Saturday, December 1, 2012

The "Favorite Garage Bands" Countdown Continues

Another group that scored VERY well in our All-Time Favorite Psychedelic Song Poll (they came in at #2 with their 1967 classic "I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night"), I guess I've always considered these guys to be more of the "Psychedelic Rock" genre, too ... but your 194 votes places them at #14 on our All-Time Favorite Garage Bands List, too. (kk)

The Los Angeles-based Electric Prunes will always be best remembered for ‘I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night’ but, like many of the groups profiled here, were so much more than a one-hit wonder. ‘Get Me To World On Time’, ‘Are You Lovin’ Me More’, ‘Ain’t It Hard’ and ‘Shadows’ are all excellent songs that solidify the Prunes well-earned legendary status amongst fans of ‘60s garage rock. They’re also one of the few groups that made this list that are still actively recording in 2012.
Mike Dugo /

Original Electric Prunes Drummer Preston Ritter has been a "Friend Of Forgotten Hits" for quite a few years now ... and has participated numerous times, sharing stories of "the good ol' days". Here he talks about this exciting and innovative era in music, circa 1967 ... 

Hi Kent,
As the drummer that played on all the recorded hits by The Electric Prunes, I can only speak for myself, but I believe the others in the band would probably agree with what I say.
First, we never considered ourselves anything but just a band trying to be as creative as possible. We weren't necessarily thinking in terms of making "hits." We also were not consciously aware of making history in any way, musically or otherwise. But we ended up doing both, I guess.
I remember playing cover songs by other bands in our early shows, simply because we didn't have enough recognizable originals of our own to fill up the whole concert.
For example, we played various songs by The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Yardbirds, and some old blues standards by various artists. Sorry I can't recall exactly which songs now. I do remember one of my favorite covers was, "I'm Not Talking" by The Yardbirds. It seems that the British groups were our biggest influences, since we were still in the midst of the so-called, "British Invasion."
Our first two hit singles, "I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night)" and "Get Me To The World On Time." were also on our first album. The entire album and those two songs were recorded in late summer and the fall of 1966. They were released before Christmas of 1966 and climbed up the Billboard charts very slowly. The first hit, "Too Much To Dream" peaked in February of '67. The song, "Get Me To The World ... " peaked in April of '67.
Our first official tour to back up the first single, was in Spokane and Seattle, Washington. I remember B.J. Thomas and The Turtles were on the bill at those shows.
Then, we took a very long, and arduous tour as part of The Beach Boys' "Pet Sounds Tour." It was something like 45 cities in 30 days. Brutal! We not only played every venue that the Beach Boys did, but our manager put in numerous live shows, radio interviews and TV shows in between all the cities we did with The Beach Boys. It was a blur. I remember also, that on most of those shows, we also had The Buffalo Springfield, The Turtles and The Left Banke and Keith with us. At least on the big shows with The Beach Boys. In some of the concerts, we also saw ? and The Mysterians, The Casinos, The Cyrkle, The Buckinghams, The Royal Guardsmen and some others on various show line ups. We did TV shows with Sam The Sham & The Pharaohs, Gladys Knight & The Pips, The Fifth Dimension and others.
Then we did some concerts in the L.A. venues, like The Hullabaloo and other famous Hollywood clubs. When we weren't on the road, we were in the studio, recording our second album. We never had any time off. Eventually, tensions and disagreements between various band members, the band vs. our producer, Dave Hassinger and our manager, etc., started to disrupt the band's ability to create and enjoy the whirlwind experiences we were involved in. In other words, it stopped being fun. That's when things started to disintegrate and finally ended up with me leaving the band before the second album was completed. I was the drummer on 9 of the 12 songs on that album, but my replacement had his photo and name on the album cover.
Among the trivia most don't know is that the Prunes were the first band to use and record with the famous VOX wah-wah pedal. We did the first radio commercial, which many know is now a collector's item and on some CDs as well as Youtube. L.A. DJ, Sam Riddle was the announcer on that. He was part of KHJ "Boss Radio" 93 line up of disc jockeys. He later became the executive producer of Star Search. Back in the 60s he also had two popular teen TV shows in L.A. We appeared on both regularly. One was called, "9th St. West" and the other was "Boss City." Sam also hosted a national TV show called, "Hollywood A Go Go." VOX also gave us their new "Organ-guitar" which we used on "I Happen To Love You." That song, incidentally, was the first song in history to have the wah-wah used on it. The Beatles were also given an "Organ-guitar," but they didn't use it on any of their recordings, that I'm aware of. The one given to us can be seen in the VOX photo ad of the band standing around a VOX "Super Beatle" amp.
Because our producer, Dave Hassinger was also the recording engineer for several of the Stones' first albums, including, "Aftermath," we met them and were in the studio at RCA when they were recording. They gave us several Gibson guitars, a bass amp used to record "Have You Seen Your Mother ... Standing in the Shadows," and the Gibson Maestro fuzz box they used to record "Satisfaction." We used that exact same fuzz box while recording "Too Much To Dream."
I'm not sure how The Electric Prunes stand in the public's eye all these years later. The Internet seems to have brought the band's existence and music back to life to some extent. I'm always amazed, but pleased when the band receives any recognition today. I guess we were a bigger part of music history than we ever imagined back when we were together in 1966-67. For the record, the original line up of Electric Prunes on the hit recordings is: James Lowe (Vocals and Percussion), Mark Tulin (Bass, Keyboards), Ken Williams (Lead guitar and effects), James "Weasel" Spagnola (Rhythm guitar and Vocals), and me, Preston Ritter (Drums, Marimba and Percussion).
James "Weasel" Spagnola and Mark Tulin are now deceased. I am a kidney transplant patient and I caught pneumonia and the swine flu in January of 2011. I was in a coma for nine days, my kidney stopped working and I was on a ventilator. Hospitalized for two months in intensive care. But I survived! I had to learn how to walk again, with six months of rehab. Mark died while I was in the hospital, in February, 2011. He was 62. I'm back to playing drums again, as good as ever.
Recently James Lowe had heart bypass surgery. I think it was quadruple. He seems to be recovering well. Don't know what's happening with Ken, since I haven't seen him or communicated since 1967. Mark told me before he passed away that Ken wasn't in too good of health, but I don't know the particulars.
I hope your readers find some of this informative and interesting.
Preston Ritter
For more of The Electric Prunes' story, be sure to check out our other Forgotten Hits Website:

