Garage band icon Sky Saxon has died after a long career that included pop stardom with the Seeds and psychedelic explorations as a solo act. He was sixtysomething.
Saxon died Thursday in his new home of Austin, Texas, as he was preparing for a ’60s tour with the Electric Prunes and Love. The cause of death was not disclosed.
Saxon’s latest group was called Shapes Have Fangs, reflecting the singer’s eccentricity as well as his love of oddly titled songs and curious band names. He adopted the name Sky Sunlight Saxon in the years after the Seeds disbanded. Richard Marsh, his real name, was born in Utah.
The Seeds’ two albums remain a powerful influence on rock music, ranging from the jukebox hits “Pushin’ Too Hard” and “Can’t Seem to Make You Mine” to the sex saga “Up in Her Room,” clocking in at 15 minutes. The song “Mr. Farmer” has become another signature song over the years and was heard in the rock movie “Almost Famous.” (Listen to the Strawberry Alarm Clock’s 2012 cover of “Mr. Farmer.”)
Saxon and his L.A.-based Seeds obviously influenced Jim Morrison and the Doors, who had supported them on tour. “The End,” for example, appears to be a direct cop of Saxon’s spooky baritone narration. In turn, Saxon explored some Doors-like directions after the original Seeds disbanded.
The Seeds provided a bridge between some of the original three-chord attitude rockers such as the Kingsmen and the edgier psychedelic bands. Later, the Seeds’ brand of garage rock reverberated throughout the punk rock movement. Generations of rockers have covered Saxon’s songs.
The Seeds reunited in 2004 for the album “Red Planet,” which retained the fuzz tone guitars and Farfisa organ sound of their mid-’60s recordings.
Several of Saxon’s post-Seeds records are out of print or only available as imports. “Transparency” (2005) is available via Amazon. Other recordings such as the original release of “Future” with the Seeds go for as much as $100. He was big in Japan. (View the Sky Saxon discography.)
Saxon recorded with the Smashing Pumpkins leader Billy Corgan last year and appeared in one of that band’s psychedelically influenced music videos.
Saxon was a member of the famed L.A. commune the Source Family and performed with its psychedelic jam band the YaHoWha.
Saxon’s wife, Sabrina, announced the death on her Facebook page: “Sky has passed over and YaHoWha is waiting for him at the gate. He will soon be home with his Father. I’m so sorry I couldn’t keep him here with us. More later. I’m sorry.”
Update: A tribute to Sky Saxon at the EchoPlex in L.A. featured Billy Corgan from the Smashing Pumpkins, the surviving members of the Seeds, the Strawberry Alarm Clock and the Electric Prunes. Here’s an outstanding video of Corgan and a one-time band (including Smashing Pumpkin Mark Byrne and SAC organist Mark Weitz) working out to Saxon’s “900 Million People Daily (All Making Love).”