The Music Machine

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The Music Machine
The Music Machine.png
The Music Machine in 1966
Background information
Origin Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Years active 1965–1969
Associated acts The Millennium
Past members

The Music Machine was an American garage and psychedelic rock band that was active between 1965 and 1969. The group was fronted by singer-songwriter Sean Bonniwell and based in Los Angeles, California. The band's sound was defined by fuzz-toned guitar instrumentals, and a Farfisa organ, uniquely tuned lower in comparison to more conventional musical acts. With its sole hit to reach the Top 20, "Talk Talk", The Music Machine are now considered influential protopunk pioneers. Although the band's success was brief, it still is recognized for establishing one of the more aggressive and rebellious musical stances of the era.[1][2]


Beginnings and success[edit]

The nucleus of the band was formed when ex-folk singer Sean Bonniwell (guitar), who was working in a group known as the Wayfarers, jammed with Keith Olsen (bass guitar) and Ron Edgar (drums) in a hotel in Orange County, California. Olsen had previously performed in Gale Garnett's backing band. Edgar was a part of a bohemian folk quintet, the GoldeBriars, and had recorded with the band for their unreleased third album for Epic Records.[3] In 1965, the three formed their own folk rock group, the Raggamuffins, and recorded four songs that went unreleased until the 2000 album, Ignition, which represented the transitional phase before the group became the Music Machine.[4][5] Bonniwell and Olsen were enthusiastically experimenting while the group arranged strict rehearsing regiments in Bonniwell's garage. The band purchased supplies for a homemade fuzz-tone switch, and, under the instruction of Bonniwell, they tuned their instruments a key lower than what was typically performed with their contemporaries. In addition, the Ragamuffins dressed in noire, sported dyed-black hair, and a single leather glove to present a unified image of the band, and later become influential on prototypical punk groups.[3]

Auditions were held in early 1966 to expand the group, resulting in the recruitment of Mark Landon (lead guitar) and Doug Rhodes (organ), who was previously a session musician for The Association. To reflect on the new line-up, Bonniwell changed the group's name to "The Music Machine", a moniker expressing the large quantities of original material Bonniwell was composing. The band built a name for itself by performing in local clubs in Los Angeles.[1] With Bonniwell as the de facto leader and creative force of the band, the Music Machine began to develope a blend of protopunk and psychedelia, with a repertoire that emcompassed Bonniwell's self-penned material and some cover songs.[2] The band's sound was highlighted by the oddly striking and punkish vocalization of Bonniwell, with an energized technique influenced by early rock and roll. The Music Machine's sound was made all the more unique by Landon's wiry guitar playing, Olsen's reverberate bass sound, and cymbal-punctuated drumming of Edgar, which gave the band a heavier, harder-edged sound than many of their contemporaries.[6] Regarding the band's harder rock sound, Bonniwell stated "...the conservative music style of the times built up in me a frustration that I could really do nothing to stop from releasing".[7]

The band caught the attention of record producer Brian Ross. Ross recorded the band's first two tracks for their debut single which was picked up for a release. The single "Talk Talk" b/w "Come On In" became a hit when it charted at number 15 on the Billboard Hot 100. Following their rising success, the band toured to promote the sIngle, but we're forced to hastily record their debut album when touring concluded. Bonniwell expressed his disapproval by saying "...we recorded the Turn On album after a 30 day tour. Mark's fingers were literally bleeding. I could hardly speak, much less sing."[2] Nonetheless, their debut album, (Turn On) The Music Machine, was released on December 31, 1966 on the Original Sound label.[8] Seven of the twelve tracks were originals, written by Bonniwell.[9] The follow-up single, "The People In Me" b/w "Masculine Intuition", peaked at number 66. It was the last single for the band to chart nationally.[10] Bonniwell blamed the weak showing of this single on a supposed feud between the band's manager and a top record executive. Four cover songs were included on this release, due to record company pressure. One of which was "Hey Joe". Bonniwell sought to release a version of the song before Jimi Hendrix did, but with managerial hostility, the ambition was delayed. Hendrix reached the Top 40 with his take of the song, while the Music Machine's went largely unnoticed.[11]

Bonniwell Music Machine[edit]

There were considerations to initiate a European tour and accepting a spot at the Monterey Pop Festival. The festival, in particular, was highly influential and the band members were interested in participating, but the group's management turned down all the offers from festival organizers. Instead, the band was overextended as it toured throughout the U.S. on a poorly-planned schedule. After the promotional tour of the U.S., the rest of the original line-up, except Bonniwell, withdrew from The Music Machine due to persisting internal conflicts. Rhodes and Edgar subsequently teamed-up with Curt Boettcher and others to record as part of The Ballroom and The Millennium.[2]

