fake psych vibe

by Art Chantry:

this is a primo example of what i’m talking about when i mention “fake psych”. there was a period of time back in the mid to late 1960′s where the businessheads in america saw what “them kids” were up to and tried to copycat it and cash in. what they came up with to sell boring mainstream product to the kiddies was a new visual style meant to look exactly like psychedelia (and failing miserably). and this i what it looked like.

—when i read contemporary design history and see them idiot “noted academics” all agreeing that milton glaser invented psychedelia? well, i just have to spit.—AC

to our aged untrained and ignorant eyes, we see this in 2012 and think “psychedelic”. but it’s not – AT ALL. to begin with, this is cal tjader, an adequate (even excellent) jazz pianist whose whose style was definitely more south of the border than taking a trip. his music sounds about as wild and crazy as cal tjader LOOKS in that drawing in the center of this record cover. honest. this is not remotely akin to anything ‘psychedelic’ in your imagination – no matter how wild you dream.

in fact, this cover is not actually the product of single solitary “artist” (like we associate with hippie folk art craftsmen and artists). it’s a corporate product of an art department (run by the legendary art director, acy lehman). there are even two different illustrators at work here who drew this – jo grey and marvin hayes. i think one guy drew the portrait of cal tjader and the other scribbled out the swirls (i think the lettering was added by acey lehman). so, it’s even a hodge podge of clashing drawing styles. i think that may be where any idea of ‘vibe’ actually comes from on this cover – accidental clashing styles.

even the title of the LP is meant to dredge up hippie psych hints – “along comes cal”. that’s a direct (and very clumsy) reference to the hit pop psych single by an early LA neopsych choral band called “the association” (at one time a powerhouse in the LA rock scene and an early purveyor of what became psychedelic rock music.) their first hit single was called “along comes mary”, which was sold as a love song to the teenie pop market, but was written as a celebration of the wonders of marijuana.

when psychedelic style first hit the american market, nobody in the mainstream business world had a clue as to what was happening. it happened SO FAST that the entire marketing paradigm to sell to the youth dollar did a “180″ – and it did it in a matter of mere months. it went from buying the hottest new fashion and looking the best among your peers to “do it yourself” and drop out. if we just look what happened to the beatles (or even the monkees), it plainly obvious. they went from teeny idol pretty faces to snide snarky surreal inside jokes about getting high – all in the space between a single record release cycle. the beatles record covers went from ‘mop tops’ and tonic suit uniforms to staggering long hairs in granny galsses and swirl. wham!

so, naturally, in order to get back in the game, the madison avenue geeks and the masters of industry copycatted to cash in. the result was a total misunderstanding of what the spirit of psychedelia was and further resulted in a popular illustration/design style that can only honestly be called “fake”. this is what it looked like. colorful, ballooney, swirly organic shapes and bright colors with interlocking blobby type based on bastardized art nouveau lettering styles. this look has a very solid lineage in commercial illustration going back through peter max, milton glaser, heinz edelmann, push pin studios, john acord and even art deco. basically, it’s nothing new at all. and it ain’t ‘psychedelic’.

real psych looked completely different. go back and look at the posters of the great psychedelic hippie artists of the era. nobody in the mainstream ad/design world looked remotely like hippie psych art. it was totally aliena nd philosophically confrontational. stanley “mouse’ miller, rick griffin, wes wilson, lee conklin, victor moscoso, r.tuten, bob fried, alton kelley, etc. – none of these people drew in the style or even the remote spirit of this blobby balloony corporate fakery look (the only exception might be r. crumb – and boy, that barely counts). the advertising world version of ‘psychedelic’ has more in common with that carnaby street mod look than the DIY grungey hippie weirdo outsiders it tried to imitate.

this fake psych style was never practiced by real hippies. it’s what the new york ad scene tried to sell us as ‘what hippies looked like’. it came from a long grand commercial illustration and advertising history dating back generations. it was sold to us by marketing folks as “the new youth look” to compete with and surplant the honest and real psychedelic folk art stylings of the hippies themselves. in a direct way, it watered down the hippie thre

nd made it cutesy (like new wave made punk marketable). i see this style i’m talking about something utterly and totally different than psychedelic culture. i call it “fake psych.” and it’s a lie.

so, i think we should set the record straight and call a spade a spade. this ain’t psychedelic art. this is mainstream commercial advertising PRETENDING to be psychedelic art.

AC:i wish we were savvy enough to have always thought it was fake. but, it’s sold to us as real. sorta like fox news….now i should go dig out that bizarre and lame record cover (budget rock collection) that i found by rick griffin. when griffin did a project for “the man” for money, he fell back on this lame corporate style, too. so, even the pros used this style to fake it….

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