Happy Anniversary: Vanilla Fudge, THE BEAT GOES ON
49 years ago this month, Vanilla Fudge released their sophomore album, an LP which followed the same general formula as their self-titled debut but was released in a form which was ultimately more the vision of their producer than it was of the band members themselves.
Taking its title from the Sonny Bono song that features on the album, THE BEAT GOES ON was produced by George “Shadow” Morton, who took Vanilla Fudge’s work in the studio and turned it into a concept album filled less with songs than what might be best described as sound collages. It’s a supremely odd piece of work, to be sure, and it’s one that’s called “the weirdest album in classic rock history” by some and called “the worst album I’ve ever heard” by others.
On the band’s official website, there’s an interview with drummer Carmen Appice where he reflects on THE BEAT GOES ON and how it was met by the band when they first heard the finished product.
“I remember when we finished it we all listened to it. Timmy and I were, like, ‘Nah, I don't know about this. This is real strange - I don't know if we should do this.’ But Ahmet Ertegun and Shadow Morton [the producer] were so positive. Even our manager Phil Basille was skeptical on it, but Mark and Vinny were totally into it. Timmy and I were, like, ‘I dunno, this is so strange, it might not make it.’ Sure enough, when it came out everyone was going on ‘acid bummers,’ as they called it. People in California - they immediately played the whole record and would call up saying: ‘Man, we're tripping - this is putting us on a bad bummer,’ and this and that.
“Before that we were thinking of going out on another tour if [THE BEAT GOES ON] went really big - going out with screens and projections of all the stuff, making like a really big show, like they do now. But it never really got there and so we never did it. Instead of doing any tour on THE BEAT GOES ON, we went and in probably a four or five week span wrote and recorded RENAISSANCE and save us from the damage that THE BEAT GOES ON did to us!
“When I think of it now, we must have been out of our minds. Shadow Morton was definitely out of his mind. He was so creative, he must have thought, ‘Now we have this group, Vanilla Fudge...’ Like when we went top 3 or 4, the only thing holding us back from number 1 was the Beatles. We won things for vocals, number two to the Beatles on Billboard's list, and that kind of thing. So [Shadow] probably got even more egoed out than we did. He came up with this idea and we go "Oh, that's cool". But man, when I listen to it now, we must have been nuts. There's no music on it.”
However you feel about THE BEAT GOES ON, it can’t be said to have been a commercial failure: it hit #17 on the Billboard Top 200, and when Vanilla Fudge released their third album later in the year, it hit #20, a showing which gives no indication that listeners were dramatically upset by the band’s previous LP.
It is a pretty weird album, though. If you don’t believe us, just give it a spin yourself.