Unofficial fan site featuring comprehensive reviews of, and information about, the psychedelic pop band Strawberry Alarm Clock
Strawberry Alarm Clock released four studio albums between 1967 and 1969 — Incense And Peppermints, Wake Up... It's Tomorrow, The World In A Sea Shell, and finally Good Morning Starshine. Also during this original period, the band appeared on the 1968 soundtrack album for the movie Psych-Out (but not with new songs), and contributed two songs to the soundtrack for the 1970 cult classic movie Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls. Since that time, there have been several Strawberry Alarm Clock compilation albums (not to mention billions of 'Various Artists' 1960s comps, most with "Incense And Peppermints"). Some of these have been released on vinyl only (The Best Of Strawberry Alarm Clock Vol. 1 from the 1980s, for example), while others have been released on CD only. More examples of Strawberry Alarm Clock compilation albums are 1971's Changes, which had two new songs with singer Paul Marshall on it, The Strawberry Alarm Clock Anthology, and the confusingly-titled 1990 compilation Incense...
Strawberry Alarm Clock's third album, called The World In A Sea Shell, was released in November 1968 on Uni. The record followed Wake Up... It's Tomorrow (also 1968), but has a much more uniform sound, lusher and swamped with orchestration, than that album. Almost completely gone are the chilly gloom of "Curse Of The Witches", the sound collage of "Nightmare Of Percussion", and the commanding magnificence of "Pretty Song From Psych-Out". The general feeling here is that the band is exploring its more effete instincts; the end result from a modern perspective is that the good stuff is half-submerged in a dispiritingly glossy sheen, like a sand dollar hidden in soft white sand. There are rewards for the patient digger, though — mostly on the songs that the band members themselves composed. Sea Shell Strawberry Alarm Clock personnelThe band membership of this time was fairly stable — this was just before the era of the infamous lineup shakeups that would haunt (and occasionally enliven) SAC for the next three years. Rhythm guitarist Lee Freeman, drummer Randy Seol, lead guitarist Ed King, keyboard player Mark Weitz, and bassist George Bunnell all remained from Wake Up... It's Tomorrow. Outside compositionsAbout half of the album's songs were written by non-band members, including Carole King. Roughly speaking, these compositions — done basically against the band's wishes — make up side 1 of the LP, with the band's own (and more interesting) songs comprising side 2. The World In A Sea Shell makes this new approach instantly understood with its first several tracks: "Sea Shell" is a wistful lament on a relationship that has ended, and its subdued, harmless feel extends to the next few tracks like Carole King's "Blues For A Young Girl Gone" and the ironically-titled "An Angry Young Man" (actually one of the prettier and gentler songs on the album). Not all of the outside-written songs are throwaways, exactly; "Home Sweet Home" is quite good for
Double Star Series Featuring The Who & The Strawberry Alarm Clock is the name of a limited edition promotional album pressed around 1969 by MCA for Philco. One side of the album features songs by the Who, while side 2 has songs by Strawberry Alarm Clock. The catalog number is MCA Special Products 734586. The Who songs on Double Star Series span the band's first three albums 1965-1967: "Happy Jack", "Bucket T", "So Sad About Us", "I Can See For Miles", and "Out In The Street". All of the Strawberry Alarm Clock songs, for some reason, come from the band's second album Wake Up... It's Tomorrow (1968). Oddly, the hit song "Tomorrow" — that LP's most obvious choice