Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

The Ventures—
(The) Ventures In Space


Released 1964 on Dolton
The Seth Man, July 2000ce
The Ventures released seemingly three albums a year for the better part of the sixties, so it’s rather daunting to hunt down only their albums that feature moments that transcend their more alarming forays into brow-furrowing, theme-based albums. Because whenever the music scene changed -- from surf to Merseybeat to folk, psychedelia and beyond -- The Ventures were always there: But not in the pioneering role that they held in their cradle days on Dolton, because by the time Dolton was bought out by Liberty/UA at the tail end of the sixties, The Ventures found themselves posed uncomfortably stuffed into kaftans already three seasons out of style, resigned to releasing a steady stream of product covering the charts hits of the time (“The Weight,” “Proud Mary” and even Whole Lotta Love” were not spared) in an instrumental colour-by-numbers routine that got altogether too grim too quick. But in earlier times The Ventures were a unit unstoppably tight and resonant both live and on record. In “Beloved Invaders,” a full-length feature film of their first Japanese tour, their live performances are akin to a Mosrite-armed trio backed by an assured, fiery drummer going for it like an instrumental version of The Ramones decked out in matching suits and ties. Just prior to this, The Ventures had released their masterpiece in January of 1964, entitled “(The) Ventures In Space.” Someone at their label thought the record-buying public at large so thick that they had to be heavily cued into the fact it was The Ventures with an overbearing and ridiculous usage of parentheses, made even more so by the bold caption on the back cover: “All of these unusual & other-worldly sounds have been created with musical instruments rather than electronic gimmicks.”

Even though “(The) Ventures In Space” WAS produced in a studio (shooting down the truthfulness of the liner claims in the process) it is forgivable that the 1963-era marketing behind it was probably anxious not to disappoint any diehard fans of “Walk Don’t Run.” It did not, and sold in droves as Ventures albums always had. And it is was not only their best, but also their most experimental album, at times totally demented yet simultaneously innocent, pre-LSD psychedelia.

The completely of-its-time front cover depicting a young couple in a parked drag jalopy (with rumble seat!) at a nighttime Hollywood Hills make out point above the glittery web of lit Los Angeles boulevards immediately conjures up a magical, nighttime ambience that is inescapable from the first notes played on the album with their amazingly epic cover of The Marketts “Out Of Limits.” The lead organ part is sharp, breaking against the furiously timekeeping and amazingly-miked drums of Mel Taylor, a man who inspired Keith Moon on a kit half the size of Ringo’s. “Moon Child” is a quiet, yet driving number of romance featuring a female session singer who imbues the whole track with lingering, heartfelt sung melodies that speak more than any lyrics. “Fear” is a creeping doubt-out, similar in its dead of night yet super-alert loneliness as moments from The Doors’ first album (Furthermore, another track off side two, “The Fourth Dimension” along with “Eleventh Hour” off “The Fabulous Ventures” album also predict The Doors’ “End Of The Night”/”Crystal Ship”/”The End” waking dread vibe just as effortlessly and years before their formation.) The session female vocalist is now transformed into a bloodless Lilith beckoning from an exterior set of “Plan 9 From Outer Space” as gentle bells are tapped and the ever-descending organ slips downstream. “Exploration In Terror” has a constantly struck and immediately-muted gong that runs throughout the entire track like an instrumental outtake from “Piper At The Gates Of Dawn” until Nokie Edwards starts up a “Love Potion #9” send up with extra-picking guitar that crosses into garagey riffing from an older surf head. This album is yet another example of the cross-pollanisation that surf instrumentals sowed right before the eve of destruction and blossomed into the coolest and smallest sub genre ever (“Emotions” by Love another primo example.) “War Of The Satellites” ends the too-short side, but with zipping, skittering guitar diddling that ricochets throughout like Sunday morning ray gun lasers, blasted hi-hats and the reappearance of the female vocal melodies that ride the borders of insanity together, ever-spiraling.

“The Bat” kicks off side two with swooping, police siren guitar like Jorma’s on ‘The House At Poohneil Corners” over a mainline Nokie Edwards fuzz riff The Cramps would still kill for. It follows with a hyperspace(d) cover of The Pyramids’ “Penetration”, coming on with a guitar punched through all manner of effects into a Tinkerbell wand aimed at every direction and the live drumming hugging the very topography of the track like a shadow, letting loose for all it’s worth -- and that’s quite a lot with Mel Taylor on the skins!
“Love Goddess Of Venus” is a reminder of an earlier age of innocence, perhaps at a late night slow dance at a mirror-balled Huntington Beach dinner club, The Ventures joined onstage by Ms. Unknown Siren, whose wistful qualities are all revealed. Outside a young couple have now rendezvous-ed at the beach, he in tux and she in flounced party dress, and the edges of the waves practically kiss the edge of the perfect heart they’ve drawn in the sand, surrounding their linked initials.

“Solar Race” is an echoed, over-attacked reverb country outing with a guitar bridge that’s melody and a half when ever-approaching organ fills come in at right angles into the drumming heat of Mel Taylor’s expert yet non-busy wrist fills. Then, “The Fourth Dimension”: A waking dream of tiny, intricately woven near-keyboard guitar patterns that circle spellbound around descending and mysterioso guitar progressions in a trance-like infinity of patterns uncommon for its time. “The Twilight Zone” ends the album with the well-known television theme’s riff quickly subverted into a Nokie Edwards-led almost surf freeform with the mysterious woman vocals know appearing with total ‘Star Trek’ theme type wailing. Additional psychedelic percussion and jittery, scraping runs up the neck round out the mysterious, all-night feel of an album that exudes sheer confidence, combined with a pre-psychedelic embrace of experimentation bizarre for its time.