Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Uther Pendragon “San Francisco Earthquake” 1966-1975 - 2016 Unreleased West Coast guitar psychedelia released by Guerssen Records 3 LP (12"/10" } Box Set

Uther Pendragon “San Francisco Earthquake” 1966-1975 - 2016 Unreleased West Coast guitar psychedelia released by Guerssen Records 3 LP (12"/10" } Box Set ...recommended.....!
watch in psychedelic baby
A 1973 photo of Uther Pendragon at The Shelter in San Jose.  Photo courtesy of Craig Pedersen.

A band photo of Timne, an earlier iteration of the band, pictured from left Bruce Marelich, Doug Williams, Craig Pedersen, Martin Espinosa, Mark Lightcap and Fayden Hombole.  Photo courtesy of Craig Pedersen.

An early band photo taken for Billboard magazine before Mike Beers joined as drummer. Pictured third from the right is Steven Curtis, the band's technician at the time.  Photo courtesy of Craig Pedersen.
Uther Pendragon Signed 40 Years Late Guerssen Records Discovered Them on Internet

A treasure trove of previously unreleased West Coast guitar psychedelia, dating from the period 1966-1975, issued as a TRIPLE-LP in a DELUXE PURPLE/GOLD HOTFOIL BOX! An 8-page booklet (with detailed liner notes by Ugly Things' Mike Stax and rare pix) and a poster are included. This obscure Bay Area band existed from 1966 to 1978, had various names, but never an official release. Active under monikers s.a. Blue Fever, Timne, (Hodological) Mandala and, from the early '70s on, UTHER PENDRAGON, the band's style evolved from garage to heavy psych to hardrock. This amazing release includes the band's '67 garage-psych acetate 7-inch (a must-hear for fans of Music Machine and Human Expression), studio demos, home recordings and more. One of the last undiscovered killer bands from the era?

This is the incredible story of Uther Pendragon: a lost psychedelic band from San Francisco whose music has remained buried until now.

Formed in the Bay Area in 1966 as a teen garage group called Blue Fever, Uther Pendragon lasted from 1966 until 1978. During that time, the band went through different names and phases, as their music evolved from garage to psychedelia to hard- rock: they were known as Blue Fever, Timne, Hodological Mandala, Mandala, Kodiac, Justus, Pendragon…but the core of the band remained always the same: Mark Lightcap (rhythm guitar, vocals), Bruce Marelich (lead guitar, vocals) and Martin Espinosa (bass, vocals) who after finding their ultimate drummer on Mike Beers, finally settled on the Uther Pendragon name in the early 70s.

But despite being in active for all that time and recording lot of tapes and demos at different studios (including their own one in Palo Alto), Uther Pendragon never released any recording at the time. They’re not even a footnote on the books about the San Francisco Sound or a small name at those psychedelic posters of the time. Nothing. It’s as if they never existed. Until now. ...............

Bruce Marelich  lead singer & lead guitar

If you were in the San Francisco Bay Area around the Summer of Love or the decade following you probably have heard of these psychedelic rockers. If not, you probably haven't, because although the band recorded a significant amount of material (enough to fill two CDs here) from 1966 to 1975, none of it ever got released until now. And that's not because of weak material; with a sound that's often not too far off from very early (pre Grace Slick) Jefferson Airplane, the four-piece has got the acid-dropping soundtrack down perfectly. Maybe in the band's lifetime the fact that they still sounded like '67 in '75 was a turn-off to some but today bands go to great lengths to find this sound, and here you have the real thing playing out in mind-expanding numbers like "Magical Door," the slow-burning peyote trip that is instrumental cut "Spanish Fly" and the carefree innocence of "Peter Pan Blowup," a tune that Syd Barrett certainly could have related to. Some cuts here lean more towards garage rock and they are not as memorable; never mind though there's plenty of freak-out on hand to make this compilation well worth seeking out. Get it.....................

Mark Lightcap   guitar, singer

Their complex and fascinating story, which involves winning a Bay Area Battle Of The Bands and playing with Country Joe & The Fish, recording a killer garage- psych 7” acetate in 1967, going to the legendary Pacific Sound Recording studios in 1969 to record a demo, living as a family in the same house for many years and rehearsing 7 days a week, building their own recording studio and music corporation, being managed by Craig Pedersen (Something Wild, Tripsichord Music Box), being involved in an occult- themed rock opera called Sabbat, and much more, is being told with all details by Mike Stax from Ugly Things in the extensive liner notes.
Includes their unknown until now 7” acetate from 1967 (fab garage- psych in the vein of Human Expression or Music Machine); never released ’66- ‘69 tracks including a groundbreaking, moody psycher from 1966; a prev. unreleased demo tape from 1969 recorded at Pacific Recording - an incredible document for any lover of early SF garage- psych (think Oxford Circle, Savage Resurrection, Moby Grape…) and many tracks recorded at their home studio in Palo Alto. We’re talking 100% unadulterated West Coast guitar psych and hard- rock which recall QMS and even Kurihara- era White Heaven.

