Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Farfisa Organ: Incense and Peppermints

One of the quintessential psychedelic recordings of the 1960s was Strawberry Alarm Clock’s “Incense and Peppermints.” The song had some hurdles – the band had just changed its name after the song was released, the song was not even sung by one of the six members of the band, it was never intended to be the “A” side, not all of writers received credit, and it was released three times. Any number of these issues could have been disastrous for “Incense and Peppermints”; however, it was destined to be a number one record.

Originally named as Thee Sixpence, a conflict with another Los Angeles band with a similar name required them to take the high road and rebrand themselves as Strawberry Alarm Clock. Contrary to popular belief, the name was not inspired by The Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever.” Even though the band had released four singles on All-American as Thee Sixpence, the new name did not have a negligible effect on their hit potential.

While each member of the band had a try at singing the lead vocals on “Incense and Peppermints,” none performed the band’s liking. Being that “Incense and Peppermints” was relegated to B-side status, they asked a guest who had been brought in to sing back-up to try his hand at singing lead. A guitarist and vocalist in The Shapes, 16-year old Greg Munford who would never be a part of Strawberry Alarm Clock sang lead on their most popular recording.

All American Records released the single in early 1967 with “The Birdman of Alkatrash” as the “A” side under the artist name of “Thee Sixpence”; however, LA radio had a different opinion and began flipping the single and playing “Incense and Peppermints.” In March 1967, All American re-released the single with “Incense and Peppermints” as the “A” side under the Strawberry Alarm Clock banner. The airplay in Los Angeles caught the attention of MCA and they picked up the band and they re-released the single in May on the Uni label.

Four individuals contributed to the writing of the single, and the omission of two band members’ names for some unknown reason nearly erupted in a lawsuit when the single peaked at the number one slot. Songwriters John S. Carter, who also tried his hand at singing lead, and Tim Gilbert were given credit and royalties for writing the song; however, the foundation of “Incense and Peppermints” was written by keyboardist Mark Weitz and guitarist Ed King. King, by the way, later joined Lynyrd Skynyrd – a band that had been Strawberry Alarm Clock’s opening act.

The memorable keyboard parts were played by Mark Weitz on his Farfisa Compact combo organ. Add fuzz guitar, cowbell, handclaps, and a memorable high-hat cymbal break and you have a hit that would stand up for generations to come.

Here’s a video showing Mark Weitz playing his Farfisa organ on “Incense and Peppermints.” Be alerted, the audio is horrible.

No comments:

Post a Comment