ZigZag’s 1974 Curt Boettcher Interview, Part One
by Ray McCarthy, from ZigZag Magazine 48, December 1974
Before we begin the talk of sorting through the illustrious career of Curt Boettcher, it should be stated right now that for the main part his music has always been strongly vocally orientated, with musical instruments playing a secondary but nevertheless important role.
This style of music, which covers people like The Ink Spots, The Limelighters, Four Freshmen, Hi-Los, Lettermen, and getting closer to home—The Cascades and The Beach Boys, has either been consistently ignored, or even worse, classed in the same category as some of the more mindless bubblegum rock. For example, a record like “Windy” by The Association may be very catchy and commercial, but it has resounding subtleties that really aren’t appreciated, and the same goes for countless other records too numerous to mention.
A pretty unanimous choice in the vocal field as far as songs go has got to be “God Only Knows” by The Beach Boys, and further investigation would re-direct the emphasis, in particular to the things that Curt has put his hands to. And this extends to others long gone such as Harper’s Bizarre, Parade, Spanky and Our Gang, Cross Country, and American Spring, the last two still tottering on, and in need of support.
But it is Curt Boettcher we are investigating and not the whole enchilada. But as you shall discover it is Curt Boettcher’s enchilada. Curt explains his early musical life: “Let’s see—how did I get into music, whoo! Ah, I was going to the University of Minnesota, and I was studying languages, and kind of goofing around with music. And I decided I wanted go get into it.”
“I had a group together called The GoldeBriars, and we used to play church socials in and around the town of Minneapolis. One night this guy named John Haney ran into us at a coffee house and asked us if we’d like to make records. Since then, as you may already know, John has become an engineer of high repute. I think he’s one of the best engineers in the business. John got us our first contract, which was with Epic, through a producer named Bob Morgan. Our record was released the same week as the Beatles, so you can guess the rest from there. I think we were the first folk-rock group, and we had a Mamas and Papas-type harmony. A friend of mine, who has just come over from New York, has the last session I ever conducted for the group, other than playing. I was about eighteen then.”
The GoldeBriars recorded two albums, The GoldeBriars (Epic BN 26087) and Straight Ahead (Epic BN 26114) which were mostly folk things. A large share of the writing was handled by the two girl singers in the group. Curt takes some solos on the albums and he is credited with a couple of songs. “Haiku,” a song on the second album features him entirely, but, as I said, the girls handle most of the work.
After this group folded Curt got together with a girlfriend of his and they formed a duo, Summer’s Children. Their very first recording by the duo was on ABC-Paramount’s APT label—a very brief arrangement. Their next release was on Date records, a single called “Milk And Honey” (Date 1508). Curt also recorded a single, which he produced, for the trio consisting of Cass Elliot, Jim Hendricks and Tim Rose. The songs were Cass’ “Everybody’s Been Talking” and a Curt/Ron McKuen number “Summer’s Long.” Consequently, nothing too strong happened with the record, but Phil Spector heard it and recognized Curt’s potential as a producer.
Curt again: “I come out here gigging, and I played the Pasadena Ice House and a place down in Luna Park called The Mecca. And The Associations’ path crossed with mine. At the time they were putting the group together and they asked me if I’d like to be in it. I declined since my group hadn’t broken up yet, but we stayed friends. During this time I was getting my shit together as a producer. I ran into Phil Spector again and did some ‘handclaps’ for him. Then I did a tape with the last money I had, about $85, of some crazy songs like “Meet Me at the Hotdog Stand”—things like that, I took it to a guy called Steve Clark, his claim to fame being that he was involved with Bill Lowery and Jay Lasker. They had been at Vee-Jay Records and had all the Beatles masters that they hadn’t been able to sell, prior to the Capitol thing. When I took Steve my tape he discovered that I had production talent—he happened to be working with Tommy Roe at the time.”
