SKY SUNLIGHT SAXON - THE VINTAGE YEARS
A comprehensive look at Sky's 1970s recordings
by Patrick Lundborg
"Garage music is not bad, because Christ was born in a manger, which was probably like a garage of that time."
v 1.1, Jan 2004 -- added review of "Yod Ship Suite pt 3" to chapter 5
v 1.2, Apr 2004 -- details and photo for 1969 line-up added, courtesy of "Kris"
v 1.3, Apr 2005 -- details on the UA demos added to chapter 3
v 1.4, Sep 2007 -- Sky sent us his kind greetings: "Thanks again for your amazing amount of research and your writing skill and your interest in my work. It is greatly appreciated.
Love and Peace and Blessings,
Sky Sunlight Saxon - The Seeds - Atlantic Rising"
v 1.5, Jan 2009 -- details on 'Shuckin & Jivin' added to chapter 2; various data added to the later chapters; design facelift
v 1.6, July 2009 -- Sky has moved on to the big Father house above. He will be missed. Respect.
v 1.7, May 2012 -- minor detail about band member "Rob" added, thanks to Kenne James [later superseded by fresh data]
v 2.0, July 2013 -- important updates for the first chapters with new personnel data and more
The last Seeds 45 to be released by GNP Crescendo was the Kim Fowley-produced Fallin' Off The Edge / Wild Blood from February 1969. While the band was still popular locally, they hadn't had a real hit since "A Thousand Shadows" and their fame was beginning to dwindle; the venues shrank from concert halls to local clubs and the Sunset Strip teenybopper excitement that helped fuel their rise to stardom was nowhere to be seen. Disenchanted, the original band began falling apart.
While it's never been properly documented before, drummer Rick Andridge left the band as early as mid-1968. His first replacement was Carl Belknap, veteran of several local LA-area bands. Carl rehearsed and played some gigs with the Seeds, including a show at Melodyland in Anaheim that has been preserved on tape. It's a good concert, ironically pretty close in sound to the fake Raw & Alive LP from the same timeframe. Carl forwarded the following details to me:
When I had to go back to college in order to avoid the draft, I was quickly replaced. I met the new drummer at a rehearsal at Sky's house in Malibu in early '69. Unfortunately, I don't remember his name, or that of the second guitarist they had added. They were rehearsing a really kick-ass song called 'Outlaw Motorcycle Man'. At the end of rehearsal, Jan [Savage] told me he was leaving the band, but didn't elaborate.
Carl Belknap doesn't perform on any official Seeds recordings, but an associate of the band from the time recently forwarded me the following info:
The names of the missing Seeds members from 1968-69 are Bob Norsoph - guitar and Don Boomer - drums. Along with Sky and Darryl, this is the group on "Wild Blood", "Outlaw Motorcycle", "Forbidden Fruit", etc. Also on the recordings is guitarist/ songwriter Dennis Edmonton/Mars Bonfire and steel guitarist the late Red Rhodes! Boomer also played drums on some of the tracks on the "Raw & Alive" album along with Hal Blaine. When Norsoph and Boomer were added the band's name changed from the Seeds to Sky Saxon & The Seeds, which was Neil Norman's doing. The band did some shows as a 5-piece with Jan before his health forced his leaving the group.
Sky Saxon & the Seeds in early '69 -
Bob Norsoph, Daryl, Sky, Don Boomer
I recently heard from Don Boomer, who indeed was the drummer in the revamped Seeds 'Mark II' line-up. Don, who describes Sky Saxon as 'the most charismatic person I have ever met', added some vital info regarding the outs and ins of the late '60s Seeds. Prior to replacing Rick Andridge in mid-'68, Don had been in a band called the Good Guys, who recorded some material but had no records out:
About 2 months after this band ended I replaced Rick to coincide with the release of the "Raw & Alive" album and the single Satisfy You/ 900 Million People. My best remembrance is that Rick left the band after the band was involved in a lawsuit to remove their manager Lord Tim Hudson. Richard France who was the band's road manager told me when we attended Sky's memorial at the Echo that Carl [Belknap] was a fill-in and only played the one gig (Melodyland). The band continued as 'the Seeds' for about 6 months until Jan's health became an issue. This band recorded some of the "Raw & Alive" album. I believe Rick had already left the band and did not play on it at all. In fact I don't know how much of all the previous recordings actually had Rick playing, and how much of the Seeds' catalog was played by Hal Blaine (as it was before my time), as I was led to believe that GNP hired Hal Blaine quite a lot.
On "Raw & Alive" I played on "900 Million People" and "Pushing Too Hard". I think they were originally cut with Hal but I told the record company, if they didn't want me on the recording dates I wouldn't play the live dates either. My big 17 year-old ego I guess :-) The "Raw & Alive" sessions that I played on were done at Goldstar. There were some other tunes cut that I don't think ever made it to disc. As I recall there were two versions of "Raw & Alive" that were released, and I don't remember if I was on any others.
Bob Norsoph didn't join the band until after "Raw & Alive" was all done. At the time [Fall 1968], Bob was considered probably the best rock guitarist in Hollywood. He came over from the Yellow Payges who were the house band at the Hullabaloo club. It was also at this time GNP decided we should change the name to 'Sky & the Seeds'. We played gigs as a 5-piece for a few months until Jan could no longer continue.
