THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE SEEDS
The Life and Times of The Seeds
When The Seeds were formed in Los Angeles in early 1965 by Sky Saxon, Daryl Hooper, Jan Savage, Jeremy Levine and Rick Andridge nobody had any idea just how influential the nascent garage band would be. Over the next four years, The Seeds released five albums, enjoyed four hit singles and pioneered mid-sixties garage rock and acid rock. The Seeds are nowadays regarded as one of the original freakbeat bands, who also coined the term “flower power” and paved the way for punk rock a decade later. However, by 1969 The Seeds were no more, with the latest lineup of the band deciding to call time on their career. It was the end of an era for an influential and innovative band who left behind a rich musical legacy during their short career.
The Seeds began their musical adventure in Los Angeles, in 1965 , when five young musicians decided to found a new band. One member of the new band was charismatic vocalist Sly Saxon who was by far the most experienced member of the band.
He had been a professional musician since the late-fifties and had been releasing singles as Richie Marsh since the early sixties. Sly Saxon who came from Salt Lake City, had moved to Los Angeles to further his musical career. However, he had been treading water until he saw an advert in 1965 looking for musicians to join a new band. This Sly Saxon hoped might be the breakthrough he had been looking for. That proved to be the case, and after an audition Sly Saxon became The Seeds vocalist.
With the lineup of The Seeds finalised, the new band spent time honing their sound. Soon, though, they made their first tentative steps onto LA’s live scene where they secured regular gigs at the Los Angeles nightclub Bido Lito’s. The Seeds were a popular draw with music fans flocking to the venue to see this new band’s high octane performance. Already The Seeds were making their mark on the LA music scene.
Not long after that, The Seeds recorded what would become their debut single Can’t Seem To Make You Mine. With the recording complete, charismatic frontman Sly Saxon started trying to interest record labels in the song. Mostly, it was a case of thanks but no thanks, until he entered the offices of GNP Crescendo Records. They listened to the song and promised Sly Saxon they would get back to him. By then, he and the rest of The Seeds knew not to get their hopes up.
This time it was different, with GNP Crescendo Records getting back to Sly Saxon and telling him how much they liked the song. Not only did they like Can’t Seem To Make You Mine, but they wanted to take The Seeds back into the studio and rerecord it with Marcus Tybalt.
The Seeds agreed and headed into the studio with Marcus Tybalt, where they rerecorded Can’t Seem To Make You Mine. It was then released by Crescendo and picked up by Santa Monica based radio station KBLA. Soon, other radio stations had picked up on Can’t Seem To Make You Mine, and this future cult classic became a regional hit in Southern California. After just a few months together, already The Seeds already had a regional hit single to their name which was a dream come true for the band.
While The Seeds celebrated the success of Can’t Seem To Make You Mine, guitarist Jeremy Levine announced that he was leaving the band for personal reasons. This was a huge blow for The Seeds who looked as if they were on the verge of making a breakthrough.
With The Seeds now a quartet, they returned Los Angeles’ vibrant live scene, where people were starting to take notice of this, new up-and-coming band who had just scored a hit with Can’t Seem To Make You Mine. By then, The Seeds’ popularity was rising and they became a firm favourite of audiences across LA. They were impressed by The Seeds’ high octane, energetic performances as they showcased the new garage rock sound that they were pioneering.
Although The Seeds spent much of their time playing live, they were already working on their eponymous debut album. Frontman Sly Saxon had dawned the role of The Seeds’ songwriter-in-chief and had penned ten of the twelve tracks that featured on The Seeds. He also wrote Evil Hoodoo with Daryl Hooper and penned No Escape with Jan Savage and Jimmy Lawrence. These twelve tracks were recorded at Columbia Studios, in Hollywood.
At Columbia Studios, Sly Saxon co-produced The Seeds with Marcus Tybalt who had masterminded their debut single Can’t Seem To Make You Mine. When the recording sessions began, drummer Rick Andridge wasn’t joined in the rhythm section by vocalist Sly Saxon who it was thought played bass on The Seeds recordings. Instead, Daryl Hooper who played keyboards, organ melodica and piano, laid down the bass parts using a bass keyboard. Meanwhile, Jan Savage took charge of the bass parts on The Seeds. Eventually, The Seeds had completed their much-anticipated eponymous debut album which would be released by GNP Crescendo Records.
In April 1966, The Seeds were just about to release their eponymous debut album The Seeds. Critics on hearing The Seeds were won over by this classic-in-waiting. The Seeds featured an irresistible fusion of fuzzy guitars, bubbling Hammond organ and Sly Saxon’s vocal which seems to have been inspired by everyone from Mick Jagger to Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochran. When The Seeds was released, it was to plaudits and praise, and nowadays, the album is regarded as a garage rock classic. Indeed, many critics believe that The Seeds is the finest garage rock album ever released.
On its release, The Seeds sold well and reached 132 in the US Billboard 200. Meanwhile, a decision was made to reissue Pushin’ Too Hard which had been released in 1965. While it failed to chart first time round, this time, Pushin’ Too Hard reached thirty-six in the US Billboard 100 and forty-four in Canada. Later in 1966, Can’t Seem To Make You Mine was also reissued and reached forty-one in the US Billboard 100 and thirty-three in Canada. Things were looking good for The Seeds, as their thoughts turned to their sophomore album A Web Of Sound.
A Web Of Sound.
By the time The Seeds began work on A Web Of Sound, they had been working tirelessly since early 1965. They were now a familiar face and favourite on LA’s live scene. All The Seeds hard work was paying off and they had established a reputation as one of the most innovative bands of the mid-sixties. The Seeds were known to push musical boundaries to their limits as they created music that was best described as eclectic. Despite that, many people still referred to The Seeds as a garage band. However, The Seeds added elements of acid rock, proto-punk and psychedelia to their music. Their sophomore album A Web Of Sound was going to be a very different album to The Seeds.
Just like their debut album The Seeds, Sly Saxon was songwriter-in-chief on A Web Of Sound. On Tripmaker and Rollin’ Machine, the mysterious Marcus Tybalt was credited as one of the songwriters. However, this was just an alias of Sly Saxon who wrote Mr. Farmer, I Tell Myself, Rollin’ Machine and Up In Her Room. Sly Saxon and Darryl Hooper teamed up to write Pictures and Designs, Tripmaker and A Faded Picture. The pair then wrote Just Let Go with Jan Savage. These eight tracks were recorded during July 1966.
The Seeds recorded A Web Of Sound at RCA Victor and Columbia Studios in Hollywood. The sessions started on the ‘5th’ of July 1966 with Sly Saxon using the alias Marcus Tybalt taking charge of production. This time around, drummer Rick Andridge was joined by Harvey Sharpe who was brought onboard for the A Web Of Sound. Completing the rhythm section was Jan Savage who laid down all the guitar parts. Darryl Hooper switched between celeste, organ and piano, while vocalist Sly Saxon added percussion and played piano. After twenty-four days A Web Of Sound was completed on the ‘29th’ of July 1966. It was a very different album to their debut The Seeds.
Critics on hearing A Web Of Sound, realised just how far The Seeds had come in a relatively short space of time. In just six month, their music had progressed, and it looked as if The Seeds were going to match their LA based contemporaries like The Doors and Love every step of the way. That was the case with A Web Of Sound, which was an album of two very different sides.
A Web Of Sound marked the start of a new chapter in The Seeds career, as they broadened their musical horizon on what was a much more eclectic album. The Seeds incorporated elements of acid rock, blues, garage rock, proto punk and psychedelic rock on album that was embraced by the hippies. They were won over by A Web Of Sound which they believed was an unconventional album that featured open-ended songs which appealed to their mindset. These songs eschewed the carefully plotted thoughts and didacticism of the majority of songs on the charts, and left plenty of room for interpretation. The Seeds songwriter-in-chief Sly Saxon was an unlikely hero for the hippies.
When A Web Of Sound was released in October 1966, the album wasn’t a commercial success initially. This changed after the reissue of Pushin’ Too Hard gave The Seeds another hit single. Suddenly, record buyers started investigating The Seeds’ sophomore album A Web Of Sound which had slipped under the radar. While it sold reasonably well, A Web Of Sound was a cult album that failed to replicate The Seeds. It was only later that A Web Of Sound would be embraced by a much wider audience.
By then, critics, cultural commentators and record buyers realised that A Web Of Sound was a stepping stone for The Seeds, as their sound continued to evolve on their third album Future.
While The Seeds had pushed musical boundaries to their limits on The Seeds and A Web Of Sound, they blew these limits away on Future. The result was a mind-blowing fusion of psychedelia, garage, rock and pop that veered towards jazz and soul.Eclectic doesn’t even come close to describing Future. It’s a minor classic that is a long way from The Seeds roots as a garage band. However, listening to A Web Of Sound it’s obvious that The Seeds were in the process of changing.
When Future was released, it was to critical acclaim and the album reached the top hundred in the US Billboard 200. While this pleased The Seeds, the single A Thousand Shadows failed to match the success of previous albums. This was a disappointment for The Seeds who had produced heady and potent musical brew that showcased a truly talented and versatile band who were musical pioneers. That had been the case since they released The Seeds in April 1966.
