Thursday, November 18, 2010

A Dash of Yule with Summer Madness

Admittedly this is as close as I'm going to come this fair Holiday season to posting anything actually related to Christmas music, and with that being said, it's really only a wee bit of the ol' jingle and mostly just some very odd jangle... I found this beguiling 7" EP recently and immediately fell in love despite the fact that they cover "Leaving on a Jet Plane" (rarely as listenable as their wonderfully progressive take would have you believe) and round it out with, yes "The Little Drummer Boy" among other strange cover choices (an undeniably spooky "Hills of Shiloh" is, however, magnificently refurbished with basement electronics and atonal vocals!!). The one group original is a beautiful mini-slab of psychedelic pop that sounds like an out-take from Surf's Up era Beach Boys! Seriously! With all this being said, I am nowhere near figuring out what exactly is going on here, but I really like it and figured I'd post it up for further examination. Housed in a cardboard sleeve with a wild psychedelic illustration and self-released on their own Summer Madness imprint, there is little else to add in the way of information from the cryptic package. Check it out, stay warm, and be in touch! Talk soon, J

Side A - Little Drummer Boy / Hills of Shiloh

Side B - Leaving on a Jet Plane / Summer Madness


  1. I remember this record when it came out... :)

    I played, engineered and sang on it...

  2. Shortly after posting this entry I was able to find Chet and we had a lengthy exchange about the EP. I've excerpted the high-lights which can be read here:

    "It was just a studio project that Bob and I did. We never gigged together although I was gigging with a number of other bands around that time...

    All of this was in the S.F. bay area. My house (rented) with Bob’s Ampex 4-track based basement studio was in the cheap part of Atherton...near Palo Alto/Menlo Park. Then in ’70 we moved it all into Bob's house, where most of the recording was done, which was in Menlo Park.

    We recorded an "album's" worth of material together plus the EP, a single and another album of Bob’s material. The only stuff that was ever pressed were a few copies of that EP for Christmas presents for our families and a few copies of a couple of songs, again for xmas gifts... We tried shopping it to Warner Brothers but no joy...

    We recorded most of it and mixed it in Bob's living room in Menlo Park in the very early 70s. He ended up with a 3M 8 track ($13,500), some incredible Neumann’s (U47 and 2-U67s), and a home built mixer - designed and built by Bob.

    I also have the master of an album's worth of tunes that I wrote and recorded in ‘73 with Bob on keyboards and Mini-Moog on most of it. I recently digitized it from a cassette copy I made at the time as a "poor man's copyright"...not great quality but fun. I’ve got the master and will be sending it to Bob to get it digitized.

    I recorded all of the guitars, vocals, some Moog and the bass. We hired Chicken Hirsch (of Country Joe and the Fish) to do some of the drumming.

    While mixing the “first album”, we set Hirsch up in Bob’s living room studio to do the drums and started playing back the first song for the session. He listened for a bit and then took off the headphones and asked us, "Did you guys use a 'click track'?” Bob and I looked at each other and replied, "What's a 'click track'?" Trouper that he was, Hirsh soldiered through and did a rather good job of it.

    Bob then went out and bought a fancy metronome for us to use in the future... :-)

    As for the EP, I did the vocal on Drummer Boy, Summer Madness and Shiloh. My brother did the vocal on Jet plane (from our basement 4 track sessions). Geoff Chandler did the drumming on the EP I believe. For sure, he did the artwork.

    As I said before, Summer Madness (the song) has lyrics by Bob Orban and set to a Peter Schikele tune: One of my vivid memories taking two days to record a doubled three-part harmony on that tune... (I REALLY miss that U47 microphone!)

    Oh, yeah, I think we processed my voice through Bernie Krause’s Moog synthesizer on Hills of Shiloh to get that strange ring-modulated, voice doubled effect...

    We had the loan Bernie Krause's stage III Moog for a while -- only $12,000 plus tax (1969 money)... Had to retune the oscillators before every take...rumor had it that Bob Moog used cheap parts..."

    There's a missing beat or half measure in "Little Drummer Boy" that Chicken Hirsh immediately noticed.

    "The Interstitial Niche" was the band name for our 2nd self-released x'mas present record, a 45 rpm goodie. I think in '71. It had my instrumental “Snakedance” on one side and Bob’s tune “Credo” on the other.

    All of this was in the S.F. bay area. My house (rented) with the Bob’s Ampex 4-track based basement studio was in the cheap part of Atherton...near Palo Alto/Menlo Park. Bob's house, where the recording was done, was in Menlo Park.

    You mentioned “Surf’s Up”. Ironically enough, Bob Orban rented his collection of (very expensive) Dolby-A noise reduction processors to the Beach Boys who used them to do the Quadraphonic mixes of “Surf's Up”!

    Small world, eh?" --Chet Gardiner

    Read more about Chet, here: