Teddy & the Pandas – Basic Magnetism
One thing I’ve learned about the Boston rock scene is that bands from here are often as locally-conscious as their New York counterparts, constantly name-checking local streets, hangouts, and bands. The Real Kids are a stellar example (frontman John Felice probably learned it from the master of name-checking himself, Jonathan Richman, when Felice was in an early lineup of the Modern Lovers). Here’s a stanza from their “Better Be Good:”
Everywhere I go I hear kids talking,
“There’s nothing going on. The town ain’t rockin’ Like it did before
Way back in ’64″
When we were rocking with The Ramrods
When we were shaking with The Pandas
You know it don’t seem the same
Without The Remains.
The lyrics stand as a Rosetta Stone, highlighting some of the best of the mid-60s Boston scene. The Remains are probably our most famous mid-60s export, going down in history as an opening act for the Beatles, a featured part of the Nuggets box set, and even briefly highlighted in the movie Superbad. “The Ramrods” is probably a reference to the Rockin’ Ramrods, a group which came shortly after the Remains, was featured on a volume of Pebbles and still seem to be somewhat active today. For a good while, though, I couldn’t figure out who “The Pandas” were. It wasn’t until after some sophisticated Google searching that I figured Felice is probably referencing Teddy and the Pandas, an all-but forgotten 60s pop band from Beverly, Mass. With a little more searching I managed to turn up their only album, a 1968 lost gem called Basic Magnetism.
The album is a beautiful artifact of the Sundazed-psych era, with baroque-like numbers including “Shine A Little Light,” “Childhood Friends,” the goofy “At The Debutanes’ Ball,” and the deliciously fuzzy title track. “Kona, Idaho” is a surprisingly complicated song, hopping from meter to meter like a peculiar bridge from late-period Beatles and the prog-rock songs to come in the 1970s. (Speaking of late-period Beatles, “Raspberry Salesman” quite plainly evokes a certain psych-laden song about fields of small red fruit, released around the same time.) Amidst all of this steady 60s rock gets its due with “Running from Love” and “Crossing Man.” Clearly drawing more from the Remains than the hard-edged rockers which dominated garage rock going forward (like the Real Kids, for that matter), the Pandas stand like the last of the innocent 60s: not angry, but not bubblegum either, and a wonderful accompaniment to a hot summer day.
Teddy & The Pandas – 68 Days ‘Til September