The Beacon Street Union

The Eyes of the Beacon Street Union/The Clown Died in Marvin Gardens

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With a moniker like the Beacon Street Union, potential consumers are readily assured that this quintet is one of the more overtly psychedelic contributions from the era of the Beantown/Bosstown Sound. In fact, it was little more than MGM Records' heavy and nationally hyped "Bosstown Sound" -- which was aimed at creating an East Coast version of the burgeoning San Francisco Bay Area scene -- that gave the band a platform to begin with. Ultimately, the overexposure backfired on the label, which eventually turned on the combo once the stunt had run its course. A similar fate also befell a number of long lost Boston-based groups such as Ultimate Spinach and Eden's Children. Armed with a savvy production staff including the likes of Wes Farrell and Val Valentin, much of the musicality is obscured with sonic non sequiturs. These range from the rapid juxtaposition of brief spoken word vignettes -- perhaps inspired by Frank Zappa's musique concrète cum rock & roll -- to the more traditional excessively echoplexed music and vocals. Standout originals include the punkish attitude of "Sadie Said No" as well as the pseudo tripped-out ambling of "Mystic Morning." Those tunes come off much more convincingly than the hokey covers of Chuck Berry's "Beautiful Delilah" or Brownie McGhee's "Sportin' Life" -- which the BSU disturbingly credit as an original composition. The second LP unfortunately did not fare much better. There are a few rays of brilliance such as the funky rocker "Now I Taste the Tears," which is offset by the campy narrative "May I Light Your Cigarette." The extended workout on the disc's closer, "Baby Please Don't Go," proves that the band had legitimate musical potential underneath the layers of hype, with a raw exhilaration akin to the Velvet Underground. This single-CD edition contains both BSU long-players -- The Eyes of the Beacon Street Union (1968) and The Clown Died in Marvin Gardens (1968). The original unit centered on the trio of John Lincoln Wright (vocals), Wayne Ulaky (bass/vocals), and Richard Weisburg (drums), all of whom contributed to the original material on both albums. The trifecta also scored an additional underground classic, Come Under Nancy's Tent (1970), under the moniker of the Eagle. All three LPs and related 45-only tracks are available on the three-CD State of the Union (2001) box set.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 4:09
2 2:10
3 3:08
4 2:09
5 5:55
6 2:51
7 1:55
8 2:49
9 3:53
10 3:00
11 4:31
12 3:53
13 2:40
14 4:36
15 2:07
16 3:42
18 5:36
19 16:49
blue highlight denotes track pick