Saturday, 22 November 2014

The 1960s Lost Psychedelic Band: Gandalf

Gandalf is the sort of record the 60s loving hipster you know references to try to seem knowledgable about psychedelic music, it's a pretty obscure record. However since it's release in the late 1960s it has built a large cult following and the band Gandalf is now considered one of the best little known secrets of the psychedelic era. 
Gandalf were together for four years from 1965 until 1968 and despite their cult status not much is popularly known of the band. One person hoping to rectify that is Peter Sando, the guitarist for Gandalf.

Perhaps the most overt Psychedelic album artwork in existence


I met Bob Muller in detention hall in the 7th grade. He had a band [the Thunderbirds] and they were in the process of dumping their guitarist, Michel Nouri, later to become a successful actor. I joined the Thunderbirds, later to become the Rahgoos.” Peter Sando recalled of the band's origin.
Sando's earliest musical influences are common for many his age, they include classic Rock N Roll artists such as “Elvis, Duane Eddy, Bo Diddley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard”, more pop-centric hit makers “Patti LaBelle, Franky Lymon & The Teenagers, The Clefttones, Shirley & Lee” and perhaps more surprisingly “Alan Freed” the famous DJ, who helped bring Rock into mainstream culture.
He became a musician by what some would call randomness and some would call realism “When I was 13 my friend had an electric guitar. He lent it to me for one night. I picked the high E string a few times and realized it was the intro to I’ve Had It by the Bell Notes. I was then a “musician”.

Gandalf (The Band not the Wizard).


The band which Gandalf originated from was the Rahgoos, “The original Rahgoos went through many changes and after Bryan Post joined the US Navy reserve we found Dave Bauer and played in NYC where we got our record deal.”.
However once they got that record deal, the Rahgoos stopped being themselves. Their Producers Koopelmen and Rubin decided that Rahgoos simply wasn't a marketable name and instead “told us we would be the Knockrockers. We hated that and bantered about various names”.
“Davy was reading The Hobbit in the dressing room at Scott Muni’s Rolling Stone club in Manhattan and suggested Gandalf and the Wizards. When the album art came back from California, it was Gandalf.”
At first the band seemed promising and Sando’s own songs began to receive airplay “I was surprised when my songs got the FM airplay”.
They didn't tour much though as they remained stuck playing "mostly smokey bars and teeenage nightclubs." Despite that Sando fondly recounts days of "Playing the Night Owl cafe alongside The Magicians, James Taylor and the Flying Machine, The Blues Magoos, The Myddle Class." 
“As the Rahgoos I do recall playing at a Jersey shore bar, D’Jai’s. On Monday Nights they would have oldies acts come in and we, being the house band, would back them up, like The Coasters, Patti Labelle and the Bluebelles! So fun!!”


"The LP flopped when it was released and that was that"


However the fun times were not to last. “The LP was delayed due to a dispute between K&R and Capitol”, and gradually and naturally the band “gave up hope and went in different directions. Davey and I played some gigs as Gandalf, but the LP flopped when it was finally released and that was that.”
Following Gandalf he “played in various bands to make some bread and always pursued a solo career doing the NY/NJ folk circuit and writing and recording my original songs.”

"I have no regrets. It is what it is"


In 2007 however Gandalf released a second album Gandalf II made up of demoes and unreleased material by the band. “Over the years I received many request for out takes and additional material. After discussing this with Bob Irwin at Sundazed, we came up with the collection that was to be Gandalf II. I think there were some cool tracks there and Bob did a great job of restoring the music and putting it all together.”
However unfortunately for Gandalf fans there’s not much hope for a reunion. “Bob Muller is still a good friend, but hasn’t touched a bass in years, although he still has his original Hofner. Frank Hubach and I did a show at Music Millennium a few years back. Dave Bauer sadly has passed away. I don’t think it’s in the cards for any kind of reunion”. However there is some good news for Gandalf fans “I am working on a collection that could evolve into Gandalf 3. Stay tuned!”
However the burning question to Peter Sando is obvious, does he regret that Gandalf never reached fame and fortune? “I have no regrets. It is what it is and I’m still breathing. I’m always amazed at the response I receive from all over the world praising our work from over 45 years ago.
And that the end of possibly the entire saga of Gandalf, but he has a message for all the fans “Thanks to folks like you, Gandalf lives!”.

The full album on Youtube, although who knows how long it'll be up there.