Hamilton Streetcar


Band members               Related acts

- Jay Alan -- bass, backing vocals (replaced Bart Conway)

  (1967-68)

- John Boylan -- vocals (1968)

- John Burge (aka Ian Hamilton) -- keyboards (1967-68)

- Buzz Clifford -- vocals, guitar (replaced Tom Fannon and

  Michael Georgiades)(1968)

- Bart Conway -- vocals, bass (1967)

- Tom Fannon -- lead guitar, backing vocals (1967-68)

- Danny Fantz -- drums (1967)

- Michael Georgiades -- lead guitar (replaced Tom Fannon)

  (1968)

- Greg Hart -- drums (replaced Danny Fantz) (1967-68)

- Ralph Plummer (aka Mark Plummer) -- vocals (1967-68)
 

 

 

Appletree Theatre (John Boylan)

- The Chosen Few (Ralph Plummer)

- Buzz Clifford (solo efforts)

- Gross National Product (Michael Georgiades)

 

 

 


 

Genre: pop

Rating: **** (4 stars)

Title:  Hamilton Streetcar

Company: Dot

Catalog: DLP-25939

Year: 1968

Country/State: Los Angeles, California

Grade (cover/record): VG+ / VG+

Comments: original inner sleeve; minor ring, edge and corner wear

Available: 1

GEMM catalog number: 5514

Price: $35.00

 

First off let me apologize for my role in spreading incorrect and incomplete data on the internet.  I had this band's history fouled up for the longest time and I probably still don't have all the details straight.  That said, it's much closer to reality now.  As for the earlier mistakes and oversights - they weren't done on purpose, rather I simply had no idea about the group's pre-LP existence.  Hopefully I've come closer to their true story with this update.

 

As for their sole LP, I've listened to it at least twenty times and can't decide whether it's a great slice of late-1960s psych, or an over-hyped piece of MOR sludge ...  I lean to the former.  Sound like a strange contradiction?  It is and you'll have to judge for yourself.

So first for the biographical information.  Bassist Bart Conway and guitarist Tom Fannon had been members of a high school surf band The Regents.  By 1965 they'd expanded their repertoire to more conventional rock, added keyboardist John Burge (aka Ian Hamilton), drummer Barry McGuire (quickly replaced by Danny Fantz, who was then replaced by Greg Hart), and singer Ralph Plummer to the lineup.  They also picked up a new name - The Chosen Few.  Within a short period they'd mutated into Rollin' Machine (the name supposedly inspired by their drummer's recreational habits), replaced Conway with Jay Alan and started to attract attention on the local club scene and by serving as opening for various national touring acts.  Their big break came as a result of playing a UCLA frat party.  The performance attracted the attention of Forrest Hamilton (son of jazz drummer Chico Hamilton), who signed on as group manager.  Hamilton's initial efforts to attract the attention of major labels went nowhere.  That changed when he somehow caught the attention of the ever eccentric Lee Hazlewood who promptly signed the band to his newly established LHI label.  Debuting with the 1968 Plummer-penned single 'Invisible People' b/w 'Flash' (LHI catalog number 17016), the group managed one follow-up single ('Confusion' b/w 'Your Own Comedown' (LHI catalog number 45-1206), before switching to Dot Records.

 

LHI promo photo

front row left to right:  Greg Hart (on tree), Ralph Plummer standing front

back row left to right: Tom Fannon - John Burge - Jay Alan

 

 

Former Challengers drummer Richard Delvy signed the band to Dot.  Unfortunately Delvy apparently had little interest in the group's original sound, rather was interested in using them as a backing group for material written by John Boylan.  Perhaps not a major surprise, but dreaded creative differences quickly arose within the band and within a matter of months the band had basically fallen apart leaving Plummer  and keyboardist Hamilton to carry on as the sole survivors.  Boylan, Plummer and Hamilton quickly recruited singer/guitarist Buzz Clifford (who'd enjoyed an early 1960s hit with 'Baby Sittin' Boogie') and finished the album with backing from sessions players.

 

Columbia catalog #8416

 

