The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band
|The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band|
|Origin||Los Angeles, California, United States|
|Labels||FiFo, Reprise, Amos, Forward, Sundazed|
|Associated acts||Shaun Harris
Markley A Group
|Past members||Bob Markley (producer, vocals)
Shaun Harris (bass, vocals)
Danny Harris (guitar, vocals)
Michael Lloyd (guitar, vocals)
Ron Morgan (guitar)
John Ware (drums)
The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band was an American psychedelic rock band of the late 1960s, based in Los Angeles, California. They released five albums under the band name and one under Markley A Group. The group disbanded in 1970. Despite never achieving mainstream success during their existence, the band has garnered interest over the years.
In 1960, Bob Markley, the adopted son of an oil tycoon and a law graduate, moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in entertainment. He was already a local TV personality in Oklahoma for a show called Oklahoma Bandstand. In Los Angeles, Markley was signed by Warner Bros. Records. He released singles titled "Will We Meet Again" b/w "Tia Juana Ball" and "Summer Comin' On" b/w "It Should Have Been Me". All of the tracks were either written or co-written by Markley. However, none of these efforts were met with major success.
At around the same time Shaun and Danny Harris sons of composer Roy Harris and pianist Johana Harris, also moved to Los Angeles. By 1963 they had both begun playing with a teen surf band, The Snowmen. When they started attending Hollywood Professional School in 1964, they met up with Michael Lloyd. He was a pianist and guitarist who had been playing in several surf groups such as The New Dimensions with Jimmy Greenspoon later of Three Dog Night. Lloyd then moved on to a pop group called The Alley Cats. Shaun Harris worked with Lloyd in a group called The Rogues and recorded a single influenced by the song "Hey Joe" which was creating a sea change in the pop music world. The Harris brothers and Lloyd decided to form a new band initially called The Laughing Wind. They recorded demos for a mutual friend, record producer Kim Fowley. Fowley already knew Markley and suggested that the band try some of his lyrics. However, Markley was close to 12 years older than the Harris brothers and Lloyd.
In 1965, Fowley arranged a private party in Markley’s mansion at which The Yardbirds with Jeff Beck performed and which the Harris brothers and Lloyd also attended. Markley was impressed by the large number of teenage girls attracted by the band. The much younger musicians were impressed by Markley’s financial resources and potential ability to fund good quality equipment and a light show. Fowley encouraged them to join forces and with the addition of drummer John Ware, The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band was formed. The general approach was intended to parallel that being developed on the east coast by Andy Warhol and the Velvet Underground. Markley used his legal background to ensure that he held all rights to the band’s name.
The band’s recording debut in 1966 Volume One, featured Lloyd, the Harris brothers, Dennis Lambert (guitar) and Danny Belsky (drums), with Markley on some vocals. Most of the material was completed before the time Markley became involved. The rudimentary album included contemporary hits and original compositions and was recorded in a self-made studio on San Vincente Blvd, just outside Beverly Hills. The album was originally issued on the tiny FiFo Records label in Hollywood. An original copy of this album complete with sleeve sold for more than $15,000 in the early 2000s.
Signed to major label
With the many contacts in the music business that all members had and their impressive light show, the group became popular around Los Angeles and were signed by Reprise Records for a three album contract. Their first "proper" album, Part One, ranged from anthemic pop songs and acoustic ballads to harder-edged psychedelic numbers. It reflected the tensions between the band’s musicians and Markley, who effectively controlled the band’s output but who was regarded by the others as musically untalented. Markley contributed rambling pseudo-psychedelic lyrics and spoken sections. The album included inputs from co-producer Jimmy Bowen, songwriters Baker Knight and P.F. Sloan, drummer Hal Blaine and pianist Van Dyke Parks. Disputes between Markley and Lloyd also led to the inclusion of guitarist Ron Morgan who over time became a full-fledged member of the band.
Sensing that Lloyd was unhappy with these disputes, Fowley introduced him to Mike Curb. They hit it off and Lloyd decided to work on a few studio projects that led to his later appointment to a position at MGM Records. He was offered six months of time at Hollywood Boulevard studios. He produced many projects starting in late 1967 and 1968. These included the groups The Smoke, October Country and The Laughing Wind among others which all benefited from Lloyd's songwriting, arranging and production.
The Harris brothers and Morgan continued on with Markley and recorded Volume Two – Breaking Through and released it in 1967. It was a more ambitious and coherent album with all of the tracks credited either in whole or in part to the members of the group. It featured Markley’s anti-war rant "Suppose They Give A War And No One Comes?" – partly based on a speech by Franklin D. Roosevelt. The album contained a long version of the song "Smell of Incense" which was also released as a single featuring Morgan’s lead guitar work. Markley's lyrics started to reveal his feelings about young girls.
The final Reprise album, Volume 3: A Child's Guide To Good And Evil is generally regarded as the group's high point. However, the naïve peace-and-love message of some of the songs sat uneasily beside the ironic cynicism of tracks like "A Child of a Few Hours Is Burning to Death". The songs showed a tension between the Harris brothers’ melodies, Morgan’s strident lead guitar and effects and Markley’s sometimes bizarre lyrics regarding children. The song "As the World Rises and Falls" continues the haunting tension and simplicity of the previous Markley, Morgan compositions to new heights. By this time, the band effectively consisted of Markley, Morgan and Shaun Harris, with Danny Harris having withdrawn due to illness.
