The Electric Prunes reached the top forty twice just as psychedelia was taking hold of the music scene in the 1960's, changed personnel, and eventually faded away, then returned decades later.
The Electric Prunes came together in Los Angeles in about 1965, in the San Fernando Valley, first as the Sanctions and later as Jim and the Lords. They established themselves as a psychedelic rock group, just as other similar groups such as the Seeds, Count Five and the Music Machine were beginning to draw attention. Initial members were Jim Lowe on lead vocals, harmonica, guitar and autoharp, lead guitarist Ken Williams, Mark Tulin on bass and organ and Mike Weakley on drums, who was later replaced by Preston Ritter. Recording engineer/record producer (Rolling Stones, Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead) David Hassinger suggested that they change their name and they selected one that had been added to their list in jest, and thus became the Electric Prunes. They signed with Reprise Records and their first single Ain't It Hard went nowhere. But they followed up and the group's next single I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night) caught on when it was promoted by disc jockey Pat O'Day at KJR-AM in Seattle and went to number 11 on the national pop chart, in early 1967. It became a classic of the psychedelic music genre. The Electric Prunes had only one other single reach the top forty, later the same year, with Get Me To The World On Time. There were some personnel changes and members leaving and joining the group. Among those who played with the Electric Prunes at one time or another were drummer Joe Dooley, guitarist Mike Gannon and James "Weasel" Spagnola on vocals and guitar. The group placed a song on the soundtrack for the film Easy Rider titled Kyrie Eleison and recorded a song Shadows for The Name of the Game Is Kill film, starring Jack Lord.
They recorded several albums. The most well-known and most successful of these was The Electric Prunes which fell short of making the top 100 albums list, as did Underground later in 1967. In the middle of Underground Michael Fortune ( now known as "Quint") returned and replaced Ritter on drums. In early 1968 the lineup managed only one more chart entry, an electric rock Mass sung in Latin, Mass In F Minor, at a time when guitar Masses were popular in the Catholic Church. The group's personnel changed as time went on, until an entirely different roster took over the group's recording contract. Other musicians who served as group members at one time or another included Peter Lewis of Moby Grape and guitarist Mark Moulin. Some prominent session musicians played on some of their later recordings, including Carol Kaye, Jim Gordon, Larry Knechtel and Earl Palmer. Kenny Loggins also spent some time as a touring member of the Electric Prunes.
David Axelrod worked with the group as writer and arranger, and Dave Hassinger created an entirely new roster of players with John Harren on keyboards, Mark Kincaid, Ron Morgan on guitar, Brett Wade on bass and flute, and Dick Whetstone on vocals and drums. This group, called the "New and Improved Electric Prunes," recorded Release of an Oath: Kol Nidre, another Axelrod religious composition. One more album, Just Good Old Rock and Roll, followed before the group broke up in 1970. Later, I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night) was featured as the leadoff track on Lenny Kaye's NUGGETS compilation and solidified the original group's place in the music of the time. A unique recording find in the 80's was a forgotten live concert performance from 1967 in Stockholm, Sweden, recorded by the Swedish Brodcasting Company called Stockholm 67. This concert hall recording scotched any notion that the band could not play their recorded material in a live setting.
The Electric Prunes came back in 1999, this time with a quintet that included original members Lowe, Williams and Tulin as well as Quint, along with guitarist Mark Moulin. Playing in the 21st century with the Electric Prunes at times were Jay Dean, Steve Kara and drummer Walter Garces, as well as Lowes' son Cameron on keyboards. Within two years they resumed recording and touring, creating three studio albums, Artifact, California and Feedback as well as a live album reprising their 67 trip to Sweden called Return to Stockholm. The band stayed together for over a decade. Founding member Mark Tulin collapsed and died in 2011 and since that time the group has made no appearances. I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night), written by the songwriting team of Annette Tucker and Nancie Mantz, was featured in the 2009 motion picture The Men Who Stare at Goats. It is today the song that is most closely associated with the 60's psychedelic band the Electric Prunes. The band maintains a website at www.electricprunes.net.
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