While Roky Erickson is enjoying some rightly deserved revitalization in the wake of the 2005 career spanning documentary You're Gonna Miss Me, playing to capacity crowds at London's Royal Festival Hall and reportedly working with ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons on a new record, another 60s psychedelic pioneer has yet to enjoy such renewed fame.
Sky Saxon's contributions to garage rock and psychedelia are arguably just as important and influential as his Texas counterpart, and his band The Seeds produced some great albums from the psychedelic era. Singles such as "Can’t Seem to Make You Mine", "Mr. Farmer" and the classic "Pushin’ Too Hard" combined garage punk with a slightly off kilter and at times almost childlike sound that distinguished them from the typical 1966 fare. Keyboardist Daryl Hooper played a huge role in creating their unique sound as well, which favored the use of organ over an electric bass, which would be part of the formula that would propel another L.A. act--The Doors--up the charts during the same time period.
Much of this period of The Seeds career has been well documented. However, not much attention has been given to Saxon's post-Seeds career, including his time in the Ya Ho Wha 13 music collective during the 70s, most likely due to the absence of a cohesive story line. The Ya Ho Wha 13 have garnered considerable interest as of late and are now regarded by some as the greatest American psychedelic band that just so happened to go virtually unacknowledged during their time. I suppose stranger things have happened.
For those interested in the Father Yod story, you could check out this informative site here or this excellent interview here or go whole hog, no, sorry whole vegetable and dive right into the massive 13 disc document of the entire Ya Ho Wha recorded output from the Japanese label Captain Tripp. It's not entirely clear which of these recordings Sky Saxon appears on but he did lead the Ya Ho Wha 13 on the album Golden Sunrise after leader Father Yod passed away following a hang gliding accident. There is also a book and a DVD documentary on the 140+ member family, which looks interesting, to say the least.
This is the period that found Sky adding "Sunlight" to his name, but it's just one more chapter in the career of Richard Marsh, which began in the early 60s. He continued recording throughout the 80s and 90s, and recently released a new record offering fans distribution rights for a select number of CDs, so long as they create the artwork, and promise NOT to use jewel cases. I’m down with that.
The paisley underground of the 80s saw Sky emerge on the L.A. scene once again and recording with some of the mainstay groups of the time such as The Dream Syndicate, The Church, The Three O'Clock, The Rain Parade and The Plimsouls. He recorded a live album with members of Redd Kross and The Primates for the Voxx label called Private Party. One of my all time favorite psychedelic tracks by any artist has to be "The Flower Lady and Her Assistant" from the 1967 LP Future (which I remember made Rick Rubin’s top 10 list years ago) and here is covered by the band with plenty of overdriven guitars and Sky's impassioned vocals. It takes just three lines before he starts improvising and singing about the grim reaper and something or other that’s in 126 countries. "I smell the perfuuuahhhhoooohhh...." Yeah.
Masters of Psychedelia released on New Rose in 1985 seems to be from sessions dating from an earlier period, but there's just not much information available on this record. "Silver Leaves" is the standout track for me, even though I freely admit that I'm not sure exactly what he's singing about. But that doesn't stop it from being a great slice psychedelia. Listen and see if silver leaves are falling down where you live.
And hey, how about a Sky Sunlight Saxon documentary already?