Clear Light

From: Los Angeles, California

ClearLightPhoto2

Clear Light was a psychedelic rock band that formed in Los Angeles in 1966. They were very much in the mold of fellow Elektra Records artists Love, Tim Buckley, and especially the Doors.

In 1966, the The Brain Train formed and was managed by Sunset Strip hipster Bud Mathis. They recorded a single at the time but soon changed their name to Clear Light where they were signed by Elektra Records. One condition was that they fire Bud Mathis and in doing so, Doors’ producer Paul A. Rothchild took over management of the band.

The core members of the group were Bob Seal, lead guitarist and vocals, Robbie “The Werewolf” Robison, rhythm guitar and vocals, Doug Lubahn bass and vocals, Dallas Taylor drums, and Michael Ney, on, most unusually, another set of drums. They soon added Cliff De Young on lead vocals. This is the version of the band seen on their one and only album cover. However, sometime during the often described “brutal” recording process, Paul Rothchild was not happy with Robbie “The Werewolf” Robison’s guitar playing skills and pressured the group to replace him. That is how keyboardist Ralph Schuckett entered the band. For some reason, this was not properly addressed on the album cover and the revamped version of Clear Light appears only on the album insert, if you were lucky enough to get an original copy.

What has been considered the band’s finest hour came when drunken customers in a Park Avenue club heckled them so brutally that Ralph Schuckett, the usually gentle organist, hurled a few choice words back at them. They then walked off the stage, retired to the Albert Hotel, and woke up in the morning to find that they had become underground heroes.

The big hit off their only album, Clear Light, was “Mr. Blue,” a psychedelic version of a folk song written by Tom Paxton and a popular request on underground radio at the time, despite the fact it was never released as a single. Lasting over six minutes, the rather sinister, psychedelic song is considered a classic of the genre. Its lyrics, which alternate between spoken word and song, include verses opening with such lines as, “Good morning, Mister Blue, we’ve got our eye on you,” “Step softly, Mister Blue, we know what’s best for you,” and “Be careful, Mister Blue, this phase you’re going through ….”

The album also included some of guitarist Bob Seal’s best psychedelic folk-rock songs, namely “With All in Mind” and “They Who Have Nothing.” It had some success in England, but less in the U.S. The end of the group started when Paul Rothchild pressured the other members of the band to fire Bob Seal. When this happened, Cliff De Young was soon to follow and though they struggled on for a brief time, the band was essentially over, especially with the heart and spirit of the band, Bob Seal, gone. Seal was replaced by ex-Fug Danny “Kootch” Kortchmar but the group disbanded in 1968 after having started work on a second album. Two tracks from the sessions surfaced in 2006, “Darkness of Day” and “What a Difference Love Makes”; the latter showed the group moving into more commercial territory due to Kortchmar’s influence. Schukett and Ney appeared on the Monkees track “Porpoise Song”, from their movie Head.

Clear Light was featured in the 1967 motion picture The President’s Analyst. De Young had not yet been hired as singer, and Barry McGuire was cast as their leader and vocalist. For a band that had released only one album, it is surprising that they not only appeared in a film but actually had a few speaking lines.

Members:

– Cliff DeYoung – Vocals
– Bob Seal – Guitar
– Douglas “Doug” Lubahn – Bass
– Ralph Shuckett – Keyboards
– Dallas Taylor – Drums
– Michael Ney – Drums
– Robbie “The Werewolf” Robison – Guitar, Vocals
– Ralph Schuckett – Organ, piano, celeste
– Danny “Kootch” Kortchmar – Guitar

Aftermath:

Cliff De Young went on to become an accomplished actor and remains active today.

Dallas Taylor, who had played previously with John Sebastian and alongside Lowell George in the pre-Little Feat group The Factory, later became a member of Crosby, Stills and Nash.

Ralph Schukett went on to play on “Porpoise Song”, the The Peanut Butter Conspiracy album For Children of All Ages, then on to Todd Rundgren’s Utopia and also became a popular session player.

Doug Lubahn played bass on several of The Doors’ albums and went on to play with Billy Squier among others.

Robbie Robison ended up in Oregon and died in 2000.

Bob Seal later played with Gale Garnet and the Gentle Reign.

Michael Ney also played on “Porpoise Song”, then the The Peanut Butter Conspiracy album For Children of All Ages and other session work.

Tracks played on Psychedelicized…

From the 1967 album Clear Light

  • Black Roses
  • Night Sounds Loud
  • Sand
  • A Child’s Smile
  • Mr. Blue

From the 1967 single “Black Roses”
Clear Light - She's Ready To Be Free

  • She’s Ready To Be Free