Merrell Fankhauser (born in Kentucky, but raised in the Los Angeles area)
is one of rock's true originals.
He debuted with the surf band Impacts, whose album Wipe Out
(Del Fi, november 1962) was one of
the first instrumental surf albums.
Fankhauser wrote the title-track, which
became a hit for the Surfaris.
Then he moved on to form the Exiles, whose
material would later be collected on Merrell and the Exiles (Ocean),
a folk-rock combo with
Captain Beefheart's cohorts
Jeff Cotton and John French that recorded about 20 Fankhauser songs for
Glenn Records, initially in the style of folk-rock
(Lila, Supermarket) but later in a more "acid" vein.
A few of the 1963-66 singles
were collected on Fapardokly (Universal, 1966), which is an Exiles album
despite the fact that the label forgot to print the band's name on the cover.
Fankhauser's next project was the
HMS Bounty, which actually was simply most of the Impacts.
Their Things (1968 - Cherry Red, 1985) contains mellow
garage-rock and folk-rock songs (Drivin Sideways On A One Way Street).
Fankhauser briefly jammed with Captain Beefheart.
In 1969 Beefheart's guitarist Jeff Cotton and Fankhauser formed Mu
(basically a reunion of the Exiles). Their first album,
Mu (RTV, 1971), reissued as The Maui Album (Reckless, 1988),
contains the mystical/tribal suite
Eternal Thirst, the exotic novelty Mumbella Baye La La,
a spastic blues number a` la Beefheart (Ain't No Blues),
the ethereal psychedelia of Blue Form and
Mu released three singles before disbanding:
Ballad of Brother Lew/ Nobody Wants To Shine (Mantra, 1972),
One More Day/You've Been Here Before (MU, 1972),
On Our Way To Hana/Too Naked For Demetrius (MU, 1973).
Cotton moved back to Los Angeles and became a priest.
The material recorded in 1973-74 for Mu's second album would eventually surface
on The Last Album (Appaloosa, 1982), reissued as
End Of An Era (Reckless, 1988). This material is less psychedelic and
more exotic, laid-back, spiritual.
The double-disc MU (Sundazed, 1997)
contains a selection of both albums and the singles.
Children of the Rainbow (Blue Form, 1985) collects some unreleased 1975
sessions. They all pale compared with Mu's first album.
Fankhauser had already (1973) moved to Maui (Hawaii) and recorded his first solo album,
Merrell Fankhauser (1976), a collection of acoustic vignettes
(Make A Joyful Noise).
Calling From A Star (1983), A Day In Paradise (Source 2 1985) and
Doctor Fankhauser (1986), recorded in 1982,
returned to acid-rock, and were followed
by one of his masterpieces,
Message To The Universe (One Big Guitar, 1986), a metaphysical
The autobiographical concept Psychedelic Dreams (1988), whose songs
"tell the story of Merrell's musical career",
Back This Way Again (1989),
Flying To Machu Picchu (1991),
Jungle Lo Lo Band (Legend, 1994)
kept the legend alive.
Fankhauser and drummer Ed Cassidy of Spirit also
recorded the bluesy On The Blue Road (D-Town, 1995).
Eventually, Fankhauser resurrected the Impacts to make albums of instrumental
surf such as Eternal Surf (Ocean, 1997) and
Sex Wax And Surf (Ocean, 1999), thus returning to his origins.
Fankhauser worked seven years on
the epic 73-minute Return To Mu (Captain Trip, 2000), that includes
remakes of Waterfall and On Our way To Hana,
and its follow-up Man From Mu.
(It is not true that the albums contain old material that were
lost in the jungle of Maui, etc etc: the story was made up by the USA
Rockin And Surfin (Ocean, 2004)
is a solo instrumental surf album.
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