Dig it: The new ‘Mr. Farmer’ video

Here’s the psychedelic music video for the Strawberry Alarm Clock’s single “Mr. Farmer.” It features veteran actor Charles Dierkop in the lead role. Produced & directed by Dan Markell & Harold Sherrick.

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.

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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(Photo by Janet Anderson)
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(Photo by Janet Anderson)
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More Strawberry Alarm Clock photo galleries!

New Strawberry Alarm Clock CD

New Strawberry Alarm Clock band recording CDThe Strawberry Alarm Clock has a message for fans: New music is on the way.

Under the guidance of producer Steve Bartek, the band has been busy laying down tracks for a new CD.

(Update: “Wake Up Where You Are,” the first new album from the Strawberry Alarm Clock in over 40 years, is now available. It was released in March 2012.)

The album includes brand-new songs, a killer cover song and rerecordings (or reinterpretations) of some tunes from the band’s classic period — the late 1960s. (Read a track-by-track breakdown of the CD songs.)

Unlike some other ’60s rock acts, however, the SAC has no intention of leaning on songs from their younger days on future releases.

“These new songs were done to test the waters,” says SAC keyboardist Mark Weitz. “It’s a springboard to a second new album of all-new original material. We now are dedicated to recording new music.”

(Photos: Top of page, from left: Mark Weitz, Randy Seol, George Bunnell and Howie Anderson. Below: Weitz takes a break in the studio.)

SAC bass player George Bunnell says the original plan “was to embark on a recording project by revisiting and recording some of the old material ‘just to see if we could work together’ — and also to see what we sound like this many years later. Like, do we still sound like the SAC?

“Our real intention was to write and record new songs. We just wanted to get back to our roots a bit, establish a method and move on from there.”

musician Mark Weitz in Steve Bartek's studioWeitz says of the producer: “Steve (Bartek) had a tremendous role in the new recordings (for the CD). Without his patience, knowledge, vision and experience — not to mention his studio and the massive amount of donated studio time — this project never would have happened.”

Bartek (Oingo Boingo) has a long history with the band, dating back to before they hit the charts in 1966. He last played as a member of the Strawberry Alarm Clock during 2007-2010, but left due to his insanely demanding schedule scoring films with Danny Elfman (his Oingo Boingo bandmate).

The core band members — Bunnell, , Weitz, Howie Anderson, Randy Seol and Gene Gunnels — played live in the studio, just like in the old days. “We try to record together,” Weitz says. “Everything is mic’d, and we play and sing as a group. We try to musically overdub as little as possible.”

Bunnell recently answered a fan’s question about “Incense and Peppermints,” which is MIA on the CD: “The song is a difficult act to follow. There are so many serendipitous reasons for that original track coming together as it did, as well as a healthy amount of disdain over the mishandled writer’s credits and the possibility of us adding more revenue to that handbag.

“I think the track was doomed from the get go. We did have a nice (new) arrangement for it, but the original version is is what it is, because it is what it is. So we let that be.”

There are two alternate tracks on the CD. Both are extended versions of songs on the disc. One is the surprisingly psychedelic Seeds cover “Mr. Farmer.” (Appearing on an upcoming Sky Saxon memorial tribute CD set.) The other is the SAC classic “Sit With the Guru” revisited with a long drum solo.

Here are the songs on the upcoming CD in the projected running order:

1. Mr. Farmer (single version)*
2. Strawberries Mean Love
3. Hummin’ Happy
4. Birds in My Tree
5. World Citizen*
6. Drifting Away*
7. Lose to Live
8. Barefoot in Baltimore
9. Charlotte’s Remains*
10. Sit with the Guru (classic version)
11. Tomorrow
12. Wake up*
13. Mr. Farmer (extended with psychedelic jam)*
14. Sit with the Guru (extended with drum solo)

* = New

For the record: Strawberry Alarm Clock

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SAC’s new sounds, track by track

strawberry alarm clock 2011

The Strawberry Alarm Clock is ready to unleash its recent recordings on the group’s first album in 40 years.

Here’s the lowdown on each of the tracks destined for the new Strawberry Alarm Clock CD, “Wake Up Where You Are” (in running order).

