of cabbages and kings, of arks and attics – the pseudo-psychedelic sound of chad & jeremy 1967-1968 (part 2)

Es­ti­mated reading time is 8 min­utes.

THIS IS THE SECOND of five ar­ti­cles de­voted to the trio of al­bums and their re­lated sin­gles that Chad & Je­remy re­leased in 1967-1968. OF CABBAGES AND KINGS and THE ARK and the sound­track to 3 IN THE ATTIC re­flect the more ‘pop’-oriented psy­che­deli­cism of the Eng­lish mu­si­cians at the time and have long been held in a bit of con­tempt by older afi­cionados and col­lec­tors of Six­ties psych. Too bad, as they are al­most uni­formly fine recordings!

By 1967, Chad Stuart had apparently—and I don’t know, and I don’t as­sume, hence the qualifier—been ex­pe­ri­enced (you know, done acid). Like so many pop mu­si­cians of the time who dis­cov­ered psy­che­delics, his ap­pear­ance lifestyle music am­bi­tions phi­los­ophy un­der­went a rather star­tling and col­orful metamorphosis.

Je­remy was the more con­ser­v­a­tive (level-headed?) of the two, with one foot in the the world of pop music, the other heading to­wards the “le­git­i­macy” of the the­ater. For the most part, it was Stuart’s mu­sical and extra-musical in­ter­ests and pro­cliv­i­ties that made the group of more than passing in­terest in the late ’60s.

ChadJ Cabbages CS

Thank Grommett for Gary Usher

In 1967, Co­lumbia as­signed one of their hottest staff pro­ducers, Gary Usher, to guide the next Chad & Je­remy ses­sions. Usher had just as­sisted the Byrds in pro­ducing one of the year’s finest al­bums, YOUNGER THAN YESTERDAY, a best-seller fea­turing a pair of Top 30 hits.

He had also pro­duced THE PEANUT BUTTER CONSPIRACY IS SPREADING and GENE CLARK WITH THE GOSDIN BROTHERS, fine al­bums that re­fused to sell to anyone but the artists’ family and friends—almost in­stan­ta­neous cut-outs.

Usher had no qualms about spending Columbia’s money on studio time and ses­sion mu­si­cians and, as the company’s hot young A&R man, he could get away with it! So he in­dulged Chad’s needs for more and more ex­trav­a­gance. Out of all this was to come the pair’s two most remarkable—if far and away least com­mer­cially successful—albums.

ChadJ Ark CS

Of shoes and ships and sealing-wax

Chad & Jeremy’s sixth album, OF CABBAGES AND KINGS (Columba CL-2671, mono, and CS-9471, stereo) was ap­par­ently is­sued only in the US. It was both a crit­ical and com­mer­cial dis­aster and was dis­missed from “mean­ingful” con­ver­sa­tion by se­rious rock and pop music fans for decades afterwards.

The title, at least, was a nod in the right di­rec­tion: it is taken from one of the fav­erave books of the hip­pies and heads of the ’60s, Lewis Carroll’s Through The Looking-Glass And What Alice Found There (1872). It is the eleventh of eigh­teen verses in the non­sense poem “The Walrus And The Car­penter” and reads thusly:

The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“to talk of many things—
of shoes and ships and sealing-wax,
of cab­bages and kings.
And why the sea is boiling hot,
and whether pigs have wings.”

ChadJ Attic ST

The pseudo-psychedelic cover artwork

The album was clearly pack­aged as a bit of psy­che­delia, with an in­cred­ibly col­orful and at­trac­tive (if kitschy) photo of the lads in the req­ui­site gear of a hip Six­ties mu­si­cian: robes, soft leather half-boots, beads, and a tabla. They are set against a painted back­drop worthy of The Fool (Dutch artists and de­signers Simon Posthuma and Mar­ijke Koger)!

While it has be­come common among younger and newer col­lec­tors to marvel at the cover art­work, for decades it was con­sid­ered many things, most of them less than com­pli­men­tary. Al­most any­thing can be in­ferred into its im­agery: cool; self-consciously hip; weekend hip­pies; ap­pear­ance over sub­stance; foolish; hip wannabes.

The lysergic-pop songs lyrics

Re­leased in late Sep­tember 1967, OF CABBAGES AND KINGS was a mar­velous at­tempt at con­tem­po­rary pop music in­fused with a sense of psy­che­delia. Side one suc­ceeded mar­velously with six songs—one by Stuart, four by Clyde, and one by soon-to-be super-producer/manager James William Guercio—that em­braced what was hap­pening at the mo­ment while still re­taining most of the pair’s rec­og­niz­able sound.

“Je­remy and I were both fed up with being told what to do and what to record so we struck out on our own. For­tu­nately for us, Gary Usher was a sym­pa­thetic pro­ducer and hap­pily came along for the ride. I think that the album came closer to a co­he­sive­ness which had eluded us for so long.

Jeremy’s song­writing was an im­por­tant part of all this, and the album cer­tainly dis­plays a promising syn­ergy be­tween Jeremy’s songs and my ar­ranging. In ret­ro­spect, I had a lot to learn; there’s some rather over-the-top bits here and there!” (Chad Stuart)

At least three of these tracks were worthy for A-side con­sid­er­a­tion: Stuart’s Rest In Peace, Clyde’s The Gentle Cold Of Dawn, and Guercio’s I’ll Get Around To It When And If I Can. Co­lumbia se­lected Family Way / Rest In Peace as the album’s first single (4-44131), and (ap­par­ently) re­leased it in May 1967.

It sold so few copies that it was an in­stant rarity. In fact, it is so rare that its very ex­is­tence has been un­known out­side of a handful of C&J col­lec­tors since its release! 

Oddly, Rest In Peace was is­sued on a single again in 1968, this time as the B-side to the non-LP Sister Marie (Co­lumbia 4-44525; see below).

