Saturday, 24 June 2017

Nikki Sudden & Dave Kusworth: The Legend Of The Jacobites!

Originally published in Teenage Kicks, Spring/Summer 1999

By Devorah Ostrov

Once upon a time in the mid-seventies, in a faraway country called England (where the word color contains an unnecessary "u" and the orange juice supply is unpredictable) there lived two beautiful boys with tousled hair and an obsessive fondness for scarves and crushed velvet.

One of these boys, who dubbed himself Nikki Sudden (or occasionally Nikki Mattress), was busy leading a quirky art-pop band called Swell Maps, which included his younger brother Epic Soundtracks on drums. The other boy went by the surprisingly ordinary name of Dave Kusworth.

Just out of school, Kusworth was toiling away on a dreary factory assembly line in Birmingham - although these days he claims not to remember what it was he was assembling. "I just... y'know... put this thing onto that thing..." he says vaguely when asked.

Was that when he decided to become a rock star?

"I've always been a rock star!" Kusworth insists.

Nikki Sudden & Dave Kusworth
Great American Music Hall - SF 3/1999
Photo: Devorah Ostrov
March 1999: Kusworth and Sudden, idolized cult figures individually and dual leaders of the revered but commercially unsuccessful Jacobites are sitting backstage at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco. Later tonight, the Jacobites (the live lineup now includes drummer Mark Williams and bassist Mark Pritchard) will play to a rapt and enthusiastic audience. This is partly because the band - which released its first self-titled pop/rock/folk-infused album some 15 years ago - is touring America for the first time!

The tour is in support of the group's latest release, God Save Us Poor Sinners (Bomp! Records), but tonight they stick to the punchier tracks like "Teenage Christmas," while mixing in several flamboyant pop tunes from their back catalog. Songs like "Over and Over," "Pin Your Heart to Me," and "Shame for the Angels" allow them to downplay their sometimes heavy Dylan tendencies and show off like their other heroes - the New York Dolls, the Faces, the Stooges, T. Rex, and the Rolling Stones.

Kusworth especially has all the cool rock 'n' roll moves down pat - cigarette dangling from his mouth, rail-thin body wrapped around the microphone stand, arms punctuating the lyrics with elegant flourishes. He's truly a sight to behold!

But, like Kusworth says, he's always been a rock star!

L-R: Mark Williams, Dave Kusworth, Mark Pritchard, Nikki Sudden
Great American Music Hall, San Francisco, CA.  
Photo by Devorah Ostrov
This Johnny Thunders/younger Keith Richards lookalike actually grew up worshiping guitar-god Mick Ronson. "Ronson was my ultimate hero," Kusworth states. "The first concert I ever saw was Bowie with the Spiders From Mars, with Ronson. I was quite lucky; it was their last tour."

Kusworth (together with longtime cohort Dave Twist on drums) formed his first band, TV Eye, in 1977. "When we played our first gig," he says, "we had just gotten the band together. We had no songs. We didn't even have a name. Somebody offered us this festival gig. We said we were in a band, but we didn't have... anything! I just remember locking ourselves in a room all night with a guitar and learning five or six songs."

The Jacobites self-titled debut - released 1984
Too glam for the punks and too punk for the rockers ("We were much more like the New York Dolls and the Stooges than any of the English bands," brags Kusworth), TV Eye was short-lived with only one track ("Stevie's Radio Station") on a fanzine-issued disc to their name.

Although apparently there was one momentous (though barely remembered) night when Kusworth's TV Eye crossed paths with Sudden's Swell Maps.

"The first time I saw Dave he was with TV Eye," says Sudden. "They were playing at the Crown in Nottingham, I think."

"You actually supported us!" interjects Kusworth. "But I didn't talk to you."

When TV Eye broke-up, Kusworth and Twist formed the Subterranean Hawks, legendary for their aggressive use of acoustic guitars and an engaging pop song (written by the group's vocalist, Stephen Duffy) called "Big Store."

Sudden also moved on. After the break-up of Swell Maps, he released a couple of solo LPs and took to rock journalism, writing for Zig Zag and the New York Rocker. "I just did it for something to do," he says. "I went to New York and ended up interviewing Johnny Thunders. And I thought I might as well do some other articles. But I used to have to take a gram of speed every time I wrote an article - and I would get paid just about enough to buy the gram of speed!"

