Saturday, May 09, 2020

"Sausalito (Is The Place To Go)" (The Ohio Express ...or is it?)

You might realize from the sound of my voice...that not...from San Jose. (much audience laughter) No, I come from across the water...Sausalito. (more laughter)”
-Ray Davies of The Kinks, from his one man show The Storyteller, Alcazar Theater, San Francisco, circa 1996.

Cruising 'round 'round, fell out of my boat/Swam around, swam around, started to float
/Floated 'round 'round, hanging onto the flow/There I found, there I found Sausalito/
Perfect leaf green, it's all in the view/Every shade, marmalade, every hue/Houses in stilts grow out of the sea/Everything's growing, it's growing for me.../Sunning all day, loving all night/(Write/ride?) a bit, fight a bit, got it just right/Music and flowers, the sight and the sound/Fish a bit, wish a bit, magic's all around.../You oughta go there, everything grows there/When you get high on a mountain,it snows there
/Everything's groovy, like in a movie/Sausalito is the place to go to now...”

OK, I know: as song lyrics go it's not exactly on the level of, say, 'Visions Of Johanna'...but what would you honestly expect from one of the prime movers of that celebrated and reviled sub-genre of Rock known as Bubblegum?

Released the summer of and month before the Woodstock Festival in 1969, this became one of the last singles to be released by The Ohio Express, part of the stable of the undisputed masters of Bubblegum, Jerry Kasenetz and Jeff Katz. Emerging during the Summer of Love, the Bubblegum sound was a simple, nursery-rhyme-catchy antidote to Psychedelic excess. As a result, Kasenetz-Katz produced quite the stunning run of Top 40 hits leaping from transistor radios worldwide between 1967 and '69.

As stated above, serious rock fans dismissed Bubblegum as mindless commercial trash, yet its simplicity would later be taken to heart by those who would create what became Glam (and aspects of Punk) in a similarly bright, sharp pop image. Another Kasenetz-Katz act, the 1910 Fruitgum Company's '1-2-3 Red Light' was covered by the original three-piece Talking Heads, and later hit 'Indian Giver' by The Ramones. The Kasanetz-Katz Singing Orchestral Chorus' hit 'Quick Joey Small' was allegedly the first song The Cramps ever attempted to play.

Other occupants of the Kasenetz-Katz stable of Bubblegum stars were Crazy Elephant ('Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'') and The Music Explosion ('Little Bit o' Soul', also covered by The Forest Hills Fab Four). Even the none-more-garagey Shadows Of Knight were beneficiaries of 'A Super K Production' with a remake of their hit 'Shake'.

Then there were The Ohio Express, and the almost annoyingly, adenoidal bliss of ubiquitous hits like 'Yummy Yummy Yummy', 'Chewy Chewy' and 'Down At Lulu's' (which would provide a Bay Area vintage/rocker boutique with its name in the late '90s).

After their initial run of hits, however, lead singer and co-writer Joey Levine decided to jump ship over money issues. Seeing as much of the Kasenetz-Katz roster were studio creations to begin with, other songwriters and players were sought out to carry on the Ohio Express brand.

Improbably, one of the journeymen songwriters they turned to was Graham Gouldman: already a known hit-making quantity, having penned chart-toppers like 'For Your Love' and 'Heart Full Of Soul' for The Yardbirds, 'Bus Stop' and 'Look Through Any Window' for The Hollies, and 'No Milk Today' and 'Listen People' for Herman's Hermits. Finding himself in 1969 at what he now calls 'a creative lowpoint', Gouldman accepted Super K's offer and, in tandem with fellow jobbing musician/songsters Eric Stewart, Lol Creme and Kevin Godley, set about churning out the required Bubblegum.

Reaching #86 on the American Top 40 charts, 'Sausalito (Is The Place To Go)', though credited to The Ohio Express, was in fact sung and performed by the aforementioned Gouldman and co. The four would in time set out on their own, first as Hotlegs with 1970's fluke of a global smash 'Neanderthal Man', then more famously as smart-pop artisans 10cc.

('Sausalito' and other Gouldman and pre-10cc tunes, written for Kasenetz-Katz and others, can be found on the 2003 anthology Strawberry Bubblegum, released by Castle Music.)

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