An AMAZING recording! How could this fantastic music, which touches upon all that was great about the San Francisco rock scene of the 60s but is totally original, have been kept buried for all these years. History may have been totally affected by this fiasco...Just listen to "10 Miles to Freedom" if you don't believe me. This is what we wished that Big Hype "Quicksilver Messenger Service" had sounded like. Just buy before you die. If you LOVE psychedelic music done with class then consider yourself one of the lucky ones! There's a reason this was not allowed to be heard back then. Hendrix I guess. We can just blame Nixon though!!..........By Dano.................

Martin Espinosa bass guitar, singer

Uther Pendragon,it seems, are a forgotten psychedelic band from San Francisco who existed between 1966-1975 yet never actually released an album or a single. A quick scan through my copy of 'Fuzz, Acid and Flowers' confirms the band's legendary status. There appears to be no mention of them at all. Did they actually exist? 

What we do know is that the band had numerous names before deciding on Uther Pendragon in the early 1970s and they have a vast archive of material which this collection is compiled from. 

So, I am wondering what delights unfold from these tapes. 

It is plainly obvious from the word go that the train these guys were riding did not seem to involve wearing flowers in their hair. 

'Love Lock Temperature Drop' from 1967, one of the earliest tracks we are treated to, hints at the Lemon Pipers and the Summer of Love, but by 1969 with 'Ten Miles to Freedom' the band was channelling the Beatles and Pink Floyd. A fine piece of work, it is trippy and sprawling with rolling percussion and fuzz guitar and all of ten minutes long. 

Interestingly the compilation is not chronological and flips between the 1960s and 1970s in a random manner. This actually works quite well, especially if you listen before checking the recording dates. For instance, 'Who’s Gonna Try' from 1975 is a dead ringer for the Spencer Davis Group's Gimme Some Lovin' from the mid’60’s. It is a great cut expanding the riff with some searing guitar,harmony vocals and a freaky wah-wah sound. 
There are hints of Moby Grape and Jefferson Airplane ('Spanish Fly', 1974)while 'King Muskrat' from 1975 is a downright dirty 12 bar blues with about as much finesse as a sledgehammer. 

'San Francisco Earthquake' documents the history of one of the many unknown bands to emerge from that productive era. Uther Pendragon, of their own admission, were not hippies and the progressive element in the music confirms the restlessness they felt as they constantly changed names to move with the times. The tracks featured here are guitar heavy and progressive often reflecting the musical influences around them, 'Troubles' (1975), for example, sees them entering Harvest label Deep Purple territory with a heavy dark riff and twin lead guitars guaranteed to get heads banging. 

This is an impressive and important document of an undiscovered talent full of invention and a sense of real anarchy. Uther Pendragon forged their own path in true garage/D.I.Y. fashion and only now can we hear what we were missing. .......

Mike Beers  Drummer & Singer

No matter how many years separate the 60’s from the present, it seems that the mines run deep for finding more fallout from the explosion of bands that permeated the time. Its getting rarer though to find one that’s had virtually no exposure or reissues to date, but Guerssen has unearthed a band from the outer rim of the San Francisco sound. Existing under the names Blue Fever, Timne, Hodological Mandala, Mandala, Kodiac, Justus, Pendragon and then finally Uther Pendragon, the band lived as a family for years; making music from ’66 until ’78 and growing with the sweeping change of sounds from that time. Guerssen’s reissue follows the band from their teen years, just discovering teen centers and fuzz pedals, to a more sweeping and much heavier territory; you know, the kind of band that could prop up a name like Uther Pendragon. This one seems to be a pure discovery of the internet age, the band wasn’t out that much in the the pages of SF rock lore and the label found them floating around in fan posts. They’re not totally without status, they opened once for Country Joe and the Fish, recorded at Pacific Sounds before building their own studio and had some ties to management that overlapped a few other outer rim psych acts, but in general they were off most radars, probably because they had no released material. Some of the songs are rough, kids finding their way, but for the most part they make good examples of the West Coast psych and proto metal sounds, feeling their way through the era on the fringes of cool............

Uther Pendragon performs at The Shelter, a San Jose music venue in 1973. From left, the band members are Mark Lightcap, Bruce Marelich, Mike Beers and Martin Espinosa.  Photo courtesy of Craig Pedersen.

