The Association

TrackAlbum
Along Comes MaryAnd Then ... Along Comes ...
Pandora's Golden Heebie JeebiesRenaissance
Looking GlassRenaissance
Never My LoveInsight Out
Requiem For The MassesInsight Out
Birthday MorningBirthday
Six Man BandGreatest Hits
Dubuque BluesThe Association
Snow QueenWaterbeds In Trinidad!
CherishAnd Then ... Along Comes ...

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The Association photo

The Association (back row – l to r): Jim Yester, Brian Cole, Ted Bluechel Jr. (front row – l to r): Russ Giguere, Larry Ramos, Terry Kirkman

 

Contributor: Merric Davidson

When we met I was sure out to lunch
Now my empty cup is as sweet as the punch

The band that would become known as The Association came up through the folk-rock scene in and around The Troubadour nightclub in Los Angeles in the mid-60s.

Mixing the close harmony tradition of vocal bands like the Four Freshmen from the 50s, and later the Beach Boys, with the electric post-British invasion sound of groups like the Byrds, their first two recordings were firmly from that burgeoning folk movement. Babe I’m Gonna Leave You (1965), written by Anne Bredon in the 50s and featured on the 1962 album, Joan Baez in Concert Part 1, sunk without trace:

The next single that same year, a cover of Dylan’s One Too Many Mornings, fared little better. However, it was on a label, Valiant Records, that had distribution through Warner Bros; something was starting to happen and the harmonies were kicking in. Here’s the record:

… and here’s a (unfortunately poor quality) TV clip of the band performing it on “Hollywood a Go Go”:

The Association have had any number of different line-ups over the years and these are well documented in their Wikipedia entry.

The band has continued to perform, and is still gigging in the US with a very full programme (see the official website) but this piece is really mostly concerned with their 60s output. The core of the band during that period was Jim Yester (vocals, rhythm guitar, keyboards), Brian Cole (vocals, bass, woodwinds), Terry Kirkman (vocals, percussion), Ted Bluechel, Jr. (vocals, drums), Russ Giguere (vocals, rhythm guitar, percussion). Jules Gary Alexander (vocals, lead guitar), who founded the band with Kirkman, left in May 1967 and was replaced by Larry Ramos. Alexander rejoined a couple years later and, along with Yester, still plays in the band. Brian Cole died tragically of a heroin overdose age 29. His son, Jordan, is the current keyboard player.

The first album, And Then … Along Comes the Association, was released by Valiant in July 1966. Warner Bros swallowed up Valiant later that year, and The Association with it. Oh how we all love the music industry, then and now!

The first track on the first album, Enter The Young, was a near miss in this top ten. I’d like to have started with it as it’s a bold ‘mission statement’ from Kirkman which captures the mood of the times beautifully – the Vietnam War was escalating and a counterculture revolution was taking shape.

Yeah, here they come some with questions, some decisions
Here they come – and some with facts and some with visions
Of a place to multiply without the use of divisions
To win a prize that no one’s ever won

Enter the young …

The two tracks that I am taking from the first album are the two hit singles; the two tracks that everyone who’s interested in this period in music will know. This is going to be a returning issue in this top ten which I think will have five A-side singles, two B-sides and three album tracks. That’s the best balance I could get as the singles have to go in. An Association playlist without them wouldn’t make sense.

Here’s the first of those two A-sides, the breakthrough single, Along Comes Mary – and I’m talking USA here, where it reached #7; incredibly, the Association would go on to have only one hit in the UK with Time For Livin’ in May 1968. Along Comes Mary is one of the most magnificent under three minute singles of the sixties and one of my all-time top ten tracks of that period (probably!). How could it not be in this toppermost.

Along Comes Mary was released in the UK by London American in June 1966. It got some plays in a club I used to go to. I bought the single, had to have it, had to try and make out the lyrics. Later, we heard that ‘Mary’ was ‘marijuana’:

Every time I think that I’m the only one who’s lonely
Someone calls on me
And every now and then I spend my time in rhyme and verse
And curse those faults in me

And then along comes Mary
And does she want to give me kicks, and be my steady chick
And give me pick of memories
Or maybe rather gather tales of all the fails and tribulations
No one ever sees

When we met I was sure out to lunch
Now my empty cup is as sweet as the punch

and:

When vague desire is the fire in the eyes of chicks
Whose sickness is the games they play
And when the masquerade is played and neighbor folks make jokes
As who is most to blame today

and:

When the morning of the warning’s passed, the gassed
And flaccid kids are flung across the stars
The psychodramas and the traumas gone
The songs are left unsung and hung upon the scars

Oh yes. Here was a whole new pop song thing, a bit more nasty than the sweet summer sounds of the Lovin’ Spoonful and Mamas and Papas from the previous year. The UK single was credited to Boettcher/Almer. Curt Boettcher was the producer, Tandyn Almer the composer.

