Peppermint Trolley: Clavinet ’67

It’s always a thrill when somebody who actually served on the front lines of music history reaches out to help fill in some of the historical gaps.  Just last month, Danny Faragher of the Peppermint Trolley Company chimed in on an earlier NRBQ piece that attempts to identify the earliest popular recording of a clavinet:

“I played a clavinet while recording with our group, the Peppermint Trolley Company (1967-68).  We cut our hit single, Baby You Come Rollin’ Across My Mindin November of 1967 for Acta.  The record broke in May and June of 1968.  I played the instrument through a Fender amp with the tremolo prominent.  I used it throughout our eponymously titled LP.   In the Seventies, recording with the bands, Bones, and the Faragher Brothers, I would return to the ax occasionally, playing more in the R&B style pioneered by Stevie Wonder and Billy Preston.”

“Baby You Come Rollin’ Across My Mind”     Peppermint Trolley Company     1967

“Baby You Come Rollin’ Across My Mind” would stay in the Billboard Hot 100 Chart for ten weeks and peak in July, 1968 just inside the Top 60.  Billboard would identify this single as worthy of its “Special Merit Spotlight” (new singles “deserving special attention of programmers and dealers”) in the February 3, 1968 edition:  “Smooth blend of voice, good material in an easy beat folk rock vein with much commercial appeal.”

Picture sleeve for UK 45 on EMI’s Stateside imprint

Peppermint Trolley 45-bBut wait a minute, why does the song title sound familiar?   And Jesse Lee Kincaid, the person who penned the tune — why does that name ring a bell?  That’s because Zero to 180 already featured “Baby You Come Rollin’ Across My Mind” back in December, 2014!

Faragher’s clavinet (which predates NRBQ’s “Stomp” by just over a year) can be heard more prominently on the single’s B-side — a baroque slice of psychedelic pop, “9 O’Clock Business Man,” somewhat in contrast to the ‘West Coast harmony style’ (later dubbed “sunshine pop“) for which the group is more known.  By the way, if you enjoyed the dance to “9 O’Clock Business Man” in the video link above, check out this other performance of the same song at Hamilton, Ontario’s Gage Park. by Mike Long, an unstoppable dance force.

Peppermint Trolley 45-aaHow curious to learn that the Peppermint Trolley Company would be part of a lineup for a big music event attended by 120,000 people at an amusement park in Aurora, Ohio in 1968,  just one year before my dad would relocate to that rural Cleveland suburb from Cincinnati — as chronicled on Danny Faragher’s website:

“‘Our live dates were rare’ – (says Faragher) – ‘We probably played about ten gigs during the entire life span of the band… Bakersfield, Phoenix, and then there was the Biggie in Cleveland.’  This ‘Biggie’ was a package concert …WIXY’s second annual ‘Appreciation Day,’ held on August 2, 1968 in Geauga Lake Park, just outside of Cleveland, Ohio.  The Peppermint Trolley Company. shared the stage with Gene Pitney, The Box Tops, Jay and the Techniques, The 1910 Fruitgum Co., and [Ted Nugent’s]  Amboy Dukes.  The event drew a crowd of 120,000 attendees.  At that time, it was the largest audience ever assembled in the Cleveland area.”
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In addition to arranging and singing the original Brady Bunch theme, the Peppermint Trolley Company would also make a guest appearance on The Beverly Hillbillies, as well as this episode of detective series, Mannix (where the owner of the recording studio is played by Harry Dean Stanton, who would later introduce The Replacements on their sole Saturday Night Live appearance):

The Beatles – EMI artists – listed on the rear of Peppermint Trolley’s UK picture sleeve:

Peppermint Trolley 45-bbA near-mint copy of the Peppermint Trolley debut album might set you back as much as $75.  Peppermint Trolley fans might also be intrigued to know there exists an “extremely rare promotional 45 sent to radio stations in 1967 for Sunn Guitar amplifiers” with three radio spots for The Who on the A-side, with the Peppermint Trolley singing a radio spot to “She’s the Kind of Girl” and another featuring bassist Greg Tornquist saying “it sounds groovy and clean.”

Psych + Horns = The Gears

Doc Lehman’s Bangagong! music blog has a poster for a “Festival of Bands” in Columbus, Ohio that took place in 1967 — 34 bands over the course of 2 evenings, admission just $1:

Is this the same Vox as in Vox Guitar-Organ and Vox Phantom guitars?

Vox Festival of Bands 1967Interesting to note that the first band at the top of each list would record a memorable 45 for Counterpart Records, either that same year – The Fifth Order’s “A Thousand Devils” – or the next one – The Gears, with their horns-heavy psychedelic classic, “Come Back to Me“:

“Come Back to Me”     The Gears     1968

The Gears would record one more 45 that same year – “Feel Right” – for Columbus label, Hillside, and then … nothing more?

