The Hellers: Brace for the Obscure (60s rock)! — July 21, 2022


525) The Hellers — “It’s 74 in San Francisco”

Back when San Francisco was hale and hearty, hip and Haight, and definitely not yet San Fransicko, this breezy ’68 “enjoyable psychy-sunshine pop” (sf scene, delight extolled the city’s weather.

But who the hell were the Hellers? Basic Hip tells us that:

The Heller Corporation (Heller-Ferguson, Inc) was an advertising agency based in Los Angeles and produced highly creative commercials and thematic identification music for television and radio. . . . The Hellers did issue one commercial album in 1968, the way, way out “Singers, Talkers, Players, Swingers and Doers” on Enoch Light’s Command label. A sophisticated sound collage of spoken word, sound effects, moog-like “Heliocentric Sounds” and those familiar jingle singers.

Sf scene notes that:

[N]ot really a group but an advertising agency who worked for many large and various clients . . . run by Hugh Heller it was extremely successful . . . . top session musicians were used on the recording which was given out to clients of the agency. . . . weird, wonderful and full of electronic effects quite what they were hoping to achieve by this I really don’t know.

François Couture goes deeper:

In 1968, producer Enoch Light commissioned an LP from Hugh Heller, a publicist who used to put together albums of skits and short musical spoofs his agency privately distributed to industry people. Heller teamed up with his agency’s commercial jingle composer Dick Hamilton. Together, they wrote 12 light comedy tracks and brought in visionary electronician Robert Moog ([yes, the] inventor of the Moog synthesizer[!]) to give their project a space-age feel. The result is an unusual cross between Perrey Kingsley’s infamously kitsch outer-worldly music, the Lawrence Welk Show, and The Partridge Family Show — technology, ballroom music and variety show one-liners, all rolled into one. This half-hour of material has aged tremendously, but to most connoisseurs of the genre, that is where its value resides. Some themes are actually nice and groovy . . . but the format chosen (two-minute tunes) means that nothing gets developed and what you hear on first listen is what you get: thirty minutes of collaged commercial jingles. The album failed to sell, but attained a certain cult status.

Record Heaven opines that:

[O]verseen[]by legendary jingle composer Hugh Heller and arranger Dick Hamilton (with a little help from Robert Moog), this zany ’68 album merges sunshine pop with electronica and spoken word to unique effect. An established cult favourite, and a rich source of DJ samples, it’s one of the most bizarre albums to emerge from America in the late 60s . . . .

“Whatever the weather has in store, it’s 74 in San Francisco. There’s a feel in the air, [?] in your wind, turning you on, telling it all. It’s 74 in San Francisco. Whenever your dreaming time is through, there’s more to come through in San Francisco. There’s a wonderful day . . . shiny and new, coming to me. It’s 74 in San Francisco.”

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