Thursday, February 11, 2010

le prugne elettriche #0532

Reprise 0532.

Mere mention of the legendary 1972 compilation, "Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era" - a double LP featuring the Barbarians' "Moulty", among a plethora of assorted lysergic and garage distillations - is sufficient to prompt the reversed guitar intro to this Annette Tucker and Nancie Mantz penned 45 to begin percolating in my brain.

Compiled by Elektra impressario Jack Holzman and Lenny Kaye, it is almost impossible to overrate the spell this release wielded over a generation of apprentice troglodytes desperate to escape the indulged mainstream of the early to mid seventies. This was especially true in the UK where merely a documented association with the US underground merited appreciation.

While The Clash famously dug deep in Jamaican dub to chanel an untapped resource, it was always first and foremost the frenetic angst of the Stooges and the MC5 to the remote junkie glamour of The Velvet Underground which fueled the devolution from studio excess to the rudimentary copycat two chord thrash of punk. Rock n' Roll. A straight line back through Lenny Kaye himself, as an integral part of the Patti Smith Group, to Fred "Sonic" Smith and the anarchy of 1960's Detroit.

And for all that The Damned's guitarist Brian James wallowed in the delinquency of the Stooges' first two Elektra releases, Captain Sensible remained unrepentantly vocal in his allegiance to Syd Barrett's Pink Floyd and all things Psychedelic; if not phsychotropically deranged.

The Electric Prunes were cultivated and seasoned in the urban heat of the San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles, grown from the seeds of a group originally known as The Sanctions. Through their association with sound engineer, David Hassinger of RCA, the Prunes were introduced to Leon Russell who operated his own home-based Sky Hill Studios and encouraged to cut a demo. Their first single "Ain't It Hard b/w Little Olive" flopped abysmally. Their second, a composition by the established songwriting partnership of Tucker and Mantz - this time around cherrypicked by Hassinger - peaked at number 11 in the Billboard Charts. It barely scraped the Top 50 in the UK, but that alone was sufficient for it gain cult notoriety, championed as it was first by DJ John Peel and later, Annie Nightingale on BBC Radio 1.

The looping reversed guitar which opens the 45 was allegedly recorded in Russell's home studio on a 1958 Les Paul with a Bigsby Vibrato Unit.

Lead guitarist, Ken Williams observed: 

"We were recording on a four-track, and just flipping the tape over and re-recording when we got to the end. Dave cued up a tape and didn't hit 'record,' and the playback in the studio was way up: ear-shattering vibrating jet guitar... Forward it was cool. Backward it was amazing. I ran into the control room and said, 'What was that?' " 

The rest, as "Nuggets" attests, is punk rock history. Less kaftan and beads than homicide tainted insomnia and a trolley ride on a psychiatric wing. Quaaludes.

James Lowe: vocals; 
Ken Williams: lead guitar; 
James "Weasel" Spagnola: rhthym guitar;
Mark Tulin: bass;
Preston Ritter: drums.
Recorded at American Recording Company, Power House, Hollywood, CA.
Produced by David Hassinger.

THE ELECTRIC PRUNES: I HAD TOO MUCH TO DREAM (LAST NIGHT) from "I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night) b/w Luvin'" 45 (Reprise) 1966 (US)


Mr. Beer N. Hockey said...

In the same electronics repair shop, which also sold a few used records, where I bought Metal Machine Music, Free's Heartbreaker and Status Quo's Piledriver, I also did buy a cassette release of the Electric Prune's Kol Nidre. That was the kind of trippy shit I listened to before dope found me. I kind of forgot about the Prunes when I bumped into Lemmy and Hawkwind shortly thereafter.

Your driver said...

Now you're talkin.

ib said...

One of my uncles used to take me on trips to all manner of electrical repair shops in the early 70s. He lived alone in my grandmother's house after she succumbed to cancer. Every room was stuffed with cardboard boxes and drawers leaking tv valves and various lengths of cable.

He was a Hi-Fi enthusiast. The first and only person I ever knew to build a Quadrophonic System.

It was notoriously difficult to locate vinyls manufactured to a quadrophonic format. Most of those he painstakingly gathered were Music Library limited releases. He would direct to stand in the middle of the room and listen to recordings of trains pulling in and out of platforms in a station. Or firearms discharging from a variety of directions. Random gunshots.

Man, that was some kind of fun.

Actually. It was kind of intriguing. He could have been a serial killer but he was content to drive buses for a living. Big old corporation double deckers.

Owing to spinal condition, he was abnormally short. Even for a Scot. He would take a cushion onto the bus to elevate him enough to get a clean view of the road.

I doubt the transport authorities would allow him to work in the public sector now.

HowMarvellous said...

Nice post ib - a great track.
Their get me to the world on time, is another fave of mine.

We had (still do) a wooden Dynatron 'music centre' that cost a bomb in what must have been the early 70's - that had a quadraphonic switch, tho I don't believe any suitable discs were ever played on it, tho' I did rig up four speakers once , for fun & also had the sound effects lp's,

Anonymous said...

I picked us a good condition copy with this cover :

for a few guilder at a Dutch 'vlooienmarkt' in the mid 1980s, purely for the Prunes track - didn't know then how sought after the whole LP is! CHeers


Löst Jimmy said...

Electric Prunes...right up there with the best band names ever

...I like it!

ib said...

Thanks, Andy.

These big teak music centres really were state of the art. The same uncle built me my first set of speakers for my 11th birthday, I recall; 4ft MDF cabinets housing these massive woofers which made the whole house shake. Finished off with some genuinely seedy curtain material to keep the dust off off.

Brilliant sound. Like something out of King Tubby's Home Town Hi-Fi.

I never really got maximum benefit out of them, though, although I did later treat the entire street to the apocalypse of "Police & Thieves", the former being duly dispatched to pull the plug.

ib said...


Nice find. The '76 reissue is probably as much a collectors item because of the different sleeve. Never seen that one before.

ib said...

Löst Jimmy:

The only kind of Prunes guaranteed to keep you irregular !