Bob and I played on all the Kim Fowley dates which were recorded at Western and United studios in Hollywood. Besides "Fallin' Off The Edge" and "Young Blood" there are at least two songs I've never heard again. One was called "Outlaw Motorcycle" which was co- written by Mars Bonfire ("Born To Be Wild"), and [the other] "Forbidden Fruit". The version of "Fallin' Off The Edge" that was released was just us goofing off. It was never supposed to have the country sound. I think we just were all tired after a dozen earlier takes. Originally it was supposed to be a straight rocker. Also on the Fowley session was Red Rhodes on steel guitar. He's probably better known as the father of Randy Rhodes of Ozzy fame. There were some other Seeds sessions with Don Peak (who was Sonny & Cher's musical director) and Jack Nitzsche, but I can't remember what new songs came out of them. There was one about Captain America. There are probably about 8 or 10 Seeds songs that were scheduled to be released by Crescendo that I believe were bought up by MGM but as far as I know they were never released back in '69. "Fallin' Off The Edge" is the only one I have ever found along with a remake of "Pushin Too Hard" that did end up on some CD released in EU [...]
I left the band in the Spring of '69 and I think Bob [Norsoph] left a month after that. I thought that Richard Barcelona replaced Bob at that time but their may have been someone else for a short time. Bob and myself went on, along with the bassist from Barcelona's band American Revolution named John Keith to form another band but we never released any material.
(Don Boomer, 2013)
Despite this flurry of activity GNP Crescendo would soon drop the band, or what was left of it, from their roster. After a contract-less period in mid-1969 Sky & the Seeds hooked up with MGM who expressed interest. Ironically, this happened just a few months before MGM -- led by future politico bigwig Mike Curb -- decided to dump a lot of their "drug-related" acts. Apparently they hadn't run a check on Sky before signing him! Whatever their intentions were, MGM was also undergoing a major change at the time, as its music and movie divisions split into completely separate companies, which left little time to focus on newly signed pop acts.
OK, so at this point (late 1969) Sky is still working to keep the Seeds name alive, still no "Sunlight" attached to his name, but getting increasingly concerned with the well-being of animals and vegetables, as well as astronomic phenomena. For a period it seems the band consisted of only him and Daryl Hooper, with the possible addition of pick-up musicians for live gigs. But with the MGM contract in hand, Sky put together a 'Mark III' Seeds. The line-up for this incarnation has proven quite difficult to sort out, as neither Sky nor Daryl Hooper remembered much of it. One of the players Daryl Hooper recalled being named "Chip", while Sky has identified the other two as "Rob" (bass) and "John". In the printed Ugly Things version of this article I speculated that their full names will some day be found on an Etruscan drinking vessel or such, but thanks to the diligent research of Jeff Jarema (who also interviewed Daryl Hooper for his Here 'Tis fanzine long ago), the full story on the Seeds Mark III finally emerged. It can be found on the snazzy EP reissue that Sundazed put out of the two MGM 45s recently, and is excerpted here with Mr Jarema's generous permission:
[The] Pasadena-based power trio the Solid Mist had opened for the Seeds at that city’s civic auditorium. At the time, the Solid Mist consisted of Bill "Chip" Chiapparelli, John Crass and Don Freeman. Chip and Don alternated on guitar and bass while Crass drummed. Their manager also handled a stable of strippers which led to a diverse date sheet of Hollywood dance clubs (both Gazzarri’s locations, for example) and strip joints. [...] By ’69, both the Solid Mist and Seeds had gone bust. As Chiapparelli recalls, “Sky was trying to make a comeback. He remembered us from the Pasadena Civic.” Initially, Sky and Daryl drafted Chiapparelli and drummer Crass from the Solid Mist plus one of their Pasadena pals Brian Tobin on bass. The latter’s involvement was short-lived. His unfamiliarity with his instrument was initially overlooked for a more practical consideration. The reconstituted Seeds rehearsed in Saxon’s Malibu garage, a major haul from Pasadena. Of these new hires, Tobin was the one with a car. He was shortly replaced as bassist by Rob Starr.
This five-piece line-up, depicted on the Sundazed EP, are what is heard on the two MGM 45s. Daryl Hooper has confirmed playing on the first MGM 45 "Bad Part Of Town"/"Wish Me Up" (MGM 14163, August 1970), and it appears that he's also on the second MGM 45 "Love In A Summer Basket"/"Did He Die" (MGM 14190, November 1970).
Seeds still headlining in 1970; according to "Chip"
Lee Michaels resented being lower billed
Now if the Seeds had been just an ordinary 1960s band, and if Sky Saxon had been just an ordinary 1960s teen idol, then these two releases would have sucked royally, like Dick Dodd's "Guilty" or that Roy Orbison hippie-epic 45. But the incredibly strange aspects that seep into the Saxon legend like highgrade Owsley into an LA water reservoir produces something quite different: two real killer 45s, as good or better than anything the band did when they were selling out the Hollywood Bowl. Prior to the Sundazed EP, the four tracks may be familiar to some of you as they made the rounds via two parallel Sky retrospectives in the early 1980s, one by AIP and one by France's Eva label; the "Bad Part Of Town" track also appeared on a couple of garage compilations..