It was a weird, if wonderful, 9-year period for this ensemble because they still consider themselves a band of brothers. Their creatively stimulating communal living resulted in fantastic live shows and two dozen tracks that made it onto tape but not vinyl – until now, that is, when there’s a 3LP edition alongside a 2CD-set – and the quartet disintegrated when a building they leased had to be vacated right at the start of the sessions for UP’s debut album. It could have been a solid piece of hard rock, as suggested by the seven cuts from April 1975, yet some of the songs had been brought to studio fruition after a long gestation: that’s what gives the group’s output a certain integrity, even with some songs credited to BLUE FEVER and TIMNE, the ensemble’s first incarnations. 

So if “Kristina” has 1966 written all over its gloomy jangle, opener “You’re A Human Now” – penned during the Summer of Love but committed to tape in 1974 – is where the personal becomes universal and heavy riffs complement the voices’ twine. Emerging as one of the most underrated axemen ever, Bruce Marelich can also wax lyrical to create a dark mood for the “Devil’s Due” waltz, while Mike Beers’ drums deliver a dramatic solo on the funereal raga of “10 Miles To Freedom” that’s a nice reflection on the times, what with a certain player’s Vietnam experience. So although the “we shall overcome” mantra of “Side Of The Dawn” sounds too idealistic for 1969, “Luxury’s Draft” finds Mark Lightcap emoting mournfully to an anxious six-string strum, one turning into an exquisite lace for “Spanish Fly” to reveal the quartet’s art-rock leanings and speed up the pace. 

Yet all this tentative anger is on the loose in the funky “See It My Way” whose vigor defies its demo quality and the band’s last missives that are as metal as anything BUDGIE or PURPLE could come up with: “Troubles” – extremely tight in its twin-guitar and organ knot – and “Man Of Means” with wah-wah vying for space with Martin Espinosa’s bass. Also laid down at the end of the ensemble’s tenure on earth, “Meanie Jeanie – Old Man” is an epic embracing all the strains of their style, from the innocence of vocal harmonies to the experience of belligerent dynamics and deep feelings. Sadly, 1968’s “They’ll Never Last” proved to be prophetic, but the band have been annually reuniting since 2004, so maybe it’s time for them to finally make that elusive album. Their back pages are a great discovery.................

Uther Pendragon believed in magic – which was of course in no small part to being named after King Arthur's father. Although not releasing a single record through their nine year existence this Californian band did think they would be "not as big as The Beatles, but bigger". Whether that was teenage folly or not can now be proved. Did they have it? We think so.

When the teenage group formed in 1966 as a solid garage band the name Uther Pendragon was still three long years off – the debut efforts on this collection were recorded as Blue Fever, Timne, Kodiak and Hodological Mandala before the band settled on the more of its time Arthurian moniker.

The earliest recordings gathered here – the delightfully naive 'Music Box' and 'Kristina' – see the lads embracing light ethereal psych, that was not a million miles away from acts like The Lemon Drops and even the New England garage bands. The ’67 recordings from Timne recall the regional garage/psych offerings by such renowned acts as The Music Machine and Human Expression, and have a tougher, edgier premise. As the band progressed, they soaked up the sounds of the Californian Ball Rooms (The Doors, Country Joe & The Fish and even Led Zeppelin later on) but their sound barely changed – some of the mid-70s recordings ('San Francisco Earthquake') still maintain the classic West Coast garage/psych flavour from their earlier sessions whilst 'King Muskrat' adheres to the loud ’n' heavy.

For collectors of garage/psych this epic collection is guaranteed to be both consoling and exciting.

San Francisco Earthquake may not ignite the senses in the same way as Abbey Road does, but it will certainly invigorate the ears in all of its lo-fi, innocent psychedelic glory. That a three-LP set of unreleased material from a solid band like this is still appearing is to be whole heartedly celebrated, right?....................

San Francisco’s Uther Pendragon went against the grain by eschewing the drugs which often resulted in disappointing early albums from their contemporaries but, ironically, it was the fact their songs were considered too long which derailed their chances of acquiring a record deal. On the button instead of out to lunch, Uther Pendragon might well be revered like the Dead or Airplane had energised gems such as Devil’s Due, You’re A Human Now, Peter Pan Blowup and Lovelock Temperature Drop been released when they were minted and before the band split in the mid-70s.
The set is drawn from tracks recorded by the group under previous names, including Blue Fever and Time, before they settled on naming themselves after King Arthur’s dad in October 1969. Only the proto-metal riffing on 1975’s Man Of Means falls short; the rest gloriously embodies everything considered great about the San Francisco sound, from mercurial guitars and controlled feedback to stellar harmonies and ballroom beats.
Accompanied by notes by Ugly Things’ Mike Stax, which tell Uther Pendragon’s fascinating story with original members’ help, this release is nothing short of pure west coast gold at a time when every last nugget seemed to have been mined......Record Collector........... by Kris Needs.................