Nikki Sudden
Great American Music Hall - SF 3/1999
Photo: Devorah Ostrov
One day in 1980, as Sudden recalls, he encountered a couple of the Subterranean Hawks and arranged to interview them. "I met Steve Duffy. Him and Dave Twist came into Rough Trade with a tape. I heard it and thought it was brilliant! So, I went to see them in Birmingham. Dave and I started talking, and we said if the Hawks ever broke up we should form a band."

The Subterranean Hawks stayed together until the end of 1981, and released one 45 ("Words of Hope" b/w "Sense of Ending") on their own Five Believers Records. Their version of "Big Store" became track two of the fanzine disc mentioned above. "It's very rare," Kusworth helpfully points out.

According to legend, Sudden and Kusworth first performed together as the Six Hip Princes at the Royal George in May 1982. But it wasn't until '84, with a lineup based around Sudden and Kusworth on shared vocals and guitars, Soundtracks on drums, and bassist Mark Lemon (along with assistance from assorted friends including Tyla from Dogs D'Amour), that the Jacobites' self-titled debut LP was released.

The band took its name from a failed 17th-century political uprising and borrowed a few musical concepts from the Hawks. "Their whole thing with acoustic and electric guitars was a big influence on the Jacobites," admits Sudden. The first album also featured a reworked version of "Big Store" - credited to Sudden and suffixed (Orig). "Like the Dolls did with 'Frankenstein,'" notes Kusworth.

Flyer for the Jacobites show at
The Great American Music Hall in SF
Songs like "Kiss You Twice" and "Hurt Me More" revealed the group's heart-on-its-sleeve romanticism, while "Kings and Queens" and "Silver Street" were steeped in gorgeous poetical imagery. Noting Sudden's "Dylanesque" vocals, one reviewer wrote: "Imagine a folky Johnny Thunders growing up in the English countryside and learning to play guitar by listening to 'Knockin' on Heaven's Door' with a bottle by his side."

A handful of EPs marked the band's indie-chart success and the ambitious double album, Robespierre's Velvet Basement, soon followed - all issued on import-only labels. It wasn't until 1986, with Twin/Tone's release of The Ragged School, a 12-track sampler of the group's career to that point, that America was properly introduced to the Jacobites.

Unfortunately, by then the Jacobites had played their last gig and would disband soon after. Although the rift is sometimes explained away as "touring difficulties," in actuality, says Sudden, "we couldn't stand each other!"

Once the laughter dies down, he becomes more diplomatic. "I did a tour and Dave was supposed to come, but he didn't turn up."

"I had a lot of problems," counters Kusworth. "I'd split up with my wife at the time. It was very emotional."

My "Shame for the Angels" EP - autographed by
Nikki and Dave!
Kusworth was also disillusioned with the constant coming and going of band members - each new release featured different players, and live shows varied the lineup still more.

"I wanted to have a band," he emphasizes. "I don't know what Nikki wanted, but that's what I really wanted it to be. When we first thought about doing the Jacobites, I thought that we'd have a stable band."

"Epic always played drums on the records," says Sudden, "but he couldn't always do gigs with us."

"And we did a lot of things with no rehearsals," continues Kusworth. "We'd just go and play with different people. I just wanted to get a real tight act together."

So, over the next several years Sudden and Kusworth concentrated on solo careers.

Sudden teamed up for various projects with the likes of the Birthday Party's Rowland S. Howard, Jeremy Gluck from the Barracudas, and Jeffrey Lee Pierce from the Gun Club. REM even brought him to Georgia, so they could take over (or help with, depending on who you talk to) recording 1991's The Jewel Thief.

Nikki Sudden
Great American Music Hall - 3/1999
Photo: Devorah Ostrov
Meanwhile, Kusworth put together the Bounty Hunters. His lyrics expressed his grief over divorce ("The first Bounty Hunters' record has an incredible amount of songs about it," he says) and furthered his "quest for beauty in the underbelly" (as one rock critic nicely put it) through material described as "Led Zep II crossed with Blind Faith."

