Garage Gold #28: The Black Watch – Left Behind / I Wish I Had The Nerve (1967)

Black Watch-labelWith its driving fuzz guitar riff, swirling keyboards, and breezy vocal delivery, ‘Left Behind’ by The Black Watch is the sound of a band embracing the psychedelic sound of the Summer of Love, though the slightly primitive but very entertaining fuzzy solo shows their garage roots.

This track was the a-side of the group’s only single released in August 1967 on Fenton Records. The label was based in Sparta, Michigan – just a few miles west of The Black Watch’s home town of Cedar Springs – and was a  hotbed for exciting new local bands (we’ve already encountered The Quest’s for example in a previous post).

By way of contrast, flip ‘I Wish I Had The Nerve’ is more typical garage band fare – a wistful b-side ballad with strummed acoustic guitar and another dose of neat keyboard work.

Reissues: ‘Left Behind’ is on the excellent Scream Loud!!! The Fenton Story or Teenage Shutdown Volume 7. ‘I Wish I Had The Nerve’ has not been commercially compiled to my knowledge.

‘Left Behind’

‘I Wish I Had The Nerve’

One Side Wonders #19: A.J. and The Savages – Long Long Time (1967)

AJ and The Savages - labelA.J. and The Savages are another of those bands about which very little is known, apart from that they hailed from Chicago, Illinois and released one single in March 1967 on the Delaware label (also home to The Delights’ excellent ‘Long Green / Find Me a Woman’ 45 from 1965).

A-side ‘Long Long Time’ is a top drawer keyboard-driven garage blaster with fine harmony vocals and the barest hint of a swinging 60s style organ break.

Missing side: ‘Farmer John’, a cover of the garage standard written by duo Don and Dewey but made famous by The Premiers from San Gabriel, California, who had a hit with the song in June 1964. TeenBeat Mayhem! describes A.J. and The Savages’ version as “frantic”!

Reissues: ‘Long Long Time’ is on Teenage Shutdown Volume 15.

 

Classic Singles #98: The Aquarian Age – 10,000 Words in a Cardboard Box / Good Wizard Meets Naughty Wizard (1968)

AquarianAgeThis 45 appeared on the Parlophone label in May 1968 and was recorded by two members of the recently defunct band Tomorrow. Drummer John ‘Twink’ Alder and bassist John ‘Junior’ Wood were joined on the single by Clem Cattini on drums and Nicky Hopkins on piano. The 45 was arranged and produced by Mark Wirtz (the mastermind behind the uncompleted A Teenage Opera project, which only yielded a couple of singles at the time), who had worked with Tomorrow on their self-titled album released in February 1968, an essential artifact in any collection of UK psychedelia.

‘10,000 Words In a Cardboard Box’ is a perfect slice of psychedelic pop, with prominent orchestration that adds to the impact of the song. It doesn’t always have to be about fuzz guitars!

‘10,000 Words In a Cardboard Box’

‘Good Wizard Meets Naughty Wizard’ combines an Eastern influenced, quite enjoyable Mark Wirtz backing track with the whimsical story of the two wizards. This will not be to most people’s taste (it probably wasn’t at the time either) and I don’t expect you to listen to the end if it all gets too much!

‘Good Wizard Meets Naughty Wizard’

Later in 1968, Twink joined The Pretty Things in time for their seminal S.F. Sorrow album, a masterwork of the highest order that all should know, and appeared with the rest of the band in British comedian Norman Wisdom’s film What’s Good For The Goose (the group recorded several numbers for the film that appeared on the last of their releases on the De Wolfe sound library label under the alias The Electric Banana, Even More Electric Banana in 1969).

Twink had another go at the a-side for his Think Pink album in 1970, recorded with ex-Tyrannosaurus Rex man Steve ‘Peregrine’ Took and members of The Deviants. This is an excellent slowed down, heavy psychedelic version with treated vocals and stinging guitar. (And Wirtz also included a version, re-titled ‘Love and Occasional Rain’, on his own Come Back and Shake Me LP from 1969.)

The collaboration with The Deviants eventually lead to the formation of The Pink Fairies, though Twink left the group in mid-1971 following the band’s Never Never Land debut, and after that was only occasionally in the line-up on tours. More infamously, in 1972 he formed the band Stars with Syd Barrett but this collaboration lasted only half a gig before Barrett wandered off the stage.

Reissues: ‘10,000 Words in a Cardboard Box’ is on Rubble Volume 3 (or the CD box-set The Rubble Collection Volumes 1-10), Psychedelia at Abbey Road, and both sides are included as bonus tracks on the EMI CD issue of the Tomorrow album.

 

 

Garage Gold #27: The Banshees – They Prefer Blondes / Take a Ride With Me (1965)

Banshees_labelThe Banshees were students from Mills High School in Millbrae, a city in the San Francisco Bay Area of California. The band formed as early as 1962 as an instrumental group called The Black Knights, but changed name in 1964 when they added a vocalist. Their debut single was recorded in the recreation room of the local Presbyterian Church, and was produced by fellow high school-er Lou Dorren and issued on his fledgling Solo label in July 1965.

