Strawberry Alarm Clock

Incense and Peppermints

Composed by John Carter / Tim Gilbert

Song Review by

"Incense and Peppermints" was the definitive one-shot psychedelic pop single, reaching number one in 1967 (though the Strawberry Alarm Clock did have one more Top 40 45, "Tomorrow"). Because of the group's outrageously trendy psychedelic name, its inability to sustain creative or commercial success, and the undoubted mass pop appeal of this one song, they and the single have sometimes been dismissed as psychedelic exploitation. All that taken into account, there's still no doubt that "Incense and Peppermints" is a great song and recording -- "contrived but hypnotic," as Lillian Roxon put it in her Rock Encyclopedia. It certainly is a crafty meld of several discrete sections, starting with a drum roll and a brief instrumental opening with sinuous, curling pseudo-Eastern guitars and organ. Then group harmonies quite similar to the Association come in, rapidly shifting between minor and major keys. Indeed the song as a whole does, and taken in tandem with the Eastern-like organ and guitar, the effect is something like a more pop-oriented Doors. The verses are portentously intoned as if they have great insight, and actually the words don't mean anything special, but they sound good when strung together. The record's strongest hook -- and there are several strong hooks -- is the chorus of an enchantingly descending, vaguely menacing melody, with the inscrutable words "who cares the games we choose/little to win, and nothing to lose?" There's also a nice brief bridge in which the tune gets brighter, the Association-like harmonies return, and the backup vocals eerily descend, coming to a dead stop before a buzzing, ascending organ leads the band back into the verse. A brief fuzz-psychedelic guitar solo instrumental break also helps, and the song unexpectedly ends with a churchy, sunny burst of organ notes, like the calm after the storm, with the band "sha-la-la"ing Association-type harmonies on the fadeout. "Incense and Peppermints" is actually quite a remarkably intricate and accomplished pop recording, and it comes as a surprise to find that it was originally intended as a B-side. In addition, the lead vocalist was not even a member of the band, but a singer (Chris Mumford of the Shapes of Sound) who just guested for the session. It was a happy accident, perhaps, that couldn't be replicated, and the Strawberry Alarm Clock never came up with anything else nearly as good.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Incense and Peppermints 1967 Sundazed 2:50
No Image 1970 Sundazed
Flower Power: Psychedelic Rock Classics 1981
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 2:46
No Image 1986
Various Artists
MCA
Summer of Love, Vol. 2: Turn On (Mind Expansion & Signs of the Times) 1987
Various Artists
Rhino 2:49
Classic Rock: 1967 1988
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 2:49
Rock Around the Oldies, Vol. 3 [Universal Special Products] 1989
Various Artists
Universal Special Products 2:46
No Image 198?
Various Artists
Rhino 2:47
No Image 1990
Various Artists
Priority Records
Incense and Peppermints 1990 Collectables 2:49
No Image 1991
Various Artists
Richmond
Strawberries Mean Love 1992 Big Beat Records 2:50
Anthology 1993 One Way Records 2:48
Rock & Roll Years: 1967 1993
Various Artists
Dominion / K-Tel Distribution 2:47
Psychedelic Mind Trip 1993
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution 2:46
Psychedelia [Import] 1994
Various Artists
Alex
Sensational 60's, Vol. 4 1994
Various Artists
Dominion / Dominion 2:37
Vintage Collectibles, Vol.  5: 1954-1969 1995
Various Artists
Universal Special Products 2:46
Psychedelia: Long Strange Trip 1995
Various Artists
Life Times & Music 2:47
Psychedelia [AAD] 1995
Various Artists
AAD 2:46
No Image 1996
Various Artists
Richmond 2:49
Psychedelic Pop 1996
Various Artists
