IN THE NEWS
Music Machine Upstages Blues Magoos 'PSYCHEDELIC MUSIC' STIRS BOPPERS
RELEASE DATE >> January 31, 1967
WRITTEN BY >> Catherine Watson
PUBLICATION >> Minneapolis Tribune Staff Writer
The Blues Magoos played their "psychedelic music" in a concert with four other groups Sunday afternoon in the St. Paul Auditorium arena. It wasn't really psychedelic, but nobody cared. Mainly because it wasn't a concert, either. It was a full-dress social event for the teeny-bop set, 6,900 kids showed up for it, wearing the flashy mini-skirt and bell bottomed pants expected of them. The music, all of which was loud and some of which was good, was almost incidental to the scene.
THE KIDS at the "Fourth Annual WDGY Winter Carnival Spectacular" knew that the group with the biggest billing always appears last at teen music events.
While they waited for the Magoos, they wandered around the arena floor, smoked, made friends, occasionally paired off and generally acted oblivious to the music from Danny's Reasons and the T.C. Atlantic - both local groups - washing over them.
The "spectacular" was half over before the audience warmed up enough to cheer the radio station's name when "Wonderful WDGY's" disc jockeys told them to.
Things picked up when The Music Machine, five black - clad, page - boyed men from California, drifted on stage.
They were the only group on the program that tuned up.
B. Mason Dean one of the disc jockey's, said they tuned up because they'd studied different sorts of music and were "more experienced than other groups." The lead singer, he said, had perfect pitch.
Their musical experience showed, however, in Latin American and Near Eastern overtones in several numbers, and they did some haunting things with an electric organ and a flute.
Higher in pitch and more discordant than most modern music, their sound was startling in the huge arena. Even the wandering semi-bored teeny-boppers stopped wandering to listen.
ODDLY, the Music Machine did what the Blues Magoos promised but later failed to achieve: the Music Machine produced a pschedelic effect that was almost eerie.
Of course, not all of it was their fault. A psychedelic experience, by the way, is supposed to be sort of "mind expansion" like the produced by hallucinatory drugs.
In other words, like the Machine's performance, it's unreal.
Psychedelic Summer of Love at the Universal Amphitheatre
RELEASE DATE >> February 3rd, 1989
WRITTEN BY >> Rudi Protrudi
PUBLICATION >> L.A. Rock Review
ARTICLE >> Having spent most of my life on the East Coast, I was never privy to the Haight-Ashbury-and-Love "If you're going to San Francisco, be sure to wear a flower in your hair" that was California, circa '66 - '67. Not unlike the early 80's "Paisley Underground," California was churning out music with more mellow hippie-vibes than the rest of the country. While N.Y.C.'s Velvet Underground and Fugs were expounding the merits of heroin, group gropes, and "magic Gods in the tree trunks," L.A.'s Strawberry Alarm Clock were meditating the virtues of "Rainy Day Mushroom Pillows"
Fortunately, L.A. did produce a few harder edged, ground-breaking outfits who helped shape and define the word "punk." A musical genre that existed for a mere three years (1966-1969), punk was personified by such one hit wonders as the Seeds' "Pushin' Too Hard," the Blues Magoos' "Ain't Got Nothin' Yet" and "Psychotic Reaction" by the Count IV. These bands bridged the gap between the English Invasion and the Woodstock type progressive rock Acid Rock that is often mistaken for "psychedelic."
One of the most influential bands of this era were the Music Machine. Singer, composer, guitarist, Sean Bonniwell's dark visions were, at the time, quite a menacing sight. Dressed entirely in black (including one black glove on each member's hand) and black bowl haircuts, they would tune their instruments one key lower than standard pitch to enhance the eerieness that became their trademark. Bonniwell's music and lyrics were far ahead of their time, and would later influence many bands including the doors and Iron Butterfly. Local boys, the Trip, had set the mood with well chosen '60's classics, such as "I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night," but the real show began when Sean and the guys unleashed "Talk Talk," their only big hit. Black attire in tact, the effortlessly recreated Music machine sound as Bonniwell's deep, masculine voice belted out several of their better known tunes in an extremly tight, non-stop medley. Rhino has recently released "The Best Of The Music Machine," and if you've interested in this type of music, this is the BIBLE!!
