Monday, 20 May 2019

LEWIS BEACH MARVIN III AND MOONFIRE


Needless to say, 1960s California was full of weird and wonderful individuals. One such was the late Lewis Beach Marvin III.

Wealthy and well-connected, he was espousing hippie values (in particular vegetarianism) well ahead of the curve, and as of 1957 he occupied a peculiar temple / menagerie / home named Moonfire (the moon apparently being a symbol of death and fire of life) high up in Tuna Canyon, where he hosted numerous 'happenings' as of the mid-60s.

In 1966 he published a manifesto called Moonfire: Ancient Life & Death Symbols, which outlined his passionately held 'live and let live' philosophy.

He was featured in the Mondo Hollywood documentary (from which the image above is taken) the following year, and made a documentary himself in 1968, entitled Moonfire, which was released that June; he screened it inside a tent on Sunset Boulevard, with the Common People performing before and after.

He was a familiar figure at rock festivals, protest marches and other counter-cultural gatherings in the late 60s, typically holding a placard bearing slogans such as 'LOVE YOUR ANIMAL FRIENDS, DON'T EAT THEM' (that one was at Woodstock); he also handed a lamb to Jim Morrison backstage in Miami in 1969 (there's a well-known photo of Morrison holding it).

He was intermittently covered in the local media, but little is known of him as of the mid-70s.

Here's what I have found.


Los Angeles Times, Sunday September 19th 1965


Los Angeles Times, Sunday June 12th 1966


Mondo Hollywood review, Los Angeles Times, Sunday October 1st 1967

Los Angeles Free Press, June 14th 1968


Los Angeles Free Press, June 14th 1968


Los Angeles Free Press, June 21st 1968


World Countdown, July 1968


The Los Angeles Times, Thursday June 27th 1968


Los Angeles Free Press, July 12th 1968


The Province (Montreal), Monday October 7th 1968


The Miami News, Saturday October 4th 1969


The Independent, Friday July 23rd 1971


Los Angeles Times, Sunday June 24th 1973 (i)


Los Angeles Times, Sunday June 24th 1973 (ii)


Los Angeles Times, Sunday October 28th 1973 


The Delta Democrat Times, Thursday November 1st 1973




Los Angeles Times, Friday November 9th 1973 


Los Angeles Times, Monday January 24th 1977


Los Angeles Times, Thursday October 15th 1992

Friday, 8 March 2019

GALACTIC RAMBLE - revised and expanded edition


Ten years after the first edition of Galactic Ramble came and went, I'm delighted to say that a revised and hugely expanded second edition is now exclusively available HERE as a limited hardback costing £100 (plus p&p). 

It completely supersedes the first edition, being more than twice as long (well over a million words) and containing a massive amount of new information and imagery. 

They will not not be reprinted; when they're gone, they're gone!

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

THE MOVE by Michael English

Between December 1968 and May 1969, the British teen monthly Rave published a fantasy comic strip featuring the Move, by the great Michael English (half of the Hapshash & The Coloured Coat design duo). I'm not sure if it's been seen since, so here it is in full.







Tuesday, 8 May 2018

XXXRECORDS and a spot of Confusion


Having devised their instantly recognisable sound at rehearsals, Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker made their live debut as Cream on July 29th 1966, and gigged prolifically thereafter. One early performance was at the London club Klooks Kleek on November 15th 1966 (shortly after the release of their debut 45, and shortly before the release of their debut album). 

Someone recorded the show, which consisted of Lawdy Mama, Sleepy Time Time, Crossroads, Stepping Out, Sweet Wine, Meet Me In The Bottom and N.S.U.. Sometime thereafter, the recording was pressed onto vinyl, with no label or artwork, but the matrix codes ‘CJG LP 1A’ and ‘CJG LP 1B’ stamped into the respective run-outs. 

It can be seen on Discogs here:


Though Discogs has disallowed sales of bootlegs, copies of it occasionally surface on eBay; one fetched 50 GBP there on February 13th 2018, and can be seen here:


On April 9th 2018, the well-known UK record dealer Graham Cross - aka xxxrecords - sold an intriguing album on eBay, which fetched 576 GBP. It was, he wrote, the work of a band called ‘Confusion’, and can be seen here:



No band of that name was previously known to have been operating in the UK at the time. As if that weren’t enticing enough for collectors, he added that the disc was an ‘UNKNOWN PRIVATE PRESSING’ containing ‘AWESOME PSYCH BLUES’, and was ‘ONE OF THE RAREST LPs ON THE VERY SOUGHT AFTER DEROY LABEL’, and ‘A ROUGH LIVE RECORDING WHICH CLEARLY THE BAND MUST HAVE GOT MADE’. 

Cross confidently dated his discovery to 1966, and suggested that it had been pressed by Island Records, as well as Deroy. The only hard clue as to manufacture was that ‘MACHINE STAMPED ON EACH SIDE IS 'CJG 1 LP A' & CJG 1 LP B'.

