"They're my favorite band of all time - my ideal band." - Jimmy Page
|So Page told the magazine Zigzag a few years after he'd seen Kaleidoscope at Avalon Ballroom in San Francisco when he was a member of the Yardbirds. Something in the LA band's high level of musicianship & exotic eclecticism obviously stayed with him. That his memory of them contributed to his conception of Led Zeppelin is probable. (That he got the idea of bowing the guitar from watching Kaleidoscope founder David Lindley is also possible.)
Says Solomon Feldthouse, whose deep musical connection with Lindley spawned what would become Kaleidoscope:
"We never were a group for screaming teeny boppers, but you bet your sweet ass every damn town we’d play in all the other professional musicians in town would show up to catch every last set we’d play."
Nor did they go unheard in other quarters. Says Jac Holzman, founder of Elektra Records:
“One of the great things about groups in the '60s and very early '70s was how distinctly different they sounded, unlike today when a mere shift of stress seems to proclaim a new sound.
Far more than just a ‘few degrees of separation.’ Kaleidoscope was a very emotional group while still parading their eclecticism. They crafted their music from numerous threads (blues, folk, flamenco riffs, middle eastern etc.), linking them together into something that was very fresh to my ears. And the lyrics were good, the musical changes often unexpected and the production tight. It was great music to float on while in the thrall of cannabis."
They also had their critical champions, including Pete Welding of Down Beat, who dubbed them "eclectic electric."
Says Chris Darrow, a member of the original lineup, being in Kaleidoscope was "like going to college. It wasn't easy learning that stuff that was unfamiliar to you. I think it changed everybody's life in terms of the way they approached music, because you were kind of forced by virtue of being in the context of this to take on things that you probably wouldn't take on yourself." No other band of the time could play so many kinds of music, and so authoritatively.
A commercial breakthrough, however, was not forthcoming. Dubious management and almost non-existent record label support, coupled with the band's lack of conventional "sex appeal" or an easily-categorized sound contributed, no doubt. In any case, the band went through a few upheavals in personnel before giving up the ghost. Ultimately, says Lindley, Kaleidoscope was "a genetical experiment that produced several mutant strains of unknown origin and eventually ate itself. "
As Mac Garry memorably put it in his 1976 series on Kaleidoscope for Zigzag, "They were pioneers... rolling across all that uncharted land in search of the unknown, the undreamed of. Before long, of course, at least a thousand and one bands had stampeded in the grooves of their wheels."
This site makes no claims to being either "official" (though it has enjoyed the active support or at least the good wishes of most of the ex-members) or definitive. What you will find here is a repository of Kaleidoscopiana. An absence of editorial agenda on my part may result in, for some, a possibly confused picture of things.
Readers will draw their own conclusions, but wouldn't even be here if they didn't at least have some curiosity about that most curious of 60s bands, Kaleidoscope.
Comments, corrections & contributions are always welcome.
This site wouldn't amount to much more than wishful thinking on my part without the kind support & contributions of the following souls. Thanks to Stuart Brotman, Chester Crill, Chris Darrow, Solomon Feldthouse, Paul Lagos, David Lindley & John Vidican, first of all. Thanks also to Lars Andersen, Brad Bechtel, Steve Cahill, Kim Fowley, www.subbassdj.com, Pete Frame, Kjell Fredell, Mac Garry, Paolo Ghelfi, Mike Gion, Paul Gouldhawke, Beth Grobman, Jac Holzman, Harvey Kubernik, Joanie Lindley, "Pooh" Matsuoka, Paul Moews, Frazier Mohawk, Phil McMullen, Faren Miller, Doc Muir, , Alec Palao, Johan Pap, the late John Platt, Hans-Hermann Pohle, Alex Shackelford, Tim Stone, Richie Unterberger, Bob Warford, Bill Wasserzieher, Jeff Watt, & Pete Welding
Kaleidoscope 1966 - Chris Darrow, Solomon Feldthouse, David Lindley, John Vidican, Chester Crill