Before the recording of the Safe As Milk album there was a studio session where a number of demos were recorded produced by Gary Marker which became known as the Safe as Milk Demos, or the Buddah Takes or the Disneyland Demos.
March [?] 1967
Original Sound Studios, Los Angeles, California
Producer: Gary Marker
(Follow links above to hear the songs on Youtube)
The story behind the demos
The band finally left the desert and moved to Los Angeles, to a rented place off Armor Road in Laurel Canyon, in early 1967.
According to John French:
Don spearheaded this move, constantly insisting that we would achieve nothing while “stuck in the desert.” We played a couple of local dances in Lancaster (playing mostly old blues covers) to raise some money for renting a house. We set up the fourth bedroom as our rehearsal room.
Don had been working to getting Gary Marker on board as band manager and producer for their debut album although Gary’s take on it was that it was just an attempt by Don, and to a lesser extent by Bob Krasnow, to get his former Rising Son’s band-mate, 20-year-old whiz kid guitarist Ry Cooder, to join the band. Don loved Cooder’s blues guitar playing style, often trying to bully Doug Moon into playing the same way.
I produced that demo session. See, everybody forgets that. It was upstairs, above Buddah Records at Art Laboe’s Original Sound.
John French again:
A very reluctant Cooder eventually agreed to do the album with the group. As far as the band was concerned, he was hired as a studio musician to finish and ‘tighten up’ all the songs. The band were unaware of all the behind the scene politics. After Cooder had whipped the band into shape on a few of the tunes, a demo session was planned. The New York office was demanding a tape of the band. So time was booked in a studio. The band didn’t realize that this was also to be a testing ground for hope-to-be producer, Gary Marker. Ry didn’t entirely seem pleased by this session; in fact, he seemed downright distressed. His main objection was that it wasn’t ‘blues’. Don had never rehearsed with the band, and Ry seemed visibly displeased with the vocals.
Although Ry Cooder was involved in these recordings Doug Moon was still playing guitar with the band although his days were numbered now that Don had got Ry in his clutches.
I delivered Cooder, got as far as producing the original demo sessions, worked on all the pre-production, scheduled the studio time, blah, blah, blah – and then the day before the first recording session at Sunset Sound, I was given the boot.
The first Safe As Milk session was recorded at Sunset Sound studios in Hollywood in April 1967 with Richard Perry and Bob Krasnow taking over as producers.
An acetate from the Original Sound Studios session has survived, rather incongruously on the ‘Disneyland’ label! Three of the tracks – Sure Nuff ‘n’ Yes I Do, Yellow Brick Road and Plastic Factory – have since circulated among collectors and eventually found their way onto the Grow Fins compilation. These versions are much rawer than the polished album versions and in some ways are better for that, although John French thinks Yellow Brick Road is played too fast.