for a record company in an anthologizing mood — is not included; the song selection on Double Star Series is eccentric at best, and, from a Strawberry Alarm Clock fan's point of view, pretty awesome. The front cover art is a painted collage of band shots; the SAC painting (the half of it visible) is the same one from the 1971 compilation Changes, seen on that album in its fuller form. AvailabilityThe Double Star Series Who/SAC album is rather hard to find these days; if looking, remember that it is often classified under The Who, a band with an undeniably larger stature. There were several other editions of the Series, pairing performers such as Roger Williams/Carmen Cavallaro, Freddy Martin/Sammy Kaye, and Liberace/The Ray Charles Singers. Track listingSide 1 Songs by the Who. See above. Side 2 "Sit With The Guru" - 2:59 "Nightmare Of Percussion" - 2:57 "Soft Skies, No Lies" - 3:07 "Curse Of The Witches" - 6:46 "They Saw The Fat One Coming" - 3:25
Step By Step is a 1998 compilation of Thee Sixpence singles released in 1966 and 1967 on the All American label before (and as) the band changed its name to Strawberry Alarm Clock and went on to brief worldwide fame. (Step By Step was compiled by the Akarma label.) Comprising all of Thee Sixpence's songs in chronological order, Step By Step shows how the band went from a rather crude garage band with shambolic takes on "Long Days Care" and cover songs taken from Love's first album ("Can't Explain", "My Flash On You", "Hey Joe") and moved through some great, inspired psychedelia (the uncomfortable, brooding "In The Building") to organ-led psych/garage pieces like "Heart Full Of Rain" and "Incense And Peppermints". Because they were first released as by Thee Sixpence before the band changed its name to Strawberry Alarm Clock (and label to Uni), both "Incense And Peppermints" and "The Birdman Of Alkatrash" are included here; tacked onto the end is the lengthy, cinematic cataclysm of "The World's On Fire" which was first released as the leadoff track of the Clock's 1967 LP Incense And Peppermints. (All of these songs are the well-known versions from Strawberry Alarm Clock releases; for most people the only new tracks here would be the first eight songs.) Step By Step was widely released as a (colored) 180g vinyl LP. The album is highly recommended — certainly for Strawberry Alarm Clock fans but also for general fans of mid-60s garage punk groups like the Leaves and the Standells. Track listSide 1 "Long Days Care" - 2:02 "Can't Explain" - 2:14 "Fortune Teller" - 2:17 "My Flash On You" - 1:58 "In The Building" - 2:59 "Hey Joe" - 2:32 "Heart Full Of Rain" - 2:16 Side 2 "(Gotta Get The) First Plane Home" - 1:57 "Incense And Peppermints" - 2:49 "The Birdman Of Alkatrash" - 2:11 "The World's On Fire" - 8:26
Strawberry Alarm Clock's oldest song could be considered to be "Long Days Flight", which was the a-side of the first single released by the band's original carnation, Thee Sixpence. That band released a half-dozen songs, and the lineup was virtually the same as SAC. The first Strawberry Alarm Clock songs proper were the two from the single "Incense And Peppermints" b/w "The Birdman Of Alkatrash"; the band's first album Incense And Peppermints contained several more band originals. Wake Up... It's Tomorrow, considered by some the band's high point, was full of more great SAC originals. The band's third album, The World In A Sea Shell, featured several tracks written for the band by outside writers along with some originals; their final LP Good Morning Starshine featured all original Strawberry Alarm Clock songs, except the title song. After that final LP, the band released several non-LP singles with both Jim Pitman and Paul Marshall on vocals. They also contributed two songs to the 1970...
