Thursday, March 26, 2009

10 Questions

"Few rock singles are as simultaneously experimental and commercial as the Electric Prunes' "I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night)." That was obvious right from the opening hook: a slowly swelling, backwards burst of fuzztone tremolo guitar, announcing the record's arrival like a supersonic bee swooping into your speakers. And few hits jam so many ideas into three minutes. There are those violin-like distorted washes of guitar backing hushed vocals that explode into anguished near-screams; sudden dead-air stops, punctuated by lonely groans suggesting descents through the earth's crust; and spooky guitar reverb complementing the drifts between blissful dreams and waking nightmares."
-Richie Unterberger , Liner Notes to I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night)

Last night your shadow fell upon my lonely room
I touched your golden hair and tasted your perfume
your eyes were filled with love the way they used to be
your gentle hand reached out to comfort me
then came the dawn and you were gone
you were gone, gone, gone.......

I had too much to dream last night
too much to dream
I'm not ready to face the light
I had too much to dream last night

The room was empty as I staggered from my bed
I could not bear the image racing through my head
you were so real that I could feel your eagerness
and when you raised your lips for me to kiss.........

came the dawn and you were gone
you were gone, gone, gone.....

I had too much to dream last night
too much to dream
I'm not ready to face the light
I had too much to dream last night (Annette Tucker and Nancie Mantz)

Psych' fans.., we've got James Lowe of The Electric Prunes !!!

Some days you catch a giant, eh? Let's see what gets James' brain a-buzzin'. (He's put the buzz in ours!)

1. In ten words-or less, define "psychedelic music."

I don't know? Would be my knee jerk reaction to that question. I remember being in Orbach's department store in 1967 with a girl and seeing this dreadful woman's dress with flowers all over it and a sign that said "Psychedelic Dress". Someone asked me if we considered ourselves "psychedelic" in an interview after that. God!
We weren't that horrid dress! Madison Ave. had redefined the term for commercial purposes. We considered ourselves time travelers trying to get out of our heads with some weird sounds, not paisley underwear!

10 words:
Psychedelic Music takes you away; echo in a hallway to nowhere. (oops 11)

2. What is the most psychedelic instrument, why?

The Theramin would be my top choice since I grew up being scared in horror movies to its otherworldly erie wail. When you heard that ribbon of sound you just knew someone was going to get eaten by the creature. It sounds like somehow air is not involved in its presentation. Like it is happening in some kind of strange vacuum.
The Melotron, of course, since it has the power of bringing amazing size to a sound scape. You can create things you can't even name on it and then color a song with a choir from heaven.
The electric guitar played through some good pedals is the most obvious and handy, probably. It can transport you to space or bring you down to the depths of pain and grease spot scratching.

3. Favorite psychedelic album of all time?

Now I know here I am supposed to say some album by Pink Floyd or Led Zepplen or something; but to tell the truth I have never listened closely to much music outside of ours. I thought it was distracting to be trying to create inside and open up the outside at the same time.

Really, probably Sgt. Pepper's. A total trip to somewhere.

4. What legendary lost recording or unfindable bootleg would you most like to have?

Our 2001 ARTIFACT album. It was our reunion recordings after all those years. We didn't make very many of them and people keep asking for it. I wish I had a hundred of them.

5. What song or album that wouldn't fall into the classic "psych" definition is, nevertheless, psychedelic to you?

Some of the Les Paul and Mary Ford recordings "transported" me with his amazing guitar overlays and delays. I can remember wondering where the hell this music was being made? In space? They were standards like,' How High The Moon' and 'Waiting For The Sunshine'; but just so out there for the time. Tho most remember him for his guitars, Les Paul INVENTED multi track recording. I think hearing all those guitars in space made me want to become a recording engineer ( later, I did). Les Paul was just way out there very early.

6. Is there an advantage in being the pioneers (60s psychedelic bands), or being the continuing explorers armed with the knowledge of those pioneers work (the modern psychedelic bands)? Why?

Well, now when people show up they seem to want to like us, unlike having to prove yourself if they don't know you. Judy Collins said the best time in music is when you can't bomb. They are just happy to see you vertical.

The freedom of this type of music is what makes it possible to keep playing it today. I think I would be tired of the blues by now if that was all we were doing. None of the guys in the Electric Prunes were in other bands so they weren't "Lick Heavy", they didn't have a bunch of standard ways of doing it. It is sort of cool to be learning and inventing as you go. People ask how we can sound the same after all this time and the truth is it is the only way we are able to sound, Johnny One Note. We love the new bands and where they are taking the music. Things that used to take hours in the studio are done in seconds today. That leaves more room for exploration if you are a time traveler.

