Love Ride: SAC goes whole hog

strawberry alarm clock performs for bikers

The Strawberry Alarm Clock woke up the SoCal motorcycling elite with a “short but sweet” set at the charity event Love Ride 29.

This time out, the band kicked off with “The World’s on Fire” (opening track of their first album) and closed with “Mr. Farmer” (opening track on their latest album).

The early-morning charity show was produced by Walter Roland Moore and his wife, Annet Peairs. “They are longtime friends of the band — great people!” bassist/singer George Bunnell said. SAC performed at Harley Davidson of Glendale.

Love Ride is billed as the longest-running motorcycle fundraiser in the world. It benefits the USO.

Bunnell says the potential for the band to put on its best show ever was there Oct. 21 — but the tech gremlins had other plans.

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Motorcycle charity event

The Strawberry Alarm Clock performs at Love Ride 29 in Glendale on Oct. 21, 2012

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Mark Weitz, keyboardist and easy rider
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Strawberry Alarm Clock with Los Angeles city honors.
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Love Ride 29 crowd
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Strawberry Alarm Clock plays at Love Ride 29.
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Sci-fi actor Robert Patrick, left, with SAC's Mark Weitz
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Of the 30 or so microphones on stage, none actually worked in the wake of a digital board synchronization snafu. One thing led to another, and the band ended up with only two microphones. The show that was supposed to start at 7:15 didn’t get going until 8:15 or so.

Here’s the set list:

“The World’s on Fire”
“Sit With the Guru”
“Lose to Live”
“Incense and Peppermints”
“Mr. Farmer”

The show was “short but sweet,” Bunnell says.

Longtime band associate Steve Bartek (Oingo Boingo) performed, as did Robert Cowan of the Neville Bros. band on harmonica.

L.A. Councilman Tom LaBonge presented the Valley rockers with certificates marking the 45th anniversary of “Incense and Peppermints” hitting No. 1. Jay Leno and the mayor of Glendale were on hand as well.

The band accepted the L.A. honors for Lee Freeman, who died several years ago, and for Ed King, who now lives in Nashville.

After the show, the band headed north to ride destination Lake Castaic, where they were part of the celebrity introductions. An emotional Randy Seol, the band’s drummer/singer, told the crowd of how the musicians grew up together and were lucky to still be performing as friends.

Also performing at Love Ride were Canned Heat, and George Thorogood and the Destroyers. Leno and Peter Fonda were event “grand marshals.”

The Strawberry Alarm Clock have been performing in support of their new CD, “Wake Up Where You Are.” The album is a mix of new SAC songs and reinterpretations of their classic psychedelic hits.

More new Strawberry Alarm Clock songs are in the works, keyboardist/singer Mark Weitz says.

Photos by Claire Bunnell and MacMac

Other band performances in 2012:

View more Strawberry Alarm Clock photo galleries

SAC in SD: Adams Street Fair video

The Strawberry Alarm Clock fired up the crowd at the Adams Street Fair in San Diego on Sept. 29. They were joined by go-go dancers and … a young Dick Clark?

Video: A ThomasEpicJourney production

View the San Diego show photo gallery and read about the show.

SAC lights up San Diego: photo gallery

The Strawberry Alarm Clock’s show in San Diego kicked off in dramatic fashion:

A young Dick Clark introduced the even-younger band — the time travel courtesy of vintage video projected behind the band. For a few seconds, the Strawberry Alarm Clocks of 1967 and 2012 played together. The song, of course, was “Incense & Peppermints.” (View the video.)

The Adams Avenue Street Fair crowd roared its approval of the psychedelic light show and the dazzling go-go dancers from La Bella Danza Burlesque.

The Sept. 29 event continued the psychedelic vibe with a performance by Kofi Baker’s Cream Experience (Ginger Baker’s son). Text continues.

SAC in concert -- San Diego 2012

The Strawberry Alarm Clock performs at the Adams Avenue Street Fair in San Diego on Sept. 29, 2012

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Adams Avenue is one of the largest free music festivals in California. The event also included a reunion of local crazies Mojo Nixon & Skid Roper, blues guitarist Coco Montoya and a reunion of rockabilly specialists the Paladins.

More Strawberry Alarm Clock photo galleries!

Rocking the Whisky with SAC: photo gallery

strawberry alarm clock 2012The Strawberry Alarm Clock played its second gig since the release of the new CD, this time at the Whisky a Go Go.

Surprisingly, the July 19 concert was the first time the veteran L.A. band played the rock club.

