In what turned out to be one of my most interesting research projects of 2002 I've assembled information and recollections of a group of California folk/prog musicians that worked together over several years during the 1970s. Two excellent LPs came out of this little-known scene, Joseph Pusey's "In My Lady's Chamber", and Yellow Autumn's "Children of the Mist". As you'll find, this was a tightly knit group of people who still 25 years later radiate great warmth and love of music.
Joseph Pusey released a privately pressed LP in California 1977 which has become a favorite among fans of rare psychedelia. The album, which has not yet been reissued, could be described as UK-style progressive folkpsych reminiscent of the Incredible String Band, with the arrangements and playing displaying a remarkable talent. Earlier in 2002 I hooked up with Mr Pusey via the Internet, and rounded up some questions for him to ponder.
Q: Could you say something about your background and early years, with relation to playing/listening to music, musical training...
JP: Well, I was born and raised in So. California, and mostly lived on the Palos Verdes peninsula, overlooking the ocean and beaches, and the entire L.A. basin. I am #4 of 6 kids, with 2 very supportive, intellectual parents that actually listened to me when I begged them for a guitar from the time I could first speak. I got my first real guitar when I was 7 and pretty much played whatever I could get my hands on after that; strings, winds, keys, you name it... We listened to all different kinds of music and played a wide variety in the early 60's; my oldest brother John Pusey played in a surf band, I played Folk, and we played just about everything else at family gatherings... I was a music junkie from the word go... Being children of the 60's we also experimented with everything else as well...but music of all kinds has always been my centerpiece, so to speak...
Q: Your LP seems inspired by traditional British music - is this your main interest, or something particular to the "In my lady's chamber" era?
JP: This album was written mostly during 1973, the imagery and some of the music inspired from my experiences working the Renaissance Faires in Northern and Southern Cal. It was also the same year I got together with my first wife Nickie (aka the Lady Nicolette) and was sort of my love token to her at the time... Steep heavily in some great acid, and there you are...
Q: Do you recall any details from the album sessions?
JP: "In My Lady's Chamber" took approximately 100 hours to record and mix. It was recorded on a Stevens 3-m 16 track on Ampex 2 inch tape and mixed down to 1/4 inch for post-production.
Q: What type of (contemporary) music has inspired you, any particular artists in folk and/or rock music? What qualities do you look for in music?
JP: My favorite stuff is music that gets my heart and soul right away, and then I tend to go back and listen again for other more musical, lyrical qualities, and then even later, the more technical side . My first instinct, however is emotional, no matter what the genre... I thought I would answer the first part of the question with kind of a top 10 list of favorites, some well known, some more obscure, and so on...
1. Twelve Dreams of Doctor Sardonicus-- Spirit
2. Astral Weeks-- Van Morrison
3. Wee Tam and the Big Huge-- Incredible String Band
4. Long Time Comin'-- The Electric Flag
5. Apocalypse Across the Sky-- The Master Musicians of Joujouka
6. Two Weeks Last Summer-- Dave Cousins
7. Side Trips-- Kaleidoscope
8. Shine on Brightly-- Procol Harum
9. Escalay(The Water Wheel)--Hamsa el Din
10. Passion Play--Jethro Tull
This is really just a small sample of things I enjoy from the past ...my collection is fairly weird and diverse and probably stuff that I still listen to off and on.
Q: Could you say something about the cover design of the LP?
JP: The front cover was a photo of me and Nickie, shot by my brother
John Pusey,and airbrushed by him to give it the fantasy/psych look.
Originally, the colors were more blues and greys mixed, but was a little too rich for the budget at the time to print in color. The layout and front cover lettering were also done by my brother. The back caligraphy and center disc label were done by David Hurst, although he went by his middle name Dohn for the credits. We also played in 2 bands together, Twelfth Night ( along with Joy Sassoon and Joel Plimmer ) and another band called Mistress Quickly, but that's a whole other story for another time...
Q: Were you involved in any recording sessions (your own or others) prior
to making the 1977 LP?
JP: There are several things over the years from the late 60's through the 70's that were recorded in various bands and line-ups...very few things ever made it to vinyl or got released at all. I'm still in the process of tracking it all down,and archiving it to digital before the old tapes completely disintegrate;hence my interest in tracking down folks from those times...I know you would appreciate the more electric sound since you have only heard the acoustic side so far...
