Part 23: History of "Psychotic Reaction"

"Memories of nearly 50 years in the Biz"

Part 23: History of "Psychotic Reaction"

Postby Brian Lord » Fri Mar 05, 2010 9:22 am

Brian Lord's Radio Stories

How to make a million seller in the Garage,
the history of "Psychotic Reaction".

When a new song gets radio play and chart exposure -- goes to the top five in Billboard magazine, for example, a lot of things are said, about the song, the artist or artists and how it all came together. Many stories. But as time passes and memory fades these stories change and half of them turn into bull-shit. Well Jack, that's the music business which is one of the most berserk, crazy brands of culture ever to have seated itself near the top of the entertainment pole since Ragtime in the early 20th Century and even back to Minstrelsy in the 1800's. Pop music today is hard to define but it came from the European composers of classical ballads mixed with Soul and Blues from the Mississippi Delta. The latter gave birth to Rock 'n' Roll which I lived off of for quite a few years.

Following is a true story, no names have been changed for any reason, (I don't do name changes) and no matter what you've read, these are the facts as they came down in the sixties. It sounds as if I'm going to expose some huge dramatic Dilemma which has fooled the world for years and years but it's really only the story of a Garage Band. The Garage was mine. I don't get much credit for any of this today. It happened so long ago that we who were vibrant, young and adventurous in that miraculous decade are now either dead or at least should refrain from making too many long range plans.

Count Five (as in Jefferson Airplane waste the "The"), was Kenny Ellner, Roy Chaney, John Byrne, Butch Atkinson and Moose Michalski. John (Sean) was from the UK, the rest were Americans and they all lived in the town of San Jose when I met them. I had taken a 15 month sabbatical from K/Men and joined William F. Williams, one of the ex-K/Men in Southern California to be his Music Director at station KLIV in San Jose, 35 miles south of San Francisco, a five station market. K/Men had lost some of it's luster, the DJ's were leaving. Huckleberry, (Chuck Clemans) our 'Breakfast' DJ, made a succinct and truthful observation. "God doesn't live here anymore".

Many of those who read this will remember sock hops. You may not want to remember very hard but they were a thing of reality despite being gravestone boring. Usually they took place in church halls, or places that looked like church halls -- gymnasiums with a touch of reverence. DJ's played the music off 45s and LP's and mumbled a few words now and then; maybe ran a couple of contests, whatever -- there was a certain sameness to all of them. I was asked to do a hop, a Saturday night dance, at a hall of some sort about ten miles north of San Jose up the Peninsula at Santa Clara and it would be easy because who-ever threw this party had hired a live band which made my job more dramatic but with a lot less work.

The band, Count Five -- consisting of two guys in senior year at High School while three others worked at jobs befitting 19 year old's -- were good. I enjoyed listening to them. They had written a couple of their own tunes and did covers of all the big groups of the day, Beatles, Stones, Sonny & Cher, attempted a bit of Hendrix, and the crowd liked them. We fell into a groove as they said in those days meaning we worked well together, MC and band. I invited them down to the radio station on the following Monday afternoon and did a 15 minute interview on the air. Sadly they had no record to play -- something had to be done. My home had a garage that had been converted into a kind of carpeted den a couple of hundred feet square. The acoustics weren't bad so I said they could practice there a coupla times a week.

This was before the days of smoke, coke, 'cid, brain-benders, even booze which were used to "open the mind" but we were pretty square I guess. It was 1966 and there was a fair bit of weed around by then but for some reason or other I didn't get into it and neither did Count Five.

They had costumes. Something you'd expect a vampire to wear when he wanted to be presentable; you know -- capes etc. This was a long time before "True Blood" or "Twilight". They got by with a Count Dracula image and long hair except for Kenny who's hair was wiry so he kept it short to avoid looking like a dork with a full-on, light brown afro. He wore a pageboy wig. As the evenings rolled on in my den/garage it became evident they had one good song but it needed help and I suggested starting with a guitar and building, adding another instrument ever few bars ending with the drums. The vocal came in 30 seconds after the start. They also used the Yardbird's trick of hitting the high-end frets on the lead Stratocaster which made a sound like poker cards on a bicycle wheel: click click click click. (Best I can do, music cannot be explained).

What we came up with was "Psychotic Reaction" which had more than a great beat to it, the words -- Byrne wrote it -- told the story of some guy who went into psychosis over the intense love he had for his girlfriend. Pretty much normal for that era. They got the music down and all that was left was to find some publishing company to record it. I started with a small label which had a group called The Leaves who was riding the Bay-area charts at the time. No Thank You. I called Lex De Azevedo, whom I had met at Capitol Records and he turned us down, however he was complimentary. Finally I phoned Irwin Zucker and asked for help.

