The Seeds

Almost more than any other 60s-era outfit that has been posthumously branded garage rock, the idiosyncratic records of Los Angeles group The Seeds have inspired several generations of musicians from the late 1970s punk explosion on. The groups minimalist rock’n’roll hit a refreshing nerve with the post-punk generation, and in the decades since, it has only grown in popularity, with generations of new fans reveling in the quirky, haunting sound of tracks like ‘Can’t Seem To Make You Mine’ and ‘Pushin’ Too Hard’. One regularly hears Seeds music in movies and advertisements, with attendant echoes in thousands of alternative pop and rock groups. Few artists of such vintage can enjoy as strong a legacy as The Seeds.

The Seeds reputation as garage rock archetypes began with the partnership of four rock’n’roll fans, led by a young man born in Salt Lake City, Utah as Richard Elvern Marsh, but soon to become notorious the world over as “Sky Saxon”. The singer spent several years beating the streets of early 60s Hollywood in a fruitless attempt to become a teen idol, but it was not until Sky joined forces with a pair of Midwestern refugees – keyboard player Daryl Hooper and drummer Rick Andridge – along with a full blooded Cherokee guitar slinger from Albuquerque named Jan Savage, that Saxon found the sound he was looking for.

Local impresario Jimmie Maddin produced the band’s early sessions and brought the band to the attention of Gene Norman, upon whose GNP Crescendo label the band would slowly but surely make their name as The Seeds. Storming the underground clubs of Los Angeles, the incredibly hirsute combo arrived looking like visitors from another planet. With Hooper’s rippling keyboard arpeggios and Savage’s fuzz-toned surf riffs, their sound was appropriately otherworldly. Sky Saxon dominated the band, both as a quixotic frontman, and as their principal composer, with a compelling line in exciting, attitude-laden rockers.

The act’s initial brace of singles were only moderately successful, but with the release of their astounding debut album in the summer of 1966, the Seeds were on their way. They were neck and neck with the hip elite of Hollywood such as Love, the Sons Of Adam and the nascent Doors, and locally at least, began to surpass them: Saxon’s adenoidal voice spilled from radios city wide as the two chord anthem ‘Pushin’ Too Hard’ became a massive hit in LA, going national in late 1966, and inspiring screaming crowds wherever they went. Seedsmania reached its height in California the following spring with the follow-up album “A Web Of Sound,” and further hits ‘Mr Farmer’ and ‘Can’t Seem To Make You Mine’ (the latter a reissue of the Seeds’ debut single of almost two years prior).

When former KFWB deejay and professional Englishman “Lord Tim” Hudson entered the picture, the Seeds’ career accelerated to a lightning pace. With a hustlers gift of the gab, Hudson translated the band’s original “flower rock” concept into the altogether more copy-worthy notion of flower power, boasting that the Seeds were the leaders of a new flower generation, and that their music would replace the tired rock’n’roll of old. As manager, Hudson truly believed in the capabilities of the band, but whilst his hype generated tremendous publicity, and gained them legions of teenage girls for fans, it also lost the band valuable credibility within the burgeoning, self-consciously hip West Coast rock scene.

Sky and the Seeds’ attempt to match “Sgt Pepper” with the florid, flawed masterpiece “Future” in the summer of 1967 was thus met with disdain by serious rock fans enamoured by the happening San Francisco sound. A schism developed between the previously tight knit quartet. With his songwriting royalties, Saxon was better off than the rest of the band, and had grown worryingly eccentric, increasing his drug intake and entertaining the sycophantic entreaties of a retinue of hangers on. The band still packed them in around the country, but was now only playing large clubs, no longer auditoria. Their next release in late 1967 was a blues album that been recorded a year earlier, and was issued incognito as by the Sky Saxon Blues Band. Despite fine single releases like ‘The Wind Blows Your Hair’, the hit parade was no longer troubled by the presence of The Seeds.

The final long-player by the original line-up was a disingenuous but nevertheless exciting live package, “Raw & Alive” - recorded “live” in the studio and overdubbed with screams. The newer material it included, such as ‘Satisfy You,’ saw the group wisely return to the trademark Seeds sound of old. But with morale at an all-time low, Rick departed, to be closely followed by Jan, after the group’s Crescendo swansong, ‘Falling Off The Edge Of My Mind’. Sky and Daryl kept the band going with different players until 1970, when the original group eventually came to an end. They had recorded a final pair of 45s for MGM, but otherwise the Seeds had wilted and die with desultory performances and a distinct lack of the laser-like focus that had given the band their crack underground reputation back in 1966.

After a faltering career over three subsequent decades, during which he gained notoriety as one of rock’s greatest eccentrics, Sky Saxon died in 2009. Rock-solid Seeds drummer Rick Andridge likewise passed on in 2011. But the music they made as members of the Seeds has its own remarkable immortality. Their recorded catalogue has been in major need of an overhaul for decades, and thus we at Big Beat are tremendously proud to redress the balance, with deluxe reissues of The Seeds’ studio albums. Each release boasts upgraded sound quality, copious bonus material, and extensively researched liner notes within each jam-packed, heavily-illustrated booklet.

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