Listen – Mad River – Amphetamine Gazelle – MP3
Greetings all.As promised, I figured I close out the week with a bit of unlikely San Fran speed freak jam.
How I came upon my copy of the first Mad River album is a interesting story.
I first heard of the group via a connection with one of my favorite authors, Richard Brautigan who contributed a spoken word bit to one of their LPs.
I bought (I thought) my first copy of their album at a garage sale years ago, only to discover that what I really got was a Mad River album cover with a Cars record inside of it (nothing against the Cars, but seriously, what a letdown…).
Anyway, Mad River and I never crossed paths after that, until kismet recently stepped in.
One of the ladies my wife teaches with (and a family friend) asked her if I might be interested in taking some vinyl off her hands.
Now, I tend to be dubious about situations like this, only because I’ve so buried myself in records at this point that if the estate of Howlin’ Wolf were to call me with a similar offer, I’d have to give it some thought.
However, it had been a while since I’d been digging (in person or on the interwebs) so I figured it would be a nice treat (fully expecting nothing of interest or value).
I ended up being pleasantly surprised.
Though the four or five crates of LPs (most belonging to her late husband) contained nothing of great rarity, they did demonstrate that this man had excellent taste in music, and brought to me a grip of 60s rock LPs that I only had on CD ( a bunch of Beatles/Stones and the like). The one big surprise in the batch was the first album by Mad River.
Though they were signed to a major label, Mad River remains one of the lesser known Bay Area bands. They never had a hit, and apparently altered their style considerably between their first and second albums, so their obscurity, or at least that they’ve gotten lost in the shuffle of their more successful San Fran brethren (and sistren) should come as no surprise.
The first LP (which I’ve read was mastered at the incorrect speed, apparently making today’s selection a touch fast) is actually pretty good, and holds up as a good example of the darker side of psychedelia. The darkest tune on the record is ‘Amphetamine Gazelle’.
Where the West Coast music scene was by and large singing the virtues of psychedelics, Mad River decided to step out of line and compose an ode to the jittery, teeth grinding side of the drug experience.
I mean, honest to jeebus, how many times, outside of the garage punk underground do you hear lines like:
“Why’d you put spiders in my mind?”
The tune sounds like a distant cousin to Love’s ‘My Flash On You’, tossed into a meat grinder with the members of Moby Grape and a gallon or so of strong, black coffee. There are elements of the record (the vocals especially) that sound eerily prescient (heavy metal wise), and I can only imagine the surprise on the faces of a ballroom full of soporific hippies when the band whipped this one on them. I suspect it would involve a fair amount of tears, rolling into the fetal position or running in fear.
See you on Monday.