Before he became Patti Smith’s lead guitarist, Lenny Kaye compiled the 2 album set, Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era. Released in 1972, the two-LP set covered American garage rock and psychedelia from the years 1965-1968 and was a major influence on punk rock. Rhino Records reissued an expanded version of the set in 1998, with 118 tracks in total. I’m profiling and rating each of these 118 tracks, working backwards.
Track 37/118: Incense and Peppermints by Strawberry Alarm Clock
Release Year: 1967
From: Los -Angeles, California
Aphoristic Rating: 9/10
INCENSE AND PEPPERMINTS – Strawberry Alarm Clock [2:37]
(John Carter/Timothy Gilbert)
Personnel/[CHRIS MUMFORD: vocals] * ED KING: lead guitar * LEE FREEMAN: guitar, vocals * MARK WEITZ: organ, vocals * GEORGE BUNNELL & GARY LOVETRO: bass * RANDY SEOL: drums, vocals
Produced by FRANK SLAY & BILL HOLMES
Recorded in Los Angeles, CA
All-American single #AA-373 (4/67); Uni single #55018 (5/67); Pop #1
The Sixpence formed in 1965, with members who’d already played in other bands. Their early singles included ‘Hay Joe’ and a cover of The Who’s ‘I Can’t Explain’. They were still called the Sixpence when they recorded their 1967 single ‘The Birdman of Alkatrash’.
The b-side to ‘Birdman’ was originally an instrumental written by Mark Weitz and Ed King. The band’s producer Frank Slay sent a tape to lyricist John Carter, who penned words. The band were too embarrassed to sing the words, disliking Carter’s use of a rhyming dictionary. Sixteen-year-old Greg Munford, who was hanging out in the studio, sang the lead vocal.
Around the time of the single’s release, the band changed their name to Strawberry Alarm Clock, inspired by The Beatles’ ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’. DJ’s discovered the B-side and started playing it on the radio. The single was reworked with ‘Incense and Peppermints’ as the lead track, and it eventually worked its way to number one in late November 1967, more than half a year after its initial release.
The band went on to make five albums, but most of their success seems to have come off the back of ‘Incense and Peppermints’, with only their followup single and debut album enjoying much chart success. Several members enjoyed careers in other bands – flautist Steve Bartek joined Danny Elfman in Oingo Boingo, while Mark Weitz played with Billy Corgan. Most successful of all was lead guitarist Ed King, who went on to form Lynyrd Skynyrd and co-wrote ‘Sweet Home Alabama’.