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The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band

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The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band

The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band
Origin Los Angeles, United States
Genres Psychedelic rock
Years active 1966–1970
Labels FiFo Records, Reprise, Amos Records, Forward Records, Sundazed
Associated acts Shaun Harris
Danny Harris
Past members Bob Markley (vocals)
Shaun Harris (bass, vocals)
Danny Harris (guitar, vocals)
Michael Lloyd (guitar, vocals)
Ron Morgan (guitar)
John Ware (drums)

The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band was an American psychedelic rock band of the late 1960s, based in Los Angeles, California.

Beginnings

In 1960, Bob Markley, the adopted son of an oil tycoon, and a law graduate, moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in entertainment. He was already a local TV personality in Oklahoma, but his initial attempts to develop a Hollywood career, either in movies or as a pop singer, met with little success.

At around the same time, Shaun and Danny Harris, sons of composer Roy Harris and pianist Johana Harris, also moved to Los Angeles, and by 1963 had both begun playing with a teen surf band, The Snowmen. When they started attending Hollywood Professional School in 1964, they met up with Michael Lloyd, a pianist and guitarist who had been playing in several surf groups such as The New Dimensions with Jimmy Greenspoon later of Three Dog Night. Lloyd then moved on to a pop group called The Alley Cats.[1] Shaun Harris worked with Lloyd in a group called The Rogues and recorded a single influenced by the song "Hey Joe" which was creating a sea change in the pop music world. The Harris brothers and Lloyd decided to form a new band, initially called The Laughing Wind, and they recorded demos for a mutual friend, record producer Kim Fowley. Fowley already knew Markley and suggested that the band try some of his lyrics. However, Markley was close to 12 years older than the Harris brothers and Lloyd.

In 1965, Fowley arranged a private party in Markley’s mansion at which The Yardbirds with Jeff Beck[1] performed and which the Harris brothers and Lloyd also attended. Markley was impressed by the large number of teenage girls attracted by the band, and the much younger musicians were impressed by Markley’s financial resources and potential ability to fund good quality equipment and a light show. Fowley encouraged them to join forces and, with the addition of drummer John Ware, The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band was formed. The general approach was intended to parallel that being developed on the east coast by Andy Warhol and the Velvet Underground. Markley used his legal background to ensure that he held all rights to the band’s name.

The band’s recording debut in 1966, Volume One, featured Lloyd, the Harris brothers, Dennis Lambert (guitar) and Danny Belsky (drums), with Markley on some vocals. Most of the material was completed before the time Markley became involved. The rudimentary album included contemporary hits and original compositions and was recorded in a self-made studio on San Vincente Blvd, just outside Beverly Hills. The album was originally issued on the tiny FiFo Records label in Hollywood. An original copy of this album, complete with sleeve, sold for more than $15,000 in the early 2000s.[2]

Signed to major label

With the many contacts in the music business that all members had and their impressive light show, the group became popular around Los Angeles and were signed by Reprise Records for a three album contract. Their first "proper" album, Part One, ranged from anthemic pop songs and acoustic ballads to harder-edged psychedelic numbers. It reflected the tensions between the band’s musicians and Markley, who effectively controlled the band’s output but who was regarded by the others as musically untalented. Markley contributed rambling pseudo-psychedelic lyrics and spoken sections, and the album also included inputs from co-producer Jimmy Bowen, songwriters Baker Knight and P.F. Sloan, drummer Hal Blaine and pianist Van Dyke Parks. Disputes between Markley and Lloyd also led to the inclusion of guitarist Ron Morgan who, over time, became a full-fledged member of the band.

Sensing that Lloyd was unhappy with these disputes, Fowley introduced him to Mike Curb. They hit it off and Lloyd decided to work on a few studio projects that led to his later appointment to a position at MGM Records. He was offered six months of time at Hollywood Boulevard studios. He produced many projects starting in late 1967 and 1968. These included the groups The Smoke, October Country and The Laughing Wind among others which all benefited from Lloyd's songwriting, arranging and production.[3]

The Harris brothers and Morgan continued on with Markley and recorded

Independent labels

The Harris brothers, both disillusioned with Markley and with the group’s lack of commercial success, reunited in 1968 to form a touring band called California Spectrum[4] with Lloyd’s involvement. However, this was not a success, and they returned to record a further West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band album, Markley A Group, which, although presented as a Markley solo album, had the active involvement of the whole band, including both Lloyd and Danny Harris on Forward Records owned by Mike Curb. After that time, The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band ceased to exist.