"Bad Part Of Town" is a 100% successful garage-hardrock transition number, the Saxon songwriting being instantly recognizable to the point of including rhymes on "day and night" like the band always utilized back in the charttopping days. Sky sings a blue collar coalminer's lament that could have been embarrassing but instead rings with authenticity, simply because he himself and the band as a whole sounds so damn angry! Not a whiff of burnout vibes here; they could have shared the bill with Boa or Mystic Siva at some local Detroit speedfreak club. The drummer has been put down elsewhere, but I think his frantic hardrock style improves the tune further. The flipside "Wish Me Up" is essentially a return to the teen crooner sounds that were the other side of the '66 era Seeds, apart from the two-chord punk manifestos. Daryl Hooper's electric piano is given a central place just like in the good old daze, while the lead guitarist plays it clean and simple like Jan Savage would. The lyrics are a bit more cosmic, and the overall mood is hippiesh rather than bobbysockish; the end result works pretty well.
After "Bad Part Of Town" died in the market, a few months passed before the band was allowed a second chance to compete with Three Dog Night or whatever it was that rode the charts in 1970. "Love In A Summer Basket" seems an honest attempt to make a commercial tune, except that the sentiment and sound it promotes had disappeared into a black hole between Altamont and the Tate-LaBianca residence the year before. It's not bad, especially if you enjoy the Scott McKenzie-on-PCP vibes of the "Future" LP, with a heavy guitar break in the middle aimed to lure hapless teens away from their Grand Funk and Led Zep albums and realize the genius of Sky. They didn't, which is a shame as it means they missed out on the stunning "Did He Die", which I'd rate as the best of all Sky's early 1970s tunes.
Opening with throbbing, uptempo bass we are thrown into a vicious acidfuzz variation on the old Seeds two-chord gospel, some ominous Vietnam-inspired lyrics lead the way into an unexpected good-timey interlude for a few bars, then it's whammo into a droning fuzz-fueled rant from Sky: "Did he die...Did he die... He shot him in the head... He killed his brother... torture, torture on the hill... thousand crosses mark the kill... ruuuuunnn... I'll protect you with my life..."; the whole thing plays like a haunted Viet Vet junkie flashback of the Dho Lung Bridge scenes from "Apocalypse Now". It's just amazing.
Another 1970 gig, announcing the
unexpected return of Flower Power
After the non-success of the 45s MGM dropped the band (the Mike Curb drug purge was probably invoked), and I must admit the story gets a bit hazy here. Although Sky himself considered this point, in late 1970, the end of the original Seeds, the band name would soon surface again. Any Seeds-related activities during 1971 are unknown and possibly non-existent, but by 1972 a 'New Seeds' was up and running. The valiant Daryl Hooper had finally had enough, and of the new band members Richard Barcelona is the only known name currently. Barcelona, who had formerly been with American Revolution (LP on Flick-Disc) may have been briefly involved with the Seeds already in '69, but by 1972 he was definitely a member. After a recording hiatus (although they may have played live) Sky & his merry men came back in 1972 with an atypical hardrock 45, released on their own Productions Unlimited label (# AJ-11/22). This one is probably too tough a pill to swallow for the average Seeds garage fan, but as far as local hardrock/guitarpsych 45s go, it's very good. No burnout vibes are audible as the band blows through a convincing interpretation of the sound that was played in a zillion suburban basements around the US at the time.
The A-side "Shuckin' And Jivin'" clocks in at almost 7 minutes and features some truly great playing, but the most puzzling aspect are the vocals, which several people have suggested isn't Sky. It really doesn't sound much like him, but I long found it hard to believe that the guy would abandon his most important contribution. However, a former band-mate of Richard Barcelona recently forwarded the following interesting comment that probably solves the riddle:
When I played with Richard Barcelona in '73-'75 we used to play a song called 'Shuckin' and Jivin' (A Penny A day)' that I was under the impression that Richard had penned. I'm not sure if he told me that or not. I was just under that impression. Richard Barcelona used to do a BETTER Robert Plant than Robert himself. We also used to do some Zeppelin stuff and I was amazed at how well he could do that Plant head tone.
It may in fact be that Barcelona and the band demanded to record this song without Sky on lead vocals, as an anonymous commentator recently suggested; this would have effectively ended the New Seeds. The flipside "You Took Me By Surprise" is in the same vein but with shorter instrumental passages and a clearly recognizable Sky Saxon behind the microphone. Not bad, and proof of the man's enviable ability to identify and emulate the happening sounds of the moment.
We now enter a phase in Sky's career that is so hazy I doubt it's ever been discussed at all. After "Shucking And Jivin'" unsurprisingly went nowhere the 'New Seeds' threw in the towel. Of course Sky couldn't just walk away from the stage; to begin with, what was he going to do instead? In what may have been a combined commercial and spiritual move he added "Sunlight" to his stage name, where it's been ever since, and went looking for a new crowd. In LA he needn't look long, naturally, and this marks the beginning of what for practical purposes will be referred to as the WORLD PEACE BAND period, although that name actually never appeared on the records they play on.
Apart from Sky Sunlight Saxon, the main engine in the World Peace Band was one Michael Neal, a k a "Rainbow" or sometimes even "Rainbow Starburst". A DJ with KBLA in the late '60s, Rainbow was a slightly younger guy with ambitions to become an actor; he was also an aspiring songwriter and a good (primarily rhythm) guitarist. In the early 1970s he was playing with a local LA band called the Gypsy Kings when he hooked up with Sky Saxon via the Seeds old manager, Lord Tim Hudson. Sky's other cohorts in the WPB fall more into the 1960s hippie veteran camp as you may expect, and includes impressive names such as Elliot Ingber and Mars Bonfire. The exact line-up in the WPB beyond Sky and Rainbow isn't known and probably varied over time.
