It’s the forty-sixth summer since the original “Summer of Love,” and June can’t go by without a psychedelia reference, can it?
The Electric Prunes, formed in the staid environs of the San Fernando Valley rather than the hip Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco, were among the first psychedelic California bands typically associated with the free, experimental, blissed-out, drug-enhanced summer of 1967. The original Prunes were Ken Williams on guitar, James Lowe on vocals and autoharp, Joe Dooley on drums, Mark Tulin on bass and Dick Hargrave on organ. Their best-remembered song “I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night” was included on the Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era 1965-1968 compilation, which became hugely influential on the younger musicians who started punk a few years later.
Above, Mass in F Minor
However, some of Electric Prunes strangest work came in 1968, when their manager Lenny Poncher convinced them to make an electric, psychedelic rock version of the Roman Catholic mass, Mass in F Minor, written by composer David Axelrod. Flower children probably did not dance to this album. Not surprisingly, Mass in F Minor has not been heavily used as actual liturgical music either, despite Catholic youth leaders’ desire to incorporate guitars into masses (in an effect to be relevant) for 30 years or so. This was followed up by another religious-themed album written by Axelrod, Release of an Oath: The Kol Nidre—a prayer of antiquity. This album combined Jewish and traditional Christian liturgy. The Kol Nidre service is intended to release a penitent from an oath “made under duress and in violation of his principles” according to the album’s liner notes and is still performed in synagogues today. Recording these two albums proved to be a stressful experience for the band, and they broke up during the recording of Release of an Oath. Axelrod had to bring in session musicians to complete the album.
Above, Release of an Oath
Above, The Electric Prunes do “I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night” on The Mike Douglas Show, and then they jam with Barbara Feldon, “Agent 99” from Get Smart!