The Other Half – “What Can I Do For You” (1968)

Before sitting down to try out the excellent new King Noodle in Bushwick on Saturday night, I stumbled across the nondescript doorway of Heaven Street record shop in the basement of a nearby apartment building. It was here that I came across a reissue of The Other Half’s 1968 self titled featuring guitar wizard Randy Holden (later of Blue Cheer). Upon listening, two things immediately caught my attention–the degree to which “What Can I Do For You (First Half)” sounds like the Grateful Dead’s “Viola Lee Blues” and how much “What Can I Do For You (The Other Half)” reminds me of the groove on Ultimate Spinach’s “Ballad of the Hip Death Goddess.” A terrific garage-psych album that puts into full view the early greatness of Randy Holden, who apparently turned down a role in The Yardbirds to take on this gig. Seek out the LP, which was reissued in 2012 by Pilot Records.

The Other Half – “What Can I Do For You (First Half)”

The Other Half – “What Can I Do For You (The Other Half)”

Randy Holden – Population II (1969)

Randy Holden - Front
A few weeks back when I spoke to Ty Segall about his new band Fuzz, he told me one of the major influences for the project was Randy Holden’s 1969 proto-metal LP Population II. Being unfamiliar with the album, I immediately sought it out and wound up coming across countless stories and tales of what is largely considered to be one of the finest albums from the early days of heavy psychedelic music.

After performing in a slew of bands like the Fender IV, Sons of Adam, Ugly Things and The Other Half, as well as a stint on Blue Cheer’s 1969 LP New! Improved! Blue Cheer, Holden formed the aptly titled Population II along with drummer Chris Lockheed, who uniquely played both drums and keyboard simultaneously. “Population II” also refers to the special kind of Star Group cluster type, which includes Heavy Metal in its composition.

It was also at this point that Holden obtained a sponsorship deal with Sunn amplifiers, from whom he received his legendary sixteen 200 Watt amplifiers that make up the deep caterwauling guitar tone heard throughout the record. With the amps wired in parallel, Holden and Lockheed recorded the album in an old opera house, bridging the gap between psychedelia and heavy metal in a display of sludgy stoner rock that sounds like Jimi Hendrix high on booze and quaaludes (more so than usual).

What happened next is a bit of a sad story. Due to some financial difficulties, the album never saw an official release and led to Holden’s management company selling his beloved Sunn amplifiers and Gibson SG Deluxe. Population II eventually made its way into the hands of collectors in various bootleg forms over the years, with a limited issue LP released in 2005 and a remastered CD in 2008. After this nightmare, Holden retreated from the world of music and relocated to Hawaii where he became a boat salesman. However, at the urging requests of a loyal fan, he recorded Guitar God in 1994 and released Guitar God 2001 in 2001, followed in 2008 with the release of Raptor.

Randy Holden – “Guitar Song”