constituent parts. ‘Lady Friend’ has not changed my mind. The Rare Breed‘s, ‘I Talk to the Sun’ may have played well in the frenzied topless go-go bar at which they were the house band but they feel a little lost and stale standing in the daytime surrounded by fully dressed folk. More urgent are The Liberty Bell, a shortlived Texan band whose fuzz overture, ‘That’s How it Will Be’ would make Mudhoney feel they needed to up their game.
NGC-4594 is surely one of the worst band names of any decade. What were they thinking? [of the black hole closest to Earth, should you need to know]. So-so plid-plod slog, ‘Going Home’ does little to help it lodge in your memory. The Tokens were well-established by 1967, having scored several hits, notably their cover of ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’. ‘It’s a Happening World’ doesn’t convince you that they’re down with the cool kids but has a Beach Boys glee which it’s hard to dislike. The Peppermint Trolley Company don’t really sound like they could be anything but a 1967 exercise in record label cash-in, but ‘A Lazy Summer Day’ is charming, like a kind young man helping an old lady across a busy road and tipping his feathered hat at the other side. They recorded the original theme tune to The Brady Bunch. What nice young men. Brian Epstein thought The Cyrkle were nice young men, but let’s not dwell on that too closely. Epstein guided them to repeated chart success, even before they were The Beatles’ support act on their final US tour in 1966 success, though ‘Penny Arcade’ stumbled when its release coincided with his death. When The Cyrkle split, the band’s singers and guitarists, Don Dannemann and Tom Dawes, went on to excel in the noble art of jingle writing.
Imagine thinking The Everly Brothers were ripe to bundle into the studio and record a psychedelic album? Imagine releasing a track called, ‘Mary Jane’ as a single?! It’s fine…just completely pointless. The Raggamuffins’, ‘Parade of Uncertainty’ ebbs and flows so much that it’s likely to induce seasickness. The folky harmonies feel like they’re hypnotizing you into sleepwalking into some dreadful cult. Maybe quite a nice dreadful cult, but still. Had it not been included on ‘Nuggets’, I’m not sure The Lemon Drops would have broken out from their Illinois base. ‘I Live in the Springtime’ is fine at best, neither raucous enough to be prime garage nor woozy enough to be peak acid fare. Less marmite than his son, Tim Buckley, ‘Morning Glory’ is a track I can listen to approximately every fourteen years and enjoy – any more than that and I become overwhelmed with the twee and simpering ode to a hobo. Do you still get hobos? Did they die out with the television dog? Answers on a postcard.
The Unforscene do little to give us a peg-up from our mid-disc slump into a ditch of mediocrity, ‘Little Toy’ being unconvincing bubblegum pop. The Parade‘s ‘She’s Got the Magic’ sounds like it’s going to turn into The Turtles‘ ‘Happy Together’ but goes down a weird sideroad into a less jolly hoedown affair. The Turtles aren’t included on any of the three discs oddly, which means my story of them once suing me will have to wait for another time. More fun is The Rose Garden‘s ‘Next Plane to London’ which features a spoken voiceover from an airport announcer. They’re a bit like a budget Sonny and Cher. If, like me, you’re starting to feel a little bogged down with one track sounding rather similar to the next, praise your God for Captain Beefheart, whose ‘Electricity’ reminded you that there were genuine oddballs in 1967 America, not just manufactured totems to funny tablets. It’s far from my favourite Beefheart track, but it gives the set a much-0needed kick up the arse. The track’s theremin is played by Samuel J. Hoffman, without whose work many 50s and 60s horror and sci-fi soundtracks would be lesser entities. ‘Electricity’ was one of his final assignments before his death.
The Dutch Masters possessed that bass-throbbing organ swirl that speaks to your very soul in a patchouli-imbued breath. ‘The Expectation’ is fabulous, one part Scooby Doo to three parts LSD. The Endd didn’t hang around very long, ‘Gonna Send You Back to Your Mother’ sounding like a strange mix of Buddy Holly and a heavier Shadows. They featured three band members who wore spectacles – has there been a band that had more? Send your answer on the same postcard as before. The Doppler Effect issued a solitary single, ‘God is Alive in Argentina’, a line which they sing with admirable earnestness. There’s not a great deal to it – slightly Jefferson Airplane with the wobble of 13th Floor Elevators, the title came from some LA graffiti.
There’s always a place for Tommy Roe on a 60s comp, an artist with an extraordinary history and a catalogue of splendid songs. ‘Paisley Dreams’ is one of only a few attempts to capture hippy hearts before he returned to bubblegum climes and hit the world over the head with, ‘Dizzy’. Sonny Bono gets maybe the hardest rap of any successful duo – with the recent Wham! documentary, even Andrew Ridgely is above him in the recognition stakes. Let me be clear – Sonny was always the cool one. The world agreed with me in 1967 with the release of his ‘Inner Views’ album, before they once again forgot about him. Centrepiece of the album is ‘Pammie’s On a Bummer’, an 8-minute behemoth telling the doomed tale of a zonked-out prostitute. He doesn’t even start singing until halfway through. Poor, marvellous Sonny.
