Photo illustration titled "Sitting in the Shade, Buried in the Sand" by Richard Rutledge from Glamour magazine, May 1963
Before the Three O'Clock were part of the psych-revival movement in California in the early '80s, they had a brief incarnation under the name the Salvation Army. The Salvation Army definitely had more of a high-energy punk edge than the band's later period - their first single "Mind Gardens" was put out by the guys from the Minutemen on their New Alliance Records. The Salvation Army also released a fairly good self-titled record before a legal action forced them to change their name. The Salvation Army's debut is now available as Happen Happened under the band name Befour Three O'Clock.
This Happen Happened CD also includes the Salvation Army's initial single and demos. The problem with the collection is that the Salvation Army LP was composed almost entirely of better-produced and better-performed versions of the songs from their demos, so many songs appear on the collection twice. And, for reasons I don't entirely understand, the tracks are presented chronologically, so that the inferior early versions of the songs come first. For purposes of discussing these songs, I'm going to do what I do when I listen to this CD and skip over the demos straight to the Salvation Army LP.
Where the early Salvation Army demos are a sped-up version of Nuggets-style garage, and later Three O'Clock albums favor Brit-psych melodic whimsy, the Salvation Army's LP shows the band transitioning between the two styles. The song titles (e.g. "I Am Your Guru", "Mind Gardens") are straight-up psych-revival, and the melodies show frontman Michael Quercio's skill with delicate hooks, but the delivery is a little too amped-up. Otherwise great songs like "Happen Happened" and "Upside Down" feel slightly rushed, and the songs have a trebly, harsh sound that doesn't suit them. In particular, I find that Quercio's vocals don't work well here - his soft, breathy voice suffers in these sped-up arrangements and often gets lost in the mix.
There's still some value in Happen Happened for fans of psych-pop, though. Songs like "Mind Gardens" and "Happen Happened" point to the more refined sound the band would have just months later when they put out their first EP (Baroque Hoedown) as the Three O'Clock. "Going Home" is one garage-rock track that Quercio pulls off convincingly, and "While We Were In Your Room Talking To Your Wall" is a dreamy mid-tempo number that comes across as a sleepy ballad in context here but would not be out of place on one of their later albums. And it's hard not to be won over by the hat-tips to classic Brit-psych, like the references to Doris Day and Alice Through the Looking Glass on "Happen Happened".
"Happen Happened" by the Salvation Army