- Category: THE RECORD COLLECTION
- Written by Danny
Long hair, trucker speed, Country music and Mexican weed in the heart of the San Francisco psychedelic scene of the late 1960’s. Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen were a Berkley-base band, right across from the bay from the city by the and light years from the acid-drenched rock and blues in the Haight. Commander Cody played classic country before it was classic, when it was just country music or country and western. The kind of songs found on truck cab AM radios, in honky tonk road houses and playing in the kitchens of any characters that film directors wanted to peg as dumb, evil or both.
Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen were true to two causes in the music. Lyrically, the band had a Furry Freak Brothers take on life, you could never tell if you were on the inside or outside of their joking. Musically, the Lost Planet Airmen could play. The twanging riffs from Bill Kirchen’s guitar as it pushes its way into “My Home in My Hand” is country proud but it is prime beef, pure meat. The main character in the song can be found hitchhiking around the U.S., when he is not sitting on the corner of any two streets smoking weed. The tracks on the band’s debut, Lost in the Ozone, had dual citizenship. They could easily pass for good Christian country but the characters and the stories they found themselves were counter culture.
Commander Cody (the man) provided piano and title name, as well as adding the spoken word singing on the groups big hit from Lost in the Ozone, ”Hot Rod Lincoln”. Lead vocalist Billy C. Farlow had vocals warmed in a country sun, perfect for the flash cooking rhythm section of Lance Dickerson on drums, Buffalo Bruce Barlow on bass and John Tichy on rhythm guitar. Adding to the rock’n’roll band make-up were Andy Stein on fiddle and sax, and West Virginia Creeper on pedal steel. Lead guitar chores were taken care of by a music name that continues to bring attention to his six string work, Bill Kirchen. Bill adds harmonies and lead vocals to his smoking guitar work on “Home in My Hand”. Bill also takes the lead microphone on “Seeds and Stem”, a country weeper that looks at all the bad things in a day, alone on a Saturday night with no place to go, seeing your new shoes on your old love’s freshly minted beau, dead dogs and finance companies repossessing your home. It has been a particularly bad day but the tragedies that have gone before are nothing compared to the realization that you have the “down to seed and stems again blues”. The music recorded and released in 1971 by Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen does not sound dated but, boy, that “Seed and Stems” title brings dated memories of using album covers for sifting, that image is right up there with stone tablets and the horse and buggy as means of transportation.
Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen spend time in pure mama’s country tunes like “Family Bible” and roll up the carpets and boogie ‘til the cows come home with live versions of Eddie Cochran’s “20 Flight Rock” and The Andrews Sisters “Beat Me Daddy Eight to the Bar”. Like many who are masters at their craft, the Lost Planet Airmen could make fun of themselves, and the music, while making sure they did the best job possible of presenting it.
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