Linda Perhacs - Biography
By J Poet
Linda Perhacs made one legendary album, Parallelograms (1970 Kapp, 2000 Wild Places, 2008 Sunbeam UK,) then vanished, although anyone who went looking for her easily found her. She sang harmony vocals behind her friend Devendra Banhart on his Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon (2007 XL) and is reportedly working on a second album.
Linda Arnold was born in Northern California and although she played guitar as a teenager, she never considered a musical career. She went to dental school at USC, where she met sculptor Les Perhacs and married him. After graduation they traveled around the Pacific Northwest in a van listening to Crosby, Stills and Nash, Tim Buckley, the Doors and Joni Mitchell on their 8-track.
The couple settled in Topanga Canyon and Perhacs got a job in a Hollywood dental office as a dental hygienist, cleaning the teeth of Cary Grant, Paul Newman and Dinah Shore. One of her patients was film composer Leonard Rosenman, who wrote the scores for Rebel Without a Cause and Barry Lyndon to mention just two. After some coaxing, Perhacs gave Rosenman a cassette of her songs. He was blown away and produced an album for her, the legendary Parallelograms (1970 Kapp, 2000 Wild Places, 2008 Sunbeam UK.) It may be the first freak folk album, with a unified vision that set it apart from any other singer/songwriter album of its day. Perhacs voice has a Joni Mitchell-like quality, but it’s deeper and more flexible, and her acoustic guitar playing has a quirky with rhythmic quality all its own. Every one of the album’s 11 songs uses a different guitar tuning that Perhacs discovered herself. She multi-tracks her vocals and Rosenman added electronic manipulations (which were shunned by folkies and rockers alike in 1970) and sound effects – wind in trees, rain gently falling – to give her soundscapes a startling, innovative quality. Her melodies wander in and out of space/time and her lyrics are subtly psychedelic, perhaps too poetic and abstract for some, but like her music, completely unique. The title track can match the psychedelic beauty of anything else recorded at the time, although few people ever heard it, or the album.
When the album was mastered, Kapp had EQed the album to fit within the sonic parameters of AM radio, diminishing much of the music’s wide-ranging sonic palette. The album sank without a trace, but became legendary to those who had managed to get a copy. Perhacs kept her day job, got divorced, and began a spiritual quest that continues today. In 1998 a Korean label reissued Parallelograms and it created a buzz in the freak folk community. In 2000 the American label Wild Places put it on CD with two out takes. Perhacs managed to hold on to the master tapes and the sonic quality is amazing. The British Sunbeam label reissued it again in 2008, just after she collaborated with Devendra Banhart on his Smokey Rolls Down Thunder Canyon (2007 XL) album.
Perhacs considers herself a composer, not a performer, and is working on songs for a new album, although no release date has been set.