As with the April Silver Lake concert, the show kicked off with a long driving “Mr. Farmer.” The band played fan favorites such as “Strawberries Mean Love,” “Rainy Day Pillow” and of course “I&P.”

The encore was a unique instrumental take on the Beatles’ “Day Tripper” (in 6/8 time), cooked up by singer-bassist George Bunnell.

The new songs from “Wake Up Where You Are” are well integrated into the show at this point. Highlights included “World Citizen” (Randy Seol) “Drifting Away” (Mark Weitz) and the CD title song, “Wake Up” (Howie Anderson). (Get a copy of the new Strawberry Alarm Clock CD.)

Harmonica ace Robert Cowan sat in with the band, as well as Kevin Dippold on flute.

Top left photo: The band during rehearsals for the Sunset Strip show.

Below is the photographic evidence of SAC at the Whisky! (Most photos by Janet Anderson).

Strawberry Alarm Clock in concert

The Strawberry Alarm Clock at the Whisky a Go Go on the Sunset Strip. July 19, 2012.

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The band, backstage with guest harmonica player Robert Cowan (third from right) and audio engineer Kevin Dippold. (Photo by Janet Anderson)
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More Strawberry Alarm Clock photo galleries!

Review: SAC’s ‘fantastical wonderland vibe’

Linda Rapka’s review of the Strawberry Alarm Clock’s show of April 25 first appeared on L.A. Record’s web site and is reposted here with permission.

george bunnell of strawberry alarm clockThough they weren’t delivered to the stage upon mystical Persian rugs, as was their usual mode of transport in the late 1960s thanks to some hulky roadies, Strawberry Alarm Clock did conjure plenty of magic at its show at the Satellite.

The vintage psychedelic rockers, best known for their 1967 gold hit “Incense and Peppermints,” which saw newfound revival thanks to the stellar musical taste of Austin Powers, performed a rare live show at the popular Silver Lake club in support of its first album of new material in 42 years.

“Wake Up Where You Are,” released in March, keeps in the vein of guitar-fuzzy peace and love pop and sounded pleasingly fitting alongside the band’s classic ’60s gems like “Rainy Day Mushroom Pillow” and “Sit With the Guru.”

gene gunnells of strawberry alarm clockWith a live lava-lamp light show appropriately flooding the stage, drummer/percussionist Gene Gunnels (the only remaining member of the band’s earliest incarnation when it was known as Thee Sixpence) donned his signature magician’s top hat, further adding to the fantastical wonderland vibe.

Accompanying Gunnels was madman percussionist Randy Seol and a wall of junkyard metal drums so high it all but obscured him from view — because the only thing groovier than one drummer on stage is two drummers on stage.

mark weitz of strawberry alarm clockHowie Anderson, who joined as lead guitarist in the 1980s, played alongside SAC mainstays Mark Weitz on keys and bassist George Bunnell. Sitting in on flute and guitar was Steve Bartek, formerly of Oingo Boingo and Danny Elfman’s current orchestrator, who began writing songs and playing with SAC in his early teens.

The band made touching remarks on friends gone but not forgotten: former SAC frontman Lee Freeman, who died in 2010, and dear friend Mark Tulin, bassist of the the Electric Prunes, who died early last year.

It may have just been the special “incense,” but as they sang “There’s no place that can be better, when you’re up in clouds forever,” a certain presence filled the room, and the band’s pure magic was fully realized.

Photos by Linda Rapka

Live appearances, 2007-2012

strawberry alarm clock reunion in April 2007

April 29, 2007: Roger Ebert’s Overlooked Film Festival (aka Ebertfest) in Champagne, Ill. For screening of “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls” (group reunion picture above).

electric prunes and sacAug. 18, 2007: Fuzzfest Northwest at the Mount Tabor Legacy theater in Portland, Oregon. With the Electric Prunes and the Chocolate Watch Band.

Sept. 15. 2007: Malibu (California) Inn.

September 2007: Love-In: A Musical Celebration festival at Birch North Park Theater in San Diego. With Peter & Gordon, Buddy Miles, Jessie Colin Young.

October 2007: The Pig and Whistle in Hollywood, Calif.

Nov. 3, 2007: Cavestomp. Brooklyn, N.Y. With the New Colony Six.

December 2007: Disneyland on the Tomorrowland stage (K-Earth event). Anaheim, Calif.

Dec. 28, 2007: The Knitting Factory in Hollywood.

