REDUX: Record Review: Three O’Clock – Baroque Hoedown/16 Tambourines

October 3, 2012

Lolita | FRANCE | CD | 1986 | 11001/2

The Three O’Clock: Baroque Hoedown/16 Tambourines FRANCE CD [1986]

  1. With A Cantaloupe Girlfriend
  2. I Go Wild
  3. Marjorie Tells Me
  4. Feel A Whole Lot Better
  5. Sorry
  6. In Love In Too
  7. Lucifer Sam
  8. As Real As Real
  9. Jet Fighter
  10. Stupid Einstein
  11. And So We Run
  12. Fall To The Ground
  13. A Day In Erotica
  14. Tomorrow
  15. In My Own Time
  16. On My Own
  17. When Lightning Starts
  18. Seeing Is Believing

I remember when I first heard LA’s wonderful “paisley underground” combo The Three O’Clock. I was watching MV3, as usual, and they often had bands on to lipsync their latest waxing, like the low-rent New Wave American Bandstand they were. As one could imagine, So-Cal KROQ staples often lent themselves to appearances on the program that saw them reach beyond the confines of the LA basin to let others hear them nationwide in those pre-internet daze of yore. The group played their song that was the lead off single from their debut EP, “Baroque Hoedown.”

It was a dreamy little tune that was as winsome as Michael Quercio’s fey vocals. The early 80s was a time for fey vocalists to come out of the woodwork, wasn’t it? Yesterday we discussed Dr. Robert of The Blow Monkeys, and let’s not forget the reigning monarch of fey, Mr. Stephen Duffy! I liked what I’d heard and noticed that the group’s EP on Frontier was available in all the finer disque emporiums. Still, I didn’t bite. Not yet.

It took until the next year when in the middle of the afternoon while air-checking MTV, I happened to see the video from the group’s full length album debut, “16 Tambourines.” The song was “Jet Fighter” and it was a killer pop tune of the type that makes me stand up and take notice! The hooks were thick and hurt so good going in, and the lyrics took an anti-militaristic stance during the jingoistic Reagan administration, so I appreciated it on many levels. The blend of guitars from Louis Gutierrez and keyboards from Mike Mariano sang like birds to me. Earl Mankey’s capable production made the group sound like they had money to burn, so at this point I made a mental note to not wait so long to buy some Three O’Clock!

And then three years passed.

Fortunately, Murmur Records came to my rescue by the time I’d entered the CD era. As usual, the store had amazing imports that the likes of Peaches would be hard-pressed to compete with. I saw The Three O’Clock in the bins and pounced. What I saw was a revelation. I was lucky enough to have found for my first Three O’Clock CD, a French compilation on the Lolita label of the band’s first two releases. The CD had both “Baroque Hoedown” as well as “16 Tambourines” on the disc, and better still, “Baroque Hoedown” wasn’t the five track domestic version, but the eight track French version, which added three cuts extra cuts, as shown above in red.

“Feel A Whole Lot Better” was a Byrds cover that suited where the band was coming from on a pop angle but the other bonus cover of Syd Barret’s “Lucifer Sam” illuminated the further reaches of psychedelia which informed the paisley underground movement.  The band’s own “In Love In Two” was another track that was for French ears only. I believe that the cover tunes were a fan-club single in The States, but I can’t find any confirmation of that notion.

“16 Tambourines” fully built on the promise of “Baroque Hoedown” to show the group making elegant psych-pop that either shimmered, [“Stupid Einstein”] gamboled, [“When Lightning Starts”] or glided [“And So We Run”]. The pair of well chosen covers [Easybeats, Bee Gees] fit in well with the band’s own compositions and hardly overshadow the strong original material. When the band got snapped up by I.R.S. Records after this album, it was a natural step forward for the little band that could.

– 30 –

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8 Responses to REDUX: Record Review: Three O’Clock – Baroque Hoedown/16 Tambourines

  1. Those were the days- Nu Psychedelia was all the rage with The Bangles and R.E.M. leading the charge and other bands like The Pretenders proudly incorporating the Psych influence (“Stop Your Sobbing”, etc.) into their sound. I saw The Three O’Clock perform in a little shack in Garden Grove, California back in the day. “Cantelope Girlfriend” is still a fave!


  2. johnnydark says:

    Glad to see this – I always thought they were just an SF Bay Area phenomenon, and they were considered so oddball retro, but I really loved their music. Had the good luck to see them open for REM at the Berkeley Greek during their Fables of the Reconstruction tour.


    • postpunkmonk says:

      johnnydark – They certainly had. A cachet with the pop purists in Orlando where I loved when these records came out. The kinds of guys who Forbes bands looked closely to the Three O’Clock for clues. Good thing, too! I liked all of their albums. Even the glossy ones!


  3. Jet Fighter is one of those rare songs on my list of “instant cheer-up” tunes, those special gems that I never tire of, and which instantly make everything better.


  4. There’s a track on Devo’s Something for Everyone that takes a very good stab at the perky anti-military track, called “March On.”


  5. Zach says:

    Despite my distaste for the Paisley Underground (most of the bands being little more than 60s pastiches, with no indication that anything happened in music after 1969), The Three O’Clock clicked with me. Unlike the other Paisley putzes, The Three O’Clock were more open to synthesizers and their guitarist Louis Gutierrez played a more modern-sounding guitar style (even though he occasionally dipped into an irritating jangle sound, most likely on a Rickenbacker, whose sound, with few exceptions, is terrible to my ears). I bought a copy of the 1991 two-fer CD from Frontier Records, which is mostly good. I especially enjoy the rousing Jet Fighter, which had all the makings of a breakout hit with its strong Earle Mankey production and pop hooks. There are a few sickeningly saccharine songs I’ve opted not to include on my iPod, particularly Tomorrow (that dinky-sounding piano is like nails on chalkboard to my ears) and Stupid Einstein (Michael Quercio’s vocals have seldom sounded more pre-pubescent and toxic than on this song). The shameless Beatles/Monkees-esque “Did you know, did you know” chant on And So We Run damn nears ruins what is otherwise a good song. On the whole, Sixteen Tambourines is a good album, and to my ears, sounds as much like late 70s/early 80s power pop (especially the better groups like 20/20 and the Plimsouls) as it does 60s psychedelic pop. I give much of the credit to Danny Benair’s strong drumming and Mike Mariano’s keyboards (which really shine on A Day in Erotica, Seeing is Believing, and On My Own). Baroque Hoedown, their EP, is a gem, too.

    The 1991 CD that I have omits the 3 bonus tracks from the 1986 French 2-on-1 CD, but does include Around the World, an extra track recorded around the time of Baroque Hoedown. Personally I don’t care for the song as it’s another silly 60s sound-a-like, with a guitar intro that sounds like it was ripped straight from Last Train to Clarksville. Can you tell by now how little I think of the bulk of ’60s rock/pop music?


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Zach – Good point! The Three O’Clock did manage to reflect their time as seen through that 1967 lens as modernists taking some, but not all, of their cues from the past. Hybrid vigor.


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