But since reading (which I'll define in a moment) his books, I've purchased works by every last one of these people I'm naming now: kevin coyne, pretty things, arthur brown, kaleidoscope, creation, chocolate watchband, music machine, mystic tide, remains, deviants, great society, lee hazlewood, nick drake, joe meek, skip spence, scott walker, outsiders, holy modal rounders, screaming lord sutch, swamp dogg, penelope houston, raincoats, x-ray spex, fsk, savage republic, merrell fankhauser (+ hms bounty + fapardokly), bluethings, hampton grease band, robert wyatt (+ matching mole + soft machine), tim buckley, tomorrow and poets.
Reading means to examine and grasp the meaning of (written or printed characters, words, or sentences). For example, if you look at a sentence about Limp Bizkit and can understand what the author means by "groundbreaking," "timeless" and "Rhodes scholar," then you are, in effect, "reading."
Richie's brand new book Turn!Turn!Turn! The `60s Folk-Rock Revolution was released by Backbeat Books in early August 2002, and is just as compelling as his previous works, which include:
The Rough Guide to Music USA
The Rough Guide to Seattle
Unknown Legends of Rock `n' Roll
Urban Spacemen & Wayfaring Strangers: Overlooked Innovators & Eccentric Visionaries of `60s Rock
At present, he is contributing lots of freelance CD reviews to The All-Music Guide (www.allmusic.com) and finishing up the sequel (!!!) to his latest book. Due out in 2003, Eight Miles High: Folk-Rock's Flight from Haight-Ashbury to Woodstock picks up where Turn!Turn!Turn! left off, following the trail of folk-rock from 1966 to such current-day folk purists as Malevolent Creation and Deee-Lite, unless the publisher removes those acts from the final draft, something which I have no control over.
Richie was kind enough to take time out of his weekend to answer some questions for me. Here are his answers (my questions are in bold) - now go buy his books, you!
Q: You were born in '62, correct? What were the first few bands that really got you hooked on rock and roll?
A: I was born in 1962. This might sound pretty run-of-the-mill, but it's true: the first band that got me hooked on rock and roll was the Beatles, around the age of eight. The bands I got into next were the Rolling Stones and the Beach Boys. It wasn't until I got into high school that I got into some more of the key bands of the 1960s: the Byrds, the Doors, Jefferson Airplane, the Kinks, the Animals, the Yardbirds, Buffalo Springfield, the Who.
Q: Being too young myself to have been terribly aware of the punk rock movement, I'm always curious to know what music fans of that era thought of it, as it was taking place. As a teenager, were you aware of this new music? If so, what did you think of it?
A: Some accounts of the era would have it that punk rock was as big a deal and life-changing as the British Invasion was in the mid-1960s. But I think this was only true for pretty small pockets of the country, and for pretty small cliques of underground enthusiasts, particularly those in their teenaged years. I wasn't much aware of late-1970s punk rock; it rarely got played on commercial radio in Philadelphia, though I did hear some of the more accessible new wave-punk-allied acts, like Patti Smith and Elvis Costello. But Television, for instance, I don't remember hearing once, and the Jam and the Clash were heard extremely rarely. You could forget about people like X-Ray Spex or the Raincoats. Why didn't I listen to college radio, you might be thinking? I couldn't get clear reception for those low-power stations in my suburb.
But, to be honest, I wouldn't have been a big punk fan even if I'd heard a lot of it. It's not critically chic to admit, but I would have disliked a great deal of it and tended to like the more pop-influenced ones, like Patti Smith and Elvis Costello (whom some wouldn't even consider punk rock). In the intervening years I generally like the vintage punk stuff more than I have in the past, but it's never been one of my main genres, and I still don't care for the really hardcore stuff; the more hardcore it is, the more it tends to annoy me, frankly.
Q: When and how did you begin your career in music writing? You were an editor for Option at one point, I'm told?
A: I began my career as a music writer when I started to review records for Op magazine in 1983. Prior to that I'd been a DJ/programmer at my college radio station in 1981 and 1982, which was valuable background experience although it didn't involve writing. A lot of writers involved with Op magazine also contributed to Option magazine, which began publishing in early 1985. I was the editor of Option from 1985 to mid-1991, and also wrote a lot of reviews for the magazine, as well as some articles.
Q: Do you have any favorite music writers, past or present? Anyone whose style you love or opinions you respect and trust?
