The Association - Biography
By NIck Castro
The Association were one of California's most popular groups of the 60's. Their many hits, such as "Windy", "Along Comes Mary", "Cherish" and "Never My Love", have solidified their position on the pantheon of pop rock giants. The group was formed in 1965, from the remnants of a band called The Men, which was 11 members strong, blending electric and acoustic instruments to create some of the earliest folk rock of the 60's. The Association became famous for their tight vocal harmonies and arrangements. Though their music would stray into other territories, such as psychedelia and garage, their main focus was always pure pop. The band opened the now famous 1967 Monterey Pop Festival. This event helped to put the group on the map.
The Association was formed by Jules Alexander, born in 1943, in Tennessee, and Terry Kirkman, born 1939, in Kansas. Alexander was in the Navy at the time of their first meetings, but the two vowed to formally put something together once Alexander was discharged. While waiting for Alexander's arrival in Los Angeles, Kirkam did time in pre-Mothers of Invention groups with Frank Zappa. Once Alexander arrived, the two formed the group The Men, and got a job as the house band at The Troubador, Los Angeles. Once the band split, The association was formed with remaining members, Alexander, Kirkman, Jerry Yester, Brian Cole, Russ Giguere and Ted Bluechel, Jr. Every member in the band was a competent singer, allowing the band to construct complex harmonies and multi-layered parts. y the time the band reached the stage, they had polished and honed their sound to perfection, seeming to come out of nowhere, fully formed.
The Association began to seek a record label for their first single. Though they were working steadily, they had a hard time, initially, finding a home for their music. They ended up releasing the single, "Baby, I'm Gonna Leave You" with the Jubilee label. They then released a regional single on a local label called Valiant Records. They did a version of Bob Dylan's song, "One Too Many Mornings".
The first album by The Association, was And Then...Along Comes the Association (1966 - Valiant), which gave them their first big hit with the song, "Along Comes Mary", which became a national rage. Though often overlooked by many music critics due to their status as pop icons, the Association were a vital group of their era. Although "Along Comes Mary" is the song most often heard on the radio today, and is often considered the signature song of the band, their song, "Cherish", from the same record, went to number one. Their album was produced by legendary Los Angeles producer Curt Boettcher, later of The Millenium. The album is also famous for its pioneering use of stereo recording techniques. Boettcher brilliantly arranged the voices and instruments in a sonic array that separated the sounds in a way that had never been done before. The band also made extensive use of top session players, allowing the group to concentrate on their singing. The album's opener, "Enter the Young", written by Kirkman, can rival anything done by bands like The Byrds, during the same time.
The band's second record, Renaissance (1967 - Valiant) finds the band among brand new success from the last album and the two singles that were issued in tandem. They began to tour the country extensively as well as appear on many television shows, inclusing The Smothers Brothers, The Carson Show, American Bandstand, The Dick Cavett Show, The Carol Channing Show and many others. This newest album seemed to be a departure from the first album, and many have attributed this difference to the facts that the album was rushed out and that producer, Boettcher, had been replaced, by Jim Yester's brother, Jerry Yester, who had played with The Modern Folk Quartet. Considering that the debut album was such a sonic feat, it was difficult to follow in it footsteps. The band wrote most of the material while on the road. It is also the first one of their albums to feature one of their members on an instrument. Alexander plays lead guitar on some tracks. The band also began to utilize many other instruments onthe record, other than the common western ones. The album featured the use of the koto on the song "Pandora's Golden Heebie Jeebies".
In 1967 the band lost one of its core members, Jules Alexander, who went to India to study meditation. The band replaced Alexander with Larry Ramos of the New Christy Minstrel. Also, the band's record label Valiant, was absorbed by its distributor, Warner Bros. Records. For their third release, Insight Out (1967 - Warner Bros), the band found yet another producer, Bones Howe. Local songwriter, Ruthann Frieman, who can still be found playing live in the Los Angeles area, wrote the song "Windy" for the band. It reached number one on the charts and gave the band the jolt it needed after the slightly disappointing second effort. Their second single from the album, "Never My Love", which was also a popular song at the time and probably the strongest track on the record.
The Association then released the album Birthday (1968 - Warner Bros). This album seems to concentrate on the tight vocal harmonies of the group. They then got a job to do a soundtrack, which they released as Goodbye, Columbus (1969 - Warner Bros). Their next album was The Association (1969 - Warner Bros), which was probably the most cohesive of their works. One critique of the band that is valid is that their albums always sounded like collections of studio produced songs, but this latest record really sounded like a complete band. Songs like the album's opener, "Look at Me, Look at You", did very well for the group.
Though much of their popularity waned throughout the 70's, the band continued to work and release albums, such as Stop You Motor (1971 - Warner Bros) and Waterbeds in Trinidad! (1972 - Warner Bros). The band has managed to fade farther and farther in to the shadows, but they are still performing today and intermittently working in the studio as well.