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Wednesday, May 3, 2023

Frumious Bandersnatch - self-titled (1968) [Original EP]

Frumious Bandersnatch - Frumious Bandersnatch

Original 1968 private pressing EP (Discogs)
Muggles Gramphone Works (no #)
~ThePoodleBites rip at 96 kHz / 24 bit FLAC + full high-res scans!~

"... Warner, Winkelman, and Denny put together some of the finest acid guitar playing to come
out of the Bay area ..." ~Vernon Joynson

The Frumious Bandersnatch was a short-lived northern-California band who sadly only released one EP during their brief existence. Nonetheless, that EP is simply one of the most psychedelic recordings to ever escape from the state, or even from the U.S.A., topping a screaming trio of guitars slamming on their whammy bars with exquisite vocal harmonies, impressive bass chops, and hammering drum beats. It is astonishing that these hippies never released a full-length LP: despite a cornucopia of competitive offers, gross mismanagement completely failed them. This disc is good enough that most of the better-known acts from the era fall short, which makes its obscurity equally stupefying. This post marks the digital debut of the original stereo mix for this legendary acid outfit's sole vintage offering.

My deepest gratitude to M.S. and C.F. for their invaluable contributions to this post!

Front of the picture sleeve for the original Frumious Bandersnatch EP
Much has been written about this band over the last 30 years. A great history is detailed in Vernon Joynson's Fuzz, Acid, & Flowers, and there are plenty of music reviews online mentioning the interesting tidbits, for example Richie Unterberger's review on AllMusic. A truncated history is this: 

Originally from Lafayette, California (in Contra Costa County), the band named Frumious Bandersnatch -- a character from Lewis Carroll's short poem "Jabberwocky" -- had changed its name from All Night Flight, and after a hiatus caused by equipment theft, lead guitarist David Denny was joined by local guitarists Jimmy Warner and Bob Winkelman to create a trio of raging fuzz which blew the minds completely out of any heads lucky enough to experience the winding compositions of Frumious psychedelia. Together with bassist Ross Valory and the group's lynchpin drummer Jack King, the ensemble recorded their sole EP in early 1968 and paid for 1000 copies to be pressed up, which flew off the shelves of Bay-area record shops and completely sold out after only a few weeks.

Despite all the positive motion, including gigs at many of the Bay's biggest venues, the group's manager, one Jim Nixon, hampered the group's chances for a major-label record contract, despite several attractive offers. The band lingered for awhile before folding in late 1969. While the Frumious Bandersnatch may have then slowly withered from the scene, its constituents did not; Frumious members went on to play in Faun, the arena-rocking legends Journey, and the Bay-area acid-rock-turned-classic-rock-heros The Steve Miller Band.

Handbills for two performances at the Lafayette Veteran's Hall, 7 & 14 July 1967

While a nice collection of their outtakes and live performances have been released in modern times as Golden Songs Of Libra and A Young Man's Song, nothing on either of these postmortem compilations nears the wonderment from the group's sole vintage vinyl offering. The EP opens with Jack King's "Hearts To Cry," perhaps the single finest moment from the San Franciscan late-1960s music scene. Bass arpeggios are intermixed with a laid-back drum track while the singer narrates his life's struggle, to be what he wants to be: a dream which (he feels) isn't shared by those around him. As the singer brawls, half-singing and half-demanding, the music crescendos, adding vocal harmonies, tearing distorted leads, and eventually erupting into a burst of guitar feedback. The mood changes; the drums become frantic, and a guitar soon picks up the pace, joined by one of the most strange and psychedelic noises I have ever heard coming from a piece of wax, and of which I have absolutely no clue of origin [C.F. suggests it might be an early homemade synth going through an effects pedal]. Soon the trio of guitars is in full force, jamming their lysergic blues with whammy bars slapping so hard that the vibrato strikes my bones when coming out of the speakers. The jam flares into a final reprisal of the opening theme, with the final resounding resolution: "I can sell my soul / as I please!"

After such an immense and spine-chilling introduction to the sound of the Bandersnatch, it's hard to imagine that any group could keep up. Yet, the band nails it with their short, swinging "Misty Cloudy," which closes side 1. The entire flip is devoted to "Cheshire," of course drawing upon the same Alice In Wonderland inspirations as the Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit." Frumious's take, however, is much more complex: a twisted web of different movements manifesting into one compound song. I maintain that early signposts of progressive rock actually appeared in 1968, and not in England but in California, with increasingly complex numbers such as Mad River's "War Goes On" taking the forefront of experimental psychedelia, where spiraling piecewise composition techniques superseded 3-minute pop songs. "Cheshire" is another entry on that list: with a winding time of over 7 minutes, it is comparable to few single-side tracks of the era.

Frumious Bandersnatch & their managers relax outside, ca. Spring 1968
(L to R): Jim Nixon, Ross Valory, Herbie Herbert, Jimmy Warner, Bob Winkelman, Jack King, David Denny

This EP has long been a collector favorite. These recordings saw a CD reissue in 1995 as part of Nuggets From The Golden State: The Berkeley EPs on the British label Big Beat. This reissue, compiled by well-respected writer and engineer Alec Palao, was transferred from analog tapes, with "post-production" done by David Young, who worked on a number of reissues for Ace, Big Beat, and other labels during this period. The sound was engaging, and though it was mastered too loudly, the "master tape sound" was quite satiating for most collectors. Unfortunately this reissue discreetly (conveniently?) failed to mention that the versions on this CD were stereo remixes completely different from the original vinyl, easily differentiated from those original EP mixes by an attentive ear -- that is, for the rare ear that even had one to compare. It's easy to understand how this change went unnoticed until I discovered these covert edits a few years back.

