Forgotten series: 13th Floor Elevators, Bubble Puppy, others – Never Ever Land (2008)

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Stationed in Houston, Texas, the independent label International Artists Records parented a plethora of prized platters between the years 1965 and 1970. Much of the imprint’s success can be credited to Lelan Rogers (brother of country crooner Kenny), who for a while there, held the dual role of promotion man and staff producer.

A three-disc collection, Never Ever Land: 83 Texan Nuggets From International Artists Records 1965-1970 (Charly Records), is stuffed to the ceiling with amazing garage punk, pop, blues and psychedelic rock treats. Not surprisingly, the label’s biggest hit single, Bubble Puppy’s “Hot Smoke and Sasafrass,” which curled and twirled to a fast and furious forum of buzzing fuzz guitars and reached the No. 14 position on the charts in the spring of 1969, is included here. A handful of other excellent Bubble Puppy tunes surface amid the set, emphasizing the band’s hard rocking folk fixation that pays homage to Buffalo Springfield.

To be expected, a wealth of material from the Thirteenth Floor Elevators is further presented. Joining the band’s best-known song, the wiggly, squiggly “You’re Gonna Miss Me,” are equally compelling cuts like “Tried To Hide,” “Slip Inside This House,” “I Don’t Ever Want To Come Down” and “She Lives In A Time Of Her Own.” Despite the fact the Thirteenth Floor Elevators failed to achieve massive mainstream acceptance, the band’s holy trinity of folk rock, blues and psychedelic voodoo proved to not only greatly influence their peers but future generations of musicians as well. The Golden Dawn and the Lost and Found were just a couple of bands motivated by the madcap musings of the Thirteenth Floor Elevators, and a sampling of their witchy wares are duly strewn throughout the proceedings.

Fueled by manic teen energy, the Inner Scene’s cover of “Communication Breakdown” is so charmingly cheesy that it makes the original recording by Led Zeppelin seem rather sterile by comparison, while the Coastliners check in with the frisky frat-rock fashioned “Alright” and “Wonderful You,” which keenly combines dapper doo-wop moves with rays of surf rock sunshine. Crusty, rusty and raw as heck, “I Want My Woman” from the Emperors growls and grunts with grungy garage rock gestures, Ginger Valley’s “Country Life” crackles and chimes to a roots flavored hippy vibe in the mode of the Grateful Dead or Moby Grape, Sterling Damon’s insanely catchy “Rejected” jingles and jangles with smart and sassy British Invasion inspired impulses, and Arnim & Hamilton’s bright and bouncy “Pepperman” sparkles and swells with sugar-coated bubblegum cheer.

Stealing the core lick of the Association’s “Along Comes Mary” and nailing it to a rough-and-ready beat, “I Tried So Hard” by the Chaparrals is a certified winner, as is Red Krayloa’s esoteric etchings that simply cannot be pigeonholed, not to neglect Sonny Hall’s wack-a-doodle odes to the ecology and the moon. The underground creations of Endle St. Cloud and the Rubyat are totally cool too, along with the legendary Lightnin’ Hopkins singing the blues. Last but definitely not least, Thursday’s Children’s contributions lead a soul to wonder why they were unable to attain widespread recognition. Flush with strapping hooks, happening harmonies, choppy breaks and ringing keyboards, the band’s spiffy, snazzy garage pop songs often revisit the finest moments of the Five Americans, the Monkees and the early Ides of March.

Although there’s a lot of music to digest on Never Ever Land: 83 Texan Nuggets From International Artists 1965-1970, it’s all so fabulous that you won’t be able to tear yourself away from the package. Boasting an open mind and a sincere love of music, the label was in the right place at the right time to work magic, and work magic they did.

Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson

Beverly Paterson was born the day Ben E. King hit No. 4 with "Stand By Me" -- which is actually one of her favorite songs, especially John Lennon's version. She's contributed to Lance Monthly and Amplifier, and served as Rock Beat International's associate editor. Paterson has also published Inside Out, and Twist & Shake. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
Beverly Paterson
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