"Sit With The Guru" is the first song on Side 2 (and the sixth track overall) on Strawberry Alarm Clock's 1968 album Wake Up... It's Tomorrow. It was also released as a single in 1968. "Sit With The Guru" is jaunty and poppy, with an aggressive guitar vying for supremacy with the lovely, melodic vocal work. The relative placidness of "Sit With The Guru" comes as something of a relief after the one-two punch in the soul delivered by the preceding two songs, "They Saw The Fat One Coming" and "Curse Of The Witches". A psych/garage classic in its own right, "Guru" is vintage SAC and one of the most typical examples of the band — that is, to introduce someone to the general Strawberry Alarm Clock oeuvre, this song pretty much has it all: the blistering electric guitar, the lush vocals (with la-la-laaa backing harmonies), the ringing keyboards, the highly enjoyable slapdash drumming, the hippie-scene lyrics... and there is even a sudden, sitar-led freakout section towards the end. All this in a perfect three minutes. Speaking of those hippie lyrics — here's a representative taste: "Yesterday's invalidated Hip mankind on Turn your mind on Sit with the guru Meditation, ooh! High, high, where eagles fly Leave today untouched in the sky" Lyrically, "Sit With The Guru" is rather a jumble of such new-agey descriptions of an evening with the all-important 'guru' (who may be an actual person, or may be LSD or some similar drug, or the experience itself, or something else entirely; it doesn't really matter). There is even a rhetorical connection with the album's title and biggest hit, "Tomorrow": "Stretch out your mind to humanity How many tomorrows can you see?" In this song, the lyrics are actually more psychedelic than the music, at least until the trip really starts and the atonal, arrhythmic sitar takes over for a few brief seconds. Appears onLP: Wake Up... It's Tomorrow (1968) 45: "Sit With The Guru" b/w "Pretty Song From Psych-Out" (Uni 55055) (1968) LP: The
"Heart Full Of Rain" is one of the final songs released by Thee Sixpence in early 1967, shortly before the band became Strawberry Alarm Clock. "Heart Full Of Rain" was released on the All American label with two different b-sides: "(Gotta Get The) First Plane Home" and the previously-released "Fortune Teller". (Both versions, confusingly, had the same catalog number.) "Heart Full Of Rain" is an obvious bridge between the garage punk of the band's early days and the loopier pop/psych that would issue from Strawberry Alarm Clock in the next 18 months. This is largely due to the song's inclusion of new keyboardist Mark Weitz: finally, Thee Sixpence had a vibrant counterpoint to the fuzzy bass and wild, slicing lead guitar lines. Musically, "Heart Full Of Rain" has a fairly no-frills, consistent beat; more than anything else it calls to mind the short instrumental "Pass Time With The SAC" from the Incense And Peppermints album. Again, this is due to the cheerful organ sound that pulses throughout. Towards the end of the song, just before the fade-out, the band sings a short chorus of "heart full of raaaaaaaain" that sounds like it was lifted directly from the great "Pushin' Too Hard" by the Seeds. As on other Thee Sixpence songs, the drumming is gloriously wild here, and the awesome lead guitar of Ed King drops jaws as usual. Appears on45: "Heart Full Of Rain" b/w "(Gotta Get The) First Plane Home" (All American 353) (1967) 45: "Heart Full Of Rain" b/w "Fortune Teller" (All American 353) (1967) - same catalog number but different b-side than above LP: Step By Step (1998 compilation)
"Me And The Township" is the first song on Strawberry Alarm Clock's final studio album, 1969's Good Morning Starshine. With its gritty performance and lack of any non-rock instrumentation, the track immediately announces that the Clock on this LP is in a different mood than the previous album, The World In A Sea Shell. "Me And The Township" is a bare-bones rock song, sounding more like the James Gang than anything SAC had ever done before. Putting its keyboards to good, supportive use, and with the lead guitar picking out some groovy Woodstock-era runs, the song's most startling feature, to long-time Strawberry Alarm Clock listeners, is its stoned and strangulated rock-god vocals from new singer/guitarist/songwriter Jim Pitman. Compositionally, the song itself is very simple, as it's mostly an excuse for some tough bluesy jamming and great faux-funky instrumental workouts. If Joe Cocker's band had been stuck in traffic on August 17, 1969, the Strawberry Alarm Clock of "Me And The Township" could have filled in behind him at Bethel, NY and the crowd probably wouldn't have had a problem with it. "Me And The Township" is structured in a classic "side 1, song 1" kick-off way that was popular from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band onward: it introduces the proceedings, avoiding any gravity or meaning and serving instead to set the scene for the album's subsequent music. Each band member gets his turn to shine, with Pitman in particular showing off his lead guitar chops. Appears onLP: Good Morning Starshine (1969) 45: "Good Morning Starshine" b/w "Me And The Township" (Uni 55125) (1969)