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Why Is This Still Here? The Common People

February 28, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments

CommonPeople

by David Morales

The Common People – Of The People/By The People/For The People From
1969, Capitol Records

Go down Center Street in Baldwin Park, California on any Friday in the late ’60s. Just as the sun is going down you will see a row of motorcycles perfectly lined up on the sidewalk in front of a place known as Common Land. Inside, under the black lights, Hell’s Angels and local kids hangout, smoke weed, and dig the West Coast moody, late night, psych sounds of The Common People. Handsome and charismatic front man Denny Robinett leads the group with guitar, vocals, and his beautifully lonesome psychedelic compositions.

The group released two insanely rare singles that were played quite regularly by radio disk jockey Wolfman Jack. The singles caught the attention of Seeds and Lollipop Shoppe manager, Sir Tim Hudson. He was so taken by their music that he became their manager and soon got them a $75,000 contract with Capitol Records. Hudson had a vision to incorporate strings into their sound so he hired the legendary David Axelrod to arrange them. However, on the day that they were to begin, Axelrod’s wife got into a serious accident and Axelrod had to step away almost completely from the project.

Contrary to popular belief, Axelrod did not arrange any material on the album, simply signing off on the work after completion. The conducting and arranging was left to Sid Sharp who had previously worked on the Pet Sounds sessions with Brian Wilson. The band had completed 40 songs and it was left up to Hudson to choose the songs that would go on the album. Here’s hoping Capitol still has those remaining tracks somewhere.

Tragedy seemed to hang over the group from the beginning. The brooding vibe of the album can certainly be contributed not only to Axelrod’s wife’s accident but also more to the death of a friend of keyboard player William Fausto, who was killed right in front of him. The opening track “Soon There’ll Be Thunder” is a lovely, slow, soaring ballad that conveys the somber mood of the musicians. The string plucking of the track is pure genius. The following track “I Have Been Alone” has a great simple reverb guitar part and the strings in the chorus complements Denny’s emotion perfectly. The swirling dizzying strings on the epic “Those Who Love” is the epitome of psychedelia meets classical. Lee Hazelwood wishes he had written these tracks.

For the rest of the album the strings take sort of a back seat to more guitar- and keyboard-driven songs that are equally amazing. “Go Your Way” is an excellent hippie biker jam. My favorite track from the album is the A-side closer, “Take From You.” A funky bass line and a couple guitar slashes burst into a nice groove in this song, and there’s a little chord change that makes my heart sing. The vocals come in and make it even better, and the chord change is even further accentuated with a little drum roll and quick crash hits. I never want it to end.

Other great tracks are “Feeling” and “Land Of A Day.” A couple of the later tracks even have some unexpected horns. This album is worth buying even if the rest was of the album were made up of goofy tracks like the silly B-side opener, “They Didn’t Even Go to the Funeral.”

Original copies of this gem are very hard to come by which leads me to believe that it wasn’t made widely available to begin with. This may also explain why it wasn’t a commercial success. The group faded away soon after the release. Since this album was rediscovered, every effort has been made to try and locate the original members, to no avail. This only adds to their almost mythical image among fans. It seems one day they jumped on their bikes and rode off into that infinitely warm West Coast sunset, never to be seen again.

Recommended for fans of: The New Dawn, Lee Hazelwood, and David Axelrod.

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