Strawberry SAC — “In Relation (to Our Times): Brace for the Obscure (60s rock)! — January 17, 2023

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

704) Strawberry SAC — “In Relation (to Our Times)/ “In Relation”

This apparently sordid story starts with the Strawberry Alarm Clock’s (see #127, 272) guilty pleasure and era-defining #1 hit — “Incense and Peppermints” — and ends with a cool and “extremely Strawberry Alarm Clock-sounding” guilty pleasure that “closely approximates the sound of ‘Incense[‘] without sounding too explicitly derivative.” (Richie Unterberger, https://www.allmusic.com/artist/crystal-circus-mn0000719957)

As to “Incense”, Bruce Eder tells us that:

[The] Strawberry Alarm Clock[‘s] . . . . name is as well known to anyone who lived through the late-’60s psychedelic era as that of almost any group . . . 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. . . . In the spring of 1967 . . . [the band was] working out a new single, the A-side of which was to be a sneering punkish piece called “The Birdman of Alkatrash,” written by [Mark] Weitz [keyboards and co-lead vocals]. They needed a B-side, and an instrumental titled “Incense and Peppermints” — also put together by Weitz with help from guitarist Ed King — was duly recorded, and producer Frank Slay . . . ended up sending a tape . . . to a friend, songwriter John Carter, who had scored a . . . hit with . . . “That Acapulco Gold,” for . . . the Rainy Daze [see #540], earlier that year. He delivered the words to “Incense and Peppermints[.]” . . . [T]he band . . . felt offended by Slay’s maneuver, and neither Weitz nor [Lee] Freeman [the other vocalist] was willing to throw themselves into the lyric the way they should have, especially as Carter came down to the session . . . . It was his choice [to sing], backed by Slay, of Greg Munford, a 16-year-old friend of the group who happened to be hanging out at the session. . . . [N]obody seemed overly concerned . . . . This was “just” a B-side, after all . . . . [But] the single actually began getting airplay, but it was the B-side, “Incense and Peppermints,” that DJs were choosing and airing. . . . Uni Records . . . picked it up for national distribution. . . . The song swept across the airwaves gradually, fueling a sales wave that built into a number one chart placement over the next three months, in November of 1967. 

https://www.allmusic.com/artist/strawberry-alarm-clock-mn0000633079/biography

Enter the Strawberry SAC, as Jeremy explains:

In 1968, a band calling itself Strawberry SAC, featuring Greg Munford . . . recorded twelve songs for a planned album on All-American [which released “Incense”]. Two songs (“In Relation” and “Merry Go Round”) were pressed onto a rare promo DJ 7″, but the rest of the recordings were only released in 2001, on a vinyl LP from Akarma credited not to Strawberry SAC but to Crystal Circus . . . . Munford was never a member of Strawberry Alarm Clock . . . . [whose] manager/producer Bill Holmes, always looking to exploit a situation, put [him] in a new band, shamelessly dubbed “Strawberry SAC”. . . . There are a few odd discrepancies between the label on th[e single] and the liner notes of the 2001 album release: The 45 calls its a-side “In Relation”, while the album adds the parenthetical “(To Our Times)”. . . . [and] the album adds producer Holmes as a writer.

https://www.unwindwithsac.com/misc/crystal-circus

While I, of course, don’t know what actually happened, Lynching tells us that:

Strawberry SAC . . . . was Bill Holmes taking Greg . . . after being discovered by the Alarm Clock he was managing badly. He put this group together as his response but the musicians didn’t know what he was up to. They were a great bunch of guys and talented. . . . [and w]ere told by Holmes to write all this original music in the “vein” of the SAC and that’s what they did. Then Holmes ripped them off for everything and copyrighted the songs himself, giving the actually composers part credit and no money. He sleazes off to Italy behind their back, had the album pressed and sold in Europe. Like Strawberry Alarm Clock, the SAC were victimized and lied to by Holmes.

https://www.45cat.com/record/aa3333

Oh, and Richie Unterberger tells us that Strawberry SAC might have actually been better than the Strawberry Alarm Clock! (https://www.allmusic.com/artist/crystal-circus-mn0000719957)

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