Writing for All­Music, Mark Deming calls the record­ings “lushly or­ches­trated, self-consciously arty pop tunes,” which is ac­cu­rate and avoids as­signing it the psy­che­delic tag. He continues:

“If the songs are often too wordy for their own good, they con­firm that Stuart and Clyde were gifted song­writers who could work out­side the stan­dard pop frame­work of the day, and Stuart (who or­ches­trated the album) was a tal­ented and imag­i­na­tive arranger who gives the ma­te­rial a sound that’s both rich and in­ti­mate.” (All­Music)

The second side is a very dif­ferent story: Stuart and Clyde’s at­tempt at “ex­per­i­mental” music was a side­long “suite” in five parts. It in­cluded music, spoken word parts, and spe­cial sound ef­fects cour­tesy of the fledg­ling Fire­sign The­ater. Am­bi­tious, ya—successful, nyet. Parts of it were em­bar­rassing then and the whole she­bang has aged ei­ther poorly or hilariously—your choice.

The Progress Suite is a wildly pre­ten­tious five-part tone poem clut­tered with sound ef­fects and voice-overs that charts the rise and fall of the modern age (or some­thing like that). The trouble with the second half is that it clearly con­firms [that] Chad & Je­remy had the talent and the ability to create some­thing more am­bi­tious than A Summer Song or Yesterday’s Gone, but no one had the sense to rein them in once the album began to teeter on the edge of col­lapse. Shut this off at the halfway point and you might think it’s a mas­ter­piece.(All­Music)

I can find no men­tion of when the ses­sions for this album took place. To have been re­leased in late Sep­tember would nor­mally mean that the post-production work, over­dub­bing, mas­tering, etc., had been com­pleted ap­prox­i­mately thirty days prior. So then, ses­sions had to have ended some­time in Au­gust. So many writers—professional and amateur—harp on this album as a knee-jerk re­ac­tion to SGT. PEPPER, but the ses­sions had to have begun prior to the re­lease of that album in June 1967.

Of course, what the boys set out to do when they en­tered the studio (a col­lec­tion of well-written but es­sen­tially straight, con­tem­po­rary pop songs?) and what they emerged with months later in the wake of SGT. PEPPER (a hodge­podge of faux psy­che­delic flour­ishes and ef­fects added by their new pro­ducer that al­tered some as­pects of the in­tent of the orig­inal music?) may be two dif­ferent things.

Known for not being Peter & Gordon

While re­searching this piece, I found an ar­ticle ti­tled “Chad & Je­remy & LSD” by Kim Cooper orig­i­nally pub­lished in Scram mag­a­zine #9 (“a journal of un­pop­ular cul­ture”). Cooper sees Stuart and Clyde’s “per­verse world-view” ex­pressed through the songs on OF CABBAGES AND KINGS. Anyway, I en­joyed her over­whelm­ingly pos­i­tive re­view so much that I thought I would allow her the last crit­ical word on the record here on my blog . . .

“You can quibble all you want about pre­cisely when the psy­che­delic era set its roots, but in pop music it’s clear that the apex of con­vul­sive flour­ishing was 1967. Every artist with half an ounce of media savvy recorded a psy­che­delic song or album, and amongst the drip­ping ly­sergic swirls of over­wrought cover art, idiotically-employed tape ef­fects, [and] in­ter­minable ‘far out’ phrase­ology there were some re­mark­able surprises.

Amongst those who stepped up to ea­gerly take the hal­lu­cino­genic host—or at least give the con­vincing im­pres­sion that they had—were Chad Stuart and Je­remy Clyde, pre­vi­ously best known for not being Peter & Gordon.

OF CABBAGES AND KINGS is a mas­ter­piece of high-concept psych-pop, richly-orchestrated, un­fail­ingly melodic, gor­geously pro­duced, and brim­ming with mul­tiple layers of real meaning. If there was any jus­tice in the world, then never again would Chad & Je­remy [be] mis­taken for Peter & Gordon.

In Chad & Jeremy’s psy­che­delic world, it’s the dark, square trap of British middle class life that’s ob­served with a rapier eye, dipped in bile and road grit and laid down on mag­netic tape under Cal­i­fornia skies.

In a stroke of for­tune, home­grown ge­nius [Gary] Usher was se­lected to forge iri­des­cent nets of sound to con­tain their cruel ru­mi­na­tions. What might have seemed merely bitter in other sur­round­ings be­comes glo­rious under Usher’s um­brella. [He] trotted out all the tricks for this pair—even though the three didn’t par­tic­u­larly get along.

Usher thought their songs un­com­mer­cial in­dul­gences, and was irked by their re­jec­tion of the ex­quisite My World Fell Down, which he and Curt Boettcher would soon record as Sagit­tarius. Per­sonal feel­ings aside, OF CABBAGES AND KINGS is one of Usher’s finest productions.”

Painted Dayglow Smile

Fi­nally, in 2002, OF CABBAGES AND KINGS was first is­sued as a com­pact disc by Sun­dazed. This CD had six bonus tracks, in­cluding Sister Marie and the single ver­sion of Painted Day­glow Smile. In 2009, it was reis­sued by M.I.L. Mul­ti­media with just the orig­inal eleven-track line-up.In 2012, it was again reis­sued, this time by Rev-Ola, which du­pli­cates the track line-up of the Sun­dazed CD with the six bonus tracks.

Notify of
Rate this article:
Please rate this article with your comment.
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Great ar­ticle!

I re­cently found a pris­tine orig­inal copy of this col­orful pop oddity and am lis­tening to it now. The first thing one no­tices is how good it sounds and how well put to­gether and arranged the album as a whole is.

Gary Usher was a great pro­ducer as well as songwriter.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x