An occasional feature showcasing music by little-known artists who (generally) only put out one or two albums.
There were countless bands in the early 70s who were perfectly serviceable, and quite talented, but never “made the big time”. The reasons are as many as the fish in the sea (or as many as the multicolored cows in the meadow), but often it came down to the simple fact that the songs just weren’t very good or the band wasn’t able to score a decent record deal.
With Massachusetts group Clean Living, that wasn’t the case. They had the material, they were on semi-major label Vanguard, they were long-haired hippies, and they had the musical chops. They even had an opening gig for Lou Reed on the first date of his Rock & Roll Animal tour. So what happened? Well, they were too versatile for their own good, not content to stay in any one idiom. On the surface, they were a country rock band, and percentage-wise most of the songs on their two albums fit that mold.
But then they’d throw in a novelty song like “In Heaven There is No Beer” (“…that’s why we drink it here / and when we’re gone from here / all our friends will be drinking all the beer”), or a psychedelic/hard rock guitar instrumental like “Congress Alley”. A faithful cover of Chuck Berry’s early rock classic “Sweet Little Sixteen” sits between a country song and folk song. “Carol for a New Lady” is a solemn ballad which sounds plucked from the 17th century, while on the immediately preceding track the band was stretching out on an introspective, borderline proggy instrumental called “Moonlight in Moodus”. And then there’s the overtly religious “Jesus Is My Thing” and “Jesus is My Subway Line” (the later an acapella hymn that’s sorta another novelty song, but also isn’t quite). You just couldn’t peg Clean Living.
Some of this scattershot approach can probably be chalked up to the divergent interests and styles of the seven member band, which included a rhythm guitarist named Robert “Tex” La Mountain, one of the best rock n’ roll guitarist names there’s even been. On top of all that, they named their second album Meadowmuffin. What’s not to like?
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Clean Living was NOT Boston based, but OF the Pioneer Valley with members living in Hadley, Amherst, Northampton et al. The two “overly religious” songs were spoofs done too well, hence your misconception. And it was, because of the “wisdom” of Vanguard, that “In Heaven There is No Beer” became the groups death knell. Regardless, they opened for many of the greats and will remain as one of the best, though unknown, bands of its time.
Thanks, changed it from “Boston” to “Massachusetts”. Actually, the word I used was “overtly”, not “overly” – small difference but important. If they were spoofs, as you said, they were done too well. Anyway, thanks for your comment – they were indeed one of the best unknown bands of their time (or any time)!
I believe it was an article in Playboy at the time that alluded to The Eagles and Clean Living as the future of the Country Rock movement.