Sunday, June 28, 2009

Not One Bummer: The Complete West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band

Compliation (single artist)

Well today we're gonna take a look at a small group of Hollywood miscreants known collectively as the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band. I don't have room to give you the whole back story, so I'll just talk about the fascinating circumstances under which this insane band was formed under and then provide you with a link that tells "the rest of the story"...

Anyway, this group of cosmic mind voyagers we fondly refer to as the WCPAEB (if you think I'm gonna keep spelling out their full name then you're nuts!) was initially founded in Beverly Hills in 1965 by teenage brothers Shaun and Danny Harris and a classmate of theirs named Michael Lloyd. Lloyd-- who was already well on his way to a career in record production that would ultimately net him a Grammy and millions of records sold worldwide-- had himself a home studio,
and the trio first recorded a single under the moniker The Laughing Wind. The guys liked to get together and jam on standards like "Louie Louie" and "You Really Got Me", and the Harris Brothers also enjoyed folk music and harmony singing and probably would have made quite a dandy little folk rock band had fate not intervened.

Meanwhile, across the pond the Yardbirds were preparing for their first American tour (1965), when the group was forced by customs regulations to play a private party in order to obtain work permits. The band's manager Giorgio Gomelsky had previously met the acquaintance of one Kim Fowley the previous year when Fowley was visiting in England, and so Gomelsky called up the lanky California record producer and asked him if he knew of a house where the Yardbirds could perform a private party for 100 or so guests. It just so happened that Fowley knew of such a place.

The Laurel Canyon mansion Fowley enlisted for the event was the property of 33 year old Bob Markley, Attorney at Law and adopted son of a wealthy Oklahoma oil tycoon. A varsity tennis player, Bob also hosted the TV show "Oklahoma Bandstand" when a TV producer suggested he go to Hollywood to try to make it as an actor. Markley didn't get any acting gigs while in California, but he did cut a couple of early singles.

Despite his square upbringing, Markley was something of a Bohemian, known for walking around Laurel Canyon with a set of bongo drums hung around his neck. Bob also had a notorious fascination with underage girls which would certainly get him in trouble later in life. For now though, Bob Markley was living the life of Hollywood playboy, and having a hot band from England like the Yardbirds play a party at his pad would mean hobnobbing with the Hollywood elite, and more importantly, a gaggle of young starlets.

Kim Fowley was also a friend of Michael Lloyd and the Harris Brothers, and invited them to come on up to Markley's and check the band out. It must have been quite a scene. According to Fowley, as quoted in Tim Forster's definitive article on the WCPAEB, Markley's bash was attended by "
over 180 industry journalists, programme directors, disc jockeys and a handful of the in-crowd. Al Kooper was the warm up act and Phil Spector came with his binoculars so he could watch Jeff Beck's fingers." Into this scene of (I'm assuming) unbridled Hollywood debauchery stepped the innocent teenage trio of Mike, Danny and Shaun, simply there to see the band. Sounds like something out of a Russ Meyer film, eh?

Anyhow, after the gig, Fowley introduced the guys to Bob Markley who in turn told him about the group. Almost immediately, the shrewd Tulsan formulated a plan that went something like this: He, Markley, would join the band as singer and producer. In exchange for control over all aspects of the group, Bob would provide the rehearsal space, gear and most importantly, his Hollywood contacts. Markley, meanwhile, would presumably reap the sundry benefits associated with being a rock star including, most importantly to Bob, young chicks.

Image from the cover of the Where's My Daddy? LP. What was Markley's relationship to this girl?

After releasing their initial home recording sessions on the tiny FIFO label, the band got a real record deal through some of Markley's contacts with Reprise. They would ultimately release a total of three albums on that label, as well as one each on the smaller Amos and Forward labels, before calling it quits in 1970. Due to the spacial limitations of this blog I won't be getting into reviewing them, other than to say that they're all definitely worth hearing; a very unique blend of psych, folk, classical, jazz and funk influences coupled with the one-of-a-kind lyrical ramblings of the sage Bob Markley!

