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This song has a rather convoluted history that Mark S. Weitz, who was the original keyboard player of the Strawberry Alarm Clock, helped us sort out. The writing credits on the song are listed as John Carter and Tim Gilbert, who were not part of the band, and the lead vocalist on this track was also not a member of the group.
It was Greg Munford, a 16-year-old singer with a group called The Shapes, who sang lead. He was brought in to sing harmonies on this song, but ended up doing the lead vocals. He was not even a regular band member, but ended up singing a tune that would rocket to #1 in the United States and sell over a million copies. Despite this success, Munford never actually joined the group.
Weitz gave us this account of how the song was written and how Munford ended up singing it: "I came up with the idea and actual music to the then untitled song that ultimately evolved into the #1 national hit, 'Incense and Peppermints.' I wrote the intro (the oriental sounding riff), the verses, and the ending (the major sevenths) while Ed King, at my request for some help on completing the song, co-wrote the bridge (the F # part) and of course the lead guitar parts. At the time when the music was recorded at Art Laboe's 'Original Sounds' studio in Hollywood, there was only a temporary title to the song, and lyrics had not yet been written. Our producer Frank Slay decided to send the fully mixed music track (recorded on 8 tracks of mono!) to John Carter; a member of the band The Rainy Daze, who Slay also produced at the time. John Carter was solely responsible for conjuring up the lyrics and the controversial melody line extracted out of the finished musical track. Frank Slay ultimately credited that melody line solely to the writing team of John Carter and Tim Gilbert. To this day, they have received 100% of the royalties.
When Frank Slay was approving the writer's names and how they would appear on the actual label prior to printing, our manager Bill Holmes and our producer Frank Slay had an argument. It was regarding who should receive the credit as writers of 'Incense and Peppermints.' Holmes was not happy with the fact that Ed King, John Carter, Tim Gilbert and I would receive credit as writers (which was rightfully so). Holmes wanted HIS name as well as ALL the members of the SAC as writers to appear on the label. Holmes would not agree to Slay's request for only having FOUR writers maximum to appear on the label. I assume, this was the industry standard at the time, that Slay was committed to uphold. This displeased Holmes to say the least. A verbal battle ensued, and ultimately Frank Slay went ahead and made a decision to have the label printed with John Carter's and Tim Gilbert's names both listed as the writers. Needless to say, when the song climbed to #1 on the Billboard Top 100 charts, Ed King and I were duped out of our fair share and never received a dime for our efforts. I was determined to sue all parties concerned, but was talked out of this action by Slay by mentioning the fact that it would destroy the future livelihood of the band, and we would lose the tour bookings that the band just signed on to do with the William Morris agency. I agreed to call off the dogs. After 2 years, I made a second attempt to initiate the lawsuit against Holmes. Upon the untimely breakup of the SAC in 1970, and due to the high cost of continuing on with the lawsuit, I was forced to drop the case.
Regarding the lead vocalist on I & P: When it came time to record the vocal tracks, none of the members of the Alarm Clock sounded right for the lead vocal. We all tried. Greg Munford (A 16 year old guitar player also produced by Holmes) was a guest in the studio that day, and gave a go at it. His voice sounded best, and we all agreed on keeping his vocal track on the final version."
The group's guitarist, who co-wrote this song, was Ed King. In 1970, an unknown band called Lynyrd Skynyrd opened some shows for The Strawberry Alarm Clock, and King got to know them. In 1973, King joined Skynyrd on guitar.
This is a good example of "Psychedelic" music, which was very popular at the time. Many of these songs had a drug influence, and that may have been the case here. Says Weitz: "When the music was written by myself in early '67 at my home in Van Nuys California, with my request for some help on the bridge of the song from Ed King, it was mid day, and no drugs were involved whatsoever. I came up with this musical idea and chord progressions that evolved that afternoon in a short time to what basically was recorded with some minimal editing to cut down the almost 5 minute original down to 3 minutes and change. As for the lyrics, that was the brainchild of John Carter. Carter was under contract with Frank Slay also as a producer. And there are many stories to how he came about those lyrics, but I can't substantiate any of it."
Regarding the band's name and their psychedelic look, Weitz says, "It went from Thee Sixpence right into the Strawberry Alarm Clock. I was instrumental in coming up with the name. I borrowed the Strawberry from Strawberry Fields Forever
and then right down to the noisy Baby Ben electric alarm clock (in my bedroom/guest house where we used to rehearse) that we hooked up with name Strawberry to come up with the new name. We were asked by Frank Slay to come up with a new name because when we did a name check to clear it for label printing, Thee Sixpence was already used somewhere by another band at the time and there would be too much confusion. Slay was not instrumental in our 'Look.' He was our record producer. The East Indian Kurtas we had custom made at a store named Sat Parush in Westwood, California. I think our drummer Randy Seol stumbled on the store by accident one night while having dinner on the floor above at an ethnic restaurant or some kind one night way back in the beginning of 67. He showed us what they had there, and we liked it."
A common misperception is that the band took their name from the Beatles song "Strawberry Fields Forever
." That song hadn't been released when the band formed.
According to the group's bass player George Bunnel, they were trying to sound British when they sang this, but their fake English accents ended up sounding trippy, which ended up working very well.
This song was briefly featured on an episode of The Simpsons when Homer was smoking medicinal marijuana. (thanks, zack - Worthington, KY)
Several members of the group reunited during the '80s for a succession of "Summer Of Love Revisited" tours. Their memory would be brought to the forefront again in 1997 when this was featured in the first Austin Powers
movie, and in 2007 they reunited to play some shows. See the band in Song Images
. (thanks, Kain - Charleston, SC)
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