Friday, November 6, 2009

The Lemon Pipers and the Advent of the Rock Guitar Band

Originally posted on January 25, 2008

The later mid-sixties established electric guitars and basses as absolute components of the advanced rock bands. Keyboards were considerably diminished in importance, with the exception of bands like the Doors or Vanilla Fudge. Of course it was the influence of the Beatles that brought this phenomenon into play. Countless neighborhood bands sprang up, each trying to find a way into the glory and musical heights of the successful bands. With the Yardbirds and Jeff Beck, and later, Cream, the lead guitarist as virtuoso and kind of god developed and from that burgeoned psychedelic jam music and ultimately metal. There was much music in the air, some that today we might reject as dated. Nevertheless it was a time when people awakened to the idea that rock could be a serious music.

At the beginning of this heady time a number of rock groups charted with singles yet could not sustain themselves as an “album” band. It was a transition period where AM top forty was still the main component of success; the FM “underground” type stations were to have nascent beginnings, brought on in part by the extended forms, concepts and contents that a three-minute single could not contain. But they were not really there yet. In the midst of the early phase of this emerged a band called the Lemon Pipers. They had a big hit in “Green Tambourine” but did not manage to sustain the momentum. It is interesting to listen to a compilation of their Golden Classics (Collectibles) to hear them struggle to transform into a serious band. There are obscure lyrics here and there, and a kind of instrumental earnestness that pulled them in a direction of a journey that ultimately they were not to complete. Too bad. The compilation has its moments. It’s probably only for the die-hard historian of the period or for nostalgic hipsters, though.

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