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24 Sep 2016

The Lemon Drops “Crystal Pure” 1966-69 US Garage Psych




The Lemon Drops  “Crystal Pure” 1966-69 US Garage Psych
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Anyone who likes the Leaves, the Seeds et al will love the early cuts by this band, a hard-luck Chicago outfit who couldn’t turn a local wave of popular enthusiasm into something bigger, despite some good songs. Their later stuff was more self-consciously psychedelic, but it’s still very well done, with superb playing and harmonies. The Lemon Drops were Jeff Brand (bass), Bobby Lunack (rhythm guitar), Gary Weiss (drums), Eddie Weiss (rhythm guitar), and Danny Smola (vocals), who began rehearsing in the Weiss home when they were between 14 and 17 years old. With lead guitarist Ricky Erickson in tow and later an official member, they cut their first record, “I Live In the Springtime,” for Rembrandt, a local label co-owned by one of the Weisses’ elder siblings. “I Live in the Springtime” got an enthusiastic reception locally, and was played as far away as New York. 
The bandmembers became celebrities among the local kids when they were thrown out of school for their long hair. By that time, they were on their second single, the angry anti-Vietnam rocker “It Happens Everyday,” and soon after had a new lead singer, Dick Sidman. The band slipped easily into the psychedelic blossoming of the Summer of Love, adding more overt flower-power references to their mix of sounds. It looked as though RCA was interested in the group, but a mix-up prevented the tapes for their third single, “Sometime Ago”/“Theatre of Your Eyes,” from getting to the company in New York on time. A potential contract with Uni Records came to nothing, and their third single, as well as a dozen tracks cut live in the Weiss home in January of 1968, went unheard. A few more songs were cut on behalf of Buena Vista Records, but the death of the label head scotched the deal, and a potential contract with Alden Records fell apart, along with the group, following an acid party at the owner’s Los Angeles mansion in the summer of 1969. by Bruce Eder 
Combines the contents of both LPs issued on the Cicadelic label in the mid-‘80s (Crystal Pure and Second Album) onto one CD, making this indeed the definitive collection. Almost all of their known tapes, covering both their searing electric garage/psych and softer, acoustic garage/folk sides. Dating from 1967 and 1968, this features a lot of original material that the band recorded in Chicago studios, as well as some drummerless home demos. These are endearing (and still moving) relics of an age of great exuberance, innocence, and hope. Good harmonies on the psychedelic ballads, which have been described as “garage-band Donovan.” One of the best reissues of unknown '60s garage/psychedelic music. by Richie Unterberger …… 

The Lemon Drops were pioneers of a psychedelic pop and folk rock sound in the Chicago suburbs in 1967. All were students at McHenry High School. Danny Smola (16 years old-lead vocals), Eddie Weiss (14 years old-guitar), Gary Weiss, brother of Eddie (16 years old-drums), Jeff Brandt (17 years old-bass), George Sorrenson (16 years old-lead guitar) and Bobby Lunak (15 years old-guitar). They had been playing for about a year, but it wasn’t until Reggie Weiss (brother to Eddie and Gary) heard them perform that they matured into a band with a distinct sophisticated sound. 

In 1966 Reggie (nee Roger) Weiss, age?? and Anton (Tony) Urban opened Rembrandt Recording Studio near Southern Illinois University, 400 miles south of Chicago. The business was successful and a record label was formed called Rembrandt Records. The first groups signed were popular college bands like The Nite-Owls, The Circus, The Nuchez, and Mondays Children. In early 1967, Weiss, Urban, and artist John “J.D.” Dettenemeir returned home to Chicago from Southern Illinois University. They heard The Lemon Drops rehearse and were impressed enough to suggest a record deal with Rembrandt Records. 

Reggie became the catalyst for the group, writing, producing and recording their music. The first song he wrote for them, “I Live In The Springtime” was inspired by the winter weather in Chicago. The b-side was a folk-rock ballad titled “Listen Girl” (written by Eddie Weiss and Danny Smola). Both songs featured the excellent lead vocals of Danny Smola and the brilliant twelve-string guitar work of Bobby Lunak. On May 1, 1967, The Lemon Drops went to RCA Studios in Chicago to record the single. George Sorenson quit the band a few days before the session. A new lead guitar player, Ricky Erickson, replaced him. Erickson was formerly of The Nuchez. Their single, (Rembrandt #5001)“Open Up Your Mind”, earned a B+ rating in the October 29, 1966 issue of Cashbox. 

