West Coast Branch

West Coast Branch poster that hung in the Flying Jib

The roots of the West Coast Branch started growing in Inglewood, California, a medium-sized suburb in the South Bay just a few miles inland from the beach. Chuck Marchese played a little music at Inglewood High School with a couple of his friends when he first met Jon Hill. “Jon (Hill) and I didn’t really run with the same crowd in school but when he ran for student body president, he asked my trio (two guitarists—Scott Williams and Bob Sheppard and Marchese on drums) who were doing mostly Chuck Berry and Jimmy Reed covers to play a concert during lunch period to promote his candidacy, and we became friends. When Marchese graduated in 1964 he faced the typical teenage dilemma. “When I got out of high school at seventeen, I was just a kid with no plan except going to the beach. Dad said I either had to go to college or get a job, those were the choices. Well, I already knew school wasn’t my thing but it would take a few weeks of bagging groceries at Von’s Market on La Tijera and Centinela for me to know for sure that work wasn’t for me either. I was really … Continue reading

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Samy Phillip

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Another favorite 45 that’s been getting spin-time at the WCF headquarters is Samy Phillip’s “I Wonder Freely/Magic Fly (for Jordana” (Infinite 2002) from 1964, with its swinging garage-soul groove, gruff, snotty vocals, and blaring Dylanish harmonica. I managed to track down Phillip last year and sat down to lunch with him at his favorite Boyle Heights Mexican restaurant. I brought along my good friend, artist Jan Steward, who’d known the musician back in the mid-60s but hadn’t seen him since.  I Wonder Freely Turns out Samy Phillip is not Samy Phillip at all. His real name is Hirth Martinez and some of you may recognize his name from a couple of Robbie Robertson-produced LPs from the mid-70s. But the story starts about a decade earlier in East Los Angeles where young Martinez honed his chops by playing jazz and RnB piano and guitar with guys that’d go on to form successful groups like Thee Midniters, the Blendells, and the Premiers (you can listen to an informative podcast about Martinez’s legacy on Mark Guerrero’s Chicano Music Chronicles here). Martinez put together his own combo sometime in ’63 and throughout 1964-65 the group played the Classic Cat in Hollywood. Though he was … Continue reading

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Attila

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Attila’s “When/Come Out” is one of my fave West Coast private 45s. The top side, “When,” is the one that gets all the attention with its two-note, Count Fivey fuzz intro, close-to-acid punk organ, and bee buzz-soloing. When the adenoidal vocals kick in, it gets a kind of a primitive, garagey Strawberry Alarm Clock sound, before going into a marching beat break with an improvised distorto-guitar lead, followed by a sped-up Ray Manzarek organ solo and then back into the two-note intro fer the outro. Totally incredible. The flip, “Come Out,” is even better. Again kicking it off with two notes (this time on organ), it’s a moody teenage attempt at being heavy with poetry class rhymes like “Give me one more try before I die.” Then they guys rip into the riff from the Four Seasons “C’mon Marianne” (which the Doors would also rip off for “Touch Me”) with another great Manzarek organ solo over it. Then it’s back to the verse and adieu with a fuzzy rave-up outro. We tracked down Attila Galamb (who was listed as the writer of “Come Out”) a couple years ago and he was happy to fill me in a little on the … Continue reading

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Tony Harris

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Paul and I have been digging around lately trying to get the scoop on a guy named Tony Harris. I’d been noticing his involvement on some interesting records over the years and thought maybe it’s time to put together what we know and cast it out there to see what comes back. The Tony Harris were talking about here recorded a pair of fantastic 45s for a Los Angeles-based imprint called Dee Gee Records in the mid-‘60s. Harris’s Dee Gee output is a little hard to pin down stylistically. His first two-sider is “Honey/Scorpio,” with “Honey” being a solid sort of leftover teener kind of sound and “Scorpio” a completely different animal. Beginning with a cryptic spoken word intro, Harris kicks in with some hard protest-style acoustic guitar strumming, and begins piling on some freaky downer Dylan-influenced lyrics (“Just remember watchers are all waiting and blue lemmings pick apiece my brain”). It’s a pretty heavy trip. The second Tony Harris record on Dee Gee is “Super Man/How Much Do I Love You.” “Super Man” is a raw and snotty folk rock ode to the superhero in the vein of the Turtles best work. The flip is even better, moody and … Continue reading

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Do the Hump!

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There’s a great little piece on the Sopwith Camel over at the Pondering Pig complete with cool news clippings like this ‘un. Our good friend Stephen Ehret of the Wildflower claims them as the best band on the scene. Unfortunately their in-town trajectory was halted for being out in New York for too long recording; for actually having a “hit record;” and for being on the same label as the Spoonful when Zal Yanovsky and Steve Boone ratted out Bill Loughborough for selling them weed. In a Flamin’ Groovies interview for Cream Puff War way back in ’91, Roy Loney claims to have been in jail that night too, also for pot. “I was with the guy they turned in I think,” he says. Was Loney friends with Loughborough? Who knows? Cyril Jordan goes on to claim the guy “had an in with (Bill) Graham” and that’s what got them blacklisted. I remember also reading somewhere Loughborough being cool about the whole thing… kids will be kids, or something to like that. There’s a image of the court report for the case I saw somewhere online a while back but I haven’t been able to find it again. Someone?   … Continue reading

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Kusama’s Self Obliteration with The C.I.A. Change

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A film exploration of the work and aesthetic concepts of Yayoi Kusama, painter, sculptor, and environmentalist, conceived in terms of an intense emotional experience with metaphysical overtones, an extension of my ultimate interest in a total fusion of the arts in a spirit of mutual collaboration. I was introduced to the Citizens for Interplanetary Activity (C.I.A.) through my old friend Ted Berk. Ted was a poet and occultist, and lived in Brooklyn near the Pratt Institute in the early 60s while I was living on St. Marks Place in the Village. I lived down the street from what became the Electric Circus, around the corner from the Fillmore East and across the street from The Five Spot. From 1961 to 1964, I had done several early film projects, in regular 8mm and in 16mm, with Ted before he had gone to Mexico, and then moved to California. The C.I.A. (I believe they added the “Change” to their name when they went on the road to come to New York) was founded some time in early 1966, Ted and I believe, by Win Hardy*, the lead guitarist and vocalist. He was originally from Lexington, Kentucky, where his father owned a funeral … Continue reading

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