A friend talked me into attending the U.S. premiere of Neil Norman‘s Pushin’ Too Hard, a doc about the mid ’60s SoCal rockers The Seeds, at the Egyptian last Saturday night. Yeah, I know…who? The Seeds formed in ’65, put out only one serious Top-40 hit (“Pushin’ Too Hard“) in ’66, and released three medium-selling L.A.-area singles (“Can’t Seem To Make You Mine”, “Mr. Farmer” and “A Thousand Shadows”) before breaking up in ’68. This happened largely due to the eccentric wanderings of lead singer Sky Saxon (a.k.a., Richard Marsh). Like many under-equipped psychedelic adventurers of the ’60s, Saxon eventually dropped too many tabs and wound up living, mentally-speaking, in his own private fruit-loop Neverland. He died at age 71 in ’09.
The film feels a little too long — it could stand a trim of a good 20 minutes if not more. It doesn’t feel like a pro-level job — a bit on the ragged, sloppy-ass side — but that fits in with the low-rent, garage-bandy Seeds sound and the rep they had. It’s an okay film — a good-enough, second-rate doc about a band that went a little beyond flash-in-the-pan status, but not by much. The tone of the narration by legendary ex-groupie Pamela des Barres (who was sitting right behind me) feels too spunky and self-consciously “spirited”, like she’s narrating the history of Shindig, the ABC rock-music series.
The doc is more about building up the lore of the Seeds than just laying the cards on the table without the birdseed — a band with a tight sassy sound got lucky for two or three years before breaking up, and soon after their lead singer became a walking caricature of an aging, brain-frazzled fuzzhead.
Many if not most of the legendary rock artists of the ’60s tripped a few times and wore love beads and found satori and whatnot, but when the zeitgeist shifted they did also, and they moved on to the next thing. But not Saxon! On top of which he was kind of a spazzy performer. Check out his moves as he and the Seeds performed “Pushin’ Too Hard” during an appearance on Mothers in Law in ’68. What’s with that bright-blue outfit with the stupid-ass cape? Sartorial flamboyance is cool but you’ll look like an asshole with a sense of taste and style.
The only reason I went to Saturday’s screening is because I had a great time watching Lenny Kaye perform “Pushin’ Too Hard” during a 2008 Patti Smith concert in Park City to promote Patti Smith: Dream of Life.