I always feel a little bit leery of posts like these because there’s nothing in the way of, say, regional or sociocultural provenance or shared stylistic cues drawing the selections together, nothing guiding them into cohesive genres or concepts with tidy boundaries. These are fitted together mostly because they fit together somehow in my mind.
So this is actually a continuation of a post from a million years ago. Beginning in the ’50s, and continuing into the ’80s, a spate of unusual, unhinged, otherwise untrammeled examples of musical individualism found their realization on the 45rpm record, that most democratic and affordable of the post-War recorded formats. An overall concept that’s nothing particularly new in the Office Naps universe.
But the Beat Generation – its electrifying, groundbreaking forms and beatnik clichés alike – looms in some way behind each of these selections, even if it’s only inadvertent, and somehow the fact that these three 45s, which would have been unorthodox no matter their year of release, evoke the spirit of an entirely earlier decade seemed worth more exploration. So here we go.
1. Tamara’s New Generation, Traffic (IRC 6943B)
Tantalizingly few credits to work with here.
Recorded in mid-1967, “Traffic” was released on the Chicago-based IRC Records. IRC was operated to a large degree as a custom label – meaning that, for a fee, it would press a set quantity of a record for any artist or small recording studio. IRC’s small LP run favored European folk music while its 45 discography, which extended from the early ‘60s until the mid-‘70s, included a relatively unfiltered cross-section of period sounds, including teen pop, sound effects novelties, gospel, personality records and, perhaps most notably, some mid-‘60s garage band singles by the Little Boy Blues, Placy Anatra & Jimmy Watson, Danny’s Reasons and the Phantoms.
And this selection? Tamara’s deadpan spoken word meditation on the modern condition in “Traffic” – not to mention those charmingly artless flute accents – are the very image of youthful Greenwich Village existentialism of a decade earlier. As with a lot of custom label output, obscure ysteries would often see release, but little else among IRC’s schedule would sound like “Traffic.” Little else anywhere sounded like “Traffic,” though the Miriam 45 bears some passing resemblance. (“Just Flowers,” the nominally more orthodox flipside, is a more psychedelic number that seems straight from some jam at the Golden Gate Park Be-In, again with flute and a bit of Tamara’s spoken word vocals).
2. The Night People, Erebian-Borialis (Del-Nita DN-1002B)
The Night People were a mid-‘60s Cleveland-area group.
While the Night People might read like your standard local mid-‘60s garage band on paper, it’s clear with this 1967 45 – the first of the group’s two releases – that something slightly different was going on. To begin with, the a-side of this 45, a crudely psychedelic rave-up entitled “We Got It,” featured a prominent theremin, an instrument otherwise nearly unheard of in the context of local ‘60s rock ‘n’ roll.
This selection, “Erebian-Borialis,” is the yet-more-anomalous b-side.
Loosely-structured and freewheeling, it’s in the spirit of other early psychedelia, but the instrumentation and intimate production values of “Erebian-Borialis” are both quite unusual. (The title itself seems to be a meaningless invention.) Like “Traffic,” this side is simultaneously of its time and out of time; “Erebian-Borialis” succeeds in being utterly psychedelic, while little but a fuzzed-out electric guitar separates it from the flute-and-bongo coffeehouse aesthetic of a decade earlier.
“Erebian-Borialis” featured the group’s guitarist Terry Paul, drummer Greg Paul (likely on the bongo), bassist Joe Rose – and his brother Frank Rose on the recorder. (Vocalist Bob Holcepl is not heard here.)
The Night People’s second 45, while also excellent, is much more in the vein of straightahead period garage band records.
The first of these, the Dawks, were a working group that included Terry Lawson (vocals), Jim Henson (lead guitar), Mike Clark (rhythm guitar), Lou Gore (drums) and Larry Henry (bass). They recorded several times for the Prism Records label, their discography notably including “Good Thing,” a ringing gem that appeared on WONE: The Dayton Scene, a battle-of-the-bands compilation, in 1966.
And the second combo was the Bangs, an otherwise undocumented girl group.
This side was released in early 1966. Even by the standards of b-sides – where the weirder, anything-goes material tended to live – “Go-Go Kitty” is a strange artifact, a shambling teenage head trip that transcends novelty by its sheer uncompromising, uncommercial wigginess. It makes sense that this might have been a studio lark. It’s certainly nothing like “Get Back in Your Tree,” its pop a-side.
The group released a second 45 (“The First Time b/w “She’s Gone”), also on the Prism label, but these sides again bore no resemblance to the madness of this selection.
Thanks goes to Buckeye Beat for much of the information.