Five hundred copies of “I Live In The Springtime” were pressed and quickly rejected because Reggie found out that the drum track was omitted. He had supplied RCA with a stereo mix-down tape, but apparently the person mastering it patched only one of the two tracks thru instead of collapsing them both into one mono track. A few of the drum-less singles leaked out to the public. One would even end up in 1998 on the Rhino Nuggets Box Set. 

A subsequent new pressing of “Springtime” was issued with the drum track in place and one thousand units were pressed. Popular Chicago AM radio station WLS, showed interest in the record but wanted Rembrandt Records to have thousands more copies of the single pressed. Reggie could not get the funding for the additional copies and thus the record never charted. 

The Lemon Drops though, were celebrities at their school, McHenry High. “Springtime” was played on the intercom during lunch and was also in the school’s jukebox. The band gave their first ever performance at the high school expecting around 250 people, but over a thousand students attended. The band wore matching silk blue shirts, except Smola, who had a white one and everyone wore chains around their necks with a mod shaped “lemon drop”(a close look at their color publicity photo shows this). The band performed “Springtime”, “It Happens Everyday” ,“Alone” and cover songs. 

While “Springtime” did not reach any local top 40 charts, this lack of success did not stop Reggie from writing another song for their next proposed single, “It Happens Every Day”. The song was about Vietnam, screaming with frustration and resentment. “Alone” penned by Ricky Erickson was chosen as the b-side, but no vocal tracks were ever added, The songs are never released as the band hires a new lead singer, 17 year old Dick Sidman, and changed their sound to psychedelic flower-power music. 

The next two songs Reggie wrote were at the apex of The Lemon Drops psychedelic sound, “Sometime Ago” and “My Friend”. Early versions of the songs were recorded in Chicago at RCA studios and cut directly to acetate in August 1967. “Sometime Ago” had a rapid garage beat to it, but over the next few months Reggie worked in more layers of optical sound and elevated it to Psychedelic Raga Rock status. On December 4, The Lemon Drops went to RCA Studios in Chicago to record “The Theatre of Your Eyes”(which was originally titled “My Friend”) and “Sometime Ago”. The results were astonishing, the epiphany for the flower-power generation. The new version of “Sometime Ago” featured Homer Gaston (who would also write “Forever” for the band) on Sitar and Dick Sidman on Tablas. JD Dettenmeir designed a mind blowing psychedelic picture sleeve (shown on the front cover of this booklet) for “Sometime Ago”. Reggie recalled, “I gambled on the session being so hot that RCA would pick up the group. As it went, RCA was more interested in the $1200 bill we ran up and I didn’t have the money to pay for the session”. As a result the master tapes remained unreleased. 

In 1968, The Lemon Drops were still without a new single and no deal from a major record label. Out of sheer desperation, the band recorded a live album in two evenings at the Weiss’s home in January. The drums were left out on most tracks because of limited space in the living room. Two microphones are used for the vocals, harmonies and guitars. Originally intended as an album prototype, the tape was a brilliant tapestry of songs with themes of death- “Flowers On The Hillside” and “Death Calls”, Optimisim- “Dream”, Romance-“I Like You” and “Love Is A Word, Fantasy- “To The Tower”, “Learn To Fly”, and Guinevere ( a Donovan influenced song reminiscing about the Rennaisssance period of Knights and chivalry), universal love-“Flower Child Eyes and Arms”(whose haunting lyrics caused lead singer Sidmans voice to falter because he was overcome with emotion from 1: to of the song. Since “Sometime Ago” and “The Theater of Your Eyes” were already recorded, the band only did short 30 second snippets of the songs and placed “Sometime Ago” to lead off the album and “The Theater Of Your Eyes to lead off side two. Fittingly the album ended with “Forever” but the tape has long since fell apart so what remains is what is on the end of the second disc. In the discography at the end of the liner notes, the exact order of the album is delineated. Reggie took the tape to several Hollywood labels, but no deal transpired. The Lemon Drops broke up in March 1968. 

Reggie and Eddie still tried to find an outlet for The Lemon Drop recordings. The owner of Buena Vista Records (a division of Walt Disney) expressed interest in them and offered to put up the funds to promote the group. The Lemon Drops reformed in the late summer of 1968, but without the services of Ricky Erickson. Eddie Weiss moved to lead guitar in his place. In October, four songs were recorded at Bykowski’s Music Store in McHenry. The owner, Ron Bykowski had just opened a new recording studio at the music shop and The Lemon Drops were one of his first clients. For years prior, they bought all their music equipment from Bykowski’s, so they felt relaxed when they performed the four recordings. The songs were “Forever”, “Learn To Fly”, “Maria”, and “I Like You”. While these songs appear on this compilation, they are not the same versions as the ones recorded at Bykowski’s Music. Sadly, these recordings remain the only missing Lemon Drops songs. 

