The California Sunshine of Mark Eric

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Mark Eric

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Listen/Download – Mark Eric – California Home

Listen/Download – Mark Eric – Night of the Lions

Listen/Download – Mark Eric – Where do the Girls of the Summer Go
Greetings all.

I hope the new week finds you well.

The fam and I recently returned from a brief vacation, during which I grabbed a nice fat stack of vinyl, for both Iron Leg (some very interesting stuff) and the Corners. Look forward to coming blog posts as well as September’s Iron Leg Radio Show for all manner of groovy sounds.

The tunes I bring you today represent one of my favorite discoveries (for me personally) of the last five years.

I forget where I first encountered the sounds of Mark Eric, but I suspect it was on the interwebs somewhere.

His sole LP, 1969’s ‘A Midsummer’s Daydream’ is a fairly scarce item, mainly because it went nowhere when it was first issued, and because those that have encountered it since have hard filed it.

Mark Eric’s music has been described – accurately – as some of the best Beach Boys material not actually created by Mr Wilson and his henchmen.

Eric, born Mark Eric Malmborg not only looked the part, with his sun-bleach blond good looks (he spent some time as a TV actor) but seems to have internalized the post-Pet Sounds vibe, mixing it with a healthy dose of Sunshine Pop.

He recorded ‘A Midsummer’s Daydream’ in 1969 with Animals guitarist Vic Briggs twiddling the knobs and arranging.

I’m always amazed that someone was able/willing to pull something like this off in 1969. There were certainly legions of Brian Wilson fanboys appropriating his sound (ironically or not) in the 80s and 90s, but for someone to dig this deep into that sound, and pull it off so well while the Beach Boys prime was still in the ether (as it were) was remarkable.

The three tracks I bring you today should provide a pretty nice introduction to Mark Eric.

‘California Home’, the track that opens the LP shows the level of sophistication at work. While he might not have had the laser-like focus of someone like Curt Boettcher (or Wilson himself), Mark Eric was no slouch in the ‘creating a soundscape’ department. ‘California Home’ features his own Brian-esque vocals and harmonies, laid atop a well-crafted arrangement.

By 1969, with the Brian Wilson pulled out from under them (mostly) the Beach Boys had kind of gone off the rails, and while they were still doing some very interesting work (‘Friends’ and ‘Surf’s Up’ especially) with the other members flexing their creative muscles a bit more, they were incapable of the kind of consistency that Mark Eric brought to his album.

This is of course a wholly theoretical exercise, since the Beach Boys/Brian Wilson probably had no idea who Mark Eric was, and certainly weren’t involved with the project in any way.

However, the record store basements of the world are packed floor to ceiling with 45s by acts that were dead set on imitating the Beach Boys, Beatles, Byrds, Rolling Stones and others, most of whom made a hash of it.

To hear an entire album so well done, in regard to songcraft, arranging and performing, yet so obviously derivative is a remarkable and rare thing.

‘Night Of the Lions’ is as close to a ‘rock’ track on the LP, and its French horn, harp and strings bring some of Jan and Dean’s best “Wall of Surf” productions. The song has had an interesting life of its own, appearing on the soundtrack to the biker film ‘Angels Die Hard’. It was also redone on the album ‘Surf Symphony” by Jan Rubini, with new a new guitar line added to the original track.

‘Where Do the Girls of the Summer Go’ is the finest “sunshine” track on the album. The melody takes some intriguing turns into Bacharach territory.

Though some have classified Mark Eric as “soft pop” – and there are undeniable elements of that sound here – I would say that his songs/records are generally more sophisticated and satisfying than a lot of that genre, offering incentive for multiple listens.

The big mystery for me, and certainly one of the reasons that ‘A Midsummer’s Daydream’ is so intriguing, is that after creating something so wonderful, Mark Eric seems to have just walked away from music.

His acting career lasted a few years and consisted of episodic TV roles (the Partridge Family, The Bill Cosby Show, Hawaii Five-O), one film (Pretty Maids All In a Row) and a number of commercials.

He released one, rare 45 as Mark Erickson and the Point Dume Boys on the Cove label in 1970, but apparently nothing after that.

Apparently he did at least one live performance around the time ‘A Midsummer’s Daydream’ was reissued by Rev-Ola in the early 2000s.

The album was available on iTunes for a while, but it doesn’t look like it’s there any longer.

Original copies of the album don’t turn up too often, and when they do they run between 40 and 100 dollars, but you can still find affordable copies of the CD reissue.

I hope you dig the tracks, and I’ll see you all next week.

Peace

Larry

 

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PS Head over to Funky16Corners for some soul.

Sandy Nelson – Boss Beat

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Sandy Nelson (above), Jim Messina and the Jesters (below)

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Listen/Download – Sandy Nelson – Boss Beat

Greetings all.

I hope you all had a chance to dig into the sonic buffet that was last week’s episode of the Iron Leg Radio Show. There was a veritable borgas-smord of groovy delights, with which to stuff your ears.

The tune I bring you today was a delightful little surprise when my man Haim dropped a stack of jukebox EPs into my crates from his perch out on the coast.

