L.A. SOUNDS 1965 – 1969: REVIEWS

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

 

THE POOR – ’Feelin’ Down’/’Come Back Baby’ (Decca 32318) May 1968

The Poor were regulars at clubs and venues on the Sunset Strip playing at the legendary Ciros, PJ’s and The Whisky etc but seem to be one of those groups that still don’t get much praise and recognition. An earlier 45 ’She’s Got The Time’ got close to becoming a hit but subsequent material fared less well including this final single on Decca.

’Feelin’ Down’ from mid ’68 shows The Poor in a good light with the punchy bass and stabbing background organ. Some pleasant Association harmonies add to the sunshine pop sound. The song was written by Michael Brewer in 1966 while he was a staff writer for A&M Records. It was also recorded by The Black Sheep and released in January 1967 on Columbia.
 
The Poor broke up after this 45 flopped with Randy Meisner, Allen Kemp and Pat Shanahan joining Rick Nelson in Rick Nelson and the Stone Canyon Band. Meisner then went on to Poco, then The Eagles. Kemp and Shanahan later joined New Riders Of The Purple Sage.

THE PEPPERMINT TROLLEY COMPANY – ’New York City’/’Spinnin’ Whirlin’ Round (Acta 45-835) 1969

There’s several sites on the net devoting space to The Peppermint Trolley Company and by now everyone who is a regular visitor to my site should own the Now Sounds CD release ’Beautiful Sun’ which compiles most of the Trolley sides plus rare and obscure 45s by their teenage garage outfits The Mark V, The C-Minors and The Intercoms.

By 1969 it was all over for the original members of The Peppermint Trolley Company. According to the CD liners, relations between the producer (Dan Dalton) and the band became strained and the Trolley decided to leave Dalton and reconvene as Bones.

That did not stop Dan Dalton recruiting Hollywood singer songwriter Bob Cheevers and session guitarist John Beland to continue under the guise of the Trolley and two further 45s on Acta were released in 1969.

The last record was ’New York City’ backed with the super cool sunshine pop masterpiece ’Spinnin’ Whirlin’ \’Round’ which was probably never heard at the time as it was lost on the B-side.

Sadly, this gem was not compiled on the Now Sounds CD at the request of the original Trolley members.

THE ZODIAC – ’ARIES – The Fire-Fighter’ (Elektra EKL 4009) May 1967

’Cosmic Sounds’ was a completely original album of  pioneering electronic music by Mort Garson who composed, arranged and conducted all tracks with lyrics by Jacques Wilson. Ex MFQ member Cyrus Faryan provided narration.

Each song focused on the signs of the zodiac with album opener and moog/psych rock cross-over ’Aries – Fire-Fighter’ an instant winner. In fact the moog and weird sound effects dominate the whole LP. Of course, this strangeness could only have happened in the late 60s.  

Astrology has become a religious force in our time.
And in this extraordinary album, the ancient signs of the zodiac
are hauntingly evoked in a celestial fusion of poetry, music and electronic effects. This is the love sound of the future.

M.F.Q. – ’Night Time Girl’/’Lifetime’ (Dunhill D-4025) April 1966

This is the second MFQ single in my 2011 Los Angeles select 50. Check out their early release ’If All You Think’ at number 32.

’Night Time Girl’ is adventurous folk/raga rock with a sound several groups were experimenting with during 1966/67. Here, the MFQ utilize a five string banjo and a Bouzouki to get that authentic eastern feel. The single sold reasonably well and got a mention in Billboard during April 1966 as a regional break out single.

The song was arranged and produced by the in demand Hollywood face Jack Nitzsche.

THE BEACH BOYS – ’Cabin Essence’/’Wonderful’ (Brother Records)

Brian Wilson called ’Smile’ his ”teenage symphony to God” but the 1967 project was never completed and eventually got shelved as Brian’s life and mind became increasingly more frazzled.

However, between dropping acid, playing with his bucket and spade in his sand pit built inside his Los Angeles mansion and stuffing his face with too many snacks between meals, he created some memorable tunes with the help from his friend and lyricist Van Dyke Parks and Hollywood’s finest session players.

’Cabin Essence’ at 3:30 minutes is a little too long to post so here’s the flip ’Wonderful’ from the 45 given away with a collectors edition of Mojo magazine last month.

