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December 4, 2018

Travis Pike: Renaissance Man

            Long overlooked
            musican, songwriter
            and now podcaster,
            Travis Pike has taken
            a unique career
            journey that's worth
            checking out

                  BY HARVEY KUBERNIK
    We at Record Collector News readily admit that most of the editorial in the periodical covers music and recordings initially released during the last century or music documentaries that chronicle endeavors and melodic moments from the sixties and seventies.
    Once in a while we take delight in discovering or at least drawing attention to someone with a fifty-or-sixty-year music career who has had a unique journey, long-overlooked, but worth checking out.
    Publisher Jim Kaplan suggested I introduce RCN readers to my friend Travis Pike, a Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter, filmmaker and book publisher, in 2017 and 2018 enjoying a well-deserved critical and commercial renaissance.
    I worked with Travis on my books chronicling The Beatles and The Doors. He had a few singles written between 1964-1974 released independently, a dozen featured in movies, including three movie title songs, and many more never before recorded or released that were part of his original live performance repertoire.
    Now, a half-century later, at 74, he's finding audiences in Europe and the U.K., airplay on satellite radio, I'm reading articles about him on British blogs like It's Psychedelic Baby and Fear and Loathing Fanzine, and in British print magazines like Shindig!
    And in America, he's doing podcasts for Goldmine magazine, and Open Mynd Collectibles internet radio, as well as being featured in articles and reviews on Forgotten Hits and Cave Hollywood, and in Goldmine, Ugly Things and now in Record Collector News.
    Travis, in complete control of his legacy and catalog, recording and releasing albums of audience favorites from 50 years ago, now has record labels contacting him to license and lease his master recordings!
    Travis first movie title song was Demo Derby, arranged and produced by Arthur Korb at Ace Recording Studios in Boston, and recorded by The Rondels. That 28-minute action featurette opened in 1964 with Robin and the Seven Hoods and Viva Las Vegas, before being booked as the "second feature" that played on thousands of screens across the U.S.A. with the Beatles Hard Day's Night.
     So, while Travis was in Germany, his music was on the same screens with Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and the Beatles! And that rare Pike Productions recording of the Rondel's "Demo Derby", is still sold online.
    In 1964, while performing in Germany, Travis came to the attention of Polydor and Phillips Records, but before anything could come of it, he was sidelined by an auto accident that sent him Stateside for reconstructive surgery.
    In 1965, his father, Jim Pike of Pike Productions, discovered Travis's talent and starred Travis and featured ten of his songs, including the title song performed by the Montclairs, in the 1966 cult-film Feelin' Good.
    A 45 single of the Montclairs performance of the title song, flip-side by Travis and the Brattle Street East performing Don't Hurt Me Again, while rare, is still available for purchase online. Travis and the Brattle Street East performed eight of his songs in the film, but until Travis came into possession of a few badly-aged reels from the movie, had them restored at Deluxe, and posted six restored music clips on Youtube, it was believed all were lost.
     Two clips of Travis and the Brattle Street East's performance on the Charles River Esplanade in Boston caught the attention of garage rock fans, and State Records, in the U.K., released the first ever limited edition vinyl 45 of "Watch Out Woman" and "The Way That I Need You" captured directly from the original restored monaural optical soundtrack, and it went on to be listed number three in Shindig! magazine's Best of 2017 issue.
    Today as his few early singles are commanding big bucks on auction markets, I asked Travis to explain how this came to be, and what it's like to be getting queries on stuff that goes back before the Beatles came to America!
    Q: Your back catalog is reaching new ears and record collectors. Discuss your sixties and seventies work.

    A: The songs on the Feelin' Better CD include seven I performed in the 1966 movie, Feelin' Good, but rearranged in my original configuration, with sax, intended for my 1964 German-Italian showband, the Five Beats. A lot of the music on that CD sounds more fifties than sixties, especially "Rock n' Roll" one of my favorites, and "End of Summer," which I wrote with German and English verses. Frankly, I was disappointed when neither of those songs, both personal favorites, were chosen for Feelin' Good, but without lyrics, "End of Summer" became the theme for The Second Gun, a feature-length documentary about the investigation of the assassination of Robert Kennedy, nominated for a 1973 Golden Globe.
    Most rare and sought by collectors is the 1967 Alma Records 45 of Travis Pike's Tea Party's "If I Didn't Love You Girl and "The Likes of You," recorded at AAA Studios in Boston, Massachusetts. To date, "If I Didn't Love You Girl" has been released on three compilation albums, The Backyard Patio (Germany), Tougher Than Stains (England), and most recently the 2017 release of le Beate BespokC) 7, also in England.
     The Travis Edward Pike's Tea Party Snack Platter CD is very close to my original mid-sixties sound, especially on rock numbers like "Okay," "Oh Mama," "You Got What I Need" and "If I Didn't Love You Girl," the A side of our only group single release.
    Q: From all I hear and read, your sixties performances rocked! In Germany, you were billed as "The Twist Sensation". What was it like doing Little Richard songs from 8:00 PM to 3:00 o'clock in the morning.

