Wednesday, November 9, 2016

1966, 1967. 1968

1966. This date-stamped association of memories has nothing to do with Vietnam or civil unrest. It was flowers in your hair and acid, it was fucking everyone, it was freedom, and from what, the repression of home, a prison of tract houses in the San Fernando Valley?  
But the Haight was teen angst solved in a perpetually hazy high, hangin' in front of 710 Ashbury with The Dead or by In Gear, without wondering who anyone was. And the music was on the streets: "I had too much to dream last night."

Doesn't really matter that The Electric Prunes debut was a one-off collection of moderate psych-pop, simply because of the greatest one-off 45 in psychedelia, "I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night."

No matter how you break it down, how confined the definition, what is best, is forever contentious. The No. 1 psychedelic track is obvious for me in "Tomorrow Never Knows." For others, Psychedelia is something better captured by Quicksilver Messenger Service or as a guest of the Mars Hotel. Yet a best of collection of Psychedelia must include The Electric Prunes' classic (it's like a law). If you're of the ilk to find garage rock the ultimate in psychedelia - knowing that the limit for garage bands is like two songs before they're no longer garage bands - then "Too Much to Dream" is a fab start, followed up by "I Happen to Love You," or a true Psychedelic underdog, "Hideaway." The Electric Prunes were garage, dissected into soundbites, looped endlessly, filling any downtime with trippy guitar/moody organ jams that assured each track lacked any evident purpose except emulating one's emotions while fucked up.
       By '67, Summer of Love or not, the dream was over, awash in a dreamscape of purple excess. "I wasn't born there; perhaps I'll die there, there's no place left to go - San Francisco..."
It was The Animals though who pulled out all the excess stops. When Kubrick was working on The Shining, the goal was to create the greatest horror film of all time, as well as the most beautiful. He failed on a number of levels and he knew it; he'd encountered his limitations. With Winds of Change, Eric Burdon wanted the same thing. He too failed, but lacking Kubrick's talent and vision, he didn’t know it. Nonetheless, Winds of Change is an LP I go back to time and again, despite its pretensions. "San Franciscan Nights" is classic radio airplay, a hippie anthem, and how better to capture the moment's sentiment than with lyrics like, "It's an American dream, includes Indians too." Classic. After exhorting listeners in a megaphone inspired voice to save all their bread and fly Trans World Airways to Frisco so they can "understand the song," Burdon eulogizes Hell's Angels, uptight cops and minorities with the help of a lilting Spanish-acoustic guitar melody. It's a kitsch masterpiece that makes the Seeds sound hardheaded.

Pretentious? It's the summer of love, baby, and thus no time for E.B. to get down on himself. Why, because he "loves you and wants you to gain something from these new sounds, as I gained something from the saints of my past."
        In 1968, there was no place left to go. I went home to the Valley. I was 19. I hitchhiked down PCH and met a girl. "Where you goin'?"
        "Where's home?"
        "Used to be in Van Nuys."
        "Not anymore?"
        "I don't know." The song on the radio was the Electric Prunes: "I'm not ready to face the light,/ I had too much to dream last night."