Wow, man. If this was 1968, you'd be staring at the above album cover a long time! Even now, it's so trippy and fascinating; four nude chicks in a plastic box on a strange planet or just (ooh) IN YOUR MIND. Back then these sci-femmes had record fans asking "where in the Southwest do we find them?" And does "F.O.B." mean "Fuck Our Bitches?"
As many an lp-cover-lover will bad-breathlessly howl at you, "There's something so COOL about naked chicks on a record album!" As opposed to a naked chick actually on a record collector…which rarely happens.
Back in the 60's, it wasn't that easy to find any chick's naked rack in a record store's racks. Even here, all we get is "side boob" which still can give you a side kick. Most of the full frontal titty pix were on "under the counter" lousy adult comedy albums from obscure guys such as Bub Thomas and Bert Henry. Weird, isn't it…guys could easily get entire magazines (Playboy, Rogue, Nugget, Dude, Gent, Knight, Cavalier, Cavalcade, etc.) for 50 cents or so, but would pay ten times that much to see ONE nudie on an album cover.
OK…it's time to at least make some sort of mention of the group and their semi-hit song. "Smell of Incense" was actually written by two guys (Bob Markley and Ron Morgan) who had come from the fartily-named band "The Laughing Wind" to form the ultra-pretentious "West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band," which, no surprise, somehow involved Van Dyke Parks for a while. Their version of their own song "did not chart," as muffin-eaters like to say, as if it justifies feeling smug about their own mediocrity and failures. What did chart, barely, just outside the Top 40, was the cover by the Dallas band called Southwest F.O.B.
That group included two guys who would go on to greater infamy: Dan Seals and John Colley. They later formed the duo England Dan and John Ford Coley, whose main achievement, let's not forget, is that they weren't Seals and Crofts. Yes, Coley got an L outta there, so people wouldn't pronounce his name like he was a breed of dog.
Via Hip Records, the Fobs ("Freight on Board" is the likely meaning of the initials), offered music very typical of the times. There's the Emenee-like toy keyboard, which was popularized by The Doors. Not exactly a rival to the keyboard on "Light My Fire," the organ riff here sounds more like a parrot knocking its beak against a few notes hoping to tap out the morse code for HELP. Or OVERDOSE
The meandering melody pauses for the chorus and its profoundly hymn-like harmony. It recalls "Spanky and Our Gang" and their pretentious demand: "Give a Damn." It all works, in an ooky-spooky icky-trippy kinda way. As for the lyrics, they reflect the naive era's notion that "enlightenment" is attainable by rollin' doobies. Just cover the smell with…incense. Oh, eat some peppermints afterward, and forget about time, which is only an illusion on a strawberry alarm clock affixed to a chocolate watchband.
As with so many late 60's (and early 70's) hippie dippy trippy songs, the lyrics stand alone about as well as anyone who's had some powerful weed:
"She stood as still as the shadows of stone. She stood on the edge of my mind. I tried to push her away. I shut and locked the door. Her eyes grew large and asking. AND THE SMELL OF INCENSE FILLS HER ROOM.
She stood in the ever present fullness of expectation. What happened to her childhood dreams? The sidewalk smothers us tomorrow."
What it needs is a real ending: "Do not tell me, I am source of your knock-up. The mud elephant wading through the sea leaves no tracks." Oh, sorry, that was The Fugs, who not only wrote better real "beat poetry," but knew how stupid most of it actually was. "Norwegian Wood" seems to have influenced a few lyricists into going into a triter shade of pale. But look, if you're really wasted on pot, you might think the sidewalk can smother you, you concretin. Your recipe for being a total asshole is easy enough; just add "mushrooms."
Download this, and if you actually were part of the late 60's or early 70's world of heavy lyrics and light-headed pot usage you'll find some nostalgia. If you weren't around back then, and are just some fucking goofus with a frog not prog face, who goes to thrift shops to buy what his parents' used to wear, and walks around saying "Oh wow" a lot, and were in the "It's Psych" forum…go find a hat with a human head underneath it, and consider a transplant.
The best thing about Southwest F.O.B. remains the cover, featuring a box of twats. I'd rather be in that box with 'em, smelling something that ain't incense.
SOUTHWEST FOB SMELL of incense