Planting the Seeds: The story of Sky Saxon and the Seeds

11 Oct

The Seeds

The Seeds is a band that teeters on the line between obscure and known. I’m not sure where to place them myself. While I do think it is safe to say that many have not heard of this garage rock pioneer, the band may be a little too known to be classified in this obscure category. I’m arguing pedantic semantics with myself. The reason I want to include The Seeds in this Tuesday’s “Obscure Classic Rock” is because I featured David Peel and the Lower East Side Band last week. As you may remember (and if you don’t click here to view last week’s post), I labeled Peel as an inspirational pre-Punk force. The Seeds, with their blend of angsty garage rock and bouncy beats, do fit the description of a band that planted the seeds for Punk rock. Pun very much intended. So for the second week in a row we focus on a pre-Punk performer, but this time we enter into an earlier realm of mid-60s rock n’ roll.

When you explore the premiere early roots of Punk rock bands like the Kinks, the Who, and the Small Faces are mentioned. These are bands that started developing the fast-paced, strained pop sound that Punk became known for in the 70s with the Sex Pistols and the Ramones. The Kingsmen’s version of “Louie, Louie” (1963) is aptly cited as the first proclamation of Punk. The song even sparked an ill-informed FBI investigation over the non-existent obscenities that are not in the song. When I look at the early stages of Punk music, though, I quickly look at the impact of Mick Jagger. His carefree, over-sexualized, Elvis-on-acid-inspired on-stage pelvic movements clearly inspired performers like Iggy Pop and a little-known singer named Richard Marsh, better known as Sky Saxon of The Seeds.

To some, Sky Saxon is a cheap Mick Jagger impressionist, but I think he something much more than this. Saxon formed the Seeds with keyboardist Daryl Hooper, guitarists Jan Savage and Jeremy Levine (who left the band because of personal reasons shortly after the first recording session) and drummer Rick Andridge. Sky is credited as the bassist and in one of the videos below he is playing an egg-shaped fire-red bass guitar, but he did not play bass during recording sessions. Instead, Hooper, much-like Ray Manzarek did with the Doors, played a keyboard bass.

The band released their first single “Can’t Seem to Make you Mine” in 1965 and it became a regional hit. The band, even though remaining most popular in southern California, reached the top 40 with their 1966 song “Pushin’ Too Hard.” After this release, they hit moderate success with a few other singles, but their popularity slid and by the end of the 60s the band was transformed with new members into Sly Saxon and the Seeds and then broke up in the early 70s. We are going to look at the band’s top two singles in this post. Both of these songs can be found on the Seeds’ eponymous debut album released in April of 1966. The album has aged well and it is now looked at as early Punk inspiration and proof that Punk existed before the 70s.

Simple repetitive melody, possessed vocal (Sky seems drugged), neat and concise keyboard solo. It’s pop. I’m not sure if we can hear Punk in this early release (even though Sky Saxon just looks and sounds ahead of his time.) The song is not grungy, but instead pretty organized and easy. It is like cool and collected garage rock mixed with sunny California pop. Keep this sound in mind and let’s move ahead a year.

What a change. Throaty-punky vocal. The guitar has the traditional 60’s twang. The keyboard is one of the most understated and interesting parts of the song. It fits, but it doesn’t fit. I can’t seem to place that quiet, even subtle sound. The tune, which clearly provides a great example of fuzzy and raw garage rock, has a rhythm that resembles Punk. I hear Protopunk in this release.

Sky Saxon’s future would involve joining a religious group in California called YaHoWha for many years. The band reunited in 1989 to headline “The Summer of Love” tour (which also included Arthur Lee and Love). In 2003, Saxon and Savage toured with other members, but Savage had to depart midway through the resulting tour. Saxon continued performing, recording and writing up to his passing on June 25, 2009.

If you click on Sky Saxon’s name above you will be linked to his official website. A tribute album featuring covers of Saxon’s songs by performers like Iggy Pop, The Bangles, The Chocolate Watchband, Strawberry Alarm Clock, The Electric Prunes, will be released soon (perhaps by the end of the year) so definitely keep tabs on what will most definitely be a must listen when released.

6 Responses to “Planting the Seeds: The story of Sky Saxon and the Seeds”

  1. Sabrina Smith Saxon aka {sea} October 11, 2011 at 7:23 pm #

    Thank you so much for such a wonderful blog post about my late husband, Sky Saxon. It always warms my heart to see people helping me keep his name, legacy, and music alive!!! GREAT BLOG and you are a very good writer!!! LOVE LOVE LOVE Sabrina Smith Saxon, Widow of Sky Saxon

    • E Aquarina October 23, 2011 at 4:10 pm #

      Actually several people have said that Mick Jagger and other of the early greats used to go WATCH SKY to pick up on his style and charisma ! He was a dear soul who never missed an opportunity to share the truth about his Spiritual Father – Father Yod ~ YaHoWha.

  2. JVC October 11, 2011 at 7:35 pm #

    Sky’s vocal style seems like a direct influence on Johnny Rotten.

  3. Matt Coleman October 11, 2011 at 9:29 pm #

    Thank you for the kind words Sabrina! It is my pleasure to write about talented musicians like Sky. Also, JVC, I definitely agree with you. Good ear. The Punk influence oozes from The Seeds’ garage rock sound and I believe it is mostly because of Sky’s vocal style

  4. juliette May 17, 2013 at 10:15 am #

    Hello ! I love the Seeds , I know them since 30 years !



  1. Hey Joe. Exploring the Leaves « The Music Court - October 18, 2011

    […] be profiling today is The Leaves, a mid-60s garage-rock from California. Last week I profiled the Seeds, another garage-rock act from Los Angeles. From the Seeds to the Leaves to the…what other […]

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