Gears 45-aGears 45-b

Jubilation!  This is story #10 in Zero to 180’s Counterpart Records History Series.

Sasha Caro’s B-Side of Irony

Yesterday’s piece about London’s Chalk Farm Studios omitted the fact that this recording facility had actually begun life as Rayrik Sound – established in 1964 by Bruce “Ray” Rae and Caro “Rick” Minas.  And although Eric Clapton & Cream’s debut album had been recorded at Rayrik two years later, the studio would be close its doors in 1968, only to re-open that same year as Chalk Farm.

Rick Minas, who had begun his musical career as part of a songwriting partnership with Mike Banwell, would strike out in the mid-60s for a solo career.  Minas – using the alias, Sasha Caro – would release a pair of singles in 1967 and 1968 that found none other than Cat (“I’m Gonna Get Me a Gun“) Stevens sitting in the producer’s chair.  In a cheeky move, Caro would select (ironically perhaps) “Never Play a B-Side” for the second single’s B-Side — summon the courage to play it, if you dare:

Rick ‘Sasha Caro’ Minas     “Never Play a B-Side”     1968

Cream’s Inaugural Single:  Doo-Doo

American audiences are largely unaware that Cream’s UK debut single – recorded at the Chalk Farm sessions – would be excluded from their 1st album (except in Sweden, oddly). “Wrapping Paper” would be the A-side of their first 45 released in the UK, Germany, and Australia.  Ginger Baker, in a 2007 interview, would denounce “Wrapping Paper” as “the most appalling piece of [poo] I’ve ever heard in my life!” and express more than a little frustration that the song was merely a vehicle to generate publishing royalties for the emerging songwriting “club” of Jack Bruce and Pete Brown.

Rare [mimed] Performance of “Wrapping Paper”     1966 French TV

[Is Jack Bruce playing a 6-string bass during this televised performance?]

45Cat contributor, BiffBamPow, would hilariously describe “Wrapping Paper” as “the most ridiculous debut single by anybody” and point out that B-side “Cat’s Squirrel” is much more representative of the band’s sound.

“Astral Cowboy”: Not Enough Echo

Yesterday’s piece about Sagittarius (et al.) brought to mind one particular Curt Boettcher song that too few people have heard, 1969’s (demo only) “Lament of the Astral Cowboy” — one hundred forty mesmerizing seconds, each one of them echo-filled:

Could this be what Gram Parsons had envisioned when he came up with the idea of “Cosmic American Music”?   Curt Boettcher, who would compose/produce for Sagittarius and Millenium and also serve as house producer for Columbia, would briefly form a label with Gary Usher & Keith Olsen (Together Records) and ultimately give “Lament of the Astral Cowboy” to Together artist, Michele O’Malley, for her one and only album release, Saturn Rings (where O’Malley would alter the title slightly to “Astro Cowboy”).

Boettcher would later release a solo album on Elektra, 1973’s There’s an Innocent Face, after the folding of his label.  Sessions for a follow-up album, Chicken Little Was Right, did take place briefly before Curt left Elektra to pursue a career as a session vocalist, and as the liner notes indicate, “there is reason to believe ‘Astral Cowboy’ was planned to appear on Chicken Little Was Right.”

 Glen Campbell:  The Voice Behind “My World Fell Down” by Sagittarius

Tip of the hat to The Big Takeover‘s Jack Rabid for his illuminating and well-researched review in AllMusic of Sagittarius’s Present Tense from 1968, an album centered around its ‘enthralling’ single, “My World Fell Down” – a song that features, surprisingly enough, the guest vocal talents of Glen Campbell:

“The initial 1967 single, “My World Fell Down” — which went to number 70 in the charts — is largely sought after by the most fanatical of Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys followers, since it not only replicates that unique and incomparable production value, but benefits greatly from a lead vocal by Glen Campbell.  Not his “Rhinestone Cowboy” voice, it’s the more angelic, boyish Mike Love tones he employed when then touring and recording with the Beach Boys.  As well, real Beach Boy Bruce Johnston sings a key part, as does fellow producer Terry Melcher and vaunted session man Hal Blaine sits in.  Mixing “Good Vibrations” with “God Only Knows,” “My World Fell Down” is a missing link to pre-breakdown Brian Wilson’s obsessions, particularly the bonus-track single version, which blends in pre-psychedelia sounds of a bullfight, an alarm clock, and a crying infant.  Subsequent recordings found Usher teaming with singer/writer/producer Curt Boettcher, whom Usher met while working with Wilson, and some use songs from the latter’s singing group Ballroom and players from Boettcher’s new, real band Millennium.”