Q: You mentioned earlier working with member(s) of Love and Kaleidoscope. Could you elaborate a bit on this?
JP: Living in the L.A. area back then, I use to run into all sorts of
people,played with lots of folks,but my main associate from Love is Gary Rowles who was there lead guitarist on the European tour and the False Start album, the period of there involvement with Jimi Hendrix...Gary's father,Jimmy Rowles, incidentally, was a famous jazz session player (piano) that played with the likes of Billy Holiday, Charlie Parker,ect...Anyway, Gary lives here in Corvallis,Oregon and owns a studio here.We work together off and on and he has engineered many live shows,recordings,and played fretless and acoustic bass guitar on some of my stuff...Great person,wonderful talent and resource...
I first heard Kaleidoscope back in the 60's in L.A. I loved the sound and their inventive way of combining instruments and mixing influences. It's too bad they never got the true credit they deserved... I got to know Sol Feldthouse off and on from the mid-east dance scene and music camps in California, played at various fairs and festivals, true character, soulful musician, multi-faceted person. David Lindley is also a friendly acquaintance..
Q: You also worked a lot with Gary Creighton of Yellow Autumn...
JP: Gary Creighton from Yellow Autumn was my best friend for many years and we shared many magical times, played in several bands and co-wrote many songs together as well. I am sad to say that he passed away in 1982 from a congenital heart problem... He was a truly unique poet and great person, and is sorely missed by all who knew him...
Q: What is your association with Fischbach & Ewing, who did "A Cid Symphony"?
JP: I've known Ernie Fishbach since the late 70's, wonderful musician, great person. Played folk and world, lot's of mid-east dance stuff. I talked to him the other day and he thought it was cool that the music from those times was being re-discovered and released again. Always have a wonderful time when we get together and play... From what Ernie told me,I gather that the A Cid Symphony record was a series of jams that they would stop afterwards and say, "OK, what do you want to call that one?"
Q: Looking back, do you have any general impressions/thoughts of the late 60s/early 70s psychedelic era on the west coast, both in terms of music and culture?
JP: I think if you lived in those times, it's somewhat gratifying to realize how much of the music and the positive side of culture owes to that era. The music ,no matter how unknown or obscure influenced even those who did not necessarily understand or approve of what was going on; not to mention some of the great explosion of art and poetry by so many... The spirit still lives on actively with many of us, some in disguise, some not...
Q: Let's move on to your post-1977 career...
JP: In early 1978 we moved from So. California to Oregon, mostly to get away from the the big city and try out a more rural lifestyle. I kept playing small solo gigs around, and eventually was approached by Michael Beach, and Brothers of the Baladi was launched... After 12 years, 3 (released) albums, and quite a rollercoaster ride, I had had enough and left in 1990 to pursue other interests... All during this time, I also played solo, worked on various projects with my brother John, and wrote lots of songs... I met my wife, Kameal in 1982 because of the Belly dance scene, we got together and the rest as they say is "herstory"... Anyway, we produced 5 shows at Majestic Theatre here in Corvallis in the 90's, with Robaire Nakashian on drums. Portions of these became Sands of Night and Sands of Night II.
Q: How do you feel about your "Lady's chamber" LP today?
JP: I think it holds up as its own thing, although I've been down so many musical paths, before and since. Recording that album taught me a lot about focusing my energy in the studio and integrating the studio itself as part of the sound... Hal Hellerman made all that possible and was the best engineer for the project... I feel very lucky and grateful to everyone involved... truly a magical time...
In early February 2004, Joseph Pusey passed away "in his sleep, with a smile on his face". He was only 48 years old. Hopefully his music will become more widely available in the near future. Rest in peace, Joe.
Band timeline, courtesy of Joseph Pusey:
* The Strawberry Roan - 1968-69 Folk-rock-blues-psych
* Creiseypughton- 1971-72 Folk-rock-psych-band, with Gary Creighton, Joseph Pusey and John Pusey
* Yellow Autumn Orchestra- 1972 2nd version of this band, the 1st in the late 60's had Gary Creighton on drums, and had a record deal that never went anywhere. The 3rd you know about already...
* Ribbongrass-1973-75 Folk-rock-psych with John Pusey, Joseph Pusey and Gary
* Mog Ruith-1974-76 Very eclectic and strange folk-psych band with myself, Gary Creighton, Erb Swanigan, and Joy Sassoon ...
