In the early 20th Century, arthritis-addled citizenry sought relief for their maladies in the warm, dry air of the desert. Decades later, Carlos Castaneda-addled graduate students set forth in the name of academic discovery, getting really, really baked in the warm, dry, visibly oscillating air of the desert. It’s always been a good place to disappear, the desert, and a good place to transform yourself, too.
1. The Sound Offs, The Angry Desert (Era)
Theirs was a vision of the Desert Southwest as a place where angelic choruses called wordlessly, a place where organ and relentless wind and surf guitars convened, a place where bad maracas went to die.
In reality, the Sound Offs were probably just another group of studio musicians from Los Angeles, that epicenter of 1960s pop culture. Having availed themselves of the latest in fuzztone technology and thunderstorm sound effects, the Sound Offs put it all to expert use in 1963 for this atmospheric instrumental.
2. The Desert Rats, Sohonie (Mink)
You finished reading “On the Road” and now you’re determined to have your own road trip into the American Southwest, your own communion with the spirit of American freedom and adventure. Wait until you run out of gas on some godforsaken stretch of Death Valley. Wait until you’re just another picked-over pile of calcified bone on the desert floor. You do whatever you want. I’ll be at home, listening to “Sohonie” instead. Two guitars and a cymbal. That’s all I need.
The Desert Rats were another mystery instrumental group. And, like the Sound Offs, I’d also guess that they recorded “Sohonie” in Los Angeles, circa 1963.
3. Tommy Strange, Purple Desert (Shamarie)
“Purple Desert.” It goes barrelling forward like some runaway train, all demon runs up and down the piano keys, and winds up, upright-piano-style, in some Olde Western Saloon. Well, now – that’s basically a John Ford movie.
Tommy Strange recorded “Purple Desert” in Fort Worth, Texas, circa 1964. Aside from that, it’s a complete unknown. The flip side is a boozy mid-‘60s country tearjerker.