Wednesday, March 22, 2017

It Crawled Into My Hand, Honest

Although The Psychedelic Moods by The Deep was the first use of the term, it was garage band, The Fugs, who are credited with the first psychedelic track, "Virgin Forest," a collage of found sounds and feedback from their eponymous 2nd album released in March 1966.* 

The Fugs were the quintessential satirical/political group of the 60s and steadfast defenders of counterculture. In 1966, nobody was even thinking of using the studio to create what turned out  pure sonic folly. The Fugs represented the other America, the America that didn't watch Ed Sullivan, that didn't aspire to suburbia, that got wasted and lived at the edge of the "American Dream." The Fugs were a geeky, freaky entourage of pre-Mothers madness. These are the same Fugs who spent forever atop Dr. Demento's radio program with "Boobs A Lot." The band would produce four studio LPs for Reprise, the best of which being It Crawled Into My Hand, Honest (did you even know that exists?), the whole of side 2 a barrage of in-your-face psychedelia that might require a stint in the "trip tent."

The LP contained a half-dozen producers each earmarking a different yet cohesive vibe, a diversity that one would still tag a trademark sound, with the album offering up the down home county of "Wide Wide River" with its controversial "river of shit" chorus, the tuneful folk of "Life is Strange" (“Life is strange and death is easy,/ How do I know the flowers grow?”) and a Gregorian Chant about marijuana, not to mention Harry Belafonte's back-up singers. Yep, trip tent. Fortunately for The Fugs, the band's earliest effort, in the can and never released by Atlantic Records, was picked up by Warner's upstart label Reprise, the subsidiary founded by Frank Sinatra (again, strange bedfellows). The first psychedelic rockers would, with Crawled, Honest, create the poor man's Sgt. Pepper or the American Piper at the Gates of Dawn, with an uncanny balance of irrelevant/irreverent dialog and meticulously arranged musical montages. Sit back with The Fugs in a comfy spot in your trip tent and blow your mind. 

*Here there is an important codicil: technically speaking, Donovan was the first artist to record a psychedelic song, "Sunshine Superman," way back on December 19, 1965. Contractual disputes delayed the single's release, and the album of the same title, truth be told, is one of the greatest albums of the era, or, like, ever. The groundbreaking arrangements featured sitars, tablas, strings, harpsichords, flutes, organ and more to create a kaleidoscopic tapestry upon which Donovan overlayed his gorgeous poetry about fairy castles, fat angels, and the Sunset Strip.