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The Music Machine
RELEASE DATE >> February 3rd, 1989
WRITTEN BY >> Brian Hogg
PUBLICATION >> The Psychedelic Experience: A Monthly Collector's Guide
To The Fast-Growing 'Garage'and 'Psychedelic' scenes
Brian Hogg Examines The "Talk Talk" Hitmakers Who
Went On To Issue A Series Of Collectable Psychedelic 45s
Although several garage groups went on to enjoy successful careers playing different styles of music, for many the genre offered them one flashing glimpse of success before an equally sudden fall into oblivion. It certainly seemed that way for the Music Machine, especially in Britain, where only a handful of records were released. The group survived longer than most people realised, however, and at the moment interest in the Music Machine is as high as it was at the peak of their success with "Talk Talk" in 1966. The band's debut album has been given its first British release recently: Rhino has issued an excellent compilation of their work which includes previously unreleased material; and one of America's leading fanzines, 'Ugly Things', has featured a long and detailed interview with the band's guiding force, Sean Bonniwell, to which I'm indebted for some of the background information.
Like many early Sixties musicians, Sean Bonniwell began his pre-Beatles career in a folk group. He sang in the Wayfarers, a strictly traditional combo who cut three albums and several singles for RCA during their lifetime, by 1965, however, Sean was keen to try something much more adventurous, and he set about forming a new group. He brought in Ron Edgar, previously a drummer in the Goldbriars, and added Keith Olsen on bass - both of whom he had met on the folk circuit. The trio began life as the Ragamuffins, playing a mixture of original material and Top 40 hits, but after five months they completely changed direction. With Mark Landon on guitar and Doug Rhodes on keyboards, the Ragamuffins became the Music Machine, threw out (almost) all the cover versions and set about creating their own individual style.
First of all, Sean gave his group a definite image - everyone wore black and dyed their hair to match. Their drumkit and amps were also painted, and the final touch of class was added when every member wore a single black glove. But their music was even more radical. Bonniwell's songs were startlingly original, totally distanced from the folk scene in which he had been moving. The group quickly signed a deal with producer Brian Ross, and it was their debut single "Talk Talk", released in November 1966, which became their most successful.
"Talk Talk" may have been a shade under two minutes in length, but perhaps such power couldn't have been maintained any longer. Adjectives like tough, strident or assertive only hint at how strong this record was, with Edgar's pounding drums and Landon's crunching guitar controlling the lurching rhythm. Bonniwell's voice, cut from the same mold as Arthur Lee of Love, or Fred Cole of the Lollipop Shoppe, was compleately commanding. Released in the U.S. on Original Sound and in the U.K. on Pye International, this remains one of the Sixties punk's essential moments.
"Talk Talk" may have reached No. 15 in Billboard's single chart, and an album was duly rush- released to cash in on this success. It wasn't however, merely a collection of fillers to back up the hit single: the collection remains one of the very best to come out of the garage band era. Now available in Britain on the Big Beat label, it is thankfully easy to obtain at last, after years of obscurity.
"Turn On The Music Machine" naturally features the group's hit single, as well as it's flipside, the moody "Come On In". But alongside these tracks were five equally excellent Sean Bonniwell originals, as well as five covers, all rather offbeat and idiosyncratic choices. The Beatles' "Taxman" was probably the most straightforward, although the Music Machine's grinding sound certainly added a new dimension. "96 Tears" was a more likely choice, as the song is so connected to the original version by ? and the Mysterians that other attempts automatically pale by comparison. Nonetheless, the Music Machine's version was worthwhile, as was their fine rendition of Neil Diamond's "Cherry Cherry". Diamond certainly knew how to throw out dynamite chord sequences in those days, and this song remains a classic.
"See See Rider" and "Hey Joe" were the final two covers: the former was a chunky reading of the blues standard, following the Animal's version quite closely, while "Hey Joe" is slowed right down, unlike the versions by L.A. contemporaries like the Byrds, the Leaves and Love, who dashed their way through the song. The Music Machine had used this arrangement throughout their live career, and their transformation of the song into a moody, brooding piece predated the release of the Jimi Hendrix version.