Mojo: You spent time at Brian’s house during the Smile sessions. Brian told me he was having fun, and didn’t think there was any eccentric behaviour.  

Al Jardine: ”It was a very drug induced environment and very alien to me, nauseating and uncomfortable. It was Brian’s slippery slope. I wasn’t trilled with Brian’s excursion into the world of acid.”

THINGS TO COME – ’Hello’/’Good Day’ (Warner Bros 7228) September 1968

The heavy psychedelic rock a la Cream is in evidence on the second and last Things To Come 45 on Warner Bros. Their first outing on this label was the excellent ’Come Alive’/’Dancer’ produced by the in demand Dave Hassinger.

’Hello’ is a sublime slow burner, written by bass player Bryan Garofalo and notable for some subtle psych guitar leads. Both sides were produced by David Crosby before he put together Crosby, Stills & Nash.

Garofalo went on to become a successful session player in the 70s and played with the likes of Jackson Browne, John Stewart, B.B. King and David Cassidy as well as many more performers.

I did some diggin’ on the net and found an online interview with Bryan Garofalo conducted in 1976.

Here’s an extract where Bryan talks about his time with Things To Come:

How did you meet up with Russ Kunkel to get into your group Id never heard of?

Well, Things To Come, the name came after.  We both lived in Long Beach.  The guy who was playing keyboards in the group I was with said, ”I know this drummer.  You’ve got to hear him. He’s really great.  Let’s go over and see him.”  We went over to Russell’s house, an apartment house, and he set up his drums outside and started to play for us.  He blew me away.  Did this crazy solo for about 20 minutes.

So we just started playing, and we’ve been together ever since.  It used to be called The Satin Five, we were The Barons, it was nuts.  Then we got this crazy guy named Steve Runolfsson, a very far out person, he came up with the name Evil.  So, for a while, that’s what we were called.  Then, when we left Long Beach, we left Steve behind, and the four of us became The Things To Come and reopened The Whisky A Go Go.  At the time we went up in ’68 it was all black, soul music. 

Then Elmer Valentine decided to change it back into rock ’n’ roll and The Byrds, which at that time still included Chris Hillman and David Crosby, the original band, opened-up the changeover.  We were the opening act for The Byrds, Electric Flag, Traffic, Cream, we were the resident band.
After we moved out, Chicago moved in as resident band.  At that time they were called C.T.A. 

Then there was Hourglass, who went on to be The Allman Brothers, and Duane was there.  All these people staying in these little, shabby apartments and playing at The Whisky.  This dumpy motel down the street.  Bought our black leather pants!  That whole thing was really neat for a while.  We played all our own stuff, all original material, and very hard rock ’n’ roll.  Real loud!  Marshall stacks…..we purchased the amplifiers from Cream, actually.  When they left they sold them to a musical service and we picked them up from them.  CREAM printed on the back.  Turn it up to ten and scream.

Was it through this residency that Warners picked you up?

Let’s see, how did we get that deal?  There was a girl at Warner Brothers, Pat Slattery, who was a friend of my wife to be. Pat took some people from Warner Brothers to see us at The Whisky. They said, ”Give us a demo tape.”  We did that and they said, ”That band’s great but the songs stink.” We said, ”Thanks!”  We looked around for material and they gave us this producer, Dave Hassinger, and we cut some things with him and released a single.

Was this your first experience of the studios?

No.  We had been recording all the time we had been in Long Beach.  A good friend of ours, Dale Davis, had set up a studio at a place in Claremont, and we’d go up there, so we basically had some experience in there.  We’d go up and try things, cut some stuff, but it still takes a lot of getting used to.  Then, somehow, the guy that was managing Things To come (whose name remained nothing at the time), he was managing David Crosby and Peter Fonda. 

He picked us up and that\’s how we got turned on to David.  He listened to our stuff and he really thought some of it was good, so he said he would like to produce a couple of things on us.  Warner Brothers was definitely into that, so we did a couple of cuts with David.  The problems started with Stephen Stills.  David was going to produce an album of us, then he got hung up with Stephen, and then they put together the Crosby, Stills and Nash thing.  It has worked out for the best.  Russell still works with David, and I still see him, but we never did do an album.  

