Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Stonehouse and Stonehouse Creek. Interview with singer Jim Smith, pt.1



"Stonehouse Creek" is one of the best albums I have come across while looking out for bands in all things TDATS. Recently tracking down an original copy has encouraged me in my attempts at finding out more about this excellent obscure band. To my huge delight I was able to contact Plymouth-born Stonehouse singer James (Jim) Smith, and conduct a telephone interview. This also enabled me to get some great info on later bands of Jim's like Asgaerd.

Jodo, Universe, Stonehouse triumvirate
A 1971 UK blues rock LP  triumvirate of
Jodo, Universe & Stonehouse
Eerily reminiscent of Jodo, of whom I interviewed Rod Alexander almost exactly one year ago (link), Stonehouse also made a single, woefully under-publicised, album of brilliant British heavy blues and hard rock, in 1971. They both have ambiguous, monochrome cover art, they even share some lyrical themes. On top of these coincidences, they both have a track called "Nightmare". Fans of Leaf Hound will also find much to like in Stonehouse's earthy, honest sound, as well as those who know Universe's album, all of these LPs being from 1971, a great year indeed.

The album begins with a plaintive ode to the mysterious "Stonehouse Creek", lamenting the loss of a well-loved local beauty spot, and then kicks off proper with the good-time bluesrock vibes of "Hobo". This fully establishes the band's tight skills; Ian Snow's funky drumming, Peter Spearings's nimble blues licks, Terry Parker's adventurous bass lines and Jim Smith's versatile wide-range vocal abilities. The second track is a real highlight of the album, "Cheater", with Jim's impassioned and brooding performance matching Pete's doom-laden blues riff.

"Nightmare" opens with Terry's quirky, slightly proggy bassline, and this is the first track to include some light piano embellishment, the inclusion of which Jim will voice his minor grievances on later in the interview. Personally speaking, although piano can generally take the edge off hard rock, I like it on this album. It's well played, not over-powering, and it suits an LP which has a good-natured, fun vibe over-all.

Toward the end, "Don't Push Me" introduces some great Sabbathian, progressive riffing. "Topaz" is a compact, groovy instrumental, perfect for those that like Led Zep's "Moby Dick" but tend to reach for fast-forward at a certain point; this one is drum-solo free haha. Along with the earlier track "Ain't No Game", "Four Letter Word" delves into deeper lyrical subject matters, supporting tolerance and anti-war sentiments. The album reprises nicely with Stonehouse Creek pt2, coming back full circle to the homely pleasures of hanging about fishing on a lazy summer afternoon.


Interview with Jim Smith

Parade at British Seaman's Boys Home, Brixham
Parade at British Seaman's Boys Home, Brixham
Acquired from bsbhbrixham.org
Me: Hi Jim! Please tell us about your childhood and how you got into music.
Jim: I was brought up in quite a large family, one of ten brothers and sisters. We lived in a very poor part of town. When I was seven, me and three brothers were out playing in the street and this car turned up. We were given all these really lovely clothes to put on, nicer than we'd seen before. We were whipped of to Brixham, in Paignton, Devon.

To my surprise we were taken to an orphanage and just left there. I found out six months or so later that my mum was really ill, dying of cancer. My father was in the Navy at the time, on HMS Ark Royal, so he wasn’t in a position to look after us all. The rest of my siblings were staying with grandparents and other family. It was a naval orphanage and they had bands, so at the age of twelve I joined a naval band, as a side drummer, also playing the bugle. [The British Seaman's Boys Home (link) was open for 125 years between 1863 and 1988]

Me: Drumming was your first love?
Jim: Yes, I seemed to have a natural aptitude and picked things up and played them quite easily in the boy’s marching band.

Jim Smith, 1971
Jim Smith, 1971
Me: How did that develop into playing in rock bands?
Jim: At around fifteen I had the chance to leave the orphanage, and go and live with my sister in Plymouth. I joined a little youth club come boxing club, which used to put on dances. A couple of guys there asked me if I’d like to join in getting a band together. I managed to get a cheap drum-setup, first time having been on a full size drum kit. I started picking things up from there, playing along to things like The Shadows, and it developed from there.

Me: Was one of those people Pete Spearing?
Jim: No, I met him when I was seventeen or eighteen. I played in loads of different little bands, not yet being really good at my trade. I could play a basic 4/4 but that was about it. I was never trained in music, I didn’t learn to read music. My skills developed just by studying other musicians, I used to go home and work it out bit by bit in my own time. When I was about sixteen I was playing in a band at a show, in a cinema in Devonport, Plymouth. We were supporting The Who. When you see old pictures of The Who, Roger Daltrey’s wearing like a double-breasted jacket with stripes on it. That’s what he was wearing that night.

Pete Spearing, 1971
Pete Spearing, 1971
Me: Oh great, what was the name of that band you were in then?
Jim: I forget now, it might have been “The Crusaders”, something like that. By this time I was quite good on the drums, having been playing regularly in little social clubs and youth clubs. When I was about seventeen Pete Spearing [Stonehouse guitar/song-writer] approached me. By this time I had started to do some singing as well as the drums. He asked If i’d be interested in singing for a good three-piece band (drums, bass, guitar). Terry Parker [Stonehouse bass] was living in a place called Southway at the time. As you can hear on the album, he was a very accomplished bass player for a guy his age.

Me: So Stonehouse was initially Pete Spearing’s idea? Did you know Terry or Ian Snow [Stonehouse drums] before this point?
Jim: Stonehouse was Pete’s vision, it was all his material, he was such a prolific song-writer. I didn’t know Ian or Terry beforehand, no.

Van Dike club poster, 1970
Van Dike club poster, 1970
Me: What were Stonehouse’s influences? Did you model yourselves on any bands?
Jim: We didn’t want to sound like anyone else and I think we managed to achieve that, with my vocal range and how I sounded, and the way we played, I think we were really original. Personally speaking, I idolised Free. I saw them half a dozen times when they came down to Plymouth, at a club called the Van Dike. They were going on stage with 200 watt Marshal PA systems, that’s how new they were to the game as well!

Me: Paul Rogers has one of the best voices of all time. On that record he did with Queen in recent times, his voice was as good as ever.
Jim: Yeah, that was incredible. That’s the good thing about carrying on doing what you do, you should never lose it. He still has such a good vocal range.

Me: Why did you choose the name Stonehouse? Having looked it up, I see there is a place with that name in Plymouth.
Jim: Pete Spearing was born around that area. There’s a place called Stonehouse Creek, they keep boats down there. There’s a ha'penny bridge, where in the old days, seventeenth and eighteenth century, people used to pay a ha'penny to get across. It’s quite a biggish bridge, it takes two lanes of traffic now. So Pete themed one of the songs on Stonehouse bridge, and creek.

Me:  Sure, the intro and outro on the album, containing the lyric, “They’re filling in Stonehouse Creek”.
Jim: And they did fill it in! One side of it is now a car park for a university college.

Me: I guess that was quite an upsetting thing at the time, which is why Pete wrote about it?
Jim: Yes! It was well-loved, lots of people used to go fishing around there and just laze around the edges of the water, having picnics and things like that.

Me:  When Stonehouse started playing live, do you remember playing with, or meeting, any other bands that we may have heard of?
Jim: Not really no, we did a lot of one-off club nights by ourselves. Speaking of Paul Rogers again, I did measure myself on him, not the way he sang, but the way he stood on stage, the way he used the mic stand, he used it like a crutch. I used to do that and throw it about, it was like a baton to me.

Me: Were you just playing near Plymouth? Did you travel further, to London for instance?
Jim: Yeah we went to London; I forget the names of places we played now, one may have been the The Speakeasy (link). We went down an absolute storm, did really well and got more gigs. Don’t ask me what managers approached us, as Pete dealt with all that. We had a small spot at Glastonbury one time, set up in a tent, and that went down really well too. At one time we were voted one of the top ten bands in England, alas I can’t remember where or what that was in.

Command Studio, London
Command Studio, London
Me: Do you remember much about how you got signed and how the album recording came about?
Jim: Pete arranged that after talking to a guy who worked for Decca at a show, who thought we had a really good sound and liked what we did. An album recording session was arranged, but we only got one day in the studio.

