The Glitterhouse is best-known for the title song from the cult classic film Barbarella, but this is plainly an injustice. First, although featured as vocalists on that song and several others from the film’s soundtrack, the band does not play on the album and did not write any of the material. Second, and more importantly, the band released, at nearly the same time, a far superior album featuring their own playing and their own original material and it is that album—Color Blind—that is our subject here. It is one of the best American psych-pop albums of the ’60s and, other than Love’s Forever Changes, perhaps one of the few that really competes with the work of the great British psych bands.
Even among American psych bands, the Glitterhouse was unusual. For one thing, they were from New York City rather than California. For another, they were produced by a well-credentialed square, Bob Crewe, mastermind of the Four Seasons and the Godfather of easy listening. And finally, there were an interracial band—a plausible inspiration for the title of their sole LP, Color Blind.
The Glitterhouse story begins in 1965 in Great Neck, New York, where vocalist Mike Gayle, guitarist Hank Aberle and bassist Al Lax all met at a party and, shortly thereafter, formed a band called the Justice League. Signed to Epic in 1966, a single was released (“Rumplestiltskin” b/w “Ode to an Unknown Girl”), but credited—much to the band’s surprise—to the Pop Set. Later, keyboard player Moogy Klingman joined the band and, due mostly to management issues, Gayle got fed up and quit. After adding a new lead vocalist and releasing another failed single, the band broke up―but about six months later, in the fall of 1967, Gayle, Aberle, Lax and Klingman reformed, along with drummer Joel O’Brien, formerly of James Taylor’s formative band, the Flying Machine. Rolling with the tide of the Summer of Love, the group adopted the name the Glitterhouse and began playing the New York circuit.
Crewe discovered the band at a party (though he was, in fact, set up by Klingman’s father who arranged the gig as an ersatz audition) and signed them to a management and production contract. Taken into the studio almost immediately, the Glitterhouse and Crewe began work on both the Barbarella soundtrack and Color Blind. The songs sung by the Glitterhouse on Barbarella are just what who would expect: plastic, campy, easy-listening pseudo-psych. They are very enjoyable, however, with the title track especially lush and catchy.
Color Blind, though, is the real deal. The opening track, “Tinkerbell’s Mind” is the standout track on the album. A slow, descending chord progression in the verses is complemented by an ascending set-up, then a return to the descending pattern in the choruses. Swirling organ, melodic bass and great harmonies complete the track, while the lyrics are a lysergic projection into, well, the mind of Tinkerbell (the hook line: “Tinkerbells’s mind is a crazy machine at the best”). An absolute classic. “Princess of the Gingerland” opens with organ appreggios and a wordless vocal arrangement, followed by swelling organ and guitar crescendos and trippy lyrics recounting a royal morality tale (almost a trope in the genre). Again, all the vocals are excellent. “Sassafras and Cinnamon”—despite the bubblegum title—is a raga-driven pop tune that lands somewhere between the Herd and Spanky and Our Gang, though the arrangement is far more adventurous that any of the work by either of those bands. “Child of Darkness” opens with a fairly straight garage-psych feel, but gradually moves through a cycle of psychedelic musical ideas that are arranged like dominoes, never returning to the original verse or chorus material. The second side of Color Blind drops most of the psychedelic touches and offers more straightforward pop material. While not as impressive as the first side of the album, the songs, vocals, and arrangements are all excellent and, as sort of a bookend, the last track on the album, “Happy to Have You Here Again,” features two very psychedelic breaks near the end of the song.
Only one single was released from Color Blind: “Tinkerbell’s Mind” b/w “I Lost Me a Friend.” The single did fairly well in the New York area, but failed to create a stir nationally. Crewe and the Glitterhouse parted company and there were no more official releases (an unofficial comp featuring some reunion demos recorded in 1974 was released by Klingman in 2006). O’Brien went on to record sessions (including the James Taylor LP on Apple and Carole King’s Tapestry). He passed away in 2004 from liver cancer. Klingman was the original keyboardist in Todd Rundgren’s Utopia. He too has passed away, from bladder cancer in 2011. Aberle went on to become a recording engineer and luthier. Gayle participated in Glitterhouse reunions in 1974 and 2002, but then fell off the radar entirely.
by Peter Marston
1. Tinkerbell's Mind - 4:43
2. Princess of the Gingerland - 4:24
3. Sassafrass and Cinnamon - 4:16
4. Child of Darkness (Journey of a Child Traveler) - 4:22
5. I Lost Me a Friend - 4:19
6. Times Are Getting Hard - 3:50
7. Where Have You Been Hiding - 2:25
8. Hey Woman - 3:55
9. Happy To Have You Here Again - 3:25
All songs by Michael Gayle
*Hank Aberle - Guitar, Violin, Vocals
*Michael Gayle - Guitar, Vocals
*Al Lax - Bass, Vocals
*Mark Moogy Klingman - Kyeboards
*Joel "Bishop" O'Brien - Drums, Percussion
the Free Text