The Knickerbockers — “High on Love”: Brace for the Obscure (60s rock)! — January 31, 2023


718) The Knickerbockers — “High on Love”

The Knickerbockers were more than a one-hit wonder — no Lies! This awesome power poppy number reached #94. Andrew Sandoval tells us that:

“In the ’60s it was all about being high,” says songwriter Keith Colley, “so I thought I’d write something about being high on love, instead of drugs.” Though the single was stacked with wild guitars, soaring vocals, and some provocative lyrics, The Knickerbockers’ indie label was, as it name implies, challenged. Ultimately, its limited resources and poor distribution contributed to the band’s demise.

liner notes to Where the Action Is! Los Angeles Nuggets 1965-1968

Sandoval also notes that they were brought to L.A. in 1965 and performed nightly at the Red Velvet Club on Sunset, developing “quite a following”.

Mark Deming gives us some history:

In the wake of the British Invasion, plenty of American bands wished they could make like the Beatles, at least in terms of record sales. But from a musical standpoint, no one sounded quite so much like the Fab Four as the Knickerbockers on their biggest hit, 1965’s “Lies,” which brilliantly captured the sound of the Beatles’ early period with its enthusiastic harmonies and tough but melodic guitar lines. While the band never quite repeated the feat, for years pranksters passed “Lies” off as a rare Beatles track to unsuspecting music buffs, and the group earned a cult following from fans of first-era garage rock. Hailing from Bergenfield, New Jersey, the Knickerbockers were formed in 1962 . . . The band landed a record deal with Challenge Records . . . . In late 1965, “Lies” b/w “The Coming Generation” changed the game for the band; between the forceful tune and [the] Lennon-esque vocals, “Lies” was eagerly embraced by radio and rose to number 20 on the singles charts . . . . Several months later, the Knickerbockers dropped another great single, “One Track Mind” b/w “I Must Be Doing Something Right,” which topped out at number 46 . . . .

Stephen Thomas Erlewine adds that:

During their brief time at Challenge — a stint that essentially amounts to all of 1965 and 1966 . . . the band touched upon every mainstream rock or pop sound of the pre-psychedelic ’60s, starting as a fratty combo grinding out party covers of R&B and British Invasion hits — not to mention a version of “The Jolly Green Giant” by early ’60s rock & roll kingpins the Kingsmen — and quickly touching upon surf and the limbo, folk-rock, and swinging pop, coming across like an AM pop station condensed into one quartet. After the hit, the productions got grander — they were slathered in strings and horns that placed them somewhere between B.J. Thomas and Glen Campbell — but they also had an eye for snazzy covers of crossover standards (“Harlem Nocturne,” “The Girl from Ipanema”) and they were hip enough to spin “King of the Road” into a groover in the style of the Sire Douglas Quintet . . . .

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