Me: The album cover says it was recorded at Command studios in London (link) [which hosted the likes of King Crimson, Slade, Deep Purple, Atomic Rooster, PFM and Roxy Music]. In a small piece I found on-line (link), that was apparently written by Pete Spearing in recent times, he said that it was recorded at Advision studios. What is correct here?
Jim: It was recorded at Command studios, in 1970. Not Advision.

Me: The engineer, Barry Ainsworth, worked with some excellent bands; ├┤awkVVind , Deep Purple - "Hush", The Strawbs, May Blitz and Sam Gopal to name a few. [There is a 1980s video interview with Barry, here] Producer Mickey Clarke worked on Raw Material's second LP, and showing the bizarrely incongruous nature of the industry at the time, Rolf Harris's "Two Little Boys". He also produced a band called Room, from Dorset, not too far from Plymouth (See Vol60). Their album, “Pre-Flight”, is another of my absolute favourites from the time, they did one album for Vertigo and broke up pretty much straight after as well. Do you know of them?
Jim: Oh really? I can’t say I know of Room, but yes it’s sad. We could have done more, If we’d had more time we could have laid more tracks down. The bass, drums and guitar tracks were laid down first, during which time I sang along in a booth, so I knew when the breaks were coming in, recording what would normally be a first-take of the vocal track. After doing that, Barry Ainsworth decided that all these first takes were good enough and we did not redo any of them.

Command Studios, London
Acquired from www.philsbook.com
Me: Do you think this was an attempt to save money on studio time?
Jim: Oh absolutely, we were only in the studio for one day. But a day is 24hrs, we were in there for just twelve hours. That was all the time they gave us, so we had to get it done. Even Pete’s guitar work, his lead work, he only did that once. Never went over it again like you’d normally do, you might want put harmony solos on it etc. We were really racing against the clock, what with the time it took to set everything up as well, there was no time at all for the band to have any extra input or say in the recording, no time to develop anything further in the studio.

Me: Who played the piano on tracks like "Hobo", "Nightmare", "Down Down" and "Stonehouse Creek"?
Jim: The piano was put in at a later date, without asking us, so I don’t even know who did it or who’s idea it was. It softened the band a little bit. I would have preferred it if they’d asked Pete to come back in to lay down some more rhythm tracks, and maybe some more harmony tracks.....but nothing.

Plymouth Amateur Rowing Club
Plymouth Amateur Rowing Club
Me: Given all these restrictions, it’s testament to all of your talents that the album sounds as good as it does. You must have been very well-practiced before going in.
Jim: Oh absolutely, we had a place on the embankment in Plymouth, it was in a boat club. They had the rowing boats downstairs in one big room and we had quite a large upstairs room. We rehearsed there four or five times a week, all our gear was left there. The band was really tight, what you hear on the album is what you would have heard if you’d seen us live, although live it would have all been a lot louder and a lot fuller. There were no mistakes at all, we just played straight through the songs.

We’d go to rehearsal and bang out all the songs you know, plus other material as well. We did a thing called the “War Suite”, written by Pete, something along the lines of “War Of The Worlds”, but this was about WWII. That was just a beautiful piece of music. If we’d got anywhere, he’d have become a really good song writer, an arranger of songs, it’s such a shame. Not that he isn’t a good song writer now, but if we’d got somewhere when we had the break back then, you know.

Me: The War Suite sounds like it must have been some kind of prog rock epic. If it was never recorded, that was a tragic loss. I imagine you would not have been able to fit it on the album.
Jim: Yeah absolutely, it was like something Meatloaf would do. We never recorded it, we used to play the whole thing through on stage, it was in seven or eight parts. There were so many ups and downs, peaks and troughs, loud and quiet bits, it was just absolutely lovely to play. Actually, a song that was on the album, “Ain’t No Game” [themed on the anti-war sentiment common at the time] could have been taken from the War Suite. I seem to remember that, but of course some things are hazy after all these years.

Pete Spearing in recent times
Pete Spearing in
more recent times
Me: Pete was the main ideas-guy in the band, but did Stonehouse have any kind of collaborative writing process?
Jim: Pete was the main guy, absolutely. We’d sit around discussing things and he’d accept and listen to any of our input, and we’d maybe add a bit here and a bit there, but basically, he was so good, it was like “if it’s not broken, why try and fix it?”, you know.

Me: How did he get that good, do you know? What was there in his past that might account for it?
Jim: I think intelligence. He’s a very intelligent man, he’s very knowledgeable. He’s read a lot, he’s word-perfect in everything he does and says and plays. He’s just good at it. Some people are good at writing, putting lyrics together, arranging songs, he has it all. He wrote all the lyrics as well.

Me: Do you have any favourite songs on the album?
Jim: I particularly like "Crazy White Folk" [Jim sings the chorus in perfect tune here] and "Ain’t No Game". I loved singing all of them, because my voice was so strong and I could reach all the notes. I still can actually, you wouldn’t believe it but my voice is still as high and as powerful as it ever was. Not bad for 68 is it, haha?

Ian Snow, 1971
Ian Snow, 1971
Me: Could you give us a brief run-down of the gear you were using when you recorded the album?
Jim: Pete had his beloved Gibson, semi-acoustic it was. A couple of years ago he had it stolen, bless him. Terry Parker always used a Fender bass, and Snowy (Ian Snow) was on a Ludwig drum kit. The PA would have been whatever was hired in at the time.

Me: Did you contribute any drums on the album? I presume not, especially with the time constraints.
Jim: No I didn’t. At the time, I was the same type of drummer as Snowy, we were on a par for drums anyway. Though there was always a bit of camaraderie between us, Snowy was very good with a single bass drum and double bass, he could do the lot really.

Me: Do you remember anything about the album being released? Reading about it or hearing it?
Jim: Nothing, no. They didn’t even let us know when it was being released, to be honest. I think there was something in the Melody Maker at the time.

Terry Parker, 1971
Terry Parker, 1971
Me: Do you know if any singles were released from it? Was anything played on the radio?
Jim: No, not from the Stonehouse album. At that time I don’t think radio played that sort of stuff, as far as I know, it’s not like now when you can hear everything you could want to hear, from any time.

Me: Is it the case, as for some other bands I have spoken to, that by the time the album was actually released, the band was already on the rocks?
Jim: Yes, that’s right. I’d like to say, we didn’t split with any bad feelings. After all these years, I can’t honestly remember why we split, we never had a huge falling out, nobody hated anyone, we all got along really well, which for a rock band is really unusual. I can speculate that the pressures for Pete were strongest, he had recently married, had a baby girl, he would have had to spend a lot of time away from home, going to London etc. We did play a few gigs up north to promote the record, to audiences of about 200-300 people, which were well-received, as were all the shows we ever played.

Me: Was it 1971 when the band split?
Jim: I don’t remember exactly when, but it was 1971. As far as I know, we never got any money at all from the label. They didn’t promote us at all either, we had to go out and find our own promoters, which didn’t happen, for reasons that I don’t quite remember.

Me: Do you have any amusing or shocking Stonehouse stories to share?
Jim: Not really, it was so long ago now. What I mainly remember is spending all our time rehearsing. We looked the part, we all had long hair, we had the right stuff on stage.....we did get chased off out of a farmhouse once, by a guy with a shotgun! We pulled up there late one night, we wanted some water for the big van we had, and he thought we was trying to rob the place, we banged on the door and the next minute this shotgun came peering through the window at us, we thought “shit!” and just ran for it, loudly expressing our apologies as we high-tailed it out of there.

We were a well behaved band, we weren’t smashing things up, we didn’t get into trouble with anybody. We just played our music. Being good musicians was all we ever wanted.

-------------------------------------


And I think anyone who hears the album will be in no doubt that they certainly achieved that! Soon after Stonehouse, Jim and Ian joined a new band based in London, called Asgaerd (see Vol99), with whom Pete was also briefly involved at one point. More on this, and another band further down in Stonehouse history called Canyon, in part 2 of the interview later. There are a few more questions and mysteries to clear up that have arisen since I spoke to Jim. One of which is that, although Jim referred to Decca, the pressing I am aware of was released on RCA. I hope to follow up on this soon, so this article may be updated if an explanation is possible. Thanks to Jim for making these interviews possible, and thanks for reading! Follow Stonehouse at the official Facebook page.

© Richard Sheppard / www.aftersabbath.com / Stonehouse

Jim Smith drumming in Canyon, 2012.



