This week’s Monday Magick entry is what some might call a “hidden jem” or “dusty classic” from one of the great “lost albums” of the Psychadelic era. “Devil and the Sea” is probably one the least wigged-out tracks from the decidedly occult-tinged self-titled 1968 debut from freaked out Los Angeles area five-piece St. John Green.
Formed by students at Pasadena City College in 1967, the band made a name for themselves locally and quickly fell under the influence of Rock Svengali Kim Fowley who had a hand in several novelty and cult records and was something of a “shadowy figure” involved in some of the murkier goings on on the LA scene. Fowley directed the band in the development of what he called the “Canyon Sound”, a “new style of music” intended to be a hallmark of the Topanga Canyon scene. Group founder Mike Baxter would in fact claim that Fowley’s agenda, which included weaving a “mystical tale about the Dark Shadows of the Canyon and the Mysterious Canyon people” into their music, overran the project leaving it “twisted into a bizarre Kim Fowley project.” The resulting LP, fueled by the eccentric behavior and drug-abuse of lead-vocalist and songwriter Ed Bissot, and directed in ever stranger directions by Fowley, was in fact a dark, paranoid, drug-infused psychedelic journey unlike anything many listeners had heard up to that point. However there were a few slightly more polished selections, like the almost soulful (but still diabolic) “Devil and the Sea”, providing groovy respite from all the high weirdness.
Ultimately the album wasn’t a success, though it did go on to enjoy a reputation as a cult classic, and St. John Green disbanded soon after its release. Fowley went on to say “I have people come up to me and cry and stuff when I go to Europe. They cry and they start shaking and stuff. That’s the way people respond to that record… It’s a great record. There’s only a handful of records that I’ve made that are great” about the album. Fowley kept his fingers in the music biz until his death from bladder cancer earlier this year.
Music is magick!