1993's Howling Good Times finally brought Sudden and Kusworth back together as the Jacobites. (Supposedly, they buried the hatchet with the CD reissues of the first two Jacobites' records.) While the LP's poppy title track was lifted from the Subterranean Hawks' catalog, overall the album was a ramshackle affair, with the loose feel of a living room jam session. However, the group's lineup stabilized, at least for recording purposes, with Glenn Tranter and Carl Eugene Picôt on guitar and bass respectively, and Mark Williams on drums.

Two years later the band released Old Scarlett, a somewhat somber effort, which nonetheless featured Kusworth's perfect pop anthem "Over and Over," and proved that the Jacobites were back in earnest.

Missing from the revamped Jacobites, of course, was Epic Soundtracks. Even during the group's first round, Soundtracks had kept up a separate existence with Crime and the City Solution. During the Jacobites split he was drumming for These Immortal Souls, and when that outfit broke-up he went solo. But any chance of Soundtracks re-joining the Jacobites ended on November 6, 1997, when the 38-year-old passed away in his sleep.

"I miss him every day," says Sudden. "I used to get really angry at him for dying; it was such a stupid thing to do."

Dave Kusworth
Great American Music Hall - SF 3/1999
Photo: Devorah Ostrov
In early '98, two tribute shows - one in London, the other in Berlin - were held in Soundtracks' honor. Joining the Jacobites in celebrating Soundtracks' life were Thee Hypnotics, Jeremy Gluck and Robin Wills from the Barracudas, and a reunited Swell Maps.

Both nights were recorded and, following the Berlin show, the Swell Maps (with Robby Schmidt on drums) entered the studio for the first time in 18 years.

"We did a couple of new songs," hints Sudden. "One is called 'Colditz Story.' And we did some old songs which at the time never got recorded."

Will these recordings ever come out?

"One day," he smiles enigmatically. "It needs to be mixed. I don't know what name it'll come out under. Maybe we'll just keep it for the box set! We've got lots of stuff for the box set!"

Sudden also reveals that he's compiling a tribute album to his brother. "The Jacobites and the Swell Maps have done their tracks. Evan Dando wants to be on it, and I want to get Brian Wilson, Carole King and Jimmy Webb. Epic loved them! But I'd only want to use their versions if they're really good."

Soundtracks' life and music and are also touchingly remembered on the Jacobites' latest album. The band cover two of his songs on God Save Us Poor Sinners - one chosen by Sudden ("The Wishing Well") and one by Kusworth ("She Sleeps Alone").

Dave Kusworth and Nikki Sudden
Photo from the Lost in a Sea of Scarves LP
Released 1985
Kusworth claims that he made his selection on the spur of the moment ("Nikki said, 'Pick a song.' And I was like, 'Oh, Christ...'"), but the darkly melancholic tune suits him well.

"The words..." he tries to explain. "It reminded me of something that... I felt that the Jacobites could do that one. And we could do it in our own kind of style. And I hope, God bless him, that he would appreciate what we did with the song. I think he would. We did our best, Epic!"

Sudden's own poignant farewell, "Elizabethan Balladeer," trimmed from its original eighteen minutes to a more workable eight, closes the CD.

My "Teenage Christmas" 45 - autographed by
Nikki and Dave!
"And music came to his ears
The whole time he was alive
And no one ever knew just what
to say or do to him
To prove he didn't need to make this sacrifice..."

Sudden actually began writing the song several months prior to his brother's death. However, he says, "when Epic died I recorded another two versions with Glen Tranter. I just made up the lyrics, transcribed them all, and used the best ones to make the song."

"He can never remember all the words!" jokes Kusworth.

"No..." admits Sudden. "I can remember most of them, though. It's got 24 verses!"

Released in 1998, God Save Us Poor Sinners was two years in the making. "It took us a long time to finish it," allows Sudden. "And Dave had a broken arm when we recorded three of the tracks." But it was worth the wait, as the album contains some of the strongest Jacobites' material to date.

From the Exile On Main St. style romp of the title track to the defiant strut of "Heartbreaks," to the sublimely romantic "I'll Care for You," and the power-pop fun of "Teenage Christmas" - it's a classic all the way. And to top it off, there's the Kusworth-penned rocker, "Cramping My Own Style," a tune that would've made the Small Faces proud!

Nikki Sudden
Great American Music Hall - 3/1999
Photo: Devorah Ostrov
The release also marks a rare US distribution deal for the group, which was instrumental in bringing them to America. "Bomp releasing God Save Us is a godsend," states Sudden.