A: Some of my favorite music writers include Nicholas Schaffner, Lenny Kaye, Greg Shaw, Johnny Rogan, Mark Lewisohn, and Pete Frame. As record reviewers, Peter Doggett (of Record Collector) and Mark Paytress (formerly of Record Collector, now with MOJO) are very good; I differ with their taste sometimes, but I trust them in the sense that I know they've listened thoughtfully and arrived at their opinions honestly, instead of sticking to party lines of what's good and how things fit into history. As for someone whose style I really like, these rock autobiographies were enormously entertaining: Al Kooper's "Backstage Passes," and Ray Davies's "X-Ray." Pete Frame has an extremely engaging style too, though most of his book writing's in eye-strainingly small print in his "Rock Family Trees" books.
As an aside, these writers (except for Kooper and Davies, who of course aren't mostly known for being writers) are I think seen by some as kind of detail-obsessed historians. What I think makes them stand out from a lot of people who load their writing with information is that they combine extremely deep research with readability and tasteful, informed opinions. They're not esoteric, even though some people might think the details they're digging out are. Their prose is extremely reader-friendly, and they don't let a chip-in-the-shoulder hip attitude get in the way of the story.
Q: Do you play an instrument? Have you played in any bands?
A: I play guitar, not too well, just for myself. I haven't played in any bands.
Q: Being a San Francisco resident, what drove you to author "The Rough Guide to Seattle"? Had you previously lived in Seattle? On the same topic, what was your opinion of that city's "grunge" movement of the early '90s?
A: I wrote the Rough Guide to Seattle because I'm also a travel writer and wanted to get involved with travel guidebook writing. I got involved with the Rough Guides because I contributed to their "Rough Guide to Rock" book. I did a travel guidebook for the Rough Guide series for Seattle, because I like the city and I had friends there that would make it easier to find a place to stay and generally find out information for an extended research visit. I hadn't lived in Seattle before; I didn't move there to do the book, but did go for extended stays of one and two months at a time.
This is another opinion that's not going to float very well among much of the alternative world, but I really disliked Seattle grunge rock from the late 1980s and early 1990s, and find it way overrated by critics.
Q: In doing the research for "Music USA," what region's native sounds made the biggest impression upon you? I'm particularly interested in what you thought about Chapel Hill as I spent my college years there! ('91-'95)
A: Actually, doing the research for "Music USA" didn't really change the basic impressions I had of any region's sound, though it allowed me to go into all of them in greater depth. The regional American music I like the most was the same after the project as it was before it: '60s San Francisco and '60s Los Angeles rock, '50s and '60s Chicago electric blues, '50s Memphis rockabilly, New York rock of all kinds from the '60s and '70s.
If you're talking specifically about contemporary regional sounds (at least contemporary in 1998, when I did the research), I actually thought the most vital scenes were in New York, where there's always so much going on; Chicago, which had a lot of alternative rock and jazz that was moving in interesting directions, and was more intimate and cheaper live than in New York; and New Orleans and Louisiana, where there's so much roots music of all sorts from big venues to street musicians, and where cultural homogenization hasn't erased quirky ethnic forms as much as it has throughout most of the rest of the United States.
I'm going to pass on commenting on the Chapel Hill scene, because actually that chapter of the book was written by an outside contributor, Samb Hicks. I wrote more than 90% of the book, but a few regions and styles that I didn't visit or research (Chapel Hill, Hawaii, Arizona, Chicago house) were farmed out to contributors.
Q: I'm going to assume by these two books that your other great love is travelling? What are your favorite places on earth, and why? Have you ever been to Belize? That place is amazing (though very, very poor, obviously).
A: That's right, one of my chief loves is traveling. My absolute favorite places to visit haven't been the most exotic ones, necessarily. I love England because there's so much rock history there and because I've developed numerous Transatlantic friendships with British people over the years. London is the most fascinating place for a person such as myself who is interested in books, music, and all manifestations of English-speaking culture, there's never any lack of something to do. In Europe, France is great because of the beauty and variety of the landscape and, to the contrary of the stereotype, the looseness and joie de vivre of the people. Spain has both some dynamic cities and some geologically fascinating rough desert landscapes. Sydney is still an underestimated cosmopolitan destination, it's as beautiful as San Francisco. In India, Rishikesh is far more tranquil than the rest of the country, quite beautiful, and has a tangible aura in which religion and spiritual are a part of everyday life, not just something to be donned on special days or occasions. Also in India, Dharamsala integrates a different sort of spirituality into its daily fabric with omnipresent Tibetan Buddhism (this is where the Dalai Lama and other exiled Tibetans live), has great vegetarian food, and is nestled in beautiful mountain paths, rivers, and scenery.
