Tuesday, August 26, 2014


Clear Light was a psychedelic rock band that formed in Los Angeles in 1966. They were very much in the mold of fellow Elektra Records artists Love, Tim Buckley, and especially the Doors.

In 1966, the The Brain Train formed and was managed by Sunset Strip hipster Bud Mathis. They recorded a single at the time but soon changed their name to Clear Light where they were signed by Elektra. One condition was that they fire Bud Mathis and in doing so, Doors' producer Paul A. Rothchild took over management of the band.( I have included that single as a bonus)

The core members of the group were Bob Seal, lead guitarist and vocals, Robbie"The Werewolf" Robison, rhythm guitar and vocals, Doug Lubahn bass and vocals,Dallas Taylor drums, and Michael Ney, on, most unusually, another set of drums. They soon added Cliff De Young on lead vocals. This is the version of the band seen on their one and only album cover. However, sometime during the often described "brutal" recording process, Paul Rothchild was not happy with Robbie "The Werewolf" Robison's guitar playing skills and pressured the group to replace him. That is how keyboardist Ralph Schukett entered the band. For some reason, this was not properly addressed on the album cover and there vamped version of Clear Light appears only on the album insert, if you were lucky enough to get an original copy.

What has been considered the band's finest hour came when drunken customers in a Park Avenue club heckled them so brutally that Ralph Schuckett, the usually gentle organist, hurled a few choice words back at them. They then walked off fhe stage, retired to the Albert Hotel, and woke up in the morning to find that they had become underground heroes.

The big hit off their only album, Clear Light, was "Mr. Blue," a psychedelic version of a folk song written by Tom Paxton and a popular request on underground radio at the time, despite the fact it was never released as a  single. Lasting over six minutes, the rather sinister, psychedelic song is considered a classic of the genre. Its lyrics, which alternate between spoken word and song, include verses opening with such lines as, "Good morning,Mister Blue, we've got our eye on you," "Step softly, Mister Blue, we know what's best for you," and "Be careful, Mister Blue, this phase you're going through ...."

The album also included some of guitarist Bob Seal's best psychedelic folk-rock songs, namely "With All in Mind" and "They Who Have Nothing." It had some success in England, but less in the U.S. The end of the group started when Paul Rothchild pressured the other members of the band to fire Bob Seal.When this happened, Cliff De Young was soon to follow and though they struggled on for a brief time, the band was essentially over, especially with the heart and spirit of the band, Bob Seal, gone. Seal was replaced by ex-Fug Danny "Kootch" Kortchmar but the group disbanded in 1968 after having started work on a second album.



Anonymous said...

I think the strongest song on the album is Steve Noonan's "Street Singer". Great song with the perfect interpretation. Very disappointing that Bob Seal was forced out - ruined a great group.

Bob W.

Anonymous said...

Thanks. Had this album when it 1st came out! Dallas Taylor went on toCSNY, and Doug Lubahn helped on some Doors albums I believe. Fun run of LA area 60's rock. I agree w/you that I prefer the SanFran bands more than most of these bands with the exception of Love and Buffalo Springfield[Hope I get to see them this year!]

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