In 1967, The Music Machine, still essentially only Bonniwell at this point, was signed to Warner Bros. and renamed The Bonniwell Music Machine. The name was changed to give more prominence to the band's core member, songwriter and vocalist. A self-titled LP was released that year, made up mostly of previously recorded singles with the original line-up. Session musicians were also utilized, but they were disinterested with Bonniwell's experimental sound, and only sought to perform with conventional musical structures. As a result, Bonniwell spent hours overdubbing and mastering recordings, an activity he normally did not want to be a part of, to meet his intended designs. Bonniwell admitted that chemistry with the musicians was inadequate and that he missed his former bandmates.[2] The recording spawned no big hits, despite the inclusion of a few more pop-oriented songs.[12]

A third Music Machine album was recorded but never released. In 2000, a Bonniwell Music Machine album called Ignition was released on Sundazed Records. This is a collection of songs from the unreleased 1969 album, as well as demo tracks from the band's Raggamuffin days in 1965.[13] After the unreleased third album, The Music Machine officially disbanded in 1969. Bonniwell went on to record a final solo album, but it was commercially unsuccessful. He ultimately took a long hiatus from music, even though Bonniwell is said to have written nearly 300 compositions during The Music Machine era.[14]

In 1996, Bonniwell self-published a memoir called Talk Talk, which was later revised and re-titled Beyond The Garage, published by the small press Christian Vision. He died of lung cancer on December 20, 2011.[9][15]

In the 1990s, U.K. psychedelic folk rock band The Mysteated were heavily influenced by The Music Machine sound, and Bonniwell's writing style.

Ron Edgar died on February 23, 2015 at the age of 68.[16][17]


Studio albums
Extended plays
  • Talk Talk (1967)
Compilation albums
  • The Best of The Music Machine (1984)
  • The Music Machine (1994)
  • Beyond the Garage (1995)
  • Rock 'N' Roll Hits (1997)
  • Turn On: The Best of the Music Machine (1999)
  • Ignition (2000)
  • The Ultimate Turn On (2006)
  • Rarities, Vol. 1: Last Singles & Demos (2014)
  • Rarities, Vol. 2: Early Mixes & Rehearsals (2014)
  • Re-Ignition (2015)
  • "Talk Talk" b/w "Come On In" (1966)
  • "The People In Me" b/w "Masculine Intuition" (1967)
  • "Double Yellow Line" b/w "Absolutely Positively" (1967)
  • "The Eagle Never Hunts the Fly" b/w "I've Loved You" (1967)
  • "Hey Joe" b/w "Taxman" (1967)
  • "Advise and Consent" b/w "Mother Nature, Father Earth" (1969)
As The Bonniwell Music Machine
  • "Bottom of the Soul" b/w "Astrologically Incompatible" (1967)
  • "Me, Myself And I" b/w "Soul Love" (1968)
  • "Tin Can Beach" b/w "Time Out for a Daydream" (1968)
  • "You'll Love Me Again" b/w "To The Light" (1968)
  • "Point of No Return" (1997)


  1. ^ a b David Fricke. "The Dark Prince of Garage Rock: A Tribute to Sean Bonniwell of the Music Machine". Retrieved May 12, 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Richie Unterberger. "Unknown Legends of Rock 'N' Roll". Retrieved February 24, 2015. 
  3. ^ a b "Music Machine (Ron Edgar, Keith Olsen)". Retrieved June 17, 2015. 
  4. ^ Unterberger, Richie. "The Ragamuffins - Biography". Retrieved June 17, 2015. 
  5. ^ Unterberger, Richie. "Ignition - Review". Retrieved June 17, 2015. 
  6. ^ Abbey, Eric. "Garage Rock and its Roots: Musical Rebels and the Drive For Individuality". Retrieved May 12, 2015. 
  7. ^ Richie Unterberger. "Sean Bonniwell Interview". Retrieved February 24, 2015. 
  8. ^ "(Turn On) The Music Machine". Retrieved February 24, 2015. 
  9. ^ a b Valerie J. Nelson (December 29, 2011). "Sean Bonniwell dies at 71; lead singer of the Music Machine". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 29, 2011. 
  10. ^ "The Music Machine - Billboard Charts". Retrieved February 24, 2015. 
  11. ^ Sean Bonniwell. "Beyond the Garage". 
  12. ^ Richie Unterberger. "Bonniwell Music Machine - Review". Retrieved February 24, 2015. 
  13. ^ Richie Unterberger. "Ignition - Review". Retrieved May 13, 2015. 
  14. ^ "Sean Bonniwell of the Music Machine Passes Away". Retrieved February 24, 2015. 
  15. ^ Associated Press (December 30, 2011). "Sean Bonniwell, Singer in the Music Machine, Dies at 71". The New York Times. 
  16. ^ The Music of Michael Fennelly, 24 February 2015
  17. ^ "Ronald '(Ron)' Edgar". Retrieved March 26, 2015. 

External links[edit]