So Steve and Curt formed a production company with a friendly name—Our Productions. Our Productions became involved in Tommy Roe’s career, which was on the verge of tottering at the time. However, they worked on two big hits for him, “Sweet Pea,” and its follow-up, “Hooray For Hazel,” and its subsequent album which took its title from those songs. His next album, It’s Now Winter’s Day (ABCS 594) was of particular interest. It was a collection of songs Tommy had been working on through the years that were more serious than his usual commercial fare. And they were certainly worth of the effort, especially the title track.
The album, according to the sleeve notes, was produced by Steve Clark, but familiarity with Curt’s work, and his subsequent statement, proves otherwise. The vocal arrangements, by Curt, are for me the highlight of the album. And the songs are strong enough to support the credits. Most noteworthy is “Sweet Sounds”—one of those perfect tracks, and any deviation from the arrangement would only mar its perfection. There was such a variety of songs on the album, from blue-eyed soul with “Have Pity On Me,” a little freaky track, “Moontalk” with its sound effects, to the Bo Diddley styled “Misty Eyes.” Whatever the track, however, a very effective vocal arrangement is there in support. Of course, it turned out that the album became more of a vocal group album than a Tommy Roe set—his voice is not drowned out by what’s going on in the background, but supported. Whereas instruments, in a more normal sense, would do all the support here, it really is the voices. The album was nowhere near as successful as the “Sweet Pea”/“Hooray For Hazel” set, but a couple of hits resulted, namely, “Sing Along With Me,” and “It’s Now Winter’s Day.” The line-up was one that found themselves an many other productions for Our Productions, namely, Mike Deasy, Tommy Roe, Ben Benay (still working with ABC a lot, and lately with Cashman and West—but check your L.A. albums, you are sure to find him on one or two) on guitars; Butch Parker, piano; Jim Bell, oboe; Jerry Scheff, bass: Jim Troxell, drums; Curt Boettcher, percussion; Toxie French, vibes; Mike Henderson, organ; Sandy Salisbury, Jim Bell, Michele O’Malley, Dottie Holmberg, Sharon Olson and Lee Mallory on vocals: and, of course, vocal arrangements by Curt.
The next album from Tommy Roe contained virtually the same musicians but minus Curt vocally and adding T. Jacobson, M. Clingen and P. Clingen (whoever they might be) on vocals. The album, Phantasy (ABC 610) suffered in this respect, being rather thin vocally despite the additions. And, coincidentally, the songs were not as strong. Vocal arrangement on this album, as on the previous, It’s Now Winter’s Day, were handled by Jim Bell and it was produced by Steve Clark for Our Productions. Only one single, “Little Miss Sunshine” created a stir, albeit a small one from this album. Sandy Salisbury from Our Productions’ publishing company, Since, wrote a couple of the tracks, namely, “These are the Children” and “Goodbye Yesterday,” the remainder being Tommy Roe compositions. Sandy figures in the story later, so take note of this early contribution which was towards the end of ‘66.
All was not perfect harmony in Our Productions however. Curt’s contribution to these albums was more than the sleeves mentioned, and they were pretty thorough for those days. But we’ll stick to the tale in hand. And so to Tommy Roe’s brush with harmony. Although it pleased him artistically, sales-wise it was a write-off. From here on Tommy was produced by Steve Barri, a combination which gave us “Dizzy,” “Jam Up Jelly Tight,” and others, in a row of hits.
This was a busy time for Curt, the most productive, but only in terms of quantity net quality. However, his work with The Association was surely outstanding. Curt had not joined the group, but they had come together and initially recorded for Jubilee, but to no avail. The Association comprised Gary Alexander on lead guitar; Run Giguere on guitar; Brian Cole on bass guitar; Jim Yester on guitar, piano; Terry Kirkman on recorder, flugel horn, piano, percussion; and Ted Bluechel Jr. on drums; and they were next contracted to Four Star Television’s label—Valiant. The Valiant label itself had been around for a law years. Remember The Cascades and “Rhythm of the Rain,” or Barry & The Tamberlanes, “I Wonder What She’s Doing Tonight?” The label was distributed by Warner Bros., at the time and eventually sold with the artists’ contracts in 1967.
