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.




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

  1. 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.

    Reply
    • CAREY

      Thanks for the comment!

      Glad you enjoyed the article. It’s years- old and I mean to revamp it and make it a better read with better visuals.

      I agree that it sounds great! I used to shudder at listening to the secodn side, thinking it over-ly ambitious but I get a charge out of it now.

      And, yes, Gary Usher was a brillant producer and songwriter. My fave of his productuons are the Byrds’ Younger Than Yesterday and The Notorious Byrd Brothers.

      Keep on keepin’ on!

      NEAL

      Reply

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