“That Acapulco Gold” — The Rainy Daze
Yes, folks… DJ MJD is back! Today is April 20th (4/20), so I have selected a suitable song in honor of this very special date.
For those who may not be familiar with the term, 4/20 (also written 420 or 4:20 and pronounced “four twenty”) is a coded reference to the consumption of cannabis. There are various stories about how 420 came to have this meaning. Wikipedia says it was originated in 1971 by a group of students at San Rafael High School in Marin County, California.1 Sure, why not? April 20th (4/20) has become a sort of counter-culture holiday, notoriously celebrated at—where else?—my dear old alma mater, UC Santa Cruz.2
So, to commemorate 4/20, the song I chose for this post is “That Acapulco Gold” by The Rainy Daze.
According to AllMusic, The Rainy Daze formed in Denver, Colorado in 1965.3 I’d always thought the group’s name was inspired by the Bob Dylan song “Rainy Day Women #12 and 35”4 (much better known to the general public as “Ev’rybody Must Get Stoned”). However, Dylan’s song was released in April of 1966, so apparently—if AllMusic is correct—that is not the case.
Originally, The Rainy Daze mainly played blue-eyed covers of soul tunes like “Baby I Need Your Loving” and “Knock on Wood”…
“…parlaying a string of frat party gigs into a local television appearance that reportedly caught the attention of famed producer Phil Spector, who extended a management contract. A massive publicity campaign was in the planning stages when the spectacular failure of his magnum opus, Ike & Tina Turner’s ‘River Deep, Mountain High,’ left Spector’s career in shambles; the Rainy Daze were among the collateral damage… ”5
Tim Gilbert, the band’s singer and guitarist, co-wrote “That Acapulco Gold” with his college roommate, John Carter. The Rainy Daze released it as their first single in 1967 on the tiny IP label. Then, Denver-area producer Frank Slay bought the rights and released it on his Chicory label. It became a local hit, which in turn led to the UNI label purchasing the national distribution rights. It reached #70 on the Billboard charts before the management of radio stations discovered just what “Acapulco Gold” was. As an article in an April 1967 issue of Billboard magazine said, it “caused consternation in some quarters when it was learned the term referred to marijuana.”6
Well, I think it’s time to cause consternation in some quarters… let’s fire up “That Acapulco Gold.”
Not exactly “psychedelic” sounding, is it? In the mid-1960’s, while much of rock was becoming more avant-garde, there was a minor counter-trend: a resurrection of vaudeville- (American term) or music hall- (British term) style songs. The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band embodied both directions, with the Indian-influenced “Within You Without You” being immediately followed by “When I’m 64.” The best-selling example of this faux nostalgia was “Winchester Cathedral” by The New Vaudeville Band, which reached #1 on the charts in December 1966. Trading blue-eyed soul for red-eyed schmaltz, The Rainy Daze mashed-up the old-timey musical approach with lyrics dosed with 60’s reefer-related references (e.g., keys, bricks, zig-zag, and matchbox). And, of course, the title referred to one of the earliest “brand name” types of weed.
The song was quickly removed from radio playlists. While The Rainy Daze never had another hit, Tim Gilbert and John Carter soon went on to write “Incense and Peppermints” for Strawberry Alarm Clock (really!).7
There is a cover version of “That Acapulco Gold,” recorded by a group called Big Sonny and the Lo Boys on their 1979 album, In Heat. This El Paso-area bar band featured founding member of The Mothers of Invention, Jimmy Carl Black,8 on drums and vocals. They play the song faster than the original—which probably inspired some exuberant two-stepping by the patrons in West Texas roadhouses.
So… Happy 4/20. “Acapulco Gold for ev’ryone!”
[NOTE: Stay tuned for my April 20, 2013 post on “Don’t Bogart Me” and my April 20, 2014 post featuring 420 Snoop Dogg songs about smoking pot, with hologram cameos by Tupac Shakur and Louis Armstrong.]
- Jason Ankeny, http://www.allmusic.com/artist/rainy-daze-p20053
- For a hilarious account of the recording of “Rainy Day Women #12 and 35,” check out pages 203-204 of Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan by Howard Sounes (Grove Press, 2001).
Fun Fact: 12 x 35 = 420 (oh wow, man!)
- “…he (Black) achieved lasting fame primarily for a single ad-libbed line on the third album by the Mothers of Invention: ‘Hi boys and girls, I’m Jimmy Carl Black and I’m the Indian of the group.’”
Eugene Chadbourne, http://www.allmusic.com/artist/jimmy-carl-black-p15857