The Association’s first single on the label was “One Too Many Mornings” a well-known Dylan tune. The initial single failed to do anything, but the second, written by Curt and Tandyn Almer, “Along Comes Mary,” and in fact produced by Curt, fared somewhat better, reaching the U.S. Top Ten. The album that followed, And Then Along Comes... The Association (Valiant VLS 25002/Warner Bros. WS 17O2/London HAT 8305), was also produced for Our Productions, this time by Curt.
Curt: “I said, hey guys, I think I can cut it as a producer. I saw the show a million times and knew them inside out. So we went into the studio together with the troops, Ben Benay and all those guys, and that’s how it came to pass, with Gary Paxton.”
Gary Paxton, from Skip And Flip to being engineer on this record.
Curt: “Some of the songs were recorded in Gary Paxton’s living room. I remember it was a really hot day, and his wife had left a bucket of dirty diapers in the corner so I was in a hurry to finish up the tracks! The rest of them were recorded in a garage, with the recording equipment in a bus in the driveway—really funky!”
So, with the success of “Mary” the group became regulars in concerts and the syndicated television shows, Andy Williams Show, and all that sort of thing. And in support of this initial success they followed it up with a Terry Kirkman song, “Cherish.”
“Cherish” became gold in about three weeks, and provided Our Productions with its biggest success and, of course, allowed the group to ride along for some time an the impact of those two songs.
Curt and Tandyn wrote another song for the album that is a true beauty. A soothing ballad with clever vocal interplay on the title, “Message Of Our Love,” via the lyrics, with some electric effects added for interest. The majority of the rest of the tracks on the album were written by members of the group, be most interesting being provided by Gary Alexander. A definite jazz feel there, and considering the majority of debut albums around at this time it was truly an amazing release, well worth searching out. For their next album Renaissance Jerry Yester—a Lovin’ Spoonful in a year’s time, and brother of Associate Jim Yester—was brought in for the production work. It contains even more Gary Alexander songs, and if you follow the group, it is an essential item. But this is where the connection with The Association comes to an end, although in a few more years their paths cross again.
The Association, as I said, are an essential part of the vocal group puzzle, but they always left me feeling deprived. Deprived because they never really topped the promise of the first album, never made a “classic” album—apart from the debut—although their 1800 album came pretty close, especially with the complex “Under Branches.” Amazing lyrically, as it is musically, if you can imagine a “Heroes and Villains” ballad. Think about it!
Single-wise Renaissance did not provide the group with a Top Twenty hit, but the weird “Pandora’s Golden Heebie Jeebies” reached the lower 40. Certainly too weird for the audience that swooned to “Cherish” on The Andy Williams Show. The next ballad, “No Fair At All,” fared even worse for the group. Part of the reason was that on this single there was a split sale with the B-side, “Looking Glass.” I must say that I prefer the B-side.
The further adventures of The Association are really worthy of another article, but trailing off, they of course met up with Bones Howe, an ex-jazz producer who had, in his past, been the engineer for most of the Jan & Dean hits. But with The Association he turned their career on the up with “Windy,” “Never My Love” and further episodes.
Lee Mallory was also one of the artists on Valiant, and Curt has a story to tell of that association (ugh!).
Curt: “That’s The Way It’s Gonna Be (Valiant 751) was written by Bob Gibson and Hamilton Camp. It was produced right after I produced The Association’s first album. A lot of people thought that Lee was Russ Giguere from The Association because they sounded alike, and the label didn’t want to have conflicting records out on The Association (???). I think that The Association were partially responsible for having the record squelched. It was starting to climb up the charts, and was really being well received, and in my estimation, even at this point, it was a good record. But it got sat on and nothing ever happened with it, except that a few people like Brian Wilson and Gary Usher, who heard it, got hold of me as a result.”
After this Curt was involved with some strange projects with Our Productions. Not ones that he had particularly wished to do, and not the sort of things that one could cherish, but worthy curios. There was one by a group called Your Gang... an instrumental album, not at a Ventures’ type of thing, more of a jug-band without kazoos. It contained all the guys you must be familiar with by now. Mike Deasy, Ben Benay, Jerry Scheff etc. It covered a strange selection of material, from Bob Dylan’s “Rainy Day Woman 12 and 35” to “Leaning on the Lamp Post,” from the Beatles, “I Call Your Name” to Tony Hatch’s “A Sign of the Times.” Actually, that last title is probably a clue to the whole affair. According to the sleeve, the record was produced for My Productions, which, in fact meant Steve Clark.