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Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Day After The Sabbath 118: La Fuente del Ritmo [Latin and Chicano rock in the US]


Download from [mf] or [mg]
unzip password:  tdats


TDATS 118 is a collection of tracks from bands who made albums in the US, all including members who had relocated from Latin America. The biggest influence on this Latin rock trend was undoubtedly Carlos Santana! Indeed, Malo included the guitar talents of Carlos's brother, Jorge Santana.

The better-known artists here are Chango, Malo, Tierra and El Chicano, all referred to at times as "Chicano Rock". Other bands here don't fall under that convenient label, because the term Chicano specifically means Mexican-American. Chango offer some of the best cuts here, with 'Woman in Black' standing out as the closest to heavy metal. What makes all the tracks here a refreshing alternative to the usual heavy psych and rock of the times is the Latin influence, the lead guitar styles and the percussion, often with a horn section which complements the sound rather than softening it. The track from Amazonas is from the school of infamous budget / exploitation producer Leo Muller (real name David Leonard Miller) who's labels would employ studio musicians to sell popular sounds of the time to lesser-discerning music buyers. In the case of the Amazonas LP some great original music resulted.

While remaining true to the aftersabbath ethos of heavy groove and rocking-ness, this comp brings together a great collection of salsa-flavoured, funky, jazzy, brassy rock. A light-hearted and enjoyable mix just in time for the summer! If you like this one, you may want to check out my other Latin-flavoured comps; 104 (Peru), 84 (Brazil), 89 (Mexico) and 43 (general South America).  I love the good vibes of the rock from these places so there will be more....Argentina, Chile, Uraguay and others to come...

TRACKS
01. Strange Brew - Intro (1969)
       from album 'A Very Strange Brew'
       A California-based band, some members of which were in Yaqui (see later)
02. Malo - Peace [single version] (1972)
       from album 'Malo'
       Including Carlos Santana's brother Jorge, this album reached no. 12 in the US charts.
03. Sincerely Antique - Chaucha (1973)
       from album 'Sincerely Antique'
       Based in Miami.
04. Broth - I'm a King (1970)
       from album 'Broth'
       A band of Cubans and Puerto Ricans who made an album in New York.
05. Amazonas - Amazona (1973)
       from album 'Play Santana'
       Exploitation studio band, recorded some Santana covers, but this one is an original.
06. Abel - Searchin' For The Light (1971)
       from album 'Please World'
       Based in San Francisco. Lead by Abel Sanchez (guitar, bass, vocals). The sound quality of
       this is lacking, if you have a better rip let me know!
07. Toro - Small Folk Reservation (1975)
       from album 'Toro'
       A New York-based band, guitarist Steve Napoleoni Monge previously worked with Harvey        Averne.
08. El Chicano - Chicano Chant (1971)
       from album 'Revolución'
       One of the more prolific Chicano rock bands, based in L.A.
09. Chango - Caminando (1975)
       from album 'Chango'
       One of the more appreciated Santana-esque bands. Liner notes explain the god
       'Chango' is "the representative of unbridled sexuality".
10. Tierra - Tierra (1973)
       from album 'Tierra'
       L.A.'s Tierra supported Santana in the late '70s.
11. Macondo - Battery (1972)
       from album 'Macondo'
       From East L.A. and discovered by Sergio Mendes. Again sound quality could be better, if
       you have a better rip drop me a line.
12. Banda de Jesus - Livin' Is Funky (1972)
       from album 'Naked Lunch'
       This band came out of 'Naked Lunch', who also contributed members to Malo. This is              available as a bonus track on the 'Naked Lunch' CD from World In Sound records.
13. Yaqui - I Need A Woman (1973)
       from album 'Yaqui'
       East L.A. band on Hugh Hefner's Playboy label.
14. The Harvey Averne Barrio Band - Cucaraca Macara (1971)
       from album 'The Harvey Averne Barrio Band'
       Jewish-American New Yorker who was a name in the Latin scene. (link) Notice similarity
       to Toro's Small Folk Reservation...
15. Chango - Woman In Black (1976)
        from album 'Honey Is Sweeter Than Blood'
        For their second and final album, Chango used less Salsa, and more ROCK!!


















Thanks for listening! Rich
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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

TDATS Vol 83 Switzerland reboot: McChurch Soundroom, Delusion LP, 1971

This is a late addition to the Swiss Volume 83, an extra band kindly suggested by TDATS fb group admin Martin Smith. You can download the fully-revised comp, and read mine and Martin's new notes by the usual links from here. If you don't want to download the whole thing again you can get just the additional mp3 here and drop it in. Here's what's new:

McChurch Soundroom was an eclectic psych free blues rock ensemble that has close relationships with krautrock, in particular with the heavy, stoned jazzy sound of Nosferatu (see Vol116), but also with folkish bands from England (Jethro Tull first era). Their original LP "Delusion" was released in 1971 on the legendary Pilz label (Popol Vuh, Wallenstein, Witthuser & Westrupp etc). This psych folk underground act is now cult. It was engineered by the famous Conny Plank (see Vol116 Conny Special) at Star Studio Hamburg.

McChurch Soundroom promo shot
McChurch Soundroom
promo shot
The name of the band seems to have been taken partly from the nickname of singer/flute player Sandy McChurch (real name Sandro Chiesa). Also on board was saxophonist/guitarist Heiner Althaus (link), who has since played in many big-band ensembles, and drummer Norbert “Nobbi” Jud , later of Monroe. The opening track of the album, 'Delusion', has lyrics credited to Marcel Schaar. He was a German singer/songwriter and it's not clear how much other involvement he had in the album. In the same year as Delusion he recorded a good solo album as 'Marcel', called 'Dreams Consumed' (link).

I asked Martin to write a piece about it, and here it is: "About twenty years ago a hippy friend of mine summoned me to his bus he was living on, raving on about some lost heavy nugget he had come across while living in Holland . As I entered his rather musty hippy home he thrust a copy of McChurch's Delusion LP into my hand saying, "Man you got to listen to this man, its going make me a fortune!". You see, my friend had the quite bonkers idea of sampling the drum solo from 'Dream of a Drummer' and turning it into a Fat Boy Slim type big beat rave tune. Nonsense of course, but I instantly fell for the mighty hammond grooves, overblown flute and heavy blues that dwelled within its grooves. Also the cover of a human skull covered in wax was the cherry on the cake. It was the first real obscure heavy nugget I came across and set me up for a life time of crate-digging. In a way, Google and the internet has taken away some of the mystery of record collecting and these once mythical LPs are now just a mouse-click away. Hopefully this little story might give you an insight into what makes all of us record collectors tick, and the reason we all keep on digging. As for my mate, he never made his fortune with his big beat Swiss prog dance tune ...he now works in a high street bakery called Greggs."

Thanks for listening, and thanks Martin!

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Last Song: Roy Rutanen and his short-lived band




If you haven't seen the most recent tdats comp from last week, the heavy 'Bosstown sound', get it here.

Right....getting on for two years ago now I included a song in the second New Zealand special (link) by a guy called Roy Rutanen. At that time I had fallen for what I now know was an incorrect rumour, believing him to have been a mysterious and enigmatic figure from New Zealand.

The album in question may be described by some as loner-folk, with pastoral sounds and mild psychedelia. It's a whimsical and humorous record with some darker fuzz-filled cuts, especially "Sinful Man" and "The Trip Song". It would fit right into the late '60s San Francisco sound. I find his voice is sometimes reminiscent of Jim Morrison, and sometimes Cat Stevens.

About a year and a half ago I was contacted out of the blue by a guy in Australia called Chris Hobrough. He told me that he took the picture on the front of Roy's Album, that Roy was most definitely American, and had never to his knowledge set foot in New Zealand. With Chris's much apreciated help, I have been able to contact Roy and some of his band members. Firstly I'd like to say a huge thanks to Chris Hobrough, Mick Norris, Ian Robins and Roy himself for being such great sports and making this possible. Learning the truth has been a great feeling, so to set the record straight, here it is!


The Beginning

Roy grew up in Southbridge, MA, the oldest of four; one brother and two sisters. His mother was a 'truly good' pianist and his father was a gifted auotobody mechanic, but unfortunately a desperate alcoholic. In Roy's own words: "I had kind of a bad childhood in many ways, but normal in others". He and a friend started playing guitar as teenagers. They became a trio and played in different cities around the area. All that was to end when he was drafted in 1966 by the US army, at which time he was working in a service station.

