Fuzz Acid & Flowers: Steppenwolf evolved out of the Canadian band Jack London and The Sparrows, who made an album (1965) in Canada and backed a female singer on another album - Jerry Edmonton, Dennis (Mars Bonfire) Edmonton, Nick St. Nicholas and Goldie McJohn all come from this band and Nicholas had earlier played in Hardtimes. They subsequently dumped their singer / heart-throb Jack London and drafted John Kay, with whom they made several 45s, which were later compiled on an American album John Kay and The Sparrow (Columbia CS 9758) (1968 or 1969 - has 360º label).
After hitting the road across the U.S.A. (mostly New York and California), they settled in the Bay Area (Mill Valley) and spent their last months as The Sparrow. Dumping Mars Bonfire, the other four went to Los Angeles and drafted Michael Monarch (who was the just 17 years old!) and formed Steppenwolf, taking the name from the Herman Hesse novel. Somewhere along in here Nick St. Nicholas left to form T.I.M.E. with Larry Byrom (who later joined Steppenwolf for their Monster album) and in the interim Rushton Moreve filled in on the first album.
Their music now leaned towards hard rock, and tended to reflect the political and drug influences of the times. Their debut LP contained the rock classic Born To Be Wild. A timeless song, still regularly played at parties, this was a massive U.S. and minor U.K. hit. Later featured in sixties cult film 'Easy Rider' it would also become the bikers' anthem. This film also featured The Pusher, another highly popular song from their first album.
John Morgan was drafted in for their second LP, which contained another massive U.S. hit Magic Carpet Ride (a title with trippy connotations) and now everything the band produced was becoming a best-seller. The Monster was probably their finest album. Essentially an anti-Vietnam war, anti-US establishment song, it traces America's development from colonisation through to its involvement in Vietnam. Along the way, the spirit of freedom and justice had been sacrificed by the country's leaders who had become corrupted by power and allowed the nation's cities to become jungles, and who were now fighting a war the nation could not afford. In short, its leaders had created a Monster, and the song's chorus was a rallying cry to the nation's youth to fight. 'America where are you now?
Don't you care about your sons and daughters?
Don't you know we need you now,
We can't fight alone against the monster'. ~ (From The Monster)
This theme is apparent throughout the album. Draft Register is another anti-war song, What Would You Do (If I Did That To You) confronts colour prejudice; Power Play and From Here To There Eventually (both incidentally containing fine guitar work) represented a further challenge to authority.
The harshness of the band's heavy sound is well captured on their Live album, released in 1970. But by now Monarch and Morgan had left the band. They were replaced by Nick St Nicholas (bs) and Larry Bryom (gtr) and later George Biondo relieved St Nicholas, whilst Kent Henry replaced Byrom. Henry, had previously played in local Los Angeles band Genesis.
The group finally disbanded in 1972, after nine hit albums. Indeed it has been estimated that between 1968-1972 they grossed $50,000,000. Kay made two solo albums and Edmonton and St John returned to Canada and set up their own band, Manbeast. None of these projects were commercially successful and in 1974 the group reformed to release a further string of bestselling albums. After disbanding again in 1977, they later reemerged in 1982 as John Kay And Steppenwolf back in Canada. Steppenwolf was probably so mercurial due to John Kay's obvious domination of the group. Great groups usually have strong leadership though, and nearly every incarnation of Steppenwolf was excellent. Their artistic pinnacle was undoubtedly Steppenwolf 7, one of the most instrumentally awesome and lyrically majestic albums. On this Jerry Edmonton established himself as one of rock's greatest drummers. Tracks like Renegade (Kay's auto-biography of his escape from East Germany, chillingly told with a stunning instrumental section in the middle) and Foggy Mental Breakdown (so influential in composition that scores of Italian progressive bands used it as a blueprint for years) and made clear that Steppenwolf was one of America's best. ~ (Vernon Joynson/Clark Faville)
"For Ladies Only" (Edmonton, Henry, Kay, McJohn) – 9:17
"I'm Asking" (Edmonton, McJohn) – 4:28
"Shackles and Chains" (Kay) – 5:00
"Tenderness" (Mars Bonfire) – 4:55
"The Night Time's for You (Bonfire, Cavett) – 2:58
"Jaded Strumpet" (Edmonton) – 4:44
"Sparkle Eyes" (Biondo, Kay) – 4:33
"Black Pit" (Henry, McJohn) – 3:50
"Ride With Me" (Bonfire) – 3:24
"In Hopes of a Garden" (Biondo) – 2:10
Richard Podolor - producer
John Kay - vocals, guitar
Kent Henry - lead guitar
George Biondo - vocals, bass
Goldy McJohn - keyboards
Jerry Edmonton - drums
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