Curt: “Steve was the crazy general, leader of the whole mess. He was talking everybody into doing these crazy projects. Everybody just got kind of drunk and put together this instrumental album. Studio album, studio musicians and somehow it was peddled to Mercury.”
The cover is like a newspaper at the top, but someone may have got tired of the idea after a while. Anyway under the newspaper heading “The Daily Trip,” are seven guys in the strangest guise they could manage in time for the printing. One of them I am sure is Curt, with the fur hat loping across his right ear. Curt had a track on the album called “Tomorrow’s Dreams,” which is the sort of thing you get across the credits of a film, a comedy in this case. The record number, if you’re keeping score, was Mercury SR 61094. Actually, the whole thing sounds pretty sober to me.
Later there was Friar Tuck And His Psychedelic Guitar (Mercury SA 61111) which was again produced for My Productions, only this time by Mike Deasy—who I suspect is Friar Tuck. The idea behind the album is pretty well explained by its title, a cash-in on the growing psychedelic age. The top side of the album is devoted to extended versions of well known songs, including a reworking of “Sweet Pea.” One might imagine, without surprise really, that there would be some guitar work worthy of note. However, the songs are embroidered with plenty of slurring guitar, more limited than the title of the album implies. The vocals are really the thing or interest, arranged by Curt, par natural. Plenty of weaving goes on with the voices to add a spark of interest to my dulled mind, and some obligatory sound effects provide added interest. Again, as with the Your Gang album, it seemed amazing that a company would pick these up. Suffer little angels.
Some pertinent reasons for these albums appearing are given by Curt.
Curt: “Steve had all these drinking buddies and race track buddies, and all that, and he used to get us involved in the weirdest projects. As I was kind of half demented myself I usually didn’t care what I was doing, as long as I was working and getting session money. I was always so stoned everything was beautiful and love as far as I was concerned, so Steve took great advantage of it. He was actually drinking up my money, and balling it up at the racetrack, and through this cute corporate legal bullshit, screwed me out of all my money. I had no legal recourse, and the corporation owned my contracts which I had to bargain my way out of. Steve was threatening all kinds of people, making it seem as if I was all wrong and he was the one that was right. It split my whole little group right down the middle.”
Not too happy a scene as you can imagine, but there were a couple of other things via the Our/My Productions heading.
Curt: “We also did another crazy song at the time, I think it was on Mercury too, with this crazy dude that came from South Africa. Oh whoo! He had a dance called ‘Kwella.’ He sold the name to Tom McCann who made kwella boots—it was insane.
Bobby Jameson?... I just lent myself here and there. The mix I thought was atrocious, it never really did come together. I had already left by then, I had boycotted Our Productions.”
I don’t have the kwella boots thing, but I can cast comment on the Bobby Jameson album, Color Him In (Verve 65015). Mr. Jameson’s only real claim to fame, musically, that is (he was involved in some weird scenes too involved, nay forgotten, to mention), was for writing “Would You Like to Go,” which appears later on in the story, but not on his album, The album appeared in July ‘67 and one can be sure that the usual band of musicians were involved. I can see what Curt means about the mix, that is if we are talking about the same thing. The backing is mixed far too low, certainly the vocals are, which seems a waste as there are some interesting songs there. It could have come close to the Tommy Roe Winter’s Day album, and certainly it tries despite the fact that Bobby Jameson’s voice is hardly an attraction. I can claim, however, to like “See Dawn” and his version of “Know Yourself,” which is due for re-cycling in a further album. The background vocals are not as imaginative as on some of the past albums discussed. Finally, the credits read. “Produced by Curt Boettcher, Jim Bell and Steve Clark for Our Productions” with all songs written by Jameson. It that seems fairly obscure to you then cast an eye over these.