Balloon Farm introduce the final disc, a good example of a here-today-gone-tomorrow band who used their brief time to work out at least some of the machinations of the music industry and later go on to more significant escapades. By their own admission, ‘A Question of Temperature’ is little more than an excuse to mess about with a theremin and some nice echo and phasing effects, but songwriter Mike Appel used it as a trampoline to go on to write songs for metal pioneers, Sir Lord Baltimore, an unlikely platform to launch his next role as manager and producer of young upstart…Bruce Springsteen. It didn’t end well when he was given the boot during the recording of ‘Born to Run’, but he’s made a living from rabbiting on about it ever since.
Richard Pash & The Back Door Society honed their craft as a house band in Ohio, and their skill as musicians really shines through on ‘I’m the Kind’, a surprisingly ferocious garage rocker with a clattering drum kit giving a feedback-heavy guitar a run for its money in the noise stakes, whilst Pash himself sings confidently and enigmatically. A real gem. ‘No One Was There’ is a completely different kettle of fish, a smokey, barefoot chant by Gates of Eden which, though cleverly orchestrated, is lacking any real substance, and gives the impression of rich kids faffing about with their parent’s money. I always thought The Merry-Go-Round were a British band, which I forgive myself for as they’re only a hop, skip and a jump from being a Beatles cover band. ‘She Laughed Loud’ is excellent but so derivative as to be almost lawsuit-baiting. I’m still not convinced they aren’t British.
Not sure why but I was surprised to find Buffalo Springfield featured here…not that I’m complaining. However, ‘Bluebird’ is a poor choice – rambling even when in edited form, it’s the full-length version included here. Historically, it does perhaps show how self-confident bands were becoming and that there was a growing market out there for guitar bands delivering more than just two-minute verse-chorus-verse releases. A baroque Mamas and Papas or a harpsichord-heavy Peter, Paul and Mary, The Free Design are very fond of “bah-bap-pah-pah” harmonies and were no flash in the pan, recording nine albums (the latest released in 2005). ‘The Proper Ornaments’ is typical of their work, their free and easy lyrics belying densely complex arrangements of brass, jazz percussion, and time signatures which make little sense on paper. They sold very few records for years until artists such as Stereolab and Beck championed their work. They’re featured regularly on TV shows and film soundtracks, with tracks like ‘Kites are Fun’ fitting the bill for any sync requirements for sunshine pop with batshit crazy lyrics.
Nilsson is one of those artists who I always think I don’t like and then find I’m enjoying when I listen to them by mistake. I’m rather put off by his know-it-all polymath bravado, and indeed ‘1941’ delivers in the clever clogs stakes – cascading brass arrangements, McCartney-Lennon songwriting chops and louche vocals. If you have any room left on your postcard, please try and convince me I’m wrong or cement my opinion – I’m not happy on this fence. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you about Strawberry Alarm Clock’s ‘Rainy Day Mushroom Pillow’. Never get tired of hearing it. Culver Street Playground might be the most obscure band featured here – learned folks tell me that the likelihood is that their two singles weren’t even recorded by the same people (they certainly don’t sound alike). ‘East River Lovers’ is a dreamy soul burner with a psych Hammond noodling alongside – it’s not bad in any way but I’m not sure it deserves inclusion.
‘The Ostrich’ started as a Steppenwolf B-side in October 1967 before it reappeared on their debut album early the next year, padded out to grotesque proportions and far less poppy. Even in its truncated form, it’s interminably boring blues rock flatulence. Lost & Found sound like a novelty act, or perhaps something Spinal Tap rejected before going with ‘Listen to the Flower People’. ‘Foreverlasting Plastic Words’ rounds up our mid-disc lull before…The 13th Floor Elevators! About time. ‘She Lives (In A Time Of Her Own)’ (from their second album, ‘Easter Everywhere’) is an interesting choice, but it still sees them in their pomp, bubbling like it’s going out of fashion – which it soon would. Is there a more important psychedelic band? No.
If the reason the compilers didn’t go with ‘Flying on the Ground’ as Buffalo Springfield’s entry, it’s because they plumped for Summer Snow‘s version instead. Despite the addition of tear-filled strings, it loses the original’s pupil-dilated awe and confusion at the world and makes do with a saccharine winge with a nice haircut. Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart had written some of The Monkees’ biggest hits, including ‘Last Train To Clarksville’, the theme to their TV show and ‘(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone’, so you can’t blame them for wanting a little of the adoration for themselves. Despite some admirable backing from A&M and three albums, they never convinced in their own right – they looked like teenaged characters from a sitcom being clearly played by blokes in their late thirties. ‘I Wonder What She’s Doing Tonight’ sold over a million copies, but the 1970s were not prepared to welcome them with open arms. They continued to write hit songs for others but couldn’t recapture that illusive flare of the spotlight. By 1983, Tommy had an audience of literally one person at a gig in Middlesborough. In 1994 he committed suicide, shooting himself.