This from Wikipedia: Curt Boettcher’s wife Claudia said that Almer wrote “Along Comes Mary” as a slow song. Boettcher sped up the tempo and recorded a demo on which he sang the vocal. This demo was presented to The Association, who used it as a guide for their arrangement of the tune. It was the band’s attempt to replicate and build on Boettcher’s demo that became the group’s first hit single. Boettcher and Almer had a dispute over writing credits for the song, Boettcher arguing that his extensive contributions to the arrangement, which formed the basis of the hit version of the song, warranted a co-writer credit. However, the song was ultimately credited solely to Almer.

Here’s the record and, for anyone who doesn’t know it, you’re in for a treat:

… and here’s the band performing it live on “The Ed Sullivan Show” some time after in December 1968:

The next single that I’ve chosen from And Then … Along Comes the Association couldn’t be more different from Along Comes Mary, although the perfect harmonies are common to both tracks. Cherish, written by Terry Kirkman, was a No.1 hit in the USA in September 1966. It is one of the most exquisite, heart-rending, sublime love songs from that era, beautifully produced by Boettcher with a melody that comes complete with aching lyric and soaring voices. Fortunately for Kirkman, but unfortunately for the rest of us, it was covered by David Cassidy in 1972.

Oh, I’m beginning to think that man has never found
The words that could make you want me
That have the right amount of letters
Just the right sound
That could make you hear, make you see
That you are drivin’ me out of my mind

The penultimate track on And Then deserves a mention. One of four songs on the album written by Gary Alexander (who was about to leave the band to study meditation) and tenderly sung by Jim Yester in this dawning of the age of Aquarius, man. Remember is a song of its time, and quite lovely:

There’ll come a day when you and I are one
A day when we no longer need the sun
Out of time and space we’ll be
Aside all of eternity

You’ll hear my voice with different ears
You’ll live the dreams of timeless years
Your eyes will be the silver stars
That live and shine and see so far

The next album, Renaissance, also contained two singles; No Fair At All and the wonderfully titled Pandora’s Golden Heebie Jeebies. The first one is fine, and was the third Association single I bought, but it doesn’t uproot any trees. However, the second one, now that’s another matter altogether. Another classic from Gary Alexander, Pandora’s is perfect psychedelic pop and I love it.

Pandora’s Golden Heebie Jeebies made it to #35 in the US charts, in a week which had Good Vibrations, Mellow Yellow and I’m A Believer in the Top 10 – and Winchester Cathedral by the New Vaudeville Band at No.1. Don’t know what that proves except there’s no accounting for taste.

My other selection from Renaissance is that B-side I mentioned earlier, and another great Gary Alexander song. Looking Glass was the flip of No Fair At All. It’s short at 2:13 but seems somehow to be the perfect length with its driving beat and with the kind of lyrics that could only have been written in the run up to the Summer of Love.

So go, play in jeweled cities
Play with pretties, tie ribbons in your hair
And if you find the looking glass
Please stay and ask the other side
Who’s that standing there, who’s that standing there
What’s her name
Does she still wear morning in her hair
And smile the same
The same… ahhhh-ahhhh-ah-ah-ahhhh

It wasn’t to be too long though until the Association had their next smash hit American No.1. Even that record, although most will know it well, didn’t chart in the UK. Yes folks, Windy was No.1 over there, while Engelbert Humperdinck’s Release Me was No.1 over here – for six blooming weeks.

Windy was the breakout track on the third album, Insight Out (1967), which reached #8 on the LP chart. In the UK a version of Windy was used as the theme music for Thames TV’s “Today” programme which many will remember for Bill Grundy’s infamous interview with the Sex Pistols, catch it here along with Windy.

I think that is what is known as a digression.

Insight Out was produced by Bones Howe who was the engineer on California Dreamin’ and Monday Monday (and would go on to work with Elvis, Jerry Lee and Tom Waits). Warner Bros wanted a more radio-friendly sound. They achieved that, not only with Windy but with the opening track on side two, Never My Love (written by the Addrisi Brothers and recorded with Larry Knechtel, Al Casey and Hal Blaine of the Wrecking Crew) which, when released as a single, reached #2. You ask me if there’ll come a time, when I grow tired of you – ok perhaps it veers dangerously close to schmaltz but with several abrupt turns and those gorgeous harmonies, it is pleasingly melancholic and endearingly sentimental – and what a production!

This interesting snippet (from Wikipedia): In 1999, Never My Love was recognized as the second most-played song in history (between the #1 song You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ and the #3 song Yesterday) on American radio and television, with performances of more than seven million, according to Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI). It was estimated that the song had received, as of 1999, what amounted to about 40 years of continuous airplay in its 32 years.