A Ray Whitley song on Columbia 43980 came out around this time. Ray had co-written a couple of the tracks on the Tommy Roe Winter’s Day album. A Jacobson/Tansley single out in ‘67 called “Dream With Me,” an excellent single with nice harmonies. Then there was his involvement with the Sunshine Company. He wrote “If You Only Knew” on the Sunshine Company album (Imperial 12368) and “I Just Want to Be Your Friend” appears on the Happy Is album (Imperial 12359).
Ballroom was a group that Curt got together and cut the only money that he had been able to get back from Steve Clark. They were under contract to Warner Bros. but only one single, “Spinning, Spinning, Spinning” was ever released. And here is where we should mention him meeting the legendary figure of Gary Usher.
Curt: “Gary and I met at a ‘love-in’, and the first thing he asked was if we could take acid together. So he came over to the house and we dropped acid together. I put the Ballroom tapes on, which he had never heard before, and he just freaked out.”
Gary and Curt then got together to produce two albums they are most famous for. Firstly, Present Tense by Sagittarius (Columbia CS 9644).
Curt: “In the meantime Gary was doing his own little pet projects while we were around so he utilised our talents for sessions which kept us alive while we were waiting for Columbia to got their contract shit together, which took ages.”
So you get I the picture? It was really Gary Usher’s album but he utilised Curt’s abilities as singer, writer, arranger, and producer. Other people on the album included Lee Mallory, Doug Rhodes, Mike Fennelly, Sandy Salisbury, Joey Stec, Ron Edgar (with Curt—The Millennium). Others adding their touches to the album included Bruce Johnston (also a Beach Boy), Steve Clark (?), Glen Campbell and an old college friend, Fred Olson. The album yielded a hit too, namely “My World Fell Down,” a song written by Geoff Stevens and John Carter, new the pillars of First Class. The single was longer than the album version with a gorgeous a cappella middle, with sound effects, and more relevant than the way it was used as a soundtrack in “Poor Cow.” The chorus is particularly impressive, with Bruce Johnston taking the title in a similar way, to “God Only Knows.”
To call the songs ballads would give you an incomplete impression, likewise if you called them rockers. Billboard used to coin it well in their reviews, “Easy beat rocker has the potential to go all the way!” But that would be too simple to say really. Just believe me when I say that they are a vocal group freaks’ delight. With little break between each track the record flows in rare perfection with “Another Time” (Curt’s song) “Song to the Magic Frog” (Curt and Michele O’Malley), “Would You Like to Go” (Curt and Associate Gary Alexander—although this particular song has also been credited to Bobby Jameson) and “The Keeper of the Games” (Curt). The vocal arrangements on the tracks, which are by Curt, are, of course, the highlight worth pointing out, apart from “My World Fall Down” which is arranged by Gary Usher. Roy Halee engineered the album—famed producer later on the Simon & Garfunkel efforts, both solo and together. Also on the album was “Hotel Indiscreet,” which has a great vocal arrangement by Gary and Curt, and is quite a neat little song too, written by James Griffin long before Bread and M.Z. Gordon.
Gary has an amazing history as well, with both production and writing credits. Writing with L.A.’s Roger Christian from radio KFWB such surfin’ and hot rod songs as “Black Denim,” “Hot Rod High,” “You’re Gonna Ride With Me,” in fact, most of the Hondells things on Mercury, which were produced by Mike Curb, with Gary on arrangements. The best of the Hondells were also recorded by The Surfaris, and produced by Gary. About this time he was also involved in writing with Brian Wilson, and amongst the things they wrote together were “In My Room” for the Beach Boys, “My Buddy Seat” recorded by both The Hondells and The Surfaris, and another Beach Boys track “Pom Pom Play Girl” from Shut Down Vol. 2. His production credits number many through the years. The most noteworthy around the Sagittarius time was Of Cabbages and Kings (Columbia CS 9471) and later The Ark (Columbia CS 9699) both by Chad Stewart and Jeremy Clyde. Curt was also involved on these two. Finally, there was The Byrds with whom Gary produced both Sweetheart of the Rodeo and The Notorious Byrd Brothers, plus other less famous artists.