Knowing of the Cream bootleg, you might assume that he was mistaken, and had somehow failed to identify one of the most famous bands in rock history as the performers in question – but you would be wrong. ‘CONFUSINGLY (THOUGH HE OBVIOUSLY ISNT PLAYING ON THIS LP!) THERE ARE REFERENCES MADE ON THE LP TO ERIC CLAPTON BY THE BAND, AND THERE ARE 2 OR 3 CREAM COVERS, AS WELL AS A FEW OTHER TRACKS I CANNOT IDENTIFY!!!!’ continued his listing.

For the time being, the identity of Confusion must remain a mystery; only one other copy of their album is known to exist. It was sold on eBay in July 2012 for 636 GBP (also by Graham Cross) and can be seen here:


Were you a member of Confusion? Do you know someone who was? Do you have a copy of this lost recording by them? If so, please drop me a line!

Thursday, 1 March 2018

THE VELVET UNDERGROUND & NICO: the early US reviews


On Thursday, December 1st 1966, the Philadelphia Inquirer's New York correspondent, Leonard Lyons, reported that 'Andy Warhol just made his first Velvet Underground recording for MGM' (adding the odd statement 'He used his banana theme for the label's decor'). In fact, most of the album had been recorded that April and May, with Sunday Morning being added in November.

The widely accepted / repeated release date for the album is March 12th, but I'm unaware of a reliable source for that. The LP was evidently ready for release in January 1967; on the 14th of that month, the weekly trade magazine Cash Box covered MGM's 'gala convention and product presentation' in Acapulco, where 'distributors were treated to tropical sun and swimming, and were also shown the new line of album products for the first quarter of 1967'. According to the piece, 'the second album from the Mothers Of Invention and a new Andy Warhol / Velvet Underground & Nico LP were received well'.

The album was advertised in Cash Box of January 28th, and went on to appear in various other places with the dumb tagline 'SO FAR "UNDERGROUND," YOU GET THE BENDS!' I think it's safe to assume that the band didn't have any input there.

Review copies seem to have been sent out in February. The first coverage I've seen appeared in the Tampa Bay Times (of all places) on Monday 27th. Its unrigorous author was named Chick Ober:


Next up was the Honolulu Advertiser, on Wednesday, March 1st. Its author, Wayne Harada, was one of the most consistently perceptive and open-minded pop critics of the time:


Also in Hawaii was this skimpy piece in the Honoloulu Star-Bulletin of Saturday, March 4th, by Dave Donelly (who covered the first West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band LP the same day):


On March 4th, Cash Box had this to say; as ever, their remarks were aimed at dealers and not consumers:


The same applies to Billboard, whose 'review' also appeared on March 4th:


It was back to Florida for this snide item, penned by the less-than hip Vance Johnston, which ran in the the Tampa Tribune of Sunday, March 5th: 


On Friday, 10th March, this snippet appeared in the Oil City Derrick in Pennsylvania. It was part of a syndicated column by Jeanne Harrison entitled 'Platter Patter' (so might have appeared elsewhere earlier), and lazily lumps the LP together with new releases by Ella Fitzgerald and Johnny Mathis:


A couple of weeks later, on Saturday 18th, and rather closer to the band's stamping ground, came this vapid dismissal by Don Lass of New Jersey's Asbury Park Evening Press. As well as insulting their music, he confesses to having peeled the banana, like 99% of people who acquired the LP at the time:


The following day came an anonymous pundit's glib thoughts in the Pensacola News-Journal, back in Florida:


The April issue of the San Francisco underground rag Electric Frog offered this unsigned nonsense:


April 13th brought the opinion of New York's influential Village Voice, which was surprisingly equivocal, and presumably upset the band:


In the May 1967 issue of High Fidelity (on sale in April), Morgan Ames was typically conservative and reactionary:


The same month, an unnamed writer in the American Record Guide (which, I believe, was sent out to public libraries and other institutions) was much more thoughtful, delivering the most sensitive review the album received at the time:


The June 1967 issue of Jazz magazine (later Jazz & Pop) ran this:


Timothy Jacobs had this to say in the July edition of the Boston underground magazine Vibrations:


And then, on Saturday, July 15th, Fred Hulett of the Courier-Post in Camden, New Jersey, weighed in. His remarks typify the response of many critics at the time; already suspicious of Andy Warhol, they were only too happy to assume the VU was nothing more than his latest hype:


The September issue of the superb teeny magazine Hullabaloo (on sale two months earlier, as per its schedule) offered this assessment:


On September 28th, Bob Watkins covered the LP in the WSC Acorn (published out of Worcester State College in Massachusetts):


Finally, in the October issue of Crawdaddy! (by then being published out of New York), Sandy Pearlman reflected thus:


I hope this post will debunk the ubiquitous myth that the album was barely reviewed at the time of release. If you have other early US reviews, please send them along, and I'll gladly add them.