The Strawberry Alarm Clock — “Birds in My Tree”: Brace for the Obscure (60s rock)! — December 4, 2021

272) The Strawberry Alarm Clock — “Birds in My Tree”

As Bruce Eder says:

[SAC’s] name is as well known to anyone who lived through the late-’60s psychedelic era as that of almost any group one would care to mention, mostly out of its sheer, silly trippiness as a name and their one major hit, “Incense and Peppermints,” which today is virtually the tonal equivalent of a Summer of Love flashback.

But, as I’ve said previously (see #127), the SAC is so much more than “Incense and Peppermints.” In fact, if I were them, I’d be incensed about “Peppermints.” “Birds”, a propulsive track on their first album (’67) and the B-side of their second single (whose A-side, “Tomorrow,” was their second big hit, reaching #23), is one of the many wonderful songs they recorded.

Jeremy says in Unwind with the Strawberry Alarm Clock that:

“Birds In My Tree” features vaguely psychedelic touches in its adventurous melody, lyrical references to drugs* and a new ideal existence, and a real sense of wonder . . . . [It] begins with a tough, distorted guitar-led instrumental intro . . . . But soon it levels out into a calmer psych-pop sound . . . . marrying the strengths of the band (tough electric attack, and blissful pop loveliness) together in one simple song.

* I am not sure what the drug references are (“stretch out your mind”?). Maybe the 60’s were one big drug reference.

Eder tells the story of their first album:

[T]he group had been prevailed upon to record an album around [“Incense and Peppermints”]. The album involved a few changes in the lineup, partly growing out of the fact that the existing membership didn’t have enough songs to fill an LP. They brought in 18-year-old George Bunnell, a . . . musician and songwriter . . . and his collaborator . . . Steve Bartek, who was still in high school at the time. They brought with them a brace of songs [including “Bird”] . . . . Bunnell was so effective that all agreed that he should become a member, and he agreed after initial hesitation over abandoning his current group. Even Bartek, who was only 16, was offered a chance to join, in recognition of his contribution to the album, but because of his age he needed his parents’ permission, which wasn’t forthcoming. . . . The Incense and Peppermints LP ended up coming out astonishingly strong, especially considering the haste with which the album was recorded, and the evolving membership during the recording process. Its number 11 chart placement (the only time one of their LPs actually charted) only affirmed the seemingly charmed nature of the group’s work during the last eight months of 1967. . . . [T]he album proved to be one of the more delightful artifacts of the psychedelic era, a strangely compelling mix of psychedelia, sunshine pop, garage rock, and California harmony.

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