Presumably the inspiration for ‘They Prefer Blondes’, apart from the usual teen-beat band fixation with members of the opposite sex, was the 1953 film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes starring Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell, even if it was just the title rather than the film itself. The song is a vibrant, infectious rocker given a strong frat feel by Chris Guiver’s sax playing – and indeed he leads the charge in exemplary fashion on the break.

‘They Prefer Blondes’

‘Take a Ride With Me’ is another frat thriller with a rhythm and bluesy feel and stinging guitar solo.

‘Take a Ride With Me’

The single was a local success but Dorren wasn’t happy with the quality of the recording and so the follow-up was cut at a proper studio, Coast Recorders in San Francisco, and issued on Solo in December 1965. ‘Never Said I Loved You’ has a Merseybeat / folk-rock sound with strong harmonica and harmony vocals; ‘So Hard To Bear’ is a moody mid-tempo offering with the sax back in full effect.

In 1966 The Banshees were offered a recording contract by Mainstream and a single was recorded in Los Angeles. This appeared on subsidiary label Brent in November 1966 and was credited to The Ariel. I haven’t heard ‘I Love You’ but ‘It Feels Like I’m Crying’ is an excellent up-beat, melodic folk-rocker.

After the band split, main songwriter Jack Walter again worked with Lou Dorren, this time in Kensington Forest. Lone 45 ‘Movin’ On / Bells’ appeared in May 1967 on Bay Sound Records. Though completely different to ‘They Prefer Blondes’-era Banshees, both sides are well worth tracking down as they are superb West Coast psychedelia with male and female vocals and fine guitar work.

Reissues: ‘They Prefer Blondes’ is on Back From the Grave Volume 1 (or vinyl Volume 2) or Boulders Volume 4 (vinyl); the flip is on Teenage Shutdown Volume 11.

Discography
  • They Prefer Blondes / Take a Ride With Me (Solo, 1965)
  • Never Said I Loved You / So Hard to Bear (Solo, 1965)

As The Ariel

  • It Feels Like I’m Crying / I Love You (Brent, 1966)

 

Garage Gold #26: The Apollos – Target Love / It’s a Monster (1966)

Apollos_labelThe Apollos were from McLean, Virginia and formed in 1964. They made a four song demo in 1965 at Edgewood Studios in Washington, D.C. as the prize for winning a Battle of the Bands competition. The group originally planned to release one of the recordings, a cover of The Videls’ doo-wop ‘Mister Lonely’ from 1960, as the a-side of their debut single. In the event they opted to re-record two original compositions from the demo session and the 45 appeared on their own Delta label in December 1965. This turned out to be a very wise move as top side ‘That’s The Breaks’ is a sparkling garage number with prominent Vox organ, and flip ‘Country Boy’ a catchy Shadows style / surf-beat instrumental.

The single was a local hit and there was talk of MGM picking up the record for national distribution, but this didn’t happen. The band were also approached by agents from Paramount who spotted them playing at Mack’s Pipe and Drum in Washington but The Apollos turned down the offer as the label wanted them to replace manager Bill Mosser.

The outfit’s follow-up single was issued on Montgomery Records in November 1966 (a label that was also home to the fine ‘All Psyched Out’, another 1966 release by The Spectrum Five from Newark, Delaware). ‘Target Love’ adds fuzz to the already potent Apollos’ mix from the first single. It is an infectious punker with top notch harmony vocals and a lively guitar break.

‘Target Love’

Flip ‘It’s a Monster’ keeps up the excellent high energy work, and has a frat feel on the chorus thanks to novelty Munsters style “monster” vocals that are actually very effective .There’s also a great swinging keyboard solo.

Apollos_band‘It’s a Monster’

If you are interested in hearing what the band sounded like live, albeit in lo-fi quality, The Battle of the Bands Round 2 with The Apollos Live, 1966 on Cicadelic has them running through a set of covers including ‘Dirty Water’, ‘You Really Got Me’ and ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’.

Reissues: Three of the single sides (not ‘Country Boy’) are on the vinyl only Washington D.C. Garage Band Greats: The Apollos vs. The Mad Hatters. Both sides of the second 45 are also on Pebbles Volume 13 (vinyl) and ‘Target Love’ on The Finest Hours of U.S. 60s Punk (CD).

Discography
  • That’s The Breaks / Country Boy (Delta, 1965)
  • Target Love / It’s a Monster (Montgomery, 1966)

Classic Singles #97: The Third Bardo – I’m Five Years Ahead of My Time / Rainbow Life (1967)

ThirdBardo_labelThe Third Bardo’s ‘I’m Five Years Ahead of My Time’, though perhaps a little more well known that some of the singles covered in previous posts, is yet another punkadelic monster that simply cannot be ignored!

The band were from New York and released their only single on Roulette in May 1967. In stark contrast to the stagnation of today, rock music was changing and evolving at such a frightening pace in the late 1960s that to have actually been five years ahead of the time would have been the sonic equivalent of a UFO landing in the Stone Age and its occupants dispensing wisdom upon the uncomprehending minds of those present to witness the event.

