Albums

(Reviews and release info by Jeff Ziemer)
View the Strawberry Alarm Clock discography page.

Incense and Peppermints

Released: 1967
Label: Uni Records 3014 (Mono) 71034 (Stereo)
Cover design: Lazarus/LePrevost
Photography: Ed Caraef
 
“Incense and Peppermints” was the first LP released by the band and the only album of their career to make an impact on the album charts. It reached #11 nationally. The LP contained the #1 national hit “Incense And Peppermints,” written by members Mark Weitz and Ed King with lyrics by John Carter. The song was sung by a friend of the band, Greg Munford, who was in Shapes of Sound and later Crystal Circus. Also on the LP is Steve Bartek, who co-wrote many of the songs with George Bunnell and plays flute on some tracks. An excellent LP with great playing and heavenly harmonies.

“Incense and Peppermints” tracks:
Side 1
The World’s on Fire
Birds in My Tree
Lose to Live
Strawberries Mean Love

Side 2
Rainy Day Mushroom Pillow
Paxton’s Back Street Carnival
Hummin’ Happy
Pass Time With the SAC
Incense And Peppermints
Unwind With the Clock

Wake Up … It’s Tomorrow

Released: 1968
Label: Uni Records 73025
Producers: Frank Slay & Bill Holmes
Engineers: Paul Buff & Jack Hunt

Containing what many consider to be Strawberry Alarm Clock’s finest moments on record, “Wake Up” is an excellent LP from start to end. Much like their first LP, the group dominated the song writing and great tunes are the fore! This was the first LP by the now five-piece Alarm Clock; Gary Lovetro left prior to the recording of this LP. Also around this time, the band was featured in the movie “Psych-Out,” in which they performed the theme song and played at the club.
 
“Wake Up … It’s Tomorrow” tracks:
Side 1
Nightmare of Percussion
Soft Skies, No Lies
Tomorrow
They Saw the Fat One Coming
Curse of the Witches
 
Side 2
Sit with the Guru
Go Back (You’re Going the Wrong Way)
Pretty Song from Psych-Out
Sitting on a Star
Black Butter Past
Black Butter Present
Black Butter Future
 

The World in a Sea Shell

Released: 1968
Label: Uni Records 73035
Producers: Frank Slay & Bill Holmes
Engineers: Paul Buff

The last LP to feature George Bunnell and Randy Seol, who decided to exit at the end of the recordings. The first side is dominated by outside writers except for “Million Smiles.” Side 2, however, is pure Alarm Clock and finds the group delivering some of its finest moments. “Wooden Woman,” “Heated Love,” “Eulogy” and “Shallow Impressions” (a stunning whirlwind instrumental) are among my favorites. Most find side 1 uninspired, but “Lady Of Lake” was a great song with nice harmonies and that added SAC touch. When the producers brought in writers from outside the group, it broke up the band. Soon after, Marty Katon came aboard on drums as well as former Nightcrawlers (“Little Black Egg”) front man Jimmy Pitman on guitar and vocals.

“The World in a Seashell” tracks:
Side 1
Sea Shell
Blues for a Young Girl Gone
An Angry Young Man
A Million Smiles Away
Home Sweet Home
Lady of the Lake
 
Side 2
Barefoot in Baltimore
Wooden Woman
Heated Love
Love Me Again
Eulogy
Shallow Impressions
 

Good Morning Starshine

Released: 1969
Label: Uni Records 73054
Producers: M. Weitz, E. King, J. Zabadak, SAC
Engineers: Phil Yeend & Carl Yancher

With this LP, the Alarm Clock now had a new sound. Earlier in 1969, Marty Katon was replaced on drums by Gene Gunnels, a former member of Thee Sixpence and Strawberry Alarm Clock. The LP features great driving guitars, organ and drums. Not like the previous three albums, this LP is best described as Alarm Clock Rock. Jimmy Pitman’s arrival was crucial to the band. He brought in a new sound, a new lead voice and new songs. This was the first LP since their first to feature of picture of the group on the cover. This would also be the last studio album the Alarm Clock would ever put out. The playing on this LP is outstanding. On songs like “Hog Child” and “Miss Attraction,” the guitars/organ/drums are all over the place. “Small Package” sounds like the SAC of old and the end tag is from “California Girls” by the Beach Boys, with whom they toured often with in 1967-1968. “Write Your Name In Gold” and “Dear Joy” are outstanding as well. Soon after this LP’s release, Jimmy Pitman would leave to form Jumbo and was replaced by Paul Marshall, who had been in the Beauchemins and the Tree Toppers.

