“Mass in F Minor” by the Electric Prunes (1968)
Back in the ’70s, my favorite places to visit were record stores. That’s where I started my road to musical knowledge: Pulling LPs off the racks and reading the covers.
A lot of my early record collection came from a place called the Juke Box, which specialized in used LPs, a lot of which cost all of 50 cents. (That was a lot of money back then.) Sure, they might have been scratched up a bit, but you still could enjoy the music and read the liner notes.
The Juke Box also had used records that didn’t cost 50 cents. Those were out-of-print collector’s items that ran into two figures, far beyond our price range at the time.
For example, I remember seeing an album called “Mass in F Minor” by the Electric Prunes selling for $12. I was familiar with the group and album because of the inclusion of the song “Kyrie Eleison” in Dennis Hopper’s film “Easy Rider” and its soundtrack. The song basically is a Gregorian chant surrounded by fuzz-tone guitar, which sounded great to an impressionable youth. (Still does.)
So I scraped up the $12 for the collector’s item and discovered the whole album was built on the same idea. And that it contained only about 25 minutes’ worth of music.
Live and learn.
Somehow the “collector’s item” eventually found its way out of my collection. But when Collectors Choice Music issued it on CD in the late ’90s, I immediately snagged it up again.
“Mass in F Minor” has long been kind of an industry joke for the excesses of ’60s psychedelia, but the album is highly representative of that particular art form, if not the band that ostensibly recorded it.
The Electric Prunes had a couple of minor hit singles in 1966 and ’67, “I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night)” and “Get Me to the World On Time.” The former is best known and revered as the leadoff track to Lenny Kaye’s seminal “Nuggets” compilation. But that’s a whole other story.
By 1968, Prunes management wanted to explore something outside the box to try to cash in on the current “anything goes” music market. So the band was committed to a project by composer David Axelrod to, as I mentioned, combined Gregorian chants with psychedelic rock.
By the time the album was completed, another band called the Collectors had ended up doing much of the instrumental work, with the result that the core of the original band didn’t record together for another three decades.
Also of interest: Prunes producer Dave Hassinger was concurrently working on the Grateful Dead’s second album, “Anthem of the Sun,” but left the proceedings because of that band’s inherent eccentricities.
And RIP: I recently discovered that Mark Tulin, the Electric Prunes’ bass player, with whom I had a brief email correspondence in 2009, died last summer.
Oh, yeah, back to the original premise: If you like genuine ’60s psychedelic music, you’ll enjoy all 25 minutes of “Mass in F Minor.”