I've never been to Belize.
Q: I am a huge fan of your two books about unknown rock innovators. As
you've said before, every rock fan has his favorites that he would have
included, but you simply didn't have room. With that in mind, would you
humor me with just very brief opinions (if you have them) on some of my
favorite lesser-known bands? Here's a quick list of 10:
- Armageddon (w/ Keith Relf)
- The Choir
- The Hombres
- Rodd Keith (and the other "song-poem" artists)
- The Nova Local
- Napoleon XIV
- The Smoke
- Syndicate of Sound
A: Armageddon: I've only heard parts of this once or twice. It didn't impress me as memorable; mid-'70s hard rock, slightly above average.
Bloodrock: I've never heard anything from these guys to my knowledge other than "D.O.A.," which I barely remember.
The Choir: I like the Choir, though I think they're overrated in some circles. They were a very good garage-cum-Mersey-cum power pop band, but sometimes they were too cute and cloying for my tastes, and they didn't have a huge amount of great material. They also did some interesting things that went into more progressive and soul-rock directions late in the decade, which again I think were good but not great.
The Hombres: To be honest I've never heard anything of theirs besides "Let It Out," which I like but don't worship.
Rodd Keith: The Rodd Keith compilation "I Died Today" is all I've heard of Rodd Keith. Some of the stuff's kind of good and/or fitfully amusing, but I don't think it's great or original. Overall I don't enjoy the song-poem artists. Some cultists hail them as sort of genius outsider idiot-savants, but to me they sound like novelty artists too often, and not that funny or inspired (and often awful).
The Nova Local: Again to be honest, I've never heard their LP. I have their song "Games" on a compilation and it's really good melodic guitar-harmony pop-rock with guts.
Napoleon XIV: I have the album as well as his famous hit single. He was ingenious, but not that ingenious, and it gets tiresome.
The Smoke: I really like the Smoke, and they came close to being considered for a chapter in one of my books. The main drawback against including them was that they really didn't record that much: one very good album and a few very good singles, then some not so good singles and odds and ends. I think they were one of the finest British early mod-psychedelic bands, very melodic in a Beatles sort of way, but also with a Who kind of instrumentation in some respects, with very cheerful and British songwriting.
The Standells: I like the Standells, but not as much as many garage fanatics seem to. Their handful of best singles were very good, like the American Rolling Stones with a more adolescent whine and more accent on the organ and harmony vocals. But there weren't that many really good singles they made, and a lot of the stuff on their albums was unmemorable.
The Syndicate of Sound: "Little Girl" is a classic '60s garage single, but actually I think the rest of their work is rather substandard. This surprises some people who assume I love virtually any garage band with something of a collector reputation, but they didn't have any other songs that were really good, and some of them were in fact poor.
Q: Are there any artists that you would like to have included in the unknown innovators books, but with whom you were unable to secure interviews?
A: I think we went through this with a prior email. As I noted in the intro to "Urban Spacemen," I wanted to include Jackie DeShannon, P.F. Sloan, and the Move, but couldn't get interviews (I felt I needed to interview Roy Wood to make a good Move chapter, and couldn't get him). There weren't any artists I felt as disappointed about not including in "Unknown Legends," and who didn't make it into that book specifically because I couldn't get the interviews.
Q: Your last few books have focused mainly (not EXCLUSIVELY, but mainly) on bands from the past. Are there any current bands -- bands that formed in the '90s and beyond -- that you personally think are doing something really great?
A: There's a list of my favorite cult records from the 1990s on my website, at www.richieunterberger.com/ulrlists.html. Here's the list:
1. Liz Phair, The Girly Sound Tapes (bootleg tape)
2. Aisha Kandisha's Jarring Effects, El Buya
3. Martin Newell, Martin Newell's Box of Old Humbug
4. Jeremy Enigk, Return of the Frog King
5. Jeff Kelly, Melancholy Sun
6. Damien Youth, Sunfield
7. Hayden, The Closer I Get
8. The Surprise Symphony, The Surprise Symphony
9. Magic Island, Small
I think Matt Suggs and Will Oldham are good indie singer-songwriters, to add a couple of names that are making records in the 2000s.
