A Brief History
This is Touch, plural because although each member is uniquely individual they are bound together by a single concept
With this statement, this is how Touch presented themselves to an unassuming rock public on the sleeve of their debut album. The name Touch would not ring many bells but their debut (and only) album is one of the cornerstones and earlier examples of the bridge between progressive and psychedelic music. Originating from Portland, Oregon the group was Decca/Deram's only attempt to sign an American psychedelic band, a venture which for reasons unknown failed miserably from a commercial point of view. This is surprising as it was one of those albums loved both by critics and musicians. Till this day it remains an extremely enjoyable album which aptly finds its place within the archives of Forgotten Sons!
The band leader was a certain Don Gallucci who played keyboards and sang backing vocals with the group. Gallucci was no new face within the rock circles. His first venture into the musical world was with The Kingsmen considered today to be one of the premiere American garage bands. Formed in 1957 by Lynn Easton and some friends from Douglas High School, the group made it big when in 1963 they recorded the single, Louie, Louie. The single went to No 2 in the US and No 26 in the UK selling over seven million copies. Furthermore the group became the first white act to be signed to the then all black label Wand. The Kingsmen were extremely successful enjoying eight singles in the Top 100 and five Top 100 albums in the Billboard charts, selling over 20 million records in all.
In 1964, Gallucci was forced to leave The Kingsmen because he was unable to tour with the group since he was still attending high school. Together with a friend of his, Bob Holden (drums), he formed a new outfit initially called The Goodtimes, later on becoming Don And The Goodtimes. The remaining musicians with the group where Dave Childs (bass), Don McKinney (saxophone) and Pierre Oulette (guitar). Recording on the Wand label as well as the Jerden label the group had a fair amount of regional success especially with their instrumental 1964 single Turn On The Song. Oulette left to join Paul Revere And The Raiders whilst the group moved to Los Angeles, releasing an album So Good and a number of singles as well as going through a number of line-up changes. In 1968 Bob Holden and bassist/singer Ron Overman left the group leaving the three remaining members Don Gallucci, Jeff Hawks and Joey Newman (real name Vjern Kjellberg) on their own. Newman had previously worked with the group The Liberty Party.
Prior to forming the group Touch, Gallucci arranged the album Elyse (Tetragammaton T-117,1968) for Elyse Weinberg and utilized the guitar services of Joey Newman on the same album. That same year he got together the three remaining members of Don And The Goodtimes together with new recruits John Bardonaro (drums, vocals) and Bruce Hauser (bass, vocals) and formed the group Touch. Theirs was a complete and radical deviation from the pop-style music that Gallucci had previously played and written. Instead the music reflected the times and was heavily tinged with psychedelia together with progressive overtones.
Recordings took place in an almost party-like atmosphere in Hollywood with such musical luminaries from the world of rock and psychedelia as Mick Jagger, Grace Slick and Jimi Hendrix all attending the recordings. The production work was entrusted to Gene Shiveley who had also worked on the Elyse Weinberg album together with Galucci and Newman. Both musical critics and fellow musician alike gave their approval to the tracks being laid down and there were high expectations for the album. The album Touch (London/Deram SML 1033/Colesium DS51004) was released in 1969 and for various unknown reasons it bombed. A 7" single, Miss Teach/We Feel Free (Coliseum 2712) was also released in a bid to obtain airplay for the album. To further compound the problems the group was facing, Gallucci refused to tour and there are stories of the group having to chop up their furniture to keep warm after the gas to their rented home was shut off. Interest in the group progressively waned resulting in their disbanding
The only attempt at the group reuniting seems to have been in 1973, as there are recordings of the group from this era which eventually wound up on the Renaissance compilation Buried Treasures. This could have coincided with the recording sessions for the group Stepson, who released the self-titled album Stepson (ABC ABCX-826) in 1974. Forming this group were four of the five Touch members, Don Gallucci, Joey Newman, Bruce Hauser and Jeff Hawkes. Once again the change of name also brought about a change in musical direction as this album can be described as being hard rock/blues. The tracks available on this compilation include a 1968 demo of The Spiritual Death Of Howard Greer, We Finally Met Today from an unreleased 45, and The Second Coming Of Suzanne from 1973.
Don Gallucci has since gone on to become a producer/engineer for Elektra Records, yet is now rumoured to be working in Real Estate as well as being active in the Christian ministry. Joey Newman works as a session musician and has recorded two gospel albums to his name, while Jeff Hawks is a hair stylist in L.A. In the interim period between Touch and Stepson, Newman also played with Blue Mountain Eagle and afterwards played with Shawn Cassidy. I have been unable to find further information regarding Bruce Hauser and John Bordonaro.
