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Sky Saxon and the Sound of Horny

Young bands are still copping his feel.

Adrian Mack 9 Jul 2009TheTyee.ca

Adrian Mack contributes a regular music column to The Tyee.

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Sky Saxon (1937 – 2009).

Even if it hadn't been overshadowed by the death of the most famous person in the world ever, Sky Saxon's passing on June 25 wasn't exactly headline news. But as the (reputedly) acid-gobbling frontman for archetypal LA garage-punks the Seeds, Saxon had an enormous and lasting impact on popular music. A recent commercial for Axe body spray copped the band's 1967 hit, "Can’t Seem to Make You Mine", though the indelible "Pushing Too Hard" is the probably the better known song.

The greater part of Saxon's legacy is contained right there, in those two numbers, but his post-Seeds life was hardly dull. Saxon ended up joining the Hollywood-based Source Family cult, recording with the sect's rolling Ya Ho Wa 13 concern in the '70s and rechristening himself as Sky Sunlight Saxon.

Rumours of his mental deterioration meant that he acquired a Roky Erickson-sized mythos during that time, but the Sky Sunlight Saxon I saw fronting a brand new version of the Seeds at a packed WISE Hall in summer 2005 was definitely all there. Impish, strange, and very old, yes -- but all there.

Saxon was lucid and happy on that hot August night, coming on like a jiggling, almost seventy year old horndog between shout-outs to Ya Ho Wa, and grabbing one lucky girl's butt during a stage invasion at the end of the night. She was up there singing "White Rabbit", which probably would have been great if the band hadn't been playing "Pushing Too Hard" .

Saxon's voice wasn't what it used to be, but then it never really was. Even in his youthful, hitmaking prime, he had more of a strangulated adolescent croak than he did a croon, implying that ol' blue balls was permanently on the verge of ejaculation. The Seeds' first album actually sounds like he's whacking it for 30 minutes straight. Hence, in my opinion, its immeasurable value as rock 'n roll.

Saxon's presence is felt these days in the bracingly snotty neo-garage of bands like Black Lips, and the King Khan & BBQ Show -- two acts that have recently collaborated under the name the Almighty Defenders, as luck would have it. A preview from their forthcoming album called "Bow Down and Die" is all mutant honky blues, distortion, thumping backbeat, and the lascivious yowling of desperate young men. You might even call it a little seedy.

Black Lips plays at the Commodore Ballroom on Thursday, July 23.

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