Enter White Whale's 'Land Of Sensations And Delights' With Andrew Sandoval
This Saturday, August 29th, on the latest Record Store Day, you're going to be able to pick up a collection of music that has never been released together on vinyl before, The Land of Sensations & Delights: The Psych Pop Sounds of White Whale Records, 1965–1970 from Craft Recordings. Featuring 26 rarities, the collection is available digitally and on CD, but the vinyl format is exclusive to RSD.
Grammy-nominated Producer Andrew Sandoval brings us this collection as someone who has had a lifelong passion for the music of this era, and in particular the 45s released as singles during this time from labels like White Whale. You can check out his relevant radio show Come To The Sunshine which runs every Monday on WFMU. Sandoval's work extends much more widely, also, having worked on the catalog for bands like The Kinks, Elvis Costello, and The Bee Gees, and more recently he's been involved in helping get classic musicians out on tour pre-COVID.
Andrew Sandoval kindly joined Tower's PULSE! to have a very thorough chat about the roots and history of the music you'll find in this very special collection, but also about his origins as a Producer of historic material and why 45s are particularly awesome.
Hannah Means-Shannon: I’m not super-knowledgeable about White Whale, but I am very interested by the 60s and 70s, and hoped you could fill us in a little about this album.
Andrew Sandoval: Records like this don’t come along as much as they used to. In the old days, there used to be various artist compilations that included lots of crazy stuff, and now we don’t see that as much, so this was really fun to do.
HMS: Do you think that change is commercially driven?
AS: It’s commercially driven, and the major labels that were doing those sorts of records, specifically Rhino, which is the label where I got my start and have worked at on and off for 30 years, have totally abandoned doing it because of the labor involved. Because of the immense amount of time it took to clear tracks, getting it all done. T
They thought, “We can get one person to spend time dealing with the management of Fleetwood Mac, and that’s going to sell a lot more than this record with a bunch of 60s obscurities by The Answer and Professor Morrison’s Lollipop. Why would we bother with that?” The ‘we only care about big things’ attitude has really taken over everything. That’s really sad because a lot of great history gets left behind, or it gets left to bootleggers who think, “No one is going to come after me. I’ll just put out this stuff.” In a lot of way, sometimes they are right. The major labels, like Universal, don’t have paperwork on a lot of these records.
A guy who I’ve worked with now for 30 years at a place called Verese Sarabande had bought the White Whale catalog from the original founders. The remnants of it, which was everything that weren’t from The Turtles, who were the one-hit-wonder at White Whale, was just sitting in limbo. Nobody could legally reissue any of that stuff. He found them, and approached them, and they said, “Yes”. It was a very good deal, apparently.
There have been compilations of this label before, but I decided to start fresh, and focus on the singles that they put out. I tried to listen to every single they put out, which I think were about 150. I’m a big collector of 45s, which is my passion in record collecting, because a lot of artists made 45s who never made albums, and there are a lot of worthwhile things on 45s, even if they did make albums.
I took it as a personal challenge to go through, and not just take someone else’s work and repurpose it for an LP. I collect the records, too, so I had a lot of those singles. And a lot of those masters were missing, too. We had to track down as many copies of some of the singles as we could so we could, ultimately, pick the best sounding one. It was very much a passion project.
HMS: That is wonderful. I recently started collecting 45s. It’s funny because it does seem like people don’t realize their worth or want them as much. I’ve basically been given some piles of 45s occasionally, thrown in with my other purchases at shops. I’m always amazed. I don’t see a difference in value there, historically, or musically.
AS: I think with LPs, you can put them on, and go do other things, but with 45s, you really have to manage them. The record’s going to be over in three minutes, so you have to flip it over. There are so many great things on the B-sides. I have thousands of LPs, so I don’t have the same zeal for them. With 45s, I want to listen to them, but an album is actually much more of a commitment for me, so it’s kind of the reverse of how other people feel about them. It’s an intense three minutes of soul-searching, I think.
HMS: [Laughs] That’s a great inverse relationship there. I actually totally agree with that. If you’ve bothered to put on a 45, you’re going to listen to it, for sure. It’s almost like the spotlight gets put on those one or two songs, and they are the stars.
AS: Yes, I agree! I also think, “They chose these songs for the single? This is amazing. Why is it on the B-side?”
All that being said, the way that I arranged this record as an LP as well as for a CD. So the way that I programmed the selection is that each side of the LP is a bit of a genre in itself. Side 1 is Garage. Side 2 is more Pop, which the label really excelled in as the purveyors of The Turtles, who were one of the great Pop bands of the era. Side 3 is kind of Soft Pop. I have a show called “Come To The Sunshine” on WFMU and it primarily traffics in this sort of thing. Then, Side 4 is more early singer/songwriters and latter-day Psych, where the label ended up in the end.