Starting in 1967 in San Carlos and moving through the Peninsula, the four musicians and manager of the rock band Uther Pendragon worked hard for more than a decade to make it big.

With Bruce Marelich on lead guitar, Mark Lightcap on guitar and keyboards, Martin Espinosa on guitar and Mike Beers on drums (with each taking turns on vocals), they had all the makings of the scrappy band that could.

Together, they bought a house in Menlo Park, worked odd jobs to scrape by, and saved up for a recording studio. They were teetotalers who turned down the volume when the blazer-clad Menlo Park Police Department asked. (At the time, MPPD dressed in blazers instead of uniforms as an experiment to improve police-civilian relations).

The band members took every gig they could get. They struggled hard to find a good band name, changing Blue Grass Fever to Blue Fever (they didn't play bluegrass and didn't want to confuse people), then transitioning to Timne, Hodological Mandala, Kodiac and Justus before landing on Uther Pendragon in the early 1970s. They forfeited a trip to Los Angeles, which they had won in a "Battle of the Bands" prize, in order to invest in recording equipment.
After several years, though, the demands of adult life kicked in. One of them got married, the band lost its lease to the recording studio, and Uther Pendragon eventually broke up around 1979. At the time, their work of more than a decade seemed destined to remain in obscurity.
The years passed and they went their separate ways. In recent years, the band's manager, Craig Pedersen, who had assiduously documented the band's history, created a documentary about the band and posted some of its video recordings on YouTube.

It didn't seem likely that posting those videos would lead to anything.

However, in 2013, the unexpected happened. Out of what appeared to be nowhere, a record label based in Spain called Guerssen Records, which specializes in "reissuing rare and obscure psychedelic, progressive, folk and garage albums from the 60s to early 80s," discovered the band on YouTube and reached out to its members.

Guerssen proposed remastering the band's previously recorded music and releasing it on a vinyl three-LP set and a two-CD package, which it did over the following two years. The album, now for sale, is called "San Francisco Earthquake" and can be purchased at the Best Buy, Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites.

Antoni Gorgues of Guerssen Records told the Almanac he was impressed by both the band's quality recordings and quantity of undiscovered music. He describes the band's sound as "pretty unadulterated late 60s and early 70s garage rock and West Coast psychedelia," and says the recordings demonstrate the band's talent and original sound, untouched by fancy recording studio tricks.

"The fact of having such a vast archive of unknown music from that era is nothing less than a huge discovery for the fans of that type of music," Mr. Gorgues says.

For the band, it's a dream come true – proof that the years they spent creating and performing music was worthy of recognition.

The music scene

At their peak, the band members worked hard to break into the early 1970s Bay Area music scene. They vied for the spotlight and were influenced by major musicians and movements of the era.

"We were right at the tail end of Haight-Ashbury period when we started playing in earnest," recalls Mr. Pedersen.

Uther Pendragon at first followed the sound of a local band named "Fritz," whose members included Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks before their days in Fleetwood Mac. But in 1969, when band members saw Led Zeppelin perform at Fillmore West in San Francisco, they took on a more "hard rock" sound, Mr. Pedersen said.

The band name, allowed it to maintain a "mystical" component to their changing sound as it shifted from "pop psychedelic" to "hard rock and hard rock blues," said Mr. Pedersen. (Uther Pendragon, according to Arthurian legend, was the name of Merlin's father.)

Loosely defined, the name meant "father of magic," he said. The Uther part of the name soon fell off, but was brought back to differentiate it on YouTube from other bands in the 1980s and 1990s that had also been called Pendragon.

The band worked to reflect the strengths of artistic creations, such as the Beatles' "White Album," where no two songs sound alike," Mr. Pedersen said. "I think we pretty well accomplished that."

The band wanted "something more cerebral" than what the record lables were looking for, he said. After an unfruitful pilgrimage to get Los Angeles record labels to hear their demo tape, the band decided to set up its own studio.

Members pitched in to rent a warehouse in Palo Alto and built much of their own equipment. One of their friends, Warren Brown, built an amplifier that could produce a higher-watt output with smaller transformers, yielding zero distortion in the band's sound. Later when the band split up, their technician Steve Curtis traveled with the Doobie Brothers and likely helped to spread the technology throughout the industry, Mr. Pedersen said.

