The Brain Train were based in Los Angeles, California and were discovered by Bud Mathis, a Sunset Strip-based song writer and music publisher who had previously been a professional boxer, while they were still known as The Garnerfield Sanitarium (a name given to them by Alan Brackett, bassist of The Peanut Butter Conspiracy, whose singer Sandi Peanut Butter was married to Brain Train guitarist Robbie Robison).
In late 1966 or early 1967, having changed name, the band recorded the tracks that eventually appeared on their lone single at Electro Vox Studios in Hollywood. These songs were used to secure the group a deal with Elektra Records, where producer Paul Rothchild became their new manager in place of Mathis and they morphed into Clear Light, recording two singles and an excellent psychedelic album for the label.
The debut Clear Light 45, which included a re-recording of ‘Black Roses’, appeared in September 1967. Bud Mathis had retained the rights to the Brain Train recordings and as these weren’t going to be used by Elektra he released them on the Titan label a month after the Clear Light single.
It is no surprise that ‘Black Roses’ is less polished than the Clear Light version, though the vocals and harmonies are just as sweet, and it does have the advantage of rave-up sections that are much more feral and in your face than on the later recording.
‘Me’ opens and closes with a reverbed guitar effect that sounds like a dripping tap and spooky strummed chords. In between pulsating psychedelic punk alternates with monk-like chanting and furious lysergic guitar playing. This one is guaranteed to fry your synapses!
As The Brain Train, the group played at venues such as The Sea Witch, The Hullabaloo, and Pandora’s Box. As you can see from the picture above (and no doubt hear from the pounding, wall of sound drumming on the single), their line-up included two drummers, an unusual arrangement that was carried on when they became Clear Light.
Reissues: Both sides can be found on Scarey Business and Take The Brain Train To The Third Eye: Bud Mathis’ Sunset Trip.