HMS: You mentioned having a lot of this material on vinyl yourself. Did that precede the creation of this album? How long have you been interested in this music?
AS: Oh, yes. It makes me sound very old, but for about 30 years. This is an LA-based label, so these are hometown records. I would come across these 45s quite often, because they’d get dumped into record stores. I started collecting records as a teenager, and I worked at the Rhino Records store as well, so I’d discover records there. Making sense of all of them didn’t happen for quite some time, but the genesis of this record took place years ago. The actual putting it together took about a year.
I grew up loving British music and thinking it was the best, but something cracked around the age of 16 or 17 when I started realizing that some of the best music from the 1960s came from Los Angeles, in my opinion, like The Byrds, The Beach Boys, and Buffalo Springfield. About 10 years ago, I did this box set for Rhino called Where The Action Is: Los Angeles Nuggets 1965-1968. That’s a four CD set with 99 artists and 101 songs. I listened to a lot of stuff then, too. To get back into that mode 10 years later with this is really a lot of fun.
HMS: That is all so cool. Is this the first time that these songs will be together on a vinyl release, for Record Store Day?
AS: Yes it is. A lot of these things are on an LP for the very first time. All of the past compilations of White Whale were CD compilations. This one turned out much better than anyone expected, so when the company listened to it, they said, “We’d still like to put out a CD too.” I think people were surprised because some of this material had been gone through a few times before, but I still managed to find a few things that had never been reissued, which was nice. I didn’t go after those specifically because they hadn’t been reissued. I didn’t go over past things until I had made my selection.
HMS: Oh, that’s interesting. You didn’t want to be influenced, but wanted to pick based on quality?
AS: I just listened to the 45s. I have friends who collect 45s, so they helped me, too.
HMS: Do you have “feelings” about the sound quality of different formats, because people often have strong feelings about these things?
AS: I do, but my feelings are not purely emotional. They are very technical, too, since I’m very much involved in the manufacturing of the record as well. I got really involved in the audio restoration, doing it all myself. Usually when a record is cut, meaning lacquers are cut, I usually attend those, the mastering sessions and things like that. So I’m really involved. It’s more like I have every format. If it’s music, I want it, and especially if it’s music that I like. If it’s music from this era, I prefer to have original 45s.
HMS: I can definitely see wanting to find the original format, especially if it’s in decent condition. Were there any disappointments trying to put this together, like songs you couldn’t find good enough copies of, or weren’t allowed for some reason?
AS: I was about 98% successful in getting what I wanted. There were some songs that the label had licensed in, and didn’t actually own, in the 1960s. They had a single by John’s Children, “Smashed Blocked”, which we could have made a deal on, but there was so much other material, I decided to stick with what they had.
You learn about these things as you go along, and I’m pretty much 100% happy with the things that are on the record. I think it’s a solid listen, and if you don’t like one side, maybe you’ll like the other three.
HMS: In terms of music history, do you think it’s possible to have an accurate view if we mainly look at the big acts and the hits? How important do you think it is to look at things that flew under the radar, regional aspects, and the like, to appreciate what was happening at the time?
AS: To me, it’s really important, but I’m in the minority. Then, there are some people who won’t look at the popular things at all, because that’s played out. I’m not one of those. I love The Beatles. I don’t have a problem with hit records, but there were so many good records that were not hits, or so many records that could have been hits, but didn’t have the right promotion. I think it’s all a part of the big picture, especially, not having been alive when any of these records came out but being able to experience them in detachment.
There are so many people I’ve met who were alive in the 1960s, who say, “I feel so sorry for you. You didn’t get to experience all this cool stuff like I did. Oh, you like The Monkees? They are lame. When I was in high school, I was digging the Blues.” It’s like, “I don’t really care about the things that you were into in high school.” It’s like when you go to your high school reunion, and a guy says, “Remember when I was on the swim team and I won that medal?” It’s like, “No, I don’t. And why are we talking about this all these years later?”
I’d say, “I’m not taking away from your achievement of being alive in the 60s and experiencing stuff first-hand. I actually don’t envy you. I have my own time and space in life, and I’ve been really enjoying exploring this without all the baggage of thinking, ‘My friends in high school are going to think I’m lame.’” There are a lot of groups that people dismiss easily, but I think that everybody has a good song hidden somewhere, so it’s worth going through all these records, and not being totally blinded by having heard something wasn’t good.
HMS: So, there’s an egalitarian approach that we can take to assessing this music that people who were young people then probably can’t?