There was all kinds of cool stuff, but the record I gravitated to first was this little gem by Sandy Nelson.

A hitmaking drummer, Nelson released a grip of albums during the 60s, which – like most cool instro discs – I generally grab when I’m out digging because the song selection is often very cool and execution is as well.

I had never heard the tune ‘Boss Beat’ before, but as soon as I saw the ‘Jim Messina’ writing credit, my interest was piqued and I knew I had to give it a spin.

Though he is best known for his years alongside Kenny Loggins and his time before than in the Buffalo Springfield, fans of twangy guitars will be hip to the fact that he spent some of his early years making excellent surf records with his band the Jesters.

If you haven’t heard the Jesters, check out tracks like ‘The Jester’ and ‘High Voltage’ on Youtube.

I don’t know how Messina hooked up with Sandy Nelson (or who his co-writer Kay Classey was), but ‘Boss Beat’ is a treat.

There’s a certain magic around the music in Southern California in 1965 where all of the previous musical threads, surf, R&B, rockabilly and pure rock’n’roll started to get mixed up with all the new sounds coming into shape, including garage, British beat and various and sundry au-go-go styles.

‘Boss Beat’ is a great example of a transitional record, in which the old and the new are both present, wrestling for dominance and managing to produce something very groovy in the process.

You get plenty of hard hitting drums from Nelson, twangy guitar (rumored to Messina himself), which all sound pretty run of the mill until the combo organ comes in and starts to work it out, at which point things start to take on a garage-cum-spy soundtrack edge that no doubt had the go-go girls shaking it in their cages.

It’s a crazy little track, and I hope you dig it as much as I do.

See you next week.

Peace

Larry

 

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PS Head over to Funky16Corners for some soul.

The Dark, Weird Beginnings of Bruce Johnston…

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Bruce Johnston – On a buoy, and a strange looking bus…

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Listen/Download -Bruce Johnston – Jersey Channel Islands Part 7

Listen/Download -Bruce Johnston – Capetown

Greetings all.

I hope you’re all well as we settle in for another week.

The tunes I bring you today are some crazy shit from a very unlikely source.

I’ve certainly known of Bruce Johnston for years, first and foremost as a longtime member of the Beach Boys, and before that (with Terry Melcher) as part of Bruce and Terry.

That said, I had no idea that he had anything like the cuts I bring you today inside of him.

I first heard ‘Jersey Channel Islands Part 7’ last year, and when I did the experience was akin to opening a box of Cheerios and finding a pack of rattlesnakes singing four part harmony, i.e. the very spirit of incongruity.

Recorded in 1963 and released on the Columbia label, ‘Surfin’ ‘Round the World’ is proof positive that no matter how much you dig, no matter who you hobnob with, you will never know all the cool music there is to know.

This also has something to do with the old saw about leaving no stone unturned.

If I saw a Bruce Johnston album in a record store, I’d probably pass it by. While I dig surf music a lot, I am in neither an expert nor a connoisseur, happy to get by with a couple of compilation CDs and whatever interesting looking albums or 45s I manage to pick up on the cheap.

However, when I heard these tracks I knew I had to track down this record. My initial efforts met with little success because ‘Surfin’…’ is both obscure, and I would later discover, rare and costly.

Fortunately for me (always thankful for Ebay sellers who know not what they have), I got lucky and managed to pick up a lot with both mono and stereo copies of the record for about a third of what a single copy usually goes for.

Interestingly enough, alongside manic episodes like ‘Jersey Channel Islands Part 7’ and ‘Capetown’ (most of the albums tracks namecheck famous surfing locales) there are a couple of fairly run of the mill Beach Boys-y tracks, which were no doubt what Johnston turned over to the suits when they agreed to release this album. I suspect that had he whipped any of the crazy stuff on them they would have soiled their Brooks Brothers, spit out their 12 year old scotch and had him killed and buried in a shallow grave.

If you take a look at the pictures of Johnston on the cover of the album, looking all clean-cut and wholesome, you’d probably never match them up with this lunacy.

The best tracks on the album sound as if some mental case in a 1990s surf revival band, with a whole lot of grain alcohol and bad attitude under his belt had been set loose in a recording studio.

I don’t doubt that somewhere in 1963, someone was making music this unhinged, but that it made it onto a major label release is especially shocking.

The cuts are filled with insane, fuzzed out guitars and bass, electric piano (probably all Johnston) and wailing sax, packed with sounds that were years ahead of their time.

What you get is a basic template of hardcore, Dick Dale-ish surf, frat rock, lots of studio experimentation and just a dash of psychosis.

Interestingly, one of the tracks from the LP (‘Maksha at Midnight’ which sounds like Hank Marvin on vacation in California) was released a year later on a Bruce and Terry 45.

In addition to his Beach Boys duties, Johnston also went on to write ‘I Write the Songs’ for Barry Manilow. Go figure…

Fortunately ‘Surfin’ ‘Round the World’ has been reissued on a CD two-fer for a much more reasonable price.

I hope you dig this madness, and I’ll be back next week.

Peace

Larry

 

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PS Head over to Funky16Corners for a soulful cover of Question mark and the Mysterians.

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