Thursday, January 3, 2013

Kak- The Band That Started It All In The Beginning + Now Getting To The End

Record dealing is always such a pain in the arse. I've been doing it for some 21 years and compared to the moderation for the beginning what it has turned into I completely hate. I spend a long time accumulating records and many of them have appeared in these pages before. Then I keep getting less and less of what I need to get another batch and they fly out the door. Most of the time they are something I cared about or unfortunately still do care about, but I'm determined that after the deal at hand right now is over that my 21 years of record dealing are over. I'll go back to how it was in the beginning and that was a happier time for me anyway. Kak opened the door to rare records when it was the first major label album I'd known of 21 years ago to fetch the what now seems like a bargain price of $100. Kak have been famous in collectors circles for absolute ages and there is a good reason for that, but there's just as good a reason now to go back to when the buying and trading were something that happened irregularly and with none of the pain or anguish which has become synonymous with the whole thing.
                                      -The Good Days And Good Times-
     Of course much has changed since my golden days of 1992-1995 and then again from 1998-2002. The two most serious changes were one for the better which was in the beginning and one for the worst which occurred later.  In the disgusting decade known as the 1990s nothing except perhaps glam (read tolerable, melodic) metal was hated and detested more than the music of the 1960s. Whilst the collector's scene was turning on and I was part of it the general opinion of most kids my age or a little older or younger then was that anything to do with peace, love, flowers, and melody was bullshit. How fucking stupid can you get!? The 90s were all about hate and the few of us who dared to be different paid a high price for it. I do not like the word "rebel" because I associate it with the maniacal faction of the Northern Irish population that has always been making misery, but if "rebel" were to be turned on its head to mean fighting against conformity and standing up for a good cause I was one. I dressed in flowery psychedelic clothes and had very long hair, but I was both hippy and warrior combined. Kak were one of many bands who defined my personality. Their message was my message. I never had a messianic complex thankfully and neither did they, but I did see myself as something a bit larger than I really was and that would all crash down several years later in my bad period after high school where I became an obese and unpleasant cynic who hated everything.
    In the 90s everybody believed that technology was the thing, modern was the thing, whatever was  a day earlier was past and useless. This led to a huge abundance of rare records that were common records at the time for cheap and the collector's scene was just beginning to take off. I could score an album for anywhere between 50 cents to $15 and make a big profit on it with someone you may know and who may be reading this entry as I write it- Paul Major. I haven't been in touch with good old Paul for ages, but I still think of him fondly. Paul was my first mail order contact. Paul was a teacher to me about music. Paul was a gentle person. I could, even before Paul, have a huge amount of knowledge from my really good mate Bill Pacquin and he taught me so much I don't think I can overvalue him. It was Bill who told me all about Kak. I was going to record stores everywhere and there was so much around that I would ignore things I'd pounce on now. Everybody was dumping their records to get compact discs or just to get rid of them. Back in those days you could find stuff in Antique and Salvation Army stores. It was a blissful time for collecting, but also full of foolish mistakes on my part. I can't hold too much against me now, though. I was very young at only 16 to 19 years old and you can't know everything when you are at that perilous age of a million and one changes hitting you all the time. I don't think I knew much until I learned that if you don't take a chance you aren't ever gonna know much about anything and that isn't just music.
                      -The Last Gasp And The Beginning Of The End-
   1998 was right before the change over to the bad present times and the rot that would set in would happen. Blame it all on The Internet. It has made everyone, myself included, complacent, lazy, and a slave to the technological evils we should smash up and throw in the garbage along with the rest of the downward slide that people are in where consideration and courtesy are thrown out the window for rudeness and ignorance. In high school I heavily identified with and today I still heavily identify with soldiers because its always been an uphill fight for me and you need strength and determination to get on in life when it keeps becoming a battle. I have spent a lot of time wishing I could somehow change the entire course of how my life has been so far, but I think I'm beginning to see that music is the way out and music is the key component that has brought me happiness all through my life.
                -Kak A Lucky Accident Leads To Much Needed Joyfulness-
  The Bay Area has always tended to produce the LEAST interesting bands and that goes all the way back to the 1960s. Kak were a true exception. LA and Southern California in general gave us The Byrds, Love, Buffalo Springfield, The Doors, The Beach Boys, Captain Beefheart, Frank Zappa And The Mothers Of Invention, and many obscure to semi obscure brilliant musical outfits that would help define a whole era. However, the "West Coast Sound" was both San Francisco style psychedelia and LA style folkrock/psychedelia and it is interesting to note how few bands took advantage of both distinctly opposite forms of the same kind of music and put them all together. Kak was a band that did that and more. Kak who numbered vocalist/main writer/rhythm and acoustic guitarist Gary Yoder, lead guitarist extraordinaire Dehner C. Patten, bass player/multi-instrumentalist Joseph Damrell, and drummer/multi-instrumentalist Christopher Lockheed are something truly special. As enigmatic as their name they were the right band in the right place at the right time, but somehow success cruelly eluded them and their time together proved short lived with the band breaking up at the end of the year they recorded their one album for Epic Records in 1968. A year previously Love had recorded the seminal and ultimate FOREVER CHANGES- an album that will live as long as the earth will live or beyond that. Kak's lone self-titled album is another classic from that era when anything and everything was possible. There is a recent CD out called KAK-OLA with a bunch of unreleased bonus tracks and I am both curious to hear it and not curious to hear it. I, for a ridiculously low price, got an original copy of their now $500 + record as a Christmas present and this still resonates with the same hope, the same despair, and then the same hope again as the album concludes beautifully with the psychedelic folk-rock classic "Lemonaide Kid" as it did when I first heard it. Gary Yoder would go onto Blue Cheer right after Kak, but he would also sacrifice his vision for a more commercial sound as he would continue for about 3 more years and 3 more albums to pursue the success that had so inexplicably evaded him in Kak. A victim of poor promotion Kak also were very ahead of their time. When I first heard them on the official Epic/Sony CD which I still own I flashed on a much later vocalist when I heard Gary Yoder's brilliantly clear and strong voice- Phil Mogg of UFO. UFO are a very California sounding at the same time that they are very British sounding group and that kind of power generated by them during their golden days is present in Kak's Take-On-Everybody-Take-No-Prisoners mentality. With a sound both commercial and very intellectually oriented they created music that is both full of powerful heavy psych and beautiful melodic California rock.