One of the last things he did was The Ship for Elektra.
When issuing a single Gary always placed instrumentals on the B-sides giving them zodiac sign titles. This was a continuation of the Sagittarius theme. “Another Time,” a single which gained some recognition, had “Virgo” on the B-side. “My World Fell Down” was coupled with “Libra”, both titles having eastern feels. “Hotel Indiscreet” was also put out as a single although it differed tremendously from the original. It was basically the same track but It was interspersed with some silly ramblings, going from a wadding at the ‘hotel’ to Some Hitler-type shouting, marring what was a good track.
Curt: “‘Hotel Indiscreet’ was Gary’s idea. He thought it was a big laugh, and we all had a good time making it. On the album ‘Sagittarius’, ‘Another Time’, ‘Song to the Magic Frog’, ‘Would You Like to Go’ and ‘The Keeper of the Games’, were all written by me and done with the regular troops—Mike Deasy, Butch Parker, and all those people. They were, however, originally done by The Ballroom specifically for The Ballroom. “5 AM’, ‘The Know It All’, ‘Karmic Dream Sequence No. 1’ and ‘I Just Want to Be Your Friend’ were not The Millennium, they were The Ballroom. The other cuts were, ‘Spinning, Spinning, Spinning’ and ‘Musty Dusty.’ One third of the titles were released by Millennium, the other third by Sagittarius and the less remained unreleased.”
The final single from the Sagittarius album was “The Keeper of the Games” coupled with “I’m Not Living Here;” no embellishments, just a straight single.
A month later, September ‘68, saw the event of the Curt Boettcher calendar, it was even more spectacular than the Sagittarius album with its marvelous use of vocals. It was the formation of The Millennium. Its members, mentioned previously, were Curt, Mike Fennelly, Lee Mallory, Sandy Salisbury, Joe Stec, and three members from the band The Music Machine, Doug Rhodes, Ron Edgar and Keith Olsen. The Music Machine had a hit with “Talk Talk” in early ‘67. and upon the split re-emerged as Bonniwell Music Machine for just one album, namely Bonniwell Music Machine Turn You On, fronted again by their leader Sean Bonniwell. The album as released on Warner Bros.
“‘Talk Talk’ featured Keith Olson on bass; Doug Rhodes, bass; Ron Edgar, drums; Michael Landen, guitar; and the very egotistical Sean Bonniwell on lead. I think this was a lesser known milestone of rock music in the ‘60’s, but it was certainly a unique song. Ron’s drumming is super cherry, super cherry drums.” But back to the Millennium, did I ever leave them...?
The album Begin (Columbia CS 9653) features songs from all the members, but in the main Curt and Michael Fennelly. By this time Curt had formed another production company, Mee Moo, and he and Keith produced the set. I should add here that Keith was not actually a group member, but co-producer, while Gary’s role was classed as executive coordination. The sound created on the album is even richer than with Sagittarius, more heavily produced and with intricate harmonies throughout.
The first track is “Prelude.” A rather short instrumental reminiscent of a carousel, leading into Michael Fennelly’s “To Claudia on Thursday” which has weird percussion effects. “The Island,” in particular, is great. A fine visual sound is created via the effects and the tubas. The vocal on “I Just Want to Be Your Friend” a beauty. A gentle beat exists throughout the main portion of the song and the heavenly feeling created is ended by the lyrical message of reality. It’s strange how half of the tracks have a sort of Latin feel with just enough rock to put a border an things. The Lee Mallory track “Sing to Me” has almost an Association feel. If you are familiar with the band you will notice how they always seem to include a track of this type. Try “You Hear Me Call Your Name,” “Yes I Will,” “Kicking the Gong Around.” No criticism, just a sundry comment. “I’m With You” is probably a better example of what Lee can do.
Sandy Salisbury’s “5 AM” was issued as single. It missed out on any chart action, but in the Philippines it reached number one!! It was the most straightforward of all the tracks and minus any effects which exist throughout the rest of the album. The heaviest track was Curt’s “The Know It All” which had ample drumming effects, flashes of lightning, guitar work and distant mex trumpeting. In fact, everything. The last track on the album is “There Is Nothing More to Say,” which is really a song about Millennium. Here is a snatch of the lyrics:
Oh it you will listen you will see what I mean,
As You watch other ways of the world that you’re in
And If your listen when you know what you’ve seen
You will watch and be ready when it’s time to begin.
