L.A. SOUNDS 1965 – 1969: REVIEWS

THE EPICENTRE OF JANGLE - 12 STRING JANGLERS, FUZZ AND FARFISA COMBOS, PROTEST SINGERS AND FOLK ROCKERS.

 

THE STANDELLS – ’Sometimes Good Guys Don’t Wear White’/’Why Did You Hurt Me’ (Tower 257) June 1966

The Standells hit the big time with ’Dirty Water’ and followed that memorable rock n’ roll raunch with the equally hip ’Sometimes Good Guys Don’t Wear White’ in the Summer of ’66.

But it’s the unheralded and forgotten ’Why Did You Hurt Me’ on the flip that gets my blog action and entry into this years 2011 Los Angeles select 50. The song was recorded at Kearnie Barton’s Audio Recording Studios in Seattle (also used by The Sonics) during April 1966 while The Standells were on the road touring outside L.A. on the back of the smash ’Dirty Water’.

’Why Did You Hurt Me’ is a gritty performance and could easily have been a single in it’s own right. Dig that combo organ, probably a Vox Continental played by Larry Tamblyn and the snotty punk vocals. It’s certainly one of my favourite Standells cuts.

CAL RAYE – ”I Cry” / ”Can I” (Runay Records RY-101) 1967

Most of Cal Raye’s solo material is crooner, MOR pop and falls outside my radar but the garage raga rock winner ’I Cry’ is certainly worthy of investigation. Cal Raye a.k.a. Jerry Raye signed to DeVille Records after this release on the obscure Runay label and ’I Cry’ was re-released with a different flip side ’The Devil Is A Woman (You Tell Such Lovely Lies)’

Cal Raye hooked up with a local L.A. folk rock group called Fenwyck and their most famous recording is ’Mindrocker’ which has seen several compilation appearances over the years. Other songs from that merge are quite stunning such as ’I’m Spinning’, ’Away’ and ’State Of Mind’.

With it’s flipped out eastern fuzz guitar leads ’I Cry’ could have been a contender but remains in the undiscovered shadows.

THE GENTLE SOUL – ’Tell Me Love’/’You Move Me’ (Columbia 4-43952) rec January 1967

Pamela Pollard and Rick Stanley had been playing clubs together on Hollywood’s Sunset Strip for about a year before Byrds producer Terry Melcher got them into the studio, first to record Pamela Pollard’s ’You Move Me’ in September 1966 followed by a session in January 1967 to lay down the Rick Stanley original ’Tell Me Love’.

The name of the group came about when Riley Wyldflower was smoking joints in their Hollywood apartment and blowing the hash smoke into the face of their cat. Riley said the cat didn’t mind because he was a gentle soul….hence The Gentle Soul.

This debut 45 by The Gentle Soul is not on their studio album from mid 1968 and as such is a recommended single to track down. But not only for that reason! ’Tell Me More’ is quite simply ’blissful’ with it’s ornate production by Melcher and beautiful arrangement by Jack Nitzsche, the song really soars with layers of perfect harmonies and baroque psych touches……GLORIOUS….

At this point in time, The Gentle Soul were a four piece including guitarist Riley Wyldflower who would go on to release an obscure 45 ’The Smog Song’/’Electric California’ on Beacon Records. I’ve only ever heard ’The Smog Song’ which is hippie blues.

Drummer Sandy Konikoff played in several Buffalo, NY groups before linking up with The Gentle Soul including The Ravens and The Hawks who backed Bob Dylan during Feb/March 1966.

THE FIRE ESCAPE – ’Love Special Delivery’/’Blood Beat’ (GNP Crescendo 384) January 1967

’Love Special Delivery’ or as it’s billed on the front of The Fire Escape ’Psychotic Reactions’ album,’L.S.D’ is a fierce garage psych assault with fuzz and a totally wired mid song rave-up in the best tradition of The Yardbirds.

Of course ’Love Special Delivery’ is a cover of Thee Midniters song and here The Fire Escape do the original recording justice and add to it with that certain Sunset Strip vibe.
Not a great deal is known about The Fire Escape. They were most likely a studio outfit put together by producers Larry Goldberg and Hank Levine. They even have the flip ’Blood Beat’ and ’Journey’s End’, on the album credited to themselves.

According to the liners on the back of the album Hollywood whiz-kid Michael Lloyd arranged musical proceedings adding weight to my theory that The Fire Escape, as a group, did not exist.

MERRELL & the XILES – ’Tomorrow’s Girl’/’When I Get Home’ (Glenn 426) April 1967

This was The Exiles final 45 in the Spring of 1967 after which Merrell Fankhauser would disband the group and return as Fapardokly with a new line-up.
Merrell & the Exiles or as shown on this label as Xiles enjoyed some degree of local popularity, even performing on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand and ’Tomorrow’s Girl’ certainly entertains with it’s raga rock rhythms, fuzz and lyrics about a girl with a fondness of hash.

”She is a girl who has everybody’s needs
While she sits and smokes her $20 weed”

’Tomorrow’s Girl’ and the flip ’When I Get Home’ were recorded at Audio Arts Studio, Hollywood during March 1967 with the following line-up:

Merrell Fankhauser (vocals/guitar)
Mark Thompson (organ)
Larry Willey (bass)
Randy Wimer (drums)

GENE VINCENT – ’Born To Be A Rolling Stone’ (Everest Records CBR 1006) rec April 1967

Every garage fanatic will know Gene’s hard rockin’ 60s swinger ’Bird Doggin’ but several other cuts from his Challenge years are worthy of investigation, including the folk rock jewel ’Born To Be A Rolling Stone’.

