In 1967, The Electric Prunes were riding high on the charts, heralding the coming Psychedelic Rock sound. Among those that noticed was the Beach Boys, who invited the Prunes to open for them for several shows in the early part of 1967 alongside the Left Banke, Question Mark and the Mysterians, and others. In 2014, the Prunes returned again with their new album WaS, continuing the mission that the band was on when they opened for "America's Band." Lead singer James Lowe remembers those days in this 2013 interview.
Daniel Coston: How did the Prunes come to tour with the Beach Boys?
James Lowe: "I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night" started breaking out in a lot of markets, so I guess since the attendance at that time was based upon radio play, we got invited to tour. I do remember it was a last minute thing.
Coston: Describe opening for the Beach Boys. What were their crowds like?
Lowe: Good crowds. Mostly college oriented. Some bigger venues, and some under 1000. It was nice to see America that way, at that time. The Electric Prunes had not solidified a fan base then, so we didn't know WHO would listen to our records or come to shows. We were very green at that time, so it served to give us experience on the road. It was a good gauge on what to expect from the live audience, we thought.
Coston: How long a set did you play?
Lowe: About 15 minutes, as I recall. They kept moving us around in the show as we got better reviews, or better reactions in some places that the BB, so it finally came down to a college and whomever was producing the show told us, "You're going on first tonight" (in a college setting, if the audience is hostile this can be the death nell). We went on first. We killed them, and from then on we were the band that played right before the Beach Boys came on no more moving us around.
Coston: Was it better it was to play through the Beach Boys' PA and monitors, as opposed to playing through other systems (or no systems) on club shows? '
Lowe: The system was OK. It wasn't the best, or the worst. The best part for us was that someone else was setting it all up and taking it all down. We were a garage band and we had just come from doing all our own work, so it was nice to relax and concentrate on the shows. Back then you got HORRID systems and no foldback speakers in most venues, and no monitors for the vocals. It was a crap shoot every night, so at least the Beach Boys was a known crap shoot!
Coston: How many times did you open for the Boys?
Lowe: Seven or eight, I think? Enough times that our band knew their set, and we both liked the theremin!
Coston: Talk about any special memories you have of those shows? Conversations you had with the Beach Boys, partying with them, that sort of thing.
Lowe: We noticed when their (Beach Boys) wives joined the tour, the party got quieter. In fact, it became non-existent. The Left Banke were pretty green then, too, I think it may have been their first tour. ? Mark and the Mysterians kept to themselves as my band did, as well. We were trying to be professional, most of the time.
Coston: How were the Beach Boys to interact with? Did you all travel together?
Lowe: No. We had station wagons across America. Maybe a few planes, but a lot of driving to hook up with the Boys. This adventure seemed a little new to everyone, including the promoters. I think the idea of multiple bands was fairly new outside of stadium shows supported by radio stations. The BB band seemed kind and respectful, as I remember.
Coston: Describe the various Beach Boys band members.
Lowe: Carl was the heavier guy (about 6 feet) with the cool hair, and "In My Room" in his nailed part of the set. Mike Love was blonde and goofy, more sardonic like LA people, but he was glue to the band in a funny way. Al was smaller and quieter. Blonde haired Dennis banged the drums and got all the chicks, Bruce Johnston was about 5'9" and had just joined on keyboard with the band, and he was a very nice guy and interested in making it better.
Coston: Did you cross paths again with the Beach Boys after that 1967 tour?
Lowe: I did gamble at the roulette table with Mike Love in Vegas one night, though I am not sure why we were even in the same hotel? I did make some records with Van Dyke Parks later in the scene, if that counts.
Coston: What was the lineup that played those shows with the Beach Boys in early 1967?
Lowe: Mark Tulin bass, Weasel Spagnola rhythm, Ken Williams lead, James Lowe vocals, Preston Ritter drums.
Coston: What are you working on these days?
Lowe: We’re in the studio. We are finishing up what will be our last recorded offering. Mark Tulin died in the middle of our trying to finish up a CD. We decided we need to let people hear this stuff. I mean, you should say goodbye, I think. The band, James Lowe, Steve Kara, Jay Dean, Walter Garces and a new bass player will do a few live shows in the coming year.
Coston: What would you like to say to the Beach Boys, these days?
Lowe: I liked those Good Vibrations. A LOT! Can Mike pay me back that 20 bucks he borrowed from me in Vegas? What else can I say? Keep Sanding!!!!