IL Y YA UN TEMP, once upon a time, in the California Inland Empire outside of Los Angeles, garage rock ruled. A young surfer dude dreamed of escape from the provincial ticky tacky of Riverside. Little did Rick Brown know his fate was to be the lead singer of one of the great-unknown legends of rock and roll. The greatest lost Psychedelic band of the 20th century, THE MISUNDERSTOOD.
The motorcycle taxi navigates down Wireless Road. The wind whips through my hair. As we pass the towers of the Conrad Hotel and the compound of the American Embassy. I dismount at the entrance to the Suan Lum Night Bazaar. It is full up with punters, shops and massage parlors, restaurants and coffee shops.
A film company shooting a scene in the evening light has cordoned off a cul-de-sac. I proceed to a hip cafe, DOI TUNG. There I see Rick Brown. He sits at a table, still built like the surfer-boxer of his halcyon youth.
Over coffee he signs a copy of his newly penned memoir, co-authored by Mike Stax, editor of UGLY THINGS, a magazine dedicated to wild sounds from a past dimensions. The title is LIKE, MISUNDERSTOOD, a photograph of the band in their pomp graces the cover.
Q. Love this joint Rick. Really cool atmosphere, you hang here dude?
A. Yeah! Doi Tung. Her Majesty the Queen got the Hill Tribes of the North of Thailand to stop growing opium, and switch to coffee. This was successful and now Her Majesty has opened Doi Tung Coffee Shops all over Bangkok.
Q. Mike Stax has meticulously documented the bands that emerged from the Inland Empire. Give us your shout.
A. Hey, Mike knows more about it than I do, and I was there. If it wasn’t for the Misunderstood no one would ever even hear about the Inland Empire. Mike Stax digs my mate Rod Piazza and the Mystics as well as teh Bush and the Mustangs. Inland Empire was a hotbed of garage rock.
Q. Tell us about John Peel, your musical influences, and the part Peel played in the saga of The Misunderstood.
A. People ask: “How well did you know John?” and I answer, “Well, I used to make out with my girlfriend in his bedroom. Nuff said! I knew John Peel when he was still John Ravenscroft. He convince us to seek our fame and fortune in London. Our musical influences were like Slim Harpo and the Yardbrids. We thought the Beatles were way too barbie.
Q. Swinging London is on psychedelic fire when you arrive. Tell it like it is dawg.
A. Hey Man, gotta read the book… London rocked, we gigged at the Marquee Club. Me and Viv Prince of the Pretty Things were tight. Everbody was on the set, the Kinks, the Yardbirds, Hendrix, the Creation, the Bunch of Five, Viv, Princes Band after he got kicked out of the Pretty Things.
Q You are drafted into army at the height of your powers; the band breaks up just as you are blasting off…
A. I got drafted just as the band was launched big time in London. That ruined that. But the story lives in the new book. We were signed to Fontana. Dick Leahy was a bitchin’ engineer who had us wired for sound. The Brit Bands dug us. The Musunderstood are listed by Record Collector Magazine in their 100 greatest psychedelic records as the 6th greatest psychedelic record of all times. We were on song to conquer the world.
Q. You escape at last and resurface in India.
A. Yeah! I spent most of my time there. It’s all in the book.
We bail from the cafe, Rick invites me to his jewelry shop. We stop at Delizia, an upscale Italian restaurant and exchange pleasantries with Gianni and his lovely Thai wife, owners of this oasis of Mediterranean cuisine.
Rick and I enter the premises of ASTRAL TALISMANS. The display cases glitter with high caliber gemstones. He escorts me to his well-appointed office. A Thai lady in a fetching traditional costume of red, gold and black brings us coffee.
Q. Tell us about the philosophy behind the gemstones.
A. Oh, man, THAT is a long story. A big science combing gemology & astrology. Later dude!
Q. The music of The Misunderstood is being rediscovered by a new generation, word up.
A. No, it’s been discovered by the 60s generation.
Q Dude this is one of the most cinematic pop music sagas of all time. A movie deal must be in the cards.
A. That’s the whole intention.
Q. Man does not live on bread alone mate, lets grab a brewski.
A. Sorry, I don’t dig booze.
We roll past Delizia, Feral cats prowl the outdoor tables hunting for scraps of food. We pass the grounds of the JOE LOUIS PUPPET THEATRE.
A Thai dude sings his karaoke version of Deep Purple classic Smoke on the Water from a beer bar. The air is cool and sweet. We smile at the joy of being free and alive in one of the most sensual and exotic cities in the world.