The WC Fields Memorial Electric String Band
(L-R) Prof. Eustace McGargle, Carl La Fong, T. Frothingill Bellows
Mahatma Kane Jeeves, Larson E Whipsnade
Listen/Download – WC Fields Memorial Electric String Band – Hippy Elevator Operator
I hope the new week finds you well.
As has been discussed here many a time, I have a serious jones on for the sounds of the Sunset Strip a la 65/66 to the point where I will dig and dig until some of the 45s in question find themselves a nice home in my crates.
One of those 45s is the one you see before you, with the groovy title of ‘Hippy Elevator Operator’ and the band with the absurd, ungainly and hard-to-Google name of the W.C. Fields Memorial Electric String Band.
As names go, it was two years ahead of its time, sounding less LA-au-go-go than SanFran Ballroom, but as we shall see (hear) the sounds that they made were also ahead of the game.
The cats in the WCFMESB (as they shall be known going forward) recorded a couple of tasty folk rock 45s as The Bees (but not, apparently the same Bees that recorded ‘Voices Green and Purple’, who were also from SoCal), including a cool reworking of Dylan’s ‘She Belongs To Me’ for the storied Mirwood label.
At some point in nineteen and sixty six they reconstituted themselves as the WCFMESB and recorded a couple of positively stunning 45s, including the first recording of ‘I’m Not Your Stepping Stone’ (on Mercury) and ‘Hippy Elevator Operator’ for HBR.
‘Hippy Elevator Operator’ is a hard charging, brain-warped lost classic, with drugged out lyrics, manic (dare I say DEMENTED?) guitar and production and a vibe that is – like some of the finest and weirdest SoCal stuff of the era – distinctly far out.
I’d place this single alongside similarly vintage material from cats like Captain Beefheart and even early Mothers for its roughness and punk feel, and when I say “feel” I mean to say that while this might otherwise be carelessly lumped in with ‘garage punk’ it is simultaneously both and neither, and is ultimately quite fantastic.
It is a record that could have been made in neither 1965 nor 1967, which when you take the time to digest it is obvious.
There is something purely 1966-y about ‘Hippy Elevator Operator’ that marks a perfect alignment of sounds and ideas that would not have been possible anywhere else.
After legal action (threatened or actual I am not sure) by the estate of the real W.C. Fields, the band truncated their name first to ESB (one 45, I think) and then Fields (an album on UNI) before disintegrating and being absorbed back into the ether.
Heavy stuff that ought to hold you for the week.
Dig it and I’ll see you later.