In fact, the Third Bardo perfectly captured the heady days of the Summer of Love, not least in their evocative name – which was taken by lead singer Jeff Monn from The Tibetan Book of the Dead and refers to the moment after death when the consciousness is reborn into a new body.

Both sides of the single were written by Rusty Evans of The Deep / Freak Scene fame and Victoria Pike, who was married to the record’s producer, Teddy Randazzo, a successful singer and songwriter in his own right. ‘I’m Five Years Ahead of My Time’ opens with an ominous guitar figure, quickly joined by a slightly more fuzzy Eastern influenced lead, pulsating bass, and subtle keyboards. Jeff Monn imbues the vocals with a sneering swagger and the break is a searing slice of top drawer raga-esque fuzzadelica.

‘I’m Five Years Ahead of My Time’

Flipside ‘Rainbow Life’ is a trippy little number with its Eastern style melody, cryptic lyrics, and swirling sound effects. I’m not sure which instrument is making that high-pitched sound but it is very distinctive. Another reasonably effective version of this song appeared on the Freak Scene’s 1967 Psychedelic Psoul album on Columbia. In fact, if you like ‘Rainbow Life’ you would probably enjoy Rusty Evan’s other work, notably The Deep’s primitive but charming Psychedelic Moods album from 1966 on Cameo-Parkway.

‘Rainbow Life’

ThirdBardo_bandThough short-lived, the band did play hip Manhattan clubs such as Arthur’s and Ondine, and appeared on Upbeat, the Cleveland-based syndicated television show. The 45 received some airplay on the East Coast, but it was pulled from the radio because of perceived drug references in the lyrics.

The session that produced the single also yielded four other tracks, including an alternate version of ‘Rainbow Life’, that are all well worth hearing. The six cuts have now been collected on a 10” vinyl EP by Sundazed Records.

After the Third Bardo broke up in 1967, Monn went solo and released an album for Vanguard in 1968 called Reality, then changed his name to Chris Moon for The Chris Moon Group LP that came out on Kinetic in 1970.

Reissues: Apart from the Sundazed EP, both sides of the 45 are on Psychedelic Microdots Volume 3. The a-side is also on Ah Feel Like Ahcid, the Nuggets box set, and Best of Pebbles Volume 1.

Classic Singles #96: The William Penn Fyve – Swami / Blow My Mind (1966)

WPF_labelThough their only single was issued under the name The William Penn Fyve, this band actually performed as William Penn and His Pals. They formed in late 1964 at the College of San Mateo in California and had many personnel changes prior to the release of the 45. Original singer Neil Holtman took the stage name William Penn (after the founder of the Province of Pennsylvania), but after he left the group vocal duties were mainly handled by keyboard player Gregg Rolie, who went on to join Santana and then Journey. At one point the band had two drummers, one of whom was Mickey Hart, later of The Grateful Dead.

To fit in with the historical associations of their name, the band played in old fashioned English long coats and tri-cornered hats, though they updated their image when they opened for Paul Revere and The Raiders, as they didn’t want to be seen as imitating the American Revolutionary War-era uniforms that the headliners often wore.

WPF_bandAside from high school and junior college gigs, the group also played at the likes of the Longshoreman’s Hall in San Francisco, took part in a Battle of the Bands against The Warlocks (the early Grateful Dead), and were supported on one occasion by Big Brother and the Holding Company.

William Penn and His Pals had recorded demos for Fantasy Records, including an early version of ‘Blow My Mind’ with the dual drummer line-up, but in the end opted for their 45 to be released on the Thunderbird label in November 1966. ‘Swami’ is another headswirler that I first discovered on that fantastic agglomeration of mind mangling sounds that is Pebbles Volume 3: The Acid Gallery. It was recorded at Coast Studios in San Francisco and was composed by lead guitarist Mike Shapiro, though the lyrics were thought up by the group as a whole in the studio as the producers didn’t like the ones that Mike had written.

‘Swami’ opens with jangling guitar and Eastern style chanting, which is quickly augmented by scything fuzz guitar and some breezy piano. It’s probably a bit much to say that the lyrics are a comment on the fashion at the time for seeking out mystics and gurus. They are a little more tongue-in-cheek than that, describing the kind of fake fakir you might encounter as a fairground attraction rather than the real deal. There’s an excellent raga-esque break from Mike as well.

‘Swami’

‘Blow My Mind’ continues the great work. It has a driving, insistent beat with confident vocals, this time delivered by drummer Ron Cox rather than Gregg Rolie, a swirling keyboard break and a wigged out rave up ending with searing guitar.

‘Blow My Mind’

Reissues: Both sides are on the retrospective William Penn and His Pals: San Francisco’s Historic Band From The Sixties and also the vinyl Sounds Of The Sixties San Francisco Volume 2. The a-side is on Pebbles Volume 3 of course and Garage Beat ’66 Volume 6.