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The Seeds: Pushin’ Too Hard, the longform documentary about the classic L.A. garage-punk band, directed by Neil Norman, will have its premiere Aug. 16 at the Egyptian Theatre at the American Cinematheque in Hollywood.
Using vintage footage, rare photos, memorabilia and audio, and fresh interviews with bandmembers and associates, as well as notable fans and observers, Pushin’ Too Hard relates the bizarre rags-to-riches tale of the rock quartet who took Los Angeles by storm in the mid-’60s.
The Seeds — led by charismatic singer Sky Saxon, along with keyboard player Daryl Hooper, guitarist Jan Savage and drummer Rick Andridge — were all emigres to early ’60s Hollywood. After building a reputation in underground clubs such as Bido Litos, the group busted out in late 1966 with the classic anthem “Pushin’ Too Hard,” which went Top 40 nationally in early 1967.
Said director Neil Norman: “I’ve made this movie because I really love the Seeds music and was lucky enough to hang out with them as a young teenager and was inspired. They achieved true stardom.”
Neil’s father, Gene Norman, head of the L.A.-based GNP Crescendo label, signed, financed, promoted and controlled the Seeds’ catalog and music publishing.
“The Seeds and GNP have always had a symbiotic relationship,” says Neil. “Sky Saxon was an electrifying performer. Handsome and charismatic, he inspired girls to rip his clothes off (or maybe theirs) on stage. Sky and the Seeds had some great concepts that are timeless and will thrill for centuries.”
Kim Fowley, who wrote “Fallin’ Off the Edge” for the Seeds, and also produced them in their later GNP career, remarked: “Sky was the one who conducted the electricity, but the other guys were incredibly important.”
The group enjoyed other hits such as “Mr. Farmer” and “Can’t Seem to Make You Mine,” often covered by Alex Chilton, and recorded five best-selling albums for the GNP Crescendo label, but despite a huge fan base in southern California, the Seeds could not capitalize on their initial chart success. The growing ego and drug-fueled eccentricities of frontman Saxon alienated the other members, and led to the original quartet’s fracture in the summer of 1968.
After 1970, Saxon renamed himself Sunlight, embarking on a strange odyssey that took him from life as a street person in Hollywood to a commune in Hawaii. Sky returned to performing in the late 1980s and, using several different sets of musicians, performed Seeds’ music the world over until his untimely death in 2009.
The rote rock histories of the time routinely dismissed the Seeds as one-dimensional, but from the late ’70s on, the group’s minimalist, attitude-laden sound became a major influence upon the nascent punk-rock movement, and had subsequently had a lasting impact on generations of players since.
The Seeds poster was created by the immortal psychedelic artist Bob Masse.
The documentary includes interviews with fans of the band, like Iggy Pop, the Beach Boys’ Bruce Johnston, Love’s Johnny Echols and members of the Bangles, with narration by original GTO and I’m With the Band author Pamela Des Barres.
The documentary is accompanied by a major overhaul of the Seeds’ catalog, with an original soundtrack on GNP Crescendo and Ace/Big Beat Records in the U.K.
An encore screening of The Seeds: Pushin’ Too Hard is set for the Art Theater of Long Beach on Aug. 23, sponsored in conjunction with Third Eye Records. Further showings across the U.S. and overseas are planned for later this year.
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