For Sudden, who's toured here before on his own, it's old hat. But Kusworth is still a bit bewildered by America. "He's just been sitting in my dining room drinking wine for the past five days," laughs bassist Pritchard, who hooked up with the band in Los Angeles.

"It's a hell of a lot more conservative here than I thought it would be," observes Kusworth. "The people are nice. Everybody I've met has been pretty cool and laid back. But the laws... You have to watch where you drink and smoke. That's weird for me to get used to."

Although they're currently busy with the Jacobites, both Sudden and Kusworth plan to continue working on solo projects.

Once this US tour is done, Sudden will begin a 55-date European tour in support of his just released Red Brocade album (as backup, he'll be using members of the Chamberstrings, a group which also worked with Soundtracks).

He'd also like to work with Jeremy Gluck again. "We released Buffalo Bill in 1987," he muses. "We thought that 12 years was enough time to wait for another one!"

God Save Us Poor Sinners 
Bomp! Records - released 1998
Kusworth has formed the Tenderhooks (with drummer Dave Twist), and is demoing new material. Meanwhile, his cover version of the Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil" is scheduled for release on Jeff Dahl's Ultra Under label.

These days, Sudden makes his home in Berlin, where he's working on a novel based on his song "The Bagman and the Twangman" from The Jewel Thief.

"I wrote a play for BBC Radio based on the song," he says, "and then I started writing the book. It's called Albion Sunrise - Albion being the old name for England. I've written about half of it. I'm up to about 150,000 words. It's enough for two novels!"

Sudden also continues to flirt with rock journalism, most recently he wrote a rave review of the new Black Crowes' album for the fanzine Bucketfull Of Brains.

"Apart from the Black Crowes, and the Jacobites, and the Stones I don't think there's any real rock 'n' roll bands left," Sudden firmly declares.

* * * * *

Nikki Sudden
Great American Music Hall - SF 3/1999
Photo: Devorah Ostrov

Nikki Sudden suffered a heart attack following a gig at the Knitting Factory in New York and passed away on March 26, 2006. He was 49 years old.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

The Seeds: "Pushin' Too Hard" Was Only Part Of Their Story. In 1993, I Spoke To Keyboardist Daryl Hooper About The History Of The Band For AMP

The Seeds were "one of the most important bands to
come out of the Los Angeles area." 
L-R: Jan Savage, Sky Saxon, Daryl Hooper, Rick Andridge
Originally published in American Music Press, June 1993

By Devorah Ostrov

In the liner notes to Nuggets: Original Artifacts From the First Psychedelic Era, rock historian (and Patti Smith Group guitarist) Lenny Kaye termed the Seeds: "One of the most important groups to come out of the Los Angeles area." He goes on to say that the band "were in the unenviable position of watching their reputation move from that of a crack underground outfit to something akin to the dreaded tag of 'teenybopper,' all because of a string of hits (of which 'Pushin' Too Hard' was the biggest and best)..."

In 1965, Daryl Hooper was just out of high school and his friend Rick Andridge had just completed a course in computer programming. Lured by the Beach Boys-inspired promised land of California, the two left Michigan (and their weekend cover band, the Four Sharps, in which Hooper played keyboards and Andridge drummed) for Los Angeles.

But Hooper found that LA Trade Tech, his college of choice, had a year-long waiting list, and Andridge couldn't get a job. So, the two "bummed around" until their money ran out. Fortunately, someone in LA knew that Hooper and Andridge were musicians, and was circulating their phone number.

Alternate pic from the photo session for the group's debut album
Shortly after they'd played at a stranger's wedding, a fellow calling himself Sky Saxon phoned them. "He asked if we wanted to make a few dollars and play some music," says Hooper, who now teaches music in a small California community.

Saxon (born Richard Marsh) grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah. He'd started his recording career by releasing a handful of pop singles as Little Richie Marsh. When Hooper and Andridge met him, he was 28 years old and already going by the name Sky Saxon.

GNP/Crescendo promotional photo
According to Hooper, none of the band members shared their pasts with each other. For instance, he was never told (and never asked) how Saxon came up with the cool appellation. Of the singer's background, he says: "I know absolutely nothing about his father. He talked a little bit about his mother. At what point in his life he came to Los Angeles, I don't know. It was like, this is happening now, or we would like this to happen in the future - that's what we were concentrating on. It was sort of like the past didn't really matter."