Irwin Zucker was a well-know promotion man. He promoted independent records in Los Angeles. Fate intervened. It so happened that Irwin had just started a record label called Double Shot which was, of course, looking for talent, especially new talent and he told me "Brian, if you'll chart the thing for me up there at KLIV, I'll record the group". Standard terms, three percent of the profit to the group and Irwin kept the publishing rights. In 1966 if you were Glum Fudget and made a record, and the record sold one million copies you made 30,000 dollars. The aim was to get your own publishing rights (see the Ray Charles Movie to learn more on this subject). We were in no position to demand. We took it.

The studio Irwin rented was the same one that Motown used when they recorded in LA and the finished product sounded like it. Within a week we all had copies of the 45RPM on the yellow Double Shot label and I played my copy on 3 to 6 'Drive' and that evening our DJ who ran a "Top Ten Tonight" feature between eight and nine PM pronounced the winner was Count Five's "Psychotic Reaction". I would suppose there was a certain hype involved because the band was from San Jose but who cared. It stayed at the top of Wayne's chart seemingly forever. Two weeks later a San Francisco radio music director called me, said he'd heard where I was involved with this group and could he get some copies. In a month it was a California hit, in two months it was a hit across the USA and Canada and had jumped over to the British charts.

I seem to remember it peaked at number two on Billboard, but I've read since that it got to number five on their Hot 100 -- this was before the 'Board printed a Top 200 -- and was around for a total of about four months. Then the LP came out with a bunch of junk on it but not before the boys had toured the USA opening for several groups, mainly other one-hit garage bands and spent their 10,000 dollars on motorcycles and college tuition.

I had really done nothing but arraigned the front few bars of the song and made my house available. These were clean kids, no dope, no girls hanging around, no smoking cigarettes, no clutter. I liked them all but my wife Sarah, about whom you may have read in previous issues of this column, escaped to LA after a week, honestly frightened that our little kids from her previous marriage would end up deaf.

Irwin Zucker, by way of compensation asked me to write the liner notes for the back of the LP. By this time I had migrated back to K/Men as Program Director. I was talking one afternoon with John Peel (Ravencroft) our music man and he offered to write the notes for me for nothing. "Why sure, John" and what followed was a very well-written blurb -- however it was way over the head of anyone as straight as Irwin Zucker. Far too ambitious, affected, futuristic: the reaction from the head man at mighty Double Shot Records who sent me a check for 75 dollars and told me my liners were not what he had in mind. I guess I should have been happy that he even used my name, giving me credit for discovering the group. John was disgusted when he read Irwin's liner. So was I.

About six months after all this I met the boys again. They were in Los Angeles for their last gig and I met them in their hotel room. We had fun; John told me he and Kenny had conspired to write a song about love on a "Double Decker Bus" but unfortunately the tune bombed.

I have no idea where the term 'Garage Band' came from but I've since read that Count Five were the originals -- meaning my over sized and converted den/garage was the terms manger. The only thing of material value I received was a neatly framed gold record.

Next time: A spot in the Guinness book of world records -- the last of the 'thons'.

In case you haven't heard it in awhile, ....
Brian Lord
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Re: Part 23: History of "Psychotic Reaction"

Postby Glen Livingstone » Fri Mar 05, 2010 9:46 am

Holy S**t!

This is the best story yet Brian.

Thanks for the behind-the-scenes info on one of the garage-band classics of the 60s.

And yeah, the rest of the album sucked but "Pyschotic Reaction," that 3 minute long Yardbirds-inspired piece of dementia will live on forever.

Great job ... if that San Jose garage is still standing it should be turned into a shrine.
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Re: Part 23: History of "Psychotic Reaction"

Postby Steve Sanderson » Fri Mar 05, 2010 10:06 am

I agree with Pluto...100% !!!!
Awesome story!
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Re: Part 23: History of "Psychotic Reaction"

Postby CubbyCam » Fri Mar 05, 2010 11:17 am

Yup... another great story from Mr. Lord... and here's a YouTube video of the band, fresh out of Brian's garage. Great vintage video.
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Re: Part 23: History of "Psychotic Reaction"

Postby hagopian » Fri Mar 05, 2010 5:17 pm

Mel does it again.

Truly a classic.

"Garage Band History". I love it.

I also enjoyed playing the tune, whenever I could slide it into an oldies show.

Thanks, Mel.
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