Monday, March 24, 2008
Hailing from York, England, the Smoke formed from members of Tony Adams & the Viceroys and the Moonshots. After shortening the name to the Shots, they began to pursue a different sound from their R&B roots, which lead to their rhythm guitarist leaving and their financing being cut. In a tight spot, they hooked up with twin brother entrepreneurs, Ron and Reg Kray. The Kray brothers turned out to actually be gangsters that have since become famous in England. There's even a movie about them called The Krays. The Shots abandoned their deal with the Krays, which led to an injunction that withheld them from performing. Luckily they still had a publishing and recording contract with EMI, so they focused on recording. During this time, they changed their name to the Smoke and recorded their most famous single, "My Friend Jack." Unfortunately, the drug references were so blatant that EMI made them rewrite the song. The lyrics changed from, "My friend Jack eats sugar lumps / Oh what beautiful things he sees!" to "My friend Jack eats sugar lumps / Sugar man hasn't got a clue." Pretty fucking lame. It made it to number 45 on the UK charts but was banned by the BBC after three weeks. It became a big hit in Germany and elsewhere in Europe, which led to their relocation to Germany and the release of their album, It's Smoke Time. After they refused to return to England to record, the band parted ways. In the 70s, bassist Zeke Lund created a new version of the Smoke that's sound was much different than the mod-psychedelic pop of the original Smoke. Disc 1 of High In A Room is the work of the original Smoke, while Disc 2 collects the works of the second version. Disc 2 has some pretty strange shit, particularly "Sweet Wilfred-A Rodent of Note" which is about a homosexual rat...seriously. The songs are all pretty different, though many are attempts at glam rock. Last off, I must say that the cover of this anthology is amazing.
By the way, this post marks the Always Blue Society's first birthday.
Download High In A Room
Sunday, March 23, 2008
Check out this animated music video by my brother Mike L. Mayfield (as referenced in my previous post) of the Citizens Against Safety Goggles created for WHY? of Anticon Records. The song is called "Song Of The Sad Assassin" from the new WHY? album, Alopecia. The video is an exciting first-person, underwater adventure with frequent materializations of an animated Yoni Wolf of WHY? It's currently featured on Pitchfork's front page under the "Forkcast" section.
Watch the video on Pitchfork
Visit Mike L. Mayfield's youtube channel
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Not to be confused with the British psychedelic band of the same name, the Smoke was a one-off studio group headed by producer/musician Michael Lloyd (weird, that's my brother's first and middle name!). Lloyd's vast exposure to the LA music industry was at an early age, signing a publishing deal at only 13 after meeting producer Kim Fowley. He was in an early version of the West Coast Art Experimental Band and wrote and produced for the LA pop group October Country. The name October Country was actually derived from a song penned by Lloyd that appears on The Smoke. Fowley introduced Lloyd to enterntainment mogul Mike Curb who gave him many production jobs. Curb was so impressed by Lloyd that he let him freely use his Hollywood Boulevard Studios for six months. It was during this time that Lloyd recorded The Smoke's sole album. It was completed with Stan Ayeroff (a founding member of Oingo Boingo) on guitar and Steve Baim on drums. This same lineup had previously been a band called the Laughing Wind. Clocking in under 30 minutes, the album is highly concentrated American psych-pop at it's best. The instumentation is dense and the songwriting and arrangements are also impressive. Although very original, Brian Wilson's influence can be heard in "Self-Analysis" and several moments on the album strike me as very Zombies-esque.
Download The Smoke
Sunday, March 2, 2008
From what I've heard of the sunshine pop of the 60s, the Millennium's Begin could very well be the pinnacle of the genre. The Millennium was a studio supergroup headed by producer Curt Boettcher, who was known for his work with the Association. He formed the group while recording Present Tense, an album by producer Gary Usher's very similar studio pop supergroup, Sagittarius. This would be the Millennium's sole album, as it proved to be too strange for pop radio, yet too pop for underground radio. Begin is song after song of carefully crafted pop with dense instrumentation and ridiculously good melodies and harmonies. This shit will be stuck in your head for weeks, but in a good way. The production is extremely impressive, sounding polished but not overwhelmingly so. There are many psychedelic moments in the album, but it is definitely a pop record first and foremost. "Karmic Dream Sequence #1" is probably the most far out song on the record and it is pulled off well, sounding like a milder version of S.F. Sorrow-era Pretty Things. One of the best moments of the album comes right at the start with "Prelude." Innocent harpsichord chimes away and is suddenly interrupted by a nasty drum beat that sounds like a sampled jazz breakbeat from some 90s hip hop. It's definitely an unexpected way to start the record.