The next track on this list is also from Insight Out (and is the B-side of Never My Love) and it selects itself. Terry Kirkman’s extraordinary anti-war song Requiem For The Masses closes the album. It could hardly have been expected by the casual listener considering the catchy sunshine pop of tracks like P.F. Sloan’s On A Quiet Night and We Love Us that had gone before.

Red was the color of his blood flowing thin
Pallid white was the color of his lifeless skin
Blue was the color of the morning sky
He saw looking up from the ground where he died
It was the last thing ever seen by him

Requiem For The Masses comes from a long line of protest songs but the format is genuinely groundbreaking, pre-dating David Axelrod’s production of the Electric Prunes’ Mass In F Minor by a few months.

The fourth album, Birthday, was released in March 1968 and reached the #23 spot. There is an element of safety-pop about it compared to the dramatic statement of the closing track on the last album. Birthday spawned two top 40 singles, Everything That Touches You (the flip Barefoot Gentleman is stronger) and that sole UK hit Time For Livin’ (Windy revisited).

One of the better tracks on Birthday was also released as a single but Russ Giguere’s The Time It Is Today failed to make the Top 100. A shame. It’s pretty good, nicely produced, with echoes of early Association.

But – and I’m surprising myself a bit here – I’m going for the last track on the album, Birthday Morning. I wasn’t going to pick it, thought I’d go with the Giguere song, but Birthday Morning is so right-on Association throughout that it had to go in. Just listen to Jim Yester’s voice and the wailing harmonica and that crescendo of harmony as the song ends up somewhere way up in the sky. Beautiful.

The next choice was issued as a single just before The Time It Is Today. This one did chart, peaking at #47. You can find it on the 1968 Greatest Hits LP and on various CD compilations. It’s a Terry Kirkman song again and it’s a biography of the band in microcosm: I’m a traveling man … a comer and a goer in a six man band – who’s on a fast flying trip, dirty laundry in my grip mostly drip-dry – battling against time we got the seventeen jewels that dictate the rules. Six Man Band is a two-minute triumph.

The fifth album, The Association, was released in the summer of ’69. Clearly influenced by the whole something in the air anything goes end of the 60s tie-dyed time of Woodstock and CSNY and country Byrds/Gram, this is a curate’s egg of an album. Patchy, definitely, sometimes awful but often quite brilliant. Book-ended by two powerful Terry Kirkman compositions, Look At Me, Look At You and Boy On The Mountain, and with Jules (Gary) Alexander back in the camp contributing several songs including the tender Love Affair and the nostalgic, episodic Dubuque Blues and the Beach Boys-influenced Under Branches, Pet Sounds it ain’t – but what is.

I guess I’ve got the Dubuque Blues:

The Association released several singles and two albums in the seventies without troubling the charts too much – at all, really. But then, hey, they’d had it with all that hit nonsense – and how. Warner Bros were getting a bit fed up though. Stop Your Motor (1971) failed to chart, and that was that. The next, and last, studio album, Waterbeds in Trinidad! (1972) was released by Columbia.

I have kept a slot free, to try and fill it with a track from one of these two albums, or singles from that period. A tall order you might say, and you might be right. On Stop Your Motor, I paused at Funny Kind Of Song (Alexander), was tempted by Jimmy Webb’s P.F. Sloan but it’s seriously weird and doesn’t quite cut it – and it’s long. There’s a Johnny Cash parody that I passed quickly over, and there’s the low point of Broccoli, I really dig it steamed, just plain with cheese and cream. The songwriting wasn’t working. And then, the one I’d forgotten, the Jim Spheeris song – and I like Jimmie Spheeris – Seven Virgins, the closing track. But the Spheeris original on his great Isle Of View LP is so much better. Neither appear to be on YT so here’s a rare version from Kathy Smith, just for fun:

Nothing from Stop Your Motor then. How about Waterbeds In Trinidad!? I’ll cut to the chase – and in goes Snow Queen:

Snow Queen is a Goffin & King song that was the lead-off track on the album that Carole King made in 1968 as The City, with husband Charles Larkey and Danny Kortchmar, entitled Now That Everything’s Been Said. It’s been on my shopping list for some time – only £12 on amazon today, maybe I should take the plunge.

Anyway, back to the Association and Waterbeds In Trinidad!, which despite its lousy title is a better bet than its predecessor and if you fancy having a listen it’s a snip online at £4.99. It’s just not really the Association any more – not quite “just the right sound” if you get my drift.

 

ODDS & ENDS

The Association wrote and recorded three songs for the 1969 movie Goodbye Columbus (from the novel by Philip Roth) including the title track. The movie was a big hit. The single wasn’t.

