L.A. SOUNDS 1965 – 1969: REVIEWS

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

 

THEE MIDNITERS – ’Never Knew I Had It So Bad’/’The Walking Song’ (Whittier Records 504) Jan 1967

East Los Angeles had a host of great 60s groups and perhaps the most well known were Thee Midniters. They had a command of a wide range of musical styles but it’s their uptempo garage ravers that make the EXPO67 playlist.

’Never Knew I Had It So Bad’ is classic garage rock medicine complete with a snarling fuzztone tirade. The song has sadly evaded compilers apart from an outing years ago on ’A Journey To Tyme Volume 2’

SEAN & the BRANDYWINES – ’She Ain’t No Good’/’Cod’ine’ (Decca 31910) January 1966

Little is known about Sean and the Brandywines, indeed they only left this one Gary Usher produced 45 behind. According to ’Teenbeat Mayhem’ they were from Tujunga, California.

’She Ain’t No Good’ is a choice cover version originally recorded by London mods The Knack. The latter group were signed to Decca records in England so it’s not inconceivable that the song was given to their American associates for consideration.

Another London outfit The Clique also recorded ’She Ain’t No Good’ in 1965.

The other side (not sure which was the top side) is a fine folk rock rendition of ’Cod’ine’.

CLEAR LIGHT – ’Black Roses’/’She’s Ready To Be Free’ (Elektra EK-45622) Sept 1967

Los Angeles group Clear Light were previously called The Brain Train and under this moniker cut a rare 45, including a much rougher/garage version of ’Black Roses’ on Titan Records.

Maybe they decided to change their name to the hipper Clear Light (after a potent brand of LSD) because they started wearing longer hair, weird beards and love beads. Whatever the reason, their manager Bud Mathis touted the groups sounds around L.A. record labels and Elektra signed them up.

During the recording sessions with Elektra founding member Robbie Robison departed. However, he did play on perhaps their finest moment ’She’s Ready To Be Free’ which was recorded during April 1967. He’s also listed/credited on the back of the Clear Light album cover as Robbie Robison ”guru”.

’She’s Ready To Be Free’ was given exposure in the movie ’The President’s Analyst’ where Clear Light have a cameo appearance.

THE KNACK – ’I’m Aware’/’Time Waits For No One’ (Capitol 5774) Feb 1967

Capitol Records had high hopes for Los Angeles group The Knack, even dubbing them the ’American Beatles’ at one point and spending a fair bit of money promoting this debut single in trade magazines which came in a modtastic colour sleeve.

’Time Waits For No One’ is a catchy pop tune with a strong hook and melody and seems to have been the plug side, although ’I’m Aware’ was a hit in it’s own right in several states.

THE RUMORS – ’Hold Me Now’/’Without Her’ (Gemcor 5002) July 1965

IMO the best release on the short lived Gemcor label and it proved to be The Rumors only release which is a shame because they had obvious talent and a special garage pop sound. The mix of vox organ and surf tinged guitar are a heady brew but sadly nobody else thought so and the single went un-rewarded.  

’Hold Me Now’ can be heard on the Nuggets box set from the 90s, the flip ’Without Her’ sounds even better.

THE EAST SIDE KIDS – ’Take A Look In The Mirror’/’Close Your Mind’ (Orange Empire Records OE-500) 1967

Popular Los Angeles group The East Side Kids played all of the major clubs on the Sunset Strip yet despite a clutch of 45s and an album on UNI they remain relatively unknown. Perhaps this double sided winner on the obscure Orange Empire label was their best release. It’s certainly their most psychedelic.

’Take A Look In The Mirror’ and ’Close Your Mind’ were co written by future Comfortable Chair member Bernie Schwartz. The East Side Kids (or at least most of the band) recorded a 45 as The Sound Of The 7th Son.

THE ASHES – ’Is There Anything I Can Do’/’Every Little Prayer’ (Vault V-924) 1966

Los Angeles folk rock group The Ashes formed in 1965 and polished their sound with a residency at a club called The Waleback in Santa Monica. By early 1966 they were signed to Vault Records, a small label owned by Jack Lewerke.

The Ashes cut several songs at Gold Star Studios, Hollywood all of which were produced by Richard Delvy from The Challengers. From these sessions ’Is There Anything I Can Do’ was selected as their debut 45. The full production sound with it’s Phil Spector meets The Byrds arrangement should have been a big hit but it didn’t sell and The Ashes had drifted apart by mid ’66, eventually morphing into The Peanut Butter Conspiracy.

THE ROOSTERS – ’One Of These Days’/’You Gotta Run’ (Progressive Sounds Of America PSA 1151) April 1966

Flower Bomb Songs favourites The Roosters hailed from Westchester, a suburb of Los Angeles. According to lead singer Ray Mangigian, this group of teenagers were hugely influenced by The Byrds and The Hollies in equal measure.

It’s not hard to hear how that influence created some fantastic folk jangle with beautiful harmonies. ’One Of These Days’ is the perfect embodiment of the Sunset Strip sound. The flip ’You Gotta Run’ is more 12 string jangle but this time is a mournful ballad of sorts. Both sides are KILLER all the way!

When I exchanged emails with Ray last year he claimed that their best moment as a group was performing as the backing band for Sonny & Cher in ’66 at Reb Foster’s Revelaire Club. Such was this Hollywood couple’s fame, they arrived at the Club’s parking lot by helicopter.

THE DAVID – ’I’m Not Alone’/’Sweet December’ (VMC V716) 1967

The David were a very talented group of teenagers based in the Los Angeles area led by singer/songwriter Warren Hansen. They had earlier 45 releases on 20th Century Fox before their manager Steven Vail created his own label VMC.

By all accounts The David album ’Another Day, Another Lifetime’ was a very costly affair with a big budget and songs that included elaborate string arrangements and eastern style orchestration. Favourable comparisons with The Left Banke have ensured that The David have enjoyed a cult following since the 60s.

Both cuts on this 45 were taken from the studio album and both feature their more garage sides, in particular the driving fuzz and farfisa led ’I’m Not Alone’.

BOBBY JAMESON – ’Vietnam’ (Tower DT-5083) 1967

Hollywood antagonist Bobby Jameson could have been a contender but his ability to piss the ’wrong’ people off meant that he\’d be left in the shadows of obscurity when his talent was far greater than many of those who succeeded in the music business during the Los Angeles folk rock and psych explosion.

’Vietnam’ is a very powerful anti-war protest song with a great Bo Diddley beat and furious vocals by Jameson. He sounds so fucking angry I believe every word he’s spitting out. ’Vietnam’ was released as a single but probably only as a promo and in very limited numbers. The label was Mira Records 208 – and is virtually impossible to find. In fact several noted record collectors have never even seen a copy.

Fortunately the song was included on the soundtrack album of ’Mondo Hollywood’, Carl Cohen’s cult film from late 1967.

The Roosters

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