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!


  1. that was some nice writing homeslice!

  2. Hi Owl,

    do you know if this linked to article from Tim Forster, is the same as the "spread over 3 numbers" of Shindig magazine ?

  3. Good to see the message being spread about this extraordinary band - and thanks for the comments about my on-line article (which is now somewhat out-of-date). For anyone interested in digging further my 3-part Shindig article goes far beyond my original piece (with many previously unseen photos). Although it's not on the web (yet) it will be re-printed in full in the forthcoming Shindig annual. There's also an interview with myself on You Tube about the band - which is... interesting!

  4. Wow, thanks for stopping by Tim, and more importantly thank you for your tireless efforts to get the real story behind this fascinating band! I have many unanswered questions about the WCPAEB that I would love to ask you, if you'd be so inclined.

  5. I guess I am the promptest correspondent - a mere 9 weeks since your question. Feel free to ask any questions you like - although I would like to think my Shindig piece covers most of them. This is now available in the Shindig 2009 Annual No.2 (available on Amazon, etc). Regards, Tim

  6. Yo Spheroid, your excellent post reminded me of this web site.
    If you're not familiar with it, you might take a few moments to poke around. It's full of marginal Sunset Strip history.

  7. Thanks, Ted. I've been on that site, it's a goldmine!

    Just re-upped the collection.