Tracklist: We Feel Fine (4:33), Friendly Birds (4:50), Miss Teach (3:22), The Spiritual Death Of Howard Green (9:31), Down At Circes Place (3:52), Alesha And Others (3:05), Seventy Five (10:58) Tracks only on CD version: Blue Feeling, Alesha And Others (demo version)
Lineup: Don Gallucci (keyboards, vocals), John Bordonaro (percussion, vocals), Joey Newman (guitar, vocals), Bruce Hauser (bass, vocals), Jeff Hawks (vocals)
Before I comment on the musical content of this most excellent album, a note must be added regarding the availability of this album in both CD format and vinyl. The vinyl version is somewhat of a collector's item having been released in a gatefold sleeve together with a colour poster on the Deram label (SML/DML 1033) in the UK and the Colosseum label (51004) in the US. The Record Collector's Guide values the album at 40 Sterling (with poster) and 20 Sterling (without poster). Furthermore a CD version was released on Renaissance Records (RCD 1001) in 1993 together with two bonus tracks. Unfortunately this record label seems to have folded as I have not been able to find further information related to the label, except for the fact that they released about six albums in the same year. There was a rumour that the album would be re-released in mid-2000, but so far I have not been able to confirm this. A compilation album was also meant to have been released by the same label with the title Buried Treasure (RCD1006) with a further twenty six minutes of music recorded by the reformed group in 1973. Once again I cannot confirm this. For those who might be interested the address of Renaissance Records is (was) 30 N. Raymond Ave. Suite 212 Pasadena CA 91103 USA (Tel 818 398 7254).The reissue label address is The Wild Places, 621-A Hanover Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95062 USA though their website does not advertise the album as having been yet reissued!
As mentioned above, recordings for the album took place in 1968 with production entrusted to Gene Shiveley. Musically what we have here is a mixture styles with hints of early progressive rock incorporating hints of classic rock, psychedelic music and jazz together with use of the Mellotron whose use was still in its infant days. The album opens with We Feel Fine which shows the prowess the band possessed with continuously changing time signatures and uncharacteristic riffs interspersed amongst the chant like chorus. In fact what one does find on this album is a dearth of musical contrasts. From the strong pre-punk brash nature of We Feel Fine, Friendly Birds and its acoustic intro and lush orchestrations sounds a continent away. Whereas We Feel Fine had more in common with something you would hear coming from bands such as The Velvet Underground or MC5, Friendly Birds is exactly that piece of music that proves the point why groups such as Yes, Kansas and Uriah Heap have all quoted Touch as being a telling influence on their musical style. Kerry Livgren (Kansas) has gone on record stating that "Their (Touch) songwriting, musicianship, and arrangements were quite an inspiration to me. The were way ahead of their time and one of the best American progressive bands."
The openeing track, Miss Teach, was also the A-side of the only single the band released. Though there is a slight hint of commercial appeal, this could possibly be the main reason for the failure of the album as a commercial entity. The music is captivating and intriguing yet definitely not worthy of single status as it is not what you would term as being ear-friendly. Clocking in at over nine and a half minutes, The Spiritual Death Of Howard Green is one of the highlights of the album. This track clearly draws a line between Touch and many of the psychedelic bands of the same era. Whereas most of their contemporaries would have lengthy pieces, these would be loosely structured with endless solos that would seem unending. However with this track the band captivated the essence of the progressive rock style which was practically unheard of by then which involved basing the music on a classical structure. One should keep in mind that the album considered by many as being the first "real" progressive rock album, In The Court Of The Crimson King (King Crimson) had not yet been released! Yet here we have a band which was laying down tracks that distinctly consisted of a number of individual pieces or movements with each demonstrating a visible shift in time signature as well as style.
Down At Circe's Palace kicks off Side Two of the vinyl release and has the band at their most psychedelic as they romp through on the back of a hypnotic piano-played arpeggio. On this track the band are at their seeming loosest with Newman's guitar really wailing out amidst a cacophony of percussion, keyboards and a wall of vocal effects. Alesha And Others proves the band's ability at providing contrasting musical scenarios. Much like the contrast between the first two track on Side One, this is put to the same successful effect on the flip-side. Apart from the beautiful Tim Buckley-like nature of this piece one should also mention the distinctive sound of the mellotron that simmers in the backdrop.
The album comes to a close with Seventy Five which is this side's counterpart to The Spiritual Death Of Howard Green. Once again the band show off their ability in marrying a classically structured piece within a progressive rock framework. The track starts off with a staccato-like, almost Morse code note played on the Hammond organ which could be considered as a recurring theme which surfaces occasionally throughout the piece. Once again the band clearly demonstrate a variety musical influences from straight ahead almost garage rock to psychedelia to rhythm and blues, all of which feature n the various "movement" on Seventy Five. Interestingly, one should note a light hint of Shine On You Crazy Diamond towards the end of this piece. Who knows whether Pink Floyd also had access to the music of Touch!
The proto-progressive rock movement is always credited as being a distinctively British one whereas the psychedelic movement is deemed as having its roots in the USA. However there are always exceptions to every statement of this kind and Touch are a definite example of this. Here is an album that is a must for all those who are interested in seeking out the foundations of progressive rock. The early albums from bands like The Moody Blues and Procol Harum are often mentioned and are rather well known to progressive rock lovers, mainly on the basis of their possession of a hit single. However these albums, as a whole, have very little in common with the progressive rock culture that would dominate the musical scene in years to come. However with Touch we have a band whose music hits straight at the heart of the essence of progressive rock. Unfortunately this album is practically impossible to find with the LP version a definite collector's item and the CD version seemingly unavailable. Hopefully this will not be for long! The closing statement to this Forgotten Sons edition should be left to Don Gallucci and his own personal description of the Touch album.
"The Touch album was first and foremost a spiritual quest put to music; a search for the holy grail of its generation by way of sound. It was designed to go where no one had musically gone before in order to break down barriers and walls in the mind; to cause the listener to achieve an altered state of consciousness, not through meditation or drugs, but through music."
The Internet, normally such a useful source of information has next o nothing regarding Touch. One can piece together the band's history by reading about Don Gallucci, dfinitely the mor famous of the band's musicians becuase of his work with more successful bands prior to Touch. Howwever should you have any further information regarding Touch that could be added to the site, do not hesitate to contact me.