Sopwith Camel was a rock music band associated with the San Francisco psychedelic rock scene of the late 1960s.
The band formed in late 1965 and their line-up consisted of vocalist and saxophone player Peter Kraemer, guitarists Terry MacNeil and William "Truckaway" Sievers, bassist Martin Beard, and drummer Norman Mayell. Sopwith Camel is best known for being the second San Francisco band to get a recording contract with a national record label, and the first to have a Top 40 hit.
Sopwith Camel released their first album (and only album recording during the 1960s), the eponymous Sopwith Camel, in 1967 on the Kama Sutra Records label. The band's only hit single, "Hello, Hello", became the first hit title to emerge from the San Francisco rock scene and reached No. 26 on the U.S. pop music charts in January 1967 and No. 9 on the Canadian RPM Magazine charts in February. The band's first album, and the vaudevillian "Hello, Hello" in particular, had more in common soundwise with earlier songs by The Lovin' Spoonful than typical 1960s psychedelic rock; producer Erik Jacobsen produced for both Sopwith Camel and The Lovin' Spoonful. The band was unable to follow up the success of their first album and hit single and disbanded later in 1967. Sopwith Camel's debut album has been re-released twice as Frantic Desolation in 1986 and as Hello Hello Again in 1990.
Sopwith Camel reformed in 1971] and recorded their second album, 1973's The Miraculous Hump Returns from the Moon on Warner Bros. Records' Reprise label. The band broke up again in 1974. After sitting in the Warner Bros. vaults for 30 years, the Camel's 1973 album, The Miraculous Hump Returns from the Moon, was issued on CD in 2001. It was called, The Millennium Edition. In 2006, the second CD release of the The Miraculous Hump Returns from the Moon, was called Remastered 2006.
Sopwith Camel's first gig was with The Charlatans in an old firehouse on Sacramento St. in San Francisco in February 1966. The opening act was a black Labrador named Pot Pan. The "Camel" was the first of the, "San Francisco Psychedelic Ballroom Bands" to get a hit and go on the road later in 1966, playing large concerts with major acts including: The Who, The Byrds, The Beach Boys, Buffalo Springfield, The Animals The Velvet Underground and the Rolling Stones. They also appeared on numerous TV shows with other acts such as: Marvin Gaye, Paul Revere and the Raiders, and The Stone Poneys (Linda Ronstadt). Sopwith Camel regarded their hit "Hello Hello" as a greeting from the San Francisco scene from whence they came.
In '66 when they did a tour of big college concerts with The Lovin' Spoonful. The promoters still thought New York was where the all the cool music came from and would introduce the Camel with, "And now di--rect -- from-- New--York--City---Sopwith Camel!! When "The Camel" took the stage one of them would always say: You know, actually we're from San Francisco, Hello! The audiences would then erupt with deafening applause. The band's first album "Sopwith Camel" was released in early 1967 on Kama Sutra Records. It featured the first great op-art cover by Victor Moscoso plus the first infra-red band photo on the back by Jim Marshall. A second album "The Miraculous Hump Returns from the Moon" came out on Reprise in 1974, with a cover by Satty and the earliest known video-feedback band photo.
The band, still from San Francisco features three original members: Martin Beard (bass & vocals), Nandi Devam; the artist formerly known as Terry MacNeil (guitar, keyboards & vocals) and Peter Kraemer (lead vocals, lyrics, flute and saxophone). Mike McKevitt (lead guitar, sitar & vocals) and Bruce Slesinger, (drums and a founding member of, The Dead Kennedys) have been with Sopwith Camel since 2009.
The band's repertoire includes songs from six decades! One song "Counting" was on the original 1966 demos that got a record deal with Kama Sutra, but was not on the album. Some of the songs are new and others are "works in progress". For those who are familiar with the band's records, songs to be expected are: “Fazon"," Coke Suede and Waterbeds”, “Frantic Desolation”, “Dancing Wizard”, “Orange Peel”, and occasionally even "Hello Hello".
The Sopwith Camel
'66 S.F., CA
[demo acetate recorded by Pacific High Recorders]
01.When I Left You
02.There's Still Time
04.Ringing In My Ears
05.In A World of Constant Change