In the wake of the personnel turmoil, 1969's "Hamilton Streetcar" found the survivors working with producer Richard Delvy.  The impact on creativity was obvious.  Whereas Plummer had previously written all of the band's material (he'd reportedly written some 50 tracks for their catalog), on the album his contributions were limited handling lead vocals and penning the pop-flavored 'Silver Wings'.  That left the newly recruited Clifford to pick up the creative slack (rounded out by numerous cover tunes).  Structurally the set was certainly odd, largely forsaking conventional three minute song structures in favor of a pair of side long, multi-part suites that frequently interweaved main themes with shorter refrains (examples included Clifford's 'Welcome into Your World' and a cover of Tim Buckley's 'Pleasant Street').  Heavily orchestrated tracks like their cover of Lee Michael's 'Streetcar', Boylan's 'Brother Speed' (which the original band line up actually included in their live repertoire) and 'I See I Am' featured an engaging mixture of lounge act, MOR pop, with occasional psych moves.  The song quality bounced all over the place (Plummer himself has slammed the LP - see below), but several of the tracks were simply great - 'Wouldn't It Be Nice (To Have Wings and Fly)' and Plummer's 'Silver Wings' were personal favorites.  Not a perfect comparison, but songs like 'Now I Taste the Tears' and the instrumental 'Entre Acte' sounded a bit like Curt Boetcher and Gary Usher's work with Sagittarius.  It certainly wouldn't appeal to everyone, but folks into sunshine pop, or Boylan's work with Appletree Theatre would probably find a great deal to like.  Definitely different, the set has grown on me each time around ...  I've got a personal use CDR loaded in my CD jukebox.

 

"Hamilton Streetcar" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Overture (instrumental) - 3:18 
2.) Streetcar   (Lee Michaels) - 2:28 
3.) Brother Speed   (John Boylan) - 2:58 
4.) I See I Am   (Buzz Clifford) - 4:45 
5.) Where Do I Go   (Rado - Ragni - MacDermot) - 3:33 
6.) Now I Taste the Tears   (Buzz Clifford) - 2:35 
7.) Welcome into Your World   (Buzz Clifford) - 2:15 

 

(side 2)
1.) Entre Acte (instrumental) - 3:58 

2.) Wouldn't It Be Nice (To Have Wings and Fly)   (Buzz Clifford) - 3:25 
3.) Silver Wings (Ralph Plummer) - 4:33
4.) Honey and Wine   (Gerry Goffin - Carole King) - 3:28 
5.) Pleasant Street   (Tim Buckley) - 4:26 
6.) Wasn't It You?   (Gerry Goffin - Carole King) - 3:17 

 

There are also a series of three singles off of the LP:

 

- 1969's 'Silver Wings' b/w 'I See I Am' (Dot catalog number 45-17263)

- 1969's 'Brother Speed' b/w 'Wasn't It You?' (Dot catalog number 45-17279)

- 1969's 'Honey and Wine' b/w 'Now I Taste The Tears' (Dot catalog number 45-17306)

 



 

 

 

 

 

- Jay Alan is still involved in music, working as a sound engineer and produced in South Orange County.  He's worked with the likes of Queen Anne's Revenge and Skyline Divide.

 

- Boylan continued to be a sought after producer and became involved in artist management. 

 

- Clifford continued on in music for a while.  With support from members of Colours, The East Side Kids, and The Moon, Clifford released a rare solo album 1969's "See Your Way Clear"  which I finally scored in 2009 (see separate entry).  He continued to attract some notice as a writer and producer before vanishing in the mid-1970s.  (See my entry on Buzz Clifford for more details.)

 

 

(Dot catalog number DLP-25965)

 

- Fannon stayed in music through the 1970s and then got into the credit card transaction processing business.  He's also done an in-depth band interview covering band history on the fantastic 60sgarageband.com website:

 

http://www.60sgaragebands.com/hamiltonstreetcar.html

 

If you have any interest in this outfit, his interview stands as the most comprehensive reference on the web.

 

- I initially had no idea what happened to Plummer, but then thanks to the internet I got a bit of information on his activities.  Turns out that Mr. Robert Morton and Mark Plummer when to the same high school (in the interests of privacy, I'll keep that detail off the website).  Anyhow, based on an update posted to the high school website, here's Plummer's life update:

 

"After playing music and recording for a number of years I went back to school and rec'd. my BA @ Cal State LA. I then worked in advertising as an art director. Left LA in the mid seventies and migrated to Eugene, Oregon. Now live in the remains of an ancient forest in Cascade foothills of Washington. I still do advertising and design work as a free-lance art director."

 

Plummer also provided Mr. Morton with a couple of comments on the album:

 

"To answer your question. That old Hamilton Streetcar album was not really the group at all - it was done by the keyboard player, myself and the producer 
to fulfill a contractual agreement and get a paycheck. I've never been proud of anything about it - in fact it has been an embarrassment - I was surprised when some guy in Ohio posted some of the songs on YouTube and says he likes them!  Yikes!  

 I have not heard "Invisible People" myself in nearly 40 years! A punk band from DC re-recorded it in the eighties [The Slickee Boys]. The Hamilton Streetcar bassist, Jay Alan has remixed some of our old stuff and is burning that stuff to CD but I have not heard any of that stuff yet. Stay in touch 
I "may" be able to get an mp3 of "Invisible People" yet!"

 

Mark Plummer

September 2008

 

Lo and behold, they've set up a Hamilton Streetcar MySpace presence:

 

http://www.myspace.com/hamiltonstreetcar

 

 


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