In November as The Lemon Drops were getting ready to move to Los Angeles a letter arrived that said the owner of Buena Vista had died suddenly. The band was left hanging without their main supporter. A month and half later The Lemon Drops go to Sound Studios in Chicago to record more songs. “Paperplane Flyer”, “Fairytales”, “Flowers On The Hillside” and “Dream” were recorded on November 5. Released for the first time is the complete session tape for “Fairytales”. It was the last song recorded at Sound Studios that day and Sidman was ill with the flu, so the ensuing tension at the end of the session is palpable. “Paperplane Flyer” displayed the powerful harmonies of The Lemon Drops and the enclosed version here is a 24-bit master re-mix, as the previous version issued on The Lemon Drops-Crystal Pure(Cic-984) in 1985 had the lyrics obscured by the precussion. 

In December, four more songs are recorded, “Popsicle Girl”, and “Flower Pure”, “Crystal Pure”(original titled “Queen Bee”) and “Jennifer-Ann”. “Crystal Pure” was the proposed a-side for the next single and was laden with Eddie Weiss’ explosive psychedelic guitar sounds and influenced by Hendrix and The Cream. It was the hardest rock song they had done yet (“Death Calls” had previously held the title) The b-side, “Jennifer-Ann” was a love ballad and Weiss played the Spanish Goya Guitar. Had Reggie had the proper funding The Lemon Drops would have released “It Happens Everyday/Alone”, “Sometime Ago/The Theater Of Your Eyes”, “Popsicle Girl/Flower Pure” and “Crystal Pure/Jennifer Ann” as their first four singles. Accompanying the singles would have been an album with a theme threaded thru it, a popular musical trend in the wake of “Sgt. Peppers”. Some of the other albums to tread in this territory were The Moody Blues “Days Of Future Passed”, The Pretty Things “SF Sorrow”, The Zombies “Odyssey and Oracle” Frederic-Phases and Faces, and The Seeds “Future” all recorded within a year or less of Sgt. Pepper. 

Reggie tried to find another record label for the band but to no avail. Kenny Weiss, their road manager, recalled that “Uni Records” really got off on “Paperplane Flyer”. They wanted the band to add another verse or two. The group was skeptical, starting to splinter, and nothing was ever done.” One last stab at fame occurred when Reggie succeeded in obtaining Alden Productions of Redwood City, California to front the band. Dan Herron, the company president, agreed to host the band in Redwood City and pay all expenses. In the summer of 1969, The Lemon Drops drove to the west coast in their own bus, which had the roof painted lemon yellow. Once they arrived in Redwood City they stayed and rehearsed at Herron’s mansion complete with an Olympic sized swimming pool and King Farouk’s Rolls Royce. Also present was another band called “Faith”. Fantastic parties were held at Herron’s mansion and on several occasions the neighbors complained about the nude teenage girls swimming in the pool. At the height of one massive party, The Lemon Drops broke up. 

Eddie and Gary Weiss would go on to form “Watermelon” and then a year later “Buzzsaw”. Like with The Lemon Drops, Reggie produced and wrote songs for the two new groups. In fact, “Springtime” is revived as a Rembrandt single released in 1972 by Buzzsaw backed with “I Can Make You Happy”. The version of “Springtime” on this single is in stereo, the mix Reggie made back in 1967, but that was issued in mono on the single. In the summer of 1972,while in Acapulco, Reggie provided the local radio station copies of the new Buzzsaw single and once again it received substantial airplay. Since that time the mystique of The Lemon Drops has crystallized and grown thru the ensuing decades. All of Reggie Weiss’s original stereo mixes done in 1967-68 are present on this compilation, many for the first time. For a group that only had one single released and was of high school age when it was issued, the subsequent prolific amount of recordings done during their brief two year tenure reflects their sheer genius and talent. Here then on these two CD’s is the final word on the flower-power sound of The Lemon Drops…… 

The more common issue (if a rare single like this could be considered common) is missing the drums and bass. The lesser seen pressing has the exact same label, but it has the drums and bass and the guitar is further down in the mix. We can only summise that they took the stereo mix and issued the left channel (in mono) on one pressing and the right channel (in mono) on the other pressing. It’s not known if the two variations share the same dead wax markings. 

This band formed in the Chicago, Illinois suburb of McHenry in 1966. Despite its repetitive lyrics the band’s only 45 I Live In The Springtime, has a strong enough melody to suggest that better things could have laid ahead…. but as it turned out, none of their other 1967-68 recording sessions were released on record until the mid-eighties. 

