Monday, November 01, 2010

"I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night)" (1967)

45. Electric Prunes, "I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night)" (Jan. 21, 1967, #11)

I admit I probably ranked this higher just for the effect it's had on me opening the Nuggets album rather than for anything about how it sounded to me on the radio. I mean, I liked it fine when it was a hit. But something about the way it kicks off the classic Lenny Kaye selection of garage-rock exemplars is nothing less than galvanizing. It's not "Louie Louie" or "Psycho" or "G-L-O-R-I-A," not raw guitar and two chords and primitive musicianship, not all yobby and attitude-warped. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.) It's mysterious and creepy, obviously talking about hallucinogenic drugs and doing so early and in a way that's as seductively appealing as it is slightly repulsive. In retrospect, and perhaps this is less than fair, it seems to me like the kind of thing Charles Manson could talk himself into grooving on, and may have. It's filled with strange trembling noises and a dynamic that takes it from the melodic hush of the verses to something louder and more aggressive—but still restrained, always relatively restrained—in the chorus. Sometimes, hearing the rest of their songs on the early albums (pre-Axelrod, which this falls into), I'm surprised they didn't do better. Then I stop to think. Is there any band name quite as painfully tone-deaf? Even the Butthole Surfers (who found their way to a chart appearance too, as amazing as that still seems) is more in-your-face about the matter. Electric Prunes is too coy by half. But "I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night)" is almost perfect, for better and for worse, in its take on drug culture. Watch out for those bad trips now.

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