“Hummin’ Happy”

“Hummin’ Happy” is the seventh track (third track of Side 2 on the vinyl issue) of Strawberry Alarm Clock‘s 1967 LP Incense And Peppermints. A fast rock song with strikingly cynical lyrics, “Hummin’ Happy” is notable as perhaps the most negative of the band’s little-acknowledged dark side (seen also on songs like “The World’s On Fire”, “Lose To Live” and “Curse Of The Witches”).

Featuring the usual lovely harmony vocals but with a sharp garage-rock instrumental bite, “Hummin’ Happy” is lyrically structured similar to Syd Barrett’s classic “Bike” from Pink Floyd’s The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn: each verse is a clipped little story unto itself, describing a scene unrelated to the other verses, and each slipping into a repeated chorus.

Here, though, each scene is negative: ‘Mrs. Fashion Lady’ falls comically into an open manhole; an amorous couple in a car gets “busted”; a semi truck runs over a bird (leaving the infamous ‘squished dead birdie’ lying at the singer’s feet), and so on. These distasteful misfortunes please the pessimistic protagonist to no end:

“Can’t you see I’m a sadist?
Evil things make me laugh so
I’m hummin’ happy”

“It’s a cruel world” seems to be the message here, though the sentiment is at odds with the “joy” of “Paxton’s Back Street Carnival” or the escapist dreaminess of “Rainy Day Mushroom Pillow”. Strawberry Alarm Clock was very mature, even ahead of their time, to be exploring such heady cosmic dichotomies while simultaneously fully immersing themselves in the stuporous abandon of California’s 1967 LSD culture. The wicked guitar solo and the vocalists’ lovely-cum-spooky background harmonies also contribute to the expansive, vaguely-uncomfortable feel of “Hummin’ Happy”.

Appears On

LP: Incense And Peppermints (1967)
CD: Strawberries Mean Love (1992 compilation)

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