The as yet unnamed group, which included Saxon's friend, guitarist Jan Savage, as well as a temporary second guitarist, began by playing cover tunes during a week's worth of shows at a "little, tiny bar."

"Everything clicked right into place," says Hooper. He adds that Andridge was ready to head back to Michigan before these shows, but as soon as the group started playing, the drummer exclaimed: "Let's keep the band together!"

More small club dates followed, with the group trying on a number of different monikers - the Earls of England (an obvious cash-in on the era's British Invasion) and Sky Saxon & the Savages were two possibilities. A Los Angeles disc jockey who saw the band during this early period suggested they call themselves the Seeds.

The Seeds self-titled debut LP - released April 1966
Includes the hit singles "Pushin' Too Hard" and
"Can't Seem to Make You Mine"
As Hooper recalls, "He said, 'You guys have a real earthy sound and a real seedy look about you. You ought to call yourselves the Seeds!' At first we went, 'Oh, no!' Then we thought about it, and it fit us and sort of stuck."

The group's first show as the Seeds took place at Bido Lito's, LA's hip underground (literally - you had to go down several steps into a basement-like room) club.

By this point, their usual set of covers had already started giving way to original material. "We'd get together," notes Hooper, "and all of a sudden we'd have a song. It would just happen!"

He adds, "At Bido Lito's we got the best response from the audience when we played our own stuff. So, we worked up a complete set of our own material."

In the meantime, Saxon was working on getting the group a recording contract, and it was GNP/Crescendo (the GNP stood for Gene Norman Presents) - a label respected in surf and jazz circles, but not especially known for rock 'n' roll - that signed the Seeds.

Hooper explains why they went with the unlikely record company: "Sky had gone around to different labels and the ones that would even bother to talk to him would say, 'Yeah... we'll call ya.' Crescendo was interested in getting started in the [rock 'n' roll] market, so they offered us a contract."

Two of Saxon's compositions - "Can't Seem to Make You Mine" and "Daisy Mae" - were issued as a 45 ahead of the group's first album. Although the A-side was a regional hit in LA (and would later kick off the LP), it failed to do anything nationally and the B-side (a Little Richard-type raver) would only resurface with later CD reissues.

The Seeds & The Chocolate Watchband
at the Showgrounds
Recorded on a four-track at LA's Western Studios, the band's self-titled debut album was released in April 1966. The cover showed four scruffy characters resplendent in motorcycle boots, shoulder-length hair and shades; not one of them was smiling. Inside was some of the toughest garage-punk to ever hit a record, and foremost amongst the lot was "Pushin' Too Hard":

"All I want is to just be free
Live my life the way I wanna be
All I want is to just have fun
Life my life like it just begun
But you're pushin' too hard
Pushin' too hard on me... "

The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock 'n' Roll notes the song's "nasty, threatening drive and ominous lyrics" - which it might be added, Saxon delivers with a perfect snarl.

But rock critic Dave Marsh, in his Heart of Rock & Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made, feigns disappointment when during its third verse the song swerves from a whatever-you-got protest to a simple girlfriend chastisement:

Seeds vocalist Sky Saxon
aka Marcus Tybalt
"Better listen girl what I'm tellin' you
Better listen girl or we are through
Better stop all your foolin' around
Stop your runnin' all over town
'Cause you're pushin' too hard
Pushin' too hard on me..."

"Oh well," rationalizes Marsh, "I really only put this one in for its fantastic fuzztone and reverb guitar solo..."

Although Hooper doesn't remember anything exceptional about the recording sessions for the LP, he does offer an insight into how Saxon wrote his lyrics: "We'd go to breakfast after playing some club, and he'd get an idea and start scribbling all these words on a napkin. Throughout our whole career it was, 'Hey! I've got this great song!' and he'd whip out a napkin!"

Mention should also be made of the strange production credits for the first album, which list Saxon as co-producer with one Marcus Tybalt. (On subsequent albums Tybalt alone receives credit.) What's so strange about that? Legend has it that there was no Marcus Tybalt, that the name was a pseudonym for Saxon! Which would mean that Saxon co-produced the record with himself!