The five new Bonniwell originals were superb. "Trouble" was a fascinatingly complex piece with several melodic twists and turns; "Some Other Drum" was a reflective ballad, indicating something of Sean's future direction; and "Wrong" was another powerful composition in the style of "Talk Tallk". However, it was the two remaining tracks, "The People In Me" and "Masculine Intuition", which were perhaps the strongest. These formed the group's next single, issued in January 1967. "The People In Me" was less immediately arresting than "Talk Talk", as the frantic pace of the first single was replaced by a more clear-cut, commercial approach. Yet strangely, the song struggled to No. 66 "Masculine Intuition", on the other hand, recalled the toughness of it's predecessor, with it's storming instrumental background to Sean's dominant vocals. It remains one of the group's best performances - which, thankfully, was also available to British buyers, as Pye International once again gave the single a U.K. release. This would be the band's last release over here for a long time, however.
Sadly, this promise was destined to remain unfulfilled, as the original Music Machine began to disintegrate. One problem was that the band's name was actually owned by Brian Ross, as part of the production deal the band had signed. The group continued in name at least for a third single, "Double Yellow Line"/ "Absolutely Positively" - but which of the original line-up, apart from Bonniwell, appeared on the record is open to debate.
Of the original group, Ron Edgar, Keith Olsen and Doug Rhodes later became involved in projects led by singer-songwriter Curt Boetcher. One was a group called the Millenium, put together by Boetcher and Olsen in 1968. Their only album, "Begin", was released on Columbia CS 9663. The close, sometimes sickly-sweet harmony vocals and tight orchestrated arrangements of that band were carried over into Sagittarius, a spin off project which featured all of the Millenium, but was really an outlet for Boetcher's work with producer Gary Usher. It was their faces which were on the cover of the group's Columbia album, "Present Tense"(CS 9644), and Boetcher then formed Together Records, who released a second Sagittarius album, "The Blue Marble", the following year. However, only Keith Olsen of the Music Machine crew remained on board for this recording, and from there he subsequently forged a successful career as a record producer in the 1970s. Meanwhile, Rhodes and Edgar formed a shortlived group, Bigshot, with Millenium's guitarist/songwriter Mike Fennelly, before they too went their separate ways.
In the meantime, Sean Bonniwell's work seems to have continued uninterrupted. "Double Yellow Line", the third Music Machine single, was a straightforward progression from the "Turn On" period, which also maintained his love for obscure melodies. The flipside was a fabulous song, crammed with hook- lines and a real inventiveness. Naggingly insistent, it deserved to be a smash, but the days of such success were now over for the Music Machine.
" Double Yellow Line" was followed by "The Eagle Never Hunts The Fly", a fuzz-blocked piece of brilliance with a mesmerising instrumental break and some impassioned singing. Magnificently complex, even by Sean's standards, it stood little chance of success.
The Music Machine's spell with Original Sound was fast drawing to a close, although the company did pull "Hey Joe" off that debut album, in the hope of equalling Jimi Hendrix success with the song. There was one last tie-up between label and group however, when Sean - together with engineer Paul Buff - put out a single under the name of the Friendly Torpedos. " "Nothing's Too Good For My Car"/"so Long Ago" was actually released in 1968, sometime after Sean had severed his ties with the company, and this pressing is now one of the rarest Music Machine spin-offs.
Bonniwell soon found himself in a new deal with Warner Brothers. In hopes of winning himself some independence, he altered the group's name to the Bonniwell Music Machine. The exact line up of this group was never clear, and the group's WB album provided few answers. Titled after the name of the group, the album was originally to have been called "Odds And Ends", which would have been a better summary of it's contents. "Double Yellow Line" and "The Eagle Never Hunts The Fly" were included, along with their respective flipsides, but more peculiarly, so were "Bottom Of The Soul" and "Talk Me Down", two songs which had been recorded by the "Talk Talk" line-up of the band, and were presumably rejects from their first LP. Other tracks were recorded in New Mexico, while the remainder were done at Muscle Shoals. The result was an album which was at best rather messy, made up of a curious hotchpotch of styles, from deep flowery ballads ("The Day Today") to frantic rockers ("Soul Love"). The album wasn't a commercial success, and the Music Machine had been all but forgotten by the general public. They ploughed on however, with an ever-changing line-up, which took in such musicians as Holly McKinley, Joe Broely, Alan Wisdom, Fred Thomas and Jerry Harris. Two singles had come from the album sessions: "Bottom Of The Soul" and "Me Myself And I", which appeared a month after the LP. They met with an equally sluggish reaction; but, undeterred, Bonniwell spent the rest of 1968 masterminding a series of superb singles, most of which would not appear on any album, at least until the recent Rhino collection.
