Sunday, May 27, 2012

VA - Nuggets, Vol. 7: Early San Francisco [1985]

Various – Nuggets Volume Seven: Early San Francisco
Label: Rhino Records – RNLP 031
Series: Nuggets – RNLP 031
Format: Vinyl, LP, Compilation
Country: US
Released: 1985
Genre: Pop, Rock
Style: Folk Rock   [discogs]

Review  by Richie Unterberger [allmusic]
A fine collection of pre-Summer of Love rarities from the mid-'60s. Besides hits by The Beau Brummels and We Five, it features rarities by The Vejtables, the Great Society (featuring a pre-Jefferson Airplane Grace Slick), and Country Joe & The Fish.

A1 Beau Brummels, The – Laugh, Laugh
A2 Beau Brummels, The – Just A Little
A3 Mojo Men, The – Dance With Me
A4 Mojo Men, The – She's My Baby (M)
A5 Vejtables – I Still Love You
A6 Vejtables – Last Thing On My Mind (M)
A7 Jan Ashton – Cold Dreary Morning
B1 We Five – You Were On My Mind (M)
B2 We Five – You Let A Love Burn Out
B3 Charlatans, The – Codine (M)
B4 Great Society, The – Somebody To Love
B5 Great Society, The – Free Advice
B6 Country Joe & The Fish – Bass Strings (M)
B7 Tikis, The – I Must Be Dreaming

mp3@320 & scans 106MB
Somebody To Love here 
or here

 Liner Notes
Revolutions don't grow on trees. Nor do they just pop up, 'shroom-like, overnight. They all start somewhere, sometimes in the unlikliest places. San Francisco's psychedelic tea party didn't catch the world's eyes and ears until 1967; suddenly that summer, its Quick and Dead and 'Plane and Brother were news, noisy international front-page stuff. They had arrived, so the story went, to rearrange the face of pop; in fact to punch out the lights of the whole hit single/Tin Pan Brill Bldg./Beatle-beat music biz — with a megadose of solo-spiked acid rock. Which they in effect did, with all sorts of historical consequences. In the ensuing haze and hype, the "San Francisco Sound" came to mean freaked-out "cosmic" lyrics and deliberately obtuse music — perhaps best described by the Mystery Trend's Ron Nagle as "psycho-babble in A minor." But it wasn't always thus. Two short years before, Frisco rock had walked a straighter, but still adventurous, Pop line. Over at Autumn Records, local Top 40 deejays Tom Donahue and Bob Mitchell, with the help of producer Sylvester Stewart (Sly Stone), were trying to cut hits. Across town, Kingston Trio manager Frank Werber was after the same thing, having just found the recently electrified folk group We Five; and so was Lovin' Spoonful producer Erik Jacobsen, who thought he'd stumbled onto the next big thing in the dandified, pistol-packin' Charlatans.
EARLY SAN FRANCISCO NUGGETS is a roots record, a souvenir album of the opening shots of Frisco's rock revolution. Collected here for the first time, those shots sound primitive and powerful, occasionally naive but always brimming with promise. Tune in, turn on, and dig . . .
The BEAU BRUMMELS were the city's premier pre-psychedelic band, and Autumn Records' biggest act, a folk-rocking fivesome who scored two national hits in 1965. Despite (or maybe because of) the success of "Laugh Laugh" and the sublime "Just A Little," Ron Elliot, Sal Valentino & co. were denied membership in S.F. 's emerging rock underground. One listen to these two tracks proves it was the underground's loss.
Following the Brummels, Autumn's next pick-to-click was a semi-pro bar band called the MOJO MEN. The quartet (which featured Steve "Where the Action Is" Alaimo's brother Jim) enjoyed a Northern California hit in '65 with "Dance With Me," a gruff novelty item with heavy "Alley Oop" influences. "She's My Baby" is tougher stuff, buzzy Stonesish blues with echoed harp, penned by Sly himself.
The VEJTABLES toiled in the same post-Brit Invasion fields as the Beau Brummels, with one major difference; a mainstay of the Vejs' sound was a striking female vocalist-drummer, JAN ASHTON. After singing lead on I he local hit "I Still Love You" and a twelve-strung version of Tom Paxton's "Last Thing On My Mind," she left the Vejtables to join the Mojo Men, who subsequently scored ('67) with a Van Dyke Parks arrangement of Steve Stills' "Sit Down, I Think I Love You." Before doing so, Ashton cut the affecting "Cold Dreary Morning," a thick slab of electro-folk with vague Sandy Denny overtones.
The WE FIVE occupy a pivital place in the Frisco rock saga. With the perky, six-string strum of "You Were On My Mind," the University of San Francisco folkniks scored a Top 5 smash in the fall of '65, then vanished. Their achievements, though, didn't go unnoticed; singer Marty Balin used their two gals-one guy harmony approach in assembling his folk-rock band, as suggested by the dramatic, highly Airplane-esque arrangement of "You Let A Love Burn Out."