March 2008: Susan G. Komen for the Cure concert at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.

Jan. 23, 2011: The Actors Gang Theater in Culver City, Calif.

TV and radio: Live on “The Gary Bryant Show” (K-Earth) and on the KUSI morning TV show (San Diego).

View list of 1960s performances by the Strawberry Alarm Clock

Review: ‘Get me to tomorrow on time’

By Michael McDowell
For a veteran band to survive for four decades with a reasonable percentage of their original lineup intact is remarkable. For such a band to flourish and maintain a high level of creativity at that stage of their career is a rarity. And for two such bands to occupy the same stage on a given night is nothing short of a miracle.

Lee Freeman, George Bunnell, Howie Anderson of SACA miracle is exactly what transpired on the evening of Dec. 28, 2007, at the Knitting Factory in Hollywood, Calif., as a capacity crowd joined the Strawberry Alarm Clock and Electric Prunes in celebrating the 40th anniversary of the year that brought them their greatest chart successes, 1967.

As expected, both bands did so with the passion and verve that endeared them to their audience from the beginning.

(Pictured: Lee Freeman, left, George Bunnell and Howie Anderson of the Strawberry Alarm Clock.)

“This is the last chapter”, explained Electric Prunes cofounder and front man, James Lowe. “So we choose our way.”

Although Lowe’s oblique reference to mortality will hopefully not manifest for some time to come, to be certain, the high death rate in recent years amongst veteran artists has not gone unnoticed by either band. Yet with seemingly little to prove (in light of the astoundingly high quality of both band’s recorded legacies), each not only revisited key components of their respective catalogs with undiminished optimism, but (especially in the Electric Prunes’ case) introduced new material into the set that more than holds its own against their earlier triumphs.

The Strawberry Alarm Clock took to the stage with an undeclared but obvious mission statement: Great music is timeless. The band’s three-guitar and dual-percussionist approach enables them to not only add a Spector-esque depth to their live performances, but it also frees each member to improvise and/or solo, as needed.

In their endeavors to articulate and underscore their mission statement, the Strawberry Alarm Clock most assuredly did not disappoint. The band drew extensively from not only their earlier incarnation as Thee Sixpence, but from their vast album catalog, as well. This of course meant that not only were such career highlights as “Rainy Day Mushroom Pillow,” “Birds in My Tree,” “Barefoot in Baltimore” and “Theme From Psych-Out” showcased in all of their rich and intricate glory, but that the band as instrumentalists also were able to shine.

Of particular interest was the nearly 20-minute drum solo by Randy Seol, who more than reiterated his ability to execute with the pure passion and intensity of such percussion greats as Micky Dolenz, Keith Moon and the late Dennis Wilson. Likewise, George Bunnell and Lee Freeman remain charismatic front men. Although each shared the spotlight through the majority of the band’s set, Bunnell and Freeman are able to instinctively discern each another’s strengths, which in turn enables them to effortlessly default to one another’s abilities as needed on given selections.

electric prunes - strawberry alarm clock poster 2007This tag team approached served the Strawberry Alarm Clock particularly well for not only a spirited cover of the Skip James/Scot Richard Case classic, “I’m So Glad,” but for the animated and exuberant run-throughs of their career highlights. Those included the lush and irresistible December 1967 hit single, “Tomorrow” (complete with Harpers Bizarre-inspired vocals and inventive use of minors), plus the much-loved “The Birdman of Alkatrash” and their inevitable (and most assuredly welcome) monster hit, “Incense and Peppermints.”

The latter cuts were particularly ideal for showcasing the versatility of keyboardsman Mark Weitz, who is also the band’s principal tunesmith, having composed “Incense and Peppermints,” “The Birdman of Alkatrash,” “Tomorrow,” “Barefoot in Baltimore” and “Sit With the Guru,” amongst others.

The Rolling Stones observed James Brown and the Famous Flames with considerable apprehension from backstage at the landmark 1964 TAMI Concert in Santa Monica, Calif., knowing that they had the dubious honor of attempting to follow Brown’s larger-than-life set. Likewise, following the Strawberry Alarm Clock after a performance of that caliber would have been a next to impossible task for all but the most capable of artists. Only a seasoned band like the Electric Prunes would have been able to rise to the occasion, which they did so in abundance.

To their credit, both the Strawberry Alarm Clock and the Electric Prunes view their respective collaborations not so much as competition, rather as a joint effort by two groups of long-term allies and colleagues with like minded, yet clearly defined individual mission statements. And to their considerable credit, the Electric Prunes have underscored the ongoing validity of their legacy by not only touring regularly during the current decade, but also by recording prolifically.

