Zumwalt Poems Online

Fifty Year Friday: Overcast

Overcast1

This debut album by the Southern California group, Overcast, almost never came out, and when it did, it sold less than 400 copies, many of which were purchased by family, friends and, even though they were given several gratis copies, band members themselves.  It was first re-released in 1989 as a CD and later pressed on 180 gram vinyl as a limited edition LP; one can also find one or more tracks included in various box sets.

Bill Rodgers was born in South Gate, California, and moved to La Mirada in 1961 at the age of 14, learning guitar from his uncle, who being chronically unemployed, lived on and off with his sister, Bill’s mother, and her family, giving guitar and piano lessons to neighborhood children. Bill never took a liking to the piano, there was none in the Rodgers’ home, but Bill spent hours playing his uncle’s guitar until his father bought him first an acoustic guitar for his 16th birthday and then an electric guitar for his 17th birthday.

In his senior year of high school, Bill hooked up with Douglas Brandt and David Amato from nearby La Habra and played local high school dances under the band name The Blue Ravens, then The Blue Jeans, then The Ever Expanding Bright Blue Jeans,  covering everything from early Beatles and Beach Boys to singles by The Bachelors, The Marketts and the Hondells. It was during this time that Rodgers and Brandt starting taking chord sequences from the various songs they had learned by ear and imposed new melodies and words to create their own songs.  These never went over well when played for a dance audience, but were worked and reworked until Jan 12, 1968, when Bright Blue Jeans, now named Overcast, a name change that happened shortly after watching the Doors on the Jonathan Winters show in late December 1967,  had their first of two three-hour studio sessions to record their very first album, originally proposed by drummer David Amato to be titled, “With a Chance of Showers”, but changed simply to Overcast after the record label tried to get them to change the name of the band from “Overcast” to “A Chance of Showers.”

The album opens up with the bass-dominated instrumental “Weather Endeavor” which is primarily blues-based except for a psychedelic middle section in which Douglas Brandt’s friend, Rick Stephenson plays saxophone against Bill Rodgers wailing, Hendrix-influenced guitar. In this middle section, the band modulates from C major to D major with a ensuing mish-mash of major, minor and dominant seventh chords until a diminished seventh-chord on B precedes their return back to C major for the A section.  The result, though adventurous, comes off more unfocused than artful.

This is then compensated for by “Action Reaction”,  which is a three-chord riff-based rocker, with solid drum work from David Amato.

The third track “Break Out of Salina, Kansas”, is a two-part five-minute track with the first part with the same chord sequences as The Door’s “Break on Through (To the Other Side)” and the second part matching the chord sequencing of The Door’s “Soul Kitchen”

Side one closes out with “Please Plead Plea”, a sorrowful lament entreating the love interest of the song to apologize for past wrongs and beg to be taken back.

Side two opens up with “Fifth Tuesday of March” which is similar to the Kink’s “Love me till the Sun Shines” followed by “Sawdust and Certainty?” with marimba and organ contributing to a song full of contrasts and intermittently contending against and partnering with decidedly opaque and impenetrable lyrics.

The third song of side two is “Sampson and the Philistines” a musical sermon against giving into the establishment, cutting one’s hair and becoming blind to the evils of the military-industrial complex — especially when this is done for the sake of landing a summer job.

The fourth song, “Short Wave Radio Girl” is based on the chord sequence of the Hondell’s “Younger Girl” but faster paced and with an added section in the middle based on another local group’s work, The Parade’s 1967 hit “Sunshine Girl.”

The album ends with “Peace Pipes”, possibly an attempt to create something akin to The Door’s “Light My Fire”, though clearly falling short commercially and artistically. Claire Stanton proves effective on organ, and, once again, we have Rick Stephenson on tenor saxophone and some notable guitar work by Rodgers on guitar.

All tracks written by Bill Rodgers and Douglas Brandt except where noted.

Side A

No.

Title

Length

1.

“Weather Endeavor” (Rodgers, Brandt, Polson, Amato, Rick Stephenson)

7:19

2.

“Action Reaction”

3:25

3.

“Break Out of Salinas Kansas“

5:04

4.

“Please Plea Plead”

3:51

Side B

No.

Title

Length

7.

“Fifth Tuesday of March”

2:54

8.

“Sawdust and Certainty?” (Brandt, Polson, Claire Stanston, Paul Mayer)

3:22

9.

“Sampson and the Philistines”

2:52

10.

“Short Wave Radio Girl”

4:31

11.

“Peace Pipes” (Claire Stantson, Rodgers, Brandt, Polson, Amato, Rick Stephenson)

5:47

PERSONNEL

OVERCAST

  • Bill Rodgers – guitar, lead vocals
  • Douglas Brandt – bass guitar, vocals
  • Greg Polson, guitar
  • David Amato, drums

Additional Personnel

  • Rick Stephenson – tenor saxophone
  • Claire Stanston – organ, piano
  • Paul Mayer – marimba
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