Topeka, Kansas, and Austin, Texas
Records with Sonobeat in 1967
One commercial 45 RPM release on Sonobeat Records (1968)
- Updated May 31, 2019 Psychedelic
Thingies • Mass Confusion (1968)
A rare Thingies publicity photo
The Thingies' first Sonobeat recording session, held at Swingers Club in north Austin in early December 1967, yields four instrumental backing tracks, but only two – the tracks listed as "psycho-rock" – will be completed with vocal overdubs
It's December 1967 in Austin, Texas, and Sonobeat is recording what will become it's sixth 45 RPM stereo single release, Mass Confusion backed with Rainy Sunday Morning by psychedelic band The Thingies. Although Sonobeat records unreleased material by Leo and the Prophets, a semi-psychedelic band, earlier in the year, The Thingies' single marks Sonobeat's first true foray into psychedelic rock, the genre generally credited to Austin's 13th Floor Elevators. As Sonobeat launches in 1967, it wants to record the Elevators, but they're already signed to a long term exclusive deal with Houston-based International Artists Records, so Sonobeat producer Rim Kelley is excited to work with The Thingies, a "visiting" band from Topeka, Kansas, purportedly en route to San Francisco, California.
Mass Confusion, the "A" side of The Thingies single, is a self-fulfilling song about... what else... confusion, penned by bandmates Gordon Marcellus and Larry Miller. The "B" side, Rainy Sunday Morning, by group members Phil Weaver and Bob Cole, is a disfunctionally reflective song that easily could have been written and recorded by Jim Morrison and the Doors. The Thingies' Sonobeat sessions also yield instrumental masters for original tunes I Died, Mrs. Baker, Richard's Song, and an untitled jazz rock tune, none of which are ever completed with vocal overdubs. Before they have titles, Mass Confusion and Rainy Sunday Morning are referred to on the instrumental masters as Psycho-rock. Sonobeat co-founder Bill Josey Sr. has a test pressing – perhaps as few as five copies with blank white labels – made to check the sonic quality on vinyl before ordering the commercial press run.
Quoted from Ben Graham's book A Gathering of Promises: The Battle for Texas's Psychedelic Music (2015)
We're amused to find some accounts on the internet suggesting that Sonobeat records The Thingies in a hotel room. This is actually a twisted but unrelated account of how the band come to Texas from Florida, en route to San Francisco, stopping to visit Phil Weaver's family in Waco, Texas, where the band ends up remaining for several weeks. The Waco motel where they're staying provides them with rehearsal space. Eventually, of course, the band makes it to Austin where they almost are engaged almost immediately as The Matchbox night club's house band. But The Thingies' Sonobeat sessions are recorded not at The Matchbox but during off-hours at Swinger's Club in north Austin, the same venue Sonobeat uses to record its first single by the Sweetarts in 1967. The Thingies' overdub their vocals about a week later in a session starting at midnight at the KAZZ-FM studios (where Sonobeat producer Rim Kelley works as a deejay) in the Perry Brooks Building in downtown Austin. Nope, no hotel room.
The finished tracks for The Thingies' single sit for a few months while Sonobeat sorts out whether its singles by The Conqueroo and Shiva's Headband will be released first; all three bands record with Sonobeat in the same general time frame. The Thingies' single finally makes it out a week after The Conqueroo's I've Got Time is released (the Shiva's Headband single ends up shelved and never released). The Thingies release delay doesn't seem to have any negative impact: Mass Confusion is well received critically and gets local and regional radio airplay.
With The Thingies' single, Sonobeat shifts lacquer mastering and vinyl pressing from Houston Records in Houston, Texas, to Sidney J. Wakefield & Company's high-end manufacturing plant in Phoenix, Arizona. The move is designed to improve the fidelity and reproduction quality of Sonobeat's stereo 45s.
From Sonobeat co-founder Bill Josey Sr.'s extensive 1976 interview with Doug Hanners for Doug's Not Fade Away fanzine article about Sonobeat, quoted in Ricky Stein's Sonobeat Records: Pioneering the Austin Sound in the '60s (History Press; 2014)
The Thingies – perhaps by design – is a band shrouded in mystery. Is the unit from Florida or Kansas? Does it move on from Austin to San Francisco, or does it break up before leaving Austin? Are the lyrics "love sadly dying" in Mass Confusion references to LSD? Wherever the band comes from, The Thingies makes quite an impression on the Austin music scene during barely a six month period, playing gig after gig at Austin's legendary Vulcan Gas Company, The Matchbox, and other local night spots alongside Johnny Winter, The 13th Floor Elevators, The Conqueroo, and most every other leading Central Texas progressive and psychedelic rock band. The Thingies even performs at the Afro Club, traditionally a blues, jazz, and R&B venue in east Austin. In actuality, the group is from Topeka, Kansas (except for Phil Weaver, who's from Waco, Texas), spends summer 1967 playing in Miami, Florida, and breaks up in Austin, never making it to California. The break up occurs just before Sonobeat releases the band's single in spring '68, which is the reason the remaining Thingies tracks are never completed.
After The Thingies breaks up bassist Larry Miller, originally from Abilene, Texas, eventually relocates to Hollywood, Florida, where he starts an art school and gallery and headllines several rockabilly bands, including his last, the Rockabilly Rockets, before succumbing in 2017 at age 74 to heart failure. Lead vocalist Phil Cole returns to his hometown, Waco, Texas, attends Baylor University, and turns his career to social work; he succumbs to liver failure in 2014. Drummer Gordon Marcellus succumbs to cancer in 2004.
Bob Cole: rhythm guitar
John Dalton: guitar
Gordon Marcellus: drums
Larry Miller: bass
Ernie Swisher: organ
Phil Weaver: lead vocals
"A" side: Rainy Sunday Morning (Phil Weaver-Bob Cole) • 2:20
"B" side: Mass Confusion (Gordon Marcellus-Larry Miller) • 2:13
Produced and engineered by Rim Kelley
Basic instrumental tracks recorded at Swingers Club, Austin, Texas, on or about December 3, 1967
Vocal overdubs recorded at KAZZ-FM studios, Austin, Texas, on December 10, 1967
Recording equipment: ElectroVoice 665 microphones, Ampex 350 and 354 quarter-inch 2-track tape decks, custom 6-channel portable FET stereo mixer, 3M (Scotch) 201 tape stock
Approximately 1,000 copies pressed; approximately 75 copies marked "PROMO" and "NOT FOR SALE"
Lacquers mastered by Austin Custom Records, Austin, Texas
Vinyl copies pressed by Sidney J. Wakefield & Company, Phoenix, Arizona
Label blanks printed by Powell Offset Services, Austin, Texas
In the dead wax:
Rainy Sunday Morning: WPS 45 6895 A and SJW-10783
Mass Confusion: WPS 45 6895 B and SJW-10783
"SJW" in the matrix number identifies Sidney J. Wakefield & Company as the lacquer mastering and pressing plant
There are no copies of the test pressing in circulation, but for the record, the dead wax contains the same etchings and matrix numbers as the commercial release
As of March 31, 2019, a rare copy is offered on eBay for $250
Untitled jazz rock song
What's in a name?
The Thingies takes its name from a shortened version of "horrible evil thingies", a George Harrison line of dialogue he utters in The Beatles film Help!