The original vinyl discs, like most private-press records from the 1960s, were not aimed at an audiophile market and suffered from various playback issues, including random thumps and clicks for no apparent reason, even on mint-looking copies. Some discs have pressing bubbles in the wax, while others somehow had part of the record's edge sliced off. I had the opportunity to transfer three different copies of this EP, with the third being the only one yielding blog-worthy audio quality. Despite this, there is still a bit of inner-groove distortion and sibilance present from the original lacquer cut, which I have done my best to minimize without compromising the sound of the original recording. Since there has been no other digital version of this EP on YouTube or elsewhere, this rip presents an instant upgrade for your digital archives.

Frumious Bandersnatch:
- David Denny: lead guitar, vocals 
- Jimmy Warner: solo guitar, vocals
- Bob Winkelman: rhythm guitar, vocals
- Ross Valory: bass, vocals
- Jack ("Jackson") King: drums, vocals

Engineering: Ken Roe & David Brown
Cover direction: Eric Rumpf
Photography: Don Leeper

Vinyl condition: M-
Dynamic range: DR 12

Track listing:
1) "Hearts To Cry" (King) -- 5:08
2) "Misty Cloudy" (Winkelman) -- 1:59
3) "Cheshire" (King) -- 7:06

Equipment Lineage:
– Audio-Technica VMN40ML stylus on AT150MLx dual moving-magnet cartridge
– Audio-Technica AT-LP1240-USB direct drive professional turntable (internal stock preamp/ADC removed)
– Pro-Ject Phono Box S2 Ultra preamp with dedicated Zero Zone linear power supply
– Focusrite Scarlett 6i6 MkII (96kHz / 24bit)
– Adobe Audition CC 2020 (recording)
– iZotope RX 10 audio editor (manual declicking, EQ subtraction, additional adjustments)
– Audacity 2.x.x (fades between tracks, split tracks)
– Foobar2000 v1.6.16 (tagging, dynamic range analysis)

Thanks for taking the time to read my posts and check out my blog. I'd greatly appreciate it if you leave a small comment below. Notes from my readers are what inspire me to keep going. Thanks!

Enjoy this rare psychedelic treasure!  :)

Handbill for the band headlining The Retinal Circus in Vancouver, B.C., 6-7 September 1968


  1. It's truly lovely to have you back, TPB! Many thanks for sharing this!

  2. Many thanks for another awesome opst, many thanks for share this jewel !!

  3. This is just amazing. The few cuts from Frumious Bandersnatch I EVER heard were some cheap MP3 transfers from some poorly-recorded gigs. I never dreamed of listening to this original EP in it's full glory, let alone get a hold of a copy. I can't say thank you enough for this share, TPB. You've made my day.

  4. Thank you for this wonderful release.
    There is your usual full stage stereo image and the extreme quality of the rip and I really appreciate the time and efforts it takes you to elaborate it.
    It seems nobody has commented the artwork you provide, as it is on a par with the quality of the sound, it is impressively top notch too.
    Best regards.

  5. I can't imagine having to opportunity to hear this other than by your time and generosity. Much appreciated.

  6. Thank you so much! Big, big fan of this band!

  7. Fabulous to hear this in it's original form. Great work as usual!

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. Though I have come across the name before I have never seen a download offered. I'm grabbing this and look forward to finally hearing it. Many thanks!


  10. TPB, This is one of those things that you post that make me downright giddy. I didn't realize that what I've been listening to (track (s) from "Nuggets", "Nuggets From The Golden State" weren't the real goods. This is what I dig about what you do. Painstakingly finding, ripping and preserving what usually falls thru the cracks. Can't thank you enough !

  11. Another beautiful tune! Thank You very much, TPB, for your work.

  12. Awesome! I didn't know that the Big Beat cd was a remix. Thanks for posting.

  13. Many thanks once again TPB! Another nugget from the Golden State unearthed & refurbished, undoubtedly better than new.

  14. thank you veryyyyyy much for this gem!!!

  15. What a pleasure to hear the original EP, many thx for another jewel by your side, cheers

  16. This is excellent -- the music and the artwork too. I first got into your blog just looking for quadraphonic music of any kind, but I've found many treasures in stereo here as well. Thanks for posting so much great stuff.

  17. I'm really looking forward to hearing this, thanks!

  18. Quite a surprise! Thank you so much!

  19. Hi! A geographic question: Was Pacific High Studio in Sausalito, or San Francisco? There's a Van Morrison bootleg that puts it in Marin, too, but I have also seen a specific address of "60 Brady Street," which is south of the slot in the SOMA.

    1. Hello, check the History section here:

    2. Thanks, ThePoodleBites! Given the dates for the Frumious Bandersnatch, it WOULD be Sausalito for their Pacific High recording. The Morrison boot is from 1971, when the studio was definitely in San Francisco.