BMG Special Products 2:49
Psychedelic Visions 1996
Various Artists
Alex
No Image 1996
Various Artists
Dominion 2:37
Austin Powers 1997
Original Soundtrack
Hollywood 2:48
Wild America 1997
Original Soundtrack
Edel America Records / Edeltone 2:47
Rock n' Roll Reunion: Class of 67 1997
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 2:37
Rockin' Jukebox, 1967 1997
Various Artists
Excelsior Recordings 2:37
Top Singles of the 60's 1998
Various Artists
Universal Special Products 2:46
#1 Hits: The 60's Decade 1998
Various Artists
Retro Music 2:46
#1 Hits of 1965-1969 1998
Various Artists
GNP/Crescendo 2:49
Psychedelia [Crimson] 1998
Various Artists
Crimson Productions
Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era 1965-1968 [Box Set] 1998
Various Artists
Rhino 2:50
Vietnam: A Musical Retrospective 1998
Various Artists
Universal 3:20
Classic 60's: The Beat Goes On 1998
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 2:49
60's Decade #1 Hits 1999
Various Artists
St. Clair / Boxsets 2:44
60's Hits [Columbia River] 1999
Various Artists
Columbia River Entertainment Group 2:46
Sixties Power, Vols.1 & 2 1999
Various Artists
St. Clair 2:45
Millennium Party [Rhino Box] 1999
Various Artists
Rhino 2:49
Classic '60s [Time Life] 1999
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 2:49
No Image 1999
Various Artists
Universal Distribution 2:46
Spirit of the 60's [Madacy 2000] 2000
Various Artists
Madacy 2:48
A Year In Your Life: 1967, Vol. 2 2000
Various Artists
Definitive 2:48
Hits of the 60's, Vol. 6 2000
Various Artists
Legacy 2:43
Nuggets from Nuggets: Choice Artyfacts From the First Psychedelic Era 2000
Various Artists
Rhino
No Image 2000
Various Artists
BMG Special Products 2:49
Vietnam: Songs from the Divided House 2001
Various Artists
Q Records 3:01
Entertainment Weekly: The Greatest Hits 1967 2001
Various Artists
Buddha Records 2:49
Number 1 Hits 50's 60's & 70's 2002
Various Artists
St. Clair 2:46
Jukebox Hits 1967 [Madacy] 2002
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution 2:46
Pure 60's: The #1 Hits 2002
Various Artists
Universal Distribution 2:48
20 Years of Rock 'N' Roll 2003
Various Artists
St. Clair 2:45
Radio Saigon [Goldies] 2004
Various Artists
Goldies 2:45
The '60s Rock Experience 2005
Various Artists
Shout! Factory 2:47
The 60's Pop Classics [Legacy] 2005
Various Artists
Legacy 2:45
Flower Power [Disky] 2005
Various Artists
K-Tel Distribution
Ultimate 16: Spirit of the '60s 2005
Various Artists
Madacy 2:48
The Sixties: Psychedelic Side of Pop 2006
Various Artists
American Beat Records 2:48
#1 Hits: 60s Classic Rock 2006
Various Artists
Madacy 2:48
60's Gold 2006
Various Artists
Hip-O / Universal 2:48
Hits of the '60s [Madacy 2006] 2006
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 2:48
Number 1's: '60s Pop 2007
Various Artists
Hip-O 2:48
Summer of Love: Hits of 1967 2007
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 2:48
Summer of Love: Gold 2007
Various Artists
Hip-O 2:49
Fab Gear: Classic Flower Power Pop from the Summer of Love 2007
Various Artists
UMVD 2:41
Flower Power [Time Life Box] 2007
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 2:48
Flower Power: Age of Aquarius [Time Life #2] 2007
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 2:48
Flower Power: California Dreamin' 2008
Variuos Artists
Time/Life Music 2:47
Moondust 2009
Various Artists
Heavenly / Virgin / Virgin/Heavenly 2:41
'60s Music Revolution 2012
Various Artists
Time / Time/Life Music 2:48
Incense and Peppermints/Wake Up It's... Tomorrow 2013 Tune In 2:48
Magic Bus 2015
Various Artists
Universal Music TV 2:45
'60s Music Revolution: Magic Carpet Ride
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 2:48
Good Morning, Vietnam
Various Artists
Disky
No Image
Various Artists
K-Tel 2:43
No Image
Various Artists
Phantom
Pure 60's
Various Artists
Universal Music 2:46
blue highlight denotes editor's pick