If the We Five were the transitional link, the CHARLATANS were the genuine article, Frisco's pioneer psychedelic band. They were also the first to record — through their debut single, a stark reading of Buffy Saint Marie's "Co'dine," makes its first vinyl appearance on this LP, exactly 20 years after it was cut. Kama Sutra Records' cold feet over the song's druggy subject matter blocked its initial release; subsequent smart moves k.o.'ed the Charlatans' career. Dig Mike Wilhelm's vintage acid-blues solo, Dan Hicks on drums.

It took more than 50 takes before Darby Slick, his sister-in-law Grace and their band got "Somebody To Love" down right. Or before producer Sly Stone threw up his hands; nonetheless, the original GREAT SOCIETY version of the Airplane supersmash remains a classic, from its raga-drone rhythm down to Darby's surging power-mower solo. Released as a single, with "Free Advice" as its whirling derv flip, on Autumn's North Beach subsidiary.
The TIKIS, a preppy foursome from Santa Cruz, almost didn't make it onto Autumn at all. Donahue and Mitchell considered the band's' whole Bermuda shorts-and-loafers style supremely unhip, and thought only slightly better of their xerox Beatlesongs ("If I've Been Dreaming"). The hits, however, didn't start until the Tikis became Harper's Bizarre ('67); founder Ted Templeman went on to produce the Doobie Bros, and Van Halen.
COUNTRY JOE & THE FISH's "Bass Strings" resembles few records that came before or after it. Eschewing the Autumn route, the Berkeley-based jugband cut their own EP shortly after electrifying late in '65. While CJ&TF are best remembered for their politics ("Feel Like I'm Fixin' To Die Rag"), their flipside is revealed in "Bass Strings" — an exotic echo-and-organ piece that uncannily succeeds at summing up the phrase "psychedelic music" in all its glory. What's striking is the fact that all of these tracks — despite their diversity — really do belong together under the psychedelic parasol. They give an evocative and accurate account of the peculiar mix of musics that was San Francisco '65: bubbling under, not yet cooked down or cooled. For the next batch, you won't have to wait long; Rhino's already at work on Volume Two.
(For a full exploration of the S.F. scene, we recommend SAN FRANCISCO NIGHTS: The Psychedelic Music Trip, by Davin Seay & Gene Sculatti, published by St. Martin's Press 1985.)

Nuggets is a series of releases dedicated to preserving the hits and undiscovered gems of the first psychedelic era...

Vol. 01  Vol. 02  Vol. 03  Vol. 04 
Vol. 05  Vol. 06                Vol. 08
Vol. 09   Vol 10  Vol. 11  Vol. 12


  1. So nice seeing these get a second time around. Thanks.

  2. In addition, this is the only issue I ever have been able to find of "Laugh, Laugh" with a full ending instead of a fade.

  3. thanks for this nuggets :).