When this song hit No.1 in the US chart in 1968 it captured the essence of an era. It had a catchy melody, hippie lyrics, irresistible beat and psychedelic effects – perfect. Although it may have been dismissed as trite nonsense by serious critics, whenever I hear this song I hear it as a rather challenging composition with its unpredictable musical leap from the verse to the chorus, an amazing string arrangement, inventive percussion, a hooky Sitar guitar instrumental lead line, a great harmony in the second verse and that fantastic echo on the vocal, as well as the unusual percussion outro and that drum hook – all neatly slotted into two minutes and twenty seven seconds.
Unfortunately Buddah records pressure for the band to continue in the Bubblegum direction after Green Tambourine’s success became a sticking point (get it) and the Leka/Pinz songwriting team only penned half the songs, whilst guitarist Bill Bartlett’s and other contributions were more inspired by the underground sounds of the day. Consequently Leka (also their producer) ended up with two different directions in the recording sessions. So if you have a problem with the perceived Bubblegum sound of this band – that’s only half the story.
Of course you can’t ignore the two million sales that Green Tambourine generated (actually a worldwide hit, No.7 in the UK) but the other Leka/Pinz penned tracks were not a patch on this one magical song and after two unfocused albums the band left Buddah and finally broke up. Three of them reappeared in the seventies as members of Ram Jam with their energetic cover of the Muddy Water’s song Black Betty.
You can read a more detailed sequence of events here: