CULT CLASSIC: MIKE TINGLEY-THE ABSTRACT PRINCE.
Cult Classic: Mike Tingley-The Abstract Prince.
Mike Tingley was born and brought up in Southern California, and in the early sixties started playing the guitar and like a lot of aspiring musicians was influenced by The Beatles, the Beach Boys and folk music. However, it was only when the twenty year old singer, songwriter and guiatrist headed to Sweden in search of love that he started playing live.
Mike Tingley had met a Swedish exchange student who had spent a year in America, and was just about to return home and head to university. He thought he was in love with her, so packed his duffle bag and twelve-string guitar, and hitchhiked along Route 66 to Oklahoma City. From there, he took a Greyhound Bus to New York, and because didn’t have a enough money, bought a oneway ticket to Gothenburg.
Soon, Mike Tingley was boarding the Icelandic Airlines’ flight and bound for the Swedish capital. Like many a young man in love, he was expecting a warm welcome when he arrived in Gothenburg, in October 1967. While, the object of his affection was shocked, and a little surprised to see him she took him home to meet her family. Things seemed to be going well for Mike Tingley.
He started playing in bars and coffee shops in the city. Mostly, he played covers of his favourite Beatles along with some folk and country as well some of his own songs. This allowed Mike Tingley to get used to playing in front of audience which once scared him. Not any more, and life was good in Sweden with the girl he had travelled halfway around the world to be with.
Then she told him she wanted him to move on. This was a bolt out of the blue and left him reeling. Mike Tingley was devastated and to make matters worse, he had had only bought a oneway ticket and didn’t have enough money to get home.
Mike Tingley had enough money to head to another part of Europe, and decided to tale head to the Danish capital, Denmark. Once he was there, he took stock of the situation, and then decided to head to Amsterdam.
In the Dutch capital, he found himself living in a hostel, in the Hague, which was subsidised by a church. At night, he was playing in bars and coffee houses for tips. He was now doing requests, and often he asked to play his own songs. By then, Mike Tingley was maturing as a singer, songwriter and musician. It wasn’t an easy way to make a living, and was akin to a musical apprenticeship.
One night, Mike Tingley had finished playing when he was approached by Cees de Best, the guitarist in the Dutch rock group Blues Dimension. He asked if he had a demo tape of his songs? Fortunately, he had recorded one at home a few months before leaving for Sweden. When Mike handed over the demo, Cees de Best told him he wanted to play it to producer Tony Vos.
When Tony Vos heard the demo, he realised that Mike Tingley was a talented singer, songwriter and musician and offered him a recording contract. Mike Tingley signed to Decca, and entered the Phonogram Studios in Hilversum, Holland in February 1968. That was where he recorded the twelve tracks that became his debut album The Abstract Prince.
Joining Mike Tingley in the Phonogram Studios were a group talented Dutch musicians. This included drummer Cees Kranenburg and bassist Jan Hollesteller who were veterans of many a session. Bert Paige was onboard to take charge of the orchestrations on the album. Even producer Tony Vos played on the album.
While many people knew Tony Vos for his production work in 1968, he was also a talented jazz saxophonist and played on The Abstract Prince. The sessions lasted a couple of weeks and producer Tony Vos and engineer Gerard Beckers then spent four or five days mixing creatively to get the sound he envisaged. Having succeeded in doing so, Mike Tingley’s debut album The Abstract Prince was scheduled for release later in 1968.
There was a problem though. Decca decided to only please The Abstract Prince in Holland. This meant that record buyers in other parts of Europe as well as Britain and America were unable to buy The Abstract Prince. It was a beautiful and cerebral album of orchestral baroque pop that’s tinged with psychedelic sounds. Mike Tingley songs broached subjects like loneliness and love, an individual’s search for truth and Vietnam War. Each song told a story.
The album opener A Real Fine Time which was living in a city for the first time. Mike Tingley wrote Begin The Sun before leaving South California to head to Sweden, and is about how much he was in love with the girl he was traveling to see. Connected To Nothing was written by Mike Tingley when he was an idealistic nineteen year old, who thought that the older generation weren’t doing nothing to improve the world, and how his generation were going to do better. Monotony Message is about meditation and revelation, and the individual finding their own truth. See The People closes side is about being alone in a big city, and wanting it to have a big band sound.
Opening the second side was The Abstract Prince an anti war song inspired by Buffy Sainte-Marie’s Universal Soldier. Of Sand is about being lonely and trying to forge relationships with people only to realize that they don’t care about you. It’s Time to Leave Her documents the breakup of one of Mike’s friend’s relationship with his wife. Album closer Crossroads is an uptempo, orchestrated song that was written mostly by Mike’s brother Jim. It finds a thoughtful Mike Tingley questioning and wondering on this melodic and memorable track. It closes The Abstract Prince on a high.
When The Abstract Prince was released in Holland 1968, the album wasn’t a commercial success. Neither was the single A Real Fine Time. That was despite performing on a Dutch television on one of the music programs and being interviewed on Radio Veronica. Sadly, The Abstract Prince wasn’t the commercial success it deserved to be.
When Mike Tingley returned home to California in the early seventies, in his luggage was a master tape of The Abstract Prince. At the time, Decca seemed keen on releasing the album in America. He wanted to rerecord the vocals and use have his brother Jim add harmonies. However, after a few meetings with record company executives in Hollywood, there was bad news.
Mike was told that because The Abstract Prince sessions were recorded in Europe, the EQ and bias curves were recorded to a different standard than what American studios were using. This meant that they couldn’t use the master tape. For Mike Tingley this was another blow.
It may have been that he was being spun a line by the record company executives who incredibly didn’t realise how good an album The Abstract Prince was. To make matters worse the album failed to find the audience it deserved upon its release in 1968, but has been rediscovered and nowadays is regarded as a cult classic. That is is no surprise as Mike Tingley’s debut The Abstract Prince is beautiful, carefully crafted and cerebral album of orchestral baroque pop and psychedelic sounds that once heard, will soon become a firm favourite of discerning record buyers.
Cult Classic: Mike Tingley-The Abstract Prince.