McGeorge's first gig took place at a fashion show at a Chicago department store, where the group provided background music for the models. Then, within weeks of his joining, the former Shadows of Knight guitarist found himself at Universal Recording Studios participating in the recording of the band's debut album. As he still didn't own a bass, McGeorge says he used Tom Skidmore's Hofner on most of the album.

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The sessions, recorded virtually live on four-track, were completed fairly quickly, thanks in part to the assistance of engineer Jerry DeClerk who helped acquaint the band with the workings of the studio. The fact that the group had spent months getting "its act together" at the rehearsal hall also helped greatly. "We had a fairly good concept for the album and understood the key elements we wanted on it," says McGeorge looking back.

While most of the songs featured on H.P. Lovecraft had been in the band's live set since the late spring/early summer, several tracks - 'the Time Machine', a psychedelically enhanced vaudeville ditty, and 'Gloria Patria', a Gregorian chant, were added at the last minute.

"As I recall, George Edwards came up with this lyric for 'the Time Machine,' but it was kind of serious, too serious in fact," says Michaels. "We all started kidding around, and soon I was over at this 'barrel house' type piano, changing it into this camp ditty. It had sort of a 'side show' feeling and the bridge had that echo effect in contrast to the other sections. Tongue in cheek is good sometimes. Young fans loved it, as I recall."

Edwards has a different take on events. "'The Time Machine' was written with tongue firmly planted in cheek as a response to a then-popular record called 'Winchester Cathedral'," he says. "I don't know how David felt that there was any serious intent concerning this tune. Frankly, I was surprised and later embarrassed that we recorded it."

As for 'Gloria Patria'. "[That] was done at the end of the final session, a cappella," says Michaels. "I took it straight out of this little book the Kyriale, which I had studied at Northwestern in my sophomore year. The guys did a great job. I rehearsed them in the 'dying away' effect at the end of phrases, trying to make it sound like the monks of Solemnes in France. I think it's wonderful that the album ends with the sign of the cross in Latin - Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen."

With the tracks completed, H.P. Lovecraft resumed gigging around the local area. While the band was out on the road, Bill Traut decided to employ horns and reed embellishments on a couple of tracks, most notably on the group's reading of Dino Valente's 'Let's Get Together' and the album's centrepiece, 'the White Ship'. Traut even made an appearance himself, supplying an 1811 ship's bell to add to the latter's eerie, ghost-like feel.

While Michaels was slightly concerned that the management hadn't consulted the group on the decision, he says he was pleased with the results. "I love what Bill Traut (and Eddie Higgins) did. Our unembellished recording of 'the White Ship' and a couple of other songs left room for overdubbing. I approved it wholeheartedly. A classmate of mine at Northwestern, Paul Turvelt, is one of the horn players used on the session."

According to Edwards, the band's six-and-a-half-minute masterpiece, 'the White Ship' had been composed during a break in rehearsals earlier that spring. "That was a 15-minute song write," he says. "I went out and sat in the hall on a bench and wrote 'the White Ship' in one pass."

Continues Edwards: "I had this concept that we would be a communal group and that included the writing. So even though I was doing all the writing, I was crediting both David and Tony. What people would do is bring ideas. 'That's How Much I Love You (More or Less)' came from an idea of Tony's. I had been messing around with some chord changes and I liked his idea…so I wrote the lyrics using his idea."

While Michaels agrees that the initial idea and melody for 'the White Ship' came from Edwards, he says the other members were instrumental in transforming the song into its final form. "We all agreed on the 'communal' sharing of the creative collaboration," notes Michaels. "However, what George brought to us was instantly moulded into a new entity. By itself, the baritone melody and chords are merely a bare-bones beginning. Adding the harmonies, the feedback effects on lead guitar, and conceiving the 'bolero' rhythm all came into being in a group setting. Therefore, the piece known as 'the White Ship', along with 'At the Mountains of Madness' and 'That's How Much I Love You, Baby (More or Less)' are collaborative efforts."

ggm.jpgThe story behind the recording of 'That's How Much I Love You (More or Less)' is an interesting one, claims McGeorge. "Because of the feel of that thing, George [Badonsky] wanted to bring in another drummer and a different bass player," he says. "Michael and I didn't like the idea, Michael more than me…but I kind of went along with this because at the time I wasn't a jazz player at all. I listened to this groove that this one guy laid down, and I think Michael did too, and we kind of thought, 'We can do this'. So, we went back and rehearsed it again one afternoon, we worked it out and went back into the studio and did it. Of course it came together really nice."

