Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

David Peel & The Lower East Side—
The American Revolution


Released 1970 on Elektra
The Seth Man, September 2003ce
For a bunch of guys who admittedly spent the majority of their waking hours stoned, David Peel and his cohorts exhibited the sort of traits one would normally associate with methedrine freaks: they were energetic, lively and put out some crude’n’rude energy behind furiously ramshackle and noisy backing. And so it makes sense that their second and last album on Elektra wound up sounding more like a Noo Yawk version of England’s premier underground band, The Deviants.

Angry, stoned and squeezing out pus, “The American Revolution” differed from their previous “Have A Marijuana” album by virtue of being recorded in the studio. And although it exhibiting more polish, it maintain the same degree of raging defiance that made “Have A Marijuana” such a boisterous, gutsy affair and since the lineup was now pared down to the trio of David Peel (vocals, guitar), Billy Joe White (vocals, guitar) and Harold C. Black (vocals, tambourine) Elektra suggested electric instrumentation and backing musicians in order to flesh out the sound to keep the album from becoming an addition to the already towering stack of out-dated protest albums in the folk idiom. So Tony Bartoli (drums), the appropriately-named Herb Bushler (bass), David Horowitz (organ), Richard Grando (soprano sax) and actor Marshall Efron (who I believe took the part of the mysterious Mr. Verdecchio in the film “Ciao, Manhattan”) were roped in to back Peel’s rants, raves and rowdy rousings and although it weren’t the Muscle Shoals house band by any means (thankfully) but it sure was effective enough a noise to make “The American Revolution” rock out in a fashion Peel never could’ve dreamt of just two years prior when The Lower East Side were playing for spare change in Washington Square Park by endlessly barking out countercultural odes to marijuana, sex, marijuana, welfare thrills and more marijuana against refrains strummed out on broken acoustic guitars. Here the backing band is content to remain in a supporting role, and rock’n’roll clichés galore are seized, tossed about and generally reveled in as they keep the ball rollin’. Namely, by like trashing “Tequila” as “Legalize Marijuana” and scuzzing up the Bo Diddley hijack of “Girls, Girls, Girls” behind Peel’s obstreperous bawlings which also unite with classic rock’n’roll transpositions the like of ”I think I love you” offa The Troggs’ “Wild Thing” in “Hey, Mr. Draft Board,” “We like it like dat,” “Clanghonktweet!!” and even “Waaahhhhggrrgghhh!!” There’s also a track called “I Want To Kill You” which sounds like a near-accurate blueprint of The Clash’s “Guns of Brixton” complete with David Horowitz’s buoyant organ placement effecting a near-our Mickey Gallagher out of Blockheads backing to Peel’s proto-Strummer rant nearly a decade prior to “London Calling.” Even the fucking drums are perfectly Nicky “Topper” Headon. Who woulda thunk these guys would’ve had anything in common with The Clash besides smoking kilos of pot daily just to straighten out when they really coulda just beat all by covering The Bobby Fuller Four’s “I Fought The Law” as “I Smoked The Dope (And I Got Stoned)” and be done with it?

Right after a brief populi vox intro, the album opens up with the flung gutter spittle of “The Lower East Side” and it’s greatly pissed off in the snottiest way possible. Peel’s near-hoarse vocal megaphonics blare out with rage, no frills and no sense as the paces of its rental garage backing keep plugging away undistracted. Peel’s brief pro-pot rant “The Pledge of Allegiance” follows, sounding like an outtake from the field recordings done on the streets of New York for the “Have A Marijuana” album, then it’s directly back into the studio with the aforementioned “Tequila” vamp, “Legalize Marijuana.” A bust scene ripped from the pages of Zap Comix ensues in the style of Gilbert Sheldon’s ‘Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers’ strip with the cop complaining about long-haired creeps and their dirty ways, so the volley back to the men in blue is “Oink Oink” as the title gets chanted in between Peel’s sung calls for getting the heat (along with hisself) stoned. This is pretty much the underlying theme of the majority of tracks, come to think of it. Especially as side one closes with “I Want To Get High”: ushered in by multiple repeats of the chorus “L-S-D-got-a-hold-on-me” in varying degrees of slurred, shouted and chanted tongues until it seems Peel and Co. have completely lost their respective minds.

The above-mentioned ”I Want To Kill You” kicks off the second side, and is the sort of thing you play REAL loud in your room when you’ve completely had it with everything and need to get rid of a layer of negativity when all you want is just for the entire world hear that chorus of ‘KILL!! KILL!! KILL!! KILL!!” come blasting from out of the confines of your inner sanctum. It’s violent but funny in the ol’ Three Stooges tradition, and is luckily harmless to everything but your speakers when you’re stressin’ all agitated and vexed to fuck. “Girls, Girls, Girls” is cheesy, teenage and designed to stay that way. A bright, snappy number (hotcha!) and it flows right into the pleading “Hey, Mr. Draft Board” as rendered with adenoidal, pesty Arnold Stang/Horshack vocal tones. You almost think Peel is about to yell out to the buzz-cut recruiter a “Welcome Back, Kotter”-styled note that reads: ‘Dear Mr. Draft Board: Please excuse David from the draft, as he hates your stinking war and wants to stay home so he can get high and record more songs about it. Signed, David Peel’s Mother.’ Which he kinda does anyway in his anti-war “spoken” passage, anyway (I only add the word “spoken” in quotes because ALL the lyrics here aren’t sung OR spoken as much as roughly barked out.) After crossfading out from the military snare and voices of anti-war dissent, Peel is now alone in the studio with his acoustic guitar’n’yammer fest, “God” where he ap-PEEL-s to an authority even higher than himself. And with it, all the screaming finally stops: as did Peel’s short but inspired career on Elektra Records, soon dropped along with all the other troublemakers on the label who weren’t gonna toe the line like Nico, The Stooges or the long-departed MC5. But the reckless Peel was not to be deterred, re-emerging two years later signed to Apple records through his associations with John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Apple released his third album, “The Pope Smokes Dope” and its contents were so offensive that it caused Peel (so the story goes) to be banned from practically every country on earth except for The United States and Canada.