Russ Giguere released a solo album through Warner Bros, Hexagram 16 (1971), with help from Jerry Yester and Judy Henske (backing vocals), Herb Pederson (banjo), Chris Ethridge and Larry Knechtel (bass), Jim Keltner and Russ Kunkel (drums), Bobby Womack and Judee Sill (guitar), Spooner Oldham (piano). Here is a track from it, Pegasus, written by Jules (Gary) Alexander:

Jules Alexander and Russ Giguere of The Association teamed up as Bijou to release a single, Carry On, on A&M in 1975 – and this is it:

The Association released a single, Dreamer, on Elektra in 1981 which reached #66 on Billboard. They released one more single on Elektra that year, Small Town Lovers, which did not chart.

Jim Yester played in a folk duo with younger brother Jerry in the early 60s. As well as producing the Association’s second album Renaissance and joining the Lovin’ Spoonful, Jerry Yester produced Tim Buckley’s Goodbye And Hello and he and his wife’s legendary album, Farewell Aldebaran. More on Jerry Yester at his website.

Curt Boettcher, the producer of the Association’s first album, worked with Gary Usher on the two Sagittarius albums Present Tense (1968) and The Blue Marble (1969) – see Toppermost #351.

More about Ruthann Friedman, the composer of Windy, here – and here she is tripping down the streets of the city:

Don and Dick Addrisi, who composed Never My Love, released a large number of singles and three albums in the 60s and 70s as the Addrisi Brothers, had a couple of Top 20 hits but nothing to compare to that song.

Tandyn Almer, the eccentric composer of Along Comes Mary, and the co-writer of Marcella and Sail On Sailor for the Beach Boys, died in 2013. An album of his ‘lost’ songs was released by Sundazed that year.

The first five studio albums by the Association are boxed together on CD in the Original Album Series.

The singles, A- and B-sides, are available on The Complete Warner Bros & Valiant Singles Collection CD.

A bit pricier these days, but the Rhino double CD Just The Right Sound from 2002 is an excellent 50 track anthology with an informative booklet and contains eight songs from this toppermost.

 

Brian Cole (1942–1972)

Larry Ramos (1942–2014)

 

The Association official website

The Association Family Tree

Dick Clark interviews The Association – “Where The Action Is” (1966)

The Association: Album by Album forum

Longer biographies of the original members of the Association

Six-Man Band: The Not-Forgotten Association – Andrew Darlington

The Association biography (iTunes)

Merric Davidson is a retired publisher who started this site four years ago. He tweets toppermost @AgeingRaver.

TopperPost #629

9 Comments

  1. Dave Stephens
    May 20, 2017

    Sublime. And that’s just the words. The music is marvellous of course. Some tracks I knew but all too many I didn’t. A criminally ignored band particularly by us lot in the, oh so hip, UK. Engeldinck indeed! Many thanks for bringing these guys back to our attention. Particularly loved Dylan and the go go dancer.

  2. Merric Davidson
    May 20, 2017

    Thanks Dave. Yeah that go go girl is go-going crazy, one of the worst aspects of TV pop in the 60s. They don’t make em like that any more!

  3. Andrew Shields
    May 21, 2017

    Merric, thanks for this great list. Knew David Cassidy’s version of ‘Cherish’ but had no idea the original was such a great record. Brilliant harmonies…

  4. David Lewis
    May 21, 2017

    A very fine captain’s knock. As all the best articles here, it sent me to digging further.

    • John Chamberlain
      May 21, 2017

      When I saw The Association in the list I just knew it was going to be by you, Merric. Great stuff and I went straight to Cherish to listen to that. The best of theirs for me.

  5. Merric Davidson
    May 21, 2017

    Thanks fellas, these classic records still sound as good as they ever did, impossible to tire of them.

  6. Alex Lifson
    May 22, 2017

    Thank you for writing this essay. Very informative and enjoyable.

  7. Glenn Smith
    May 23, 2017

    And you left Windy off your list! I think the story goes that when Engelbert was wreaking havoc at the time Windy came out he also kept Strawberry Fields/Penny Lane off the number 1 spot, how’s his form!
    I hadn’t thought about it until this post, but now The Cowsills The Rain, The Park yada yada makes sense, whoever was producing them wanted that The Association sound..maybe. Requiem is incredible and is that a Smothers Brother doing the intro? And I never knew that Never My Love was theirs if you can believe that. And your tip on having a look at the members list on Wikipedia was a real treat, 34 past and present..great post.

  8. Malc
    Jun 6, 2017

    Am currently researching the band for an extensive project, with input from various original and latter day members – shame the Wiki timeline is so misleading re: the membership – but there is a wealth of material out there to be discovered, from group efforts to wonderful recent releases from both Alexander and Yester…
    A wonderful road of discovery for all who venture…

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