"Exactly!" laughs Hooper. "Long hours in the studio with the engineer and himself. Sometimes I'd put my two-cents in..."

The Seeds want YOU to hear their fantastic album!
And you can buy it at Montgomery Ward at a fabulous discount price!
But why the pseudonym?

"Sky was involved in so many things," says Hooper, "I think he felt a little self-conscious and thought it might be a good idea to have another name in the picture."

While recording the album, the band were introduced to disc jockey Tim Hudson (he later affixed the title Lord to his name), who became their manager.

One of three color inserts included
with the Future LP
"We'd had a few small-time managers," says Hooper, "that really couldn't do anything except get us a few jobs. Tim was really interested in the group. He thought we had a real original sound and that he could do something for us. He helped us out quite a bit, got us a tour..."

"Pushin' Too Hard" was being played occasionally on LA radio stations, and was simmering at the bottom of other markets when the Seeds began their first major tour on a bill that included Question Mark & the Mysterians, the Shadows of Knight, the Outsiders, and the McCoys.

"It was a tour all through the South and the East Coast," explains Hooper, "ending up in Montreal. All the shows were really good except the last one. Question Mark got sick and didn't show up, and the semi carrying all the equipment was late. The equipment finally did show up, but a couple of the groups had left. I think it ended up being one other group and ourselves. At first, the crowd was a little rowdy but it turned out really well and they absolutely loved us! We just played three sets instead of one! After the show, we were sitting outside the place. It was snowing and we hadn't gotten paid because the agent had the money and was on his way back to Los Angeles. We got a motel room and were wiring back for money. We had to keep going downtown to the wire service because the money wasn't coming through. I don't know if it was the agent's fault, or what. Finally, Rick's dad wired him some money so we could get out of there!" (Denim Delinquent editor Jim Parrett was at the Montreal show and has kindly shared his recollections at the bottom of this article.)

The Seeds (aka the Warts) performed "Pushin' Too Hard"
on the Mothers-In-Law TV show.
The group first became aware of their chart-topping status while driving up the East Coast during the tour.

"I think we were somewhere in Massachusetts," says Hooper, "listening to the radio and all of a sudden we hear 'Pushin' Too Hard' and the DJ says, 'Here's the #15 record this week!' When we got back to Los Angeles, we had a hit record on our hands!"

(Although the song was a regional #1 in different areas of the country, including LA, it only reached #36 nationally.)

With a hit single, Hudson was able to book the Seeds on national television talk and music programs, such as The Joey Bishop Show and American Bandstand. They became regulars on the LA variety show Groovy. And one episode of the wacky Eve Arden and Kaye Ballard TV sitcom The Mothers-In-Law completely revolved around the group, who performed their hit under the suitably silly TV-band name of the Warts.

Future era promo card for the Seeds - the originators of the Flower Generation
GNP/Crescendo responded to the group's newfound popularity by quickly putting them out on larger tours featuring the Beach Boys, Sonny & Cher, and the Doors (Hooper emphasizes that the Seeds headlined over Morrison & Co).

Inevitably, the guys were plastered all over the teen 'zines of the day, pontificating about their fave colors and what they looked for in a girl. "Are they still asking the same stupid questions?" wonders Hooper. How could I resist?

Meet the Seeds:
Daryl likes "most all types of girls,
but mainly girls who are honest and sincere."
He hates "phonies of all kinds!"

What's your favorite color?


What kind of girls do you like?

"Sincere girls who like to talk!"

With their second LP, the group seemed determined not to be pigeon-holed as mere teenybopper fodder and continued to relate in many ways to their original underground fans.

Released just six months after the initial album, A Web Of Sound featured a Saxon-designed cover with the band members trapped in a giant spider's web, as well as nonsensical Tybalt-authored liner notes which began: "Sticks, sticks and eight are ten..." Meanwhile, side 2 of the LP showcased fourteen minutes of crazed psychedelic fuzz and distortion called "Up in Her Room."

Hooper claims the record doesn't do justice to "Up in Her Room," saying: "Sometimes when we played live, it would last for half-an-hour and it would just be this wild frenzy by the end!"

For the most part though, A Web Of Sound contained three-minute long, slightly trippy rockers. The album's opening organ-driven track, "The Farmer" (b/w an extremely condensed version of "Up in Her Room") garnered the group another entry into the Billboard Top 100, but it stalled in the lower echelons at #86.