The first of these singles were issued in April, and coupled "You'll Love Me Again" with "In My Neighborhood". This pressing seems to have been quickly withdrawn, and the flipside was changed in favor of another song, "To The Light". Both versions, in fact are very scarce: it may be that the first issue only appeared on promo copies, while copies with "To The Light" on the flipside were definitely issued to the public.
All this confusion served to obscure just how strong "You'll Love Me Again" was. It opened with the kind of pulsating reverb guitar that the Seeds used on "Mr. Farmer", and the song maintains the skin- tight tension of the best of their early recordings, topped by some wailing guitar lines. The whole performance is easily on par with "Talk Talk", and directly contrasts with the more reflective mood of "To The Light".
"Time Out (For A Daydream)"/"Tin Can Beach" followed in September 1968, and became the last release on Warner Brothers. The Bonniwell Music Machine then switched to Bell for what proved to be their final single, "Advise And Consent"/"Mother Nature - Father Earth", issued in March 1969. The A-side made room for a slightly fuller production than usual to mark it out from the 1966 recordings. It might have lacked the verve of "You'll Love Me Again", but it was still a great performance. "Mother Nature" was equally fascinating and proved just how good a composer Bonniwell still was. All his trademarks were there - unusual time changes, and melodic shifts - and it seemed tragic that such a talented musician should be failing to reach the public.
In a last attempt at freedom, Sean gave up all rights to the name the 'Music Machine' - not that that made much difference, as bogus 'Music Machines' had often appeared in one part of the U.S. while Sean was touring in another. Bonniwell moved to Capitol Records, where he cut his only solo album, "Close", under the name T.S. Bonniwell. Although it appeared only a few months after the Bell single, it was a great disappointment, lacking any real direction or sense of purpose. It seemed as if Sean had simply lost heart, and he certainly disappeared from the recording scene soon after it was released. While his contemporaries, like Sky Saxon and Roky Erikson, made several somewhat unconventional comebacks in later years, Sean remained hidden away - only to re-emerge in the 1980s fronting a Christian Band, Heaven Sent, as well as making himself available to talk to interviewers about his days with the Music Machine. He was also actively involved in the Rhino compilation, contributing sleeve-notes and some explanatory words on the origin of each of the songs.
For anyone looking for the definitive summary of the Music Machine's career, as opposed to the recordings by the original line-up, The Rhino collection ("The Best Of The Music Machine") is the ideal place to begin. It includes both sides of the first three Original Sound singles, plus "The Eagle Never Hunts The Fly", "You'll Love Me Again", "Trouble" from the debut 45 and both sides of the Bell 45. There are also three previously unissued masters, one from early 1968 and two from 1968 - presumably from around the time of the changeover from WB to Bell. "Everything Is Everything" is superb, rhythmic and deceptively strong. It's hookline only takes a few plays to sink in, and the bass and keyboard work are particularly powerful. "Black Snow" is Sean's version of hard-rock, similar to the uncompromising sound that Arthur Lee was taking Love into, and which culminated with his "Vindicator" album. (Sean cut an emptier version of this song on his "Close" album.) "Dark White", on the other hand, looks ahead to the style of his solo career - a slow, brooding piece with strings, piercing keyboards and a hypnotic, wordless chant.
The release of these three rare cuts is not the end of the Music Machine story. Two songs from 1966, cut by the original group, have recently been issued on a flexi-disc given away with a German magazine called "Splendid". "Point Of No Return" and "No Girl Gonna Cry" are two more superb recordings, which deserve to be issued on 'real' vinyl soon. Other tracks still remain in the can; along with the remaining non-LP singles, they would make a fine "Best Of Volume Two". In the meantime, collectors should rejoice that the best work by this often inspired band is again available in the shops: the Music Machine certainly deserve it.**