ALMOST FAMOUS – JOURNEY TO THE SUMMER OF LOVE is a '60s memoir like no other. A sharp-eyed, clear-headed, candid chronicle from someone who was right there on the front lines of the revolution, from the first snare crack of '50s rock 'n' roll, through the folk music boom, electric folk-rock innovation, and the earth-shaking tremors of the West Coast psychedelic experience. From his childhood growing up in Santa Barbara during the golden age of post war 1950s America, through to his experiences as a core member of The Peanut Butter Conspiracy, one of the major psychedelic groups to emerge out of the West Coast music scene in the '60s, he has a unique perspective on the heady days that eventually gave birth to the SUMMER OF LOVE and took him on the trip of a lifetime.
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Psychedelic rock band formed in Los Angeles, 1966. Spun off from the folk-rock band Ashes, incl. John Merrill (guitar/ vocals), Alan Brackett (bass/ vocals), Barbara Robison (vocals), Spencer Dryden (drums) and Jim Cherniss (guitar/ vocals). Ashes recorded a 45 for Vault Records mid-1966, after which Dryden split to San Francisco to replace Skip Spence in Jefferson Airplane. Around this time Robison had given birth to a son (Scott) and Merrill had left for Europe, while Cherniss also parted ways with the group. Brackett then hooked up with a new guitarist named Lance Fent and a new drummer, Jim Voigt.
According to Alan Brackett: "I got together upon John's recommendation with Lance Fent and Jim Voigt and, with the help of Owsley, we learned 50 or so songs in one day and went out that night and got our choice of about three gigs in Hollywood. We played at the Sea Witch on Sunset Blvd. as the Crossing Guards. We were a power trio, and then John and Barbara joined back up with us and we changed our name to the PBC. The PBC was a name that Jim Voigt came up with-- actually it was the Peanut Butter Controversy originally, but we changed it to Conspiracy right away."
Their first release under their new moniker was the late-1966 gem "Time Is After You", a song they later re-visited on THE GREAT CONSPIRACY. Their new manager Billy James had already succeeded in getting the Rising Sons their deal with Columbia, and he made sure the PBC signed up with CBS after a bidding war ensued with Elektra. The debut 45 for the new label was the timely "It's a Happening Thing", produced by west coast studio impresario Gary Usher. The single cracked the KHJ "Boss 30" in February of 1967 and eventually became a regional hit, charting at #93 nationally. The follow-up single "Then Came Love" featured a magnificient lead vocal from Barbara Robison (or "Sandi Peanut Butter" as she was called at that time), but it failed to chart. However, the song is still notable for being one of the earliest (and best) attempts at symphonic rock music, predating the Beatles' SGT PEPPER'S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND.
The new band's debut LP, THE PEANUT BUTTER CONSPIRACY IS SPREADING, was also recorded with Gary Usher at the helm. During the sessions Gary called upon musicians such as Glen Campbell and James Burton to help bolster the sound, and the group later disavowed the record for that reason. Nevertheless, it stands as a fine relic from the early Flower Power era with strong original compositions by Merrill and Brackett, particularly the memorable "Most Up 'til Now" and the cautionary "Why Did I Get So High?" The album scraped the lower reaches of the Billboard Top 200, largely based on word-of-mouth surrounding the band's live shows. In the studio the Peanut Butter Conspiracy crafted intricate melodies with adventurous progressions that were by turns dark and optimistic. Their blend of male and female voices reminded many of the Mamas and Papas. They were at their best when they let Sandi Peanut Butter take center stage, conjuringing up dreamy psychedelic riffs around her soulful vocals. (Sandi could sound like Cher one minute and Cass Elliot the next; a very commercial sound for an underground band, but it worked.)
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This web site is dedicated to the memory of,Barbara Robison
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