The first known recording of the World Peace Band is a circa 1973 DEMO TAPE; about 40 minutes of music recorded in a house in Santa Monica. The tapes include future Sky staples such as "Starry Ride" and "Wake Up"; while still unreleased a few copies have leaked out into the collector world.
I recently came into possession of a dupe of these demos, so here's the first detailed breakdown ever of the recordings. To begin with, the sound and style is similar to the subsequent "Universal Stars" 45 (see below), which means vaguely Stones-influenced 70s garage rock with Sky ad-libbing over a rough, gritty sound. If you can imagine an inexperienced 70s punk band trying to sound like "Let It Bleed", except with Sky Saxon on vocals, you're getting close. Rainbow provides his characteristic cutting rhythm guitar, often with raw fuzz and distortion. There is a bass player, some guitar leads and Thundercloud Cassidy (son of Ed) playing drums somewhere in the back, often drowned out by Sky's incessant tambourine. Incidentally, an attempt to remix the recordings created an even less professional sound, due to an overload of the vocal track.
The songs are basically riffs and a few key phrases, from which Sky wings the rest. Tracks are as follows:
Got The Magic (vers. 1)
Got The Magic (vers. 2 -- longer and better)
You Got The Power
Young Girl* (vers. 1 -- aborted)
Young Girl* (vers. 2 -- complete)
*vocals by Rainbow
The last three tracks border on chaos, which in a way enhances the stark Vietnam hallucination of "The village", while Rainbow's "Young Girl" is best forgotten. On the other hand, "You Got The Power" and "Sleepwalking" are snappy, forceful tunes that hint of the excellent protopunk the World Peace Band would achieve on the 1977 EP. Supposedly presented to Martin Cerf of United Artists in 1973, these demos are probably too rough to ever see a commercial release, and they certainly didn't put a line of executives outside Sky's door.
Instead, the first vinyl imprint of the World Peace Band's ambitions was a humble private press 45 on the Emerald Light label from Northern California. The dead wax info (delta #97810) points to a 1974-1975 release date, which is in line with the overall chronology. The tracks are Diamonds In The Rough b/w Universal Stars (Emerald Light 8). The label shows SUNLIGHT & THEE NEW SEEDS/UNIVERSE SUN as recording artists. Sky's manager Jeff Gruber has been credited for getting the record out. Gruber had been working for Playboy magazine founder Hugh Hefner, but dazzled by the magnetism of an even greater star he left to become Sky's manager. According to a c1980 interview with Bomp magazine, Sky tried to get Hefner to invest large sums in the revival of his rock career!
"Diamonds In The Rough" sets a musical pattern that the subsequent 45s would follow; a primitive 70s Stones "rock" sound with remnants of guitar-psychedelia, plenty of unexpected breaks, and an echo-laden Sky half-singing about stars and the universe on top of this. This one is so chaotic that it doesn't sound quite finished; it's odd that not more work was put into it. "Universal Stars" is similar to the point of being almost the same tune, but it's more successful and less chaotic, with some nice psych effects towards the end.
While it wasn't no "Pushing Too Hard", the gentlemen involved felt strongly enough for these 45 tracks to have them released again in 1976; now on the Expression label (Expression 777-1/2) and with some minor edits applied. The title of the A-side was changed to "Beautiful Stars" and the first two chord changes and Sky's words "Diamonds in the Rough" were edited out. Apart from allowing for a title change and creating some confusion, the purpose of this edit is unknown. The B-side "Universal Stars" remained unchanged, but apparently the sound on the earlier Emerald Light pressing is better on both sides. The band was now credited as SKY SUNLIGHT & THEE NEW SEEDS, the "Sky" being added vs the Emerald Light issue.
The late 1970s was a fairly busy period for Sky, and apart from the releases with the World Peace Band he found time for several other projects. These are detailed in the sections below which allows me to skip onto his third and last 7" release, an EP from 1977 in the same style and on the same label as the preceding 45. Relased as by STARS NEW SEEDS, the EP consists of: In Love With Life / Starry Ride / The Queen / Tired Of Bein' Poor (Expression 777-3/4). The overall sound is similar to the preceding 45, but the recording is a lot better, and the songs seem more finished.
1977 EP with two unique tracks
"Starry Ride" is one of Sky's major 1970s creations, recorded at least four times by various constellations. This first official release of it is a highly credible piece of hippie-psychedelia, characterized by Rainbow Neal's cutting rhythm guitar, both on the excellent riff and some Pete Townshend string whamming towards the end. The lyrics are vintage Sky, that's all you need to know. "I Am In Love With Life" too is a fine recording, more towards the rootsy rock style; Sky again shows his uncanny ability to find simple yet effective chord changes -- he was far from making "hit" records at this point, but when hearing things like this the old stories about him being approached by various record execs don't seem so outlandish. The band is tight and has a raw, almost '77 punk-style sound. "Tired Of Being Poor" is another excellent psych-rocker with a slightly droning sound, while the lyrics and overall mood is reminiscent of "Bad Part Of Town". This is also one of Sky's few non-Yahowha recordings where he explicitly mentions "Father" and "Yahowha". "The Queen" is an atypical track with an r'n'b/funk vibe and unusual pizzicato guitarplaying. Both these tracks can only be found on the original EP and have never been reissued. All over, the 1977 EP must rank as the best of all Sky's post-Seeds releases, and with a bit more ambition and resources it could have re-launched his career much like Roky Erickson's. The sound is slightly muffled and mastered at a very low volume, and the subsequent reissues of the first two tracks by Psycho and the Yahowa box are clearly superior.