A Web Of Sound - the second Seeds' LP
Released October 1966
(According to Hooper, "The Farmer's" true title is "Mr. Farmer" - a slip corrected with Crescendo's CD release. He also mentions that the single was banned in the Midwest because "Mr. Farmer" was allegedly growing marijuana!)

The Seeds' next two albums were released almost simultaneously. One, A Full Spoon of Seedy Blues, released in November 1967, was a legitimate heavy-duty blues LP featuring several Saxon-penned originals as well as one written by Muddy Waters. (Apparently, Waters also contributed harmonica but couldn't be credited because of contractual obligations.)

While Crescendo seemed to like the idea of the blues record, in an effort not to confuse the group's teenybopper following, it was made to look like a side-project and was issued as the Sky Saxon Blues Band. "The name was still there," points out Hooper, "so that our real fans, if they liked blues music, they'd at least give it a listen."

As for causing confusion amongst the younger fans, not to worry, Future - the group's third album, released three months earlier - did enough of that by itself.

Four-song EP released by the French label Disques
Vogue. The A-side features "The Farmer" and
"I Tell Myself." The B-side features
"Rollin' Machine" and "Pictures and Designs."

It was the Summer of Love, and flower power had hit the Seeds over the head. Future is filled with bouncing psychedelic/pop ditties about flowers, flower ladies, and flower children.

Saxon's spoken-word intro leading into "March of the Flower Children" - the LP's signature track - positively gushes with hippie clichés: "The flower children are the garden of today/And the rain is the tears falling down from the angels above/ To let them grow in peace and love..."

Hooper states that the term "Flower Power" was actually coined by the Seeds: "Sky came up with the name Flower Music, and one of the other guys said something about Flower Power. We were referring to our following as Flower Children. It was a whole idea that we as a group came up with."

Hooper also recalls Future as being a fun album to record, and notes the influence of the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper, which had been released that May. "Although the music is nothing like that," he says, "it influenced us to bring in different instruments - a tuba, a couple of violin players, a flute, a harp... We were sort of experimenting, making spur of the moment changes. A couple of the songs were written in the studio."

A Full Spoon Of Seedy Blues is available at Thrifty!
(Image borrowed from the collection of Jeff Jarema)
And again, there were ridiculous liner notes - cryptic personality profiles of the band members written by manager Hudson - for which one apparently needed a Seeds' Decoder Ring! Hooper kindly explains that his profile revolved around a publicity scam which presented him as a reincarnation of Beethoven!

Neither A Full Spoon of Seedy Blues or Future yielded a hit single, although a 45 of "A Thousand Shadows" b/w "March of the Flower Children" managed to climb to #72 on the national charts, and a re-release of "Can't Seem to Make You Mine" from the first album b/w "I Tell Myself" from A Web Of Sound got to a respectable #41.

Future - released August 1967 
It's probably an understatement when Hooper says of Future's sales: "It didn't do as well as our other material."

As for reviews, he allows: "Most of them were really good ... until Future, which got mixed reviews. I remember reading some reviews about the blues album where people just didn't understand. 'Why is this band doing blues?' Which was a bit of a disappointment."

Ironically, although their chart action was now virtually nil, as a live band, the group was at the peak of its career!

Hooper remembers in particular one show in Hawaii, where the audience numbered 25,000 -30,000 people. "Sky was throwing flowers out to the audience and the girls were just going crazy trying to grab them! There was this one policeman on the edge of the stage... Sky threw out a lei he'd been wearing and it went over this cop's head - and all you saw was ten girls jump on him and just crush him! And that was the last we saw of him!"

In 1968, the group released Raw & Alive: The Seeds In Concert at Merlin's Music Box, which demonstrated just how powerful a live act the band was at that point (although it was supposedly recorded live in a studio with applause added later), and "Two Fingers Pointin' on You" from the Future LP was featured in the Dick Clark-produced teensploitation flick Psych-Out.

KRLA presents:
The Monster Halloween Freak-Off 
Saturday, October 29, 1966
Featuring 7 Far-Out Bands including
The Seeds, Davie Allan & the Arrows, and
The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band  
If not for two major factors - Saxon's insistence on taking an extended break and the escalation of his well-known LSD habit - the Seeds might have recovered from their slump and continued their recording career. According to Hooper, "We would've ventured back into the style of the second album." Instead, the group headed toward oblivion.

