Friday, May 1, 2009

Seminal Seeds

I've finally managed to get my turntable working after a few years in storage (or in a transport container) and have been going through my vinyl collection which was assembled pre-MP3. In those days, even post-CDs you could only get some music in the original vinyl.

Case in point the Seeds with their "best of" album, "Evil Hoodoo".

Often considered the poor brothers to the 13th Floor Elevators, complete with their own iconic lead singer, Sky Saxon (cf the Elevator's Roky Erickson), the Seeds caught their second / third / fourth wind in the late 80s / early 90s when yet another generation of musicians discovered them. At the time, it was hard to find the original output of key 60s artists; even the better known bands such the Stooges could only be found on horribly expensive imports. More commonly, you'd manage to secure a multiple generational copy on tape.

The Seeds' best known track is "Pushin' Too Hard", their second single. To get a copy of this, you had to buy "Evil Hoodoo", the compilation Best Of compiled by Bam Caruso and release in 1988. This album was still kicking around HMV et al. a few years later which is where I picked it up. They also released "Pushin' Too Hard" as a single but I never saw that on my trawls through the record shops.

The Seeds' singles were an eclectic mix which reflected the era in which they recorded. "Evil Hoodoo" references some of the more quaint themes of the late 60s bucolic psychedelic idyll: "Mr Farmer" in particular is an odd eulogy to the growing of beans. Perhaps these were magic beans. Perhaps they were just tasty legumes. The main thrust of the album is a concatenation of libidinous quasi-Stones tracks with single entendre titles including "Rollin' Machine", "Satisfy You" and the much sought after "Pushin' Too Hard". Listening to this last after a gap of a few years, the track still sounds fresh, if a bit like the theme tune to an old matinée Western, particularly the "Tooo haaarrd" backing singers. Other quite leaden themes on the record, which were probably quite daring in the day, include obligatory drug references (what on earth could "Tripmaker" refer to?) and bohemian free love lifestyle-type songs ("Up in Her Room", "Pictures and Designs").

Overall, the album still sounds pretty good. Some tunes remain fantastic but of their time and I've no problem with that. In my mind, the Seeds always suffered in comparison with the Elevators, both in terms of the music and the myth: Roky was always more "out there", the Elevators' albums were always denser and more numerous, and the influences on later music were always more profound and explicit. Despite this, in my opinion, the Seeds remain an influential band from the later psychedelic era... and Sky's band had a way cooler name than Roky's.

Check out the "Pushin' Too Hard" video on You Tube. Sky Saxon may not have had the breadth of Roky Erikson's writing talent, but boy did he have better hair.

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