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The Ventures

by David Greenberger on November 8, 2012


I turned 13 when the Ventures’ Super Psychedelics album was released in June 1967, and I received it for my birthday. This marked my first encounter with the word psychedelic. I’d been following the Ventures since their “Walk Don’t Run ‘64” single was a hit. But, as these things happen in the already mind-expanding realm of adolescence, I soon set aside the Ventures for the sounds that were truly associated with psychedelia.

Cut to 45 years later. San Francisco’s various ballroom jamming entities now sound to me like a navel-gazing blip, a self-serving bauble, a dead-end road. The Ventures usually released two albums a year back then, each one mirroring trends in popular music as a means for their instrumental verve to take flight. From covers of Top 40 hits to TV theme songs, they ran it all through their perky quartet engine and hot-rodded down the road. Super Psychedelics offered five covers and seven originals (a growing number for them at the time). The latter in particular are a real trove, and one can hear their simple, sparkling melodies and propulsively swinging rhythms in the music of Los Straitjackets.

This album has aged beautifully, given its inclusionary character. A listener is invited to hop on board at whatever two-minute interval they happen to hear a song commence.
Conversely, the Fillmore trip-fest purveyors were, ironically, exclusionary. Their music necessitated that everyone be head swayingly present from the outset, because the 20-plus minute excursions offered scant entry points along the route.

Further proof is in the drummers. Unless one is stoned to the point of helplessness, the wobbly thudding of David Getz or Greg Elmore withers in the sonic presence of Mel Taylor’s riveting uplift. Come fly with the Ventures.