Another track that probably derives from this era is "Drums, Stars And Guitars", which made its first appearance on the "Starry Ride" Psycho mini-LP from 1984, although a version of it appears on the Sky-less Juicy Groove album from 1978 (detailed below). The tune isn't bad, pretty close to classic Seeds territory, except for the lyrics of course, which in addition to dogs, Yahowa and the names of various countries also inserts the words "Gotta be a farmer again" from "Mr Farmer", another indication that the earlier band never died for Sky. The track also pops up on Yahowa 13 CD box set from 1999, mislabelled as "Tired Of Being Poor" and in much inferior sound to the Psycho mini-LP.
4. Lovers Cosmic Voyage
Sky's obscure 1976 LP "Lovers Cosmic Voyage" is one of several one-off projects he had going in the late 1970s. It leans towards the cosmic Yahowha side of his output, as opposed to the Seeds "rock" heritage. The album -- all 15 minutes of it -- is quite an experience, although more in an "Incredibly Strange" manner than the deep meditational soundtrack it may have been intended as. I've earlier written a detailed review of it, which can be found here. The label is usually listed as Golden Flash but there's also a reference to Emerald Light publishing, which was the imprint used for Sky's first World Peace Band 45.
The press size is unknown, but the LP is hard to find today. It was pressed on colored vinyl, and came without any cover.
You could write a whole separate article about Sky's involvement with the infamous Source Family and its leader Father Yod. From what I gather Sky was one of their later recruits, and hooked up with them around the time of their first LP recordings in 1973. Sky wasn't "Sunlight" when he was in the Family; instead Yod gave him the name "Arelich". What's interesting is that Sky was a disciple for several years without partaking in their recordings, which produced not less than 12 albums. The probable reason for this is that Sky's main -- or only -- forte was vocals, and of course that spot was held by the big guy with the long beard. Here are some comments regarding Sky's tenure with the Yahowans, from Gary Bearman's excellent band interview.
DJIN: I can't say exactly how Sunlight, then Sky Saxon, first met Father. I do know the Seeds had just broken up and Sky was drifting a bit when he met Father, and saw God in him. Sunlight was in and out of the family body because of his personal music career which was understandable to Father, and he never played with Father because Father sang solo to get the wisdom teachings across. Sunlight was directed by father, around 73, to do an album with the other musicians of YHW13 called Fire, Water, Air (before Earth, Wind and Fire who actually frequently ate at our restaurant and may have gotten the idea for their name from us). We called that band Ya Ho Wha Ho as I recall.
OCTAVIUS: Please, no offense intended, just the facts. Sky Saxon, bless his heart, wanted and wants to emulate Father. Sky was the lead singer for a early '70's group called the "Seeds." I saw them a couple times myself - very, very psychedelic. Well, he was as happy as could be when he found us. We were just beginning to do our spontaneous stuff. He was fearless when it came to just jumping in. Let me tell you it is not easy to just step off. He was very willing and wanting to be in that position of channeling wisdom in the music. The rest of us were not quite so eager to be represented by one so young in the ways of it all. Then at some point he and another put together the "box set" which added to and validated his own continuing efforts to be a voice of wisdom. For me it is just not the same. He is a good intentioned person. Yodship, etc is his own agenda.
Sky Sunlight/Arelich appears on three nominal "Yahowha 13" releases, all of them from the time after Father Yod's fatal hanggliding crash in Hawaii August 1975. "Golden Sunrise" was released (on 8-track only) in 1977 as by Fire Water Air and features Sky alongside the nucleus of Yahowha musicians Djinn, Pythias, Octavius and Sunflower. The album, which was released on vinyl by Psycho Records in England 1982, shows distinct traces of both Sky's droning 1970s psych-rock style, as well as the tribal jam orientation of the regular Yahowha albums. It's an essential experience for those interested in the style and personages. Some alternate takes from the recording session appear on the 13-CD Yahowha box set on the Japanese Captain Trips label, and side 2 of "Sky Saxon -- Masters Of Psychedelia" on New Rose (France, 1984) has been reported as outtakes from Fire Water Air.
Rare promo pic of Fire Water Air, with Sky/Arelich
at the centre. Photo courtesy the "Source Family Recipe Book".
The next Yahowha/Yod-related album was the "Yod Ship Suite" on the Father label circa 1977, an eerie hippie folkpsych drone affair with flutes and acoustic guitars and voices lamenting the deceased Father. I like it, although it's of a different nature than the earlier acid rock Yahowha LPs.
This was followed by an even more obscure outing, the one-sided "Yod Ship Suite pt 3" LP, again on the Father label and probably released shortly after the preceding album (=pt 1 and 2) in 1977. "Part 3" is not included in the Yahowha 13 CD box set and has in fact never been reissued. I recently got to hear this and was surprised to find a considerably more aggressive sound than the preceding LP. "Part 3" consists of 14 minutes of music, the first half which is a successful variation on Yod trips such as "Contraction", with full-on psychedelic rock sounds, evil guitars and Sky rambling like Fathers' lost son. The second half (crudely spliced on) is somewhat more introspective, like the mellower tracks on "Golden Sunrise". Djin Aquarian recently revealed that the "Part 3" recordings, although not released until 1977-78, were actually laid down in 1973 with the original Spirit Of '76 band, which explains their vintage sound. All over a very appealing piece despite its short play-time, hopefully to be reissued some day.