* Mistress Quickly-1974-77? Prog-rock-psych - Led by Tom Kelly from the original Yellow Autumn, Gary C. and I were members off and on and good friends. Dave Hurst played keys and drums...
* Twelfth Night-1976-78 Prog-folk-rock-psych-This band included Joel Plimmer, Joy Sasoon. Gary Goss, and Dave Hurst off and on. Good times and great music, formed at the same time I was working on "IN MY LADYS CHAMBER", played at the album release concert party, Dec-23 1977...
Here are a few more words on what Joseph has done since the 1970s, from a record label website promoting a recent CD of his:
"Joseph Pusey is truly an amazing musician. His multi-instrumental talent spans the globe. From a solo acoustic traditional folk set, to exotic string and wind instruments from Turkey and the Middle East, all the way to a complete Middle Eastern experience with his partner of many years, dancer Kameal. Pusey is one of the most diverse musicians on Unisun's roster. Schooled and trained in music from childhood, he spent many years honing his craft, driven by the fascination with Middle Eastern, Eastern European, and other exotic rhythms and their subsequent instruments. An accomplished multi-instrumentalist and percussionist, he can take his audience wherever they wish. An experienced performer, he knows how to read a crowd and posse! sses the repertoire to adjust accordingly. Over the years, he has performed both solo and with full bands. His current efforts focus on promotion of his recent CD release, as well as recording and performing his original solo material due to be released on CD this year. For an up-beat, crowd-pleasing experience, Joseph Pusey, Kameal and Friends can't be topped."
THE LADY NICOLETTE SPEAKS
This is "the lady" of Joseph Pusey's 1977 album, Joseph's then wife Nicolette. Below are some of her memories of the era in her own words, along with reflections regarding the Yellow Autumn LP, which she hadn't heard for many years when I sent her a CD-R of it. "Joe" is Joseph Pusey, Gary is Yellow Autumn band leader Gary Creighton.
Joe and Gary used to do "Mithril Melon" as an intro, often starting from the back of a club with Joe playing two recorders simultaneously. And I especially enjoyed hearing "Wooden Table Fable" again, my personal favorite of the recording (it also shows their strong influence by the American Kaleidoscope in the intro part). This was a song that would have been typical of Joe and Gary playing together, with the raga-like feel of the intro and Tony Selvage's playing is so lovely on it. And of course, Gary was a great poet and the excellence of his craft really is highlighted here, I think. "The Druid" and "Keeper of Fantasy" were always played together, The Druid being a kind of intro. "The Keeper of Fantasy" was played in many variations, from Joe and Gary as an acoustic duo to a full on ensemble piece with Mistress Quickly.
I didn't remember that "Erb" was on the recording. He worked with Joe and Gary, moved with us up to Chico, CA in about 1975. His given name was Herb, of course shortened to "erb," a nice guy and talented, too. We opened up a coffee house (so far ahead of our time!) that we called "The Oracle Of May," which was the title of a poem that Gary had penned and received numerous accolades from. Joe may remember the poem verbatim (Gary's nickname for him was "Joseph Brainchild.")... The poem opening was:
somebody ate the fork in the road and now there is only spoon-fed madness, the home-spun, blood-let kind
When we were in the process of opening the coffee house, we serendipitously ran into this guy that turned out to be Bob Thompson, who we promptly dubbed, "Ob, Son Of Thomp, Who-Lost-His-B." I'm sure that "Captain Thompson" was done in Ob's honor.
Gary additionally had a lovely song, called, "Mary," that he used to perform with Joe (and incidentally, with Mistress Quickly). He used to do quite hilarious takes on this and other songs, twisting the words, spontaneously and totally off the cuff.
Tony Selvage was a violinist who used to paly at the Renaissance Faires in Southern California. He would accompany a woman, who I remember only as "Carol," who played the harp and who inspired me to take up the same instrument. Their collaborations were truly magic.
A couple of items on "In My Lady's Chamber" that are fun are that "A Cotton Tale" was about my coyote/dog, Cotton and "Blue Jay Preacher" was partially inspired by my great aunt up near Mendocino who used to call blue jays "preacher birds," because they were always screeching, like old-fashioned fire and brimstone type preachers, she said. And inspired also by the Renaissance Faires.
© Patrick The Lama 2002-2004
The Lama Workshop