Thanks to Nick Spacek for his insightful review of Craig Smith's Love is Our Existence:
"When everything comes together in a proper package, a story can take music which hooks you from the start and fill it out in ways you didn’t think possible. Such is the case with Craig Smith’s Love is Our Existence...
"Finding out that the musician was a schizophrenic with drug troubles almost had me feeling guilty, as if I were listening to the private thoughts of a really troubled soul.... It could have turned a joyful thing into something akin to voyeurism, but thankfully, Stax’s extraordinary writing manages to walk a line between celebration of beauty and a dark origin.
"In the end, the music is first and foremost what keeps Love is Our Existence on the turntable for multiple spins. The guitar work is, once again, deft, and Smith’s lyrics and singing beautifully wrought. Even without knowing anything about the record, beyond the fact that these songs have a “haunting, otherworldly quality,” you’d want to listen."
A few months ago I received a message out of the blue from a woman called Erin Gardiner who had dated Craig briefly in late 1972. Soon afterwards we talked at length by phone and I got her full story. Now she's shared her memories of Craig in this wonderful blog post.
Craig Smith's Love is Our Existence album is now available for digital download on iTunes, Amazon and CD Baby. The vinyl edition has been selling fast. Only 36 copies left at the Ugly Things webstore. The CD edition with 3 extra tracks and a 32-page booklet is also still available. Grab yours while they last!
Who Do You Love is Our Existence… They were still shrink-wrapping and stickering the Craig Smith LPs as I made my way north up the Interstate 5 to pick them up at RTI in Camarillo. When I got there, my friendly sales rep Lorine gave me a guided tour of the entire facility: receiving, plating, pressing, quality control, assembly, boxing and shipping. They do great work there. In the pressing room I watched as one of their nine machines methodically cranked out Chuck Berry LPs ...on gold vinyl. Over in the shipping warehouse two pallets of records were parked by the loading bay door ready to leave: one had 16 cartons of Craig Smith albums. Right next to it, a much larger stack: Bo Diddley on Chess. A good omen, I thought to myself.
After loading up my car, I next headed out to Simi Valley to hand deliver the first copies of Love is Our Existence to Craig’s brother, Gary. Without Gary, this record would never have happened. For more than 40 years he’d carefully stored away the tapes and acetates Craig had given him for safekeeping. Gary was delighted to see the completed LP (and the CD) and insisted we have one of his neighbors snap a photo to memorialize this achievement.
Then came the cosmic twist: “I’ve got something I want to give to you,” he said. “It used to belong to Craig.” He handed me an LP: an original copy of the first Bo Diddley album on Chess. Inscribed on the back in his brother’s handwriting: “Album belongs to Craig Smith.” I was speechless for a moment. “Gary, you won’t believe what the other record was that was shipping out today right next to ours…”
Somewhere Craig Smith and Bo Diddley were high-fiving each other and laughing. Good omens.
Thanks for Peter Jonsson at PopDiggers for this excellent review of Swim Through the Darkness "...a book not only for fans of Californian ‘60s music but also for those with wider interests of what is behind the façade, whether it is the psyche of the artists, music business strategies or social matters."
He also posits an interesting Julie Andrews theory about the meaning of Maitreya's third eye spider tattoo.
Sleuths of the hive mind, I have an assignment for you. I just talked to a woman who dated Craig Smith/Maitreya and she remembers him being interviewed on the air on the Captain Midnight Show on KPFK. It would have aired in November or December of 1972. This is most likely the same show Don Glut remembers hearing the DJ play “Not the Freeze” on. By late 1972, Maitreya was pretty far gone and I imagine this would be quite a strange conversation. Does an aircheck exist anywhere? The KPFK archives and they don’t have it. But maybe a copy exists somewhere. Can you help?
I am thrilled to announce that LOVE IS OUR EXISTENCE by Craig Smith (a.k.a. Maitreya Kali) is now available for pre-order in both vinyl and CD formats. The album features mind-blowing previously unreleased tracks professionally recorded by Craig in Los Angeles recording studios between 1966 and 1971.
