"We were pretty seedy, so we thought The Seeds would be a good name," explained singer Sky Saxon of the legendary garage rock group he formed in LA in 1965. "We were seeds, too, like seeds that grow. We must have launched 10,000 bands."
One of the great West Coast groups of the mid-to-late '60s, The Seeds only had one hit - Pushin' Too Hard - but their impact on music has been immeasurable.Tough, driving and primitive, they were 'punk' long before anyone knew what punk was. Something about their music always seemed dark and deeply unsettling, though the songs themselves - Can't Seem To Make You Mine, Pushin' Too Hard, Mr Farmer - were as catchy as hell. Little wonder later punk giants The Stooges, Johnny Thunders and The Ramones would cite them as an important influence.
Raised as a Mormon in Salt Lake City, Utah, Sky Saxon had been making records under the name Richie Marsh (or variations thereon) since the early '60s, but by early 1965 he'd caught the garage-rock bug and formed a Stones-inspired group called The Seeds. Singer/bassist Saxon and guitarist Jan Savage were joined by Michigan emigres Daryl Hooper and Rick Aldridge, on keyboards and drums, respectively.
With LA's garage-rock scene exploding around them, they took to wearing stylish, Sunset Strip clothes, and wore their hair in long, girlish bowl-cuts. Saxon - famous for having the longest hair around - proved to be the perfect frontman, tall, charismatic and good-looking - if a little mystical and crazed. "Sky was the most far-out, and the poet of the group," recalled Daryl Hooper. "Jan had a greatly admired guitar style. Rick was the foundation of the beat... I had classical training, played jazz, rock, blues, etc. I wrote a lot of melodies and did a lot of arranging. We had a good sound together right away."
In early summer 1965, a residency at Bido Lidos on Sunset Strip led to a deal with local label GNP which released The Seeds' debut single, the Stonesy Can't Seem To Make You Mine, that July. Moody and tense, it flopped - as indeed did its stripped-down, growling follow-up, Pushin' Too Hard. That was, until the summer of 1966, when a Los Angeles DJ called Huggie Boy belatedly started to play Pushin' regularly on his show.
The Seeds suddenly found themselves enjoying the same cult success as groups like Love, The Count Five and The Leaves, while riotously upstaging bigger names like Jefferson Airplane when they opened for them that autumn. "Pushin' Too Hard was a sign of the times, but it's turned into an anthem," remembered Saxon in the '80s. The song's don't-push-me attitude was inspired, he explained, by the closing down of a Sunset Strip club called Pandora's Box. "People used to hang out there, brothers and sisters, then they tore it down and turned it into a car park.
The song's about that - and arguing with some girl." Two stylistically similar albums, The Seeds and A Web Of Sound, cemented The Seeds' musical character as a sort of rawer, meaner, punkier, bluesier version of Love and The Doors. To capitalise on their success, in 1967 the group acquired a new manager, lord' Tim Hudson, a Brit working as a DJ in LA, whose claim to fame would be providing the voice of Dizzy the vulture in that year's Walt Disney film adaptation of The Jungle Book.
Under his aegis, the group cut an overwrought, ambitious flower-power concept album called Future, kicked off by the suitably trippy March Of The Flower Children; however, the response to this strange psychedelic adventure, even in their West Coast stronghold, was muted at best, and the group figured it was time to move on. It was while browsing the racks in a local record shop that Saxon got the idea for their next album.
Standing beside him was blues legend Muddy Waters, whom he asked for a new song that The Seeds could record. Muddy declined the request, but was generous enough to agree to write the sleevenote to the heavily blues-inspired album the group decided to cut: A Full Spoon Of Seedy Blues, credited to The Sky Saxon Blues Band. By this time, however, interest in The Seeds had waned, and their last recording for GNP, Wild Blood/Fallin' Of The Edge Of My Mind (produced by out-there West Coast industry guru Kim Fowley), trickled out in late 1967.
