Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen “Lost In The Ozone”

Certainly one of the classic country-rock records, Lost In The Ozone was Commander Cody’s first disc released back in 1971 (MCA). The original group formed sometime around 1967 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Eventually they would relocate to San Fransisco and become a major live phenomenon. The group were led by pianist George Frayne (Commander Cody), vocalist/harp player Billy C. Farlowe, pedal steel player Don Bolton and lead guitarist John Tichy. At the time of the above debut other members included were guitarist Billy Kirchen, drummer Lance Dickerson, bassist Bruce Barlow and fiddle/saxophone player Andy Stein.

Lost In The Ozone was recorded during Commander Cody’s peak, which began in the late 60s and carried over til about 1976. During this period they gave the rock community many legendary live performances and left behind a handful of classic studio recordings. This debut sounded like nothing else in 1971, freewheeling, full of humor, great performances (some fine steel playing) and that special something that only comes around every so often, honesty. Included on the lp is their classic top 10 hit Hot Rod Lincoln, an outlaw anthem that’s still played on radio today and a song that has stood the test of time remarkably well. Cody’s strong point was melding old fashion 50s rock n roll with the emerging outlaw sound. By doing this they came up with a unique fusion of roots, country, soul and rock, a sound that became all their own.

The album is full of strong moments, whether it be group originals or well chosen covers. One song, Midnight Shift, sounds like a vintage Gene Vincent rockabilly side while the humorous title track became an anthem of sorts for the Airmen. Slow weepers Seeds and Stems Again, Family Bible, Wine Do Yer Stuff and Daddy’s Gonna Treat You Right are all Commander Cody classics that will give any other country-rock group a run for their money. The last three tracks of the album are live numbers in good fidelity showing the group in top form with their patent country-swing sound intact – What’s The Matter Now is a highlight in this respect.

Lost In The Ozone is really a neglected gem from the early 70s. It has a reckless, ramshackle feel that’s hard to describe to newcomers but still a very warm, friendly record that will not alienate its listeners. The Airmen had more punch and style than some of the more popular or critically acclaimed groups of the era. Their appeal was wide, rednecks, hipsters and hippies could relate to the Airmen’s music and their live shows were always a major production. If you’re into sounds like the Sir Douglas Quintet or Shiva’s Headband you need to check these guys out.

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“Daddy’s Gonna Treat You Right”

Here’s a great early track from around 1969/1970. This hard riffing country-rocker comes from the compilation Early Years 1967 – 1970:

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“I’m Gonna Burn That Woman”

:D CD Reissue | 1990 | MCA | Lost in the Ozone ]
:) Original Vinyl | 1971 | Paramount | search ebay ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

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  • dk

    Thanks for this review. There have been a number of albums featured on this site in the last couple of months that have been sitting around collecting dust on my shelves (this, Matthews Southern Comfort, Poco’s ‘Pickin Up The Pieces’ and Moby Grape’s ’20 Granite Creek’ to name but a few) and I’m delighted to have a reason to pull them down and give them a spin. I’d say that almost without fail, your reccos have been right on the money.

    You all are performing an invaluable public service. Thanks again, and keep up the good work…

  • Their appeal was wide, wasn’t it? Some of the punk rock crew who liked a little sense of humour and a lot of Stompin’ Tom Connors to go along with their songs about fucking and destruction were fans of Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen. “Seeds and Stems” is a special favourite of mine.

  • jason


    Thanks for the response, it’s always a pleasure to hear from you. I will try to dig up some other country/ folk gems that may be of interest to you. Yeah, it’s funny that punks listened to Commander Cody, unlikely but true.

  • bwbandy

    I bought the cd years ago when I read a Car & Driver article featuring suggestions from their writers about what road music to listen to. So I bought the cd based on a writer’s (forget who) recommendation. Haven’t listened to it in a bit but reading your post has reminded me that I have to listen to it again.

  • hambone

    Just wanted to say thanks for posting this. The brief pedal steel solo on “Seeds and Stems Again” is so damned good. I just love how at the end of the solo the lead singer (?) utters the “whoo” in awed response. And for the singer to follow up that solo with “well my dog died yesterday…” is perfection. An absolutely hilarious and melancholy tune.

  • Len Liechti

    Love “Hot Rod Lincoln” – it’s in my own solo set. Thank Providence for guys like the Commander and Doug Sahm – their music is simply joyous through and through.

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