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The Sopwith Camel


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Performer Notes
  • The Sopwith Camel: Peter Kraemer, Norman Mayall, Martin Beard, Terry McNeil, William Sievers.
  • All songs written by members of The Sopwith Camel.
  • From the fertile San Francisco ballroom scene, the Sopwith Camel emerged in 1966 with a refreshingly melodic spin on the overamplified electric kool-aid coming from their psychedelic peers the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, and Quicksilver Messenger Service. The band's name was almost snatched by Bay Area concert impresario Chet Helms, who was looking for a catchy moniker to promote the new blues-based group being fronted by Janis Joplin and eventually settled on Big Brother & the Holding Company. Unfortunately, the band has suffered the double indignation of either being cast in the same lot as its trippy hippie counterparts or as sunshine pop lightweights -- neither of which is wholly accurate. Their one hit -- the title track, "Hello, Hello" -- did reach the Top Ten. However, its style was more akin to the retro-schmaltz served up by the New Vaudeville Band or Harpers Bizarre than any of the other tracks on the long-player. Sporting two- and three-minute pop songs, the Sopwith Camel had more in common with bands such as the Charlatans or Notes From the Underground than the Dead or the Airplane. They could rock out, as the acid blues "Cellophane Woman" and the guitar solo in "Frantic Desolation" prove. However, a majority of their material is a variation of the same well-crafted pop songs that their Kama Sutra labelmates the Lovin' Spoonful were churning out. Both "You Always Tell Me Baby" and "Maybe in a Dream" contain some interesting chord changes and vocal harmonies that invite comparison to Curt Boettcher's Sagittarius project. The band has reformed several times since the late '60s. A 1972 reunion yielded the LP The Miraculous Hump Returns From the Moon -- which was reissued on CD by the band in 2002. ~ Lindsay Planer
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