Before the Houston group made its move, however, it celebrated the charms of the Bay Area ladies with “San Francisco Girls (Return of the Native),” an intriguing single that (barely) cracked the Billboard singles chart in 1968.
“San Francisco Girls,” written by manager/producers Scott and Vivian Holtzman, came on the heels of the 1967 hits “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)” sung by Scott McKenzie and “San Franciscan Nights” by Eric Burdon. Fever Tree’s song certainly holds up its end of that city trilogy.
“San Francisco Girls” opens as a ballad with a tasty but improbable dance of harpsichord and cymbal. Vocalist Dennis Keller sets the scene as a flute eases in:
Out there it’s summertime
milk and honey days
Oh, San Francisco girls with
San Francisco ways
The reverie is short-lived: A guitar amped for heavy sustain repeats and speeds the opening theme until the song works itself into a gallup.
The singer then delivers the cold-hearted kiss-off at the heart of the story — perhaps importing the ‘tude from Fever Tree’s garage-band days:
Don’t try to stop me girl, you can’t have your way
Don’t try to stop me girl, nothin’ you can say
Live like you wanna live and stay where you wanna stay
I just gotta go and get back to the Bay
The tempo shifts several more times before the cinematic finale is ushered in by soaring sustain-drenched guitar.
“San Francisco Girls” gets its punch from guitarist Michael Knust and percussionist John Tuttle. The elegance comes from classically trained multinstrumentalist Rob Landes, who did the harpsichord bit. Producer David Angel of “Forever Changes” fame apparently worked on the song as well.
(Coincidence, no doubt, but “San Francisco Girls” brings to mind the Guess Who’s “American Woman,” of two years later, right down to Burton Cummings’ vocals.)
“San Francisco Girls (Return of the Native)” brought a modest fame to Fever Tree and endured as a free-form FM favorite.
The original band issued one compelling album, “Fever Tree,” featuring several tracks of the same quality as “San Francisco Girls” as well as some contemporary covers. Sundazed recently rereleased this, Fever Tree’s first album.
Then came the less ambitious “Another Time, Another Place” and the career-crashing “Creation.”
Sundazed also has released “Live ’69” on vinyl/download (the band’s farewell performance).