Here's a GREAT clip of The Electric Prunes on The Mike Douglas Show ... after performing their #11 Hit "I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night", Drummer Preston Ritter (who had a best-selling book on drumming out at the time) gave "Get Smart" Actress Barbara Feldon (Agent 99 ... and purring television commercial sex kitten) a brief drum lesson! They then rolled into their follow up hit, "Get Me To The World On Time" (#27, 1967) with Barbara on drums!!! It's a classic clip of what Daytime TV was like in the psychedelic '60's! (kk)

Here's one just for fun ... tigers!!!  (kk)

#13 - LOVE
Talk about your bands with a cult following ... Love hit The Billboard Hot 100 Singles Chart three times. Their biggest hit was "7 And 7 Is", which climbed to #33 in 1966. 

(Incredibly, their first chart hit was a version of "My Little Red Book", a song written by Hal David and Burt Bacharach that was used in the film "What's New Pussycat", performed by Manfred Mann!) Their legendary guitarist, Arthur Lee, passed away a few years ago. (kk)  

Another Los Angeles-based group, Love was at one time among the kings of the almighty Sunset Strip. Every group of the era that played the Strip — including the Byrds, Turtles, Buffalo Springfield and the Doors — looked up to Arthur Lee’s combo. Their biggest hit, a cover of Burt Bacharach’s ‘My Little Red Book’, only hinted at what was to come. Their first album, Love, is in my opinion in the running with Rubber Soul as the greatest album ever recorded, while Da Capo and (especially) Forever Changes get the nod from just about every rock critic that knows his / her salt.
Mike Dugo /

Chicagoland DeeJay Bob Stroud (Rock And Roll Roots) once told me that he believed Love was one of the most under-rated and under-appreciated rock acts of all time. They certainly were an acquired taste. Much as I've tried to find an appreciation for their music, they've just never clicked with me. However, from what I've heard, Love was a "band's band" ... other artists like The Doors looked up to Love as role models of what they themselves might aspire to ... and would catch their live appearances whenever they could.

Here's Love doing their Bacharach-tune ... on American Bandstand no less! (kk)