Blog by Bonniwell
UK Observer 
Monday, February 4, 2008, 01:42 PM - Feedback
Posted by Administrator
Dear Sean,

I am a writer for The Observer newspaper in the UK. I recently became acquainted with your music. The more I heard, the more I got sucked into the world view of The Music Machine.

I just wrote a little piece on you for the Observer website and
thought I would send it to you – just as an excuse to get in contact really and tell you how much enjoyment I have got from listening to your work. ... ic_ma.html


Unsung Heroes No.3 - The Music Machine
Chris Campion's occasional guide to the world's forgotten recording artists
October 11, 2007 11:44 AM

A single black leather glove. A clenched fist. The Music Machine were five unruly-looking mop-tops dressed in black who struck a note of discord in the hippie era.

In 1966, America's fear of long hairs had been softened by its embrace of four loveable Liverpudlian shags. But little would prepare it for the arrival of The Music Machine.

Their debut single and only chart hit, 'Talk Talk', was a surly diatribe about alienated youth that barely lasted two minutes but staked out its territory right from the start:

'I got me a complication
and it's an only child.
Concernin' my reputation
as something more than wild'

These opening couplets were delivered over a primal down-tuned rock stomp by The Music Machine's charismatic leader Sean Bonniwell, whose commanding vocal style vacillated between a croon and a growl. The 'Summer of Love' hadn't yet happened, but The Music Machine were already rapping about the fall.

They were certainly out of step with time, prefiguring punk rock by a good few years. The Music Machine incorporated squalls of noise and controlled chaos into their songs three years before The Stooges; they adopted a street tough uniform close to a decade before the Ramones, and they played the kind of riff-driven heavy rock that would later be popularised by bands like Black Sabbath and Iron Butterfly. While Bonniwell played up to the troglodyte punk stereotype, his songs displayed a literary bent that was clearly the product of a keen intellect. Like the proverbial velvet glove cast in iron, he was a poet masquerading as a thug, an aesthete posing as a vulgarian.

He started out in the folk scene with a group called The Wayfarers, whose biggest album was recorded at the 1964 World's Fair. Frustrated with the innate conservatism of the folk scene and sensing cataclysmic change afoot in the culture, Bonniwell quit the group. "It was time for something sleek and fierce, something with fuzz and fangs," he noted in his autobiography Beyond the Garage. The look he came up with for The Music Machine was intended to signify "unified rebellion": dyed black hair, black turtlenecks and, to top it off, a single black, leather glove worn on the right hand.

Their sound was similarly meticulously-defined. Bonniwell later described it as 'a power-punk slam to the brain', but The Music Machine's chops were the product of intense rehearsal in the garage of Bonniwell's San Pedro, California home. Behind the dystopian image and visceral thrill of their music were complex and finely-tuned arrangements, all cut live and recorded using an array of home-made fuzz boxes, Vox electronics and a revolutionary 10-track tape system built by studio whiz, engineer and Frank Zappa associatePaul Buff.

Apart from the angst of songs like 'Talk Talk', Bonniwell's innate sensitivity came to the fore in tortured and obsessive love songs. 'No Girl Gonna Cry' and 'You'll Love Me Again' bristled with menace precisely because they sounded so eminently reasonable. He also did a neat line in obtuse but prophetic social commentary with 'The Eagle Never Hunts the Fly' (about Government surveillance) and 'Mother Nature, Father Earth' (an ecological protest song). A fascination with mysticism and metaphysics resulted in a zodiac-themed single, 'Astrologically Incompatible'.

Unfortunately, the stars were also misaligned for The Music Machine's career. The band toured incessantly for a year on the back of 'Talk Talk' and their debut album, (Turn On) The Music Machine. But mismanagement and a misappropriation of funds contributed to the break-up of the original group within a year. Bonniwell assembled a new crew of black-clad ruffians, re-named them Bonniwell Music Machine and put out a second album in 1968.

Three members of the original lineup - Ron Edgar, Gary Rhodes and Keith Olsen - went on to join The Millennium, the pop supergroup formed around songwriter-producer Curt Boettcher. Olsen later forged his own career as a producer, manning the desk for Fleetwood Mac's self-titled 1975 breakthrough album.

Bonniwell recast himself as a doomed romantic for a beautifully conceived 1969 solo album Close (recorded with Vic Briggs of The New Animals), which is as sombre and brooding as any of Scott Walker's 60s solo albums. Then he all but disappeared from view until reissue label Sundazed put together two collections of lost recordings by The Bonniwell Music Machine, and Ace Records released a re-tuned version of The Music Machine's seminal debut, The Ultimate Turn On.

Now a committed Christian, Bonniwell lives in Porterville, California, and maintains his own website. In 2004, he toured Europe with a new lineup of The Bonniwell Music Machine. His influence can still be felt today in bands like Southend goth-garage reprobates The Horrors, who at least readily acknowledge the debt. The Music Machine still turns.

The Music Machine ... ome-on-in/

Greetings all.
The time has come for all good men to say ‘Hey, it’s Thursday.’
That being the case it’s also time for another bowl of groove juice, this fine day coming to you in the form of one of my favorite songs by the Music Machine.
If’n you aren’t familiar with the Music Machine and the wonderful sounds they made, you should back away from the interwebs and find yourself a copy of their greatest hits. I say this because back in the day, when I picked up the original Rhino reissue of their best stuff (1985-ish), having only previously heard their biggest hit, the manic ‘Talk Talk’, I was – as the kids say – blown away.

When you’re fan of garage punk and psychedelia you are more often than not adrift in a sea of never-had-a-hit-wonders, who in their day managed to crawl into a recording studio and crank out one genuinely interesting 45 before dropping off the face of the earth. There are certainly exceptions to the rule, as every once in a while band managed to keep it going for several 45s, or in rare instances even an LP. However, in most of these cases, despite a somewhat more substantial discography, they really only ever had one song that was worth listening to, so it’s a wash.
While listening to that Music Machine compilation, it occurred to me immediately that they really had a “voice” (literally in their leader Sean Bonniwell, and figuratively as well). Their mix of garage punk and moody psychedelia and – this above all other considerations – Bonniwell’s songwriting talent took them to an entirely new level.

This was no one-off Nuggets act from Bumfuck, Pennsyltucky. The Music Machine was a truly interesting band.
Though my fave Music Machine song, ‘Masculine Intuition’ was already posted here as part of Iron Leg Digital Trip #2 the Freaked Out Mind Blowing Scene of Right Now (click on Podcasr Archive link in the sidebar for details), today’s selection comes in a close second.

‘Come On In’ is a fantastic vehicle for Bonniwell’s deep, Morrison-esque voice, and the production on the single is deep with reverb. The Jim Morrison comparison is apt because if you didn’t know any better you might mistake ‘Come On In’ for a lost Doors track.
The version of the Music Machine that recorded ‘Come On In’ broke up in 1967, with Bonniwell continuing on as the Bonniwell Music Machine for one more LP.

Bonniwell is still at it today, having written an autobiography (which I’d love to read) and reformed a version of the Music Machine.
I hope you dig the track.


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