The b-side of the #1 hit song “Incense And Peppermints”, “The Birdman Of Alkatrash” is a simple, garage-y pop song by Thee Sixpence (later called Strawberry Alarm Clock — the recording is considered to be by both bands). The song was originally the a-side of a single on the All American label, but then “Incense And Peppermints” started getting all the attention from DJs and the band was signed to MCA’s Uni label; “The Birdman Of Alkatrash” became the b-side of the first single released after the band’s name changed.
The song, offering a goofy pun on the ‘birdman of Alcatraz’, inmate Robert Stroud, is self-consciously silly, bobbing merrily along on the strength of its playful keyboard notes. “The Birdman Of Alkatrash” is much softer than the band’s previous raveups scattered around various Thee Sixpence singles, but it is clearly not as psychedelically advanced as the flip side of the single. The more rounded edges and goony nature of the song are largely due to the keyboard and the warped lead guitar riffs.
“The Birdman Of Alkatrash” has gotten perhaps more attention than it deserves, having gone down in history as the non-LP b-side of the legendary “Incense And Peppermints”. It’s an enjoyable little tune but not really in the league of scandalously more-obscure classics like “Long Days Care”, “In The Building” or “Heart Full Of Rain”. It would have sounded rather out of place on the band’s Incense And Peppermints LP too; in a sense it’s a final goodbye to the Clock’s formative months.
45: “The Birdman Of Alkatrash” b/w “Incense And Pepermints” [sic] (All American 373) (1967)
45: “Incense And Peppermints” b/w “The Birdman Of Alkatrash” (Uni 55018) (1967)
CD: Incense & Peppermints (1990 compilation)
CD: Strawberries Mean Love (1992 compilation)
CD: The Strawberry Alarm Clock Anthology (1993 compilation)
LP: Step By Step (1998 Thee Sixpence compilation)