We just did four songs for them. I wrote one of them called, ’Hello’, Russell wrote another one called ’Come Alive’, the other two were obscure pickup tunes that we had done to appease the publishing people at Warner’s.

Could you listen to them now?

Sure, oh yeah, it doesn’t bother me.  It’s terrible, disgusting, but it brings back great memories for me, all that stuff.  I’ve still got all those demo tapes at my house, and every once in a while I get out of it and go and listen to these things and think, ’Oh, my God, listen to that stuff, would you believe it?’  Great times.  It’s like listening to John’s records, you know.  They’re wonderful. His songs are wonderful.  We did these four or five days up at Lake Tahoe.  Henry Diltz played banjo and harmonica, Russell played drums while I played bass and John played guitar.  We’d go skiing all day, drink red wine and get totally shit faced, ski back down again, come back in and play in this lodge just for room and board.  God, it was awful.  Get sick, go home with no money, bad cold…..’
’We had a great time, dear!”

Eventually, your group ran it’s course…..

Yeah, it really did, it couldn’t go anywhere but into debt.  We didn’t have any management.  I don’t think it was ever really meant to be.  There were so many outside influences on the whole thing that it had to stop.  Russell and I both got married, and we really wanted to play, do other things, so we…..I shouldn’t say ”we”. 

It was independent of each other, but it happened that we both split to get out there to see if we really could do it on our own.  We started cutting demos for 15 dollars a song, that kind of stuff. People liked the way we played and that’s all it takes.  If you can get heard, you can get the chance, and if you can do it, then you’ve got half a chance.

GIANT SUNFLOWER – “February Sunshine” / “More Sunshine” (Take Six 1000) May 1967

One of the most intriguing releases of 1967 was ’February Sunshine’ by The Giant Sunflower. This folk rock song was written by Pat Vegas and Val Garay, two musicians based in Hollywood. The hot new sound in Los Angeles at this time was pleasant laid back sunshine rock with the groups often fronted by a good lookin’ flower girl with long hair and love beads.

’February Sunshine’ has that pure L.A. sunshine sound and is just perfect ’67 fodder for the radio. The song was recorded by studio musicians and released on Take 6 Inc with the non-existent group name of The Giant Sunflower.

The recording was quickly snapped up by Lou Adler’s Ode label who got the song re-recorded. Out of interest The Rose Garden also recorded ’February Sunshine’ at Gold Star Studios, Hollywood and their version can be found on their album.

The new recording of ’February Sunshine’ was then released on Ode in USA. Lou Adler had a deal with Columbia Records to distribute his Ode product in other countries around the world.

THE RIPTIDES – ’Last Wave Of The Day’ (Tower DT-5083) 1967

During last years countdown of the Los Angeles music scene 1965-69 I included ’Vietnam’ by Bobby Jameson from the Mondo Hollywood film soundtrack but I wanted to feature an obscure surf cut by The Riptides from this LP for my 2011 select fifty.

The Riptides were a group of teenagers from Burbank. The following information is from Riptides keyboard player Bob Bennett.

”The Riptides were first formed from a band that was initially called The Mai Tai Five.  It was composed of Bob Bennett, Phil Kasper, Ron Record,  Tommy Howell, and Tom Rockriver.  The basic musical content was surf music (note that most early surf music used saxophones-hence Tom Rockriver) and local garage band music.  

We played some junior high dances at Jordan and elsewhere.  But when we discovered that we could sing, and the Beach Boys were becoming popular we formed The Riptides after Rockriver left the band for a different type of music.  Bob Bennett on piano/keyboards, Phil Kasper on Fender Jazzmaster guitar, Ron Record on Gibson ES 335 guitar, and Tommy Howell on a Ludwig kit.  When we ran into a kid named Steve Schoen, who played bass, we were introduced to his mother who was a Hollywood type who had just written a song for a Christmas Supremes album.  

She heard us and liked us.  She said that she knew a guy who was just beginning to make it in the L.A music scene.  He had just written two songs for Honda – ”You Meet The Nicest People On A Honda” and ”The Worlds Biggest Seller Is A Sporty Little Street Machine”.  His name was Mike Curb.