A coruscating live album, Raw & Alive At Merlin's Music Box, subsequently fulfilled the GNP contract, before Saxon took a new version of The Seeds to MGM for an ill-fated, two-single spell there at the turn of the new decade. By the early 70s, around the time Pushin' Too Hard became a highlight of Nuggets - Lenny Kaye's influential compilation of '60s US garage rock - Saxon had fallen in with the followers of mystical West Coast swami Father Yod, who cut nine albums in the 70s as the band Ya Ho Wa 13.
Over the last three decades, Saxon has occasionally re-surfaced from the bosom of this religious cult, resurrecting The Seeds for tours in 1989 and again (with Savage, who had been working in real estate) in 2003. The group currently still performs, though Sky is now the only original member and is prone to sermonising at length about Father Yod's divinity, the evils of Bush's warplanes and giving away his future royalties to dogs. But while Saxon's musical output and behaviour has long been a little eccentric.
The Seeds' early recordings for GNP remain as a testament to the singer and his group's genius at taking three chords, a neat hook-line, a keyboard riff and a fistful of attitude, and turning it into the kind of gritty rock'n'roll that. 40 years after it was made, still won't be welcome in polite society.
by Pat Gilbert
1.Pushin' Too Hard - 2:36
2.No Escape (Lawrence, Savage, Saxon) - 2:15
3.Can't Seem to Make You Mine - 3:02
4.Try to Understand - 2:51
5.Nobody Spoil My Fun - 3:52
6.Lose Your Mind - 2:18
7.It's a Hard Life - 2:39
8.The Other Place - 2:25
9.Mumble Bumble - 2:30
10.You Can't Be Trusted - 2:10
11.Excuse, Excuse - 2:20
12.Daisy Mae - 1:57
13.Night Time Girl - 2:37
14.Evil Hoodoo (Hooper, Saxon) - 5:14
15.Mr. Farmer - 2:51
16.Satisfy You (Savage, Saxon) - 2:05
17.Pictures and Designs (Hooper, Saxon) - 2:43
18.Tripmaker (Hooper, Tybalt) - 2:47
19.I Tell Myself (Tybalt) - 2:30
20.A Faded Picture (Hooper, Saxon) - 5:20
21.Rollin' Machine (Saxon, Tybalt) - 2:32
22.Just Let Go (Hooper, Savage, Saxon) - 4:20
23.Up in Her Room - 9:58
24.900 Million People Daily (AllMaking Love) - 5:03
1.A Thousand Shadows (Hooper, Savage, Saxon) - 2:33
2.March of the Flower Children (HooperHooper, Saxon) - 2:54
3.Travel with Your Mind (Hooper, Savage, Saxon) - 3:11
4.Flower Lady and Her Assistant - 3:32
5.Now a Man (Hooper, Savage, Saxon) - 3:22
6.Two Fingers Pointing on You - 3:17
7.Where Is the Entrance Way toPlay? - 2:55
8.The Wind Blows Your Hair (Bigelow, Saxon) - 2:32
9.Six Dreams - 3:15
10.Fallin' (Hooper, Saxon) - 7:50
11.Pretty Girl (Johnson) - 2:05
12.Moth and the Flame - 3:51
13.I'll Help You (Carry Your Money to the Bank) - 3:31
14.Plain Spoken - 2:54
15.One More Time Blues (Johnson) - 2:28
16.Creepin' About - 2:47
17.Fallin' Off the Edge (Of My Mind) (Cerf, Fowley) - 2:55
18.Wild Blood (Cerf, Fowley) - 2:25
19.She's Wrong - 2:15
20.Chocolate River (Hooper, Saxon) - 3:12
21.Sad and Alone (Hooper, Saxon) - 2:50
22.Mr. Farmer - 3:48
23.Satisfy You (Savage, Saxon) - 2:09
24.Can't Seem to Make You Mine - 2:40
25.Pushin' Too Hard - 2:59
All titles by Sky Saxon except where indicated.
*Rick Andridge - Drums
*Daryl Hooper - Keyboards
*Jan Savage - Guitar
*Sky Saxon - Vocals, Bass
the Free Text