Feted by serious collectors of psychedelia and the avant garde, Bedlam by The Crazy People originally appeared on the small independent Canadian label Condor in 1968. What is known for certain about the band behind the record is very little but the theory upheld by many collectors and rare record bloggers is that the album was the brainchild of one Johnny Kitchen, an expatriate American who was believed to be in British Columbia around the time the album was recorded, and a group of studio musicians from the Burnaby, BC area.
All of the performers were uncredited on the original album but a few song writing credits were given to Kitchen, a prolific writer who also wrote for other bands on the Condor label. Much of the Crazy People legend is a mystery, although it is believed that the album was an exploitation studio project rather being recorded by a ‘proper’ group – a theory backed up by the widespread sampling of other material (including the New Vaudevill Band’s Winchester Cathedral) . Kitchen had a hand in dozens of experimental underground records in America and Canada during the latter years of the 60s and in the same year that Bedlam was issued it is said that he relocated to LA where he was involved in the recording of An Evening with Wild Man Fischer, released on Frank Zappa's Bizarre label: sections of two Bedlam songs (Life at the Funny Farm and Let’s Split) feature in Larry’s song Life Brand New. This has led some people to speculate that Johnny Kitchen was simply a pseudonym for Larry Fischer. The whole Crazy People project - and the rumours that surround and confound its' release - becomes even more confusing when you discover that three of the songs on the album are credited Jack Millman – and that Millman has recently been outed as the ‘real’ Johnny Kitchen.
Jack Maurice Millman began composing music in 1948. A professional jazz trumpeter, who studied trumpet with Shorty Rogers and, at the age of 17, played with the legendary Lionel Hampton. After spending many years at the coal face of music, and taking a couple of years out in the early 60s as he was burned out – he became known as Johnny Kitchen, thanks to fellow musician Billy Elder.
“It was a joke, we were wise cracking and that’s the name he gave me. It didn’t mean anything, but the name stuck and I went city hall and registered it as a fictitious business name, and I used it to register with ASCAP, too.” Millman told Andrew Jervis, for the Ubiquity Records blog.
Through Abe Sommer (Millman’s attorney who was also attorney to The Doors amongst others), he met Randy Wood – the former owner of the Vee Jay label - who asked Millman to produce a budget line of records. Millman pieced together 36 albums over the next decade for Wood’s labels.
Millman placed ads for his services in music magazines in the USA and abroad, landing a ton of advertising work and recording many albums for many different companies – including Condor. “They wanted to inflate the value of their business because they were going public,” Millman told Andrew Jervis. “I think they were in the lumber business. Gene Daniels (my contact) said he was told I had a library, and could sell him product.”
So now you know. It seems that Johnny Kitchen didn't live and work in British Columbia after all and that the entire Bedlam project was pieced together by Millman from his extensive library before being offered to Condor for release.
Anyway, here, for your edification, are a couple of tracks from Bedlam: Head Games And Other Assorted Crap and the opener Parade at the Funny Farm – both of which intersperse the insanity with some instantly recognisable hits. Crazy, man!