Hamilton Streetcar

Band members                          Related acts

  line up 1 (1967) 

- John Burge (aka Ian Hamilton) -- keyboards 

- Bart Conway -- vocals, bass 

- Tom Fannon -- lead guitar, backing vocals

- Danny Fantz -- drums, percussion 

- Ralph Plummer (aka Mark Plummer) -- vocals


  line up 2 (1967-68)

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

- John Burge (aka Ian Hamilton) -- keyboards

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

NEW - Greg Hart -- drums, percussion (replaced Danny Fantz) 

- Ralph Plummer (aka Mark Plummer) -- vocals

  line up 3 (1968-69)

NEW - John Boylan -- vocals 

- John Burge (aka Ian Hamilton) -- keyboards 

NEW - Buzz Clifford -- vocals, guitar (replaced Michael Georgiades)

- Ralph Plummer (aka Mark Plummer) -- vocals




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: SOLD

Catalog number: SOLD 5514

Price: SOLD $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, though vocalist Ralph Plummer leans in the other direction " I've never been proud of anything about it - in fact it has been an embarrassment "  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.  Obviously time for a new name - briefly Hamilton Omnibus, followed by Hamilton Streetcar.  Their initial efforts to attract the attention of major labels went nowhere.  


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


Steady work in local clubs did little to attract the attention of major labels, but that changed when the group somehow caught the attention of the ever eccentric Lee Hazlewood who promptly signed the band to his newly established LHI label where they recorded to psych-tinged singles:

- 1968's 'Invisible People' b/w 'Flash' (LHI catalog number 17016), 

- 1968's 'Confusion' b/w 'Your Own Comedown' (LHI catalog number 45-1206)


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 former Appletree Theatre fron tman John Boylan.  Perhaps not a major surprise, but dreaded creative differences quickly arose within the band and in a matter of months the band had 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.


Described by Plummer as a "contractual obligation" project, 1969's "Hamilton Streetcar" found the survivors reluctantly continuing to work with producer 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 to handling lead vocals and penning the pop-flavored 'Silver Wings'.  That left Delvy to stitch together an album mixing popular covers with  new recruit Buzz Clifford picking up the creative slack with a series of four 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 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  
rating: **** stars

Apparently an artifact from the original project that sought to have Hamilton Streetcar serve as a backup band for John Boylan, 'Brother Speed' was a cover of a Boylan track originally recorded for The Appletree Theatre's debut album.  One of the album's more commercial, if slightly MOR tunes, the rollicking horn-powered arrangement could have been mistaken for Gary Puckett and the Union Gap, or  perhaps early Blood, Sweat and Tears.  They lyrics were a little more daring ...  Great chorus which may explain why it was tapped as the album's second single:





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






4.) I See I Am   (Buzz Clifford) - 4:45   rating: **** stars

I've always thought Clifford was the band's secret sauce and on the lysergic-tinged ballad 'I See I Am' he gave the band a tasty Jefferson Airplane-esque vibe.  It got even better when the tune slammed into the blue-eyed soul choruses.  It was a dandy single though nobody was listening:





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





5.) Where Do I Go   (Rado - Ragni - MacDermot) - 3:33 
6.) Now I Taste the Tears   (Buzz Clifford) - 2:35   
rating: **** stars

I don't know how you would dislike a song that started out with something as good as the melodic bass line.  Coupled with Plummer turning in his best Jim Morrison voice and the set's best acid-tinged arrangement and this was killer.
7.) Welcome into Your World   (Buzz Clifford) - 2:15   
rating: **** stars

Maybe it's just my ears, but 'Welcome Into Your World' sure sounded like something Spinal Tap borrowed for their climb to fame (check out 'Big Bottom').  Awesome tune with nice harmony vocals and just the right touch of commercial and psych touches. 


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

2.) Wouldn't It Be Nice (To Have Wings and Fly)   (Buzz Clifford) - 3:25     rating: **** stars

I'll reluctantly admit to admiring the pop craftsmanship of Burt Bacharach and Hal David.  Along those lines the shimmering ballad 'Wouldn't It Be Nice (To Have Wings and Fly)' has always reminded me of a Bacharach-David composition, had the pair spent an afternoon stripping out on magic mushrooms.  This one simply had a too-die-for chorus.  One of the album standouts.
3.) Silver Wings (Ralph Plummer) - 4:33    
rating: **** stars

The theme always reminds me of Mark Lindsey's 'Silverbird' (released a couple of years later).  While it may not have been as instantly commercial as Lindsey's tune, the  ballad 'Silver Wings' was easily the better tune and the album's prettiest composition.   While poking around YouTube I found this brief description of the tune from Plummer himself: "I wrote this song sitting around my Mom's living room in '68 about a girl who moved away to become a stewardess.  The fact that I got to record it on the Streetcar album has allowed a few people to hear it & give their feedback on it - so Thank You for your kind remarks."

4.) Honey and Wine   (Gerry Goffin - Carole King) - 3:28      rating: **** stars

Hamilton Streetcar were not the first group to cover this Goffin-King composition - The All-Night Workers, The Capitols, A Fair Set, The Great Scots, The Mindbreakers, and Sounds Unlimited had all previously staked out the song.  Still, powered by one of Plummer's best vocals, their bluesy, slightly ominous cover was awesome.  Another should-have-been-a-hit single:





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






5.) Pleasant Street   (Tim Buckley) - 4:26       rating: **** stars

Finally a Tim Buckley song for people who don't like Tim Buckley.  Buckley's lyrics frequently struck me as being overly self-conceous, but these guys cloaked in a tasty psych-tinged melody, making it far easier to indulge.
6.) Wasn't It You?   (Gerry Goffin - Carole King) - 3:17  
rating: *** stars

The album's second Goffin-King cover ...  This one was okay and another highly commercial performance, but lacked the creativity of their earlier work.  Another nice Plummer vocal.




And that was it for the band's recording catalog - an overlooked album and five singles.


As of a couple of years back, this was what the members were doing.


Jay Alan was 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 (Dot catalog number DLP-25965) which I finally scored in 2009.  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.)






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 Facebook presence: