Presenting…Lothar and the Hand People

 

LOTHAR AND THE HAND PEOPLE
PRESENTING…LOTHAR AND THE HAND PEOPLE(1968)

 

Lothar and the Hand People were a psychedelic rock band that got their start in Denver, Colorado in 1965. They relocated to New York City in 1966. They were arguably one of the first bands to start the genre of space rock and they were an influential band in the sense that they were considered the first band to tour and record with synthesisers, which paved the way for many other musicians to do the same.

Specifically, they pioneered the use of the theremin and the Moog modular synthesizer. These instruments gave Lothar and the Hand People a very different, and at times otherworldly sound that was not heard in rock music up until that time. The most interesting aspect of the theremin, is that it can be played without touching the instrument.

Theremin
Theremin

Lothar and the Hand Hand People have an interesting, if not weird story behind the band. They use a theremin that they called “Lothar” and the people in the band are referred to as the “Hand People.” The band’s music is wild, fun, and interesting, if not a bit strange. However, I found them to be innovative and influential, in a childish, adolescent sort of way.

The band’s first album, of only two that they recorded, is title “Presenting…Lothar and the Hand People.” The record is a bit hard to grasp on a first listen, and I wasn’t overly impressed. However, after subsequent listens, it grew on me, and my sense of an interest in all things strange but enjoyable.

The first song on the record was a funky cover of Manfred Mann’s song “Machines.” It is quirky and rather tough to immediately appreciate, but it becomes catchy after a few listens. It is a futuristic song about how machines will rule over people, put in a silly way that makes it seem as though it is aimed at being childish. Interesting, but weird.

The next song on the record, This Is It, is a smooth song with a nice flow to it, and the guitar solo in the middle has a nice country twangy feel. This is a nice contrast to the clunky, mechanical feel of the first song.

This May Be Goodbye sounds like the beginning of a 1970’s funk song, with the synthesizer intro. It is a good song, not on of the better one’s on the record though.

That’s Another Story is a entertaining song with the synthesizer in the background that sounds a bit like a soundtrack from an old west movie.

Kids Are Little People is just plain weird, but fun. At first listen, I almost skipped over to the next tune, but I gave it a chance. It comes across as playful and nerdy, and one has to wonder if these guys were really just a bunch of  crazy musicians, out to have a bit of fun. I think that is the correct assumption, they were not going to write any deep philosophical pinings here. Just good, psychedelic, trippy fun. A record full of fun fluff, but good fluff, in a world of madness that was representative in late sixties culture.

Ha (Ho) starts off with the theremin, then develops into a well written insightful piece that turns into a chorus of gibberish. Hence the name of the song. There is a nice psychedelic guitar solo in the middle. Strange, but entertaining.

Sex and Violence, a rambling piece about, well, sex and violence. Not a lot of lyrical content here, and the song is not dark and sleazy as the title suggests. Just a trippy psychedelic song with little to add to the world other than some weirdness.

Bye Bye Love is a cover of a 1957 song made famous by The Everly Brothers. A song that has been covered numerous times by many artists, this particular cover version is adequately recorded, if not with a bit of a silly feel to it, as is the way much of the record comes across.

Milkweed Love is trippy, psychedelic, if not a bit slow. Good song to relax in the sun to on the beach in 1968. Woody Woodpecker is hilarious. Sixties music performed for and by, a bunch of stoned out hippies and it is great. I really did come around a bit too late to appreciate this at the time!

It Comes On Anyhow is a trip, literally. Fun, weird, psychedelic. Paul, In Love finishes out the record with the theremin making one last stand on the record. Psychedelic ending to a truly psychedelic musical voyage.

Presenting…Lothar and the Hand People may have been obscure, and never really found much commercial success, but they sure were innovative. And weird. And trippy. And all sixties! The record is a good attempt at something weird and wonderful. It succeeded on both counts, and though not one of my favorites from the psychedelic era, they sure did make an impression on me. I’m just not sure what the heck it is. Worth a listen, for sure.

Rating: B

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Silver Apples

SILVER APPLES(1968)

 

Silver Apples was a psychedelic, electronic music band from New York City. There were only two members in the band, Simeon(Simeon Oliver Coxe III) and Danny Taylor. Simeon played on a synthesizer that he named, oddly enough, The Simeon. Danny Taylor played drums.

Silver Apples are credited with influencing experimental electronic music, as well as a genre referred to as krautrock. They also influenced underground dance music and indie rock that were popular in the 1990’s.

Their music was considered minimalistic due to the fact that used a very limited amount of musical instruments and materials. There sound was highly experimental for the time, consisting of basically Danny Taylor playing drum parts, and Simeon playing synthesizer. The sound was that of a pulsing, hypnotic synthesizer and drum beat and lyrics.

As with many albums, it took me some time to get used to, and I wasn’t exactly impressed on first listen. But after subsequent listen throughs, I came to appreciate it’s pulsating beats and great drumwork. The singing I’d rate rather low, but the musicality makes up for it.