The Harris brothers both disillusioned with Markley and with the group’s lack of commercial success, reunited in 1968 to form a touring band called California Spectrum with Lloyd’s involvement. However, this was not a success and they returned to record a further West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band album, Where's My Daddy?. This album was released in 1969 on Amos Records owned by Jimmy Bowen. It was credited to a line-up of Markley and the Harris brothers, although both Lloyd and Morgan also contributed. In 1970, a final album emerged Markley A Group which although presented as a Markley solo album, had the active involvement of the whole band including Lloyd and Danny Harris on Forward Records owned by Mike Curb. After this time, The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band ceased to exist.
The Harris brothers and Lloyd remained lifelong friends and worked together on many projects after the disbanding of the group. Lloyd stated recently "Although Markley created tension in the group that was part of the creative process. We were young and did not know how to cope with it. However, he was a very intelligent man who really wanted appreciation for the artistry that the group was producing. He would be at the studio early writing his lyrics in anticipation of the other band members putting the words to music. Markley would have appreciated how the group has seen a bit of a revival in recent years, especially in the UK and Australia."
Markley worked as a record producer, released an unsuccessful album, and later fell into ill health before dying in 2003. Lloyd became the Vice President of A&R at MGM at age 20 in 1969. He went on to win a Grammy Award with Lou Rawls and to produce hits for Frank Sinatra, The Moody Blues, Dionne Warwick, The Monkees, The Osmonds, Sammy Davis, Jr., Shaun Cassidy, The Righteous Brothers, Leif Garrett, Debby Boone, Pat Boone and Air Supply to name just a few. Lloyd produced the best-selling soundtrack to Dirty Dancing. He has earned more than 100 gold and platinum records and has also done the scoring, music supervision or had songs placed in 38 feature motion pictures. He is a partner in Curb Records. Shaun Harris released a solo album in 1973, and worked with Barry Manilow, but eventually retired from the music scene to set up a successful children’s film festival. Danny Harris also released a solo album in 1980 and worked as a folk musician and actor. He died on the set of Saving Mr. Banks due to a heart attack on October 1, 2012. Morgan went on to join Three Dog Night and then The Electric Prunes before his death in 1989.
- Bob Markley (August 25, 1935, Tulsa, Oklahoma – September 9, 2003, Gardena, California)
- Shaun Harris (born March 2, 1946, Colorado Springs)
- Danny Harris (born March 19, 1947, Colorado Springs – October 1, 2012) 
- Michael Lloyd (born Michael Jeffrey Lloyd, November 3, 1948, New York)
- Ron Morgan (June 8, 1945, Colby, Kansas – 1989)
- Volume One (1966)
- Part One (1967)
- Vol. 2 (Breaking Through) (1967)
- Volume 3: A Child's Guide To Good And Evil (1968)
- Where's My Daddy? (1969)
- Markley A Group (1970)
- Legendary Unreleased Albums on the Raspberry Sawfly label (1980)
- Transparent Day Sampler on Edsel Records ED 180 (1986)
- The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band Companion (2011)
- FiFo Records
- "Sassafras" b/w "I Won't Hurt You" (1966)
- Reprise Records
- "1906" b/w "Shifting Sands" (1967)
- "Help, I'm A Rock" b/w "Transparent Day" (1967)
- "Suppose They Give a War and No One Comes" b/w "Queen Nymphet" (1967)
- "Smell of Incense" b/w "Unfree Child" (1968)
- Amos Records
- "Free As A Bird" b/w "Where's My Daddy" (1969)
Comments from musicians
Pete Overend Watts founding member of Mott The Hoople and British Lions wrote of his first listen to the Part One album "As soon as I played the opening track - the wistful "Shifting Sands" I knew I'd stumbled across something very special. A plaintive ballad in A minor, echoed sad fuzz guitar - open space, great recording quality, but what really grabbed me was the voice. I'd never heard a voice like it at that time. Most of the West Coast groups had powerful, loud, rock singers - The Doors, Moby Grape, Steppenwolf, Jefferson Airplane etc. This voice was nothing like that - it was gentle, eggshell thin, almost brittle, very young but with an emotional quality and a worldliness that was uncanny and could deliver lyrics in an understated but extremely powerful way. It's still my favorite voice. On the second track "I Won't Hurt You" I was literally blown away. There was this incredible voice again this time right up-front almost whispering over a minimal backing of one muffled acoustic guitar and a beat - which apparently is a heartbeat (eerie). The opening lines "I've lost all my pride - I've been through paradise and out the other side" - and he sounded like he had! The bell-like simplistic stereo guitars in the break are a stroke of genius - then back to the muffled last verse - the contrast is wonderful. One point about this song and it occurs in several of their others is the way the lyrics don't quite scan correctly - it's almost like they've tried to fit too many words into a fixed number of bars - it can't be done - but they do it - and it sounds brilliant!" 
Sean Lennon stated in an article titled "10 Lost Psychedelic Classics" about the song "Eighteen Is Over the Hill" in Rolling Stone. It is the opening track of the album Volume 3: A Child's Guide To Good And Evil. "I can understand why this band is overlooked, because their records are very hard to listen to – they're really out there. They almost make Frank Zappa seem mainstream. But then they have these moments where it just works. This is one of their best songs." 
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