“Paxton’s Back Street Carnival”

“Paxton’s Back Street Carnival”, the sixth song from Strawberry Alarm Clock‘s 1967 LP Incense And Peppermints (second song on vinyl’s Side 2), is an aggressive rock song evoking the spirit of California psychedelia’s middle period (early/mid 1967). The very notion of a street carnival was very endemic to the time and place, and the swirling images in the song’s lyrics fit the mood very well.

Musically, a tough guitar dominates the intro and much of the song, though never overpoweringly. A rambunctious tambourine otherwise holds it together, as well as the usual SAC-esque keyboard wash in the background. Lyrically, “Paxton’s Back Street Carnival” is pure celebration, describing the free atmosphere of psychedelic street life and the trippiness in ones own head:

“The dark never hides all the joy
At the back street carnival”

“Your eyes are sparkling
Your mind is moving fast
No need to hurry
The world won’t be floating past:
It will wait for you”

“Paxton’s Back Street Carnival” is a very short song, about two minutes; having made its point, the song finds its lead guitar muscling through a couple bars towards the end, the band then chanting the song’s title a few times as a circus organ plays the classic descending Ringling Bros. melody; the track then ends abruptly, maybe a little too soon.

The song was revived in late 1968 as the b-side to “Sea Shell” from the The World In A Sea Shell album.

Appears on

LP: Incense And Peppermints (1967)
45: “Sea Shell” b/w “Paxton’s Back Street Carnival” (Uni 55093) (1968)
CD: Strawberries Mean Love (1992 compilation)
CD: The Strawberry Alarm Clock Anthology (1993 compilation)