Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about music and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the music urban legends featured so far.
MUSIC URBAN LEGEND: A non band member sang “Incense and Peppermints” because no one in the band wanted to.
Occasionally, bands will have guest singers on their song, and every so often, a band will have a big hit with someone other than their normal lead singer being involved in the song.
However, it’s quite rare to see a guest singer on a song when it was simply a matter of everyone else in the band hating the song.
And when that song becomes the biggest hit the band ever had?
Well, that’s some weird stuff all around, but that’s exactly what happened with the Strawberry Alarm Clock and their hit song “Incense and Peppermints”
In 1967, Strawberry Alarm Clock was just BECOMING “Strawberry Alarm Clock,” as they had been recording as Thee Sixpence. Their lead vocalists were Lee Freeman and Mark Weitz.
They were recording a single called “The Birdman of Alkatrash,” written by Weitz.
Needing a B-Side, Weitz and band guitarist Ed King wrote an instrumental piece. The band’s producer, Frank Slay, though, sent a tape of the instrumental to a songwriter friend of his, John Carter, who then wrote the lyrics to what would become “Incense and Peppermints.”
Naturally, the band was put off by Slay’s maneuvering, and they especially disliked Carter’s lyrics (and the fact that he was actually in studio that day to “oversee” the singing of his lyrics) so Weitz and Freeman refused to perform the lyrics.
A 16-year-old friend of the band, Greg Munford, happened to be in the studio as a visitor watching the recording. Carter, surely irritated that the band wouldn’t perform his song, asked the young lad if he would be willing to sing the song. He agreed, and the band recorded “Incense and Peppermints.” It was only meant to be a B-Side on a single that no one was even sure would get played, so no one really objected too much – them not having to sing the lyrics they hated was enough for them at the time.
So, naturally, the B-Side was what DJs began playing and the single was re-pressed with “Incense and Peppermints” becoming the A-Side and hitting #1 on the charts (and staying on the charts for 15 weeks).
In a little bit of adding injury to insult, Weitz and King, who wrote the original instrumental piece that served as the basis for the song, were denied songwriting credit on the tune (it was later determined that the song was changed enough for the songwriting denial to be allowable)!!
Munford never DID join the band.
The legend is…
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