L.A. SOUNDS 1965 – 1969: REVIEWS



JAN & DEAN – ’A Beginning From An End’/’Folk City’ (Liberty F-55849) December 1965

Jan & Dean were a successful duo from Los Angeles who recorded the surf hit ’Surf City’ in 1963, a brilliant song about a mythical place in Southern California full of beautiful girls, hot rods and rock ’n’ roll groups. By 1965 the kids on the Strip had moved on and the ’in’ sound was edgy protest/folk rock and Brit Invasion sounds. Jan & Dean’s response was ’A Beginning From An End’ which flopped, not even entering the Billboard Top 100.

The obscure and never mentioned flip ’Folk City’ is an apt entry into my Los Angeles select 50. The song is a re-write of ’Surf City’ with different lyrics, more akin with the musical shift in L.A from surf to folk rock. This would have made a much better A-side.

”I got a Hohner harmonica and a Vox 12 string,
Folk City here we come.
You know there’s lots of protest songs that I want to sing,
Folk City here we come.”

Both songs were included on the 1966 Jan & Dean LP ’Folk ’n Roll’

M.F.Q. – ’If All You Think’/’The Love Of A Clown’ (Warner Brothers 5481) November 1964

The Modern Folk Quartet were a group of pre Beatlemania folkies that formed in Honolulu but relocated to Los Angeles sometime in early 1963. Their popularity rose among the folk crowd and two albums followed on Warner Bros (I’ve not heard these). By late ’64 they were simply called M.F.Q. and had a more electric folk sound.

The sublime ’If All You Think’ sounds like a proto-type Association with some great harmonies and an arrangement from Don Ralke that I consider to be ahead of it’s time. Songwriter Jerry Yester was a well known face in Hollywood during this time and would later join The Lovin’ Spoonful when M.F.Q. disbanded in 1966.

THE MAMAS & the PAPAS – ’Strange Young Girls’ (RCA Victor RD-7834) September 1966

The Mamas & the Papas were the commercial face of the Los Angeles male/female vocal outfits and popularized the harmony folk rock and sunshine pop sounds from that region. Their popularity has probably meant that many underground 60s aficionado’s have snobbishly overlooked their greatness because songs like ’Monday Monday’ and ’California Dreamin’ are probably fixtures on Oldies Radio (I’m guessing this is so because I’ve never listened to the radio since the mid 80s)

Take the sublime psychedelic folk of ’Strange Young Girls’ for instance. It’s a brilliant observation of the sights, sounds and LSD on the Sunset Strip in 1966 and it would surely garner plaudits had it been recorded by more hip male/female vocal groups….too many to mention but you’ll all know where it’s at.

Check out these lyrics:

”Walking the strip
Sweet, soft and placid
Offering their youth
On the altar of acid”

”Colours surround them
Bejeweling their hair;
Visions astound them,
Demanding their share.”

’Strange Young Girls’ can be found on The Mamas & the Papas second studio album recorded during the Summer of  ’66. Instrumentation was provided by Hollywood’s elite session musicians. 

Hal Blaine (drums), Larry Knechtel (organ) and Joe Osborne (bass).

THE ARROWS – Apache ’65’/’Blue Guitar’ (Sidewalk Records 1) February 1965

The first record released on Mike Curb’s Sidewalk label, outta Hollywood, was this hard to find 45 by The Arrows. It eventually got a release on (Tower 116) and became a Top 100 Billboard hit.

On this disc Davie Allan hasn’t yet discovered the fuzz, instead he fires up his surf guitar to great effect. It’s an uptempo and loose version of ’Apache’ which was a number 1 hit for The Shadows in England during the Summer of 1960.

THE ROSE GARDEN – ’Next Plane To London’/’Flower Town’ (Atco 45-6510) August 1967

The Rose Garden were originally called The Blokes, a young group of Byrds obsessives going nowhere in the crowded Los Angeles music scene. Some time in late 1966 a young girl singer called Diane DeRose joined their ranks and a name change to a more  ‘in’ name occurred.

The sunshine pop of ’Next Plane To London’ proved to be their only hit record, reaching the Top 20 on Billboard at the tail end of 1967. It’s a song notable for the ’airport voice’ instead of a guitar solo. The gimmick obviously worked although I’m not a great fan of the song. Far superior is the flip ’Flower Town’ recorded at the famous Gold Star Studios in Hollywood.

’Flower Town’ is a rewrite of ’Portland Town’, a traditional folk song, given to them by Kim Fowley after a chance meeting in his Los Angeles office. He managed and produced The Belfast Gypsies who recorded ’Portland Town’ so he knew the song well. My guess is that ’Flower Town’ is probably Los Angeles.

