“Lose To Live” is the third track on Strawberry Alarm Clock‘s 1967 album Incense And Peppermints. Weird and angular, “Lose To Live” is defined by a piercing, harpsichord-like keyboard part, deranged vocals, and constantly changing musical forms.
The track follows the shorter and gentler “Birds In My Tree”, and recalls the album’s opener “The World’s On Fire”, another strangely restless song. “Lose To Live” also leads into “Strawberries Mean Love”, again a gentler and more conventional psych/pop song; the effect is to give side 1 of the Incense And Peppermints album a kind of rhythmic weird/straight/weird/straight meta-structure.
“Lose To Live” In 10 Parts
The song is like a very short mini-opera, compressing ten sections into a three-minute performance (section titles are not official, just made up by us to delineate them):
1. Funky intro:
A guitar plays a funky little riff for a couple measures to start off the song.
2. Noisy verse:
The first vocals on the track start off almost melodically, before instantly heading off into desperate shouting as the band cranks uproariously behind:
“Ya gotta fight to live
Lose to live”
…channeling the message of Tyler Durden from the movie Fight Club decades before it was released.
3. Harpsichord funk:
The band then slows down a little, introducing a clanging harpsichord sound that keeps the loony vocals afloat, though here the words aren’t sung so much as rapped arrhythmically:
“There’s just no use in pride anymore
You’ll never amount to anything
Sure, you can try
You’ll never get anywhere
There’ll always be someone to put you down!“
4. To the circus:
The music then becomes poppy, with a circus-like feel, and the vocals are delivered by a chorus of the band’s singers in a more conventional mood.
“You’re not the only one who wants to live and not die
And you won’t be the first one to give it one more try”
This leads immediately into a rehash of part 2:
5. Noisy chorus:
This is a repeat of the deranged “fight to live / lose to live” section.
6. (I Still Can’t Get No) Satisfaction:
The guitar and keyboard plays a riff very similar to the Stones’ song “Satisfaction” (obviously in keeping with the general thrust of this song’s lyrics), just for a couple bars, before collapsing into a…
7. Drum solo:
Not excessive like “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida”, just a little bit of a fierce, sort of random bashing of the drums. This soon gives way to one of the neatest guitar parts on the whole album.
8. Guitar solo:
Wacky and strange and short, this section features a very unconventional (especially for the time) guitar break, which is actually two guitars. The louder one scrapes along very low, crowding notes at random like a non-guitar player making noise for the fun of it, scraping the strings at will, while a quieter guitar plays a very high slide part within a short range of completely random notes. The effect is like a bird flying high over the ground, with both the flight trajectory and the cold soil being explored at once.
9. (I Still Still Can’t Get No) Satisfaction:
The band ropes it in somewhat to go through the “Satisfaction” riff again, same as before, the sharp harpsichord stabbing at the ears.
10. Spooky spy music:
With a nagging minor-key anchor, the song ends with the band playing an instrumental section that sounds like typical spy movie music — except this time it’s more circus-y, conjuring up playful images of Inspector Clouseau rather than 007. It builds in tempo, as if leading somewhere Significant, before suddenly ending.
Despite being one of the Clock’s more interesting and twisted recordings, “Lose To Live” has been criminally ignored by every single one of the band’s compilations.
LP: Incense And Peppermints (1967)