After a stint in Germany he was sent to Vietnam. Asked for his recollections of the war, he told me "I was in rocket attacks but didn't see much more action. I saw a lot of drug use and very little support from locals. I'll bet that the people there are living the same way today as they did back in the '60s".

During his time in Vietnam, he chose to use two R&R periods to visit Australia. He liked it there so much that he decided to fly straight back on discharge from the army. His early recollections of Australia were of having good times making many good friends: "I smoked a lot of pot and indulged in other highs. I lived right on Manly Beach in Sydney and went to sleep at night with the sound of surf coming in through the open balcony doors".


Making the band

Dee Why beach
Roy started putting his name about in the scene and playing his own songs at some local venues: "I began playing at a theater called P.A.C.T. and played at other places as well". The PACT (Producers, Authors, Composers and Talent) arts company still stands to this day (link). Roy befriended Michael 'Mick' Norris, who played in accoustic band 'Marastique' and a bluesrock band called Amageddon. Then Roy moved into a flat with friends in Pittwater Road, Dee Why, a suburb of northern Sydney which also has a beach. In Mick's words: "We used to meet at this flat, have a jam and smoke pot, supplied mostly by a local bloke who lived only about two hundred metres away in Harbord Road".

Mick would take along his band-mates Ray McKeown, Ian Robins and Graham Hilzinger. Ray played drums, Ian played electric guitar and Graham played flute and sax. Mick himself was playing bass at the time.

Mick recalls that at those sessions, they would set-up and Roy would play through all his songs, almost non-stop, as if doing a mini concert. Then they would all fall into it with him, making-up their own parts as Roy continued playing without stopping to correct anyone. "Occasionally we would all stop for a puff of pot, then get back to it". The guys got together a couple of nights a week, playing for few hours at a time. Roy adds: "They were all great guys and we worked well together. It was a wonderful experience".

Roy at a wedding
I asked Ian Robins to describe his memories of Roy: "Roy was a real pistol!  Very loud and ebullient. He had a great sense of humour and I remember he loved junk food. We all got a little substance crazy in those days. Roy had a favourite expression - 'Has anyone seen my mind - don't step on it!'. He was a very good acoustic picker and song writer, fun to work with too, very focused".

Eventually they all got to know Roy’s songs by ear, Ian remembers that Roy was vey open to the ideas of the other guys and they all developed their own individual parts.

The flat on Pittwater Road
- at mid-level
When they weren't playing, the Dee Why flat was a place for fun and hi-jinks. Mick recalls one party in particular: "There was one occasion at the flat when some friends of Roy’s had arrived from overseas, after back-packing I think. They brought some 8mm film they had shot of their adventures, and they also had some LSD micro-dots which they had gotten from the USA (very clean, pure and precise in dose level). We all had a trip together, as the LSD took effect, the film was played and projected onto a wall of the flat and it was also played back-wards to the great amusement of us all.

As the party progressed, most of us set-out in groups in different cars to go driving around the northern beaches, all in different directions. We had an amazing time laughing and hoo-harring all over the place. At one particular time, a few of the cars arrived at the same intersection all at the same time, all coming from different directions. Not having been in contact since the magical mystery tour had started, that was an amazing coincidence. We all just sat there at the intersection looking at each other, cracking up with laughter".

Before Roy's get-togethers with the nucleus of what was to become his recording band, he had been very enterprising. While recording a demo on his own, a local studio put him in touch with Jack Argent, MD of Leeds Music publishers. Jack liked what he heard and organised a deal for an album with MCA.


Making the album

The album was recorded at United Sounds studio in Sydney (link). Roy played classical acoustic guitar. From the Dee Why jams was Mick Norris on bass, Ian Robins on electric guitar, Graham Hilzinger on flute and Ray McKeown on drums. Some more players were added; John Hayles played second classical guitar, and on tracks "Plastic World", "The Old Man" and "Hitchin" steel guitar player Kenny Kitching can be heard. Kenny has since become one of he most renowned steel and Hawian guitar players in Australia. On this subject Roy said: "Kenny was brought in, I'd never met him before. I didn't know he'd done so well, since. He was very interested in the track(s) he played on and I appreciated his interest!"

Ian Robins had this to say about the recording: "I played all the electric guitar. I had a Gibson ES335 back then, a guitar I always regret parting with. It must be worth a fortune now. One song I recall, 'Plastic Jesus', was about the commercialization of religion".

At the time Roy told Mick that MCA were winding-down their activity in Australia, and so a meagre budget had been allocated for the sound recording and production. MCA was pushing to get it's contracts fulfilled quickly. As most of the players were by now well-practiced and knew their parts well, the album sessions went smoothly. Roy points out that most of the tracks were put down together as a band instead of over dubbing. A few things, like the flute, had to be put down later.

Label, Side 1
The record was released in the latter half of 1971, catalogue number MCA MAP/S 5100. The full track listing is:

A1 Searchin'
A2 Plastic World
A3 The Trip Song
A4 Anti-stink Song
A5 The Old Man
B1 The Country Song
B2 Hitchin'
B3 Sinful Man
B4 The Last Song

Things had moved on by this time, Roy had moved again and was working in a record shop on Pittwater Rd. He had also met his wife-to-be, Margaret Gray, from Narrabeen, NSW. The album cover shows Roy sitting under a tree strumming his guitar, with an attentive blonde-haired girl in audience. This girl is Margaret. The picture was taken by Chris Hobrough, a photographer friend of Roy's. Chris had this to say: "The pictures were taken in the garden of his place at Newport, Sydney. I remember positioning myself right on top of an ant nest to take some of those shots - they didn't appreciate it. 40 years and I still remember that".

The credited engineer is Spenser Lee, who quite amazingly was engineer on the first three Buffalo albums slightly later. The album was produced by Alan A. Freeman, ex-head of A&R at Pye records in England and CEO of MCA Australasia. Older readers may be interested to know Alan was a regular panelist on ATV's Saturday night talent programme, New Faces.

MCA did put out a single from the album, choosing 'Plastic World' with a flip-side of 'The Old Man'. I have just discovered another single that MCA released, which Roy confirms was recorded prior to the album sessions. That single was "Your Day Is Comin" (youtube) with flip-side "Hey You" (youtube). Thanks to Bill Stevens for uploading those two. Bill also got some info out of Roy: "The single 'Your Day Is Comin' was written on Manly Beach in Sydney and reflects my disillusion with the Vietnam War and war in general. 'Hey You' is another single but more of a love song".


Disapointment

Tragically, it would seem that the public had very little chance to even hear the finished album. Chris Hobrough offers his opinion: "The album wasn't a commercial success, mainly because the record company put zero effort into promoting it. It was basically all left up to Roy. That was quite a tall order, back then, for a young musician just starting out. Perhaps it would have been easier now with the Internet. Anyway, it wasn't enough support for Roy to develop his art, and I think that was a big disappointment for him".

Mick Norris has similarly negative things to say about the album's promotion: "As was a usual practice, MCA, or one of their agents, managed to have a review of the album published in the appropriate 'what’s going on' music page of one of Sydney’s main newspapers, giving the album 'record of the week', but it was not as if MCA showed any high hopes for Roy’s success. It seemed that they just wanted to get their contract obligations met at the cheapest possible cost, and I don’t recall how many copies of the album were pressed".

Ian Robins in
recent times
Ian Robins has equally melon collie memories of the time: "It would have been nice if the album had gone somewhere. Who knows how it may have changed one's life, eh? I feel bad for Roy though. He put a lot of energy and effort into the album."

Roy himself says that he made no money at all from the record, aside from the band's basic pay during the recording sessions. This immediate disapointment hit Roy hard. Soon after he was married and had a young daughter on the way, so he made plans to cut his losses and return to the US where he would be in a better position to support his new family. He does not remember any promotional efforts from MCA what so ever: "We should have gone on the road to promote it, but by that time, I was headed back to the states. I never saw it in a store".

Just after the release of the album, Mick Norris went on with Ray, Ian and Graham to form a new incarnation of the band, while Roy was drifting away from the original gang: "The rest of us carried on as a band in the Narrabeen/Mona Vale area, and we recorded a soundtrack for an Australian surfing film producer Bob Evans, the name of his film was 'Family Free'" (link).

