Is it too soon to advocate a Bevis Frond tribute album? Probably not. There might even have been one by now. Who knows, after all, what goes on under the radar - and that’s why it’s always been fun looking. You never know what you’ll find.
For example. Imagine a fourteen year old London kid, Nicholas Saloman by name, browsing through a record store full of albums, forty-seven years ago, and suddenly discovering Clear Light. Not, as you are probably well aware, the kind of record the average fourteen ear old was stumbling upon and grooving to, even back in 1967. But Salomon did, and it is still with him today....
Clear Light themselves were one of the great almost-weres of the west coast psych scene. Starting life in 1966 as a Sunset Strip club band called the Brain Train, they changed their name when they were discovered, and signed to Elektra, by producer Paul Rothchild - who took over their management, and whose involvement promptly convinced people to mention the band’s name in the same breath as the Doors. Which was a tad unfair, but hey. Worse things happen.
Lining up as vocalist Cliff De Young, lead guitarist Bob Seal, bassist Doug Lubahn and twin drummers Dallas Taylor and Michael Ney, the band never had the most stable line-up. Guitarist Robbie “the Werewolf” Robison, was replaced with keyboard player Ralph Schuckett during the sessions for the band’s debut album; once it was done founding member and principal songwriter Seal was dismissed, apparently after falling out with Rothchild. De Young followed, and former Fug/future James Taylor sideman Danny Kootchmar came in for the very last days of the band.
None of which was known to little Nick Saloman. What he did know what that “they looked great, it was on Elektra...” and it all sounded “kind of other worldly and exotic, but very psychedelic and musical. It has remained one of my favorite US albums right through, along with things like Ultimate Spinach, Savage Resurrection, Mad River, Country Joe et al.”
Such a favorite that when Fruits de Mer got in touch with Salomon’s Bevis Frond alter-ego, to lay out the groundrules for 7 and 7 Is... and we hold on for a moment while the label's website catches you up on that. "7 and 7 Is... a modest seven singles..., but eight of Fruits de Mer's favorite bands getting together to reinterpret songs by eight classic US psych bands - The Bevis Frond, The Byrds, Sendelica, 13th Floor Elevators, King Penguin, Moby Grape, Black Tempest, spirit....and much more...."
And then some catch-up on the Frond... thirty-or-so album veterans of a British psychedelic revival that has ebbed and flowed, come and gone, and song-and-danced so many times that you can be forgiven if you’ve missed out on some of them. But only if you intend making swift amends for your oversight, and we will get to that in a moment.
Sorry Nick, you were saying....
“Well, as you know, Fruit de Mer wanted each band to do two tracks by the same band, so it had to be a band who did at least two tracks I really like! When I was deciding what to do for the set, I figured that, for some reason, Clear Light has never really got the recognition it deserves, and I also thought that no one else would be likely to choose it. These are two tracks I've loved for 47 years...”
And two versions that the rest of us will love for... well, that takes us to the year 2061, which is beginning to stray into Zager and Evans territory, n’est pas? “Night Sounds Loud” and “Sand” are taken into characteristic Frondy places, while retaining all those weird little elements that made the Clear Light originals so captivating in the first place, and though it’s way too soon to be playing favorites with the contents of the full 7 and 7 Is box... well, you know.
But you may not know that this is just the start of a startling few years for Bevis Frond fans. “I've recently signed a reissue deal with Cherry Red who plan to re-release my entire back catalogue on vinyl and CD over the next three or so years. The idea is to do a really nice, solid and respectful archival series of releases with good artwork, good sound, good extra tracks, good sleeve notes. At the moment, it all seems very healthy. Let's hope it all goes well...there's a lot of stuff to get through!”
Pre-order 7 and 7 Is... HERE!