Mr. Farmer: The old Seeds song written by Sky Saxon and a cult classic. Long story short, Mark Weitz (keyboards, vocals) played a Saxon memorial concert in L.A. with Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins. Saxson’s widow, Sabrina, asked the Strawberry Alarm Clock to participate in a multidisc tribute album set for release later in 2011. “Right off the bat, I said I wanted to do ‘Mr. Farmer,'” Weitz says. “Going with the less obvious.” Weitz listened to the original Seeds single for two weeks, added a few lyrics and then the Strawberry Alarm clock blasted it out in the studio, with Weitz on vocals. The result is a driving hard-rocker sure to startle a few fans. If the CD has a hit single, this is it. (Two versions of the song are on the CD — a single version and a seven-minute take with some serious acid rock going down.)

Strawberries Mean Love: From the first SAC album, written by teenagers George Bunnell and Steve Bartek. “We were really proud of the vocal harmonies on the new version,” Weitz says. The song gets fresh keyboard parts and a modern feel.

Hummin’ Happy: Another song from the first album, written by Bunnell and Randy Seol.

Birds in My Tree. Bunnell and Seol wrote this and it first appeared on the debut album.

World Citizen: A new song created by the band for Garry Davis’ World Citizen organization, which promotes and issues global passports. SAC’s “World Citizen” was used in an award-winning short film. Think world music filtered through Oingo Boingo. Producer Steve Bartek (a veteran of that ’80s band) plays flute. Lyrics by Randy Seol of SAC and Arthur Kanegif. Seol sings.

Drifting Away: Mark Weitz wrote this several years ago, after his wife passed away. Weitz sings with backup vocals by Howie Anderson, who also adds some tasty guitar work. “It’s a difficult song (to play), Weitz says. “It sounds like something out of a movie.”

Lose to Live
: Another number from the first album, written by Weitz. Lee Freeman sang the original. Seol handles the vocals this time, with Weitz taking over in the middle section. Bartek plays harmonica.

Barefoot in Baltimore: Weitz wrote this song for the first album with former guitarist Ed King. Original concept was to have a Motown sound, “but it never turned out that way,” Weitz says. New version includes a keyboard section that mimics vibes. From the second SAC album; single reached No. 67 on the record charts.

Charlotte’s Remains
: One of the first songs performed by the band when they started playing together again in 2007. Cover of a moody rocker by the current king of garage bands, the Fuzztones.

Sit With the Guru: Another ’60s song, a fan favorite written by Weitz with the help of guitarist King. “It has a modern twist now,” Weitz says. Bartek plays an electronic sitar and there’s a touch of oboe, giving the number a Middle Eastern vibe. An extended alternate take is the CD’s last track. The original was on the second SAC album, and charted as a single peaking at No. 65.

Tomorrow: The band stretches out via a longer ending than on the original. Seol sings the song, a single written for the second album by Weitz-King that peaked at No. 23 on the charts.

Wake Up: A new song written by guitarist Anderson with his friend Brad Swanson. Anderson sings as well. Psychedelic touches such as backward guitar and cymbals. Heavy like the Who. The extended ending is a studio jam that broke out after “Wake Up” was recorded but proved too good to throw away.

Mr. Farmer: The long version. Big guitar in the beginning and a ’60s-style freakout at the end. “Steve’s arrangement shines,” Weitz says.

Sit With the Guru: The long version with Seol’s 10-minute drum solo.

Sources: Mark Weitz, George Bunnell

At the movies with Strawberry Alarm Clock

Strawberry Alarm Clock at Ebertfest

The Strawberry Alarm Clock rocked out in two B-movie classics, “Psych-Out” with Jack Nicholson and “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls,” directed by Russ Meyer. Above, band members at “Ebertfest” in 2007, where “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls” screened.

‘Psych-Out’ was a wild ride for band

Psych-Out filmThe Strawberry Alarm clock went Hollywood in 1968, appearing in “Psych-Out” with a young Jack Nicholson. The SAC songs in the film are “Incense and Peppermints,” “Rainy Day Mushroom Pillow,” “The World’s on Fire” and “Pretty Song From Psych-Out.”