Around the same time the band was approached to hurriedly come-up with a soundtrack for another locally-proposed surf film; of which Bruce Usher and Russell Shepherd, from Mona vale Beach, were the producers. Due to the urgency of needing original music finished within this film's strict time frame, Mick made contact with Roy with the hope that he might have some material, or be able to come-up with some fresh material. Roy did come to meet the producers at Mona Vale, and things started to move, with Roy showing keen and coming up with ideas. "Some how the wheels fell off the whole thing, and I don’t recall seeing Roy again, I think that was about the time that he and Margaret got married. It's hard to recall now, but I think that delays with the film’s production didn't help".


Back in the USA

So that was the end of Roy's personal and musical life in Australia: "In total, I lived in Aussie for just over two years. After I got married and had a daughter, I wanted my family in the US to meet them, so we left for Massachusetts in the early '70s. All in all, it was a wonderful experience, and in retrospect, I never should have left".

Back in the US, music just wasn't cutting it any more. With a daughter and wife to support, he decided to go back to school in Boston to study broadcasting. He worked for a while in radio and TV advertising, then: "From Connecticut, where I was living at the time, I got a job in Hyde Park, New York, at a small AM station working for a fat guy who was a little unstable. From there I became a program director for an FM station that was country when I got the job. With me it became a rock station, and a big hit in the Poughkeepsie, NY area".

Roy in 2010
Roy moved to Texas where he got into TV news: "My time in San Antonio working for KENS-TV was a highlight of my career.  From there it was back to radio in San Diego, California before returning to New England. I won several awards along the way and got to see a lot of the country. I went back to Australia in the mid 80's while working as a TV journalist and revisited Sydney - I'd like to go back there again some day. Back in New England I did something I'd always wanted to do and that was driving big rig trucks. I did that for three years and enjoyed seeing the country, but the business was tough. Now I'm retired".

After the impossibility of the public getting the chance to hear Roy and the gang's great album when it should have done, we can thank the power of the internet for allowing many to hear it easily now. Thanks to Roy and his efforts over 40 years ago for bringing us this great music!

© Richard Sheppard / www.aftersabbath.com / Roy Rutanen

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Monday, April 6, 2015

The Day After The Sabbath 117: Boston Tea Party (The Bosstown Sound)

Download from:  [mf] or [mg]



This volume of TDATS is inspired by one of the enduring stories in the history of American rock; the "Bosstown Sound". It has been regarded from wildly varying viewpoints as a name made up for a scene that never existed, an unjustified hype, an authentic late ‘60s sound, a cynical industries’ marketing ploy that ended in a debacle, or a tragic end to something that could have blossomed and inspired a lot more great music. Probably the saddest part is that some Boston bands were unfairly tainted by the negative opinions, with their careers being hindered or even finished in the process.

Alan Lorber
Alan Lorber
It began with Alan Lorber, who has been a successful New York-based arranger, producer, musician and composer since the early ‘60s. One of his first successes in pop was creating The Mugwumps, a band which later split into The Lovin' Spoonful and The Mamas & the Papas. In 1968 Lorber devised a plan to use Boston as a geographical base from which to promote a number of his signings. He claims to have chosen Boston because of its convenient proximity to New York, where his Bosstown bands were recorded. A convienient fan-base existed in the 250,000 Boston college students and he claims there was a large number of clubs where artists could develop before touring nationally. There were also many college and commercial radio stations to promte at the grass-roots level. Just after announcing his plan to the trade press like Billboard and Variety, Newsweek carried the story, and coined the term "Boss-town Sound", adapted from “Motown”.

The Boston Tea Party 53 Berkeley St.
53 Berkeley St.
As a backdrop, Gary Burns recounts in his thesis “The Bosstown Sound” that Boston did have a genuine underground, kick-started in the early sixties by a healthy folk scene. A club called “The Boston Tea Party” (53 Berkeley St.) quickly became the main outlet for alternative rock after it opened in the winter of 1966. The Hallucinations playing with The Ill Wind, along with The Lost, were some of the first Tea Party shows to be announced in the underground Boston newspaper, Avatar. Some other important pre-'Bosstown' mid-sixties bands from the area were The (Rockin') Ramrods, The Remains and The Barbarians. The venue was also favoured by big-name visitors like The Velvet Underground, The Peanut Butter Conspiracy and Canned Heat.

The Boston Tea Party opening night poster
The Boston Tea Party opening night poster
Alan Lorber chose the MGM record label for his signed Boston bands Orpheus, Ultimate Spinach and Beacon Street Union for no other reason than the convenience of having used them for similar acts of his already. Almost immediately after the term “Bosstown” was coined, two things happened which would curse it for ever more and bring it to an abrupt end. Firstly, influential rock press like Rolling Stone and Crawdaddy took an immediate negative stance, claiming that the Bosstown sound was a cynical ploy constructed by MGM, to be played against the huge west-coast “San Francisco Sound”.

The spiel in the initial press advert read ”Where the new thing is making everything else seem yesterday. Where a new definition of love is helping to write the words and music for 1968. Three incredible groups, Three incredible albums. The best of The Boston Sound on MGM records.” It then showed the debut LPs of Beacon Street Union and Ultimate Spinach. Also the second LP from Orpheus, showing that the folk/pop sounds of Orpheus were already well-established before being connected to the campaign.

Billboard magazine - 20th January 1968
The first ad in the Boston Sound campaign
Beacon Street Union, Orpheus and Ultimate Spinach
Now it was hip to bash the Bosstown sound, even Boston musicians joined in the vitriol. Russell “Rusty” Marcus, late-joining bassist with Eden's Children was quoted as saying: "Boston could never support a music scene. You can't enjoy yourself if your body's sick, and Boston's sick, physically, psychologically sick. We're glad we're not just lumped together with the rest of the Boston Sound. [At that time, Eden's Children was one of the only "Bosstown" bands signed to a label other than MGM] I mean, MGM's trying to buy its way onto the charts.

Curb (center) with members of the Mike Curb Congregation and Davy Jones on a television special in 1972
Mike Curb (center) & members of
the 'Mike Curb Congregation'.
Davy Jones television special, 1972
Secondly, in 1969 the newly appointed MGM president Mike Curb (who later became a Reaganite politician and 42nd Lieutenant Governor of California) decided to wage a war on “drug bands”, with Rolling Stone reporting his derogatory comments about bands on his own label! In doing so he dropped many bands from the label, relegating them as "just a bunch of junk". Since then it has been speculated that this was a publicity stunt, and these were merely under-selling bands that were nearing end of contract anyway. The hip and trendy opinion-leaders like Rolling Stone made it acceptable to put down Boston bands. In Lorber’s words, “Nevertheless, the reaction triggered a national controversy which continued for more than a year. It became more trendy to talk 'Boston Sound' than to hear it. A snowball became an avalanche, with the artists buried under the outpouring that overshadowed the music, and eventually destroyed whatever future they might have had."

Countering this to some degree, Alan also wrote: "Strangely though, Boston Sound marketing was successful for Boston itself. Record outlets prospered. Revenues of rock 'n' roll radio multiplied. Circulation of local music papers doubled. Boston clubs experienced overflow attendance. For the groups, Orpheus' single Can't Find The Time was #1 in most US markets. The first Ultimate Spinach album sold 110,000 copies its first week out. All the Boston artists flourished creatively in a wonderful diversity of things political, things poetic, things classical and jazz, things of the time."

From the eighties onward, many people have studied what happened and why, including music executives trying to avoid another such marketing mess. Others have tried to defend the bands that they think were all unfairly tarred with the same brush, and recoup some respect. To make this volume I have used some great online resources that champions of the Bosstown Sound have put together. Respect goes to Paul ‘Blowfish’ Lovell for his “Rock in Boston 1967-69”. To Gary Burns for his Paper “The Bosstown Sound”, and Alan Lorber himself for writing about it all in the nineties, some of which you can read at Orpheus Reborn. Thanks also to Desdinova's “Re-evaluating The Bosstown Sound”.