The self titled debut was released in 1968, and didn’t cause much of a stir or attention. It was a highly innovative and influential record, but in 1968, because of it’s obscure sound and experimentation, it was basically overlooked. To listen to it today, it sounds ahead of it’s time for the era in which it was released.

The first song on the record is titled Oscillations, and it is an obscure, but highly interesting start. Either it is shut down and thought of as junk to be shunned, or, if stuck with and continued to be listened too, can become mesmerizing. The choice is up to the listener. I’m glad I gave it a chance.

The next song on the record is Seagreen Serenades, a piece that is opened with a groovy drum track that is repeated over and over again throughout. There is a nice middle which seems to be a flute, however I am pretty sure it is Simeon doing his thing on his homemade synthesizer. As with much of the material, it has a driving mesmerizing beat, which I can imagine would be enhanced with a bit of alcohol, are LSD. It was the sixties, after all.

Lovefingers is the next song, with the drum intro again, and synthesized bleeps and drones, and lyrics that you have to really listen intently to to get the jist. Vocals were not the strong point on the record. It is one of the best songs on the record in my opinion.

Dancing Gods is especially interesting to me, because first and foremost, the drumming in the song sounds like a native american rain dance, or maybe a war dance. This hard driving, continuous beat is a sound that I’ve always been drawn to.

Although it is not always easy to understand, the lyrics are beautiful, and can be looked up if interested as to exactly what they are. To me, the lyrics are obviously about a native american ritual of some kind. Actually, despite the vocals not always being completely coherent, much of the lyrical content on the record is very well written, and in some cases, poetic.

Silver Apples is an acquired taste, but they sound timeless, and the music is as fresh sounding today as it did fifty years ago. If you heard it and knew nothing at all about it, it would seem like it could have been recorded recently, and hold up to modern standards.

Rating: B-


 

 

 

The Fugs First Album

THE FUGS FIRST ALBUM

 

The Fugs are a psychedelic folk, garage rock band formed in New York City in 1964. They were known for their lewd lyrical content, had a very comical spin to them, and were vehemently against the Vietnam war and wrote songs and protested against it throughout the sixties. Their name was a euphemism for the word f_ck, and some claim it was the first time an expletive word was used in recorded music. The main members in the Fugs were Tuli Kupferberg, Ed Sanders, and Ken Weaver, as well as many different incarnations throughout the years.

The Fugs first album was originally titled a gawdy The Village Fugs Sing Ballads of Contemporary Protest, Point of Views, and General Dissatisfaction. It was eventually shortened to The Village Fugs or The Fugs First Album. 

To be honest, when I first heard The Fugs First Album, I was not impressed at all. As a matter of fact, I couldn’t get through it. But like many people who try beer for the first time and hated it, such as myself, trying again and again, was able to ultimately come to appreciate them. They are an aquired taste. Many consider them to be the very first underground band.

The first song on the album, Slum Goddess, starts off well enough. It is a catchy tune and actually one of the better songs on the record. So my very first exposure to The Fugs was somewhat positive. By the second song, Ah, Sunflower, Weary of Time, which is a song based on a poem by William Blake, I was getting weary. This was not the kind of music I was accustomed to listening to. I didn’t really like the vocals.

The next song, Supergirl, was much better, both musically and vocally, and the lyrics were a bit out there, to say the least. An interesting song with semi poetic lyrics, and a funny bend to it, was probably one of my top two favorites on the record. It took some people by surprise to be sure, as this was some of their most wild and trashy lyrics. Though The Fugs may have sounded a bit odd, and looked a little rough around the edges, they were not a bunch of uneducated vagrants. Kupferberg was a poet, guitarist and composer, and Sanders owned a bookstore called Peace Eye, where the rehearsed their material. Though maybe what they lacked in musical talent at the time time, they made up for lyrically.

The Swinburne Stomp, I can truthfully admit, I find unlistenable, even now, and tend to skip over the song when listening to the record. An acquired taste that I never acquired with this tune.

I Couldn’t Get High is a good song, very entertaining both musically and vocally, if not sounding a bit drunk and stoned, which is what they were going for. They achieved a nice classic sounding garage rock tune with this one.

How Sweet I Roamed From Field To Field works well as a country sounding folk piece. A bit slow, but enjoyable, if you like that kind of down home country twang.

Carpe Diem is good enough musically, but vocally falls short in my opinion. My Baby Done Left Me is your song if you like like yodeling, and a play on the word sh_t. Not one of my favorites.

Boobs A Lot is hilarious, if not a bit obscene and quirky. I don’t think it a great song, however it puts a bit of humor at the end of the album. The album ends on a low note with Nothing, a song about a whole lot of, well, nothing. Sort of bleak and morbid.

The 1993 reissue has a lot more material if anyone is interested. Not great, not horrible, but much of the same as the album, but I am sure there are many people that will like it. At the end of the day, this is not a record that I would put on, but it is interesting, and in some respects, groundbreaking for the times in the mid sixties. Check it out and see what you think.

Rating: C