13th Floor Elevators, acid rock, Chocolate Watch Band, fuzz box, Garage Bands, Indie record companies, Lenny Kaye, LOVE
The title alone should grab the attention of those likeminded musicologists who lived through the late 1960s. Your collection of independent labeled vinyl probably includes music by the 13th Floor Elevator, Love, The Chocolate Watchband, The Seeds, and other legendary psychedelic garage bands. Usually armed with a Farfisa organ, a guitar utilizing plenty of feedback, throw in a tambourine and harmonica and most garage bands were ready to roll. Better yet, if you dump the old verse/chorus/verse format, chuck in a few minutes of feedback and now your garage band becomes a psychedelic rock band. Bring on the strobe lights. Later the genre is renamed “acid rock”, still amateuristically (a new word) raw, fluid, primitive, exotic as well as hypnotic, with maybe an eastern Raga flavor,all churned together.
My first experience with garage band music was a 1963 when at a house party with my fellow sixth graders we heard the KINGSMEN’s “Louie Louie”. Today, most of my brethren of the same age bracket will probably agree that that particular tune says it all. Primitive, raw, indecipherable words,so much so the radio network censors not knowing exactly what is being sung ban the record. In doing so the ban moved the record to the MUST HAVE category, thereby jettison the regional tune to a national number 1 chart topper.
Through my early record buying career I didn’t think much about genres, let alone putting a garage band label on a band until the early 1970s when I copped a copy of NUGGETS, a double LP put together by archivist Lenny Kaye. I sensed, before listening to NUGGETS, that the (garage) music included in the research was quite different from popular music, but I never categories it. After NUGGETS I went back through my collection of obscure 45s mostly on independent labels and found my own nuggets. Recently, I started to look for things I might have missed.
Researching as such one finds there are many different theories regarding the origin of garage bands; who or what was the first, etc, etc. But one does know that with the invention of the fuzz box utilized by any guitar players, as well as the introduction of hallucinogenics, psychedelic music moves to the forefront. Here are some of the heroes and villains of the era.
THE 13th FLOOR ELEVATORS-what a great name, the 13th Floor Elevators. Funny how even today as I step into an elevator in a high-rise I immediately search to see if there is a 13 floor button. So without further ado one needs to give the nod to this band for coming up with a great name. The ELEVATORS originated in 1965 at Austin ,Texas and featured the legendary ROKY ERICKSON on vocals and guitar. Also included in the ensemble was one band member playing what is labeled an “electric jug”, yeah a jug. I don’t think I’d get much argument that Mr. Erickson could be considered a true acid casualty in the same mention as say Syd Barrett and/or Skip Spence, However, their hit “YOU’RE GONNA MISS ME” remains a true rock classic. To date Mr.Erickson is still alive and still performing.Legend has it that ROXY asked a young JANIS JOPLIN to join the band but she had decided to head to San Francisco instead.Oh well, we missed out there, didn’t we.
LOVE- This band was one of the first interracial rock’n roll bands to break out on the national scene. Out of San Francisco and originally called GRASS ROOTS (not THEE GRASS ROOTS of later day hit parade success) they rechristened themselves as LOVE and became the first rock band signed to ELEKTRA RECORDS. The first LP “LOVE” was not a smashing success but the cut “SIGNED D.C.” must have been an inspiration for THE MOODY BLUES “Nights In White Satin”, listen for the similarities. ARTHUR LEE the lead singer refused to tour to promote the album which in hindsight was not a great idea. The second LP “DA CAPO” was an FM radio staple and the third “FOREVER CHANGES” was their so called masterpiece. One of the best stories I had heard regarding a band receiving a signing bonus has to be when Arthur Lee took the entire bonus and purchased with cash a brand new sports car because as he said the “lead singer needs a flashy Sports car”. The rest of the band was giving pennies.
CHOCOLATE WATCH BAND-I know very little about the Chocolate Watchband, just that they had another strange name. What caught my attention was the fact that the band’s name appears many, many times on the psychedelic posters advertising musical performances in and around San Francisco during the mid sixties. I also give them a nod for their remake of The KinKs tune “I’m Not Like Everybody Else”.
STRAWBERRY ALARM CLOCK-The Strawberry Alarm Clock is another great name and one of my age bracket cannot forget their hit record “Incense and Peppermints”. To have fun one needs to research the history of this band, with its members and their various lawsuits regarding rights to songs and its royalties. By doing said research you’ll find the band or members in Russ Myers movie “Beyond the Valley of The Dolls”, or as members of Oingo Boingo ,or assisting the legendary Danny Elfman with his movie scores, or becoming a member of Lynyrd Skynyrd.
ELECTRIC PRUNES- I must admit I had a few singles by The Electric Prunes and purchased their classic album Mass in F Minor, what a mess. However the single,” I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night “ remains a classic. (Note: Kenny Loggins played guitar in the 1969 version of The Prunes.)
THE SEEDS- The first time I saw The Seeds was on ABC’s Dick Clark produced WHERE THE ACTION IS. Here were these four guys with extremely long hair lip-synching to their songs, “ Mr. Farmer” and “Pushing Too Hard”. I bought both Crescendo issued singles, and later on bought two are their albums,FUTURE and my favorite being the “LIVE” one.
MUSIC MACHINE- Their single TALK TALK on ORIGINAL RECORDS had a black label with white writing and was in line with their ominous look of band members clad all in black, dyed black hair, and one singular black glove worn by each.
BLUES MAGOOS-Signed by a major label MERCURY RECORDS, The BLUES MAGOOS first album actually used the word psychedelic in their title: PSYCHEDELIC LOLLIPOP, but what I remember most is their single I got the single “(We Ain’t Got) Nothin’ Yet”. Issued a few years with PEPPY CASTRO as the only original member the “Never Goin’ Back to Georgia” LP found its way in to my collection.
Some of the other hits and heavies include:THE REMAINS, THE PRETTY THINGS, THE BARBARIANS (check the TAMI SHOW video),? AND THE MYSTERIANS, THE LEAVES, BLUE CHEER (once claimed to be the loudest band on the planet), THE CASTAWAYS and the wonderful SIR DOUGLAS QUINTET.
See you next time…. Chapter 17- BIGGER THAN JESUS…Comments? firstname.lastname@example.org