Chevy Chase in Chamaeleon Church
Chevy Chase (2nd from rt)
in Chamaeleon Church
So, this volume is a collection of acts that were part of, or connected to, “The Bosstown Sound”. In TDATS tradition, I have chosen cuts from bands which played heavy at least some of the time. Narrowly missing the grade were Bear (youtube), The Freeborne (youtube) and Teddy & The Pandas (youtube).  Some important Bosstown names like Orpheus, Earth Opera, The Chamaeleon Church, Ill Wind, The Bagatelle and Flat Earth Society may have been good at what they did but do not have songs included here due to the styles they played. I used a band called Fat back in volume 10 (link) but that track ('Country Girl') is in my opinion the best one on their album and I couldn't decide on another. Towards the end of this volume there's a couple punky late-'70s acts. Although obviously not in the Bosstown Sound, I included them as their members were, and it gives some perspective on what influence the old Boston names did had on future sounds.


bands in this volume

Quill
Quill
The opening track, "Thumbnail Screwdriver", is a catchy song with a rolling groove and charismatic group vocals, a great opener indeed. Quill's real names follow, but on the record they went by the psudonyms of Da-ank Khol, Ju-unk Khol, Phil Stan D' There, Red Rocket Rogers, R. Willy North. These pseudonyms are rumoured to have been an attempt at distancing themselves from their Boston roots, as by 1970 the "Bosstown Sound" was well and truly knackered.

The band enjoyed a brief flash of national exposure by playing at the Woodstock festival in August of 1969. The quintet was co-founded in 1967 by brothers John Cole (bass, guitar, vocals) and Dan Cole (vocals, guitar, trombone), who were the main song-writers. The rest of their lineup was Roger North on drums, Norm Rogers on guitar, and Phil Thayer on keyboards, sax, and flute. Most of the songwriting was handled by John and Dan Cole.

Quill LP (1970)
Quill LP (1970)
They were successful enough to get support spots for artists such as Jeff Beck, Deep Purple, Buddy Guy, and Janis Joplin, and their appearance at Steve Paul's Scene in New York City earned them a booking at Woodstock. Unfortunately they never made the cut for the movie, owing to a technical flaw in their footage. They did get signed to Cotillion Records, but the resulting debut album failed, maybe it would have fared better with the help of exposure from the Woodstock movie? John Cole left and the remaining members had their second album rejected by Cotillion. Quill had broken up by 1971 but they received exposure 38 years later when the "Woodstock 40 Years On: Back to Yasgur's Farm" CD contained two of the four songs they played there.

North drum kit
North drum kit
Roger North is probably the most well-recognized ex-member, with a continuing career and a stint with the Holy Modal Rounders. He also gained renown in percussionist circles as the inventor of North Drums, a kit with curved drum bodies that projected their sound outwards towards the audience, which he played from the late '60s onward. He currently lives in Portland, Oregon and plays in the Freak Mountain Ramblers.

Brother Fox & The Tar Baby
Track 2, "Steel Dog Man", starts as it means to go on with a stomping hard rock riff and tight playing, punctuated by glorious psych breaks, backed-up by earthy vocals that cut straight to the bone. Brother Fox and the Tar Baby featured the talents of former Profits guitarist Richie Bartlett, bassist Tom Belliveau, guitarist Dave Christiansen, drummer Bill Garr, singer Steve High and keyboardist Joe Santangelo. Dave Christiansen, Joseph Santangelo, Tom Belliveau and Richard Bartlett were previously in Front Page Review, also appearing in this volume. Belliveau  was also in Pugsley Munion (see vol59), and Bartlett was later in '80s new-wavers The Fools. They were signed by the small Oracle label, which released 1969's Bruce Patch-produced self-titled album. Christiansen was credited as writing all eleven tracks.

Brother Fox & The Tar Baby LP
This has a commercial edge and is a polished product, but it's done right and there's more than enough heaviness here too, over half the album is hard cuts with quite a unique take on combining late-'60s heavy psych with the chunky riffs and hammond organ of the freshly-emerging hard rock sounds of the times. This is what the first Boomerang album should have been like! (see Vol9)

The countrified feel, and high production quality with orchestration, shows that this was a serious stab at a successful album. The mellow tracks and ballads are all good, so make for a nicely diverse listen. The song-writing is consistently good, and the excellent vocals deserve a mention, sounding somewhat like Robert Plant in the heavier tracks. Highly recommended!

The Far Cry LP (1968)
The Far Cry LP (1968)
The Far Cry were a jazzy 7-piece with sax and hammond who made even less impact than most of the bands here. Of all the members, guitarist Paul Lenart reappeared some years later, on Beacon Street Union member Peter Ivers' second solo album. He also played on Keith Moon's "Two Sides Of The Moon" (1975). They play a groovy and flowing form of progressive jazz rock, which is a very unusual thing to have come from the US at this time. User "mekkipuur" at RYM says that they are "the American equivalent to the british heavy progressive groups like Catapilla, Van der Graaf Generator, Gnidrolog or Raw Material" which is a good comparison. Vocalist/Harmonica player Jere Whiting sings with wild abandon, making for one of the most distinctive elements of the record, being compared by some to Capt. Beefheart. I have used the track Hellhound, which has a nice shuffle going on and lots of great extended solos from the band.

The Fort Mudge Memorial Dump's 1969 self-titled album is something to get excited about. A great combination the heaviest Boston sound psych you'll find, with Caroline Stratton's vocals resembling Grace Slick and some killer guitar workouts from Dean Keady, which in places resemble Hendrix at his sludgy-wah'd best. The track I used here, "The Seventh Is Death", is one of the most ominous and longest from the album. It features an unusual, troubled male vocal performance which I presume is from one of the other listed members: James Deptula, Dave Amaral or Richard Clerici.

Fort Mudge Memorial Dump LP 1969
LP cover, 1969
For such a well formed, great-sounding record there is little information to go by but here's what is stated about them: "They were from Walpole, Massachusetts, that started playing by 1969, gathering a good number of fans. Although they were from Walpole, they got filed into the “Boston Sound”, among the Ultimate Spinach, the Beacon Street Union, Orpheus, Tangerine Zoo, ect." A few years ago I found this comment on a Fort Mudge blog post, but as yet I have been unable to verify any of it: "Uncle Rick said...Hi, I worked with Danny (name not Dean!) and Caroline in a band called "Lovelace" in the '70s and we played to packed houses throughout New England. In between was a band called "MadeinUSA" which also cut an album. Lovelace also included locals Chickie Depula on bass and Mick Bendenelli on drums. Caroline, Cindy Daily & Hope Moon on vocals and they kicked butt!"

Apple Pie Motherhood Band - Apple Pie LP 1969
Apple Pie Motherhood Band
'Apple Pie' LP 1969
Track 5 presents a whimsical song with funny, eccentric lyrics. "Grandmother Hooker" easily raises a smile. Psychedelic blues unit the Apple Pie Motherhood Band evolved out of garage outfit C.C. & the Chasers (link).  In 1965 they relocated from Boston to New York City, briefly adopting the name Sacred Mushroom (used on Vol108) and becoming house band at the Bitter End Café, backing acts ranging from Joni Mitchell to Neil Diamond to Kenny Rogers & the First Edition. The Sacred Mushroom moniker was deemed too drug-oriented for a deal with Atlantic, so a sarcastic comment from guitarist Ted Demos resulted in the name Apple Pie Motherhood Band, and their self-titled debut LP followed in 1968. The group relocated to Vermont to record the follow-up "Apple Pie", adding lead vocalist Bruce Paine, guitarist Michael Sofraine, and harmonica player Adam Myers to original members Dick Barnaby (bass, flute), Jack Bruno (drums), Ted Demos (guitar) and Jef Labes (keyboards).

'Apple Pie' LP rear
They were great musicians and their output was all over the board in terms of style and influence, using a lot of covers. This resulted in many great tracks and some mediocre ones, the second album is the heavier and more consistent. What they lack in originality and identity they make up for in exuberant and fun performances. They opened dates for the Jefferson Airplane, the Butterfield Blues Band, and the Chambers Brothers, but in 1970 they split. Demos, Soriphine and Bruno joined Shakey Legs (link) for one album, Labes later backed Van Morrison and Bonnie Raitt, and Bruno spent close to two decades as Tina Turner's touring drummer, then Elton John's. Paine briefly led Steamhammer in the UK, but was better known for acting work.