The LP is pressed on high quality vinyl at RTI, and comes in a heavy duty tip-on gatefold jacket with unpublished photos and detailed liner notes. The CD is a swank digipak with... a chunky 32-page booklet with the liners plus even more rare photos. The CD also includes three bonus tracks not included on the LP. The album will not be officially released until early April, but orders placed at the Ugly Things webstore will start shipping in early March as soon as I pick it up from the pressing plant. There's also a specially priced 'bundle' deal if you want to order both formats together.
This album has been a real labor of love for me and Craig's brother Gary, and I can't wait for you all to hear this wonderful music.
One step closer to release... Reference lacquers for the upcoming Craig Smith LP arrived today from Golden Mastering. Sounding sublime... All previously unreleased tracks from 1966-71.
Here's a very special holiday gift to Craig Smith fans from myself and Craig's brother Gary. "A Father's Christmas" is an unreleased song demo recorded around 1969-70. It was no doubt intended for Andy Williams (who had recorded two other songs by Craig). However, by this time Craig had changed his name to Maitreya and was behaving, well... strangely, so Andy and his people were no longer taking his phone calls.
Currently working on liner notes for our upcoming Craig Smith album, Love is Our Existence. The notes will include material from a fascinating but incomplete unpublished manuscript written by Craig in 1970. This photo was most likely taken on Craig's 23rd birthday, April 25th, 1968. A few weeks later he embarked on a long trip through Europe and then along the Hippie Trail in the Middle East, the beginning of a tragic chain of events that would change his life forever.
“Before I left Los Angeles I knew the life I had led was totally full," he later wrote, "however I felt the quest for knowledge—practical knowledge—pulling me away from all the moral, ethical, and cultural stigmas I had been exposed to all my life. I was in a state of Buddhahood with no key to open up the totally glowing Third Eye which I possessed.”
Successful musician walks away from the music industry rat race, suffers a mental breakdown and changes his name to Maitreya. Sound familiar?
You can never be sure what you’re going to get when you crack open a tape box that’s over 50 years old. What’s on the tape? Will it even play? So many times these experiences are a letdown. Not this time. I took the tape to Earthling Studios. Mike Kamoo carefully loaded it onto the machine and pressed play…
A voice over a talkback microphone from a Los Angeles recording studio control room long ago says: “You’re on.” There’s a hushed pause. Then a finger-picked acoustic guit...ar. In perfect, crystal-clear fidelity. And Craig Smith starts to sing: “Paris at night… music and light…” Our eyes widen. For two minutes and twenty seconds I hold my breath… Will it play all the way through? It does. It’s an exquisite love song; one of Craig’s best, recorded in December 1966 and then forgotten. Never released. You’ll get to hear it early next year, along with many more. I’ll keep you posted.
The Happeners was a TV pilot shot in late 1965 starring Craig Smith, Chris Ducey and Susannah Jordan. While there's still no way to view it online, musical director Bob Bowers recently posted the entire audio track (in nine parts) and it's well worth a listen. This first part features two complete songs: The Happeners theme, and a lovely folk-rock ballad composed by Bowers called "Your Love Stood in My Way." Wondering if anyone else ever recorded this song.
Recorded by Andy Williams for his 1967 album, Love Andy, Craig Smith wrote "Holly" for his girlfriend at the time, Holly Mershon, an attractive, willowy blonde singer who was a member of the Doodletown Pipers, a sunshine-drenched easy listening vocal group who appeared frequently in Vegas and Reno, and on television variety shows. The Pipers released a couple of albums on Epic that make the Good Time Singers sound like the Stooges (a 1997 episode of The Simpsons revealed that Homer Simpson was a Doodletown Pipers fan). “Holly was a very lovely person,” says Heather MacRae. “I got to know her when she was going with Craig and she just seemed so nice. They were just were such a beautiful couple, all-American looking. They just looked like they had it all.”
If you missed my interview on WCBN's Living Writers program on Tuesday, you can listen at this link or download for free as a podcast on iTunes. I talk about Swim Through the Darkness, Craig Smith, Ugly Things magazine, the Misunderstood, and more. Thanks for Frank Uhle for making it happen.
New at the Please Kill Me website, this feature by Alan Bisbort about rock & roll acid casualties. Craig Smith is in the headlining spot.
Live radio interview tomorrow, Wednesday, August 30.