"Sky wanted to take all this time off," says Hooper, "not work for a while, just write and fool around. He was making more money than the rest of us because he was the producer and he was the writer, so he could kick back more easily than we could. We had wives by that time and some of us had families."

He adds, "But besides that, time is such an important thing in the music business. If you're not right on top of it with the next hit record, people forget about you. If there's a lull, they're on to the next group. That was part of the friction. Sky was also getting really bizarre..."

In Heart of Rock & Soul, Dave Marsh sardonically describes the singer as going "off the deep end into Tim Leary-land." However, Hooper maintains that prior to Future, Saxon was more or less clean and sober. "And he was still coming up with far-out stuff!"

Hooper also states that even when Saxon did begin "tripping" regularly, "it was never a problem, like it became with [Jim] Morrison - falling off the stage and not showing up. He kept it under control. Until later..."

Another of the three color inserts included with the Future LP   
When asked if he, Andridge and Savage were also dropping acid, Hooper emphatically states, "We weren't! We really weren't into drugs." He adds that while the group clicked musically, "as far as lifestyles, we were quite a bit different. Sky was the far-out one, the true hippie. The rest of us were down-to-earth and sort of average."

In 1968, Andridge became the first to leave. "He just wanted out of the music business," says Hooper. Today, Andridge lives half-an-hour away from Hooper and drives a truck. Andridge was replaced by 17-year-old Don Boomer and the group continued gigging ("Not big concerts," admits Hooper, "but large clubs").

"Sky was the far-out one, the true hippie.
The rest of us were down-to-earth and sort of average."
Jan Savage was the next to leave. He too was replaced, and for the first time a real bassist was added to the lineup. Although Saxon is credited with playing bass on the albums, according to Hooper, "He didn't really play except in our very early days." More often a session player was brought in for the recordings and Hooper would use a keyboard bass for live shows.

Hooper called it quits in 1970; his final show was at a small auditorium in Pasadena. "A lot of people were there," he says, "it was a good show. But I was disgusted with the whole business. There was a lot of friction with Sky and I said, 'This is it. I'm outta here!'"

Rumor has it that following the Seeds break-up, Saxon moved to Hawaii where he taught a jungle tribe to worship dogs - because dog is God spelled backwards! Is there any truth to that?

"I've heard him say that kind of thing," laughs Hooper, "and you're going, 'What!?' I know for a fact that he did live in Hawaii, but what actually occurred there has always been a little sketchy."

* * * * *

Promotion for the GNP/Crescendo documentary
The Seeds: Pushin' Too Hard
Update 1: In 2014, GNP/Crescendo released a documentary charting the rise and fall of the Seeds. Directed by Neil Norman (son of label founder Gene Norman) and produced by Alec Palao, The Seeds: Pushin' Too Hard nicely showcases both the group's history and its lasting legacy.

Sadly, Saxon passed away in 2009 followed by Rick Andridge in 2011. However, a reunited version of the group - which includes Daryl Hooper and drummer Don Boomer, along with Alec Palao on bass, the fabulous Paul Kopf on vocals, and occasionally Jan Savage on guitar (as his health allows, from what I understand) - is currently on tour.

Update 2: Denim Delinquent editor Jim Parrett was at the Seeds '66 show in Montreal, and has very kindly shared his recollections of the gig and the following days:
"The Seeds' equipment didn't arrive in time so instead of opening as they were supposed to, they closed the show. The local teen rag wrote, 'Half the audience loved them, the other half didn't know what to make of them.' A few days later the band was interviewed on TV when they played in Ottawa. During their stay in Montreal, Sky hung with the Haunted who were put off by his arrogant nature. 'Pushin' too Hard' was still hot in the charts and the first album had just been released. I was already hooked but the music was still too new. Already the band had changed to a more psychedelic sound. I was a little surprized by how trippy the keyboards sounded, dominating the overall vibe. The band wore the outfits shown on Full Spoon. Every song finished with a complete massive build up to orgasmic frenzy. It drove the crowd wild. The local rag Frag! covered the show with photos, but that mag has disappeared, and no one seems to remember it but me. Pity."