|Strawberry Alarm Clock|
Strawberry Alarm Clock in 2007
|Genres||Psychedelic rock, acid rock, garage rock|
|Labels||Uni Records, Big Beat Records, MCA Special Products, One Way Records, Collector's Choice Music|
Lee Freeman (deceased)
Strawberry Alarm Clock is a psychedelic rock band from Los Angeles best known for their 1967 hit "Incense and Peppermints". The group took its name as an homage to the Beatles' psychedelic hit "Strawberry Fields Forever".
They are often thought of as a "one-hit wonder", although they charted five Top 100 songs as well as two Top 40 songs. The band was instrumental in the development of bubblegum pop music in the United States.
The group, originally named Thee Sixpence, initially consisted of Ed King (lead guitar), Mark Weitz (keyboards), Lee Freeman (rhythm guitar), Gary Lovetro (bass), and Randy Seol (drums). On their first and most famous single, "Incense and Peppermints", none of the band wanted to sing songwriter John Carter's lyrics, so lead vocals were sung by Greg Munford, a 16-year-old friend of the band, although the regular vocalists sang backup. The song reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in late 1967. Mark Weitz and Ed King were denied songwriting credits by the band's producer because they did not write the melody line or the lyrics, though the song was built on an instrumental by Weitz with a bridge by King. This instrumental was originally intended as a B-side to "The Birdman of Alkatrash", which ultimately became the B-side to "Incense and Peppermints." The single stayed at #1 for one week with 16 weeks in total on the chart. A gold disc was awarded for one million sales by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) on 19 December 1967.
Shortly after recording "Incense and Peppermints" the band added George Bunnell (bass and rhythm guitar, mini mando) before making their first LP in 1967, also titled Incense and Peppermints, which hit #11 on the US album chart. Bunnell would also become their main songwriter. Some early Strawberry Alarm Clock songs were penned by George Bunnell and Steve Bartek (who would much later join Oingo Boingo, as well as orchestrate Danny Elfman's film scores). Bartek played flute on the first two albums.
During the band's short life, it saw many lineup changes. Gary Lovetro left the band before the second album, Wake Up...It's Tomorrow, was released, leaving Bunnell as sole bassist. The single "Tomorrow" from this album was a minor hit and their only other top 40 appearance, reaching #23 in early 1968. "Sit with the Guru" charted at #65 and "Barefoot in Baltimore" charted at #67, but both songs had lyrics that were written for them. Finally, "Good Morning Starshine" from Galt MacDermot's Hair, charted at #87.
Bunnell and Seol left the band in 1968 and original "Incense and Peppermints" drummer, Gene Gunnels, rejoined along with new lead singer, Jim Pitman. In 1969, Pitman left, and was replaced by Paul Marshall, who remained with the group until they disbanded in 1971. For a short time Jeremy Levine, after his departure from The Seeds, briefly replaced Lee Freeman on rhythm guitar during the summer of 1968. Although the group followed up with more LPs in 1968 (The World In A Sea Shell, featuring two songs Carole King was hired to write by the band's producer) and 1969 (Good Morning Starshine), the band had begun to fall apart and their audience had mostly disappeared. The group managed to keep performing in various forms until 1971.
Among the Strawberry Alarm Clock's television appearances were American Bandstand, Happening '68, The Steve Allen Show, and the first episode of Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In. Drummer Randy Seol made an appearance as one of three eligible bachelors on The Dating Game and was chosen by the girl. SAC also made two notable appearances in films; firstly in the 1968 Jack Nicholson movie Psych-Out, where they played several songs, including "Incense and Peppermints", "Rainy Day Mushroom Pillow", "The World's on Fire", and "The Pretty Song From Psych-Out". The band's second movie appearance was in 'Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, where they played "Incense and Peppermints", "I'm Comin' Home", and "Girl From The City". The latter two songs were written by Paul Marshall.
Ed King went on to join Lynyrd Skynyrd. Several members of Strawberry Alarm Clock reunited in the 1980s to perform on oldies concert tours. The first reunion occurred when guitarist Lee Freeman spotted a newspaper ad promoting an appearance by the Strawberry Alarm Clock at a Los Angeles music club. Original member Freeman knew nothing about this gig, and went to the club to investigate. There he discovered that the advertisement had actually been a plot by the club's owners to get the real band to reunite.
The original band lineup reunited to perform at the Virginia Theatre in Champaign, Illinois, on April 29, 2007. The event was part of the last day of Roger Ebert's ninth annual Overlooked Film Festival and was preceded by a screening of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. The band, including Steve Bartek as a full member on both lead guitar and flute, went on to play several other gigs in 2007. In 2010, Bartek cut back on his activities in the band.
In January 2010, the Strawberry Alarm Clock started recording new material for the record label inaugrated by Billy Corgan. SAC keyboardist Mark Weitz said, "We’re picking up where we left off, but with a modern sound." The band also reworked some of its 1960s songs. On February 14, 2010, founding member Lee Freeman died, at the age of 60, from complications arising from cancer.
Their music also appeared on the soundtracks of Psych-Out and Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, the latter featuring two songs not on any previous albums and new lead singer Paul Marshall. The group also appears on a rare Decca Records LP with one side of songs by The Stawberry Alarm Clock and one side of songs by The Who.