After this last gasp there were no more Yahowha-related releases with or without Sky, and the reissues and growing cult appreciation of the Source Family were several years away. In the 1980 Bomp! interview Sky's manager Jeff Gruber talks at some length about Sky's involvement with the Family. The Yod disciples told him that Sky had been more interested in working on record deals than partaking in the manual work in and out of the Source restaurant. Apparently the Yahowans thought that Gruber was a Family member too, and he picked up a bit of their philosophy and details of the death of "this cat Jim" (meaning Father Yod), and how the family was now scattered.
Sky would continue to refer to "Father" and "Yahowa" in both song lyrics and interviews, although people were slow to understand how important this era was (and still is) to him. It did not fit well with their idea of the teen garage icon of the 1960s.
As a postscript, Sky hooked up with original Yahowha 13 guitarist Djin Aquarian for an independently released CD titled "Happy Hour Band - Happy Now" in 2002. The album is well worth searching out for any Sky and/or Yahowha fan, and is remarkably similar in style and sound to the "Golden Sunrise" album from 25 years earlier. Copies are still available here.
6. Sunlight Rainbow Stars New Seeds
As Sky's cosmic mind expanded, his band names became increasingly unwieldy. This moniker refers to a loose crew of musicians assembled around Sky and Rainbow Neal to perform a series of shows at the Orpheum Theatre on the Sunset Strip in September-October 1977. The musicians changed between the different nights, and it's reasonable to assume that both World Peace Band guys and Yahowa 13-related guys may have been part of the line-ups.
The September 9 show was preserved on tape and edited into an album, which was released later in the year. For this particular night, the line-up was Sunlight, Rainbow, Brian Eye-Zen on organ, and a guy known only as Ed on drums, who in fact came up from the audience.
The LP, titled "Heavenly Earth" and released on the band's own Sunbow label (#001), reeks of underground hippie DIY vibes far from the Lord Tim-fuelled hipness of the 1960s Seeds. Front and back cover look very much like those local private press 1970s LPs popular among hardcore psych fans and that's pretty much what it sounds like too, from the lo-fi nature of the recording to the amusing stage raps from the lead singer; the only difference being that this guy is the once world-famous Sky Saxon. The music varies in quality but should appeal to any fan of 1970s cosmic garage-psych; if the album had been made by a bunch of unknown guys it probably would have been a lot more coveted than it is today -- a nice little paradox that makes you wonder about the retro psych music scene. In any event, there are three Seeds covers including a very good take on "Nobody Spoil My Fun"; "Pushin Too Hard" is renamed "Pushin' too fast" by Sky, who also changes the lyrics to deal with environmental concerns.
The rest is made up of recent Sky-Rainbow originals, all of which are quite enjoyable, the closing "Star Jewels" being a druggy epic in which Sky rattles off the names of various precious stones with great drama. The band provides solid backing from Rainbow's rhythm and Ed's drums, while Brian Eye-Zen's keyboard fills up the space from the lack of bass, as well as providing nice Daryl Hooper runs on the Seeds numbers. My main objection is the lack of guitar leads, and it seems Rainbow Neal wasn't comfortable as a solo player, while his rhythm playing is always excellent. Apart from the music there is an amusing exchange between Sky and a heckler in the audience who misses the "old" Seeds and demands that Sky cuts off his beard, an argument that Sky elegantly deflates in his "God Rap". The LP used to be around in the 1980s but is seldom seen nowadays.
Ad for the Heavenly Earth album, intended for
the never published issue #22 of Bomp!
With the advent of the retrospective Bomp! magazine book in 2007 (the title is "Saving The World One Record At A Time"), some new info surfaced on Sky in general, and the late 70s era in particular. Bomp editor Greg Shaw had a big Sky feature lined up for issue #22, which never came out, but the current book contains the article in a semi-finished state from circa 1980. Following an eloquent introduction, Shaw reveals that a combination of Sky's major label ambitions and his manager's incompetence stressed him out to the point where he was hospitalized, and later withdrew to Hawaii. Seeing their collaboration terminated, Rainbow Neal instead put together his Juicy Groove album (below). Apparently a rumor was going around that Sky was dead.
In Hawaii, Sky got involved with a project called the ALRIGHT FAMILY BAND. This was a congregation of hippie musicians who released an LP in 1980. The LP isn't terribly interesting, but does feature Sky on one track, which is yet another take on "Starry Ride". While hardly the greatest version it's clearly the best track on the album.
In the aforementioned, unpublished Sky Saxon article in Bomp! magazine #22, there is a short interview with Sky from the Alright Family Band era. Sky claims that George Harrison, Neil Young and Danny Hutton are all on their way to become Alright Family Band members!
HALE / EVERYONE
The 1977 10" release by Hale/Everyone is one of the most obscure items in both the Sky Saxon and Yahowha 13 catalog. Hale was a member of the Yahowa/Source Family but this is the only recording of his that I'm aware of. Djin Aquarian of the Yahowha band forwarded me some comments regarding Hale:
Hale is a dear family brother who made some cool recordings back in the 70's in and out of the family. Hale wasn't on the YHW13 records but has a definite niche in our family of magician musicians. He now lives in Santa Cruz and is involved in our family reunion and Hawaiian YHWLand.