“Pretty Song” is the title number and the full band performs “Rainy Day Mushroom Pillow” (video below). Personnel: Randy Seol (vocals and bongos), Mark Weitz (keyboards), Ed King (guitar), Steve Bartek (flute), George Bunnell (bass) and Lee Freeman (drums).

Shot mostly in Los Angeles but set in San Francisco, “Psych-Out” told the tale of a deaf hippie runaway (Susan Strasberg) who hooks up with Nicholson’s character and his pals. Nicholson’s fictional band plays a big gig at “The Ballroom” on the same bill as the Strawberry Alarm Clock.

Other “Psych-Out” cast members of note include Bruce Dern, Dean Stockwell, Henry Jaglom and Adam Roarke. The movie was directed by Richard Rush, best known for “The Stunt Man.” Alas, MGM’s “Midnight Movies” DVD of the film cuts 11 minutes or so from its running time in order to make room for Peter Fonda’s “The Trip.”

The soundtrack album (unavailable on CD) has two Strawberry Alarm Clock tracks — “Rainy Day” and “The World’s on Fire” — but it begins with their “Pretty Song” performed by the Storybook, another Valley band. SAC plays the song in the film.

Bassist Bunnell recalled:

“We were asked by Dick Clark to take part in his movie ‘Psych-Out.’ He asked us not only to appear in it as ourselves, but to provide several songs as the landscape,” Bunnell told the L.A. Times.

“More importantly he asked us to write the theme song. He had been using Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘Sounds of Silence’ as the temporary theme. He wanted something along those lines as the central character played by the late Susan Strasberg was deaf and blind.

“Lee (Freeman) immediately had an idea for the lyrics and along with our guitarist Ed King they wrote and sang one of the most gorgeous pieces of psych pop ever recorded, ‘Pretty Song From Psych-Out.’ Not the title they had intended the song to have … but, oh well.”

Trivia: Guitarist Ed King’s Vox guitar abruptly changes to a Fender Telecaster during “Rainy Day Mushroom Pillow.” Guitarist Lee Freeman played drums because Seol was up front singing.

Going ‘Beyond the Valley of the Dolls’

Strawberry Alarm Clock in Valley of DollsIn 1970, the Strawberry Alarm Clock returned to the big screen in Russ Meyers’ “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls,” contributing the songs “Incense and Peppermints,” “I’m Comin’ Home”, and “Girl From the City.”

The band — Gene Gunnels, Lee Freeman, Ed King, Paul Marshall — made a cameo during a party scene (pictured) and backed up one of the stars as she sang. Marshall joined the band in 1969, the year the film was made.

Roger Ebert co-wrote the Fox film (yes, that Roger Ebert). It has since become a cult classic, released as a collector’s DVD set a few years back.

In 2007, members of the Strawberry Alarm Clock reunited and performed at the famed film critic’s “Ebertfest” (Roger Ebert’s Overlooked Film Festival) in Urbana-Champaign, Ill., where “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls” unspooled as the closing film (pictured, top of page). Read Roger Ebert’s thank you letter to the band.

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls albumEbert recalls hacking out the script in 1969 with Meyers, “laughing maniacally.” They intended to create “the first rock camp horror exploitation musical.” The movie had pretty much nothing to do with author Jacqueline Susaan and her original “Valley of the Dolls.”

The plot, such as it is, revolves around an all-girl band (The Carrie Nations), whose members are fresh off the boat in L.A. They’re soon plunged into a world of Hollywood hedonism teeming with sex, drugs and rock & roll. The movie has mild nudity, but enormous breasts popped up everywhere, in the cartoonish style of director Meyers (“Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!”). It was distributed with an X-rating, to Meyers’ surprise.

Fans often describe “Beyond the Valley of the Dolls” as “so bad it’s good.” “It is unclear whether this is a 5-star movie or a 1-star movie,” one viewer commented.

Trivia: The movie’s line “It’s my happening and it freaks me out!” (Z-man) was reprised by Mike Meyers in “Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery.” (View fan mashup of “Austin Powers” opening clips and “Incense and Peppermints.”