The Electric Prunes “Underground”

When the Electric Prunes are remembered at all, it’s for their seductive nightmare of a 1967 single, “I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night).”  Culled from their first album, “I Had Too Much to Dream” set a template for the best of the band’s work: distorted guitars and vocals, bizarre lyrics and a spooky vibe.

By the time of their second album, the Prunes were tired of being considered a prefab band.  Fed songs from some of L.A.’s best psych-garage writers, controlled in the studio by producer/Machiavelli Dave Hassinger and often replaced on record by studio musicians, the band broke out of the prefab mold and wrote many of the songs on Underground.

The result was a more cohesive album than their first album, even if the many of the album’s best songs were contributed by other songwriters. Goffin-King’s “I Happen to Love You” is one of the disc’s strongest tunes, and the duo of Annette Tucker and Nancie Mantz of “I Had Too Much to Dream” fame, contributed “Antique Doll,” another standout track.

But the songs contributed by band members are not throwaways by any means.  “The Great Banana Hoax” by members Jim Lowe and Mark Tulin has as much in common with the Monkees as the Standells, but is nevertheless memorable (and not banana flavored in the least), as are the pair’s other contributions, especially the brooding “Everybody Knows You’re Not in Love” and “Wind-Up Toys.”

Alas, Underground would be the last album for the real Electric Prunes; subsequent albums of pseudo-religious music (sung in Latin at times) used studio musicians playing under the moniker “the Electric Prunes,” while the actual Electric Prunes faded from view. Dirty shame.

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“Wind Up Toys”

:) Vinyl Reissue | 2009 | Hi Horse | buy here ]
:D CD Reissue | 2000 | Collector’s Choice | buy here ]
8-) Spotify link | listen ]

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  • mark

    While I understand your interest in the original Prunes… and I do enjoy this album a great deal more than their initial effort, admittedly, when they resurfaced as an entirely different band and under different direction – under the masterful hand of David Axelrod – I find a greater depth and stronger musicianship. Yes, they were a different band, and perhaps I should not speak of them in the same sentence, I don’t believe that you should dismiss the “unreal” Prunes just because they came afterward. Axelrod was exploring some fascinating territory and he did manage to find musicians which were quite accomplished. Pre-fab they were not: rather, they were an extension of Axelrod… listen to the Mass in F Minor again and then Axelrod’s Songs of Innocence… In the mean time, I think that I will again explore the dimensions of Underground.

  • Excellent album. I never understood why Jefferson Airplane got so much credit for being psychedlic when most of Surrealistic Pillow was quiet folk. This is the classic psychedelic album in my opinion; the one with all the right moves, or should that be sounds. It may be time too to take another listen to the Monkees “The Birds the Bees and the Monkees”.

  • Frank

    Killer album. And great review Jeanna, well done. Looking forward to reading more from you.

  • donkey_shot

    I actually find the david axelrod-produced “mass in f-minor” a highly enjoyable album – if only for a weirdness that is utterly of its time, 1968, and place, los angeles california (see also van dyke parks debut lp or harpers bizarre for more of the same…).

    also, reader mark remarks (pun intended) the electric prunes` “greater depth and stronger musicianship” on “mass in f-minor” – he obviously has a keen ear!

    however, the stronger playing comes as no big surprise when one adheres to the popular legend that axelrod brought in labelmates (and stellar canadian band) the collectors for the somewhat more difficult parts and breaks required on this the prunes` truly “spiritual outing”…

  • mark

    Another thought (as I listen to the Mass in F Minor once again… and dream (a buried pun no doubt) about finding a cd of Mandrake Memorial that will not deplete my wallet…): I recall the graphics from the back cover of the Mass when I first purchased the album (1981… yes, I am a slow learner) – aside from the hip photos that are so closely tied to the late 60’s in style, it took me about a year to notice the cross. Anyway, the Prunes, whoever they were, remain a repository of sorts. When I return to listen to their work, I always find something that wasn’t there before… and don’t forget the last supper scene in Easy Rider!

  • Bob Sallese

    Actually, the last album released by the original members of the Electric Prunes was “Artifact”
    released in 2001. It is fantastic. I am holding an autographed copy given to me by Michael Weakley aka ‘Quint’ who was a drinking buddy of mine in San Diego whom I lost touch with. He is the original drummer and a he’ll of a nice guy.

    I don’t think the album was widely distributed but I am sure you can probably find a copy on eBay. It would be a wise purchase.

    Here is a pretty good website I found on the history of the band:

    For me, the original Electric Prunes are to psychedelic what the Ramones are to punk.

  • Shitbeard

    Amazing garage-psych gem. The only truly great album they’ve made, in my modest opinion. The first one was pretty weak, except for the notorious single ‘I Had To Much To Dream’ and ‘Little Oliver’ in the reissue edition. The rest of it was pretty decent at best… and very mediocre exercises in generic garage-rock at worst, to me. This is an underrated gem of an album instead. The last two ‘beat mass’ styled ones were a completely different band, the Prunes were long gone except for the monicker.

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