Hey Joe – The Leaves
Yes – the title song “Hey Joe” is the same one Jimi Hendrix would make famous a few years later. There is some controversy over who wrote it, but the Leaves, a short-lived garage band from Northridge was definitely the first to score a minor hit with it. Though they lack Hendrix’s full sound, the Leaves give it a high-octane version, filled with screeching guitars and fuzz.
The success of “Hey Joe” led to a debut album that has a lot of other strong songs to offer. The opening “Dr. Stone” seems thematically inspired by the Beatles' “Dr. Robert” released the same year, though the Leaves' paean to pharmaceuticals is a more traditional blues stomper than the Beatles' psychedelic gem. That lo-fi blues rock is what the Leaves do best.
When they slow it down and get sentimental, they turn fairly run-of-the-mill. But when they crank it up, just a little bit, they shine. On songs like “Tobacco Road,” “Words” and “Too Many People,” with John Beck throwing in some strong harmonica flourishes, you get the best of the Leaves. You even get the bouncy novelty of “War of Distortion,” a little carnival tune that revels in its …. you guessed it …. distortion.
The Leaves had some modest success appearing on television and releasing a second album before founder and guitarist Jim Pons left to join the Turtles. That effectively ended the Leaves, though they did reunite occasionally over the years. Pons went on to have a fascinating career, joining up with Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention before quitting music and going to work for several NFL football teams. He is credited with designing the logo used by the New York Jets in the 1980s and ‘90s.