The Harris brothers and Lloyd remained lifelong friends and worked together on many projects after the disbanding of the group. Lloyd stated recently "Although Markley created tension in the group that was part of the creative process. We were young and did not know how to cope with it. However, he was a very intelligent man who really wanted appreciation for the artistry that the group was producing. He would be at the studio early writing his lyrics in anticipation of the other band members putting the words to music. Markley would have appreciated how the group has seen a bit of a revival in recent years, especially in the UK and Australia."[1]

Later happenings

Markley worked as a record producer and later fell into ill health before dying in 2003. Lloyd became the Vice President of Three Dog Night and then The Electric Prunes before his death in 1989.

Band members

Timeline

Discography

Studio Albums

Compilations

  • Transparent Day Sampler on Edsel Records ED 180 (1986)
  • The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band Companion (2011)

Singles

  • FiFo Records
    • "Sassafras" / "I Won't Hurt You" (1966)
  • Reprise Records
    • "1906" / "Shifting Sands" (1967)
    • "Help, I'm A Rock" / "Transparent Day" (1967)
    • "Suppose They Give a War and No One Comes" / "Queen Nymphet" (1967)
    • "Smell of Incense" / "Unfree Child" (1968)
  • Amos Records
    • "Free As A Bird" / "Where's My Daddy" (1969)

Comments from musicians

Pete Overend Watts founding member of Mott The Hoople and British Lions wrote of his first listen to the Part One album "As soon as I played the opening track - the wistful "Shifting Sands" I knew I'd stumbled across something very special. A plaintive ballad in A minor, echoed sad fuzz guitar - open space, great recording quality, but what really grabbed me was the voice. I'd never heard a voice like it at that time. Most of the West Coast groups had powerful, loud, rock singers - The Doors, Moby Grape, Steppenwolf, Jefferson Airplane etc. This voice was nothing like that - it was gentle, eggshell thin, almost brittle, very young but with an emotional quality and a worldliness that was uncanny and could deliver lyrics in an understated but extremely powerful way. It's still my favorite voice. On the second track "I Won't Hurt You" I was literally blown away. There was this incredible voice again this time right up-front almost whispering over a minimal backing of one muffled acoustic guitar and a beat - which apparently is a heartbeat (eerie). The opening lines "I've lost all my pride - I've been through paradise and out the other side" - and he sounded like he had! The bell-like simplistic stereo guitars in the break are a stroke of genius - then back to the muffled last verse - the contrast is wonderful. One point about this song and it occurs in several of their others is the way the lyrics don't quite scan correctly - it's almost like they've tried to fit too many words into a fixed number of bars - it can't be done - but they do it - and it sounds brilliant!" [10]

Sean Lennon stated in an article titled "10 Lost Psychedelic Classics" about the song "Eighteen Is Over the Hill" in Rolling Stone. It is the opening track of the album Volume 3: A Child's Guide To Good And Evil. "I can understand why this band is overlooked, because their records are very hard to listen to – they're really out there. They almost make Frank Zappa seem mainstream. But then they have these moments where it just works. This is one of their best songs." [11]

References

  1. ^ a b c southernfm.com.au - accessed September 2014
  2. ^ The Acid Archives, book by Patrick Lundborg, 2006
  3. ^ The Smoke - accessed September 2014
  4. ^ Acid Archives - accessed September 2014
  5. ^ taxi.com - accessed September 2014
  6. ^ Discogs.com - accessed December 2010
  7. ^ a b Electricflower.ucoz.com - accessed December 2010
  8. ^ Filmreference.com - accessed December 2010
  9. ^ Thedeadrockstarsclub.com - accessed December 2010
  10. ^ shindig-magazine.com - accessed September 2014
  11. ^ rollingstone.com - accessed September 2014

External links

  • West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, a comprehensive webpage from RockMuse.com
  • Interview with Michael Lloyd from http://www.harmony-central.com
  • Article by Peter Overend Watts from http://shindig-magazine.com
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