The Blue Things (Val Stecklein, top)
Listen – The Blue Things – Orange Rooftop of Your Mind- MP3
Listen – The Blue Things – One Hour Cleaners – MP3
I hope all is well on your end, and that you’re all ready for a most excellent and relaxing weekend.
Back in the day (oh, another one of those posts…), when the garage and psyche reissues were coming out as fast as the pressing plants could manufacture them, one of the major rediscoveries was the Blue Things.
Unlike the vast majority of bands that caught the ears of garage/psyche collectors, the Blue Things managed – without any national success – to create a fairly substantial discography stretching from the Beat era, through folk rock and garage punk right on into the psychedelic era.
Based in Kansas (huh?) they recorded initially for the local Ruff label, later being signed to RCA for whom they would record several 45s and an LP.
The history of the Blue Things is a testament to the power of regional radio and the scenes that it fed (and which in turn fed upon it). The band had some substantial regional hits which benefited from play on radio stations with transmitters that could reach the entire midsection of the country. Their music could be heard – and the band toured – from Texas to Minnesota. They were stars, but pretty much only regionally, a status that the homogenization of radio (and the dawn of the video age) has pretty much eliminated.
As I mentioned earlier, pretty much everything they recorded was reissued in the 80s. and two of those tracks ‘Orange Rooftop of Your Mind’ and ‘One Hour Cleaners’ (oddly enough, the two songs I bring you today) have been a fixture on my mix tapes (and CDs) ever since.
Last year, while out digging at a record show, record bag full of loot, I decided to make one last stop at the table of a garage/psyche dealer that I’ve been buying records from for 20 years. Right there, in the front of one of his boxes was the 45 I’d been looking for since the 80s, and it was only ten bucks, so (and I know you already figured out this part of the story) I bought it.
Good thing too, because I’d go as far as to say that this 1967 record is one of the finest American psychedelic 45s of the era. There’s something for everyone, fuzz guitars, backward tape, tight harmonies and psyched out lyrics. Interestingly –as revealed by a demo version – the original title of ‘Orange Rooftop of Your Mind’ was in fact ‘Coney Island of Your Mind’, paraphrasing the title of a Lawrence Ferlinghetti poem.
‘One Hour Cleaners’ is acid drenched, with the ‘Taxman’ beat, reverse tape (in the intro as well as during the song), echoed piano, phased vocals and what sounds like a touch of Moog synthesizer (the 45 was recorded at RCA’s studios in Nashville, TN, reportedly with the assistance of Ray Stevens who went on to have several hits of his own).
Sadly, Val Stecklein left the Blue Things to head to the West Coast (where he would record a solo LP for the Dot label) and the band would break up a year later. After a couple of decades of failing mental health, Stecklein (who had changed the spelling of his last name to ‘Stoecklein’) passed away in 1993 at the age of 52.
I hope you dig the tune (and if you do, look for those Blue Things comps), and I’ll be back on Monday with an unusual new edition of Iron Leg Digital Trip.