Eyes of the Beacon Street Union LP 1968
Eyes of the Beacon Street Union LP
1968
For the next track we have a real dancefloor-filler from one of the original MGM-signed Bosstown bands, Beacon Street Union. Having listened to their two albums, I was not bowled-over by their somewhat unfocused sounds, but I did dig "Sadie Says No". Formed in Boston in late 1966, they comprised of John Wright (vocals), Paul Tartachny (guitar, vocals), Robert Rhodes (keyboards), Wayne Ulaky (bass, vocals), and Richard Weisburg (drums). On his site, Paul Lovell writes: "The Union had a few stage tricks. Sometimes they would throw bags of flour around resulting in a low budget fog show. They always fooled me with this next trick no matter how many times I saw them. They would come on stage and we would all clap and yell. They would start plugging in and tuning up. It seemed to take a long time. Eventually your attention would drift and you would just talk to your friends. At some signal the whole band would slam into the opening chord to My Love Is (youtube) at full volume and SCARE THE BEJEEBERS OUT OF YOU."

Eagle (1970)
'Come Under Nancy's Tent' LP rear
The band members were in their early twenties when both albums were recorded and the press hostility against the Bosstown sound took its toll. They split after only two years together. Shepherded by Alan Lorber (along with the groups Ultimate Spinach and Orpheus), the group met with little success, although their first album The Eyes Of The Beacon Street Union charted at #75 on May 4, 1968. The band relocated to New York, where, after a second album, The Clown Died in Marvin Gardens, Wright, Ulaky, Weisberg, and Rhodes recorded a further album as Eagle. This was a far-less psychedelic, countrified rock affair. Later in the 1970s, Wright went on to write and sing country music as leader of the Sour Mash Boys.  He died on December 4, 2011.

One of Alan Lorber's bands, Ultimate Spinach was one of the most well-known, and perhaps the most notorious, of the groups to be hyped as part of the "Bosstown Sound" in 1968. The name itself guaranteed attention, as one of the most ridiculous  "far out" names of the psychedelic era, even outdoing "The Peanut Butter Conspiracy". They were competent musicians with imagination, but their albums were derivative the West Coast psychedelic groups that were obvious inspirations.

On the first two of their three albums, Ultimate Spinach was completely under the control of leader Ian Bruce-Douglas, who wrote all of the material, sang most of the vocals, and played a wide variety of instruments, most frequently electric keyboards. Their self-titled 1967 debut was a serious attempt at psychedelia, but suffered at times from the overly-obvious trappings of the style and could sound like parody. Guitarist Barbara Hudson's great contributions in the vocal department did go some way in combating these problems, and in the end the album sold quite successfully.

1968's "Behold and See" LP was an all-round better, more consistent album and that is where I took the track I used here, "Mind Flowers". Although it's still quite derivative, this track has a couragously long running time and is supremely atmospheric, one of the trippiest songs I have ever heard. Bruce-Douglas quit after the second LP, but Lorber assembled a new lineup for their final album, with only Barbara Hudson remaining from that of the debut. Ted Myers (ex-The Lost and Chamaeleon Church) and guitarist Jeff Baxter (later to play with Steely Dan and the Doobie Brothers) were introduced for the imaginatively-titled "Ultimate Spinach III" (1970). It was not quite as good as Behold and See, maybe mirroring the changing times it dropped most of the psychedelia completely. A straight-forward country/blues rock sound was adopted which made for a smoother, pedestrian experience, and a less distinctive album.

Eden's Children - Sure Look Real LP inside
Eden's Children
'Sure Looks Real' LP
I found the two albums of Eden's Children quite hard to like on the whole, but they have a few good songs, lots of endearing parts, and a fair amount of good heavy fuzz riffing. It would seem that they seriously lacked in the quality control dept. The production job done by Bob Thiele, who appears to have been quite an accomplished jazz producer since the '40s, is severely inconsistent and lacking in places, making a few of their songs sound embarrassingly amateurish. Being on the ABC label and coming around just after the first wave of the "Bosstown" bands, they are frequently mentioned in the same articles but have always been considered less connected to it. The band was a trio, comprising Richard "Sham" Schamach (vocals, guitar), Larry Kiley (bass) and Jimmy Sturman (drums), at times you'd think they were trying to emulate Cream, but not always unsuccessfully-so. Shortly after the second album, from which I have used the track "Toasted" (voted the best heavy riffer on the album in the TDATS fb group), Kiely left the band and was replaced by Russell “Rusty” Marcus, but they broke up later in 1969. As yet I have found no evidence of further musical efforts from the members.

Jolliver Arkansaw - 'Home' LP
Jolliver Arkansaw
'Home' LP (1969)
Track 9, "Lisa My Love", coasts in on a bouncy bass line with stabs of fuzz guitar. Jolliver Arkansaw were a development from Bo Grumpus, a band who's only album, "Before The War" (1968), was produced by one Felix Pappalardi (pr. Cream & The Youngbloods). "Produced" is probably an insufficient word to use as he also wrote, arranged and played Keyboards, Trumpet, Bass, Guitar, Percussion and Ocarina, so more or less a fifth member of the band. With him were N.D. Smart (drums) and Jim Colegrove (bass), who traveled from Ohio to team up with guitarists Eddie Mottau and Joe Hutchinson. That was a light psych-pop affair of little interest here, but in 1969 the band renamed to Jolliver Arkansaw and made an album called Home. Felix was back in the producer's seat for this one and for one song, Gray Afternoon (youtube), an additional lead guitarist was invited, none other than Leslie West. Apparently it was this early 1969 session that convinced Felix that Leslie was worth working with more closely, which led to the West solo album Mountain and the formation of the group of the same name, initially as a trio with the ubiquitous N.D. Smart. There is more information at thecoolgroove.com (link).

Track 10 finds its mark from the outset as a raving freak-beat monster, "No Reason Why". Along with The Remains, The Barbarians and The Rockin' Ramrods, The Lost were one of the more celebrated Boston bands of the '60s. Unlike those other groups, who were more prolific, The Lost only released a few singles during their short existence. They were pre-Bosstown Sound, but I have included them as their members crop up again in later bands.

The Lost
The Lost
They formed at Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont in 1964. Originally the band, with Hugh Magbie as lead guitarist and singer, were among few interracial rock bands of the time. Changes ensued when they moved to Boston in late 1964 and Magbie quit to return to college. The Lost developed a lot of original material, from the imaginations of guitarist Ted Myers and keyboardist Willie Alexander (both mentioned elsewhere in this volume), recording a demo produced by Barry Tashian of The Remains that got them signed to Capitol. Their first single,"Maybe More Than You," was Dylanesque folk-rock, and got some sales and airplay in Massachusetts and New York.

A second single didn't appear for almost a year, although the band managed to open for numerous shows like the Beach Boys' 1966 Eastern tour. Capitol dropped them and in 1967 they split.

The Lost Tapes - Arf! Arf!
The Lost Tapes
Arf! Arf! Records
Main songwriter Ted Myers ventured into psychedelic music with the Chameleon Church (which had future star comedian Chevy Chase on drums), and was a member of the Ultimate Spinach in the band's final days. Keyboardist Willie Alexander and bassist Walter Powers were members of the name-only, Lou Reed-less Velvet Underground of the early '70s, Powers also playing in Listening, coming up. Willie has become a bit of a Boston legend, playing with an endless succession of local bands over time. The Lost did a lot of recording, at Capitol and elsewhere, in addition to their three singles in the mid-'60s, which eventually became available on Arf! Arf!'s Early Recordings and Lost Tapes CD in the '90s. Read some more here. There is a recent interview with Ted Myers here at It's Psychedelic Baby.

Saint Steven - Over The Hills LP 1969
Saint Steven
Over The Hills LP (1969)
Saint Steven was Steve Cataldo. He was previously a member of Front Page Review, who appear here next, a late-joiner to Ultimate Spinach and founding member of the post-punk/power pop Nervous Eaters. In 1969 he made a solo record called Over The Hills. This was an unusual experimental record with lots of things thrown in - psych, folk, hard rock, pop and sound effects in a psuedo-proggresive package. The record is split into two suites, Over the Hills (side A) and The Bastich (side B). It's all pleasant stuff, with a few fuzzy cuts like Ay-Aye Poe Day and Sun In The Flame. The Bastich pts 1 & 2 gives a good cross-section of what he was attempting, with it's pretentious choral intro and groovy psych guitar lead-out. It's not clear whether Steve played all the instruments himself, as nobody else is credited, but it was produced by John Turner who appears to have made some albums of his own. A highly collectible record due to it's rarity, it's worth a listen for Steve's great vocals, proto-prog concept and considered songs.

