Strawberry alarm clock will bring their blend of rock to agoura hills electricity in water experiment


Groovy & Farout is probably not a law firm, but perhaps an apt description from out of the time warp for the Summer of Love. Much like the fading memories of 1967, the vast majority of the applicable and memorable soundtrack has entered the past tense — the Beatles, the Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Jefferson Airplane, Buffalo Springfield, the Seeds and Love.

Fifty years ago, there were plenty of bands with funny names — the Grateful Dead, Moby Grape, the Electric Prunes, Creedence Clearwater Revival — the Strawberry Alarm Clock fit right in with those trying not to fit in. The band put out four albums in three years and played with all the famous rockers of the era after getting their start in Santa Barbara.

One of the last bands standing 50 years later is the Strawberry Alarm Clock. Chances are most excellent that they’ll play their signature song, "Incense and Peppermints" at their show Thursday night at Bogies in Westlake Village. The current line-up features five guys that played on the band’s 1967 debut album.

He was my next door neighbor in Woodland Hills in 1963. Our mothers and our fathers were best friends. Steve and his brother and I had a little band and we played together every day. The kid across the street was the drummer. Steve played flute, his brother played guitar, I played bass and the four of us played like, jazz because we were all taking these little jazz lessons. That’s basically how it started — Steve and I started writing songs together every day, and these songs ended up as the first Strawberry Alarm Clock album.

We had a very aggressive manager named Bill Holmes. He first got the band playing in Santa Barbara at a pizzeria called Deano’s, and he was also friends with Johnny Fairchild, who was the program director at KIST. And that was before I was in the band — I was still with Steve in another band, but the rest of the guys were Thee Sixpence. Then they needed a drummer because Gene Gunnels — well, his girlfriend made him quit the band.

Yeah, right … So Gene up and quit to get a job at McDonald’s to please his girlfriend — otherwise, she was going to leave him. There was nothing happening — the band was playing here and there, but she wanted him to get a real job. That’s one of my favorite stories — I used to tell it on stage but the band made me stop. Anyway, he played drums on "Incense and Peppermints" before he quit but it was just an instrumental. Then a local songwriter, John Carter, wrote the lyrics in a couple of weeks and they tried to find somebody to sing it but nobody’s voice really fit. And what ended up happening is that all these guys worked at a market and Bill Holmes was the manager of the market — so these guys were all box boys that had a band. Holmes managed the band, paid for all the studio time, so he wanted to own everything. He also wanted to put his name on every song even though he didn’t write them — he was paying for the sessions.

Finally, they tried this 16-year-old kid, Greg Munford and his voice is the actual voice that ended up on the record. And it was perfect. It suited it and that was that. And the band thought, "Oh well, who cares?" It’s a demo and it’s a b-side, while the a-side was "The Birdman of Alcatrash," which was a novelty song because novelty songs at that time became little hits. As it turned out, "Incense & Peppermints" took on a life of its own, and DJs like Johnny Fairchild decided this was the better song, so they started playing it and it became a hit in Santa Barbara.

The song came out in May and I joined the band sometime in June or right after I graduated from high school, but I was there at first as a songwriter because they were gonna do an album. So the drummer, Randy Seol, brought me and Steve Bartek in because we had all these songs, and the band ended up liking the songs so they decided to record all of them.

Yea,h. At first, we were just there to supervise but then they asked Steve to play flute and me to play bass on the songs that I wrote because I knew the parts. They already had a bass player but everybody in the band didn’t like him but he was kind of the pet of the manager, so I came into that situation sort of through the back door.

We were asked to tour with the Beach Boys and the Buffalo Springfield. The Beach Boys were my first favorite band going back to ’61 or whenever, so we liked all that stuff, and we really had the most fun when we went on that Beach Boys tour. We did two tours with them — we did their 1967 Thanksgiving Tour and then the 1968 Easter Tour — and both of them were with Buffalo Springfield.

I’m sure it was great but I wasn’t in the band. I quit. Randy Seol and I quit the band after the third album when we found out the manager was ripping us off. We had our own money manager and he told us to "Look out," so we went to the band and they were going to fire him. Then we had this meeting and during the meeting, he told the band he had cancer and only six months to live. So the band — all those box boys — said, "Oh, we can’t fire him," but Randy and I said, "We don’t believe him," and so we quit and we were kind of cold about it.

We were right. He’s still alive, and he did rip them off and eventually, they did have to get rid of him and go to court to get the name back, so we left all that behind us, and this tore the band apart. Nobody was mad at anyone, it was just that we believed one thing and the others were, you know, fooled as it turned out.

In the ’80s the Paisley Underground with bands like Green On Red, the Three O’Clock and the Dream Syndicate were very popular in the L.A. music scene. Did any of that filter down and have an impact on your band? I would think those bands would regard your band as the elder statesmen of all that and look up to you guys?

Yeah, we kind of were and we did quite a few shows, especially in ’87 because it was our 20-year anniversary, and then Austin Powers came out — no wait — that was the 30 year, and so that year, we took off again; and 2007 was huge for us. We played all that year.

I guess, kind of like we are now — we’re sort of a footnote, but we’ve got this thing with that song and the name of the band; and the fact that it happened in the summer of ’67, so we’re kind of like the go-to thing for a lot of writers — we’re like a reference point, but we’ll take it.

If I had a faster car, a richer girlfriend or even one with a job, here’s where I’ll be lurking in the back this week: John Prine at The Theatre at The Ace Hotel in Los Angeles (May 18) MGMT at Hollywood Palladium in Los Angeles (May 18) Teresa Russell at Lucky Fools Pub in Moorpark (May 18) Sister Ook at Outlaws in Camarillo (May 18) Corsican Brothers at Boatyard Café in Ventura (May 18) The Vonettes at Grapes & Hops in Ventura (May 18) Dany Franchi at Hong Kong Inn in Ventura (May 18) After the Smoke at Deer Lodge in Meiners Oaks (May 18) Alastair Greene at the Brewhouse in Santa Barbara (May 18) Allah-Las at Getty Museum in Los Angeles (May 19) Jeff Turmes & Rick Shea at McCabe’s in Santa Monica (May 19) RJ Mischo at Boatyard Café (May 19) Ventucky String Band at MadeWest Brewery in Ventura (May 19) Jodi Farrell & Jim Rankin at Winchester’s in Ventura (May 19) Café R&B at Carrillo Recreation Center in Santa Barbara (May 19) Modest Mouse at Arlington Theatre in Santa Barbara (May 19) Katy Perry at Santa Barbara Bowl (May 19) Denny Laine at Bogie’s in Westlake Village (May 20) Phil Salazar & the Kinfolk at CamLam Farms in Camarillo (May 20) Karen Eden at Winchesters (May 20) Ball & Sultan at Cold Spring Tavern in Santa Barbara (May 20) Paul Simon at Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles (May 22) Billy Idol at Largo in Los Angeles (May 22) Gypsy Blues at Hong Kong Inn (May 24)