Now that I've hopefully got you intrigued, though, check out Tim Forster's AWESOME Legend of the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band. Take it from us here at the Sphere, this is one unforgettable story you don't want to miss! And while you're at it, you can dig all the tunes on a lovely little 2 disc set [1 | 2] compiled just for you by the Brotherhood here at the Crystal Sphere. So go ahead and turn on, tune in and drop acid to the very groovy sounds of the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Summer '88

Compilation (various artist)

Summer '88 - the Soundtrack D0WNL0AD TH1S!!!!!11

This is the only remaining photo of my '87 Haro Sport. In the days before I had my driver's license, this (and other bikes like it) was how I got around in the suburbs. And as you can probably tell, I put a shit ton worth of work into this particular bike.

This picture was taken before I added the Dyno flip-down platforms and threaded GT pegs to the front. Back then I mostly rode ramp, but the sickest street trick you could do was the "Cherry Picker" and you needed front pegs to pull that one off. These future modifications would reflect my transition from ramp to street, just as Freestyle BMX as a whole started to revert towards ramp riding again with the emergence of Matt Hoffman as the king of the vert ramps. Typically poor timing for me!

I payed over $350.00 for this bike out of my own savings, which at the time made it one of the most expensive freestyle bikes on the market. Only the GT Mach One compared, but I always went with Haro. Sadly, this particular Haro was stolen at the Randhurst Shopping Mall in Mt. Prospect, Illinois in September of 1988 while I was inside looking at cassettes at Camelot Records. You haven't seen it by chance, have you?

Anyway, other than this one somewhat tragic turn of events, the summer of '88 was a good one for me. I was transitioning from middle school to high school and didn't have a job of any kind, so a typical day would involve getting up every morning and riding my bike past the Junior High school up to my best friend Dean's house. We'd hang out in his basement playing NES games or listening to Twisted Sister, Def Leppard and AC/DC cd's on the component stereo in his bedroom while we plotted our next move, which would inevitably be a trip to 7-11 for Slurpees or to Niko's for cheese dogs and fries.

When we'd come back, we'd kick it in his driveway with our shirts off and play one-on-one or horse until the rest of the crew showed up. We hung out with some of the older guys who all had cars. There was John ('85 Mustang GT), Carl ('67 Camaro), Matt ('84 IROC) and Dean's cousin Jim (70s' VW Bug). Car radios at the time were tuned to B-96, WCKG or "The Loop" (WLUP).

Carl had a quarter pipe set up in his driveway where we'd take our bikes and attempt to get "rad". Just getting even a little bit of air was an accomplishment, especially when the alternative was a quick trip to the pavement. Everybody would line their bikes up and just kind of root for the guy who was attempting the run. I remember the tape we listened to more than any other in those situations was the first Iron Maiden (the one with Paul Di'Anno on vocals, before Dickenson joined the band).

In the evening I would generally bike back home for dinner with my mom and then reconviene with the gang over at the pool at the Gary Marova Center. This was a big outdoor swimming pool that all the neighborhood kids and some of their parents routinely congregated at. All you needed was your park district pass and you could get in. These evenings generally resulted in us chasing the trim around (in good fun-- this was still a year or two before we all lost our innocence in that regard) and coming up with far-fectched plans that we knew we could never achieve.

Fast forward to now, and as horrible as the 80s look in retrospect when watching old music videos and TV sit-coms (those haircuts!) it was actually a pretty cool time to be alive. We were thirteen years old, and maybe we didn't have any internet or XBox 360, but dammit we sure as hell had our NES, our Hysteria, our Sony cassette Walkmen and our freestyle bikes.

I'd do terrible things to go back and relive just one of those gorgeous Summer of '88 days, when the nights were long and we could still take pleasure in things that were simple and fun.