   My only complaint about this album is a line in the impossible to write up the title of short first track: "It's very commercial just record the record/Over There In England." I don't know if they really are slamming British bands, but for such a British oriented at times record it seems a bit obnoxious. However the impossible to spell first track is otherwise really good. "Everything's Changing" is a song very much about 1968. A promo video was shot for the song and is pretty dark. Lyrically there are echoes of the sentiments of both FOREVER CHANGES period Arthur Lee and Ray Davis:
  "The World Would Be A Better Place If Left Undone/The Changes That Have Taken Place Are All The Wrong Ones."
 How true. Dehner C. Patten's brilliant guitar makes heavy use of a wah-wah pedal, fuzztone, and a clean Quicksilver Messenger Service like sound as Kak bridge together the San Francisco, LA, and British kind of psychedelic rock. The ornate arrangements of FOREVER CHANGES are not used, but on gentler numbers like "Flowing By," "I've Got Time," and "Lemonaide Kid" there are acoustic guitars, sitars, steel guitar passages, harpsichords, and a wonderful laid aback resting by the sea kind of a sound that are the polar opposite of the loud electric psych of much of this album. "Electric Sailor" somehow manages to incorporate Mod drumming with a driving and taking-it-past-the-galaxy hard psychedelic rock sound that could be described as "The Kak Style." Since no one else sang like Gary Yoder and no one else played guitar like Dehner C. Patten Kak were one of of the most unique bands around and they easily could have been huge. They didn't promote themselves enough and Epic are often said to have ignored them and both of those unfortunate circumstances led to the dissolution of a band who could have owned the late 60s. For some of us, like me, they DO own the late 60s. I've heard people complain about this album whilst the rest of us love it, well I could care less about people who have stupid opinions. There simply isn't anything you can mock here, but boy did we get shit for loving the 60s back in the 90s. I would hang out with kids who were seeking the same kind of lifestyle as the young people of that era, but they'd get it all wrong and screw themselves up on drugs. I never did. "Acid Rock" doesn't require you to drop acid to play it. When I knew a certain kid was completely idiotic it was when I tried to introduce him to Kak through what may be the darkest, heaviest psych epic ever "Trieulogy" and he immediately slammed it and refused to listen to it. This mighty 3 part suite is so forward, so ahead, and full of really ominous imagery in the opening first part "Golgotha" which is all about someone who knows he is going to die long before his time. He resigns himself to death only to be reborn in the hard hitting 2nd part "Mirage" with Eastern overtones. If you think there is a psychedelic hard rock/west coast album that beats this one you're probably really wrong.
    Kak had something truly unique and special about them and I still can after a million ages seem to have passed listen to their album and it has all the freshness it did when I first heard it. Having said that, it was something of a shock in a good way. I was knocked out. All my mates and I were knocked out when we listened to it together. I had heard impressive 60s music, but here was an album that had sold really poorly and gone on to collectors' status that had all the brilliance of FOREVER CHANGES period Love and The Beatles. I couldn't and still have a hard time believing that this album just completely went by with no one taking any note of it except Lester Bangs who said that "In 1969 there was nothing else quite like Kak." Very true. "Disbelieving," a hard rocker on Side One, would come to define how I feel about most people. It's all about being lied to by someone you trusted and being taken for a ride for your honesty and generosity. Yoder's pissed off angry scathing at times vocals could be likened to Lou Reed, but they are in fact much closer to Bob Dylan had he ever done a hard rock record. Dylan's wisdom is there in Yoder too, but unlike Bob Dylan Gary Yoder would not be able to maintain a career that was much of anything after his one moment of brilliance. I am not meaning to put down his work with Blue Cheer I just would in no way be able to say it's anywhere near as good. The inspiration seemed to have dried up and was replaced by a rather more commercial sound that was like Kak with all the good stuff taken out. That is probably because although Gary Yoder led Kak everyone in the band chipped in with brilliant co-writing credits and arrangements. It was a group effort if ever there was one.
     Yoder would later vanish as would all of them. I never could contact anyone from Kak. How unfortunate. In 1968 America was being turned on its head and just a year later The Troubles began in Northern Ireland. Bad times have stayed bad and where are those good days when life was fun? I can remember them when I play brilliant Kak, but I close this blog with a quote from Brian Wilson who for once said something lyrically of note in the line I am about to end with: "I Guess I Just Wasn't Made For These Times." I would have to agree, but in a much different way than Brian Wilson meant it. I have always been an outsider and that is no fun. I would have been happier at a time when the world was a more giving and less selfish rat race world and I would definitely have been happier at a time of great art and creation. A period with much of that to offer was the 1960s. The 60s that gave us PET SOUNDS, FOREVER CHANGES, ABBEY ROAD, all the great music. I'd come right out and say that right up there with The Beach Boys' California sound is Kak's mainly California sound- catch those rays and remember those days. They were better times and I missed out on the best things that could be in life. All through being the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time just like a polar opposite to Kak. That may mean I eventually go somewhere, though. Don't give up. Tune into good vibes and try to be happy. You may be a lot more so listening to Kak.

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