Unearthed Album: The Dragons – BFI
We wanted to direct your attention to ‘The Dragons’ BFI album notes as presented over at IODA Promonet. Alternatively you can read a fantastic article over at the LA Weekly which delves a bit deeper into the scene at the time:
There’s a story below and the moral of this story is: keep your master tapes. Whatever you do, keep your master tapes.
It’s the late sixties. Three brothers, Doug, Daryl and Dennis Dragon are living in Malibu, surfing and gigging around the Los Angeles area and having their minds blown by the music of The Beatles, Hendrix and The Doors. The multi-instrumentalist sons of a symphony conductor and an opera singer, the Dragon brothers decide it’s time to create their own psychedelic soul/rock masterpiece. A high school friend of Dennis, Donn Landee, is working as a recording engineer at Sunwest Recording Studios in Hollywood and they begin to go there to put tracks down in “off time” often working from 3am, when they finish their regular gigs, until morning.
They call the sessions “Blue Forces Intelligence,” find themselves layering their instruments in new ways, adding deep, bassy vocal lines and then ramming them up against falsetto harmonies, adding organs and space age sound effects, recording spirituals and pop and crazy rock opera. The effect is increasingly spacey and weird, but also funky — a missing link between new directions others are exploring in jazz and soul as well as rock music.
Unfortunately, the suits at the West Coast offices of the major labels aren’t ready, complaining that they don’t hear a hit. After shopping the record, now called just “BFI,” for a few months, the boys become disillusioned and focus instead on their session work. They all end up working in the Beach Boys’ backing band. Doug moves to Hawaii, tours Australia. Dennis becomes a successful record producer. Daryl hooks up with Toni Tennille and experiences international chart success as “The Captain.” The Dragons’ “BFI” is forgotten.
Jump on 37 years. Strictly Kev/DJ Food, influential mixologist, designer for Ninja Tune and obsessive record collector — picks up a new batch of vinyl from a record dealer he knows. In amongst them is a 500-run private pressing of the soundtrack to a surf movie called “A Sea For Yourself.” On it is a track called “Food For My Soul” by a band called The Dragons. Kev being a fan of all possible food-based puns and currently putting together the mix for his new “Solid Steel” mix CD for Ninja, drops the needle on the groove.
What he finds amazes him — a true psychedelic original from a band he’s never heard of. Using his extensive contacts in the world of vinyl mania, he manages to track Dennis Dragon down. He emails him, asks him if he can include “Food For My Soul” on the mix. Sure, says Dennis. There’s a whole album of the stuff if he’s interested. Dennis checks. Donn still has the master tapes. He converts them to mp3 and emails them to Kev. Kev is blown away. He forwards them to Ninja Tune. Ninja Tune think it’s a scam. But then they listen. And they listen again. And then, after nearly forty years sitting on a recording engineer’s shelf, Ninja Tune decide to release “BFI.”
Beautifully played and produced, full of crazy invention and a loveably naive lack of self-consciousness, “BFI” is a miniature masterpiece, a lost classic of psych-whimsy, West Coast sexiness and serious musical chops. Surely we’re ready by now..?