After getting almost two inches of slush and a coating of ice, I find myself longing for some tropical beach somewhere so it shouldn’t be a surprise that this island tune has been on heavy rotation of late. Though Paul Page spent much of his career performing and recording music dedicated to the island life, he was born in landlocked Indiana and got his career in radio in Juneau, Alaska. Despite these decidedly un-tropical roots, Page always had an interest in Polynesian music and hosted the first Hawaiian themed TV show in 1949.
Though the show didn’t air for long, it couldn’t have come at a better time. Don the Beachcomber’s “tiki bar” became a trendy hangout for Hollywood stars around the same time Trader Vic’s was popularizing tropical drinks like the Mai Tai in San Francisco. Page became a popular performer of Hawaiian and Polynesian music at the many tiki-themed restaurants and bars that opened in California while also writing and recording songs like Castaway. He often worked with one of the masters of the Hawaiian steel guitar sound Bernie Kaai Lewis, a Hawaiian native, who he described in an interview with WFMU as “the best steel guitarist in the business.”
F.J. McMahon recorded Spirit of the Golden Juice following his return from a tour in Vietnam with the U.S. Air Force. The record rarely made it outside of California and even within the state the distribution was minimal so he stopped trying to make it as a musician and starting repairing computers. Over time it became something of a cult classic for fans of folk rock from that era. His story is similar to that of another artist I’ve written about here, Robert Lester Folsom, and in fact the largest and most accessible reissue of both McMahon’s only record and Folsom’s come courtesy of Anthology Records.
In June 2017 McMahon performed all of Spirit of the Golden Juice with the band Quilt in support of the re-issue and also gave an interview where he talked about his career and life after music. He had played up and down California with various groups, and in the interview he talks a little about that scene:
I started playing a few old clubs and getting with some old friends to play bar-band gigs for weekend money. But I was also heavily involved in the anti-war thing, so I was trying to get my buddies who hadn’t gone yet not to go in the military. I didn’t want them going over there, so I was involved. Music was a big part of that movement. Everything was music at the time. There was a feeling in the ’60s that, if you saw somebody else with long hair, you knew they felt more or less like you did. There was a feeling guaranteed between the two of you that music could change the world. That may be naïve, but it was an honest-to-God feeling we had.
When asked whether he is surprised that the songs resonate with contemporary audience, he had this to say:
The overwhelming feeling I get today is that all these kids who are going out to the far corners of the earth and getting themselves killed, they’re doing it because there are no jobs. That thought devastated me when I was singing that song. I wrote [Five Year Kansas Blues] 50 years ago about guys who went to jail instead of going to war. That was their choice. But now I’m thinking about the kids who can’t get a job, so they go into the Army and they get shot up. That’s not okay. So things haven’t changed very much at all.
He hinted at future performances in the interview, though there’s no indication he’s got more songs to record. At the very least we might start hearing more of his stuff in Vietnam movies instead of the ubiquitous Creedence Clearwater Revival.
I probably found this album in the wrong season, but if past trends are any indication I’ll still be listening to it by the time summer rolls back to my part of the world. This track is probably my favorite off their debut tape from Haju Tapes, which had a limited physical release back in 2016. This kind of music is a little bit of a departure from Haju Tapes usual fare of chilled-out glitchy instrumentals, but obviously whoever they have picking things out has a good ear which is about all you can ask for in a label. I typically like to link to the place where you can support the artist if I can find it, but I was pretty tempted to use this video I found, which I don’t think came from the band but is a pretty good approximation of the scene I’m imagining when I’m listening to this and pretending not to be surrounded by snow and ice. Also, I wish I still had my Toyota Avalon with a tape deck and that time didn’t move quite as fast as it seems to.
666 is the title track off Sugar Candy Mountain’s third full length release from People in a Position to Know. Ash Reiter and Will Halsey are the core of the group, but they are often joined by Jason Quever and Matt Adams, among others. As if you couldn’t guess by the combination of sun-drenched guitar and occult fascination, they’re based out of California, Oakland to be specific. Before their release on PIAPTK, they put out two records on their own starting with a self-titled in 2011 followed by Mystic Hits, both released on cassette as well as digitally. For anybody who ever wondered what Camera Obscura would sound like if they came from somewhere that wasn’t notorious for dreary weather, it seems we finally have an answer. Or, as the band puts it:
If Brian Wilson had dropped acid on the beach in Brazil and decided to record an album with Os Mutantes and The Flaming Lips, it would sound like this- all psychedelic pop Wall-of Sound and beach balladry
Those interested in tracking down vinyl should head to the Discogs page for the release. While the pink vinyl is sold out, downloads, CDs, and black vinyl can still be had over at Bandcamp.