Crank Your Spreaders: Otherwise Known as The Association Field Guide &
Beechwood Music Corporation, 48pp, 1966
In his magisterial work on the history of modern pop, Yeah Yeah Yeah, writer and Saint Etienne member Bob Stanley wonders why The Association have, as he puts it, “fallen off the critical map so completely.” It’s a good question. ‘Cherish’, ‘Windy’ and ‘Never My Love’ were all big hits in the American charts; the band opened the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival; and the recentish re-issues on the Now Sounds label of their first five albums contain plenty of other examples of the band’s singular take on sunshine pop. Perhaps the problem, Stanley notes, was that they “wore suits and their name was so blank.” Sure enough, while I was preparing this article, I tapped the band’s name into Google and the search engine’s Autocomplete facility helpfully directed me to the Association of British Insurers.
The contrast between the band’s uptight appearance and the magic of their songs is a good reason to celebrate them. Whatever their preferred stage wear, some of those songs are every bit as knowing as we might expect from a band formed in the California of the mid-sixties – their first hit, ‘Along Comes Mary’, is a sly reference to marijuana. The cover of their first album And Then. . .Along Comes The Association perhaps captures this contrast best. Multiple exposures show the six members of the band on a field of grass (geddit?), the main image revealing them to be the insurance salesman that Google would later anticipate, but another smaller image shows them leaping for joy as if they’ve inhaled deeply on the herbal additive their hit song celebrated.
Crank Your Spreaders, which initially retailed for a dollar at newsstands and was published between the band’s second and third albums, is a cheery counter to any perceived conformity or lack of personality. Its odd title is explained on the inside cover. It’s the expression used to describe opening or closing a car window prior to launching – or being hit by – a water-bomb, the activity a favoured pastime for the band on the road.
Billboard magazine trailed the publication of the book in their 25 March 1967 edition, noting that it included “prose, poetry, photographs, line drawings and various literary forms which are difficult to classify.” This nevertheless signals the book’s obvious predecessors, John Lennon’s In Your Own Write and A Spaniard in the Works, which had appeared in 1964 and 1965 respectively. In Crank Your Spreaders, band members are let loose to write jokey autobiographies, wistful and sometimes self-mocking poems and punning instructional tales. We also get the sheet music for ‘Cherish’ and ‘Pandora’s Golden Heebie Jeebies’.
The book ran to several editions, with later copies incorporating a change of cover, and it’s a slight but happy addition to The Association’s groovy output. Let’s linger awhile among its pages and in so doing, try to recapture the feel of the West Coast in spring ‘67 as it might have been experienced by six young men in three-piece suits.