ALMOST THERE | ISSUE SIX
Keep your mind open
A juicy slice of sixties psychedelia.
No. 2 The New Tweedy Brothers, ‘I Can See It.’
I’ve often wondered what determines the success or failure of a creative endeavour, be it art, music, writing or whatever. History shows us that originality and talent are not always necessary to bring fame and fortune, and when they are present, not always enough. The story of one of sixties psychedelia’s great ‘forgotten’ bands illustrates this all too clearly.
The New Tweedy Brothers were a four piece: Fred Lackaff (vocals) his brother Danny (drums) Steve Ekman (lead guitar) and Dennis “Phang” Fagaly (bass) who got together in 1965 or 1966, depending on your sources. They hailed from Portland, Oregon, but quickly moved down to San Francisco, the happening place for hippy counter-culture at the time. It didn’t take them long to make an impact and they were soon supporting local legends such as the Grateful Dead and Big Brother and the Holding Company.
For a year or so their career progessed steadily, which allowed them to bring out their self-titled album in 1968, yet for a number of reasons they were not able to build on this initial promise and faded from the scene. The fact that they weren’t signed by one of the majors didn’t help, denying them the kind of exposure enjoyed by their more illustrious contemporaries. I’ve never heard of Ridon Records, but I reckon they must have been a pretty small outfit because Fred Lackaff designed the album cover and it was the band who assembled the sleeves!
It was a pity about that album cover. Not that it wasn’t cool and highly original, because it was: a die cut, triple gate-folded, foil-finished hexagon, presumably meant to represent an acid sugar cube; it’s just that the unusual shape brought practical problems with it, the main one being that it wouldn’t fit on the shelves of the few record shops that stocked it (record distribution also seems to have been carried out by the band). The result was the album was
kept behind the counter, which meant a casual browser could never come across it by chance. To make matters worse, just as the band ordered another run of sleeves for a re-issue of the record later that year, the pressing plant responsible burnt down taking all the sleeves with it! Perhaps not surprisingly the band split up shortly afterwards, having failed to achieve the breakthrough their originality deserved.
I Can See It is, for me, the stand-out track on the album and would have made a great single. Who knows what might have been if the band’d had a little more luck?
THE NEW TWEEDY BROS!
A battered copy of the ultra rare original album
Click on the Dansette to listen to
I Can See It