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"Psychotic Reaction" by Count Five (1966)
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OKLAHOMA CITY – The day before Super Bowl Sunday – Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014 – I began dwelling on the idea of album covers and bands that pay homage to popular album covers. Sort of like when Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention parodied Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band with their We’re Only In It For the Money album in 1968.

The album cover I was thinking of was 1966’s Psychotic Reaction LP by psychedelic garage-rock pioneers Count Five.

Shortly after reading the Lester Bangs collection Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung in the late 1980’s, which features the 1971 essay of the same name, I found an import – German, I think – of the ’66 classic. It was on white vinyl and had some badass songs on it, like the “shlockhouse grinder” lead single of the same name.

I think I sold it for some quick cash along the way, although I recently re-purchased a reissue copy of the album, where the five – yeah, count ‘em 1 .. 2 …3 … 4 … 5 – band members are, as Bangs put it so succinctly … “The album (Double Shot DSM 1001) had a killer cover, too – the photo was taken from the bottom of a grave, around the rim of which stood the members of the group, staring down atcha in the sepulcher with bug-eyed malice. Really eerie, except that they were all wearing madras shirts and checkered slacks from Penney’s. Which was not so eerie, but a nice touch in the long run. The colors and lettering were nice, too.”

Yes. Nice. Too nice. Too good. Just right. Just perfect. If I had a band and we were to recreate a (somewhat) famous album cover it would be Count Five’s Psychotic Reaction – down to the madras shirts and checkered slacks from Penney’s.

Bangs’ work, and the recently passed on rock critic Paul Williams (1988’s The Map) blazed a wide and welcoming trail for me. It was then that I wrote my first album review for the Wichita Southeast High School newspaper – a review of the vinyl version of The Beatles’ Past Masters Vol 1 & 2. From then on I was destined to write about rock-and-roll (and much like Paul Williams, get bummed out and lose interest in a lot of “current” rock – and don’t tell me Mumford & Sons and the Lumineers are rock. They’re not. Just as James Taylor and Carly Simon weren’t rock in Bangs’ day).

So, why do I bring this all up? Well, “Psychotic Reaction” is considered one of the 500 most influential rock songs of all time (according to Cleveland’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame) and has been featured during a party scene in the 1987’s cinematic interpretation of Bret Easton Ellis’s edgy novel Less Than Zero.

That film, of course, features a phenomenal performance by Robert Downey Jr. as the heroin-addicted prostitute Julian. Of course Downey himself struggled with drug addiction for many years and people are making the connection between the two amazing actors.

From the late 1960’s until the early 1990’s, heroin was a popular drug but had faded somewhat in recent years, so Ellis’ portrayal of a character in 1985 L.A. as being addicted to heroin is certainly believable.

Which brings us to the top news story on Google News. A USA Today story headlined “Hoffman death puts focus on heroin’s growing popularity."

The story says that as “authorities crack down on pain clinics that prescribed the pills (OxyContin) by the thousands and pharmaceutical companies change their formulas so the pills are more difficult to abuse, opiate addicts are turning to cheaper and plentiful heroin.” After all, aren't our troops protecting poppy fields in Afghanistan?

Turning back the clock, we jump into the 2000 Cameron Crowe film Almost Famous, which I mentioned yesterday. Again, Philip Seymour Hoffman portrays rock critic and San Diego native Lester Bangs – he of "Psychotic Reaction"-linked fame. Bangs loved real rock and roll. Stuff that the Count Five were doing. Obscure rock and Iggy Pop and Lou Reed and all that stuff. Bangs would die of an accidental overdose in 1982. Hoffman – a genius actor – would be oddly linked to Lester Bangs and that Count Five song … Hoffman, I should add, loved that role as Lester Bangs!

… which brings me to this: When I was thinking about remaking the Psychotic Reaction album cover I was obsessed with the thought of ‘who would dig the grave-like hole so we could take the picture of the band looking up?” Morbid? Perhaps a little ghoulish? And this a day before the Synecdoche, New York lead actor Hoffman sadly takes the same cue that his character Caden Cotard heard at the very end of the film ... and his life – “die.”

We miss you, Philip. You were truly one of the greats!

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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