Steve’s mother set up a meeting at her house and Phil and I played some songs that I had written and recorded on Ron’s Sony Reel to Reel.  Curb liked what he heard and thus began  a new direction for The Riptides.  Curb wanted us to record a Beach Boy song because he had produced the hit song ”Little Honda” by The Hondells on Mercury.  

So he gave us a demo of one of the future Three Dog Night singers, Danny Hutton.  It was from an album by The Beach Boys and the song was ”Farmers Daughter”, written by Brian Wilson.   We had a recording date set up and we practiced the song 897 times.  When we went to the studio it was the studio that had recorded all of the Steppenwolf  and Three Dog Night albums and hits.  It was recorded in four track.  The guitar solo in the middle of the song was performed by Richie Podolor who was also the engineer.  He was married to Pricilla Paris at the time and did the solo on a Rickenbacker 12 string.  Absolutely fantastic, probably the best recorded song was our first.  Perfect, but nothing happened. 

Next song was ”I Couldn’t Love You Again” written by Curb writer and friend Harley Hatcher.  Hatcher’s name appears on a lot of the songs in street gang movies that were popular at the time.  Our next effort was our only single released on Curb’s Sidewalk label. ”Sally Ann” which was a ”Barbara Ann” knock off  written by Curb.  The B side was called ”April” and was written by Curb writer friend Ron Abeyta.  It was also recorded in four track and included a dubbed in horn section.  The single bombed but it did make the John Burroughs Cafeteria juke box.  

We recorded a song for the movie called Mondo Hollywood called The Last Wave Of The Day.  It was written by Curb and it was a great song.  The album was released on Tower, a Capital subsidiary.

After the bass player moved on to a low-rider band there was no bass in the song and it suffered as a result.  We also had some background parts for that movie which included the sidewalk surfing/skateboarding scenes.  The movie was terrible and very controversial at the time.  Curb’s reputation suffered but not enough to stop him from eventually becoming California Lieutenant Governor. 

Next we did two songs for the movie The Golden Breed.  Curb had the backing tracks already done but he had Phil Kasper record a song called ”The Golden Breed” and  Bob Bennett recorded a song called ”Hey Girl, What Turns You On”.  The album was released in stereo on Capital.  That was our last involvement with Mike Curb. 

The Riptides would eventually break up, Ron Record got married at age 17, Phil and Bob went on to college and Tommy Howell went off into the sunset.  Great times, fun stuff.  Some of it still available on DVD.”

THE VENTURES – ’Ginza Lights’ (Liberty LBY 1323) June 1966

According to the liners on the back of The Ventures LP ’Go With The Ventures’, they’re described as the world’s number one instrumental group. I’m not gonna argue with that, I don’t know enough about instrumental groups to have an opinion.

This 1966 album has it’s moments and I especially like The Ventures original ’Ginza Lights’ which sounds like a surfadelic spy theme tune played on those Mosrite guitars The Ventures were famous for.
One look at the credits on the back cover confirms that Bruce Botnick performed engineering duties. He was of course The Doors and Love\’s engineer. He also co-produced ’Forever Changes’ with Arthur Lee.

KALEIDOSCOPE – ’Keep Your Mind Open’ (Epic BN 26304) June 1967

The Kaleidoscope were one of the most enigmatic and mysterious groups from Los Angeles whose music came across like a gypsy ensemble on acid. They utilized exotic instruments like saz bouzoukee, dobro, dulcimer, caz, oud and layered the Persian sound with keyboards, 12 string guitars, banjos and fiddles.

When I bought my first Kaleidoscope album in the mid 80s (the Edsel collection called ’Bacon From Mars’) I must admit I was perplexed and just didn’t understand where Kaleidoscope were at apart from some instant psychedelic jewels like ’Pulsating Dream’ and ’Keep Your Mind Open’.

’Keep Your Mind Open’ is from their debut album ’Side Trips’ and is one of their most instant songs with it’s laid back trippy sound and lysergic production. The song was written by bass player Christopher Darrow who also wrote the previously mentioned and classic acid/folk rocker ’Pulsating Dream’.

Although ’Side Trips’ was released in June 1967, the songs were recorded much earlier at Columbia Square, Los Angeles during November and December 1966.



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