7. In your mind, who are some of the most underrated bands and/or musicians who've worked the psychedelic scene?

I am not sure I am up on the "scene" today so I would be pretty bad at rating them or knowing exactly what people might call "psychedelic" ? I would put "explorer" titles on Sparks, Gomez, Max Rouen, Mudhoney, Butthole Surfers, Boredoms, Green Machine, I am listening to Jamie Laboz (The Green Album) at the moment.

8. If you could magically whisk 100 friends & fans back in time, to what club or venue would you like to play again for just one more night that may not still be around?

The Marquee Club in London Dec. 1967. We played there and it was the coolest place but we were not very good that night, as I recall. We met Gered Mankowitz (photographer) at that gig and took some photos with him the next day. I know this club launched many UK bands now; but I didn't know it then. God, if we could only go back and play Circus Freak for them!

9. Top Ten Psychedelic Songs?

My list is pretty standard "old guy". I remember the first time I hear things and how they hit me, so that is a heavy part of my choices. Someone played me Jimi Hendrix in a studio session before he was out and I will never forget wondering how three guys could do that and would I ever touch down..... (i never did). When we met Jimi in England he said we were Psychedelic, so I guess we are?

1) Good Vibrations Beach Boys
2) I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night) EP
3) A Day In The Life Beatles
4) Last Night I Had A Dream Randy Newman
5) 2000 Light Years From Home Stones
6) All Along The Watchtower Hendrix
7) I Am The Walrus Beatles
8) Strawberry Fields Forever Beatles
9) Itchycoo Park Small Faces
10) Long Day's Flight EP

10. Turn the tables, if you'd like, and ask me a question.

James: Why the hell are you asking me all these questions? Sometimes I find it hard to figure out how anyone even knows us today, as the music from 67 sounds so tame compared to what can be done now. We came from a time when the record had to be 2:30 or no one would even press it. Now bands can explore endlessly at home on their computers and find an audience. Wonderful opportunities.

-valis: I guess because you were there, James. In '67, at the start of all of this riotous & beautiful music happening. Because there are few songs which are so instantly identifiable as your "I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night). The world's a far better place for having you-and that song, in it. And "The Great Banana Hoax"...and "Ain't It Hard"...and "Luvin'"....all I have is two words for you: SALUTE & OVATION !

Check out The Electric Prunes on MySpace
and the official website!

Last night your shadow fell upon my lonely room...I'm not ready to face the light...


Cliff said...

Oh Man, I read the introduction and got to wondering where it was leading, I simply couldn't believe my eyes when I saw James Lowe was today's honoured guest!

Long may you, Travel In Time' James it was a joy to see your response to Valis' questions. For psychedelic fans like myself your music is indelibly etched into our subconscience. It seems to me that 'I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night,' is a song that has always been ensconced within my psyche. I was but a very young child the first time I heard it and ever since it has set a standard by which I measure other great tunes (few can live up toi it)

Delighted to see hendrix get a mention cos I guess it was he that set me off on a psychedelic trip that is no where near it's final destination.

Round these parts Jamie Laboz ranks high amongst the best purveyors of the music we so enjoy. So cool to know that you appreciate his 'modern' take on the music that enriches us deeply.

So wish I could travel back with you to that night at The Marquee. Thanking you kindly for all the sounds that practically define a musical genre. Thanks also to my good friend Valis for procuring answers from you, so glad you opted to respond to his questions.

sr-71 said...

Great catch there, Valis, and an excellent interview from James Lowe (love the bit about paisley underwear)!

Only one problem: I kept waiting to see if you'd ask him about Dukes of Stratosphear and their Electric Prunes homage. Now I'll never know if he's heard them and approves!

gerryboy67 said...

Another great interview, Valis. James is a true time traveller and a helluva nice guy to boot. I echo Cliff's sentiments entirely when he talks about Jimi and "Too Much to dream". Brilliantly revealing.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to James (and of course Valis) for that insight into the mind's eye of a pioneer. I first heard "too much to dream..." repeatedly as a kid in the 80's from our local radio station and it planted the seed for my future explorations. You can't understand the immensity of your influece.

Tony & the Ideal Free Distribution

Max said...

Thanks for the great interview with James Lowe.

I was working in a record shop in Reidsville North Carolina in 1967 and this new record (TMTDLN) came in by The Electric Prunes. Put it on the turntable and it completely blew me away. I had never heard anything like it before and it is still one of my favorite songs of all time.

I have seen the Prunes play in NY City, San Francisco, LA, and Annapolis Md. in the last few years. These guys keep getting better and better.

James Lowe and Mark Tulin are two really talented musicians and great guys.

Keep On Rockin'.

mike-floyd said...



Three words...THE PRUNES RULE