Electric Prunes; Sellersville Theater 5/6/08

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Electric Prunes; Sellersville Theater 5/6/08

Postby jimmy19029 » Fri May 09, 2008 7:47 am

Every few years, I'm pleasantly surprised again and again when yet another of my long time faves, thought long gone, suddenly returns from nowhere and begins playing shows and recording new material.
The Electric Prunes were one of the very first to be described as "psychedelic" and have a hit in that genre with the shimmering fuzztone freak out extravaganza I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night in early 1967.
This song had broken first in the Pacific Northwest, Seattle in particular, and for a long time it was assumed the group were from there. When I spoke to Prunes lead singer James Lowe after the show, he said a dj from Seattle back then had made up that story to get the band even better copy there.
In fact, the group originated in the San Fernando Valley section of LA circa 1966 and only managed to stay on the scene for a little more than two years, three albums, a handful of singles and one more hit, Get Me To the World on Time before fragmenting and scattering to the winds back in 1968. Another group then assumed the name and continued until breaking up in 1970. Among the different members of the Prunes over the years was none other than Kenny Loggins, who was in the group for one tour in 1968 before the last of the original guys split.
I(and most people, I'm sure) never thought we'd ever see a reunion and their true FULL story was shrouded in mystery for some thirty years. In 1999, while looking around on the Net, I found a website that gave more details about who they were and what all had happened back then. PLUS, it trumpeted the fact that they were BACK and working on new material!
In 2001, the band even began making live appearances again. Their latest new project, Feedback, was released two years ago.
Currently, original Prunes: James Lowe(vocals, percussion, autoharp, guitar, theremin) & Mark Tulin(vocals, bass, guitar, keyboards) lead the reformed lineup, with original guitarist Ken Williams still involved but not touring at the moment. Guitarist Jay Dean, special effects guitarist Steve Kara and drummer Walter Garces round out the current grouping.
Once again, as has been my experience with shows here at Sellersville Theater, the show didn't draw all that well(50 people, tops). One of the ushers we spoke to said, "Tuesday night is a hard sell."
Just after I entered the venue, a group with a grey haired lead singer and shades hit the stage. I thought the singer might be Lowe and this was the Prunes. But no, it was the opening act, the Dough Boys, a four piece blues band from New Jersey(I think...). They did a cool set of bluesy rock covers, like I'm a Man, Bo Diddley and I'm Crying before finishing up their set by beating on drums with maracas and throwing the drums across the stage towards each other. Pretty neat way to end the show.
Then the Prunes hit the stage at 9:08 for a 70 minute set that opened with Long Day's Flight(Until Tomorrow), one of my faves.
Jim Lowe had a box covered with a red cloth in front of him that contained all manner of percussion instruments from rattles and bells to tambourines. And he had a theramin beside him that he used to good effect to produce the WHEEE OHHH type sounds we usually hear in horror movies.
The group were outfitted very much like we might imagine many groups of the late 60s to be, in multi-colored jackets with Mark sporting a headband and wearing a black cloak.
Jim & Mark were quite chatty and would tell us stories to set up each song. The Great Banana Hoax was based on the myth way back then that one could actually scrape out a banana, light it up and get high. "Didn't work", laughed Jim. "Sometimes love is a hoax too. So we thought of The Great Banana Hoax." Little Olive, another early one(from 1966), Jim wrote since "it's more fun to write about a bad girl than a good girl...and alot easier." Their big hit, Dream, they said, was originally written to be a COUNTRY WESTERN song! Rosie featured Mark on lead vocal, who thanked us all for coming out to support live music in an era when people "will pay $900 to see Celine Dion in Vegas but won't walk across the street to see a live act with a little soul." Wind Up Toys(one of the highlights of the evening for me), Jim set up by talking of an era where love was important. "It still is but I don't think it's as valued anymore. Back in the day, some people tried to return to their innocence for awhile. But it didn't work since others came to shoot at them. We wrote this song for kids." After playing I Happen To Love You(written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin), he pointed out, "See, we do slow ones too." And just before introducing the title track to their latest CD, Feedback, Jim informed, 'I know the last thing an audience wants to hear from a band is that they have a new album. Well...we have a new album. We're all about new music in this group and want to continue to be." The new songs were quite good, particularly Morphine Drip("When you get out of here for the last time, if you're lucky, they hook you up to a morphine drip", explained Jim).
The band ended the show with Get Me To the World On Time but decided to leave out their encore as they bid us good night and invited us to come out to the lobby for autographs and chatting.
I talked to Jim about the Prunes reuniting in 1999 after he'd gotten piles of e-mails from people asking where they'd been for thirty years and that many had never gotten to see them play live before. I also spoke about Jim's producing the group Sparks back in the early 70s. He enjoyed that, he said, and his brother is still in touch with them. Sparks are suposed to be playing over in England soon and will be doing all TWENTY SEVEN of their albums in twenty seven concerts, with each night featuring a a different album. WOW! That's quite a project! Jim clarified that after he and the other original guys had left the Prunes back in 1968, they had let their producer, Dave Hassinger, continue to use the name with another group. I mentioned that one critic reviewing the Prunes recently had described Jim as looking like Kurt Cobain's "father". "Yep, Kurt Cobain's drug addicted father", Jim roared with laughter. "I LOVED that one"!!
Special effects guitarist, Steve, talked with us briefly about his Darman guitar and his many effects pedals and switches on stage. "Must've cost you a small fortune", I exclaimed. He smiled and nodded.
Mark and I talked of Kenny Loggins brief tenure in the Prunes back in 1968. Kenny showed him a new song he'd just written then called...Danny's Song. Mark said he smiled at Kenny and said, 'Man, you're just too damn talented, Kenny. I hate you." He & Kenny had then burst out laughing. Kenny was still years away from his first success and was a starving musician at the time. Mark told me he had even been invited to play with Loggins & Messina when they first formed. But he didn't really get along with Jim Messina, Quite an interesting night and a great show!

Dough Boys set:

I'm a Man
Too Little Too Late
Ain't Gonna Eat Out My Heart
Out of the Night
Hear Me Moan
She Comes in Colors
Black Sheep
I'm Crying
Bo Diddley

Electric Prunes set:

Long Day's Flight(Until Tomorrow)
Little Olive
The Great Banana Hoax
Never Had it Better
I Happen to Love You
I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night
Wind Up Toys
Circus Freak
Morphine Drip
Get Me To the World On Time
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