B.Born in Ohio in 1922, James Edward Baker had a colorful life as an adult. He shot down his 13 Japanese fighter planes in World War II. He auditioned for the role of Tarzan in a Hollywood movie. He murdered a man using judo in 1955 and another in 1963 and was convicted of manslaughter. I was. He has robbed anywhere from his 2 to 11 banks. He became a successful restaurateur and pioneer of vegetarian dining with clients such as John Lennon, Joni Mitchell and Marlon Brando. And in his early ’70s, he founded Utopia his cult in his Hills of Hollywood and reinvented himself as Supreme Father Yod. Almost out of necessity, in 1973 he started his extreme psychedelic rock band Ya Ho Wha 13.
This month, US label Sacred Bones will release Family: The Source Family Scrapbook, a new compilation of highlights from the band’s archives, in honor of Father Yodo’s 100th birthday. He died in a hang-gliding accident in Hawaii in 1975 after jumping off a 400-meter (1,300-foot) cliff, but had no experience in air sports.
In the early 70’s, Father Yod was active among West Coast hippie maniacs. Financially stable thanks to various achievements and investments, he became a disciple of Kundalini Yoga in the late 60’s and decided to become a spiritual leader himself. His philosophy was inspired by the teachings of his bhajans, his former mentor Yogi, and the texts of Eugene Fersen and Jiddu Krishnamurti, blending Eastern religions with Western esotericism. He bought a purple Rolls-Royce, modeled after Michelangelo’s depiction of God the Father, and established a commune based in the Georgian-style mansion of Los Ferris. There, he lived as a leader of up to 140 followers, ritualistically smoked “sacred herbs” (marijuana) and performed tantric his sex with young women. (Years later, one of his ex-wives, Robin, called him a “dirty old man on a journey of desire.”) This is the Source Family (aka Source of the Brotherhood) When its members started jamming, Yod’s father began to see music as a vehicle for his teaching.
“It was music that enlightened him to embark on a spiritual journey,” says source family archivist and documentary author Isis Aquarian. She cites the Moody Blues and Jethro Tull as his main inspirations. Music is an outlet to “connect with young people,” she says, aiming to “promote spirituality for the planet and help improve all of humanity.”
After the family moved to Nichols Canyon in 1973, Father Yod received $30,000 from a Hungarian Holocaust survivor named Damascus. The money was to start a new business, his healthy ice cream parlor. But instead, Father Yod spent it on instruments and built a studio in his garage. (“Damascus was very upset,” says the Aquarian.) So Father Yod and the Spirit of 76 (later renamed Ya Ho Wah 13) made all subsequent music purely improvisational. Following the decision) recorded approximately 60 albums worth of material. Between 3:00 and 6:00 in the morning.
A new compilation from Sacred Bones captures the band’s rough sound. There are genuinely decent singer-his-songwriter numbers by the more traditional Spirit of 76 band (the Dylan-esque honky-tonk ballad “Already”), but Father Yod seems to be lacking in these. When I hear him, it’s Ya Ho Wha, which consists of eerie drumrolls (The Great Woe), made-up words and growls (I’m Gonna Take You Home), and his 10-minute freakout. You’ll find it in 13 wild jams. -Age Distortion (Ya Ho Wha).
Although they were rejected by every major label they approached, they self-pressed nine LPs and sold them from the back of Father Yod’s very popular Sunset Strip vegetarian restaurant, The Source. They performed all over Los Angeles, from Venice Beach to high schools in Beverly Hills, but struggled to maintain a large following. “I don’t think he was what you would call a musician or a singer,” Aquarian says. Despite what a striking and wild photo of him wailing in a double-necked Rickenbacker suggests, Father Yod mostly beats a kettledrum or a meter-wide gong to accompany the band’s marathon performances. led chants along. One newspaper review described it as looking “out of place” at the famous rock venue Whiskey a Go Go and suggested Disneyland would be a better fit.
The music “wasn’t what it was at the time,” says Aquarian. But today his original LP is trading for thousands of pounds online. Jodi Wille, co-author of The Source Family Scrapbook and co-director of the 2012 feature-length documentary The Source Family, explains that early recognition was on the rise from the ’80s. Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore, actor and musician Vincent He Gallo, and Super His producer Rick Rubin are fans. “Music is polarizing,” she says. “Some people don’t think it’s worth listening to. But it also has a primitive, punk quality to it.”