Front Page Review - Mystic Soldiers LP
Front Page Review
Mystic Soldiers LP
Track 12, "Prism Fawn", has a nice urgency to it, with atmospheric keyboards. Front Page Review rubbed shoulders with bands like Eden's Children, Beacon Street Union and Strawberry Alarm Clock. With Alan Lorber behind the controls, they recorded an album for MGM which was not released at the time. "Mystic Soldiers" is a prime example of late '60s US psych, featuring a young Steve Cataldo (as just mentioned, of Saint Steven & Nervous Eaters) on songwriting / vocals. All the right ingredients are there: wah-fuzz guitars, organ, phasing & effects. Steve wrote all of the material for the group, which played minor-keyed brooding stuff. After they broke up, he made the "Saint Steven" solo album mentioned previously, and later hitched onto the new wave by forming the Nervous Eaters (coming up here soon), who made a couple of LPs. Front Page Review's album was finally unearthed for CD release in 1997 by Big Beat.

Peter Ivers - Knight of the Blue Communion LP 1969
Peter Ivers' 1969 LP
'Knight of the Blue Communion'
Track 13, "Showroom Model", is an intriguing morsel of arty jazz rock that's indicative of the experimental boom of the late '60s. It's compelling and surreal, with off-kilter changes, but anchored by Peter Ivers' bluesy Harmonica. Peter Ivers was born in Boston in 1946. While studying at Harvard University, he played harmonica in The Beacon Street Union. After they split he surfaced as a member of The Street Choir before he signed to Epic in 1969 and issued "Knight of the Blue Communion", an unusual major-label releases for its time: A surreal parade of jazz, psychedelic, pop, classical and vaudeville vignettes with wildly eclectic arrangements and feverish rhythms. Featuring opera singer Yolande Bevan and electronic “modulations”, it evokes Frank Zappa’s most eccentric moments and the United States Of America at their most juvenile. Ivers recorded a follow-up, "Take It Out on Me" (Epic, 1971), but the label never released it, except for the single "Ain’t That Peculiar/ Clarence O’Day". Take It Out on Me has since been issued by Wounded Bird Records (link).

He signed to Warner Bros in 1974. Ivers and his co-producer, free jazz bassist Buell Neidlinger, delivered "Terminal Love", which at times sounded like Beefheart/Zappa. Indeed, Magic Band & Zappa collaborator Eliot Ingber appears on several tracks. A self-titled album for Warner followed in 1976. A year later, Ivers earned arguably his most enduring fame, writing and recording "In Heaven (The Lady in the Radiator Song)" for David Lynch's noir horror classic Eraserhead (youtube). (The song was later covered by Boston's The Pixies.) A 1980 single, "Love Theme from Filmex," was his last official musical release. In the early '80s, Ivers hosted New Wave Theatre, broadcast on the fledgling USA cable network as part of their Friday evening Night Flight anthology. The series provided early national TV exposure for Los Angeles area bands like The Blasters and Dead Kennedys. With his outrageous wardrobe, philosophical interview questions, and rapid-fire social commentaries, Ivers was a most unconventional host, and many of the artists featured on the show made their distaste for him painfully clear. Peter is reported to have played in an avant-garde jazz outfit called Girlz of Zaetar, which had a rehearsal tape issued in 2007 (youtube).


Ivers was bludgeoned to death in his L.A. apartment in 1983. Many suspected the murderer was a member of the local punk scene. Ivers' killer was never found, but in his memory, Harvard University initiated the Peter Ivers Visiting Artist Program. The retrospective "Nirvana Peter" appeared on Warner in 1985. Josh Frank and Charlie Buckholtz have written a book about Ivers' life, art and mysterious death, In Heaven Everything Is Fine: The Unsolved Life of Peter Ivers and the Lost History of New Wave Theatre (2008). On the basis of new information unearthed during the creation of this book, the Los Angeles Police Department has reopened their investigation into Ivers' death. Thanks to Jason Ankeny at Allmusic.com, eggcityradio.com and Wikipedia for all this info.

Willie "Loco" Alexander (born January 13, 1943) sang and played keyboards with The Lost, The Bagatelle and The Grass Menagerie. He became a member of The Velvet Underground in late 1971, joining fellow Grass Menagerie alumni Doug Yule and Walter Powers and replacing Sterling Morrison. With the Velvet Underground, Alexander toured Europe in support of the album Loaded. Reshuffles brought on by manager Steve Sesnick then ended Alexander's time with the band.

Willie Alexander
Willie Alexander in recent times
After leaving The Velvet Underground, he enjoyed a checkered career. He recorded three solo singles beginning in 1975, and formed the punk-oriented Boom Boom Band the following year. The group recorded two albums for MCA, but broke up in 1978. He released Solo Loco in 1982, and then formed The Confessions, who also recorded two albums, A Girl Like You and Autre Chose. Alexander continued in his solo status throughout the '80s, and formed the Persistence of Memory Orchestra in 1991. In addition to his storied music career, in 1994, Willie narrated a local film entitled Middle Street made by fellow Gloucester native, independent filmmaker Henry Ferrini. Willie has also contributed many songs to the soundtracks for Henry's other films. You can check out Willie's current activities etc at his site (link).

Nervous Eaters c. 1977
Nervous Eaters c. 1977
Track 15, "Just Head", is a chunk of killer Stonesy punk with cheeky lyrics and unstoppable momentum. The Nervous Eaters was one of the bands that kick-started the Boston punk scene at the end of the 70‘s and the birth of a local scene that would foster dozens of influential and successful American artists in the 80’s and beyond. That needs to be said because the "Eaters", as the group was affectionately referred to locally, never achieved much attention outside of Boston or New York City. Featuring singer, guitarist and songwriter Steve Cataldo, previously of Front Page Review and Saint Steven, the Nervous Eaters was considered the house band at Kenmore Square’s Rathskeller (aka "Rat") club by virtue of its many appearances there and a pair of 7” singles released on the club’s Rat Records. Before taking that name, they had dubbed themselves The Rhythm Assholes, while they backed Willie Alexander on his 1977 solo single "Kerouac", and in concert. One of those songs, “Loretta,” became and remains one of the city’s enduring rock and roll anthems powered by a scorching four-piece attack and Cataldo’s husky and fervent vocals.

Nervous Eaters, Steve Cataldo 2nd from left
Nervous Eaters, Steve Cataldo 2nd from left
Ric Ocasek of the Cars became a fan and he produced a ten-song demo for the band that enabled a deal with Elektra Records, also the home of his platinum-selling group. Unfortunately, some blaming the producer, their eponymous 1980 album completely lacked the heaviness and attitude of the band’s live shows and original singles. The album failed and the band stepped into the shadows. A 1986 reunion album "Hot Steel and Acid", for the French-based New Rose label, was subsequently issued by Boston's Ace of Hearts Records. It belatedly redressed the balance with the frantic scuzz of the early singles, but the chance of national fame was already well-passed. New incarnations of the band, still including Steve Cataldo, play sporadically up to this day and you can follow them on facebook (link).

Listening LP front 1968
Listening LP cover (1968)
Rounding this volume off nicely we have a slice of Hendrix-heavy 1968 psych called "See You Again". Vocalist/keyboardist Michael Tschudin led the band Listening, and the later-Velvet Underground bassist Walter Powers (previously of The Lost) and guitarist Peter Malick (aged only sixteen when joining) helped to make this album historic. Walter performed over the years with keyboardist Willie Alexander as members of The Lost, the aforementioned Velvets, and on Autre Chose, a live album from Willie. Peter Malick later became Otis Spann's guitarist and a member of the James Montgomery Band on Capricorn. The album runs the gamut from psych, pop, blues to jazz. Eight of the 11 tracks are written by Michael Tschudin, with three titles attributed to the group. A couple of tracks are top-tear stuff, "Stoned Is", being another of them, while the rest make for a consistently enjoyable listen front to back. Michael Tschudin appeared soon after in Cynara (link), who look pretty mean on the cover of their s/t 1970 album, which is disappointingly loungy commercial piano-based jazz/soul that never works up a sweat. Peter Malick became an acomplished blues player and since becoming a producer/engineer in the 2000s he has had a hand in starting Nora Jones' career (website).  Drummer Ernie Kamanis played guitar for Andy Pratt and Boz Scaggs and later had a solo career. Paul Lovell recounts some memories of Listening here.

See you again!
Cheers, Rich

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