Their third single release, "Searchin' for the Good Times," marked the beginning of an uncomfortable departure for the group. Specifically, the production/management staff sought to squeeze the Pandas natural raw, live sound into what the media was now coining the Bosstown Sound or, "The San Francisco of the East." The result, "Searchin' for the Good Times," was a densely produced record, with horns, snapping whips, and a vaguely psychedelic 'Arabian' fuzz guitar snippet. Al Lawrence laid down the lead vocal track, while the Tokens (of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" fame) - with Teddy as the only 'token' Panda - sang backup. It simply was not representative of the real Teddy & The Pandas sound. The B-side, "Sunnyside Up," on the other hand, did more accurately reflect the Pandas' live sound.In it, a cleanly produced Teddy Dewart/Billy Corelle composition followed the three-chord uptempo rock pattern that had made them a legend at the start of their career. Teddy & The Pandas final single, "The Lovelight" - with its rhythm and blues feel, tough vocals, and nasty guitar riffs - also projected the Pandas at their natural best.
Yet, the concept of a new
"Bosstown Sound" continued to excite record company executives,
resulting in their scurrying throughout the East, looking for their piece
of the "next big thing." While ultimately it became evident that
"Bosstown Sound" was a meaningless phrase, at the time it
generated recording contracts for countless bands. In the midst of this
sudden interest, the Pandas began shopping around for a new label. Capitol
Records had wanted the Pandas to do an album but, with only a few original
songs, they signed the group and added several writers to help finish the
project. Unfortunately the team that put the Teddy and the Pandas' album
together had recently completed another album, "The Cambridge Concept
of Timothy Clover." It was another so-called "Bosstown
Sound" album for Tower Records. But, the Timothy Clover album, a mild
mix of pop and psychedelia, had stiffed on the charts. Yet, the production
pushed ahead, and saddled the Pandas' album with the same pop/psychedelic
blend. "That really was not our sound," says Pandas drummer
Jerry Labrecque. "Our sound was straight rock and roll, with a real
emphasis on tight rhythm between drums, bass, and guitar. But that was an
era when music was changing, "Labrecque says. "They tried a few
Beatle tricks, using tape echo, tape reversal, and adding things that
never really worked for us." Lead singer, Al Lawrence, was also
dissatisfied. "Because of poor production, we were one of those
groups that was always better live than in the studio," he says.
"Somebody always told us what to do and it would be terrible, It
didn't work. But under the terms of the contract, they had the veto power,
and we simply did as they said. I think that if we had produced our own
records from the start, we would have had far more success."
In 1967, The Pandas released "Basic Magnetism," an album containing ten songs. Bobby Weinstein, a Capitol Records songwriter/arranger (who had himself written "Going Out Of My Head" and "I'm On the Outside Looking In" for Little Anthony and The Imperials), contributed two songs, and assisted with the arrangements. Lenny Petze co-wrote three of the tunes (Petze later made a name for himself as Cyndi Lauper's executive producer.). Finally, The Pandas wrote only three songs for their only album. Teddy Dewart and Billy Corelle composed "Running from Love," a rocker that most closely approximated the real Pandas sound. Like "Searchin' for the Good Times," "Raspberry Salesman," a Teddy Dewart/Billy Corelle/Al Lawrence/Bruce Patch endeavor, had all the earmarks of forced psychedelia.
Though Teddy Dewart had left the Pandas to pursue a doctorate in psychology prior to the album sessions in 1967, he did contribute significantly to them. Billy Corelle points out that, while the liner notes list him simply as "guest artist," Teddy was present throughout and did a lot of work on the album. "His replacement, Paul Rivers, had studied at the Berkeley School of Music and played blues, jazz, and rock. Paul did all the leads, but Teddy did a lot of the guitar backups. He also did some vocals and played keyboard." In fact, one of the cuts, "At the Debutantes' Ball," represented one minute plus of pure filler, but has an interesting tale behind it. "They wanted one more thing on that side," says Billy Corelle, "only it had to be short. Teddy came up with this thing. When Teddy was in the band, we used to do a lot of debutante coming-out parties with The Lester Lanin Orchestra. Teddy got this idea about a debutante ball spoof." Symbolically, Teddy's last sound on the track was a 'raspberry' ... perhaps indicative of the group's sense of utter disappointment with their management/production team's lack of connection to their real sound. The Pandas belonged to an earlier, post-Beatles, rock and roll, and rhythm and blues scene. Thus, the psychedelic pop of "Basic Magnetism" bore little resemblance to the band's true style. It is ironic that the Pandas only album, a reflection of their management's response to the "Bosstown" hype, should have miscast them so effectively.
The Teddy & The Pandas legacy lasted all of 5 years, yet left a mark on the '60's New England music scene that few can rival. On October 7, 1983, after nearly 15 years apart, all five Pandas gathered for a special reunion show where they had begun, in Danvers, Massachusetts. They drew an overflow crowd, and were asked back for still another sold-out show the following spring. That was to be the last performance for one of New England's most important rock and roll bands. As the history books say, it was the end of an era.
Or was it?