Another single taken from the album was Michael Fennelly’s “It’s You,” which was perhaps his finest on the album. But again, no recognition was given. Other musicians on the album were, Doug Dillard, Red Rhodes, Pat Shanahan, and Jim Ryan III (ex-Critters and now in Carly Simon’s bond). Plus, of course, some of the older associates, such as Toxie French, Jim Bell, Ban Benay, Jerry Scheff and Steve Clark (?).
The album, one of the first 16-track recordings, was duly honored by those in the know and was amongst Jac Holzman’s three ‘desert island’ discs. However, only a small number of people managed to add the album to their collection, mainly because it was released first and not as a follow-up to one of the singles taken from it. It probably seemed too heavy in ideas, but I found it the more rewarding for the very same reason. There was so much more to listen to than the listed 14 track recordings. That however, was my reaction to the album and here now is Curt’s tale and his explanation as to why Millennium did not keep its word ‘to be continued.’
Curt: “After the first album we recorded the second amongst a hail of bad shit from Columbia. They really came down on us. They thought that we were some kind of cosmic hoax. Nobody was approving of the music, everyone was attacking us so vehemently that I couldn’t believe it. That’s the reason the group broke up, we were attacked to death.
“We had no direction, no management, nobody cared about us. Everyone thought we were a clump of shit. And so me. being daddy cool, head of the pack and all that, everyone said—it’s your fault! And then all of a sudden everyone was jumping on everyone, the group kind at ate itself up. The reason the group broke up... we had recorded two songs, one called ‘Just About the Same,’ which I thought was cherry. It actually has parts of ‘It’s You’ where it goes—aah aah aah aah la la la la—that’s from ‘It’s You’—it’s you whoo whoo whoo whoo. If you take that and play it backwards you’ll get what I just sang. So, as a little pun, we called it ‘Just About the Same’ because it was written by playing the tape back of ‘It’s You.’ Then we wrote one about our plight as a group, how we couldn’t get anything going, how everybody was down on us.
“We were thinking of dressing up in white pants, white Indian shirts, flimsy little shirts, and wearing sandals, Indian sandals. We were really getting spaced. I hate to admit it but it was my idea. Of course I think it’s atrocious now. We sang about L.A. falling into the ocean, we were down, it was a down song. But it had 1930s scat singing—and Michael and I did two part scat singing, which I thought was really a gas. And Jack Gold heard the two new things, which were really an added dimension of music for The Millennium, we were ripening into a beautiful group. And he said, ‘that’s a piece of shit,’ and that’s all it took, we just disintegrated.”
So to end this stage of affairs a couple of comments from Curt concerning, the recordings.
Curt: “I’m Not Living Here’, ‘The Keeper of the Games’ and ‘The Island’ were all done in Queretaro, Mexico. ‘The Know It All,’ that was one of Herbie Alpert’s trumpet players, and that was real wind blowing at the end of ‘Karmic Dream.’”
With another of Curt’s projects destroyed by the business route, he was again doing some one-off things to keep the money flowing, such as Eternity’s Children and “Mrs. Bluebird.” A track that was produced by Curt and Keith Olsen, which garnered some chart action the same time that everybody was buying “Hey Jude” and “Those Were The Days” as a matter of course. The record was released on Tower in the States, part of the Mike Curb thing, and released in England on Capitol. Again it was a vocal group thing with a lady singer amongst them. It was a jolly record, real fine, in a Spanky & Our Gang mould, but this type of record was finding less favour, so hindering any further impression it might have had. An album followed too. “Eternity’s Children did pay the rent. We got a telephone call from down South, and they flow us down to Dallas, Texas. We went into the studio and cut for a solid week. ‘Bluebird’ was one of them—they ware talented.”
Next month: Together Records and related subjects.
© Ray McCarthy and used with permission.
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