Various Artists – March of the Flower Children: The American Sounds of 1967

Various Artists – March of the Flower Children: The American Sounds of 1967

A few months ago, I had the pleasure of reviewing the Grapefruit Records compilation of British psychedelia circa 1967, Too Much Sun Will Burn. It was the second volume of such music the label released over the years. Now comes its American music counterpart, March of the Flower Children. Once again, the fine crew at Grapefruit have unearthed not only the obvious, but searched far and wide for the obscure and the local hits that maybe should have gone national. As with the previous box sets, all the elements are in place. Instrumentally, a large Middle Eastern musical influence, such as sitar and tabla? Check. Adventurous arrangements, both musically and vocally? Check. Phase shifting and backward tape effects sprinkled generously throughout the production? Check. Lyrics that seem total nonsense but just might be profound? Double check!

Again, we have the heavyweights (Grateful Dead, Paul Revere & the Raiders, Lovin’ Spoonful, Byrds), flash in the pan artists (Strawberry Alarm Clock, Moby Grape, 13th Floor Elevators), and the (mostly deservedly) obscure (The Kaleidoscope, The Doppler Effect, Georgy and the Velvet Illusions). The care and legwork that must have gone into compiling this box set is astounding, even for an obsessive like myself. From the detailed liner notes to the album art to the sound, no element is neglected. Project manager David Wells surely deserves some sort of award for all the love and hard work that went into this set.

Presented in chronological order, it is interesting to see how the scene developed over the course of the year. What took me by surprise was the variety of sounds that fell under the psychedelic umbrella. The songs of Too Much Sun Will Burn were very much cut from the same cloth, almost slavish in their devotion to the tropes of the movement. Not as much on the American recordings, or at least not as prominently so. The first three songs on offer set the mood brilliantly for what’s to come. The Peanut Butter Conspiracy’s It’s A Happening Thing is a joyous, bouncy, almost bubblegum tune that should have been a much bigger hit in a market dominated by the almighty single. In contrast, Love’s ¡Que Vida! is quirky and whimsical while avoiding most of the clichés that would define the year. The Monkees tune She Hangs Out has a leering paedophile undercurrent barely disguised by the poppy music; originally the B-side of A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You, it was scrapped for a Mike Nesmith song at the band’s insistence and then reworked for a subsequent album. Interestingly, the spirit of two bands looms large over many of these recordings. The Jefferson Airplane’s male/female vocal approach is a touchstone for many, such as the Spike Drivers’ Strange Mysterious Sounds. The Byrds are also a recurring reference point, such as on the Cryan’ Shames’ Mr. Unreliable. Another sound that crops up continually is the sixties garage rock sound, typified by aggressive vocals and Farfisa organ. Disc one scratches that itch with the Blues Magoos’ Pipe Dream and The Troyes’ Love Comes, Love Dies. It takes a while before things get truly weird, but by the time we get to Kim Fowley’s Strangers From the Sky, spoken language and sci-fi nonsense are in vogue, as similar track Boil the Kettle, Mother by the Id proves. Vocal harmonies are still what propelled a song up the charts, and the Beau Brummels took advantage of that. Applying their trademark vocals to sophisticated songwriting on Two Days ’til Tomorrow, it’s a shame that such talent went unrewarded. The same was true of the Grateful Dead’s first single, The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion), on which the blueprint for the band’s later success is already obvious. Established acts Like Paul Revere and the Raiders (Him or Me – What’s it Gonna Be), the Lovin’ Spoonful (Six O’Clock), and the Young Rascals (Groovin’) all tried their hand at fitting in, with mixed results. Even Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention gave it the old college try, attempting to write “dumb music to appeal to dumb teenagers”; needless to say, it was not a success.