The 10" single (released on Cataclysm, credited to "Everyone") features Sky on backing vocals; he was not involved with the songwriting. The track "40 Days In The Desert" is a very good tune with a clear influence from 1969-1970 era Rolling Stones, both in style and Hale's Jagger-influenced vocals. Incidentally the lyrics may deal with the Yahowha legend, wherein the "40 days" refers to a period when the Source Family was forced to live under harsh conditions in San Francisco due to lack of proper housing. The B-side features the same track in a shorter edit. Musicians credited are Hale, White Magick, Wings, Sunlight. The shorter edit appears on the Yahowha 13 CD box set.
JUICY GROOVE & RAINBOW NEAL
Juicy Groove was a Rainbow Neal-lead one-off congregation featuring most of the World Peace Band including Elliot Ingber a k a Mercury Flyer and Mars Bonfire a k a Dennis Edmonton. The LP, titled "First Taste" was released as a picture disc in 1978. Also present was Gary "Magic" Marker, while Ron Bushy (Iron Butterfly) drums on one song. Sky Saxon was not a member of this band, and while they cover three tunes ("Starry Ride", "Drums Stars & Guitars" and a retitled "I'm In Love With Life") co-written by him Sky's name does not appear anywhere in the credits. All songs except one had been written during the early days of the Sky-Rainbow collaboration, 1972-73.
Magic Marker shared some entertaining memories from the recording session in an internet chat forum recently: "...In my opinion, it's unlistenable--and further proof that a whole bunch of musicians who have consumed a whole bunch of assorted controlled substances (that were liberated from control) should not be allowed into a recording studio. Among other curiosities, Ed Cassidy plays drums on some songs--and then another one of his many sons, Mike "Thundercloud Heartbeat" Cassidy, plays drums on some songs. Thundercloud had a chemically-induced revelation just before the recording sessions: That he should get rid of all his cymbals and no longer play drums with them hanging around on stands and stuff. So it's easy to tell which songs he played on, because there are no cymbals present in the mix. It's not a mistake as a result of super recording isolation, it was intentional."
Contrary to Mr Marker I think the LP is entirely listenable; a powerful hippierock sound with good playing all around. "Starry Ride" is perhaps the highpoint.
Rainbow Neal and much of the same gang returned for a second effort in 1980, this being the "Recorded Lies" album released as by Rainbow Red Oxidizer on Quark/Bomp. I haven't heard this, but received a trustworthy opinion from Stephane Rebeschini as follows: "...The Bomp LP is quite good, in a style a bit different of the Juicy Groove LP. More "punk rock" oriented on some tracks, with a surprising cover of "When You Walk In The Room" and an anti record companies-song "Recorded Lies". Even a crazy track "Wild Beast Planet Ruler" with werewolf screams, noises and nice guitars. No Sky Saxon tunes on it."
The band members for this second LP were : Rainbow Neal (vcls/rh gtr) Ed Cassidy (drms), Mars Bonfire (g, kbds), Leon Rubinhold (g) (ex Outlaw Blues Band), Gary Marker (b). Some songs were arranged by Jerry Yester. Magic Marker recalls the sessions briefly as: "...It worked out a little better, and we even had the legendary "Bumps" Blackwell in the studio every now and then, attempting to keep a lid on things--and no, not that kind of lid."
SKY IN THE EARLY 1980s
After the flurry of activity in 1976-1978 Sky had retreated to Hawaii and went into another "quiet" phase in terms of releases, before the true re-discovery and re-emergence of him as a garage/psych icon began in the mid-1980s. The 1984 "Starry Ride" mini-LP release on Psycho Records in England consisted entirely of older recordings (see Discography); the sound quality is superior to other releases of this material though. The long track on the B-side is only on this mini-LP.
An album that falls outside the scope of this article but is worth searching out is "Masters Of Psychedelia" on the French New Rose label from 1984. Side 2 has been reported as a recording dating back to the Fire Water Air band c1975, and it is an impressive piece of droning heavy-psych with a truly eerie vibe in parts. It's possible that the "Superman 5" track in the Yahowa 13 CD box set dates from this era too; the sound is similar. The front cover shows an Elephant's Eye, while the back cover contains almost no credits except the song titles. Both these titles shouldn't be hard to find.
SKY SAXON & THE SEEDS 1969-1970
(Sky Saxon, Daryl Hooper, Bill "Chip" Chiapparelli, John Crass, Rob Starr)
1. Bad Part Of Town / Wish Me Up (MGM 14163) Aug-1970
2. Love In A Summer Basket / Did He Die (MGM 14190) Nov-1970
(NEW) SEEDS 1972
(Sky Saxon, Richard Barcelona +unknowns)
3. Shuckin And Jivin / You Took Me By Surprise (Productions Unlimited AJ-11/22) 1972
This 45 was bootlegged in the 1980s.
WORLD PEACE BAND 1973-1977
(Sky Sunlight Saxon, Rainbow Neal, a selection of hippies incl Mars Bonfire and Elliot Ingber)
Sky utilized several different band names during the 1970s, but the records below are all believed to consist of the same nucleus of members. Sky himself listed the band(s) as "World Peace Band" in his liner notes for the Yahowa 13 "God and hair" box set.
4. 30 minute demo tape (1973)
5. Sunlight & Thee New Seeds/Universe Sun: Diamonds In The Rough/Universal Stars (Emerald Light 8) (1975?)
6. Sky Sunlight & Thee New Seeds: Beautiful Stars/Universal Stars (Expression 777-1/2) (1976)
Same tracks as on the Emerald Light 45 above; the A-side has been retitled and a few seconds edited out at the beginning. This was repressed several times, and also reissued with a picture sleeve by Bomp in the 1980s.
