From September 14th through the 16th, there will be three Seeds concerts in California. Goldmine spoke with original keyboardist Daryl Hooper about their ‘60s recordings, the performances by the psychedelic garage rock group then and the new batch of Seeds.
By Warren Kurtz
GOLDMINE: When I interviewed Debbi Peterson of the Bangles, we discussed their cover songs. I learned that she sang a version of “Pushin’ Too Hard,” citing that, like you, they got their start in a Los Angeles garage and so the song seemed fitting.
DARYL HOOPER: I learned about that too with our documentary “The Seeds: Pushin’ Too Hard.” It has been fun traveling across the country, showing the documentary, meeting new, young fans and answering their questions. Yes, we would rehearse in the Malibu garage of our singer, Sky Saxon, with songs including “Pushin’ Too Hard.” In 1967, we were on a tour back east with the Buffalo Springfield when we got word that “Pushin’ Too Hard” made the Top 40 nationally. Our single and their single, “For What It’s Worth,” debuted the same month.
GM: What other bands would you see and tour with?
DH: In Los Angeles, we would go to the Byrds’ shows and they would come and see us. Sky Saxon was such a charismatic singer and performer. We had quite a following at a club, which was actually underground, called Bido Lito’s. We did some covers, but fans really liked our stuff, so we stopped the covers. Often, we would create a new song during breaks and then test it on the audience. The band Love would play there, too. When we toured up and down the west coast, the Doors were our opening act. After their performance, Jim Morrison would go in the audience and watch Sky and study Sky’s moves. I think Jim’s performance style was very inspired by Sky.
GM: I enjoy your keyboard work on your next Top 100 single “Mr. Farmer” from your second album “A Web of Sound.”
DH: It was difficult for that song to become a bigger hit when it was banned in places like Montana and North Dakota where they assumed that a song called “Mr. Farmer” about watching crops must have been about marijuana, during a time when there was a ridiculous outbreak of rock song banning. To get that pre-synthesizer sound, I used a Farfisa organ with an oboe setting, playing that instrument with my right hand while using a Wurlitzer electric piano to play bass notes with my left hand. Later on, I would replace the Wurlitzer with a Fender Rhodes for my left-handed bass playing.
GM: The flip sides “Try to Understand” and “No Escape” seem to be more electric piano driven.
DH: Yes, that was the Wurlitzer as well. Both songs were on our first album too, just called “The Seeds.” “Try to Understand” was the flip side of “Pushin’ Too Hard” and “No Escape” was the flip side of “Mr. Farmer.”
GM: Also from the first album, your next Top 100 single, reaching number 41, “Can’t Seem to Make You Mine,” was given a second chance.
DH: Yes, that was really our first single, which had a different flip side, “I Tell Myself,” for the rerelease versus “Daisy Mae,” which was the flip side of the original local hit. GNP Crescendo was a small label focused on jazz, comedy, and surf music, but they liked us too and signed us. We walked the record around to radio stations. Wolfman Jack would play us all the time. When it was reissued in ’67 and getting national attention, we performed it on American Bandstand with Dick Clark and that helped with its national popularity.
GM: Your next charting single, “A Thousand Shadows,” from your third album, “Future,” also led to a television appearance with Casey Kasem.
DH: Casey had us on his local show “Shebang” in Los Angeles with “Mr. Farmer” and had us back with “A Thousand Stars.” We would play local TV shows throughout the U.S. Sky came up with the “flower child” phrase in the opening lines, as that is what we saw in our audiences, people wearing flowers. The flip side was “March of the Flower Children.”
GM: One of my favorite non-single songs from your albums is “A Faded Picture,” with a dramatic moody sound, in a style I would enjoy in the next decade by the British group Cockney Rebel.
DH: We needed a slow song for our shows. In general, our songwriting was usually Sky with lyrics, with me focusing on chords and melody. This one was truly a Sky song. On stage, I would stay back behind my keyboards, in my renaissance clothing that I liked to wear, and watch Sky perform this one so emotionally.
GM: What happened after the GNP Crescendo years?
DH: We recorded for a little while longer with MGM. After the Seeds, my wife and I moved from L.A. to northern California, in the Gold Rush territory, looking for more land for our show horses, a long way from my Farmington, Michigan roots. Growing up, I worked at the Five and Dime, making the minimum wage of a dollar an hour as a box boy. Then I was approached about being in a band. In one night, I could earn as much money as I did all week at the Five and Dime, so I quit and became a musician. Rick Aldridge, our Seeds drummer, and I started in Michigan before heading to southern California in the ‘60s. After the northern California move, I spent many years teaching music.
GM: Now you have new members in the Seeds in California.
DH: After all these years of teaching and playing the music of others, I wanted to get back to our music. Alec Paleo, the producer of our documentary, is a five time Grammy nominee, a writer, and a historian. He has remixed our old music for our new vinyl release with a great multiple page insert. He had been in a newer version of the Chocolate Watch Band and is now our bassist. Don Boomer is a second-generation original Seed. He became our drummer decades ago after Rick left. Jeff Prentice is a great guitar player. He is working on new stuff which we are in the talking stage of recording. Paul Kopf, from San Francisco, is a charismatic vocalist. We all get along so well.
The Seeds today, clockwise from the bottom, Jeff Prentice-guitar, Don Boomer-drums, Alec Paleo-bass, Paul Kopf-vocals, Daryl Hooper-keyboards (photo courtesy of Gary Milton).
GM: Where can our readers enjoy this new lineup perform?
DH: We have three mid-September concerts three nights in a row in California:
Thursday the 14th – The Ritz in San Jose
Friday the 15th – DNA Lounge in San Francisco
Saturday the 16th – Tower Theater for the Performing Arts in Fresno
Warren Kurtz is a Contributing Editor at Goldmine, known for “Fabulous Flip Sides” along with interviews, CD, DVD and book reviews. “Warren’s Fabulous Flip Sides” can be heard most Saturday mornings, in the 9 a.m. hour, Eastern time, on WVCR.com as part of “Moments to Remember.”