“Good Morning Starshine” tracks:
Side 1
Me and the Township
Off Ramp Road Tramp
Small Package
Hog Child
Miss Attraction (LP version)

Side 2
Good Morning Starshine
Miss Attraction (45 rpm single version)
Write Your Name In Gold
Standby (You Put Me On)
Dear Joy
Changes
 

The Best of Strawberry Alarm Clock


Released: 1970
Label: Uni Records 73074
Producers: F. Slay, B. Holmes, E. King, M. Weitz, J. Zabadak, J. Mills

By the time of this album’s release in 1970, the Strawberry Alarm Clock were now a four-piece band consisting of Paul Marshall, Ed King, Gene Gunnels and Lee Freeman. Mark Weitz left in in December 1969, just prior to the album’s release. This was the last LP to feature any new songs as well. “Starting Out the Day” and “Desiree” were singles-only until this album was released. This is also the last LP the band would release on UNI Records. The LP is a pretty good “Best Of” compilation that blends the earlier stuff with some of the later stuff pretty well, and includes the hits and good b-sides as well.
 
“The Best of Strawberry Alarm Clock” tracks
Side 1
Incense And Peppermints
Tomorrow
Sit With the Guru
Angry Young Man
Barefoot In Baltimore
Pretty Song From “Psych-Out”
 
Side 2
Birds In My Tree
Sea Shell
Miss Attraction
Good Morning Starshine
Desiree
Starting Out the Day

Also: “Changes”: Released in 1971. Label: Vocalion VL 73915

Comments

  1. Chris La Due says:

    Gentlemen: I am interested in licensing your song “tomorrow” in order to celebrate the new V3 Solar Spin Cell that is being introduced into the renewable energy market in 2013. Love your work.

  2. What was SAC’s lineup for “Good Morning Starshine”?

    • SAC’s lineup for the “Starshine” album is below. This lineup would also record the singles released at this time that did not appear on this album. “Starting Out The Day” and “Desiree”.

      Ed King – Guitar/Bass/Vocals
      Lee Freeman – Guitar/Bass/Harmonica/Vocals
      Mark Weitz – Organ/Piano/Vocal
      Jimmy Pitman – Guitar/Vocal
      Gene Gunnels – Drums

  3. david furgess says:

    Can you give info about the Changes LP

    • “Changes” is a compilation album put out in 1971 by Vocalion Records which was a sister label to Uni (SAC’s label) and MCA, which owned Decca, Vocalion and Uni among other labels. The cover shows a drawing of the Incense and Peppermints album cover from 1967 while the back cover shows a photo of the then current 1970 SAC lineup of Ed King, Lee Freeman, Gene Gunnels and Paul Marshall. “Changes” features songs from”Wake Up Its Tomorrow” and “The World in a Sea Shell”.

    • Sean Kelly says:

      The track listing according to discogs is:

      A1 Changes (Jimmy Pitman, Mark Weitz) – from Good Morning Starshine
      A2 Write Your Name In Gold (Jimmy Pitman) – Good Morning Starshine
      A3 Dear Joy (Jimmy Pitman) – Good Morning Starshine
      A4 Small Package (Ed King, Gene Gunnels, Jimmy Pitman, Lee Freeman, Mark Weitz) – Good Morning Starshine
      B1 Blues For A Young Girl Gone (Carole King, Toni Stern) – World in a Seashell
      B2 Lady Of The Lake (Carole King, Toni Stern) – World in a Seashell
      B3 Black Butter Past (Ed King, Howard Davis, Lee Freeman) – Wake Up It’s Tomorrow
      B4 Black Butter Present (Ed King, Lee Freeman) – Wake Up It’s Tomorrow
      B5 Black Butter Future (Ed King, Howard Davis, Lee Freeman) – Wake Up It’s Tomorrow
      B6 Love Me Again (Ed King, Lee Freeman) – World in a Seashell

