Harbinger: Brace for the Obscure (60s rock)! — July 25, 2022

THE GREATEST SONGS OF THE 1960s THAT NO ONE HAS EVER HEARD

531) Harbinger — “Control”

This haunting song from Dave Bixby’s ultra-rare ’70 downer/loner folk album Second Coming (by “Harbinger”) sounds eerily similar to “Space Oddity”, David Bowie’s iconic song from ‘69. Bowie’s lyric is “The planet Earth is blue and there’s nothing left to do.” Bixby’s is “We’re beyond the blue and there’s nothing they can do.” Since “Space Oddity” was written and released in ’69 and “Control” was likely written in ’69 but not released till ’70 (and was ultra-obscure), it looks most likely that Bixby took the melody from and wrote similar lyrics to Bowie’s song, not the other way around. Thanks to skullsaresopasse’s and devilmaskrascal’s comments on Reddit (r/vintageobsura) for setting me straight.

Anyway, Bixby describes the song as “Christian cult propaganda. They verses us.” (https://www.psychedelicbabymag.com/2011/11/dave-bixby-interview-about-ode-to.html) What the hell?! Literally, what the hell?

OK, here goes. Klemen Breznikar writes that:

Dave [Bixby] played with folk bands in high school before cutting off his hippie hair to join a religious group. Dave’s definitive loner acid folk album, ‘Ode to Quetzalcoatl’, was recorded following a long period of time [he] spent in what he calls “the void”. A dark, depressive episode after a prolonged period of taking LSD almost daily. Dave came out of the void and turned to God, a journey and transformation ‘Ode to Quetzalcoatl’ documents. . . . [He’s] lived a vivid and fascinating life . . . .

https://www.psychedelicbabymag.com/2011/11/dave-bixby-interview-about-ode-to.html

As to Ode to Quetzalcoatl, Ron Hart says that:

For collectors of the downer/loner folk movement of the late ’60s . . . the solo debut from Michigan garage rocker-turned-born-again Xian Dave Bixby . . . go[es] for upwards of $2,000 on eBay. . . . Recorded after he spent a year playing solo and experimenting with LSD, Bixby laid down this album in a living room with the bare bones of amenities. . . . Bixby relies on the strength of his deeply faithful lyrics rooted in the Book of Revelations and the artist’s own personal drug-fueled Armageddon to carry his songs through the night.

https://www.popmatters.com/110072-dave-bixby-ode-to-quetzalcoatl-guerssen-harbinger-second-coming-guer-2496072674.html

His second album was Second Coming. François Couture explains:

Bixby’s first LP . . . was the work of a man in search of himself. His second, released under the group name Harbinger, is the work of a man who thought he had found himself, but got “indoctrinated” in the process . . . . After the first LP, which was a brutally honest downer-folk album, Bixby met and joined Don DeGraaf’s religious group. A charismatic Christian guru, DeGraaf quickly harnessed Bixby’s talent and got him to write and perform uplifting, utopian songs about finding the light and understanding yourself — which was what Bixby had written before, although this time the lyrics have lost their erstwhile aspect in favor of a more didactic style. [W]hereas Ode . . . simply chronicled a personal path to inner realization, Second Coming is more about collective salvation, communal bonding, and proselytism.

https://www.allmusic.com/album/second-coming-mw0000819487

Hart adds that:

Recorded at the same time as Quetzalocatl and under the name Harbinger, Second Coming . . . . might sound more spiritual than Quetzalcoatl, [but] the psychedelic atmosphere that haunts that album is also apparent on this one, too [the songs] play out like biblical scriptures rewritten on sheets of high-powered blotter acid.

https://www.popmatters.com/110072-dave-bixby-ode-to-quetzalcoatl-guerssen-harbinger-second-coming-guer-2496072674.html

And Forced Exposure adds that:

Unknown to most ’60s/’70s collectors until its discovery a few years ago, this is the beyond rare second album released by loner/downer folk legend Dave Bixby, recorded around 1969, the same year as his first one . . . . Musically, Second Coming is equally as good and very similar to the first one, but this time the recording took place in a professional studio . . . . Bixby is joined by [musicians including] Don DeGraaf on bass and production duties. Don was in fact leader of the, in the end, destructive religious cult known as “The Group” or “The Movement[]” . . . . The lyrics deal with cosmic imagery, psychedelics and religious/biblical references, but this goes much deeper than any Xian record you’ve ever heard . . . point[ing] towards some sort of New Age/post-Revelations utopian consciousness.

https://www.forcedexposure.com/Catalog/harbinger-second-coming-cd/GUESS.026CD.html

As Bixby himself explains:

Don assumed power and named himself Sir. I had more songs that were not selected for ‘Ode to Q’ and new ones in the making. . . . Don saw the concerts as opportunity to make money and recruit new members plus he got to sing and play base. Sir used the labor force of group. People were hanging posters, selling tickets and selling records after the concerts. Concert money bought studio time in a real studio for the ‘Harbinger’ LP. . . . Harbinger was a creation of Sir using songs I wrote. It was fun to see him accomplish his goal. I really didn’t need credit and did not mind giving to the cause of obvious success. Harbinger means for[e]runner to Christ. To prepare the way for the coming of Christ. . . . Harbinger was conceived in 1969 shortly after ‘Ode to Q’. by Don DeGraff, released in 1970. A new decade. No credits were on the front or back cover. . . . Sir wanted to be invisible to the world and a star at the same time. . . . A Christian cult is growing and Harbinger was added to the product line.

https://www.psychedelicbabymag.com/2011/11/dave-bixby-interview-about-ode-to.html

“Control, you’re free to live in harmony. He loved us from the start. We let him in our heart. We’re beyond the blue and there’s nothing they can do. Though they may slay my body, they won’t take my life. Here breaking in the light. It’s getting in our sight. We’re beyond the blue and there’s nothing they can do. We’re on our way, today, to that kingdom that far away. Control, you’re free to prepare for eternity.”

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Here is “Space Oddity”:

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