Ricky Erickson (ex-The Nuchez) was brought in to do guitar on the 45 after the band’s original guitarist (George Sorenson) had quit prior to the recording and I Live In The Springtime did get some airplay in New York. Consequently the Lemon Drops recorded a second 45, the hard rockin’ It Happens Everyday backed by a Ricky Erickson composition Alone, at the RCA Studios in Chicago, but it was never released. They then recruited a new 17 year old singer Dick Sidman and began working on an ambitious new project with tablas, flowery harmonies and numerous special effects ran up a studio bill of $1,200 that Reggie Weiss, the owner of Rembrandt Records couldn’t pay. Only in 1985 were the master tapes from this session released as Crystal Pure. 
In their quest for major label interest the band proceeded to record a live album over two evenings at Weiss’ home. They took the tapes to several Hollywood labels but none were interested and losing heart the band actually split in 1968. However, the following month the Weiss family moved to Phoenix, Arizona and by chance played their tape for Buena Vista Productions who offered to put up $250,000 to promote the group. Obviously they were thrilled and the Lemon Drops reformed with just Ricky Erickson missing from the new line-up. They recorded lots of new songs in Chicago’s Sound Studios during November and December 1968, but ironically these efforts too proved to be in vain, for the owner of Buena Vista died in his sleep and the deal was cancelled! Devastated the band split up for good. 
Gary and Eddie Weiss later formed Watermelon and then Buzzsaw. In 1972 Reggie Weiss, frustrated by their lack of success issued a stereo mix of I Live In The Springtime as Buzzsaw. 

Compilation appearances include: I Live In The Springtime on Nuggets Box (4-CD), Psychedelic Patchwork (LP), Pebbles, Vol. 8 (LP) and I Wanna Come Back From The World Of LSD (CD); Talk To The Animals, an unreleased cut with loads of fuzz guitar, on Psychedelic Crown Jewels, Vol. 1 (Dble LP & CD); Listen Girl on Time Won’t Change My Mind (LP); Flowers On The Hillside, I Live In The Springtime, Listen Girl, Nobody For Me on Chicago Garage Band Greats (CD); Sometime Ago, My Friend (Theatre Of Your Eyes), Jennifer Ann, Crystal Pure, Maria and (Flower) Dream (demos) on The Cicadelic 60’s, Vol. 5 (CD); I Live In The Springtime (unreleased version culminating in a guitar solo), Alone, Jennifer Ann on Chicago Garage Band Greats (LP); It Happens Everyday and I Live In The Springtime on Green Crystal Ties Vol. 9 (CD). Buzzsaw’s version of I Live In The Springtime can also be found on Highs In The Mid-Sixties, Vol. 4 and Pebbles, Vol. 6 (CD). 
(Vernon Joynson/Max Waller/Barry Margolis) …… 

The Lemon Drops 
*Dick Sidman - Lead Vocals (3-23) 
*Danny Smola - Lead Vocals (1-2) 
*Ricky Erickson - Lead Guitar (1-4, 11-23) 
*Eddie Weiss - Lead, Rhythm Guitars 
*Bobby Lunak - Rhythm Guitar (1-4, 10), Bass (5-9) 
*Jeff Brand - Bass (1-4, 10-23) 
*Garry Weiss - Drums 


Tracks 
1. I Live In The Springtime - 3:03 
2. It Happens Everyday - 2:18 
3. Sometime Ago - 3:41 
4. The Theatre Of Your Eyes - 3:22 
5. Popsicle Girl - 5:19 
6. Flower Pure - 4:00 
7. Paperplane Flyer (Weiss, Sidman, Thunderbolt) - 2:34 
8. Talk To The Animals (Weiss, Sidman, Thunderbolt) - 4:20 
9. Fairy Tales (Weiss, Sidman, Thunderbolt) - 2:26 
10.Hi, How Are You Today - 3:11 
11.Alone (Weiss, Sidman, Thunderbolt) - 1:32 
12.Sleeping On Colours (Weiss, Sidman, Thunderbolt) - 4:55 
13.Sometime Ago (Acoustic Version) - 0:22 

ALBUMS: 
1(-) CRYSTAL PURE (Cicadelic CIC 984) 1985 
2(-) SECOND ALBUM (Cicadelic CIC 982) 1987 
3(-) CRYSTAL PURE (Collectables COL-CD-0517) 199? 
NB: (3) is a 24 track CD compilation. 

45: 
1(B) I Live In The Springtime/Listen Girl (Rembrandt 5009) 1967 
NB: I Live In The Springtime was issued on Rembrandt 5009 in two different ways:

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