RAGS TO RICHES IN THE NEW SEEDS DOCUMENTARY
By Harvey Kubernik
Pushin’ Too Hard, a long form documentary about seminal garage band The Seeds, directed by Neil Norman and produced by Alec Palao for the Crescendo Production Company, is scheduled for theatrical and DVD release later this year.
Norman has filmed and recorded all the original Seeds — drummer Rick Andridge, guitarist Jan Savage, Daryl Hooper, their keyboardist and singer/lyricist/ dancer Sky Saxon — from a variety of film, video and audio source tapes.
Also included are clips from interviews with Mark Weitz of the Strawberry Alarm Clock, Johnny Echols from Love, producer Kim Fowley, and Richard France, a roadie from their heyday.
Also taped were interviews with Sky’s brother Robert Marsh and sister Mary Ann Marsh, who revealed reminisced about growing up together in Salt Lake City, Utah, under his birth name, Richard Elvern Marsh.
“She saw it all,” says Norman. “She got to hang out at his house in Malibu. She got to see people go crazy over her brother and hear his records on the radio. She enjoyed it immensely. Early on he’d always have an entourage of girls. He was a magnetic sex symbol. She’s very childlike, fun and smart. Like Sky.”
Norman is currently wrapping up business and licensing activities which might include Seeds sixties television appearances from The Mothers-In-Law and American Bandstand, as well as potential clips “Mr. Farmer” and “Pushin’ Too Hard” from Where the Action Is and footage from Shebang!
Pushin’ Too Hard, will also integrate nearly 30 seconds of silent film from the Seeds’ set at the June 1967 Mt. Tamalpais Magic Mountain Music Festival. More recent footage of Sky Saxon touring Europe in the 21st century will be incorporated, coupled with comments from bass player, Rick Collins.
Neil Norman is working with a number of photographers who captured the band during its prime years, 1966-1969. Among the notable photogs are Henry Diltz, George Rodriguez, Ed Caraeff and Jeff Schwartz from the estate of Chuck Boyd. Pushin’ Too Hard will have many previously unseen photographic stills from Daryl Hooper’s personal archives along with band memorabilia, including The original GNP label domestic and foreign artwork.
The GNP (Gene Norman Presents) Seeds catalogue has entered into a distribution arrangement with Ace Records. Norman and GNP continue to sell product on the Seeds and other label artists on their website: crescendorecords.com
In the UK, Ace has made available the Seeds’ influential debut LP featuring unreleased songs, session outtakes and studio chatter. This makes no sense — their debut LP can’t contain unreleased songs! The epochal Web of Sound is due very shortly in a combined stereo and mono CD format. Palao has written extensive liner notes for these packages, which Feature never-before-seen photographs from the GNP archives.
Norman saw the band many times during the late ’60s, and attended many of their recording sessions in Hollywood, CA. The GNP label for nearly 45 years has owned the Seeds’ master recordings and publishes their songs under Neil Music Inc. “Named after me when I was in diapers,” Norman says. “The Seeds and GNP have always had a positive artist and label relationship.” “One of the reasons Seeds records connect with listeners/collectors is that they recording their music live in-studio. Occasionally they would add bassist Harvey Sharpe.
Licensing deals for Seeds material has included “Pushin’ Too Hard” in Air America, and “Mr. Farmer” in Almost Famous. Nike licensed “Pushin’ Too Hard” for a product campaign and “Can’t Seem to Make You Mine” touted Axe Men’s Cologne in a national TV spot.
“I’m doing this film because the Seeds are a classic rags to riches to rags story,” stresses Norman. “Sky Saxon was a brilliant performer visually and orally. And he was a very handsome and charismatic guy who made girls rip his clothes off on stage. Sky had some great concepts that are timeless and live forever. As my father Gene said, ‘Flowers die but music lives forever.’
“The Seeds were a real band,” Neil adds. “They were all irreplaceable. Daryl Hooper had a broad range of musical experiences from jazz, pop, standards, classical. He was a trained musician who played the saxophone, trumpet, guitar and keyboards. He teaches music today in Northern California.
