The Other Half - Mr. Pharmacist/I've Come So Far

The Other Half
Mr. Pharmacist/I've Come So Far

Released 1968 on GNP Crescendo
Reviewed by Dave Furgess, 11/05/2007ce

Back in the mid-70's when I was in high school my basic pastimes were watching the Chicago Cubs lose, drinking cheap beer, smoking a little weed when I had the money and trying my hand at being an amateur San Francisco (1964-1970) rock historian. This all started when my aunt gave me a book of Fillmore/Avalon poster art. Most of the posters displayed highlighted the bay area's popular psychedelic rock acts such as The Grateful Dead, Moby Grape, Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service, The Charlatans and others. But what really intrigued me were all the names on the posters of groups I had never heard of, exotic names like Country Weather, Mourning Reign, The Oxford Circle, Mystery Trend, Initial Shock, New Tweedy Brothers, Frumious Bandersnatch, Orkustra, Sons Of Adam, Final Solution, 13th Floor Elevators to name but a few. Who were these groups? I used to rack my brain trying to find out anything.

My aunt then sent me a massive San Francisco phone book and I went to work. I contacted anyone I could think of who may have information. Along the way I spoke to Peter Albin of Big Brother & The Holding Co. & Roy Loney of The Flamin' Groovies and Jerry Miller of Moby Grape (who was incredibly helpful, telling me all kinds of stories, one in particular was how he played guitar on the 3rd Chocolate Watchband album "One Step Beyond." He also told me the 13th Floor Elevators were from Texas and someone else told me The Sons Of Adam were from Los Angeles. While I did make some headway, I still had more questions than answers. Of course this was 1975, there was no internet and reference books, so I just picked small bits of info here and there.

Luckily with the coming of punk in 1976 and great magazines like Bomp there was a renewed interest in the psychedelic era. Around 1980 the great wave of 60's psychedelic re-issues began and soon it was a tidal wave and a lot of my questions started getting answers. Around 1981 or so a friend recommended a French re-issue of a group called The Other Half called Mr. Pharmacist, saying it was right up my street, and sure enough it was. But what puzzled me were the liner notes saying the group were mainstays in venues like The Fillmore & Avalon Ballrooms. Yet in all my research I had never seen their name anywhere. But who was complaining? as I found a great new "lost" group to dig on. To further freak me out however was seeing a re-run of the first episode of 60's classic cop show "The Mod Squad", which had a disco scene with none other than The Other Half laying down "Bad Day" & "Oz Lee Eaves Drops" in full color (both tracks from the re-issue LP I had just bought, which I learned later was issued on the Acta label, which was home to The American Breed, Fenwyck and a few others.)

The Other Half as it turned out was a splinter group from former Sons Of Adam lead guitar wizard Randy Holden (check out his "Population 2" album, reviewed elsewhere on this site.) The sound of The Other Half was quite similar to The Sons Of Adam, but much tougher. The Other Half had a lot in common with the San Jose area groups such as The Mourning Reign, Brogues and Count 5 and even a little early Quicksilver Messenger Service. The Other Half played a firebrand adaptation of the R&B sounds that were re-introduced to Americans via The Rolling Stones & Yardbirds.

"Mr. Pharmacist" was the band's 5th and final 45 after they jumped labels to Gene Norman's GNP Crescendo label (also home to The Seeds, The Lyrics & Fire Escape) and it is probably the group's most popular track due to it's inclusion on several compilations, not to mention The Fall's breakneck cover version in the 80's. What we are talking about here is a full-on R&B fuelled adrenaline rush. This thing is mean and nasty and bites like a shark. The group actually come on more like a 70's punk group than a outfit associated with the flower power mecca of San Francisco. To be honest The Fall's cover version is every bit as potent as the original.

The flipside "I've Come So Far" is a more funky, subdued affair that is much slower in tempo. It is aided by some piano that sounds an awful lot like Seeds keyboard player Daryl Hooper (it could very well be him, as they were label-mates.) All in all this is a bitch of a single which tears the paint off of anything on the Grateful Dead's debut album. Yet despite the group's TV exposure and generous recorded output they never hit mass acceptance.

The Other Half's album on Acta (which includes all their 45's) has recently been re-issued on the Radioactive label. That would be the ideal place for those wanting to hear this great group.

Note-This group The Other Half were in no way related to the garage group of the same name from New Haven, Connecticut, who were more of a covers outfit.

Reviews Index