  4. I am a long time fan of SAC’s first two albums because it seems as though SAC had the most input on those records. What happened when the 3rd. & 4th. albums came out? It seemed as though SAC was a true psych rock band on those first couple of albums, but by the time your last two albums came out, it seems as though you SAC started playing a much more pop oriented style. Was this an SAC decision, management, or were you under pressure by the record company at the time to go in a much more commercial direction?

    Finally, one thing that has always lyrically remained an enigma of sorts is the song “Curse Of The Witches”, from off of the 1968 album, “Wake Up…It’s Tomorrow”. What was the inspiration behind the song “Curse Of The Witches”, and did any of the members of SAC experiment with witchcraft? Another song I have wondered about is Black Butter, Black Past. What is that song lyrically about, or was someone in the band high on L.S.D., looked at a small brick of butter a mirror, and it turned black?

    Perhaps you Jeff, or someone in the band could shed some light on these lyrically interesting songs from SAC’s catalog.

    • george bunnell says:

      Hi Brian!

      Sorry for the delayed response…no excuse!

      We were left to our own devices on the first two albums and part of the third album. Then management, record company, producers, et al. brought in outside material…Even a pair of Carol King songs to round out that album. On top of that they brought in a brass and string section orchestrated and conducted by George Tipton to play along with us in the studio on several of those songs. Much to our dismay. We didn’t have a say so in the matter. We were even told to write music for an outside lyricist named Roy Freeman. No relation to Lee Freeman, our co-lead singer.
      I left the band after the third LP. They brought in singer/guitarist/songwriter, Jimmy Pitman. It was his influence that changed the band’s sound on that record. I believe the record company had something to do with them recording Good Morning Starshine as a commercial bid. Unfortunately they were beat out by Oliver who’s version of the song got the proper promotion and exposure.
      Curse of The Witches was originally a folk song that my writing partner Steve Bartek wrote about the Salem witch hunt. It started out with the same line – It was 21 years ago – but that and the title are the only similarities. Randy Seol then wrote his own version with the curse being handed down through generations of the same family. I wrote the music.
      Black Butter was a title Lee Freeman came up with in reference to a lone stick of butter that he and Ed King found in their refrigerator after a several week tour. They then made a suite out of it. All tongue in cheek.

      • Thanks George for shedding some light on the how the songs “Curse Of The Witches”, and “Black Butter” came about in the scheme of SAC catalog. I know it was a long time to wait for a response regarding my questions, however it was well worth the wait.

        Would you say that SAC split because of too much record company intermingling at the time, and do you think that SAC would have been better off being left to their own devices?

        How do you think the record industry operated? Was it any different today than it was back then? Do you think that artists were allowed much more creative input concerning their songwriting & music? I think one really good question to ask would be: Why did the record company allow you the freedom they did on your first two records, but didn’t from the third album onward? Did SAC ever get screwed out of royalties, or are you making any money from royalties today?

        Thanks for taking the time George to answer my questions.

        Many thanks and keep the good SAC music coming.

        Best wishes,

        Brian

        • george bunnell says:

          Hi Brian
          There were many factors that contributed to the SAC’s demise.
          Yes, there was too much interfering by the producers and management, and by the third album, the record company.

          The first album had been written and rehearsed prior to going into the studio. We were given $2500.00 and two weeks to finish it in. Incense and Peppermints was already on the radio at that point.

          I came in as first a songwriter along with Steve Bartek.

          Once the album recording commenced I had been asked into the band. So had Bartek but he was too young at the time.

          He and I had written our songs before meeting SAC. It was Randy Seol that brought us into the fold. He was our drummer first then got the gig with SAC after Gene Gunnels quit.

          Randy liked singing our songs so we ended up recording most of them.

          The first album went to #11 on the Billboard Hot 100 Album Charts so no body was complaining.