As for people doing something really great, I'm finding it pretty hard to get excited to that degree about artists from the last decade, which is a reflection of my personal taste as well as how good and innovative the artists are. I thought Liz Phair's "Exile in Guyville" was great; I almost never like big alternative/critical favorites, but for the 1990s, that was the exception that proved the rule. She didn't sustain that level of brilliance, though, which is too bad. But understandable, perhaps -- it's hard to follow up a really good debut record that's probably the culmination of years of songwriting with something comparable.
Q: I recently read in the Wall Street Journal about a poll of young people that made this conclusion: "Less than .05% of teenagers consider the Beatles to be among their favorite bands." Do you think that our favorite bands of the '60s and '70s will be mostly forgotten 40 years from now?
A: That low figure does surprise me, and I wonder if the Wall Street Journal got the best representative sample they could have. I realize that the figure won't be as high as 50% or probably even 15%, but awareness of the Beatles among young people is still pretty high. I have a 16-year-old nephew who would definitely put the Beatles in his list of favorite bands, and it's not due to my influence, it's a taste he developed on his own. I don't think he's that anomalous.
However, we could probably safely say that there are far fewer teenagers that would place the Beatles among their favorite bands now than would have in the 1960s, or even 1970s. I think this is natural and to be expected. If a band isn't currently performing or releasing records (or certainly isn't performing with their best lineup or releasing their best and most popular records, in the case of theoretically-still-active bands like the Who), they're going to be more and more forgotten the further they recede into the past.
But as to whether our favorite bands of the '60s and '70s will be mostly forgotten 40 years from now, I don't think so. They'll be *more* forgotten than they are now, because that's the way things go; Louis Armstrong will always be acknowledged as a great musician, but there's less people actively listening to his music with each passing decade. But the durability of good popular music is proving to be more eternal than a lot of people have thought, including the performers themselves. Certainly most of the mainstream media would have scoffed at the thought of artists like the Byrds and Donovan being paid any attention at all by historians in the 21st century, yet here we are and people are still avidly digging them and hungry for information about their peak careers. Even some of the people I interview are surprised at the level of interest in their work from the 1960s; they never expected, at the time, that listeners a generation or two younger would rediscover their work and be curious about the fine details regarding how the music was made 35 years down the road.
Q: On a related note, here's something that my friends and I have discussed a bit. I'd love to hear your thoughts. It is now 2002 and I personally know plenty of teenagers that are just now getting into the Beatles and Stones, Floyd and Sabbath, etc -- bands from 30 and 40 years ago. What artists from the 80s, 90s and '00s do you think will be considered "classic" to teenagers forty years from now (regardless of whether you think they deserve to be!)?
A: This isn't a comprehensive list and it's bound to be inaccurate because no one can predict how these things pan out. But I think some of the artists from these eras who will be considered classic to teenagers 40 years from now will include Nirvana, Prince, Beck, R.E.M., the Clash (started in 1970s but much of their work was in the 1980s), the Smiths, Radiohead, Kate Bush, and PJ Harvey.
Q: Your name is kind of inextricably linked to the All-Music Guide. I've read several complaints on message boards and newsgroups that the AMG grades often seem arbitrary and self-contradictory (for example, an import copy of a CD gets a 4 while the domestic version gets a 3 - with no explanation). I know that part of the problem is that each band's catalog is liable to be split up among several different authors. My favorite example is the Vandals page, where what is generally considered to be their classic album (Live Fast, Diarrhea) gets the lowest grade because that ONE album happens to be reviewed by Erlewine, who doesn't like the band at all. On the same page, Victor Valdivia announces that "Fear of a Punk Planet is possibly the definitive Vandals release," then turns right back around and says "The Quickening" is as definitive as the Vandals get." - again, with no explanation! There is no doubt that it's a fantastic place for information, but the actual reviews (not any of yours, as far as I've heard) sometimes leave a lot of people scratching their heads. I was wondering if the people "on the inside" are aware that there is this sort of discontent brewing about the site. Have you heard any mention of it from either readers or fellow writers for AMG?
A: I've heard similar comments about inconsistencies from readers; not so much from fellow writers for AMG, though I'm not in regular touch with many other AMG contributors. Although I've written a great deal for AMG, I don't have inside information about how they determine and regulate their reviewing and ratings policies, since I'm a free-lancer in San Francisco, and their office with their full-time staff is in Michigan.
Q: I'm in the middle of your new book "Turn!Turn!Turn!" right now and it's, as expected, nearly impossible to put down. Noting that the follow-up has already been titled ("Eight Miles High") and slated for 2003 release, were they originally intended to be one 600-page book? If so, why did you opt to separate them? Or was that the publisher's decision?
