When history considers the “L.A.” or “West Coast” sounds of Southern California in the 1960’s, we tend to turn our attention to a relatively small yet incredibly prolific and powerful grouping of Artists and Musicians. The Beach Boys, Jan and Dean and the various other writers, artists and producers, that made up the music community referred to as “Surf Music” and perhaps more importantly the Artists that made up “The Laurel Canyon Mafia” ( details to which you can read about here at SMS )…However, as disparate and diverse these ground breaking pioneers may have been,Their music and the “Sound of L.A.” was too often critically described as “Mellow” “Laid Back” “Heady” and “Harmonic” Not necessarily bad words, however, we’re here to look at what was going on in the streets and clubs of L.A. while Brian and his brothers were catching the wave and Joni, Graham, David and Cass were setting up house in Laurel Canyon….. Ten minutes East of Pacific Coast Hwy. and at the Southern most tip of Laurel Canyon Blvd. You are there! The whisky au, go, go” the London Fog” The Trip” and “Pandora’s Box”….A little further east and there’s “The Sea Witch” ” Bido Lito’s” and The tremendous “Hullabaloo Club” The Sunset Strip was home to an energized, vital and fertile Bar and Club scene. BUT ! The music coming out of these clubs in the mid 60’s was anything but “Mellow” or “Laid back” Quite the contrary, I spent my summer of 1966 hanging, hopping, and living in these clubs with the Artists and music they housed. Meanwhile, in your consideration of the bands we’ll focus on, keep in mind that on any given night in the summer of ’66 nearly all these bands were appearing, frequently at the same club on the same bill !
Do you remember “Love” with Arthur Lee? perhaps no other L.A. Band maintained and reflected the musical and cultural diversity of the city it called home, quite like “Love” did. Remember their breakthrough single, “My Little Red Book”? Of course you do, but did you know it was written by “easy listening” oldsters Burt Bacharach and Hal David ? who some of you may claim would be the purveyors of “Laid Back” and “Mellow” BUT NO, not after Arthur Lee and “Love” got hold of it, turning it into a brain pounding, eighth note driven rhythm and melody that thumped thru your mind long after the record ended. Additionally, Arthur’s vocals have been compared to Otis Redding and even Johnny Mantis. But on “Little Red Book” to me, he simply sounded scary. And live at The London Fog club on Sunset….HE WAS !
“Love” went on to sign with Jac Holzman’s Electra records ( The first band to sign with the label ) As a credit to “Loves’ creativity and Electra’s commitment “Love” recorded and released their first three albums in only 18 months, perhaps you own one…”Love”…….”Da Capo” and what critics call their masterpiece “Forever Changes”…
Have you heard them? You need to!
However, it could be argued that the greatest contribution that Arthur Lee made to Electra records was when he convinced Jac Holzman ( Electra’s founder and CEO ) to make a visit to The Whysky au go, go and hear his friends band. His friend was Jim Morrison! Holzman was so impressed with Jim and The Doors, he offered them a deal on the spot. You know the rest of the story. ” In L.A. You know Where That’s At”
Yes !…Jim Morrison and The Doors, no doubt, your favorite from L.A. back then and without question the most successful and notorious! and no other band worked harder. They were the house band at The whisky, The London Fog and The Galaxy clubs, as well as regulars at Pandora’s Box, Bido Lito’s and The Hullabaloo club with its revolving stage and perception altering Strobe light production. On a really good night, you could catch The Doors early show at The Hullabaloo club, then hitch hike west on Sunset 2-3 miles back to The whisky and catch them closing for The Seeds or The Music Machine just prior to last call. Even in those early days there were no questions regarding Morrison and sobriety and it is an unfortunate truth that my friends and I would rush to a late Doors show, just to see how annihilated Jim could get….But, he, along with the best drummer, John Densmore, Guitar player, Robby Krieger and keyboardist Ray Manzereck in L.A, would always “tear down the house” The Doors were neither “Mellow” or “Laid back”The Doors were young, the band was incredibly TIGHT and they were writing great songs……Did you know, by the way, that “Light My Fire” was written by guitarist Robbie Krieger, not keyboardist Ray Manzerick, and it was the first song Krieger ever wrote….”In L.a. You know where That’s At”
The Seeds played everywhere, all the time. Do you remember The Seeds led by Sky Saxon? perennial Wannabe’s ! They worked hard and put on a very loud raucous show. But they just never took first position on any club stage. No one went out into the warm Hollywood summer night to SEE THE SEEDS, nope, they were there, but as the opening act. Sky’s voice was nasal, a bit whiney and the band was unremarkable, except for Keyboard player Daryl Hooper. He brought a sense of style and fashion to an otherwise drab outfit with hair to his mid back and knee-high boots “Quite the Dandy” actually. It should be noted that The Seeds were the first band to not include a Bass player in their live show. Daryl provided the bass parts by playing them on the keyboard. This is something that Ray Manzereck and the Doors got a lot of attention for doing. But it was Daryl Hooper in The Seeds that did it first. The Seeds struggled to break beyond just L.A. notoriety, but you may remember a title or two. Do you recall “I can’t seem to make you mine” ? The band and their label, Crescendo, believed in it so much they released it twice…..But, do you remember it? I’ll bet you don’t. The Seeds actually appeared and performed it on two popular T.V. Shows
“The Mothers in Law” and The Patty Duke Show, you still don’t recall it, do ya ? Furthermore those T.V. Appearances added to the bands lack of credibility. Crescendo released two more tracks Mr. Farmer” and “You’re Pushin To Hard” The latter being the one song you may remember. It received a fair amount of national attention. But The Seeds still couldn’t break thru the second place or opening act position in the So. Calif. music scene. They have been referred to as Ground Zero for garage rock and Proto Punk. Unfortunately for Sky Saxon and The Seeds, even that generous comment just isn’t true.
However, just down the street, we would stand mesmerized watching a L.A. Band that had the diversity of “Love” the darkness of The Doors and raw attitude of The Seeds……..The Music Machine. Do you recall them? I’m certain you recall and loved their third single and mega hit “Talk Talk” a mere one minute and fifty-six seconds of runaway energy, drum breaks and “fuzz” bass, all delivered by lead singer/ songwriter and founder Sean Bonniwell “Talk Talk” was sonically irresistible, and at 1:56 no disc jockey could avoid playing it. But it was the bands relentless live shows where Bonniwells vision of a Music Machine was realized. The band entirely dressed in Black, hair dyed Black and wearing one Black glove, the look and image was dark, imposing and even, yes, Surrey. However, to truly drive the point home, The Music Machine’s standard set ran One hour and ten minutes, NON STOP! That’s right Bonniwell wrote short segues to string all their songs together. No space, irrelevant banter or even a breath between songs….Just non stop, aggressive Rock, ripping your ears off and completely void of “mellow and “Laid back”. One night, at the Hullabaloo club, some joker from a rival band cut the power on the band in the middle of their set. What followed was incredible, in front of 800 dazed fans…. In silence Sean moved to the edge of the stage, proclaims “Nothing can stop a Music Machine and singularly hurls out a searing a capella performance of “Talk Talks” b-side ” Come on In”……One dark voice, under one dim spot, but as the old saying goes “There wasn’t a dry seat in the house” my friends and I held on as Sean Bonniwell brought the house down at The Hullabaloo Club….”In L.A. You Know Where That’s At”
Meanwhile, it’s time now to hitch down the street catch “Spirit”at Bido Lito’s and back to The Hullabaloo to see the closing set from “The Palace Guard”…Check out “Talk Talk”
Didja ever see them? Wereya ever there?
( SMS just hasta know )