Overall, H.P. Lovecraft stands up extremely well and is perhaps the group’s best work. Nevertheless, as McGeorge points out, by the time that the record reached the stores, the group had moved up several gears musically. “Once it was released the generally soft effect of the album was well received, but it became something of an anomaly. The band sound changed significantly over subsequent weeks, becoming much more powerful and focused.”

As the album was being readied for release that September, Philips issued ‘Wayfaring Stranger’ to stir up some interest. The single certainly did, and even led to several regional TV appearances, but ultimately did not chart nationally.

Shortly after the band’s performance at the Swiss Hall on 1 October, the fateful decision was made to oust Tony Cavallari, his place taken by former Shadows of Knight guitarist Joe Kelley. Within a week however, Cavallari was brought back in the fold as Edwards explains: “We felt Tony had gotten complacent and wasn’t working to become a better guitar player and we fired him. We got Joe to come in but within the chemistry of the group, immediately on firing Tony, we realised that was a huge mistake…that Tony was an integral part of the group, and lazy or not, he was the guitar player for the group and corrected our error.”

Michaels says he was never consulted on the decision to replace Cavallari and was surprised when Kelley turned up to a rehearsal one night. “Joe Kelley came to our rehearsal room in the wee hours of the morning,” remembers Michaels. “His volume almost blew the windows off the walls. A totally new dynamic was being introduced. I probably thought, ‘Who invited this guy?’ He could play, but Tony was our brother in this enterprise. A few floors below, a well-respected classical guitar teacher had his studio. Maybe he lived there too. At any rate, he called the cops. All of a sudden three or four plain clothed policemen entered our room. I could tell from their demeanour and movements [that] they were out to bust us. Thank God we were clean. All they could find was my pipe filled with Three-Star tobacco. They were definitely disappointed. We apologised for making too much noise, packed up and went home.”

McGeorge was equally puzzled by the decision to recruit his former band mate. “Whoever came up with that idea was just barmy because Joe’s just a monster blues player and [now] you’re going to put him in a group that needs somebody with melodic phrasing…somebody who’s gonna stand in the background primarily and Joe’s used to being up front.”

Although Cavallari was re-employed on the grounds that he was an “integral” member of the group, McGeorge feels that other factors forced Edwards’ hand. “Joe is just right up front, he’ll tell you what he thinks. George was very political and it drove him insane because Joe would challenge him if he said something that wasn’t true. Within four or five days, George called me up and said he wanted Tony back. I’m stuck between two friends here anyway…and I get the lacklustre job of taking [Joe] home.”

Continues McGeorge: “The reason he was brought in was Badonsky wanted a stronger guitar player before we went out west and so not only does Joe not get to play with the band, he doesn’t get to go play the Fillmore [Auditorium]. It was a really crummy deal.”

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Shortly after Cavallari’s reinstatement, Philips issued H.P. Lovecraft to critical acclaim. Reviewing the album that November, Variety reported: “This is a highly talented new group with versatility of style and instrumentation, complemented by a memorable production. Some striking passages of psychedelic, oldtimey, folky and jazz music are woven together to produce highlights as ‘That’s How Much I Love You (More or Less)’, ‘That’s the Bag I’m In’, ‘the White Ship’ and ‘the Drifter’”.

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Released to coincide with the album was a new single, ‘the White Ship’. With its sombre harmonies, droning feedback and baroque harpsichord passages, the album’s centrepiece was already popular with audiences and seemed an obvious choice. Initially, the single comprised an edited version on one side and a complete version on the other, but this original version was quickly withdrawn and replaced by an edited version featuring ‘I’ve Been Wrong Before’ on the flip side. The group’s cover of the Randy Newman song, which had already been a sizeable UK hit for Cilla Black two years earlier, was one of the album’s highlights. The track features Dave Michaels on a recorder that he had bought on the day of the session.

Though popular with fans, ‘the White Ship’ also failed to crack the national charts. Nevertheless, interest in the band’s work had already been kindled on the underground circuit and on the West Coast specifically. In November, Billboard magazine reported that H.P. Lovecraft had sold 1,100 copies “underground” in San Francisco even before any singles had been released to promote it.

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