Tuesday, February 22, 2011

My Old School

The things you can find on the intertubes.

The short version: Back in 1968, while dodging the draft by attending what I refer to as an unidentified college on Long Island, I met a fellow student -- a musician who I occasionally jammed with -- whose claim to fame was that he'd been in a pop band that had an East Coast (and NYC) radio hit the previous year. Said hit, alas, had been nationally eclipsed by a simultaneous cover version by some West Coast group, thus putting the brakes on his rock star future. For years, I've been trying to remember what the song was, who the kid was and what the name of his band was -- all info that apparently dribbled out of my brain sometime during the Ford administration.

The only thing I COULD remember, distinctly, is that at the time I kind of half suspected the kid might have been jiving me about the hit record thing, but no -- it (and he) were for real. As I discovered when I found his album, with his photo unmistakable on the cover, in the library of the college radio station.

Anyway, thanks to said intertubes I just stumbled upon the record again, at last. So, from 1967, please enjoy my long ago chum Dave Gordon and his pals in The Blades of Grass, with their East Coast hit version of the winsomely Harpers Bizarre-ish "Happy."

A record, I have since learned, that is very highly regarded by devotees of the rock genre now known as Sunshine Pop.

That's Dave on the right, with the glasses.

According to All-Music, these guys were "a real band from the New York metropolitan area, with two of the members coming from Maplewood, NY, and the other two from South Orange, NJ. They were finishing high school around the time they recorded their only album, and unlike many groups from the time (even high school-aged ones), they boasted the clean-cut, short-ish-haired look that was actually much more common among average high schoolers in 1967 than long hair."


As for Dave himself, a little Facebook detective work turned up the fact that he's currently teaching music at Columbia University, which isn't too shabby. If I can find an e-mail addy for him, perhaps I'll update the story in a few days.

Hey -- I didn't say this would necessarily be all that interesting.


Anonymous said...

Devotees of sunshine-pop scare me. Who invited them to the party. It's pop but is it rock & roll? Is it even good pop?


DB said...

Two thoughts run through my head while listening to this:

1. It's Kenny G with lyrics.

2. I keep seeing the scene from Animal House when Blutarsky smashes the guitar being played oh-so-earnestly by Stephen Bishop.

Anonymous said...

This track is lovely and it strikes me as more Association (a group I've come to belatedly admire) than Harper's Bizarre. And let's not forget, the Association played Monterey Pop. In fact, c'mon people, don't be hating on the unfortunately named sunshine pop. It's a lawful descendant of beach music, a step-sibling to folk rock, second cousin to Baroque pop, and part of the collective pop gene pool. It's intentionally non-r&b and non-cool, and I think that's the point. And obviously, also, I need to get a life.


Anonymous said...

Andy, can't we all agree most sunshine-pop is pretty lame if you are a fan of rock and roll.


billy b said...

I get the Association vibe, also. Nice.

Tough crowd with respect to "sunshine pop". Song is decent, I don't care if it's bubblegum, which had its moments too.

Faze said...

A lot of mediocre sunshine pop has been unearthed in recent years and given the genre a bad name. But the canonic works stand up:
Monday Monday, We All Live for the Sun, Along Comes Mary, Good Vibrations, Red Rubber Ball, The Rain the Park and Other Things, New York's a Lonely Town, My World Fell Down -- and my all time fave, 98.6. Even the Rascals tried to morph into sunshine poppers with Groovin' and People Got to Be Free. How about Wind Cries Mary? There are some good tough songs in there. If only there hadn't been a Symphony for Susan ...

Anonymous said...

Hey Allan,

I don't know that I'd go that far. There's good sunshine pop and bad sunshine pop, as Faze says. I think The Blades of Grass, who I never heard before today, fall into the former category. Calling it lame sounds harsh, or maybe redundant, as this music by design has no dissonance, swagger, or cool. And yet I don't see it as antithetical to rock. Add drums, chimey electric guitars, and faster tempo, and its practically The Raspberries.


Mike said...

In the case for sunshine pop, here's Yellow Balloon (with their song Yellow Balloon):


It's hardly Sticky Fingers, but it never wanted to be.

Anonymous said...

Hey, nothing wrong with making soft pop records for people who like them. Its a gig. It was fun to hear your story about meeting one of the musicians. I once met the guitarist from Jay and the Americans. He told me some funny stories about Becker and Fagan in the band, before Steely Dan. Just to screw him up, they'd subtly shift to another key during his solo. Something to do for fun when you're bored with the music. Guess it got them started towards the "big time" :^)