Yesterday’s Obsession, "The Phycle"
A heavy-handed organ chugging along with soft vocals and some really interesting swirling guitars, "The Phycle" is a true psychedelic work of audible art from Houston. Released in 1966, this single 45 stands as the solitary release by yet another one of Huey P. Meaux’s mystery groups.
From the sheer quality of the song, as well as B-side "Complicated Mind," it’s hard to imagine these guys didn’t record more, or that they didn’t play in other bands as well. They most likely did, but any record of who the band members actually were seems gone with the wind or filed away a la the Ark of the Covenant in Raiders of the Lost Ark.
It was clear, though, that Meaux had some hope for these boys; Pacemaker was his flagship and most recognizable label. B.J. Thomas, Freddy Fender and Gloria Edwards were all regulars; even Roy Head had a couple of Pacemaker releases. Both sides were recorded at Houston’s Gold Star Studios (now Sugar Hill), the subject of Dr. Roger Wood’s next book. Maybe he can solve this psychedelic puzzle.
The Liberty Bell, "Look for Tomorrow"
Wait a minute, garage rock on the Back Beat label?!? Yes indeed, Back Beat was Houston’s most notable soul/blues sister label of Duke, and responsible for the major output of artists like Carl Carlton, Joe Hinton and O.V. Wright, not to mention Roy Head’s "Treat her Right." But Back Beat also embraced the sound of fuzz guitars for a brief moment.
The story goes that Back Beat owner Don Robey thought Liberty Bell singer Chris Gernoitis was one of the best he’s ever heard and signed the group. LB recorded two 45s for Back Beat, both with Gernoitis, former singer of legendary garage group Zakary Thaks.
Before Gernotics joined, Liberty Bell released three 45s on Corpus Christi-based Cee-Bee Records with original singer Ronnie Tanner. None of these releases disappoint either, including a cover of the Yardbirds' "The Nazz Are Blue." Technically, Liberty Bell isn’t from Houston - Corpus, but since they were on Back Beat, I figure they get a pass.
The Lavender Hour, "Hang Loose"
This was the first release by these kids, on their own Steffek label. The A-side, the much poppier "I’m Sorry," was so well-liked locally that Huey P. Meaux (him again) soon licensed the song for release on his Tribe label, and it climbed all the way to No. 65 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1967.
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"Hang Loose," as the B-side, has always been neglected and thus deserves some attention. Some garage purists may make some ballyhoo over this undeniably Beatles-inspired track being posted in such fuzzy company, but it's a nice complement to Houston’s more ruffian releases.
For those searching for more of a ruckus, seek out Lavender Hour’s second release, also on Steffek, "So Sophisticated." It's one of the nastiest punk numbers to ever come out of Houston. After the group’s third and final release, a cover of "Ain’t Too Proud to Beg," it dissolved, but reappeared soon thereafter, sans lead guitarist Ronnie Swonke, as the Clique.
The Clique recorded a killer version of the Thirteenth Floor Elevators' "Splash 1," released on the Cinema, Scepter and Wand labels. You just might see that and "So Sophisticated" on this blog in the future. - Brett Koshkin