A: Originally I intended to write a single-volume history of 1960s folk-rock, running about 400 pages. I got so much material that the publisher decided to divide these into two separate volumes, each running about 300 pages. This did give me the opportunity to add considerable additional material to the second volume, covering about mid-1966 to 1970, which I'm now in the process of finishing.
Q: You state in the book that this latest project was the most daunting writing project that you've ever undertaken. Would you also say that these two works together represent the book that you've always wanted to write? Or is there yet another mammoth undertaking burning a hole in your psyche? ;7)
A: The two 1960s folk-rock volumes wouldn't exactly represent the book that I've always wanted to write, in that I didn't first think of the idea until four years ago, 1998. But now that I'm almost done that whole lengthy process, I do think they represent the *kind* of book I've always wanted to write, in that they're full *books* that cover a story, rather than being more collections of pieces and chapters as my other music books have been. I also think and hope they work on several levels that are important for me to express: illuminating a major part of rock history; mixing coverage of both well-known stars and innovators and overlooked ones who were less commercially successful; illustrating how so many people in the movement influenced each other; weaving in some sociopolitical and record business history that affected the growth of the music as well; getting a lot of first-hand information and research that presents fresh and extremely in-depth coverage; and taking an open-minded interpretive view that shows how much interchange there was between performers and styles, rather than reinforcing cliched party lines that many historians have taken out of laziness or convenience.
I don't have another such mammoth undertaking under consideration yet, but it's possible that another book idea of a similar scale could occur to me.
Q: REM on their first several albums did a wonderful job of resurrecting that wonderful folk-rock vibe. Do you hear a folk-rock influence among any recent ('90s-00s) bands?
A: There are folk-rock influences in countless recent bands, though in my opinion these are often mundane, on the level of mimicking the 12-string '60s folk-rock riffs or earnest songwriting without adding much to what's gone before or backing it with much substance. Of the ones I think do creative things with folk-rock influences, though, I'd cite the various projects of Will Oldham (Palace, Bonnie 'Prince' Billy, et al.), and Damien Youth, who can sound like a cross between Robyn Hitchcock and Donovan. Jeff Kelly can recall singer-songwriters like Tim Buckley in some of his work, but with a more whimsical and British spin, though Kelly's American. I thought Hayden's 1996 album "Everything I Long For" was a good, interesting mix of acoustic-flavored folk-rock with a '90s kind of despair, and I was surprised it didn't get more critical attention, though his follow-up album wasn't so good. Beck has actually done some good things with a folk-rock flavor; when I first heard him, some of his earthiest and gruffest tracks reminded me of Skip Spence.
Q: Have any of your interviews for these past few books been disillusioning? Like a musician you love turns out to be a jerk or totally stoned out of his mind or something? I realize that you might not want to answer that question, so let me pose an alternate question - Have any interview subjects been surprisingly wonderful? You mention in "Urban Spacemen" that you were surprised by Arthur Brown's friendly, easy-going manner. Do any others come to mind?
A: First I should note that while it's naturally disappointing if someone whose music you admire acts unpleasantly in an interview, I don't necessarily expect someone's music to be indicative of what kind of person they are in real life. Also, as a writer, you can't let how someone acts as a person interfere with your research. You have to put up with some discomfort occasionally in asking them questions and getting some material that will be useful, without letting that experience color how their music and contributions will be represented in the book.
I've been surprised, though, by what a low percentage of musicians I interview turn out to be jerks or not too coherent. I think there are more such musicians out there, but they kind of select themselves out of the process by not responding to my interview requests. Someone who grants an interview is going to almost automatically be more gracious and accommodating in such a situation than someone who doesn't want to talk and doesn't even send a response to the request.