After Future, The Seeds’ popularity slumped, and they became a victim of changing musical fashions. That wasn’t the only thing that was changing.
By mid-1968, The Seeds’ personnel began to change, and the other change was their name. The Seeds became Sky Saxon and the Seeds, and in August 1968, Satisfy You was released as a single. It was a fusion of psychedelia and rock, and The Seeds seemed to be heading in the direction of The Doors on Satisfy You. While it failed to chart, it’s a storming reminder that for The Seeds, they had a future after Future.
Falling Off The Edge Of My Mind was the final single The Seeds released for GNP Crescendo. Wild Blood was chosen as the B-Side for The Seeds GNP Crescendo swan-song. Released in January 1969, Falling Off The Edge Of My Mind failed to chart. A fusion of country, psychedelia and rock it saw The Seeds looking for a new direction. Ironically, the B-Side Wild Blood was a better track. Rocky, with a nod to The Rolling Stones, Sly struts his way through the track, as they bid their farewell to GNP Crescendo.
In 1969, The Seeds’ lineup changed. Guitarist Bob Norsoph and Don drummer Boomer replaced Jan Savage and Rick Andridge. Despite this change in lineup, Sky Saxon continued to use the name The Seeds. They didn’t release another single until August 1970.
By then, the best way to describe The Seeds’ lineup is fluid. Various backing musicians came onboard. It was more a band entity than band. Bad Part Of Town was released as a single in August 1970, on MGM. It was rocky track with a psychedelic twist. However, it failed to chart and four months after the release of Bad Part Of Town, The Seeds released their final single.
Love In A Summer Basket was released in December 1970, and was The Seeds’ second single for MGM. Slow, moody, pensive, dramatic and trippy it’s the sunshine psychedelia that The Seeds specialised in a few years earlier. While Love In A Summer Basket failed to chart, their recording career ended on a high. On the flip side of Love In A Summer Basket, was Did He Die. A driving slice of rocky, psychedelia, it showed that The Seeds still had something to offer music. There was only one problem, music was changing. This meant The Seeds had to change.
For the next two years, The Seeds continued, with Sky Saxon keeping the group alive. However, The Seeds best days were between 1965 and 1967. During that period, they released a trio of genre-defying albums and showcased one of the most exciting and adventurous bands of the late sixties. The Seeds were, without doubt, musical pioneers and their three albums are proof of this.
From 1966s The Seeds through 1967s A Web Of Sound and their 1968 swan-song Future, The Seeds weave their magic. They combine a disparate combination of musical genres and influences. Everything from rock, garage rock, psychedelia, folk, jazz, doo-wop, free jazz, proto-punk and even prog rock. With every listen to The Seeds trio of albums, further surprises and subtleties reveal their hidden secrets. Rather than seamlessly flowing from one genre-specific track to another, The Seeds become a musical chameleon. Every track is like a surprise, with hidden depths awaiting the listener. However, The Seeds finest moment was their final album, Future.
The only way to describe Future is a genre-sprawling album. Magpie-like, The Seeds seem to collect musical genres and influences, put them into their lysergic melting pot and sprinkle some secret ingredients. What comes out of The Seeds melting pot was Future. Under appreciated upon its release, that’s no longer the case. Now Future is perceived as a mind-blowing, boundary breaking and genre-defying album, where The Seeds tore up the rule book and rewrote it. Future is essential listening for anyone interested in The Seeds’ music, and is part of their musical legacy.
The Seeds musical legacy was a trio of studio albums, A Web Of Sound, The Seeds and Future feature the changing face of The Seeds. Their best studio album was Future, which is now a psychedelic classic. Drawing inspiration from The Beatles psychedelic masterpiece Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band. It’s a combination of The Seeds garage band roots and psychedelia. The Seeds also were influenced by Frank Zappa, Thirteenth Floor Elevators, The Doors, The Who, the British invasion bands and jazz. Sadly Future marked the end of The Seeds story and while they weren’t the most prolific band in musical history, nearly fifty years later they continue to influence and inspire another generation of musicians and captivate music lovers with their genre-melting sound.
The Life and Times of The Seeds
- Posted in: Blues ♦ Garage ♦ Psychedelia ♦ Rock
- Tagged: A Web Of Sound, Can’t Seem To Make Her Mine, Daryl Hooper, GNP Crescendo Records, Jan Savage, Jeremy Levine, Mr. Farmer, Pushin’ Too Hard, Rick Andridge, Sly Saxon, The Seeds