“Sister Marie”: Not Meant for LP

“Sister Marie” – a great song that slipped between the cracks – found belated release as a bonus instrumental on the CD release of Sagittarius’s Present Tense (1968 Columbia LP, originally).  According to the liner notes:  “Gary Usher recorded this backing track with Sagitarrius in mind but decided to give it to Chad & Jeremy instead.”  Chad & Jeremy’s version of “Sister Marie,” meanwhile, was released as a non-LP single (that didn’t chart), while Nilsson’s version would end up a mere B-side.  I agree with the 45Cat contributor who declares “Sister Marie” to be “one of the great lost Nilsson recordings”:

“Sister Marie” by Harry Nilsson — February, 1968

In a fascinating bit of coincidence, Nilsson would release his B-side in February of 1968 at the same time Columbia would issue for the German market an A-side also entitled, “Sister Marie,” by the artist, Marquis of Kensington.  Not the same tune, as you can hear:

“Sister Marie” by Marquis of Kensington — February, 1968

Says Chad Stuart on the Chad & Jeremy website:

“‘Sister Marie’ was our last single and if it does anything at all, it clearly illustrates the production expertise which comes from a lot of hours in the studio.  Curt Boettcher’s higher-than- high voice is evident on this track, as is the technical wizardry of Keith Olsen.  Jeremy hated all that “ear candy” as it later came to be called, and in retrospect, I can understand how a Moody Blues sort of bloke like I was then would not get along too well with a J. J. Cale kinda guy like Jeremy aspired to be!”

House of Nimrod: Taking Back the Name

At some point in my youth – can’t pinpoint exactly when – the name “Nimrod” began to enjoy heavy use by male teens as an epithet of some repute in terms of its ability to convey strong public doubt about the intended victim’s masculinity.  Wiktionary points out that a Bugs Bunny reference to Elmer Fudd as a “poor little Nimrod” may have greatly contributed to its current use as a pejorative term akin to “idiot,” “doofus,” or “lamebrain.”

But then in a recent episode of TV sketch comedy, Key & Peele, I was struck by a small bit where you see the two comedians tooling down a desert highway in a classic 1960s muscle car, casually informing viewers, in the course of conversation, that Nimrod was – contrary to public perception – depicted in The Bible as a mighty hunter and man of great power (according to the Book of Genesis and the Books of Chronicles, this son of Cush and great-grandson of Noah was also once the King of Shinar).

So, of course, I had to go search the 45Cat database to see if any pop/rockers had embraced the power of the Nimrod name prior to the 1980s, when it had greater cachet.  The answer?  New Zealand’s own, The House of Nimrod.  The song?  “Slightly-delic.”  The year?  (braying of brass) 1967!

Andrew Schmidt, music writer at Audio Culture: The Noisy Library of New Zealand Music:

“In late 1967, House of Nimrod gobbled up New Zealand’s Christmas pop charts with the mischievous oddity ‘Slightly-Delic’, a song experimenting with the sound of the summer – harmony-laden psychedelic pop.

“A chance meeting between Bryce Petersen, a North Shore based children’s folk singer/songwriter, and Australian guitarist Johnny Breslin, produced enough creative sparks for a band and two singles.  Breslin had been trying to get a group together and knew a 20 year-old drummer from South Auckland, Billy Lawton, late of The Plague (with Corben Simpson).  Lawton knew a blue-playing guitarist and philosophy student Tony Pilcher (21) and young Māori bass guitarist Larry Latimer (20).”

Music Goes Better with Coca-Cola

A number of notable names in pop music have recorded jingles for Coca-Cola, and — incredible as it might seem — a few of them came out surprisingly well.

  • Sydney, Australia’s Easybeats pull off the nice hat trick of writing an unabashed ode to a soft drink that is – at the same time – an infectious piece of rock ‘n’ soul, possibly from 1966:

[Pssst:  Click the triangle above to play The Easybeats’ mid-60s Coke ad.]

  • Alex Chilton’s Box Tops craft a soul pop nugget that gets a boost each time the bass trombone makes an appearance — recorded in 1968, I’m guessing:

[Pssst:  Click the triangle above to play The Box Tops’ late-60s Coke ad.]

  • The Moody Blues disguise the product placement rather adroitly with this tuneful slice of psychedelic pop from 1969:

[Pssst:  Click the triangle above to play The Moody Blues’ Coke ad from 1969.]

Coke Ad 1

Coke Ad 2Coke Ad 3

“Sitting Here on a Tongue”: What’s a Grodeck Whipperjenny?

6 of the 8 songs on the debut album by The Grodeck Whipperjenny were recorded in Cincinnati’s King Records studio on February 5, 1970.  “Sitting Here on a Tongue” is the album’s kick-off track:

The Grodeck Whipperjenny were led by David Matthews, bandleader and arranger for James Brown, who issued the group’s one and only album on King Records imprint, People Records.

Grodeck Whipperjenny LP

Matthews would later go on to become staff arranger for Creed Taylor‘s CTI Records.