Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Return to Beyond the Valley of the Canyons of My Mind: Special Drugs Have Done Good Things! Edition

[I originally posted this back in December of 2010; I'm reposting today for three reasons. 1) The song in question popped up on my iPod's shuffle the other day and I was impressed anew; 2) I'm still in Divshare hell, so no player widgets till the middle of the July; and 3) It appears that new friend of PowerPop Vickie Rock actually got to see this lot perform back in the day, to which I can only add -- I'm not worthy. In any case, this is still a pretty amazing story. -- S.S.]

You know, it's still quite remarkable to me what you can find on the Intertubes just by looking around.

From 1966, and (deservedly) on the top of the charts in some parallel universe somewhere, please enjoy The Misunderstood and their rather mind-boggling pop psychedelic debut single "I Can Take You to the Sun."

I had never heard of these guys until a few weeks ago, actually. The short version: Brit Invasion-inspired California garage band with all the usual influences. Then they added a steel guitar player(!), got discovered by the guy who would later become John Peel, moved to England, got signed, and impressed people as being innovators in a league with The Yardbirds and Pink Floyd despite the fact that none of their singles sold. Eventually, one of them got drafted and the whole thing kind of fell apart by early '67.

Most of the rest of their recorded output from that period is equally if not more impressive, IMHO. On the other hand, I'm not sure their failure to break through commercially was simply a matter of bad luck -- their original songs (to my ears) lack that certain something, despite the performances being tremendously imaginative and accomplished. Still, they seem to be one of the more tantalizing Might Have Been stories from the period, and as I said, it's kind of wondrous that you can still stumble across stuff like this unawares.

POSTSCRIPT: I should add that there's a really terrific compilation of the Misunderstood's studio work available over at Amazon here. Plus, you can read a very entertaining band history by Ritchie Unterberger over here.

Also: Pedal steel monster Glen Ross Campbell went on to play with a UK blues-bashers Juicy Luicy for a while and did a stint in Joe Cocker's backup band. He's since moved to New Zealand where he is still active in music.


buzzbabyjesus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
buzzbabyjesus said...

That song is a monster, and will be remembered better than other so-called hits of the day.

steve simels said...

They had a bunch at least as good.

MikeAdamson said...

Maybe some of these?

pete said...

I saw the steel player with Cocker in a hockey rink in St. Louis in, What? 1973? He was the only good thing about a performance for which the word "listless" was probably invented.

Anonymous said...

Fernando was nothing short of a necromancer. But after the Misunderstood, he squandered his genius and power in boring blues outfits. He then wound up playing country and western dives in and around Berdoo. Such a pity. He should have never burned that book.

The Misunderstood was one of the best local bands in the Inland Empire. Rick Brown was a great singer and harp player with stage presence galore. They also had a great rhythm section. Their first guitarist was no slouch, but Glenn Ross Campbell was a revelation and cemented the band’s legend.

They covered the Yardbirds better than the Yardbirds! They were snarling and trippy feedback-ers par excellence. I really believe they were pioneers going where no other band had gone before.

As with most of the youthful area garage bands, they were much better live than their early recordings. These guys, the Bush, and to a much lesser extent, The Mystics were the first local bands I remember post surf era.

My uncle, if he were still alive today, would have been an invaluable source. He went to school with a few of these guys and played a mean guitar. I more than worshiped him.

He brought me to a lot of band practices. Most of the Inland Empire bands practiced in the back of Lier’s Music store in San Bernardino. Bands like the Bush, the Almost and the Young Blood (who later changed their name to Y.B. Blues Band when the Jesse Colin Youngbloods got famous).

I remember seeing all of those bands, and more, rehearse there. I was a minor-league groupie before I even got into Junior High. Lots of kids would hang out and watch their favorite band’s practice there.

But, even though they might have, I don’t recall ever seeing The Misunderstood rehearsing there. Most of the members of the Misunderstood were living communally in house in Riverside. I think they practiced there.

Some of the local rock and teen clubs were The Gasser, The Hi-Ho Club, The Playpen (which had topless waitresses), and the Community Youth Center in Riverside. By 1967 there was also the Purple Haze and the Mystic Eye. UCR had hosted a lot of
shows, as did San Bernardino Valley College. Big Bear Lake had the Sugar Shack. Lake Arrowhead and Crestline also had venues.

There were also a lot of short lived shit holes in the outlying areas of Fontana (nicknamed "Fontucky"), Cucamonga, Ontario and Pomona.

The most outrageous parties were out at the Muscoy Grange Hall. It was mostly college kids and a couple of bands. The rather remote location lent itself much "freedom of expression."

My uncle dropped acid with members of the Misunderstood. LSD was pretty unheard of at the time, though the word was rapidly getting out. Only a select few had done it in my neck of the woods. It was still totally legal, but pretty exotic. It definitely had an effect on their outlook and how they approached music.

As a kid, it seemed that the few guys I knew who took acid had a different look in their eyes after tripping. The shit going around was pretty strong in those days.

My uncle had a friend named Rusty who loved LSD. He couldn't get enough of it. One night, while tripping, he and a friend got arrested for driving through an eight foot high corn field in his car. Later, when I asked Rusty why he drove his car through a corn field, he told me that he thought it was the ocean.....OK?!

All of these bands had super long hair for the time. It was longer than any of the British Invader bands, except maybe Dave Davies. You have to understand that long hair wasn’t very warmly received by the majority of the local blue collar populace. We’re talkin’ the “Are You a Boy? Or Are You a Girl?” and “Home of the Brave,” era.

I was attracted to guys with long hair. They were far more interesting than the “straights.” They were usually pretty crazy “out of the box” individuals. My kind of people.

Vickie Rock

Anonymous said...

I thought Steve Hoard of the Bush was a real cutie pie. Kinda like a blonde Jim Morrison. Except we didn’t have the Morrison reference point at that time. Once in a while these bands ventured into Los Angeles/Hollywood, usually as opening acts at the Hullabaloo, which later became the Kaleidoscope and then the Aquarius.

I once went to Hollywood and saw the Bush open for the Palace Guard. Apparently the club couldn’t get a headlining band that week. We went to support our local rock band. I was impressed with both bands, though they had completely different styles.

I forgot, the Misunderstood went to England ahead of John Ravenscroft (Peel). By the time Peel finally left KMEN and returned to his homeland in Spring of 1967, the band was already over. But what a brilliant flash they made in England when they hooked up with Tony Hill and producer Dick Leahy!

Campbell came back to the area and played with the Dirty Blues Band, a wannabe Butterfield Blues Band type of outfit. They were pretty boring, especially on record. That band evolved out of the Mystics, which I liked much better.

Then he reformed the Misunderstood with Steve Hoard of the Bush and the two Van der Graaf guys. But it fell flat. Tony Hill was sorely missed as both a songwriter and interweaving guitarist. Plus, Steve Hoard was no Rick Brown, either as a vocalist or harp player.

Nevertheless, a latter day and inferior permutation of the band got onto the Super Show film. It wasn’t pretty.

Vickie Rock