At the Knitting Factory, the Electric Prunes took to the stage with co-founders Lowe and bassist Mark Tulin at the helm. However, conspicuous in his absence was original Prunes guitarist Ken Williams. Accordingly to Lowe, Williams is still recovering from neck surgery. In Williams’ place is lead guitarist Steve Kara. Drummer Walter Garces and rhythm guitarist Jay Dean round out the band’s current lineup.

“Except for the first two gigs, there has never been any attempt to reconstruct the band as it was in 1967.” Lowe explained. “We look for the best presentation of the music, both yesterday’s and today’s.”

To that effect, the Electric Prunes opened with perennial favorite “Long Day’s Flight.” Rather than merely replicate the recording, Lowe, Tulin and their colleagues utilized their extensive experience to embellish that and other Prunes fare with deviations from the conventional arrangements that in some respects enhance and/or complete the earlier renditions.

“We let everyone contribute to make the show pleasant and the songs playable,” explained Lowe. “It comes out different every time. That’s what makes it fun!”

The fun to which Lowe referred was demonstrated in large measure at the Knitting Factory, as the Electric Prunes soared magnificently through a set that meshed such hardcore devotee favorites as “The Great Banana Hoax” (from their “Underground” album), “I Happen to Love You,” “Hideaway,” “Lost Dreams” and early single sides “Ain’t It Hard” and “Little Olive” with such recent triumphs as “Circus Freak” and the highly spirited “I’ll Give You Feedback,” both from their 2006 “Feedback” album.

With the latter cut, the band took considerable artistic license from the recorded version.

“Yes, it was artistic license”, said Lowe. “(‘I’ll Give You Feedback’) on record depends on organ for balls and grind. (But on stage), there is no organ. We don’t own one! All bands convert things a little to make a live presentation that works for them.”

Given the late great Del Shannon’s infamous analogy about the tedium of having to play the same set on stage night after night, it would seem logical that for the sake of keeping the proceedings fresh, that the Electric Prunes would likewise approach their two most noteworthy hit singles with some degree of the aforementioned artistic license.

But in the case of their January 1967 “I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night)” Reprise label single, the band not only confounded expectations by offhandedly defaulting to it during mid-set, they in turn also underscored the fact that Lowe’s maxim with respect to artistic license would not necessarily be anathema to whatever purist element may have infiltrated the audience.

With only modest deference to that demographic, the band instead opted to close with what many regard as their definitive track, the intense and ferocious April 1967 smash, “Get Me to the World On Time.” And although the various players indeed took a considerable degree of liberty with its familiar arrangement, in no way was any of the extreme intensity of the original version sacrificed.

“By that time (in the set), I’m always thrashed!” said Lowe.

To be sure, the Electric Prunes are far too visionary in their perspective to not endeavor to exceed expectations with each live performance. Lowe’s well-known disenfranchisement with the purist element has indeed driven both him and Tulin to consistently seek higher musical ground.

“Some people keep up their chops,” Lowe explained. “Some don’t want to learn anything new and choose to rely on what (already) went on. In other words, they can’t get into reality. They want to live in the past”.

To be sure, it is Lowe’s forward thinking approach that has kept the creative juices flowing for the band, and has also enabled them to not fall prey to Del Shannon’s aforementioned maxim. Now at peace with their legacy, the Electric Prunes also remain in the coveted position of being a vital source of musical innovation.

Nonetheless, the ongoing support of the purist element is not lost on Lowe.

“I went to Amoeba and bought one of our vinyls,” he said, in reference to the gargantuan Amoeba Records Store on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. “That’s pretty cool for 2008, just having some in there.”

And that the Electric Prunes and Strawberry Alarm Clock not only have a huge recorded legacy from which to draw and expand upon, but that both bands continue to remain vital contributors and innovators at this juncture is something for which we can all be thankful. Or as James Lowe succinctly put it, “That’s what makes it fun!”

Michael McDowell is the editor and publisher of Blitz Magazine. Review used with permission.

Photo credit: Aaron Feliciano/C&P Blitz Magazine 2007. All rights reserved.

SAC at the Malibu Inn

The Strawberry Alarm Clock played the Malibu Inn on Sept. 15. 2007. Personnel: Howie Anderson, Steve Barktek, George Bunnell, Lee Freeman, Gene Gunnels, Mark Weitz.