AS: No, they can’t. Also, so much music came out in a flood that there was no way people could have chronicled it all then.
HMS: What was the psychology of choosing this music at White Whale? Do you think these people were making good and interesting choices, or was it just a free-for-all?
AS: I think that 75% of it is good and interesting choices. There is a White Whale “sound” and it’s primarily a Pop sound that’s something that could be played alongside The Turtles. I think when these guys walked into radio stations, the station guys said, “Have you got the new Turtles record?” And they said, “Yes, but we’ve got Professor Morrison’s Lollipop, too.” I think their entryway was always going to be, “What’s kind of like The Turtles that we can play?” As time went on, The Turtles decided they were going to be heavier, and more psychedelic, and the label itself changed. I think fortunes were inextricably linked.
HMS: Did the label have a lot of input into the recording of these songs?
AS: I think the label had a tremendous amount of input. They weren’t necessarily signing artists up to long-term deals and developing them, like you would see later in the 60s and into the 70s, where an artist could put out two or three non-selling albums and grow into a platinum-selling artists. Instead, they’d have two three-hour sessions, and they’d have to get a couple of singles done. And they’d be told, “If one of the singles sells, we’ll put out the second single.” Also, there were some singles that were sold to White Whale, already recorded. They were involved in selecting songs, but they weren’t necessarily involved in the long-term guiding of careers, which I think was also their falling out with The Turtles.
HMS: How did you get into Producing, and specifically Producing historical work?
AS: When I was in high school, I started my own print fanzine. There was really no way for someone who was my age, about 14, to communicate with other people about music. Now you can go online. Back then, I was just an annoying kid going into record stores trying to talk to people. I had friends, but not who were into music with the same intensity. So I started a fanzine, and did that for three issues, called New Breed. From there, I learned to write a little bit, and I got a job working on liner notes for Rhino on unreleased songs by The Monkees called Missing Links Volume 2. At the same time, I followed Bill Inglot around, who was doing a lot of reissues. I gave him some input on the sequence of the songs, and which were good, so I was basically learning how to produce and compile a record while it was happening. He gave me credit for that, which was nice of him.
I took that record and went around to every place that was doing reissues, and said, “Hey, I do reissues. What’s going on with your catalog?” I was drumming up a lot of business, primarily doing liner notes. That was when I was 17. So I literally left high school and just kept going, and have been running this marathon since then. I got involved in some bigger things over the last several years doing the catalog on The Kinks, who are one of my favorite bands, and also being involved with Van Morrison and Harry Nilson.
Also, in the past, I did catalog stuff for The Band, Elvis Costello, and The Bee Gees. I got more into dealing with artists, and getting to know them, but also knowing what not to do with artists. Trying to get them to feel good about releasing material that was unreleased. In the last 10 years, I’ve been more involved in doing management and putting out concert tours with older artists. The reissue business ebbed significantly 10 years ago, and naturally went into live music, which up until COVID was very robust.
Now I’m in a holding pattern doing a variety of projects, but I’m hoping to go back to doing live music stuff when people feel comfortable, though it’s hard to put a date on that.
HMS: I’ve been speaking to a lot of older bands who have been back into touring. There has been a tremendous burst of return to live shows in recent years, and they have been well attended.
AS: People are still interested in those experiences. There was a devaluation of CDs with streaming, and music as a physical item. Although, there has been an obvious resurgence in vinyl records. Obviously, Tower Records was a huge part of my childhood, and I spent a lot of time there. I would even love to go there on holidays, because they would be open.
HMS: I was going to ask you if you had Tower memories. I figured you would.
AS: Oh, yes, lots. Going up to Tower Records in Hollywood on Sunset when I was really young was always exciting. And they were all over the place, so going in London was exciting. They were into imports, so each store would have things that the other stores didn’t have. Then there were the in-stores. I got to meet XTC at an in-store. Tower was such a big part of my life, and I’m so glad that it continues on in some form. Anytime you see the Tower logo, it brings back such good feelings.
HMS: You may remember that Tower Records’ motto is ‘No Music, No Life’ and ‘Know Music, Know Life’. Which do you prefer and how does it apply to your life?
AS: I think the latter, the “Know Music, Know Life” because for me, it hasn’t been just about having music in my life, it’s knowing where it came from, and knowing how it came to be. That’s been my entire quest, and almost my purpose in life, to find the truth behind what makes me feel so good. Music is my religion. It’s a thing that’s a part of every day and everything I do. It’s given me a wonderful life. If it wasn’t for music in my life, I don’t know what would have happened.
Terrific, insightful interview. Can’t wait to hear the White Whale set!
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