John Noreen (lead guitar)
Jim Groshong (guitar)
Bruce Bowdin (drums)
Bill Fleming (bass)
Diane DeRose (vocals)

THE SHINDOGS – ”Who Do You Think You Are” / ”Yes, I’m Going Home” (Viva V.601) June 1966

I don’t think I could have a Los Angeles teenage rock exposé without including The Shindogs, who were the ’house band’ on TV Show Shindig!

They had an ever changing line-up but when Shindig! was cancelled during January 1966, The Shindogs settled on a regular line-up and released some singles that were commercial failures although this 45 did break into the lower reaches of the Billboard Top 100.

’Who Do You Think You Are’ had the potential to be a real sunset strip garage swinger but the vocal arrangement, for me, really subdues the power and the song just fizzles out. Far superior is the 60s pop ’Yes, I’m Going Home’ on the flip.

James Burton (lead guitar) and Glen D. Hardin (organ) eventually went on to become part of Elvis Presley’s backing band.

THE MONKEES – ’Words’ (first version) October 1966

This is an alternate version of ’Words’, a Monkees B-Side recorded during October 1966 but never released until this take appeared on The Monkees CD ’Missing Links – Volume 2’ in 1990.

This original version differs from the released remake with it’s use of a flute solo instead of the Hammond B-3 organ and a psychedelic backwards tape section reminiscent of The Leaves recording from their debut studio album.

DARIUS – ’Sweet Mama’ (Chartmaker CSG 1102) 1969

I remember buying a bootleg copy of the Darius album back in the mid 80s and being decidedly disappointed with it but I suppose during that time I was only interested in 60s garage. I just did not know where Darius was at, yeah he looked a cool cat on the sleeve with his long hair and dressed in black but his music just wasn’t my scene.

Thankfully, over the years my tastes have changed somewhat and I highly recommend this set, full of Darius original songs and played beautifully by Hollywood’s finest session musicians, including Jerry Scheff (bass), Toxey French (drums), Ben Benay (lead guitar) and Mike Deasy (guitar) in other words Darius was back by Goldenrod. Check out their psych fest album also on Chartmaker.

The album was recorded at Harmony Studios, Hollywood sometime in 1969

Darius has a vocal style similar to Arthur Lee on some tracks and was obviously influenced by the Love sound. It’s a shame that the album sank without trace and even today Darius is largely unknown. German label World In Sound reissued it in 2001 with some bonus cuts. 

RICHARD TWICE – ’Generation ’70 (Philips PHS-600-332) 1970

The obscure Los Angeles singer/songwriting duo Richard Atkins and Richard Manning, collectively called Richard Twice released a fascinating harmony/pop psych drenched long player in early 1970, most likely recorded at the back end of ’69.

’Generation ’70 leads off the album as the first track on side 1 and it’s a curious fuzz interlude that could have been quite heavy but the overall sound is mostly delicate with soft rock touches of harmonies and brass. It was chosen as the single to promote the album but I doubt it faired that well.

Not a great deal has been written about Richard Twice, although ’If I Knew You Were The One’, from this set was compiled on one of those Fading Yellow CDs.

One look at the credits on the back cover shows some heavyweight backing musicians with Drake Levin (Paul Revere and the Raiders) adding guitar and Mark Tulin (Electric Prunes) providing bass. Notable Hollywood sessionmen like Larry Knechtel, David Cohen and Rusty Young also provided their services.

The producer, Alex Hassilev was also the studio guy who produced the weird ’Cosmic Sounds’ LP by The Zodiac and The Electric Prunes connection continued with James Lowe being listed as associate producer and engineer. The music was recorded at Alex Hassilev’s Studio in Hollywood.

THE BOSTON TEA PARTY – ’Words’/’Spinach’ (Challenge 59368) June 1967

The Monkees version of ’Words’ was also released in most markets during June 1967, although they first recorded the song way back in October 1966. The demo version from Boyce & Hart was recorded even earlier during August ’66.

The Boston Tea Party version of ’Words’ probably pre-dates The Monkees hit having an earlier release on the small Los Angeles label Big Boss before being picked up by Challenge. Maybe the label should have considered ’Spinach’ on the flip, as their plug side as it’s a psych highlight with a freakadelic organ sound.

The Boston Tea Party originated from Burbank and were successful enough to release a few more 45s and an album on Flick Disc. I’ll probably write about the group again at some point but until then hear their ’Words’.

Mike Deperna (keyboards)
Richard Deperna (bass)
Travis Fields (vocals)
David Novogroski (drums)
Mike Stevens (guitar)

Leave a Reply