Howard Davis

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One of the greatest bits of dialogue regarding a psychedelic rock band is, of course, the following nugget from Russ Meyer's Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, something to the extent of "I have been to…
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One of the greatest bits of dialogue regarding a psychedelic rock band is, of course, the following nugget from Russ Meyer's Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, something to the extent of "I have been to plenty of parties where they play records by the Strawberry Alarm Clock, but this is the first time the Strawberry Alarm Clock is actually playing at the party!" In an alternate universe, a cool discographer type steps forward and replies, "Yes, but what about Howard Davis, who did vocal arrangements for the band and even speaks on a track that is actually entitled 'Nightmare of Percussion'?"

This is not the same Howard Davis who played alto saxophone in big bands, nor, for that matter, is he the one who plays violin in the Alberni String Quartet. The vocal arranger had talents that were certainly in demand in creating pop hits during the second half of the '60s. The scenario evoked by "Incense and Peppermints" might be heavy on loud fuzzbox guitars, but the producers who hired Davis were more interested in intricate harmonizing, bent on outdoing whatever the current hit might have been by Harpers Bizarre or the Association.

Big vocal gulps to fill, Davis began winding up the Strawberry Alarm Clock following the group's first and biggest hit. Nonetheless, Davis is often mistakenly credited with having come up with the rubato "sha la la" sequence in "Incense and Peppermints" that hippies like to describe as "where you cool out after the heavy trip." What he did come up with included particularly complex vocal charts for tracks on the band's second album, such as the sensitive, honest "Soft Skies, No Lies" and the helpful, accurate "Go Back, You're Going the Wrong Way" -- not to mention what seems like an overcooked section of the "Black Butter" trilogy.