    A: It was exhilarating, exhausting, and to be honest, I didn't do more than one or two Little Richard songs on any given night. All that screaming was hard on my throat. Enriko and Eddie sang most of the ballads. There was a curfew for youngsters, and after curfew, the crowd would start shouting "Teddy, Teddy," and when I appeared, they'd rush onto the dance floor and we'd rock till they dropped!

    Q: In 2003, you met legendary sound engineer Geoff Emerick in Hollywood at Capitol Records, where he produced The Syrups, an album featuring five songs by your brother Adam, and the Syrups cover of your "If I Didn't Love You Girl." In 2014, you and Adam recorded it again, making it five albums for that song. It's not like you were running out of material.

    A: No, but we were recording Travis Edward Pike's Tea Party Snack Platter,, a compilation of my most popular songs with my sixties fans, and over time, "If I Didn't Love You Girl" proved it was definitely one of them!
    Our most recent album, Outside the Box, while rooted in the sixties, features a few new songs as well as works I wrote and orchestrated, but never heard until Adam saw the orchestration and decided he wanted to hear them. Thanks to Adam, "The Andalusian Bride Suite" is no longer confined to a file drawer, and "Lovely Girl I Married," always musically exciting, is now a song about lasting, mature love, having profited enormously from the new lyrics wrote for a commemorative gold record of "Lovely Girl I Married" I gave Judy for our 50th anniversary. That album also features "Star Maker," a song I wrote in 2015 when I was trying to figure out what an old retread has to do to get traction in today's market.

    Q: I made it to a few sessions of yours in 2013 and 2014 at Adam's studio that aided my writing of the Afterword to your just published new book, 1964-1974: A Decade of Odd Tales and Wonders, a 374-page, photo illustrated memoir of your musical career between 1964-1974. At the studio, you and Adam collaborated on recording, mixing and producing your back catalog, but you also wrote and recordedg some new songs.
    A: True, but most I composed between 1964 and 1974, and we only started recording and releasing them through Otherworld Cottage Industries in 2013. Some of the early songs evolved significantly since those early days, thanks in large part to Adam's technical skill and musical talent.
    For songs especially popular with my long-ago live audiences, we try to sound as much like the original arrangements as possible, but Adam's creative contribution is especially clear in Reconstructed Coffeehouse Blues, a collectiton of songs I originally performed solo, accompanying myself on guitar. To my acoustic finger-picking and strumming, Adam variously added fretted or fretless electric bass, drums, piano, organ, harmonium, electric rhythm guitar, and electric lead guitar. In a nod to the old Travis Pike's Tea Party version, I did contribute the "pop-toy" effect to "You and I Together," and with Adam's assistance, created the "instrumental release" to "Don't You Care at All?" from recorded audio of helicopter gunships, machine gun fire, jet aircraft, rockets, and napalm explosions.

    Q: A 45 rpm single of "Watch Out Woman" and "The Way That I Need You," two songs you performed with the Brattle Street East featured in the 1966 movie Feelin' Good, but never before released to the public, were taken from the original movie optical track and released on vinyl by State Records in the UK, and came in at #3 in Shindig! magazine's Best of 2017 issue. How do you explain that?

    A: I don't. I can't. And I can't explain how my Travis Pike's Tea Party recording of "If I Didn't Love You Girl" has now appeared on five compilation albums, and is coming out this year on a Mousetrap Music 45 in the UK, and I'm happy to still be around to enjoy it!


The Mousetrap Music vinyl 45 of the original Alma Records recording of Travis Pike's Tea Party's "If I Didn't Love You Girl" was released in 2019. In 2020, a 39-second clip from the original Travis Pike's Tea Party recording was included in the soundtrack of the 98-minute BBC feature documentary Delia Derbyshire: The Myths and Legendary Tapes, a portrait of the character and legacy of electronic sound pioneer Delia Derbyshire, who realized the Doctor Who theme tune in 1963, and explores the idea that this extraordinary composer lived outside of time and space as other people experience it. Written, directed and starring Caroline Catz, with Honor Ray Caplan-Higgs and Richard Glover.

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