Last week we set the clocks forward and almost like magic spring happened. Suddenly it’s still sunny when I get off the bus from work. There’s daylight enough to take a walk before dinner. The hillside behind our house is filled with green shoots that will soon transform into color. Gaia bought a new green dress and the world is a better place. To celebrate, I walk over to the record shelf and grab Spring’s one and only album.
A few years ago, my favourite old hippie friend decided that I was worthy of inheriting the boxes of records that his old roommate had left behind back in the early seventies. There was some real gems in that collection like “The Crazy World of Arthur Brown,” Ginger Baker’s Airforce and a Chocolate Watchband album. Apparently Rick’s old roommate had been a rep for United Artist records. A lot of the records are what collectors refer to as “white labels.” (The record label on the vinyl is white and denotes a pre-release promo copy.) Another thing I noticed is that some of the records are stamped with a rubber stamp with the logo of Whiz Studios. This was Rick’s art studio in the seventies where his friends would get really stoned and make art. Most of these records are “pretty far out, man” in the vernacular of those druggy da(ze)ys.
While perusing those boxes one day I came across Spring. I looked at the cover art and decided it was probably a prog rock album. It’s stamped with The Whiz logo so I knew it was one of the records that Rick used to make art to or take to parties. It was a United Artists white label. I prepared myself for a psychedelic listening experience. To my surprise, the sounds that blasted out of my speakers were pure AM radio pop. At the time, I was still weaning my ears off of metal and punk so it was a bit of a shock to hear such lovely production applied to three and a half minute confections. It seemed to take me back to my first listening experiences of Captain and Tennille and Olivia Newton John. I liked it, but I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to.
I went back to the cover and searched for clues. Like a lot of old albums that have sat in a box for forty or fifty years, the vinyl had left a ring on the cardboard sleeve. The song titles and album info are written along the outer edge of the cover so most of them were blurred by the ring. The sleeve folded out, but only revealed a blurry picture of two stoned women as the sun either set or rose with purple text printed next to them that bled into the orange, pinks and blues of the background. One name did pop out-Brian Wilson. I connected the name to The Beach Boys which explained the pop production. I knew who, but I didn’t know why or when.
It took awhile for this album to grow on me. A lot of that had to do with how my tastes were shifting. I kind of forgot about it for awhile until “Pet Sounds” got added to the jukebox at The Comet. After hearing “God Only Knows” a few too many times within a seven hour shift, I came home and pulled out Spring. That time it really hit me. When I went back into work I asked the other hipsters if they had heard of a band/album called Spring. No one had. Somehow this made the album seem even more appealing. I went home and googled the band and saw what copies were going for on E-bay. I gloated a little; thought about selling it; then dropped the needle and basked in the harmonies, the production and the song writing of Carole King and Brian Wilson.
Spring is a vocal duo featuring the sisters Diane Rovell and Marilyn (Rovell) Wilson. Originally they were a trio known as The Honeys with their cousin Ginger Blake. They did a few surf singles, toured with the Beach Boys and did harmonies on Brian Wilson productions. The Honeys are featured on Jan and Dean’s “Dead Man’s Curve”, “The Little Old Lady from Pasadena” and The Beach Boys “Be True to Your School.” Ginger split to sing in Vegas and Marilyn married Brian Wilson.
Spring’s album was recorded in 1971/2 at Brian Wilson’s home studio. It was released July of ‘72. The band got sued by a prog rock band from England and changed their name to American Spring. This explains the obscurity of the album and the fact that most copies are cut outs with the corner of the sleeve snipped off. 1972 was during the post breakdown period of Brian when he was getting more crazy and reclusive. That’s why I’m surprised how together this record is. At the time Brian had abandoned his Smile project and was barely involved with The Beach Boys who were turning into an oldies act milking their past glory. It’s debated how much Brian was really involved in the project. To me it sounds like a Brian Wilson record. There’s a wonderful feeling of texture to the songs. It’s like they have a depth that you can walk around in like that fabled room that the Beach Boys once sang about hiding away in. “The Good Times” features the same weird percussion that appeared on “Good Vibrations” which apparently is plastic orange juice bottles played like tympani. There’s also a bitter-sweet tone to all the songs that matches Brian’s mental state. The downer ballad on this record is matched to the lyrics “I’m so happy loving you.” The song I’m picking for The Song of the Moment sounds so joyful, but the lyrics are actually about how everyone suffers from depression.
Musically this song sounds like the sunny, coatless days we’ve been experiencing. The chorus of bells at the end makes me think of those scenes in old movies where the tyrant is vanquished and the church bells ring out over the kingdom. Those bells sound like the buttercups that are shoosting out of the muddy hillside in the woods behind our house. These shoots are what I see from my kitchen window as I write this with the window open and the breeze and the sunshine pouring in. I’m going to listen to “Everybody” one more time and then walk my dog through Northside and smile about how it’s after six and the sun is still shining, the grass is green, and the birds are singing.