The Millennium: Brace for the Obscure (60s rock)! — April 30, 2023


810) The Millennium — “5 A.M.”

Sunshine pop* went supernova with the Millennium (see #397, 506, 586, 662), a 60’s sunshine supergroup that created Begin, the greatest sunshine pop album ever recorded. Begin cost more to make than any other album from ’68 other than The Beatles (the White Album)— and no one buys it (at least until era of CD reissues). As Richie Unterberger writes, it was “at once too unabashedly commercial for underground FM radio and too weird for the AM dial.” (

Sandy Salisbury wrote the album’s “5 A.M.”, an utterly wonderful number that “is so seductive that we forget all our problems (poof evaporated!)”. (DoubleZ, Matthew Greenwald says:

An unexpected Top Ten hit in the Philippines, of all places, “5 A.M.” went on to become the closest thing to fame that the Millennium ever achieved. A gentle, yearning folk-style chord progression melts with a beautiful pop arrangement, which is buttressed by the band’s always well-executed harmonies. Lyrically, the feeling of the pre-dawn hour is rendered in a nearly magical style here, and makes it one of Sandy Salisbury’s shining moments.

Salisbury himself tells us that:

[It] the only song on Begin that I wrote alone. This song came came to the surface one night in an apartment I lived in. . . . I wanted to write a melodic piece about the quiet early-morning time, the time after a night out, as opposed to the time just after working. I was also influenced hugely by the spectacular compositional achievements of Antonio Carlos Jobim. So this song drew from my love of bossa nova (though [it] is not that) and my emotional attachment to this one specific early-morning ambiance.

liner notes to The Millennium Magic Time: The Millennium/Ballroom Recordings CD comp

Salisbury also says that:

There was a young Columbia executive named Clive Davis who liked “5 AM” and wanted it to go out as a single. I guess it went off to the Philippines, too. That song was on the Billboard top 100 at one point, but in the Philippines it went straight to the top. Boom! Wonder of wonders. This is my one musical claim to fame. Number One in the Philippines! Ho!”

Sandy Salisbury is insanely humble and self-deprecating. On his website, he quips: “Did you know that I was a world-famous rock star? Well WORLD and FAMOUS may be pushing it, but … okay, whatever ….” ( Tim Sendra writes that:

Sandy Salisbury was a honey-voiced member of sunshine pop guru Curt Boettcher’s cast of singers and players responsible for some of the finest pop records of the 1960s. [They] met up in Boettcher’s group the Ballroom and found that their voices blended together magically. The Ballroom had a brief existence and soon Salisbury and Boettcher formed Millennium. Salisbury wrote songs as well as sang, and along with the other members of Millennium, he did work on Sagitarrius’s classic 1967 album Present Tense as well as other Boettcher projects. . . . Salisbury . . . recorded a solo record for producer Gary Usher’s Tomorrow label. The record was to be called Sandy and featured most of the members of Millennium, but sadly it was never released due to problems at the label. In 2000, it was finally issued . . . and instantly became a sunshine pop classic. Also in 2000, Dreamsville released a CD of demos Salisbury recorded in the late ’60s for his music publisher. These wonderful songs never saw the light of day at the time because Boettcher told the publisher he wanted them for future projects. . . . It is a shame that these two released so little music at the time because there were no finer practitioners of California sunshine pop. In later years Salisbury has reverted to his given name of Graham and has written many well-received children’s books.

As to Begin, Dominique Leone says the album, “probably the single greatest 60s pop record produced in L.A. outside of The Beach Boys . . . found itself very much outside the times that year.” ( Noel Murray sagely adds:

On the surface, the music . . . is right in the mainstream of radio-friendly pop from 1966-68. [The] songs had the angelic harmonies of The Association and The Mamas & The Papas, the aspirational naïveté of The Beach Boys, the live-inside-the-music atmospherics of The Beatles, and the lysergic tinge of every California band from San Francisco on down. But [Curt] Boettcher and [Gary] Usher were also interested in the avant-garde and classical music, and their highbrow approach to the sweet and fluffy didn’t connect in an era where rock ’n’ roll was getting harder and rowdier. . . .

“5 A.M.” (written by Sandy Salisbury), and “To Claudia On Thursday” (written by Michael Fennelly and Joey Stec) are more openly optimistic and romantic. Whatever the tone, the songs teem with chime, shimmer, and background “la la la”s, creating a world of wonders for listeners to fall into.

Matthew Greenwald rightly fawns over Begin

The Millennium’s Begin is a bona fide lost classic. The brainchild of producers Curt Boettcher and Gary Usher, the group was formed out of the remnants of their previous studio project, Sagittarius — which had been preceded by yet another aggregation, the Ballroom. On Begin, hard rock, breezy ballads, and psychedelia all merge into an absolutely air-tight concept album, easily on the level of other, more widely popular albums from the era such as The Notorious Byrd Brothers, which share not only Usher’s production skills, but similarities in concept and construction. The songwriting . . . is sterling and innovative . . . . Begin is an absolute necessity for any fan of late-’60s psychedelia and a wonderful rediscovery; it sounds as vital today as it did the day it was released.

Jamobo adds that:

[Begin] is notable as being the second album to use 16-track recording and the group made the most out of that here. Wonderfully lush music that sweeps you in with its fantastic harmonies, both in the instruments and in the vocals, and with the individual melodies that grab your attention instantly and have you singing along by the end of the song. . . . [It] manages to capture a wonderful part of the the era that is was created in, but also remains timeless through its use of gorgeous melodies, harmonies and instrumentation.

* The best definition of sunshine pop that I have come across was penned by Noel Murray:

Influenced by the pretty sounds of easy-listening, the catchiness of commercial jingles, and the chemically induced delirium of the drug scene, the sunshine pop acts expressed an appreciation for the beauty of the world mixed with a sense of anxiety that the good ol’ days were gone for good.

Here are the Hep Stars. Bruce Eder tells us that:

The chances are that, had ABBA never come along making Benny Andersson) and his three partners in the group) an international pop/rock star, no one outside of Sweden would ever have heard of the Hep Stars. They were the hottest rock band of the mid- to late ’60s in Sweden . . . . chart[ing] 20 singles in their own country”.

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