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“I moved back to Minnesota in ’67 and was approached by bass player Jim Kane from The Litter. He knew me from earlier bands I’d been in, as we played several dates with his band The Victors, which eventually merged with The Tabs to become The Litter. Singer Denny Waite was in The Victors with Jim Kane and guitarist Dan Ranaldi and lead guitarist Bill Strandlof were in The Tabs, and they picked up drummer Tom Murray last. Jim told me that summer that Strandlof was thinking of leaving the group as he wanted to do more songs with harmony in the vein of The Hollies and wasn’t satisfied with the direction The Litter was going in, so when he quit I joined the group and finished the Distortions LP, which the group had already started recording.”

Distortions was released in ’67 on Kendrick’s Warick label. While ‘Action Woman’ is clearly the most prominent track on the record, the whole stands up well and the original LP is now a collector’s item that is widely considered a highlight of late ’60s garage/psych.

Heavy on covers and heavier on the raucous Yardbirds/Who/Kinks sound, there’s nothing on the album you’d call filler. And some of the covers, particularly the hammering versions of The Spencer Davis Group’s ‘Somebody Help Me’ and Bo Didley’s ‘I’m a Man’ stand out. There’s also another Kendrick-written original, called ‘Soul Searchin’, that’s hidden amongst the renditions of others’ material, and which this writer would put on the first volume of his own ‘best of ‘60s punk garage’ compilation.

On their second album, 1968’s $100 Fine (Hexagon – another Kendrick imprint), The

Litter veered off directionally from their debut in a couple of significant ways. First, they included more original material; second, they moved a little away from the raw garage sound of Distortions and, in keeping with the times, went a bit more heavy and psychedelic. Some of the originals are worthy, particularly ‘Mindbreaker’, and ‘(Under The Screaming Double) Eagle’, both of which stay in the vein of Distortions and sound like they could be The Music Machine. But the song that most impresses on this effort is another cover: The Litter take the short and sweet pop perfection of ‘She’s Not There’ and stretch it out into a

“Make your song two minutes and 30 seconds

– do your two and a half minutes and get out.”

nine-minute, hazy psychedelic exploration that comes off like The Zombies as interpreted by Jefferson Airplane.

“That came about before we recorded $100 Fine,” Caplan says of the inspiration to reconstrue The Zombies’ hit. “A real good friend of mine named Randy Resnick – who is an excellent guitar player – and I were doing a lot of jamming together back then and we started fooling around with that particular song and it just kind of evolved into the version that’s on $100 Fine. I took it to the band and they really liked it so it became a big number for us at live shows so we naturally thought it would be good to have on the follow-up LP.”

Following the release of $100 Fine, The Litter experienced a series of missed opportunities and disappointments. First, they inexplicably turned down two different offers from major labels. Both Columbia and Elektra came calling, and in both cases the band said no, thanks. The missed chance to sign on to Elektra seems especially disappointing, as The Litter would have been a perfect fit as label mates of MC5 and The Stooges.

“Well by then, which was mid-68, there were some problems in the group, typical differences you usually find when you have five guys that all have their own ideas about what the band should be doing and where each musician sees himself going musically,” Caplan explains, by way of making sense of the group’s decisions at the time. “We also had some real money problems and I guess we thought at the time in regards to Elektra that we wouldn’t be able to pull it together enough to do what they wanted us to, so that offer got turned down. In retrospect I wish we would have taken it just to see, if nothing else, if we could have gotten an album’s worth of material together that would have satisfied them. But hindsight is always 100%. As for Columbia I don’t remember that offer so it’s possible that came in after Denny Waite and I left the band.”

Another missed opportunity, this one not to be blamed on the band, came about when The Litter was brought in to have a scene in film director Haskel Wexler’s experimental 1969 movie Medium Cool. The film covered the racially and politically tense environment around Chicago during the infamous ’68 Democratic convention. They needed a band for a nightclub scene and The Litter got the call. But their appearance is so brief that you’ll miss them if you blink. And

White Lightning kick out the jams. L-R: Woody Woodrich, Mick Stanhope, Tom “Zippy” Caplan 31

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