Ohio Express - Sausalito (Is The Place To Go)/Make Love Not War

Ohio Express
Sausalito (Is The Place To Go)/Make Love Not War

Released 1969 on Buddah
Reviewed by Dave Furgess, 17/04/2007ce

I have always had a soft spot for the Ohio Express, after all their 1968 hit single "Chewy Chewy" was the first record I actually bought with my own money, along with "Midnight Confessions" by the Grass Roots. I was head first into the bubblegum sound of 1968, which was led by The Ohio Express, 1910 Fruitgum Co. & Salt Water Taffy. Of course those were the pre-Rock Journalism days when it was perfectly acceptable to listen to The Ohio Express, Amboy Dukes & Herb Alpert back to back to back.

The history of the Ohio Express is a bit cloudy, it seems there were actually 2 seperate entities responsible for recording under the name Ohio Express. The group itself were originally called Sir Timothy & The Royals and hailed from ultra cool Mansfield, Ohio. This was the outfit that signed to Cameo/Parkway in 1967 and issued 2 garage thumpers "Beg, Borrow & Steal" & "Try It" along with a long player in early 1968 (it has been rumored that future James Gang/Eagles guitarist Joe Walsh had been in the group during the Cameo period, which of course could be true, seeing Walsh hailed from the Cleveland area.)

However by 1968 certain members of the Ohio Express were recruited to back New York singer Joey Levine in an attempt to storm the top 40 charts with a style of primitive pop music called bubblegum. Levine was an incredible frontman who clearly had skin problems and a voice that was a cross between Reg Presley of The Troggs & Sky Saxon of The Seeds. He can be so annoying at times you almost feel like bashing his face in, but of course that was his genius.

The group's first long player with Levine was a mixed affair with the Levine sung hits "Yummy Yummy Yummy" & "Down At Lulu's" blended with compositions by the actual Ohio Express. I highly recommend this album as it features some incredible garage/psych material in "Turn To Straw" and the absolutely relentless "First Grade Reader" (which is one of the greatest garage/psych tracks ever!)

Bubblegum however had a short run and was beginning to wane by 1969, (of course bubblegum became the ultimate put-down by the ever so hip stone freak underground community.) The Doors were savagely attacked by these hipsters following the release of their 1968 top 40 hit "Hello I Love You." So by 1969 it would seem the story of the Ohio Express would be over.

Now here's where the real confusion sets in, The Ohio Express in 1969 introduced a new singer named Buddy Bengert who would sing lead on the wonderfully titled "Pinch Me (Baby Convince Me)" (was that a Reg Presley dream of a song title or what?) Then the Ohio Express operation shifted over to Manchester, England. Their next single "Sausalito (Is The Place To Go To)" was penned by none other than ace songwriter Graham Gouldman (who of course wrote hits for Herman's Hermits, The Hollies, Yardbirds etc., not to forget his excellent combo The Mockingbirds who would later emerge as 70's hitmakers 10cc.) Now it is actually rumored that it is indeed members of 10cc that are actually playing and singing "Sausalito" but I'm not buying it, because I have recently seen a video on YOUTUBE of the group playing this number and the musicians are most definitely the same guys on the actual Ohio Express records of the past. Who was actually laying down the tracks of course could be another matter.

Whoever is actually on this record really doesn't matter much because it is a wonderful record. I'm convinced that a record this uplifting could not be made these days (except maybe by The Coral or Teenage Fanclub.) Let's face it 90% of the groups nowadays are hell bent on proving how miserable they are, how many tattoos they have or how many Nine Inch Nails records they can listen to before they puke. So of course a life affirming record like "Sausalito" would probably get laughed out of town, and that's all the more reason to dig it like crazy!

"Sausalito" has all the ingredients of a classic AM radio hit, a cool driving beat, splashes of electric sitar and hooks galore. The lyrics are just flat out of sight "you got to go there/everything grows there/when you get high on a mountain it snows there." This record has the same innocent charm of other records of it's era such as "Hitchin' A Ride" by Vanity Fare, "Yellow River" by Christie and "Go Back" by Crabby Appleton. I much preferred records like those to the then mega-hip Led Zeppelin. Go check the video for "Sausalito" on YOUTUBE before it gets yanked, it will no doubt leave you with a smile.

The flipside of this 45 "Make Love Not War" is a full on psychedelic instrumental with sitar and stone flute. It reminds me of the acid damaged excursions that Eric Burdon & The Animals specialized in on the later albums such as "Winds Of Change" & "The Twain Shall Meet." All in all "Sausalito" is a lost classic that deserves your attention NOW! THE OHIO EXPRESS RULE!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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