Disc two begins as the month of May closes out, and the truly freaky Aires by The Zodiac makes its statement with sitars, oddball narration and nascent synths. The Vanilla Fudge supplied psychedelia with attitude to spare on its deconstruction of the Supremes hit You Keep Me Hangin’ On. Both Moby Grape (Fall on You) and the Stone Poneys (Evergreen Part One) kept the harmonies going, but surprisingly it was the latter band that kept close to the blueprint. David Crosby attempted a vocal tour-de-force with The Byrds’ Lady Friend. Problem was he had recorded over Roger McGuinn’s and Chris Hillman’s backing vocals, the song flopped, and he was soon dismissed from the band. No mention of brilliant harmony would be complete without the Everly Brothers, who also submitted to the music of the times with their ode to marijuana, Mary Jane. Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band would provide all the eccentricity you’d expect plus a theremin on Electricity, as Tommy Roe jumped headfirst into all the clichés on Paisley Dreams. Tim Buckley went the opposite direction, coming up with a paean of sumptuous beauty regarding the hobo (Morning Glory). But it was Sonny Bono who went for broke on Pammie’s on A Bummer, a nearly eight-minute epic about a hippie chick who falls into drugs and prostitution. Critically lauded at the time, it does not wear well.

By the time we get to disc three, we are in October of the year. The Balloon Farm begin the proceedings with A Question of Temperature, notable for its dramatic vocals, freakout guitar and organ, and guitarist Mike Appel, who would later write for the Partridge Family and Lord Baltimore before managing Bruce Springsteen. More sophistication than the general public could handle arrived in the form of Gates of Eden’s No One Was There, a pop masterpiece that was just too ethereal for its own good, and The Merry-Go-Round’s She Laughed Loud, a mash-up of Steely Dan and early Beatles Paul McCartney. One of Steven Stills’ best recorded moments has to be the Buffalo Springfield’s Bluebird, a mini-suite featuring luscious vocals and guitar. On the other hand, Steppenwolf presages its hits to come with their instantly recognisable sound on The Ostrich. The Strawberry Alarm Clock prove they were no one trick pony with standout tune Rainy Day Mushroom Pillow. Much vaunted band The 13th Floor Elevators released She Lives (In A Time of Her Own) that November, a stew of odd keyboard sounds that nearly derail the song, which isn’t all that great to begin with. Monkees’ songwriters Boyce and Hart stepped into the spotlight for I Wonder What She’s Doing Tonight, never stepping far from their hit-making formula. The Velvet Underground rocked their more brutal side on White Light/White Heat as the Chambers Brothers forced soul to copulate with psychedelia and birth Time Has Come Today, a classic even now. The compilation saves the best for last (okay, it did come out at the end of December) with my favourite tune of the era, the First Edition’s Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In). Kenny Rogers and company throw in every psychedelic trope – trippy lyrics, backwards guitar, false fades, stereo panning – and make it work BIG TIME. In my opinion, the quintessential psychedelic song, and a perfect way to cap a four-hour journey into the past.

The year 1967 was like no other musically. It seemed as if everyone, from professional musicians to kids toiling in their parents’ garages, was trying to come up with sounds that had never been previously heard. Some of those attempts, as documented here, were laughably bad, others too highbrow for general consumption. Some were pop in a new outfit, a few still waiting for their time to arrive. But as March of the Flower Children amply documents, it was a good year to be alive and listening to the radio.

Disc On
01. The Peanut Butter Conspiracy – It’s A Happening Thing (2:22)
02. Love – ¡Que Vida! (3:40)
03. The Monkees – She Hangs Out (2:33)
04. The Cryan’ Shames – Mr. Unreliable (2:23)
05. Tim Rose – Morning Dew (3:41)
06. The Spike Drivers – Strange Mysterious Sounds (2:30)
07. Blues Magoos – Pipe Dream (2:25)
08. The Blues Project – No Time Like the Right Time (2:44)
09. The Youngbloods – Merry-Go-Round (2:10)
10. Kim Fowley – Strangers From the Sky (2:56)
11. The Troyes – Love Comes, Love Dies (2:52)
12. The Id – Boil The Kettle, Mother (3:00)
13. Thursday’s Children – Help, Murder, Police (2:06)
14. The Beau Brummels – Two Days ’til Tomorrow (2:13)
15. The Vagrants – Respect (2:12)
16. The Grateful Dead – The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion) (2:09)
17. The Sound Barrier – Hey, Hey (2:33)
18. Paul Revere & The Raiders – What’s It Gonna Be – Him or Me (2:39)
19. The Lovin’ Spoonful – Six O’Clock (2:41)
20. The Young Rascals – Groovin’ (2:28)
21. Harpers Bizarre – Come to the Sunshine (2:30)
22. The Mothers of Invention – Why Don’t You Do Me Right (2:39)
23. The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band – Transparent Day (2:15)
24. The Morning Dew – No More (2:45)
25. The Kaleidoscope – Egyptian Gardens (3:05)
26. The Blue Things – You Can Live in Our Tree (3:05)
27. Eternity’s Children – You Can’t Put A Thing Over Me (2:39)
28. The Human Expression – Optical Sound (2:31)
29. The Sandals – House of Painted Glass (2:28)
30. Chad & Jeremy – Rest in Peace (3:18)