          The big mistake that was made by our manager, Bill Holmes, was his attempt to right a wrong. Because of his stubbornness Mark Weitz and Ed King were cheated out of the writing credits on I&P. So, he rushed to release a follow up single to I&P which was not on the first LP. That’s because it (Tomorrow) was written by Ed and Mark. It was his way of giving them their just due. The problem was that it killed the momentum of the first album. The second album would not be ready for release for a couple of months which killed the momentum of Tomorrow which reached #23 on Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart. It had no album to back it up which is how things worked back then. Ironically, the flip side of that single, Bird’s in My Tree, was from the first album.

          Once the band went in to record the second album there was time to do a more refined version of Tomorrow. IMHO that version would have played much better on the radio. We also could have released a couple more singles from the first album.

          At this point the manager and producer brought in an outside lyricist, Roy Freeman (no relation to Lee Freeman) and had us write music to his words. That’s where Sit With The Guru came from. It was released to coincide with the second album which was titled Wake Up It’s “Tomorrow”! But the single “Tomorrow” had already fallen off the charts.

          The result was that the send album didn’t make the charts.

          So, basically the band was blamed for all this.

          On the third album that brought in outside songwriters…not just a lyricist. They also enlisted a bras and string ensemble orchestrated and conducted by George Tipton. We were still the band playing on the tracks but we felt totally removed from the process. Some of the songs were pure SAC. Those were written by Ed and Lee. Randy and I wrote Heated Love, but the singles, Barefoot In Baltimore and World in A Seashell, were with outside writers. Although Mark and Ed wrote the music to Barefoot, they never would have written those lyrics.

          Randy and I quit the band after that album in late 1968.

          • Hi George,

            Thanks for your input, not to mention more informative information on the SAC legacy!

            It’s a miracle that the SAC received any royalties at all, especially when so many artists to this day are being screwed out of money they never saw one penny of! It does seem to me though that the record companies must’ve been making quite a bit of money even in those days. Would it be safe to assume that concert & record sales didn’t yield any returns in SAC royalties? Was there ever a point in time where you were baffled by amount of records you were selling versus what you weren’t being paid?

            The third album, “World In A Seashell”, most certainly had it’s moments. However, what is funny is by listening to that record it is almost as though any fan of SAC can tell a true SAC track apart from impostor tracks written by the outside writers. “Heated Love” is an amazing track, whereas “Barefoot In Baltimore”, although the music being written by SAC, the lyrics are well halfhearted? “The title track, “World In A Seashell”, to me at least, sounds like too much outside influence/tampering with the management, producer, or the record company in general to come up with a much more commercial sound. Heaven forbid SAC be allowed any room for any experimentation, right? I don’t know if you will agree George, but SAC’s third album, “World In A Seashell” definitely sounded like a halfhearted effort coming from a great band who seemingly had little interest in the making of that album!

            The album, “Good Morning Star-shine”, again has it’s moments, but Jesus, who’s idea was it to record an Oliver cover? Here’s one of the best psychedelic rock bands of the 60’s seemingly getting trapped again by more outside influences! Anyway, this as I am sure you will agree is my least favorite of the SAC albums because you can tell it is SAC, but at the same time SAC isn’t there musically vision wise.

            Perhaps you can give me some of your feedback/and or opinions on these latter day SAC records.

            Would it be a fair to agree that the first two albums are the best of SAC? What would the other band members have to say about this? What is ED King’s opinion? I heard SAC the last thing he likes to be bothered with anymore……….

            Thanks again George.

            Sincerely,

            Brian

  5. george bunnell says:

    You certainly have a perceptive perspective view of the inner workings of SAC’s album legacy!

    There have been royalties distributed to us, but not without us having to fight for them. We know where a bulk of our royalties have ended up. We are in a battle currently.

    One of the unique things about SAC is that we were almost all under age at the time we were signing contracts. So, our parents had to be there and it had to done in front of a judge. The result is we have retained our writer’s royalties. Many groups of that era and frankly, any era unwittingly signed all their rights away.