I won't mention any specific names as far as the most unpleasant/disillusioning interviews were, but there have been about four or five of them over the course of my books -- again, I point out, quite a low percentage. One guy I talked to for the folk-rock books was both unpleasant and unstable, not answering my questions though he said I could ask some, dismissing some of them quite rudely, saying at one point "if you were really hip, you'd ask me about such-and-such." He also went into weird tangents, like asking me if I thought life wasn't better in the US than Iraq, and getting angry when I said I wouldn't know for sure, never having been to Iraq. I decided not to use any material from the interview in the books. Someone I interviewed for another of my books seemed like half a step away from a nervous breakdown; I had no idea what questions I was going to ask were going to set off his trigger. At various points he said he couldn't continue, or said he could only go a few minutes, though I managed to get a more or less complete interview. Someone else was pleasant and amiable, but didn't make sense, and seemed unable or unwilling to answer pretty straightforward questions about his history. Someone else gave me a good interview, but then went into a literally 20-minute bitter monologue comparing the fate of his band to the characters in a well-known novel; I had to say I had to go because I was expecting another interview call so I could get off the phone. Someone I interviewed for the folk-rock book was pretty gruff, with the constant unspoken tone of "I don't want to do this but for some reason I am and I just want to get this over with," and seemed unwilling to go into some pretty key questions about his work, as though it didn't interest him at all.
There have been a lot of musicians I've interviewed who've been great to interact with and very friendly. I'm just going to give a couple of examples, since there's not room to go into the dozens who deserve mention. Among the more obscure artists I've talked to, Chris Darrow of Kaleidoscope (I did a chapter on the group in "Urban Spacemen," and interviewed him again for the folk-rock books) is extremely friendly and appreciative of interest. I did one of the interviews at his home and spent about four hours there; I had the impression he loved talking about music with anyone, whether interviewer, fan or not. He also has an extremely keen sense of how important it is to fit overlooked people such as himself into the story of rock music, and to properly acknowledge and connect the many strands of popular music with each other instead of stick to the standard history.
Generally it's true that the more famous someone is, the harder it is to get an interview with them, and also the harder it is to get detailed and fresh responses, rather than a more rote skimming of topics they've been asked about many times. Along those lines, I was surprised how accessible and interested Donovan was in participating in the book and going through my questions at length. He's very concerned about representing the era and his role in it with depth, very appreciative of the coverage of his contributions, and very appreciative of his fans.
Q: Do you ever check out any of the amateur record review guides that have been popping up all over the web the past few years? For example, there's this GREAT site at www.markprindle.com that's been around for six years - MAN now is THAT a site! HUNDREDS of entire band catalogs reviewed! Wow! Do you ever do any web surfing to see what the kids oftoday (of which I'm not one, incidentally. I'm 29.) think about rock and roll?
A: I guess I might be walking on thin ice here, but I don't check out the amateur record review guides. That's mostly because I don't have time. I do a lot of research on the net and often go through fan sites that are directly related to what I'm writing about, but I've been so busy with books and free-lancing over the past few years that I don't surf for leisure. That doesn't just apply to amateur record review guides; I don't do much surfing in general for things that aren't work-related, even in non-musical topics. I'm spending about 10 hours a day on the computer (usually on Saturdays and Sundays too) as it is, and can't fit in any more browsing.
Q: Now that the folk-rock opus is complete, have you begun thinking about what your NEXT major project might be?
A: As noted in another question, actually the folk-rock opus isn't complete yet. I'm still finishing the second volume, though that's mostly done. I won't be giving serious thought to my next project until that's handed in, and since I want a break after that happens, I don't think I'll be seriously assembling other proposals until November or so.
I just read your interview with Richie Unterberger and i noticed in your opening paragraph that you say:
"he has an amazing knack for really, really making me want to go out and buy stuff by the bands he discusses"
I just thought it would be nice to point out that you have the same skill, an example. I bought Agnostic Front's 'Victim in pain' based on your review and absolutley hated it. A month later i read the other reviews on the page and started looking at prices of the other records before i realised that i don't even like the band. Same for Bob dylan.
So thanks for your reviews and stuff, um...
In 1966, this New York group came off very much like a Lovin' Spoonful Jr., scoring a minor hit with a cover of John Sebastian's "Younger Girl" and then chalking up their only Top 20 single with the very Spoonful-esque original "Mr. Dieingly Sad." The group's soft harmonies and pop folk-rock were in a considerably lighter vein than their Kama Sutra labelmates, though. Much of their material was self-penned, though they also benefited from compositions by Jackie DeShannon and Brill Building tunesmiths Pete Anders, Vinnie Poncia, and Doc Pomus. Recording quite a few singles and an LP for Kama Sutra from 1965 to 1967, their gentle pop/rock was rather lightweight, with the exception of their best singles. After a final Top 40 hit in 1967 ("Don't Let the Rain Fall Down on Me"), principal songwriter Don Ciccone was drafted, and the group struggled on with a couple albums for the Project 3 label before splitting. - Richie Unterberger, All Music Guide
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