By the mid 60s Gene Vincent was in his early 30s, no longer hip and without a record contract.  Enter Challenge Records, who signed him up to record some sessions at Sunset Sound Recorders in Hollywood, backed by The Champs and other notorious session men including Larry Knetchel and David Gates as an arranger and backing singer.

Sadly all three single releases on Challenge Records sank and a proposed album in America was never released. However, Gene Vincent always had a loyal following in England and France where the album did find a release on London Records.

10 songs from the Challenge sessions were re-issued in 1984 on Everest Records.

THE BYRDS – ’My Back Pages’/’Renaissance Fair’ (CBS 2648) May 1967

Forty four years ago, The Byrds released one of their finest ever singles. The top side being the impressive version of Dylan’s ’My Back Pages’ backed with the staggering psychedelic jewel ’Renaissance Fair’.

It’s safe to say that The Byrds have been my favourite group for almost 30 years ever since I bought my first Byrds LP titled ’The Byrds – the original singles 1967-1969’ from Boots in Sunderland sometime in 1982. I remember being hugely disappointed with the country side which I just didn’t get. To me the songs sounded like background music I’d heard on some episodes of Dallas, probably when the Ewing’s hosted the ’Oil Baron’s Ball’

But I was completely in awe of the psych side. Listening to this side with songs of the calibre of ’Have You Seen Her Face’, ’Lady Friend’, ’Goin’ Back’ and ’Change Is Now’ quite simply CHANGED MY LIFE.
At 16 years of age I had found my musical heroes and I set out on a mission to own everything they ever recorded.

’Renaissance Fair’ was one such song on that album that made my head spin with it’s glorious sound and mystical words. I could only imagine what The Byrds looked like because no photo of them was on either side of the cover.

Renaissance Fair was the name of one of the very first Love-Ins in Los Angeles and this is Crosby’s vivid account of this medieval type festival of music. His song describes the event in a dream like sequence, focusing on the individual senses of hearing, smell and sight to convey his sensation of wonderment.

Anyone who has ever experienced an acid trip will no doubt know where Crosby is coming from.

It was a hit in USA (released March 1967) but sank without trace in the UK.

I think that maybe I’m dreaming.

I smell cinnamon and spices
I hear music everywhere
All around kaleidoscope of colour
I think that maybe I’m dreaming.

Maids pass gracefully in laughter
Wine coloured flowers in their hair
Flags call from lands I’ve never been to
I think that maybe I’m dreaming.

Sun splash on a soda of prism
Bright jewels on the ladies flashing
Eyes catch on a shiny prism
 
Hear ye the crying of the vendors
Fruit for sale wax candles for to burn
Fires flare soon it will be night fall
I think that maybe I’m dreaming.

THE TURTLES – ’It Ain’t Me Babe’/’Almost There’ (Pye International 7N.25320)  September 1965

As everyone knows The Turtles are the undisputed kings of sunshine/harmony pop music but do not discount their folk rock period of 1965/66 and in particular the ferocious Kinks inspired garage rocker of ’Almost There’ written and sung by Howard Kaylan.

The Turtles didn’t have the cool, beautiful people image of say The Byrds or Love but they had the cutting ’now sound’ of ’65 alright. ’It Ain’t Me Babe’ transforms the Dylan original for the Sunset Strip crowd and I’m sure most of the kids back then would have been hip to the punky ’Almost There’ – fantastic double-sider to seek out and enjoy!

Pictured is my copy of the UK release and as you can imagine it\’s a tough 45 to find, set your sights on the USA White Whale release which is easier to locate but now getting quite sought after.

THE FANTASTIC ZOO – ’Light Show’/’Silent Movies’ (Double Shot 109) February 1967

The Fogcutters, a popular group from Denver, Colorado, cut some singles that did some action locally then sometime in 1966 the group relocated to Los Angeles or perhaps only members Don Cameron and Eric Karl and renamed themselves The Fantastic Zoo.

What is known is that veteran L.A. producers Hal Winn and Joseph Hooven produced all of The Fogcutters sides. Perhaps they persuaded the group to sign for their newly formed Hollywood label Double Shot.

The first Fantastic Zoo record released in December 1966, was the small L.A. hit and novelty ’Midnight Snack’, although the far superior side is the psychedelic folk of ’This Calls For A Celebration’ on the flip.

By now the small independent record label had a huge national hit on their roster with ’Psychotic Reaction’ by The Count Five so I’m sure Hooven and Winn were focusing all of their efforts on this. However, the second and final Fantastic Zoo 45, the ultra trippy, ’Light Show’ was released in early February 1967 but appears to have sank.

For every 500 copies of ’Silent Movies’ you’ll be lucky to find a copy of ’Light Show’ – it’s a very scarce record to locate suggesting few copies were manufactured.

Eric Karl wound up in Bodine who recorded an album for MGM. He wrote the majority of the songs on that long player.
Hopefully someone will get in touch about The Fogcutters and The Fantastic Zoo as they appear to have an intriguing history.

JEFFERSON LEE – ’Book Of Love’/’Sorcerella’ (Original Sound OS-88) July 1969

In the late 60s Jefferson Lee was an up and coming producer from Atlanta who signed to Hollywood label Original Sound and released two sought after singles. The Monotones cover, ’Book Of Love’ was the first from the Summer of ’69 but it’s the fuzz driven and Music Machine influenced flip ’Sorcerella’ that wins out.

The intense fuzztone bass is just insane and the weird lyrics add to the songs overall creepiness. I didn’t know much about Jefferson Lee so did a little digging. It turns out that he exclusively managed and produced Joe South in the late 60s early 70s.

discography:

’Book Of Love’/’Sorcerella’ (Original Sound OS-88) July 1969
’Bubble Gum Music’/’Pancake Trees’ (Original Sound OS-93) May 1970

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