    Mark Weitz and Ed King basically had their Incense and Peppermints writer’s credit stripped away by Bill Holmes and Frank Slay in one of rock music’s great travesties.

    By the third album they were afraid to let us be ourselves. They hated the experimentation. They wanted hits.
    They blamed our excesses on the second album for the failure to chart.
    We were disgruntled during the third album sessions. We felt like they were trying to turn us into the Four Freshman or the Association. What they did was abandon our audience base.

    The reason for the inclusion of Seashell was that it was written by Carter and Gilbert who were the credited writer’s of I&P. They also wrote Home Sweet Home.

    I was gone for the fourth album. But, I know that they were not “covering” Oliver on GMS. They got the idea of recording the song from the success that The Cowsill’s had with Hair…both songs are from that same musical. Both versions were released in 1969.

    Ed King has a certain disdain for much of what SAC recorded. He also realizes that’s it’s how he got to where he is now. It was a tremendous training ground for all of us. He does like many of the songs and he appreciates the outcomes like the rest of us do. We all know what we were up against. It’s a miracle that so much of it came out as good as it did. We are all very close today. We are connected in the same way siblings are. There’s no getting away from it, so we have just come to embrace it.

  6. steve browne says:

    I hope you guys get the royalty payments you well deserve. It was great music then and I find it even better now on many more listenings. Still innovative, excites me still and still very fresh for me as I age into my sixties. All of the first three albums I find myself playing a lot including Seashell of which I think the musicallity wonderful. All three albums I don’t have one unloved track which is very rare for alot of sixties albums.
    The SAC have a unique sound with that great touch of jazz and pscycheldelic experimentation which elevated you above and some other sixties bands. I can’t listen enough to Unwind With the Clock and The World is on Fire, Birds in My Tree, Black Butter – unique keyboard sounds and liquid guitar included.
    Thank you for the all the enjoyment.

    • @Steve Browne

      Half of these bands got screwed by the record companies even during the 60’s. It was a matter of faith & trust in those days with contract in hand, along with a smile & a handshake from a plastic faced record executive. However, little did many of those bands know during that time that they were going to get screwed out of songwriting royalties, because many of the band members weren’t of age at the time. The best part of SAC is their legacy. I am only 40 years of age, and grew up on SAC’s music, and I would have to say that I am most proud of their innovative first two records, as there was absolutely no one in the 60’s who even came close to sounding anything like the SAC sound! Many have compared them by saying they sound like a psychedelic Association, but not to my ears……

      Unfortunately, Steve, as George Bunnell would agree with me, the SAC were at their most creative powers during the making of their first two albums. After that, SAC would lose much of their creative control during both the songwriting & recording process that made the first SAC albums so unique. To my ears, after the first two SAC records, and although even the later efforts were loved by many, there is honestly nothing that compares to SAC’s first albums! Honestly, I wish that SAC could have expanded the sound of their first two albums on other records, but you know the record wouldn’t have it, because the record company didn’t want to take the risk with any experimentation, and not have their records sell. Unfortunately, it’s the nature of the business, and I just wish the record labels would just leave bands alone to their own devices to allow them to freely think & create!

      Besides, just consider what Tower records did to the freaking Chocolate Watchband; they ruined their authentic sound, although the Chocolate Watchband album, “No Way Out” is a psychedelic classic. It’s just a travesty the Chocolate Watchband never had any control over their material from the beginning.

  7. I recently discoverd you guys by chance of a soundtrack credit. I love the song “Changes”. I can’t seem to find the credit for the vocals. Can you help? Also, I think this probably one of the best songs I’ve ever heard.

  8. George Bunnell says:

    Hi Sean
    I left SAC at about the end of recording the third album.
    I quit because of crooked management.

    The band members all remained friends though.
    After Randy Seol and I both quit, he about two weeks after me, Gene Gunnels (the drummer on I&P) and Jimmy Pitman (singer guitarist with the Nightcrawlers) replaced us.

    CHANGES was written by Mark Weitz and Jimmy Pitman. Jimmy sang lead. Mark and Ed produced it.

  9. seaofneuse says:

    Will you all be playing in Atlanta, Ga anytime soon?

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