7. Stars New Seeds: In Love With Life/Starry Ride/The Queen/Tired Of Bein' Poor (Expression 777-3/4) 7 inch EP (1977)
This is the same band name as on the "Heavenly Earth" LP below, but apart from Sky & Rainbow Neal any member overlap is unconfirmed. Copies exist on both black and blue vinyl.
SKY SUNLIGHT SAXON solo
8. "Lovers Cosmic Voyage" LP (Emerald Light GF 571231) (1976)
Released as by SUNLIGHT.
YAHOWHA 13, 1976-1977
(only Sky Sunlight Saxon-related recordings included)
Sky joined the Yahowa/Source Family around 1973 but with the exception of the rare Yod Ship Suite #3, he does not appear on any of their recordings prior to 1976.
9. Fire, Water, Air: "Golden Sunrise" (Emerald Light ELR-84510, 1977) 8-track
This original release was on 8-track tape only.
10. Fire, Water, Air: "Golden Sunrise" (Psycho, UK 1982)
Vinyl release of the 8-track. Some covers had original 8-track stickers that were left over. Pressed on marble blue vinyl in a limited run. The album was also reissued as part of the "God and Hair" Yahowha 13 CD-box set from Japan, 1999. Outtakes from the "Golden Sunrise" sessions appear as bonus material in the "God and Hair" box set
11. "Yod Ship Suite" (Father no #, 1977)
Reissued/bootlegged on vinyl circa 1993. Reissued as part of the "God and Hair" Yahowha 13 CD-box set from Japan, 1999.
12. "Yod Ship Suite part 3" (Father no #, c1977) 1-sided LP
Never reissued, and not known to exist until recently. The preceding LP constitutes part 1 & 2. Djin Aquarian of the YHWH band has confirmed this as 1973 recordings, done when Father Yod was not present.
Details on all Yahowa LPs can be found here.
SUNLIGHT RAINBOW & STARS NEW SEEDS
(Sky Sunlight Saxon, Rainbow Neal, Brian Eye-Zen, Ed + other guys)
13. "Heavenly Earth - Live at the Orpheum" LP (Sunbow 001, 1977)
Pressed on blue vinyl, with two inserts. See note to Expression EP above.
HALE / EVERYONE
(Hale, Sky Sunlight Saxon, Wings, White Magick)
14. 40 days in the desert (long edit) / 40 days in the desert (short edit) (Cataclysm, 1977) 10" single
Sky on backing vocals. Released as by Everyone. Pressed on blue vinyl, no album cover.
ALL RIGHT FAMILY BAND
15. "Music is Love" (A.F.B., 1980)
Sky guests as vocalist on the "Starry Ride" track only.
JUICY GROOVE: "First Taste" (no label) (1978) picture disc
Sky is not featured on this LP, which contains three (at least) Sky/Rainbow compositions. See "Odds & Ends" section above for details on the musicians and their subsequent LP. The first pressing of this picture disc was 550 copies; there may have been more runs.
Sky Saxon: "New Fruit From Old Seeds - The Rare Sky Saxon Volume One" (AIP 10009) (1983)
One side of Richie Marsh-era 45s (plus a rare 1967 live Seeds track), one side with all tracks from the 1970-1972 45s. There never was a "Volume two"
The Seeds & Sky Saxon: "Bad Part Of Town" (Eva 12019, France) (1983)
Contents are very similar to the AIP album.
Sky Sunlight Saxon & The Stars New Seeds Band: "Starry Ride" (Psycho 29, UK) (1984) mini-LP
Contains 4 tracks, all of which are mid-1970s Stars New Seeds/World Peace Band tracks: "Starry Ride" and "I'm in Love With Life" are from the Expression 7" EP while "Drums, Stars & Guitars" from the same era made its first ever appearance here. Side 2 is "24 Hour Rocker" which is believed to be a leftover from the Orpheum Theatre shows in 1977 (see above).
Yahowha 13 "God and hair" (Captain Trips CTCD-130-142, Japan) (1998) 13-CD box set
A reissue of all Yahowha albums from the 1970s. Contains 1 bonus CD of Sky Saxon-related material from the 1970s and 1980s; mostly 45 and EP tracks, plus the Hale 10" track. It's not a complete selection and excludes "Diamonds In The Rough", "The Queen" and "Tired Of Being Poor". "Drums, Stars and Guitars" is included but incorrectly listed as "Tired Of Being Poor", the sound quality on this track is also inferior to the Psycho mini-LP. However, the tracks from the Expression single & EP (four in total) have very good sound. The playtime of the CD is only 35 minutes, so there was plenty of room to make a complete selection. There are a couple of obscure 1980s tracks that fall outside the scope of this article but are very good, such as "Superman 5".
Special thanks to Brian Eye-Zen, Richard Iwanicki, Jeff Jarema and Stephane Rebeschini for invaluable input.
Read more on Sky's "Sunlight" years here:
- Phonograph Record Magazine interview, 1973
- Ugly Things, issue #3, 1985
- Bucketfull Of Brains, issue #14, 1985
- Here 'Tis, issue #7, 1995
- Bomp! issue #22, 1981; never published but partly printed in "Saving The World One Record At A Time", 2007
© Patrick Lundborg 2003-2013