Sunshine, sunshine

Various soft-lit psychedelic images – incense, forests, clouds, flowers, rain, flowers in the rain, to name a few – got tossed around pretty indiscriminately in the pop music charts for a few precious years, thanks in part to West Coast vocal harmony groups like the Mamas & the Papas and the Association. The vogue for such imagery also suggested the extent to which California had become the mecca of warmth and good feeling by the mid-1960s. Most of all, though, it was sunshine that prevailed as this music’s dominant lyrical focus. Bright, warm, yellow, basically harmless: sunshine was the perfect metaphor for this self-invented Pacific Eden and the perfect summation of its beatified, ultra-commercial version of pop music.

Filled with hip Aquarian accoutrement like chimes, flutes, fuzztone guitars, sitars, tambourine and, of course, soaring and sunny vocal harmonies, this sunshine pop was a form of pop music which seemed to resonate with starry-eyed, suburban adolescents everywhere. Perversely, its easygoing sophistication resonated with an older generation as well, swingers who respected the idea of cultural currency but who might have otherwise been scared away by the more aggressive and increasingly political strains of rock music.

See also this early post for more sunshine.

1. The Gordian Knot, The Year of the Sun (Verve)
San Francisco’s Gordian Knot released a full length psychedelic-pop album (from which this ethereal 45 was taken) that is unfairly regarded with near-universal disdain by enthusiasts of ‘60s psychedelia.

I hear lines like “The rhythm of the summer wind calls me again” and I happily to welcome “The Year of the Sun” into my life, though. You have to learn to feel the flute.

2. Chapter V, The Sun is Green (Verve Folkways)
A fairly obscure release, lucky contemporary listeners wondered, too, what it exactly took to make the sun turn green, and where they could score some.

“The Sun is Green” was the first and best of two psychedelic pop 45’s produced by Chapter V in 1968. They were a vehicle for then-Toronto native (and future country producer and husband of Emmylou Harris) Brian Ahern, but little seem to be otherwise known about Chapter V.

3. The Hard Times, Sad, Sad, Sunshine (World Pacific)
The lyrics are obscured in a blanket of echo and gorgeous harmonies here, but, if nothing else, the title gets the sunshine reference in.

From San Diego, the Hard Times released one fine, eclectic album of folk-rock and psychedelia along with a handful of 45s between 1966 and 1968.

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10 Responses to Sunshine, sunshine

  1. Anonymous says:

    only in california – only in california (or the california of their minds)

    steve martin

  2. Anonymous says:

    smile on my face. monday – new fine tunes at office naps. Thanks a lot man, from Berlin, Germany


  3. Larry Grogan says:

    I love this stuff. The Gordian Knot in particular, sounds like something Curt Boettcher would have cooked up. Very cool.

  4. The whole ’60s psychedelic/sunshine pop scene is one of my more recent musical obsessions; and, yup, Curt Boettcher was its greatest producer in my book. I’d always enjoyed bands like the Association (and even the Mamas & the Papas when they were feeling psychedelic), but never actively collected the stuff in my ’60s garage days. That changed after the Fading Yellow and Soft Sounds for Gentle People compilations, however (and because collecting ’60s garage 45s gets too stupidly expensive, and stupid, after a while). This stuff is pure, unsullied bliss to listen to – and much, much more readily and cheaply available as far the originals go. (There’s also a lot of undiscovered psychedelic pop still out there, which is exciting as a collector.)

  5. Atall says:

    So pleased I discovered this blog from a friend.

    So, are all the Fading Yellow and Soft Sounds… as good as these tracks…?

    Sad, sad sunshine. Choon.

  6. Thanks, emberglance. And, yup, I can personally vouch for both the Fading Yellow and Soft Sounds series: they’re fantastic. These selections I’d say are pretty representative of both series, too (the former skewing more towards a 1968-1972 British aesthetic and baroque pop melancholia, and the latter skewing more towards the sunshinier, brassier psychedelic pop native to 1967-70 California).

  7. JW says:

    Hi! I really enjoy all aspects of your extremely informative site, and especially enjoy that 60s pop-psych stuff you’ve presented. Agree with you about Boettcher. The Gordian Knot LP isn’t all that bad, either! Laugh-out-loud RIDICULOUS album cover, though. If you’ve seen it, you know what I’m talking about…none of the bandmembers seem real happy about it, either.

  8. Thanks JW – I just looked up the cover of the Gordian Knot LP: brilliant. Someone’s publicist must have thought a rope, or something “rope-related,” was a good enough gimmick for a cheap album cover.

  9. Todd Lucas says:

    I just love this Hard Times 45, especially “They Said No” on the flipside.

  10. big al says:

    Al Kooper, who wrote “Sad Sad Sunshine,” does an electric sitar version of the tune on his Easy Does It lp.

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