“The lead guitarist, Jan Savage, was exciting and original. Played licks that came out of the blues, rock and surf. As my dad used to say, ‘He came up with really good lines.’ Like the solo in ‘Pushin’ Too Hard.’ Drummer Rick Andridge wasn’t like Ginger Baker, who was all over the place. Jan was just relentless and cranking on the beat. In those days they didn’t mike up the drum sets like they do today. Jan had to hit the hell out of the drums like a freight train. It would just build to a crescendo. “In concert Sky was an animated dancer. Even on the Jimmy Maddin-produced recording dates for the first album, you can hear Jimmy on tape yelling, ‘Quit dancing around so much!’ Movement was important to Sky in the studio and in front of people.
“Kim Fowley, who wrote ‘Fallin Off the Edge’ for the Seeds and also produced them, told me, ‘Sky was the one who conducted the electricity but all the other guys were super important. It was like a perfect puzzle.’
“I’ve seen it go from the hottest thing on the street, except for the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, to being yesterday’s has-beens. ‘We want Led Zeppelin!’ Where, ‘You’re passé and go get lost!’
“The Seeds were viewed as the one of the Godfathers of punk.
Their visibility has gone up and down over the years, like a Disney movie. Each generation discovers it. And, it’s timeless, so it works. They weren’t totally colored by that flower power aura. Which was great at first and then turned sour.
“The thing that is brilliant about Sky, and I’m talking about the Seeds’ recordings and his lyrics, he did with us, are the universal themes that can be transplanted and interchanged. It’s amazing. ‘No Escape’ can mean anything. I mean, I’ve heard three different stories from Sky himself over the decades about what ‘Pushin’ Too Hard’ was about. I’ve had it remembered as ‘You’re Pushin’ Too Hard’ to a girl. I’ve heard that it was a Sunset Strip commentary, like ‘For What It’s Worth. And, even, an observation about a business deal or musical situation,” enthuses Neil.
Norman is also a musician, record producer and surfer. He is a graduate of Buckley High School and attended UCLA’s Film School.
For five decades at the GNP record operation, Neil Norman has done it all, from the mailroom to the Presidency.. Gene Norman, a former Los Angeles DJ, television host, Crescendo Club owner, and label founder, holds an Emeritus position at the still very active at the 58-year-old company. Hundreds and hundreds of titles are still in print in their eclectic library.
“We do everything, except opera and rap,” says Neil. “My dad wanted to develop and build a record company like Columbia. A full-fledged label. So we did everything, from soundtracks to electronic music
The Seeds – 1966
A Web of Sound – 1966
Future – 1967
A Full Spoon of Seedy Blues
(as the Sky Saxon Blues Band) – 1967
Raw & Alive in Concert at Merlin’s Music Box – 1968
Fallin Off the Edge – 1977
Bad Part Of Town – 1982
Evil Hoodoo – 1988
Travel With Your Mind – 1993
Red Planet – 2004
Back to the Garden – 2008
Los Angeles native Harvey Kubernik is the Contributing Editor of Treats! Magazine. He’s been an active music journalist for 40 years and the author of 5 books, including “This Is Rebel Music” (2002) and “Hollywood Shack Job: Rock Music In Film and On Your Screen” (2004) published by the University of New Mexico Press.
In 2009 Kubernik wrote the critically acclaimed “Canyon of Dreams The Magic and the Music of Laurel Canyon” published by Sterling, a division of Barnes and Noble. In summer 2012, the title is now out in paperback edition.
With his brother Kenneth, he co-authored the highly regarded “A Perfect Haze: The Illustrated History of the Monterey International Pop Festival” published in 2011 by Santa Monica Press).
This decade, Harvey Kubernik penned the liner notes to the CD releases of Carole King’s “Tapestry,” Allen Ginsberg’s “Kaddish,” the Ramones’ “End of the Century” and the “Elvis Presley ’68 Comeback Special”).