Jeff Cameron and the complexity of ‘Bargofaxis’

L.A. musician Jeff Cameron released the power pop album “Out Of The Blue” nearly twenty years ago and recently he had reassembled the original band to record “Bargofaxis.”

“Bargofaxis” highlights Cameron’s oddball sense of humor, with spoken vignettes between songs and the quirky story of “Bargo,” who is a hippie singer who disappeared from Haight-Ashbury, only to return decades later to sing about love, but also disdain for the corporations that had strangled music away from the people.

Cameron, who is currently working on a follow-up to “Bargofaxis,”now lives in a quiet area of the Pacific Northwest, although he occasionally returns to the Sherman Oaks district of suburban Los Angeles.

Jeff Cameron answered some of our questions below.

Why the long hiatus?
Jeff Cameron: Well, I had made some singles for Curb/MCA and then three difficult albums in a row, the first with my band, produced by Richie Podolor. Richie and Bill Cooper are meticulous so it took a lot of grueling sessions, and Richie didn’t like working fast anymore , and Dwight Twilley and I were trading studio time and trying to fit in the schedule. Then “Out Of The Blue” was very layered and overdubbed and mixed on fancy equipment and took forever. And then the third album was a stripped down White Album-ish thing and the record company said ‘We hate it’ and I thought, ‘No one digs classic rock anymore.’ So I quit and lived on the road like Jack Kerouac for a while.

What is “Bargofaxis” and what does the subtitle Cosmic Love Story imply?
Cameron: Bargofaxis is an imaginary character, a fictional Jeff, or Monty Python type joke. He was a hippie singer from Haight-Ashbury, who faded away, comes back decades later to sing about peace and love and find his girl. A Cosmic Love Story, just means he is singing these songs to his girl from yesteryear’s love songs.

So this is a concept album?
Cameron: There was a narration we cut from the final album… a spoken intro, a narrative. It’s a concept album…like Time Bandits. In “Cool Beach Woman,” the band is singing in 1962. In “Bombay Magic,” its like a lost song from 1967. “Getting in Gear” is happening  now. The spoken interludes all speak to Bargo and what he is doing — which is coming back to find his chick and sing to her and cut across time. And in the epilogue, you learn the ending!

Would you prefer this album be listened to in its entirety or does it annoy you that people would only download certain songs?
Cameron: Heck ya, it annoys me. I want it to be heard in its entirety. The closing six song medley; the transitional sound effects; the tongue-in-cheek spoken dialogue telling the wacky story. But having said that, I would rather people hear some
of the songs than none of them.

The song “I Love Superman and Juliet” has a lot of Beatles influence in it. Are the Beatles your main influence? Or just ’60s music in general?
Cameron: Both. The Beatles are my musical icons and heroes, but I love the early Who, Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys, and The Kinks as well. John, Paul & George are my favorite songwriters, along with Brian Wilson in his Pet Sounds /Smile period
and Ray Davies and Townshend, of course. “Superman & Juliet is one of my two favorites on the album, thanks for liking it.

How does this differ from the album “Out Of The Blue?
Cameron: “Out of the Blue” was cut in L.A. on a reasonable budget, in premier studios with a slew of top engineers.. “Bargofaxis” was cut in a basement with two or three decent mikes, a beat-up drum kit, no engineers and our drummer had died of cancer. It was like a mercedes versus a 40 year old VW van. “Out Of The Blue” was more…”hollywood” layered. “Bargofaxis,” I went in and sang five tunes in one night after getting off an airplane. More homey feel, for sure

How old is the material on “Bargofaxis”?
Cameron: It took me about five years to raise some money, cajole the guys into playing and the songs were all written in the last few years, except “Whatever Sunday” I wrote at 17 and just never got around to recording it. Aand I wrote three at the last minute.

Is there new material in the works?
Cameron: Yeah, there is. First, a re-issue of the old 1988 Richie Podolor produced “Welcome to the Perfect World” album, and I am getting ready to quickly record “Bargofaxis 2 (the story of Porridge).” That is if Bargofaxis 1 does a little something. I want funding for the next one. I have about ten songs ready to go and more of the spoken vignettes.

Do you like the term Power Pop?
Cameron: I do, yes. To me, the early Who singles..”Cant Explain,” “Pictures of Lily” … The Beatles, “Paperback Writer”…To me, that’s the definition of power pop.

Is there still a healthy music scene in California?
Cameron: You know, when I started — as a kid — I answered phones for Three Dog Night and Steppenwolf. Jim Gordon would be banging the drums, one of the Beatles might pop in the building. The big shots would show me a neat guitar chord and there was a slightly druggy, but collegiate, creative atmosphere, and I think we all believed music could change the world, and the sky was the limit artistically.

I dont see much of that, no…but Mike Finnigan (CSNY, Hendrix, Joe Cocker) came by and sang back-ups on “Feels Like Van Gogh” but no way is it like it was. The record companies are in disarray. The album as a format is dying or shrinking. The new music styles are not as good. I moved incidentally. L.A. breaks my heart now — ore like the movie Blade Runner than Monterey Pop festival. Most of the studios aren’t even there now. Just parking lots or condos.

How has the music scene changed since your last album?
Cameron: Well, no one tracks as a live band and it’s all protools, digital recording, the warm sounding tape machines and old gear is all gone or in museums. They have, um, digital software that mimics that now. The money is all gone now. Only a very few new acts make it in rock. When I started, I was a cutting-edge person and now I am a dinosaur, but do you really wanna listen to Rap or Lady Ga Ga or Marilyn Manson instead of the White Album or “Quadrophenia” or “Blonde on Blonde”?

Do you believe its getting harder for musicians to make a living?
Cameron: Yes I do. Only the foolish, or those who labor from love, remain.


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5 thoughts on “Jeff Cameron and the complexity of ‘Bargofaxis’

  1. I remember that last album, I am curious to hear this new one
    Bargofaxis. I loved the last one. I always wondered what had
    happened to the guy.

  2. I really like the retro-’60s song styles on this album.
    Jeff’s a great songwriter and this cd is a breath of fresh air!

  3. I Love this album, I can’t wait for the next one. Bargofaxis rules!
    Some of the production was ham fisted and clumsy, but the great songwriting overcomes the plodding arrangements. Jeff Cameron rocks!
    This is far and away my favorite Jeff Cameron cd.

  4. He is one of my favorite singers, he should have been born
    ten years earlier. I Love Bargofaxis, what a treat, Cool Beach women is a lost surf song from the california beach, and Superman and juliet reminds of John Lennon during his white album phase, the production is modern and clean, but the stacks of harmonies, the stories in the lyrics, he’s not as deep as Elvis Costello, but he sure is a lot more poppy and melodic. It’s been quite some amount of time, I’d really like to find the follow up album Jeff promised in the article, does your magazine intend to publish or let us know when and where to find the next cd, I cant wait, my girlfriend Trudy loves Bargofaxis too, she likes the song called Getting in Gears, they’re all so catchy.just like a guy from the sixties with cleaner sound from the better machines they have now. I heard Jeff Cameron started learning the guitar from the Steppenwolfs is that true? Do you know what his new cd is called.

    thank you from San Diego

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