“So many years have passed,” sing the Blues Magoos on the title track to Psychedelic Resurrection, their first new studio album in four decades. “But now we’re back and on this journey.”
The legendary psychedelic band from the Bronx, have returned with the release scheduled for October 14 on Kayos. Original members, lead vocalist/keyboardist Ralph Scala and vocalist/guitarist Peppy Castro, along with drummer Geoff Daking, who joined prior to the recording of the band’s hit debut album, Psychedelic Lollipop, were joined by newest additions, Mike Ciliberto on guitar and Peter Stuart Kohlman on bass. The album also features cameos by original bassist Ronnie Gilbert and lead guitarist Mike Esposito, who also became part of the band before releasing their debut album, which went to #21 on the Billboard Top 200, thanks to the massive Top 5 single, “(We Ain’t Got Nothin’ Yet),” re-recorded for the new album.
“Being a Blues Magoo is like taping into my childhood. Rock till we Drop!” states Castro.
“This is what we do/We’ll take you in a new direction,” Scala promises on Psychedelic Resurrection, and it is both a reminder of where they came from and a bold step into reclaiming a classic garage-punk-rock sound that has been imitated by everyone from the White Stripes and the Black Keys to Ty Segall and Parquet Courts. The Blues Magoos’ November 1966 debut album represented a landmark of the kind of garage punk that anticipated bands like Television and the Ramones, with the band’s cover of John D. Loudermilk’s “Tobacco Road” included on Lenny Kaye’s original, influential 1972 Nuggets album, and their “We Ain’t Got Nothin’ Yet” as part of the 1998 re-issue.
“I’ve always appreciated how much fans of all ages enjoyed and commented about all the songs on our three albums, from that lead singer of a famous Australian band from Perth who asked whether we would be playing “She’s Coming Home” (which we’d never played live) to the 12-year-old who wrote and asked for an autograph in 1992, a letter I thought was lost in the mail for 25 years. The Magoos have a well-rounded legacy and we appreciate the opportunity to perform again. We play and sound good even after all the time in between…” enthuses Scala.
The Blues Magoos formed in 1964 and were initially called the Trenchcoats, which quickly became an important part of the emerging Greenwich Village rock scene, securing a residency at the fabled Night Owl Club. Changing their names to the Bloos Magoos, they released several singles for Ganim and Verve Records before getting signed to Mercury Records, and breaking out with their debut album, Psychedelic Lollipop, which showed the band’s roots with its covers of songs by James Brown (“I’ll Go Crazy”) and Chicago blues man Big Maceo Merriweather (“Worried Life Blues”). The album’s breakout single, “We Ain’t Got Nothin’ Yet,” written by Castro, Gilbert, Scala and Esposito, went to #5 on the Billboard charts, and became a ‘60s underground anthem.
The band released four more albums in the ensuing four years, including Electric Comic Book (’67), Basic Blues Magoos (’68), Never Goin’ Back to Georgia (’69) and Gulf Coast Sound (’70). Scala and Peppy reunited on November 9, 2000, at the garage band revival, “Cavestomp,” while the two were joined by Daking in July 2008, for two concerts, including one with the Zombies, at the Fillmore New York. In December, 2009, the reformed band traveled to Spain for the Purple Weekend Festival.
Some of the individual members have gone on to fascinating tangents in their career. Castro took a lead role in the original legendary Broadway rock musical Hair, where he met Billy and Bobby Alessi, with whom he later formed Barnaby Bye (Atlantic Records). He was also in Wiggy Bits (Polydor) and Balance, which released several albums on Sony’s Portrait label in the early ‘80s, and has since reunited. Cher, KISS, and Diana Ross are among the many artists who have recorded Castro’s songs. He is also producing a new version of The Gong Show, which speaks for itself.
Scala moved to Hollywood with a reformed version of the Blues Magoos and began jamming with the likes of Greg Allman and Gram Parsons (among other prominent rockers), and also recorded an album as part of The Dependables, with Chicago songwriter/guitarist Joey Stec. Disillusioned with the music business, he went on to become a pro caddie at the elite Los Angeles Country Club for the likes of Ronald Reagan, N.Y. Yankee owner Del Webb, actor Jack Lemmon and other notable PGA golfers. Returning to New York, he formed a “hard country” group, the Country Sunshine Band (which played consistently for 20 years), earned his bachelor’s degree and enjoyed a successful career at major pharmaceutical companies, creating, developing and managing state-of-the-art environmental control systems to market and research drug products requiring FDA approval.
Daking, who replaced first drummer John Finnegan, went on to become an influential figure in audio engineering, opening his own studio, Nimbus Nine. Since 1970, he has built more than 20 recording studios for music, film and commercial production, and has been responsible for several innovations in the sound field, including designing a console specifically for digital audio, eliminating many of the shortcomings of the computer.
“After a lot of years with many commitments, we are all loose now to go back on the road. It’s a good feeling. I love to travel anywhere. Planes, trains, buses and hotels don’t bother me,” concludes Daking.
Are you ready to trip out and flip out?