Time – 79:32

Disc Two
01. The Zodiac – Aires (3:12)
02. Vanilla Fudge – You Keep Me Hangin’ On (2:56)
03. The Electric Prunes – Hideaway (2:45)
04. The Red Crayola – Hurricane Fighter Plane (3:46)
05. Moby Grape – Fall on You (1:54)
06. The Stone Poneys – Evergreen, Part One (3:10)
07. The Seeds – March of the Flower Children (1:49)
08. The Byrds – Lady Friend (2:32)
09. The Rare Breed – I Talk to the Sun (2:32)
10. The Liberty Bell – That’s How it Will Be (2:39)
11. NGC-4594 – Going Home (2:18)
12. The Tokens – It’s A Happening World (2:38)
13. The Peppermint Trolley Company – It’s A Lazy Summer Day (2:02)
14. The Cyrkle – Penny Arcade (2:39)
15. The Everly Brothers – Mary Jane (3:13)
16. The Ragamuffins – Parade of Uncertainty (3:56)
17. The Lemon Drops – I Live in the Springtime (2:53)
18. Tim Buckley – Morning Dew (2:50)
19. The Unforscene – Little Toy (2:23)
20. The Parade – She’s Got the Magic (2:30)
21. The Rose Garden – Next Plane to London (2:28)
22. Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band – Electricity (3:02)
23. Dutch Masters – The Expectation (2:23)
24. The Endd – Gonna Send You Back to Your Mother (2:17)
25. The Doppler Effect – God is Alive in Argentina (3:14)
26. Tommy Roe – Paisley Dreams (3:12)
27. Sonny – Pammie’s on A Bummer (7:46)

Time – 79:37

Disc Three
01. The Balloon Farm – A Question of Temperature (2:39)
02. Richard Pash and the Back Door Society – I’m the Kind of Guy (2:25)
03. The Gates of Eden – No One Was There (2:37)
04. The Merry-Go-Round – She Laughed Loud (2:43)
05. Buffalo Springfield – Bluebird (4:31)
06. The Free Design – The Proper Ornaments (2:43)
07. Nilsson – 1941 (2:36)
08. Strawberry Alarm Clock – Rainy Day Mushroom Pillow (3:08)
09. Culver Street Playground – East River Lovers (2:54)
10. Steppenwolf – The Ostrich (3:19)
11. Lost & Found – Foreverlasting Plastic Words (2:11)
12. The Thirteenth Floor Elevators – She Lives (In A Time of Her Own) (2:55)
13. Summer Snow – Flying on the Ground (2:26)
14. Tommy Boyce & Bobby Hart – I Wonder What She’s Doing Tonight (2:43)
15. Jan & Dean – Love and Hate (2:31)
16. The Jackson Investment Co. – Not This Time (2:04)
17. Georgy & The Velvet Illusions – Lazy (2:08)
18. Lemon Fog – Echoes of Time (2:31)
19. The Bonniwell Music Machine – Astrologically Incompatible (2:33)
20. Fapardokly – Lila (3:24)
21. Clear Light – Sand (02:37)
22. The Velvet Underground – White Light/White Heat (2:46)
23. The Zakary Thaks – Mirror of Yesterday (3:07)
24. The Chambers Brothers – Time Has Come Today (3:32)
25. Jim & Jean – Time Goes Backwards (3:01)
26. Sagittarius – Another Time (2:42)
27. The Critters – A Moment of Being With You (2:45)
28. The First Edition – Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In) (3:20)

Time – 78:51

Total Time – 238:00

Record Label: Cherry Red Records | Grapefruit Records
Country of Origin: U.S.A.
Date of Release: 18th August 2023

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