The photo that became the album coverGood Morning Starshine is Strawberry Alarm Clock‘s fourth album, released in 1969. It features new lead singer, guitarist and song writer Jim Pitman, who helped lead the band away from the hollow sentimentality of 1968’s ultra-lustrous The World In A Sea Shell and into a more immediate and entertaining blues-rock grunge.
The band’s own work (mostly)
Without the crushing influence of boneheaded management decisions and the reliance on outside writers, Good Morning Starshine is something the Clock could be more proud of: it was almost all their own work, compositionally and musically, with which they would fail or succeed.
And how did they do? Commercially, they… well, they failed. The only song to make an impression in the charts was the title song (from the musical Hair), an anomaly on the album that sticks out like a sore thumb, and which the band hadn’t wanted to record at all, but which made it to #87 as a single. If the album had been called something different, rather than named for its weakest and dumbest (and laughably atypical) song, it might today enjoy quite a different reputation.
Artistically, though, Good Morning Starshine triumphs, neatly presaging the era of gritty 70s guitar rock and revisiting some of the band’s harmonic and baroque psych-pop with some brilliant performances and well-crafted songs — even finding time for some new experimentation to spice things up.
Straight blues rock
Good Morning Starshine begins with “Me And The Township”, a startlingly crude and brutal blues-rock anthem to shock listeners expecting a continuation of The World In A Sea Shell. Strawberry Alarm Clock had other ideas however, a point underscored by the second track, the equally grimy straight guitar jam “Off Ramp Road Tramp”. Both tracks were composed or co-composed by Pitman. The final song on the album, the long, slow blues “Changes”, was co-written — as was most of the album, in fact — by all five musicians, and completes this hard rock trilogy of sorts.
Elsewhere, Pitman showed a softer side on his songs “Write Your Name In Gold” and “Dear Joy”, tracks which allow the Clock to indulge in some of their well-practiced pop craftsmanship. Whether the public was paying close attention anymore or not, the members of SAC, even with Ed King moving to bass and Thee Sixpence/“Incense And Peppermints”-era drummer Gene Gunnels rejoining the band, were always improving.
By Good Morning Starshine the guys had evolved into a compelling mastery of their chosen styles, and the album finds them at complete comfort with their deceptively complex compositions (see “Miss Attraction”), nimble instrumental acuity (see “Small Package”), and playful studio experimentation (see the backwards solo and musique concrÃ¨te effects on “Hog Child”).
Good Morning Starshine‘s best song is “Miss Attraction”, presented in two versions; the single version (indeed used as the b-side of the inferior “(You Put Me On) Stand By”) is a fantastic slice of groovy psych-funk. The longer version is great too, but a tad slower and with more extended jamming. If you like “August” by Love you’ll like the ‘album version’ of “Miss Attraction.”
As good as Good Morning Starshine is, it really has little in common with the band’s best past work, and was unfortunately unable to grab much attention from the public. Strawberry Alarm Clock would release a few (sometimes fantastic) singles after the album, and contributed to the Russ Meyers film Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls, but much of this work was without Jim Pitman, and at any rate was the last heard from the band until the hammy, incomplete reunion tours of the 80s and beyond. For fans of SAC though, Good Morning Starshine is highly recommended — try it out and pick your own classics; there’s plenty to choose from.
Japanese CD with bonus tracks
The Japanese-released CD is the recommended version of this album, since it includes all of the band’s 1968-9 non-LP songs, except for one (“I’m Comin’ Home” from Beyond The Valley Of The Dolls).
“DesireÃ©” – 3:03
“I Climbed The Mountain” – 3:01
“Three” – 2:21
“Starting Out The Day” – 2:40
“California Day” – 2:47
“Girl From The City” – 2:34
“Good Morning Starshine [single]” – 2:22