Saturday, 4 January 2014

Russell Mael's 1960s LA Scene Radio Memoir

Post updated 18/11/2014. 
More of the show has been added

What we have here is a fascinating audio memoir of the teenage years of Sparks' Russell Mael growing up in Los Angeles in the mid 60s.

Russell and his brother Ron grew up in Pacific Palisades - a relatively affluent suburb of Los Angeles.

Russell went to Palisades High School and was in the "Class of '65". Both brothers enrolled at UCLA where Ron began a course in Cinema and Graphic Arts in 1963 and Russell studied Theater Arts and Film-making between 1966-1968.

In 1968 they formed a band called Halfnelson which later turned into Sparks - one of the most successful and critically acclaimed bands to come out of the glam scene of the early 70s.

Here Russell fills us in on the mid to late 60s LA scene and gives us an idea what it was like growing up "cruising up and down Ventura Boulevard in the San Fernando Valley or beaching it at Malibu or some other place along the coast" at a time when the US west coast scene was at its peak.

This was broadcast on BBC Radio 1 on a Sunday night around November 1979 and I remember listening to it as a kid and immediately trying to follow up on many of the bands featured - it was quite unusual to hear this stuff on British radio at the time. I think I managed to track down a copy of the then quite rare Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era LP not long after. And from there began a life-long obsession with 60s garage rock and psychedelia.

Unfortunately this cuts in and is missing the first few minutes but it is a great listen. I'm not saying what he plays, that would spoil it, but it's kind of like a radio version of Nuggets with some superb LA pop thrown in too.

Thanks to Captain Soul for uploading this and to Tomasz for contributing the first part.

And to Mal for having the wits to grab a C120 and record it one Sunday night long long ago...

More on stranger than known
"A Group By The Name of Love" - Arthur Lee and Love

Ry Cooder and Little Feat live - Rampant Slide Zone Syncopation

Texas International Pop Festival with Led Zeppelin...

The Grateful Dead - 1969 Dark Star set to vintage film ...

The Tarnished Gold of Beachwood Sparks


  1. Hi, Just found this article on Russel Mael's radio show on west coast music, I have the same show on cassette though mine has anextra 6 songs at the begining, and cuts out on "Let There Be Drums". great isn't it

    1. Wow? Really? What are those extra 6 songs at the beginning? I'd love to hear it. Any chance of upping it somewhere?
      Thanks for posting.

  2. These are the songs I have on tape, I would be interested to hear what tracks you have between"Summer In The city - The Lovin' Spoonful" and "Sweet Cream Ladies - The Box Tops " though I can no longer find tyour recording on Soundcloud

    Side 1

    1 - You're Lost Little Girl - The Doors
    2 - Hey Joe - The Leaves
    3 - Seven And Seven Is - Love
    4 - Surfer Joe - The Surfaris
    5 - Mr Soul - Buffalo Springfield
    6 - Kicks - Paul Revere & The Raiders
    7 - Tweleve Thirty - The Mamas & The Papas
    8 - Hey Grandma - Moby Grape
    9 - Louie Louie - The Kingsmen
    10 - 96 tears - ? and the Mysterians
    11 - Eight Miles High - The Byrds
    12 - Laugh Laugh - The Beau Brummels
    13 - Summer In The city - The Lovin' Spoonful

    Side 2

    1 - Sweet Cream Ladies - The Box Tops
    2 - Wooly Bully - Sam The Sham & The Pharaohs
    3 - She's About A Mover - Sir Douglas Quintet
    4 - You're A Very Lovely Woman - The Merry-Go-Round
    5 - Pretty Ballarina - The Left Banke
    6 - Walk Away Renee - The Left Banke
    7 - Pushin' Too Hard - The Seeds
    8 - Lets Live For Today - The Grassroots
    9 - Little Latin Lupe Lou - The Righteous Brothers
    10 - Nature's Way - Spirit
    11 - Summertime Blues - Blue Cheer
    12 - Liar Liar - The Castaways
    13 - Miserlou Twist - Dick Dale And His Del-Tones
    14 - Let There Be Drums - Sandy Nelson (CUTS OUT)

  3. Thanks very much for posting.
    I am missing the first 6 songs. You are not missing anything between Summer in the City and Sweet Cream Ladies.

    The above link should still work (it works for me) but if it isn't showing up for you try here

    Is there any way you could send me the missing part? I'd be very grateful. I would add it to the above and then we'd have the complete show.

    Thanks again