I have not yet finished writing notes on this week's show, but I did finish my introduction to the five-song Music Machine set, so I thought I'd post it here as a sort of "sneak preview".
This week's featured artist is the Music Machine, one of the most sophisticated and innovative bands on the 1966 L.A club scene. The band was led by Sean Bonniwell. Originally from San Jose, California, Bonniwell hooked up with a folk group called the Wayfarers who recorded three albums for RCA in the early 60s. The Wayfarers, in addition to being a performing group, also owned and operated a folk club in Charleston, South Carolina called 300 King Street. One of the groups that played there were called the Goldbriars. By the mid-60s, tiring of the restrictions of singing in a folk quartet, Bonniwell decided to form his own band, recruiting Goldbriars' drummer Ron Edgar when that band split up. Adding bass player Keith Olsen, the three began to rehearse in Bonniwell's San Pedro garage. Calling themselves the Ragamuffins, they got their first gig playing in a huge mausoleum of a place in Hermosa Beach known as the Insomniac. After adding keyboardist Doug Rhodes from the Association (he played the distinctive harpsichord on Along Comes Mary) and guitarist Mark Landon, the group changed its name to the Music Machine, playing its first gig at an L.A. bowling alley in the summer of '66. Unlike most bands of the time, the Music Machine played continuous one-hour sets, with musical bridges written by Bonniwell filling the space between songs. According to Bonniwell, this was done to prevent club managers from bothering the band with requests. Bonniwell dominated the group in other ways as well. All members were required to dress in black, even to the point of dying their hair black as well. In this sense they may well have been the first goth rock group. One final touch came when they booked their first national TV appearance (on Dick Clark's black and white daily show Where The Action Is). As the band was going to be lip-synching anyway, Bonniwell thought it would be cool to order black leather gloves to wear on the show. Guitarist Landon suggested that instead of wearing both gloves, the members would each wear just one (making it look a bit more like they were actually able to play their instruments). When the switchboard lit up immediately following the band's appearance on the show, Bonniwell decided to make the single glove look a regular thing. His rule was that the members, upon leaving the stage, would take off the glove and put the other one on.
In the fall of 1966 the single Talk Talk, recorded at the 10-track Original Sound studios (other L.A. studios of the time were 4-track), was released and immediately hit the US top 20 charts. Things were looking good for the band until their first LP, Turn On The Music Machine, came out. The band had recorded a set of cover tunes for exclusive use on local TV shows that would require bands to lip-synch everything rather than to perform live. Without the group's knowledge or consent, the Original Sound people added these songs to the LP, blunting the impact of Bonniwell's original material. Things only got worse from there, as the group's manager gave L.A.'s newest (and lowest rated) radio station exclusive rights to the follow-up single, The People In Me. This may not seem like such a big deal at first; at least not until you consider that at that time the majority of top 40 radio stations in the US were being programmed by the disciples of Bill Drake, whose base of operations was one of the L.A. stations that were being denied access to The People In Me. Without the support of Drake, the song bombed nationally, and the two subsequent singles on Original Sound (both included in tonight's set) fared little better. Meanwhile, the band toured extensively over the next two years, undergoing a complete change in personnel and record label before finally disbanding in 1968. Bonniwell himself ended up quitting the music business entirely in disgust within a few years, which is a shame, as his talent, even now, is not getting the recognition it deserves.