Tuesday, 18 June 2013

The Source Family

Like many other anoraks, I first encountered this lot through the albums and re-releases credited to all sorts of strange outfits (Ya Ho Wa 13, Father Yod and the Spirit of '76, etc) which had been crossing my path since the end of the '70's. Whatever the title we appeared to have discovered the greatest Psych Rock outfit of all time, but all there ever seemed to be was a picture of this fellow in the picture above...often sans clothes...often with gorgeous hippie ladies....
Pre-internet, the story behind the incredible music had to be pieced together via rumours and mis-information. There seemed to be a Californian sex-cult in the early 70's, with this dude leading them via a very successful restaurant in Los Angeles and this killer band.
Well the whole story is simply jaw-dropping. I am not going to tell you any of it in detail because this film-length documentary does that so well. If, like me, you thought you knew the whole tale, then you might be mistaken. If you don't know the story then this film is going to blow you away. Even without The Source Family, Jim Baker's life was amazing. Add to that his late 'flowering' as Father Yod and you've got one of the greatest stories in rock - wiping the floor with counter-cultural minnows like M J*gg*r for instance.
So we are dealing with a cult situation in California commencing about 1970. Loads of money; hippie ideals; gorgeous ladies; one of the greatest bands (for me) ever; 70's upheavals; straights and squares; Californian naivety; far far less drug taking than you would expect; and a bit of revolution.
What makes this film is the lady on the left in that picture. She is Isis Aquarian, and Jim gave her the task of documenting, diarising, photographing and filming everything. What also makes it is that the members are all still around and fine, or at worse getting by. So, they are able to tell the story (there's no narrator - this whole tale is told by the participants), and as they do so you can watch every event they talk about - Isis has film or photos of every one. There are even sound-recordings of conversations referred too, and one particularly dramatic event. I can't recall a documentary on subjects like these which has such a thorough archive to draw on.
 No-one holds back about the bad times or the good times. Even Jim doesn't/didn't. This is not a hagiography.
The film isn't about the band. I think that was a good call. It's about the people involved within and around The Source Family. A central theme is a young lady who was (maybe still is) very much in love and had her heart broken. Another is problems with post-war fathers in America...and a bit with men generally...and power...and redemption...and ageing...fatigue and failure...spectacular success...and beards (hooray)!
The band cut 67 albums in about 4-5 years. All of the music in the film is from the band or the cult-members and is uniformly fantastic, although you've probably noticed I am somewhat biased in this regard!
Cannot recommend this one enough. It's gonna go down as one of the great films for people fascinated by culture; counter-cultures; cult-culture..well you get the picture. Sorry if this is a bit rushed but I have literally bashed out these thoughts straight after watching the DVD (which was released yesterday by the way)

The Toby Mearing Radio Show 17th June 2013 by Toby Mearing on Mixcloud