The death of Tommy Boyce could be seen as emblematic of the true legacy of the Summer of Love, a time when peace and love were rife on the surface but saw artists mismanaged, abandoned and left to live the rest of their lives with the physical and mental effects of living life in the fast lane whilst their minds were in orange clouds. Jan and Dean had been standard bearers for America’s surf vocal scene since the late 50s, with Brian Wilson happy to acknowledge their influence on his own work. By the mid-60s, they were still hugely popular, able to be both self-mocking and able to tap into the zeitgeist. Tragedy struck in 1966 when Jan narrowly survived a car crash near the notorious Dead Man’s Curve – the title of a track they had recorded barely two years previously. Jan never fully recovered, his speech and mobility severely compromised by his horrific head injuries, though his desire to write and perform burned inside. Remarkably, only one year after the track, the pair returned to the studio to record their psychedelic opus, ‘Carnival of Sound’. The album went unreleased for decades, eventually receiving a reverential release in 2010. ‘Love and Hate’ sees Jan’s role largely taken by session musicians alongside Dean, but his songwriting has real bite and it’s hugely recommended.
The Jackson Investment Company, despite the Farfisa organ slathered over ‘Not This Time’, have more than the slight whiff of The Dave Clark Five about them. The British Invasion wasn’t so much repelled as tolerated and then plundered whilst the limey’s backs were turned. As with so many tracks on ‘March of the Flower Children’, Georgy and The Velvet Illusions have appeared on so many 60s compilations that they have in their way become ubiquitous, despite struggling to get arrested in 1967, despite having a singer called Steve Weed and a song called ‘Acid Head’. ‘Lazy’ is similarly drugged out, but they’d given it all up as a bad job by the end of the year.
Lemon Fog had a great name but only a couple of singles – the first, ‘Echos of Time’ featured here – to prove their mettle. Alas, their mettle was pretty weak, and they split up when they left school and their parents told them to get real jobs. The Music Machine – later to become Bonniwell’s Music Machine – the Bonniwell in question being the much-overlooked singer-songwriter, Sean. Bonniwell was a significant talent, with a voice which seemed like his Adam’s apple was doing somersaults and a lyrical nous (‘Astrologically Incompatible’, for example) which put many of his contemporaries to shame. RCA, Capitol and Warner all felt there was magic there but the mainstream wasn’t quite prepared and he spent the early 70s travelling the country in a VW bus looking for ‘the answer’. He didn’t find it but wrote his memoirs in the 90s before having one last go at music in the early 2000s.
Fapardokly‘s self-titled (and only) album, has become one of those holy grail albums which appear every decade or so (remember when Mouse and the Traps were on the tip of everyone’s tongue in the mid-90s? Maybe it was just me). Of course, now you can get it delivered to your doormat on a shiny digital disc, so you can feel financially secure whilst listening to ‘Lila’. Unfortunately, I read the sleevenotes (excellent as always) before listening to Clear Light‘s ‘Sand’, which means I’m recycling information by telling you how shockingly similar it is to The Clash‘s ‘London’s Calling’. Really, it’s an outrage. I hate The Clash. The most overrated band of the punk era. Despite everything, The Velvet Underground isn’t overrated. ‘White Light/White Heat’ could be any garage band from Bumfluff, USA, were it not for Lou‘s yodel and a chaotic breakdown, and they remain as thrillingly enigmatic as ever, ahead of their time yet still a vital cog in understanding 60s music.
The Zakary Thaks‘ ‘Mirror of Yesterday’ can’t help but sound like it’s running with a stitch in comparison, though their slightly atonal jangle sounds like countless UK indie bands trying to be any good in the early 80s. The Chambers Brothers too set off like they’re match fit, full of frat rock pep but hampered by a flabby-sounding, unconvincing soul singer but has a great semi-false ending and a guttural ‘UH!’ finale. Sadly, they expanded it to an unlistenable 11-minute dirge on the album the following year. There’s no way husband and wife, Jim & Jean could be anything but a folk duo with a name like that, and they don’t disappoint on that front. Sadly, their music is of the cloying, flutey, eyes-closed-communing-with-spirits affairs. ‘Time Goes Backwards’ is an acquired taste, unlike Jean who was very popular with Neil Young who was inspired to write ‘Cinnamon Girl’ and ‘Cowgirl in the Sand’ by her. Jim & Jean got divorced.
Sagittarius was a Gary Usher and Curt Boettcher project which is, of course, sumptuous sunshine pop with a soaring yearning quality and as fragile as a moth’s lungs. ‘Another Time’ is a track which exists as a throwaway diversion in their respective discographies, whilst being something thousands of other bands could only dream of creating. The Critters‘ ‘A Moment of Being With You’ is a little too sickly for my liking, the fade-out giving the impression they carried on singing for another 20 minutes, so pleased were they with their harmonies. We conclude with The First Edition’s, ‘Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)’, rarely discussed as a cover version (it’s a slightly honking, tonking Jerry Lee Lewis track). Glenn Campbell‘s guitar is playing backwards; Mike Deasy turned his guitar into a jelly fruit machine churning out chocolate coins; Kenny Rogers looks out over Los Angeles and ponders how he can conquer the rock world in the 1970s. 1967 – it was quite the year.
Buy the box set from the nice people at Cherry Red here