Fate — “Sergeant Death”: Brace for the Obscure (60s rock)! — March 23, 2023


771) Fate — “Sergeant Death”

“Hey boy, do you know who I am? Hey boy, wanna see Vietnam? . . . My friends call me Sergeant Death.” The greatest Doors’ song from Apocalypse Now that wasn’t by the Doors and wasn’t in Apocalypse Now is also one of the greatest anti-Vietnam War songs of the 60’s. Except that it wasn’t widely released until the 90’s!

Patrick Lundborg says of the album (Sgt. Death) and the song that “this piece of zeitgeist plays like a completely finalized album that could, and probably should, have come out back then. . . . T]he sarcastic anti-Vietnam title track is what makes it stand out.” (The Acid Archives, 2nd Ed.). Anastasia Walker describes the song as having “a mildly Doorsy doom vibe befitting its anti-war theme.” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_nVyMy3yvx0)

Menegon calls the album a “vintage previously unreleased Psychedelic wonder from 1967-1968. . . . [i]nfluenced by Doors and other West coast psychedelic bands . . . . Eerie keyboards led psychedelia with great slashing guitar leads and biting vocals to Yardbirds like rave ups.” (https://venenosdorock.blogspot.com/2010/05/fate-sgt-death-1968-us-rock-psych.html?m=1) Thomas Smith enthuses:

Magnificent, extraordinary band. The closest vocals to The Doors . . . that I’ve ever heard. . . . This is one the greatest lost treasures of American psych. . . . Fate meant for me to hear this absolutely brilliant LP.


The Savage Saints:

Jay Sneider’s first band The Electrons came together in Saco, Maine in 1963. They soon changed their name to The Id and would release two 45s that have become highly prized by collector’s, the second as Euphoria’s Id to differentiate them from several other Ids around at that time. Around 1967 Sneider (now Snyder) and drummer Skip Smith formed Fate. The album was recorded in 1968 . . . . Demos were sent out and the popular DJ Roscoe . . . started playing it. It would be picked up by a couple more NYC stations, yet the only record label to show any interest was Musicor. Still the band’s production company (Elephant 5) chose to pass on the offer, nothing further happened and a disillusioned band went their separate ways.

Such a shame; this is an accomplished opus and so evocative of its time. The mood is reflective, often sombre, but also confrontational (as in the overtly anti-Vietnam title track). Stylistically it varies from baroque-rock with psychy flashes to hard melodic rock, and a strong hint of The Doors on the more introspective cuts. The latter comparison used to irritate Jay Snyder but the setting, key and timbre of Frank Youngblood’s vocals makes this unavoidable.


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