Archive for Shiva’s Headband

Your Sister’s (Record) Rack: Shiva’s Headband

Posted in Lost Classics! with tags , , , on February 14, 2010 by 30daysout

Now this is a real psychedelic relic – Take Me To The Mountains by the Austin-based Shiva’s Headband.  If you thought the Haight-Ashbury was America’s only psychedelic hotbed in the late 1960s, think again: Texas had a pretty groovy scene too, with Conqueroo and the 13th Floor Elevators from Austin, Bubble Puppy out of San Antonio, the Red Krayola, the Moving Sidewalks and Fever Tree from Houston and good ol’ Johnny Winter from Beaumont/Port Arthur.  (Note to wiseguys: Port Arthur’s Janis Joplin made her earliest music in Austin, but didn’t become well-known until she moved to San Francisco.)

Shiva’s Headband was a six-piece group that formed in 1967 around musical prodigy Spencer Perskin and his wife Susan.  The band started its own label – Armadillo Records – to release singles but Capitol “discovered” and signed the group in 1970.  Perskin mainly produced Take Me To The Mountains and it was recorded at the Grateful Dead’s studio in San Jose.  When it was released later in 1970, it was the first appearance by an Austin-based rock band on a major label.

Listening to the album now, with 21st century ears, you can certainly identify the DNA of what would later become “cosmic cowboy” music in Texas.  Even though the Byrds and Flying Burrito Brothers were traveling down a country-rock road (more country than rock, actually) Shiva’s Headband sported a back-to-the-earth sound that incorporated fiddle and harmonica as well as traditional rock instrumentation.  The title track could very well be a Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen song – with its down-home fiddlin’ and drawling vocals, it turns Haight-Ashbury into the corner of Hippie and Redneck.  Likewise with the bluesy “Homesick Armadillo Blues,” which wouldn’t have sounded out of place on a Doug Sahm-Sir Douglas Quintet setlist of the era.

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