The Menlo Park circuit

The band lived, worked, and performed together, Mr. Pedersen said. They rented a home in Belmont, then one in Atherton, before purchasing a home in Menlo Park on Chester Street.

When the band was starting out, one of its biggest problems was retaining a drummer, Mr. Pedersen recalled. He remembered a time when the band had a gig at the Veterans Affairs campus in Menlo Park, but their drummer failed to show. The other members began asking around to see if anyone knew how to play the drums. One man, a veteran, volunteered.

"I think he knew one beat," said Bruce Marelich.

Despite the drummer's limitations, Mr. Marelich and Mr. Pedersen recalled that performance in particular with great fondness, saying it was a surprising success.

Mike Beers joined the band as drummer soon after, and stayed for the duration of the band's time together. The son of two deaf parents, he grew up in Burlingame. His parents divorced before he was born, and he credits his mother for allowing him the freedom to listen to and practice music to his heart's content. Though she couldn't hear all the band's music, he says she could feel the vibrations from the drums.

The band performed around Menlo Park and Atherton, booking gigs at St. Patrick's Seminary and at the all-male Menlo Boys School (before it became the co-ed Menlo School), where they played for prom night. "Those gigs were always fun," said Mr. Pedersen, noting they would play inside the campus' mansion. "The audience there was really good."

Several band members also worked at guitarist Martin Espinosa's business, Martin Enterprises, which built utility shelves and tables and, according to Mr. Pedersen, did some work at the Almanac offices in its earlier days.

Eventually, the band broke up and the members left the Bay Area. Today, they're all in their 60s and are retired or concluding their careers. Bruce Marelich worked as a property appraiser in Redding, California; Mr. Lightcap, who headed the Chico water district, is retired; Mr. Espinosa is planning to retire from a construction company in Florida and is now living in the Russian River area; and Mr. Beers works as a contractor in the Oakland area.

Despite their geographic separation, the members of Uther Pendragon remained close friends over the years and continued to play music. For the last decade or so, the band has gathered for annual reunions. Mr. Marelich and Mr. Lightcap play together in a band called "Bad Daddy," which Mr. Marelich describes with a laugh as "geriatric rock." Mr. Beers drums and sings for "The Hit Men," a cover band based in Los Altos.

What's next?

The band members the Almanac interviewed were thrilled that their work was finally getting recognition.

"Frankly," Mr. Pedersen said, "This has all been like a fairy tale coming true."

"I'm still pinching myself," said Mr. Marelich. When the band broke up, he said, "I figured that was it. We didn't do what we set out to do."

Mr. Lightcap said he was confident the band would someday get recognition. "I never stopped believing in Pendragon," he said. "The most important thing to me has been the journey with these people I consider family."

Still, he added, it's "nice to be validated. The reviews are glowing that are coming out."

"I am sure that all of us are in a cloud now to think that our dream has come true after 40 years," added Mr. Beers.

As for what's ahead, Mr. Pedersen said, the band will have an album release party on May 28 and 29 in Chico, California, at a band member's ranch. Personally, he's hoping to get the band booked into the hotel casino circuit.

"These guys could go start playing again," he said. "You get music in your blood and it's hard to get rid of it."...........

Band Members
Bruce Marelich, Lead Singer, Lead Guitar
Mark Lightcap, Guitar, Singer, background vocals.
Martin Espinosa, Background singer, Bass Guitar
Mike Beers, Drummer, Singer

Phil Holmboe, Lead Singer, Guitar Jan1967- Nov 1968
George Miller, Drummer, Background Singer May 1967-1969
Derek French, Drummer, 1965-1967, 1970
Gary Mora,Drummer,1971
Doug Williams, Organ, Background Singer 19641968
Mike Beers, Drummer, Singer, 1972-1979


1. Intro – You’re a Human Now (1974)
2. Side of the Dawn (1969)
3. Who’s Gonna Try (1975)
4. Devil’s Due (1974)
5. 10 Miles To Freedom (1969)
6. San Francisco Earthquake (1975)
7. Signify Justice (1969)
8. Love Lock Temperature Drop (1967)
9. Magical Door (1969)
10. Peter Pan Blowup (1967)
11. Luxury’s Draft (1975)
12. Realm of 7 Planes (1974)
13. Man of Means (1975)
14. Spanish Fly (1974)
15. King Muskrat(1975)
16. See It My Way (1974)
17. Rock and Roll Star (1975)
18. Meanie Jeanie – Old Man (1975)
19. Troubles (1975)
20. Woman (1975)
21. Hell’s Rock (1975)
22. They’ll Never Last (1968)
23. Kristina (1966)
24. Music Box (1969)

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