Tuesday, June 6, 2017

A Song A Day: The Patron Saints, "Reflections on a Warm Day"

JUNE 6, 2017




Three teenage boys from Westchester County, New York recorded an album’s worth of original songs in early summer 1969. The resulting album, Fohhoh Bohob, is a quirky and thoroughly entertaining spin through various pop/rock styles of the day.

Fohhoh Bohob takes inspiration from some of the top acts of the day—the Rolling Stones and the Who, Moby Grape and Love, Frank Zappa and Arlo Guthrie—and filters it through the distinct visions of songwriters Eric Bergman and Jon Tuttle.

In 1967, Tuttle, whose family had just migrated from South Africa, met Bergman through a mutual friend and formed the five-piece Patron Saints, which began playing rock covers at high school dances in New York and Connecticut. After the original band fractured in 1968, Bergman and Tuttle planned an album of original compositions.

After meticulous demo recordings and numerous rehearsals, Tuttle, Bergman, and new drummer Paul d’Alton convened in the latter’s house (while his parents were on vacation) to record 11 tunes, 9 of which made the final record. The whole process of recording, mixing, cover design, and pressing of 100 copies of the LP took a month and cost the young trio some $500.

Of course, once put out in the world, the album never “went” anywhere. Radio never picked up on it; promotion was nil. Most of the original copies of the album are lost. In the 1980s, a few sonic sleuths discovered the record and turned others on to its charms. It remains a rare and revered artifact among DIY albums of the time. Fohhoh Bohob original copies never turn up on EBay—the last documented sale was in 2004—and a copy even in “very good” condition would probably fetch at least a grand.

And the songs? They’re pop, and they rock, but they’re idiosyncratic, in part due to the album’s absolute homemade quality and in part because both songwriters were intelligent, funny, restless minds with big thoughts. The production was good for the quality of the band’s equipment and the arrangements showed imagination.

Tuttle plumbed the depth of his emotions on the album, foreshadowing the mental illness that would tragically shorten his life. Bergman’s songs, perhaps more straightforward, reflected the concomitant confusion and beauty of adolescence.

Today I’ve chosen to spotlight “Reflections on a Warm Day,” perhaps the album’s sunniest-sounding track, written by Tuttle and featuring him duetting with Bergman. The package is a sort of laid-back, sunny, slightly stoned country-folk-rock, with 12-string guitars, humming bass guitar, and double-tracked drums.

Tuttle’s lyrics are both funny and troubling.

                Send your maid to cop a quart of joy; use any means your meager world employs
                I’ll be around if you should change your head, or else get rich and pass away instead.

Is he opining that drugs are more fun than drinking? Is he warning someone of the perils of joining the establishment? Is this a love song? Is the “maid” a girl, or actually a maid? “Reflections” is absolutely individual and unaffected and doesn’t even sound like its cultural touchstones.

Eric Bergman shared with me a key memory of recording "Reflections"--the decision to fade the song out rather than end it "cold." To create the long, delicate fade-out during the mixing process, Bergman had to move very tiny volume knobs on the reel-to-reel tape recorder very slowly and carefully. Said tape deck is on the right.

Sadly, Tuttle and d’Alton have passed away, leaving Eric Bergman to keep the Patron Saints flame alive with several iterations of the group--which is still active. He has charted the band's 50-year-plus course via this incredibly informative and entertaining website.

Bergman has, in recent years, overseen legitimate re-releases of Fohhoh Bohob as well as issued unreleased gems from this and other versions of the band. He tells me that a new two-disc Patron Saints release is planned for 2018 and I can hardly wait! (And thanks, Eric, for fixing my errors.)

1 comment:

  1. I'm fairly sure you've played this for me before. It has a charming amateur quality to it, both in its direct, simple production and the earnestness in which it's performed (particularly the vocals). I hear "We're Only In It For the Money" all over this track.