Thee Sixpence was a garage rock/psych band that released a few singles in 1966-1967 before recording “Incense And Peppermints”, changing their name to Strawberry Alarm Clock, and achieving a fluke #1 hit. Most of the key musicians in the latter band were members at least part of the time in Thee Sixpence.
Their short musical journey
Beginning with “Long Days Care” b/w “Can’t Explain” in the summer of 1966, Thee Sixpence went on to release a total of ten songs in roughly as many months. The last two of these, “The Birdman Of Alkatrash” b/w “Incense And Pepermints” [sic], were re-released by Uni after the band had changed their name to Strawberry Alarm Clock; the a- and b-sides of the record were also reversed, reflecting the rapidly growing popularity of the original single’s b-side. All of Thee Sixpence’s 45s were released on the small All American label, though at least one, “Fortune Teller” b/w “My Flash On You”, was also released on Dot.
Musically, Thee Sixpence was a rambunctious garage/punk band in the mold of the Leaves, the Standells, and early Love. In fact, the band recorded two of Arthur Lee’s songs from Love’s eponymous 1966 debut LP, “Can’t Explain” and “My Flash On You”. (Another Thee Sixpence recording, of “Hey Joe”, may be seen as a de facto third Love cover.) The ten songs available by Thee Sixpence show obvious and remarkable progress over the band’s short career; where their first single is exciting but just manages to hold things together, by the end Thee Sixpence was experimenting with daring arrangements, varied song structures, and much more assured playing.
Along the way, Thee Sixpence also released a real lost psychedelic classic, the haunting, horrifying “In The Building”. Strawberry Alarm Clock themselves rarely exceeded the weirdness of this piece, and although the recording is somewhat crude in a late-66 kind of way, “In The Building” benefits from its earnest, untutored performance.
Thee Sixpence eventually added Mark Weitz on keyboards, and the Strawberry Alarm Clock sound proper was borne. The band brought in Randy Seol on drums, and along with long-time members Ed King, Lee Freeman, and Gary Lovetro, the Clock was set and worldwide fame, not to mention further audacious musical explorations, were continued right under the noses of listeners everywhere.
Other bands called Sixpence
There were other bands with similar names, such as The Sixpence, The Six Pents, The Sixpentz, etc. The Sixpence, for example, released a single on the Impact label in January of 1967, “What To Do” b/w “You’re The One” (Impact 1025). Although this is mentioned in some sources as being a single by Thee Sixpence, it is in fact an unrelated group.
Adding to the problem was the fact that a single by Thee Sixpence, “In The Building” b/w “Hey Joe”, had the band’s name misspelled as The Sixpence on both sides. Such confusion was a key factor in the band changing its name to Strawberry Alarm Clock. (Not much doubt about who that is, although a later cash-in group called Strawberry SAC would muddy even that.)
Step By Step
In 1998, the Akarma label released an 11-track vinyl compilation LP of all of Thee Sixpence’s songs called Step By Step. It is recommended to both SAC fans as well as fans of 1960s garage rock in general.