This Week at PCA: The Electric Prunes

During the 1960′s California garage band The Electric Prunes were alternative before it was even a music category.

During the 1960’s everybody loved The Beatles or The Rolling Stones.  But it was a different type of music fan that dug The Electric Prunes.  One of the great California garage bands of the mid-1960’s The Electric Prunes were alternative before the term “alternative” was even used as a musical genre.  Formed in the San Fernando Valley by James Lowe, Mark Tulin, Ken Williams, Michael Weakly and Joe Dooley, the group became one of the great cult psychedelic groups of the era.  Struggling up the Billboard Top Forty charts, The Electric Prunes hit it big with I Had to Much to Dream (Last Night) in 1966, and got a second track, Get Me to the World on Time, on the charts in 1967.  Yet, despite making the rounds on national programs such as American Bandstand, The Mike Douglas Show and The Smothers Brother Comedy Hour, The Electric Prunes never completely captured the attention of the masses, but instead became a favourite for hipsters and music aficionados of the era.

However, it was during the recording of possibly their most ambitious project, Mass in F Minor that the cracks began to appear in the group.  A concept album by producer David Axelrod, Mass in F Minor found the Prunes in over their heads and soon after the release of the album the group’s leader James Lowe walked away. The other members quit shortly afterwards.  Disgusted and defeated, the group looked at the tattered remains of their rock n’ roll dreams and deemed The Electric Prunes to be a failure.  However, Reprise Records felt that they hadn’t made enough out of their investment and in 1969 formed a group called The New and Improved Electric Prunes without any of the original members in the lineup featuring Kenny Loggins on lead vocals.  But while the new Electric Prunes were indeed new, they were hardly improved.  Their single didn’t even chart, and by 1970 The Electric Prunes seemed to be officially dead.

The Electric Prunes’ front man James Lowe circa 1972.

While the former members of The Electric Prunes went on with their lives, their music continued to live on in the background of the music industry.  Mass in F Minor became a cult sensation, their music was included in the film Easy Rider, and their songs were covered by groups such as The Damned and Prince Vlad as well as Gargoyle Impalers, bringing The Electric Prunes to a different generation of music fans.  Increased curiosity about the band lead to a number of reissued releases in the 1990’s.  Then, in 1999, the impossible happened.  After thirty years of separation, James Lowe, Mark Tulin and Michael Weakly reformed The Electric Prunes, inviting members from the various incarnations of the group to the fold and began to tour across the world, performing their old material along with new compositions.  In 2007 the original Electric Prunes released Feedback, their first new album since Mass in F Minor.

In the fall of 2012 I was able to talk to lead singer James Lowe about his experiences with The Electric Prunes.  Talking via Skype from his home in The Dominican Republic, James didn’t hold back when discussing the highs and lows of being with The Electric Prunes.  Blunt and honest, James had a realistic attitude about the group, and his life as a Prune.

READ FULL INTERVIEW

  1. Anny’s avatar

    I remember laying on a floor listening to Mass in F Minor totally awed. I loved psy rock and these fellows were among the best. Love that they are touring again….
    Thanks Sam for bringing back memories once again!♥

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