Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

The Balloon Farm—
A Question Of Temperature/Hurtin' For Your Love


Released 1967 on Laurie
The Seth Man, November 2002ce
Out of the four members of The Balloon Farm (itself a name taken from the New York City nightclub christened via some wiseass remark Bob Dylan once made) only the name Mike Appel may be immediately recognised: not only for his later, notorious dealings as Springsteen’s manager but as co-producer, co-writer and co-arranger on Sir Lord Baltimore’s “Kingdom Come” album (Oh, yeaugggggggh!) As for the rest of the group (Don Henny, Jay Saks and Ed Schnug) they continued on here and there and then promptly sputtered off into oblivion, but...

They recorded the electronically inclined punker, “A Question Of Temperature” -- and for that I’ll remember them always.

The Balloon Farm issued only two singles before they split up, and this one was their first and best. Serving up a tightly constricted fuzz punker of the most rudimentary, intractable kind and coming on like an afterclap of The Strangeloves’ “Night Time Is The Right Time” shot through with a jolting “Satisfaction”/Electric Prunes fuzz guitar riff, “A Question Of Temperature” is jumpy, kinetic and held down only by an unvarnished wooden bass line that unswervingly mimics the drums for the song’s duration (which admittedly ain’t all that long) serving to build the song’s tension to the highest levels. It only resolves when the overstated, descending organ swirls rear up over the massive fuzz snarls and crackling with an energy as raging as said fever mentioned in the lyrics while the singer’s “cool disposition jus’ hangin’ by a thread” threatens to bust like a cartoon thermometer. Strains of controlled, borderline-feedbacking guitar stream by in narrow impressionist wisps that almost seem backwardly masked but aren’t. The chorus comes in with the first line of inquiry (“Is it a question of love?”) and it ALWAYS gets punctuated with a tremendously echoed and sneered “Huhhhhhhhhh!” as though contemptuously shrugging off any answer and the entire world with it in hurt teen bravado. Or that’s it’s so obviously a question of LUST it ain’t worth even stating the fact out loud (plus, it WAS 1967 so they hadda keep all this kinda stuff under raps lest some enterprising “Newsweek” cub reporter came across it and spill the beans with a ‘New Leer-ics of The Underground’ exposé, thereby causing such a panic among the general population it might even make the damn single rocket upwards to the uppermost reaches of some regional charts for a week so it could dethrone The Beatles or maybe even The Four Seasons if they were lucky; let alone causing myriad degenerative effects upon the otherwise proud Youth of America...like makin’ ‘em dance or worse still: form their own damn band.) So taking a page from The Electric Prunes’ very own double-entendre fuzzed-out masterpiece, “I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night)” they cleverly masked the whole shebang with some utterly transparent illness motif. Ha: The Balloon Farm’s sickness in question is something no doctor could ever cure, cuz the subject of this stellar 45 is vergin’ (or virgin, more like) on a cold shower and that’s not gonna melt the old icebag in any way. The vocals are coaxed out slowly like a mixture of baited breath setting the controls for the heart of impending intercourse, confused nighttime sweat session under the covers and the whole shattered-nerve ball-sack of wax slick with testosterone in a pre-coital tension coil. And when Appel (or whoever’s doing the pillow talkin’ through the brain fever dream vox) intones about that “thumpin’ in my heart” he could’ve just as easily be referencing that wooden, one-string Humpty Dumpty bass line that just plonks away to dwarf even that Strangeloves-simple/stupid drumming and it just tags along for the ride in the instrumental bridge, aping the drums over the three-prong electronic tag team consisting of that perfect fuzz riff, skittering, volume-controlled e-guitar and squeaking theremin oscillations. But when that fuzz riff continually reappears, it scorches everything in its path but for the lightning forking of the theremin ripping across the track like a stylus gouging a record into an unplayable state. But they swell and regroup during the last line of the background vocalists’ chorus of the song’s title, the organ steam-shovelling everything aside. An anticipatory overspill ends it all as those frustration fuzz riffs keep on flying and the theremin wigs out into a perfect pileup.

The B-side, “Hurtin’ For Your Love” is a brief and turgid reworking of The Stones’ “I Want To Be Loved” stomped out over organ swells and a similarly breathy vocal delivery to match the A-side. Like so many of similar one-offs of its time and place, the B-side seems almost purposefully weak in comparison to it’s stellar A-side as though to assure its imminent airplay -- which, of course, it did to a not insignificant degree. So much so that “A Question Of Temperature” even turns up on non-garage sixties compilations alongside far better known radio hits. It also appears on the 4-CD “Nuggets” box set although with little of the audio resonance of the original overdriven monophonic single on Laurie Records.