Okay, it’s been a lonnnnng weekend of non-stop Michael Jackson articles, tributes, debates, speculation, and those damn helicopters over my house. But it’s time we take a moment to remember the other rock notable who passed away last Thursday as well. Sky Saxon of the Seeds.
No, he wasn’t the King of Pop but he was the King of the L.A. Garage Band and a kingdom is a kingdom, right? The Seeds had one big national hit in the mid 60s, “Pushin’ Too Hard”. But in L.A. they had several more including “Can’t Seem to Make You Mine” and “Mr. Farmer”.
I have to admit I loved this guy.
His music was a mix of hard rock, blues, peyote, and not sleeping for several weeks. The Seeds use of a keyboard is I’m sure what influenced the Doors to employ one on “Light My Fire”. (Listen to me, big rock historian using words like “influenced” and “employ”). From the Seeds beget The Doors, the Byrds, Love, The Strawberry Alarm Clock, Electric Prunes, the Leaves, Count Five, the Grassroots – pretty much every group coming out of Los Angeles except Gary Lewis & the Playboys.
The Seeds were one of the first bands to experiment with psychedelic rock. Growing up in the San Fernando Valley we had a radio station in Burbank, KBLA (with a signal worse than your Wifi router) that would play album cuts. All the really cool kids listened to that. Any song longer than three minutes was considered “far out”. There were also “mind blowing” songs but those had to be over four minutes. One of the KBLA staples was “Up In Her Room” by the Seeds. It lasted a staggering 14:45! With lyrics like “Up in her room/I smell incense burn/Up in her room/I sure did learn” we impressionable teenagers got the crazy idea this song might be about drugs. With other lyrics like “Sha la la/Sha la la/Sha la la/Sha la la” that repeated for four minutes we pretty much confirmed it. Meanwhile, the mainstream stations were playing “Everybody Loves a Clown” by… Gary Lewis & the Playboys.
Sky and his group were a local hit just when every channel had a TV dance show. Once a week they’d show up on THE LLOYD THAXTON SHOW, NINTH STREET WEST, SHIVAREE, SHEBANG, or HOLLYWOOD A-GO GO. Sky had a unique stage presence. He was the first performer I can remember who always appeared completely stoned. You’d swear he had no idea where he was. I’d watch in utter fascination. Other rock historians have compared him to Mick Jagger on stage. Huh? Maybe Mick Jagger after shock treatments. But Sky’s deadpan disinterested fog persona made him stand out. He was one of my favorites.
Like the other king, Sky’s life was shrouded in bizarreness and intrigue. Supposedly, the Seeds once guested on the sitcom THE MOTHERS-IN-LAW playing a band called The Warts. They did "Pushin' Too Hard" and "Some Enchanted Evening". Later, Sky dropped out and joined the Yohowha religious cult. The sect broke up when their divine leader Father Yod died in a hang gliding accident. Sky continued to make music, recently had moved to Austin, Texas and was planning a tour with other flower power refugees at the time of his death. Sky was in his mid 60s. Nobody really knows.
He was a character. An influence on many (there’s that word again). A terrific musician. And according to those who knew him, a wonderful person with a gentle soul.
Here’s a video of Sky and the Seeds on SHEBANG, hosted by Casey Kasem. I hadn’t seen him perform in years and happily, he did not disappoint. Pay particular attention to his guitar playing.
Sky Saxon, you will be missed. I only wish you were missed by more.