Singer/songwriter Fred Cole's recording career began in the mid-1960s and over the ensuing four decades he's probably put himself in contention for some type of award for having having recorded with the highest number of discrete bands. Think we're kidding? Not really. Here's a partial list of the outfits Cole's recorded with - Deep Sole Cole, The Desperate Edge, King Bee, The Lollipop Shoppe, The Lords, The Rats, Toody + Western Front, Western Front, The Weeds, and Zipper ... Pretty impressive !
The mid 1960s found Cole living and working in Southern California as a member of The Weeds. With the group's career going nowhere fast and concerned that the draft was about to catch up with several of the members, bassist Bob Atkins, rhythm guitarist Ron Buzzell , lead guitarist Ed Bowen, singer Cole and drummer Tim Rockson decided to head for Canada. Unfortunately, before they could hit the border they ran out of gas in Portland, Oregon.
Broke and not having any contacts in the area they began playing local clubs, eventually attracting a cult following and then the attention of Uni Records, which signed them to a contract. They were subsequently put in the hands of Seeds manager 'Lord' Tim Hudson. Hudson quickly demanded a name change, pushing for 'The Lollipop Shoppe' (the band was leaning towards 'The Underground Railroad'). Released under the new name, their 1968 debut 'You Must Be a Witch' b/w ''Don't Close the Door (Uni catalog number 55055) provided the band with a minor hit and as was standard marketing practice, Uni quickly rushed them back into the studio to record a supporting album.
Co-produced by Hudson and Danielle Maurey, for a rush job, 1968's "Just Colour" is very good. One of the best psych-oriented releases on Uni (The Druids of Stonehenge might give it a run for it's money), material such as 'Underground Railroad', 'Who'll Read the Will' and 'Don’t Look Back' mixes engaging melodies with tons of feedback guitar and an arsenal of studio effects. It's a great LP to listen to with a beer and headphones. As lead singer Cole's kind of an acquired taste.
It's more noticeable on slower tracks such as 'It’s Only a Reflection' and the accordion propelled 'Baby, Don’t Go', but Cole's voice is somewhat shrill, thin and edgy. Luckily, to our ears Cole's demonic energy more than compensates for his technical deficiencies, but we may be in the minority since lots of reviews complain about his performance. Clearly, your reaction to Cole's voice will determine whether you love or hate the LP. We'd suggest giving it a couple of spins since material such as 'You Must Be a Witch', 'Don't Close the Door On Me' and 'It Ain’t How Long' is simply superb.
The group also made a brief appearance in the throwaway biker flick "Angels from Hell". Interested in keeping costs to a minimum, American International (the film production company), made sure that in his brief appearance Cole was only shown from the neck down,. Apparently showing his head would have qualified as a speaking part, requiring double the pay. The band reportedly retaliated by sticking the film producers with a $1,300 room service bill while staying in a hotel during their brief shooting schedule. In case you care, two of their songs were included in the soundtrack: 'Mr. Madison Avenue' and 'Who Is It Going To Be'.
By late 1969 the band was history. They briefly reformed playing some dates as 'Underground Railroad' (but not recording), before reverting to 'The Weeds' (during which they recording one obscure single). For his part, Cole's continued to record over the ensuing three decades.
1. You Must Be A Witch (F. Cole) - 2:44
2. Underground Railroad (F. Cole, R Buzzell) - 7:43
3. Baby Don't Go (B. Atkins, F. Cole) - 2:38
4. Who'll Read The Will (B. Atkins, F. Cole) - 2:28
5. It's Only A Reflection (E. Bowen) - 3:07
6. Don't Look Back (F. Cole) - 2:29
7. Don't Close The Door On Me (F. Cole, R Buzzell) - 4:25
8. It Ain't How Long (E. Bowen, F. Cole) - 2:42
9. It's Makin' It (E. Bowen, F. Cole) - 2:29
10.I'm Gonna Be There (B. Atkins, F. Cole) - 2:41
11.You Don't Give Me No More (B. Atkins, F. Cole) - 2:14
12.Sin (F. Cole) - 2:25
13.Someone I Know (Bonus Track) (Unknown) - 4:03
14.Through My Window (Bonus Track) (Unknown) - 2:39
The Lollipop Shoppe
*Bob Atkins - Bass
*Ron Buzzell - Rhythm Guitar, Vocals
*Ed Bowen - Lead Guitar, Vocals
*Fred Cole - Vocals
*Carl Fortina - Accordian
*John the Greek - Keyboards
*Tim Rockson - Drums