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Bart Mendoza revisits the late ’60s with new EP

Unrequited, creepy, sad, and obscure

Bart Mendoza (center): picking up the musical pieces and seeing what fits together.
Bart Mendoza (center): picking up the musical pieces and seeing what fits together.

“Happy Together,” performed by the Turtles, came out on Valentine’s Day 1967, and hit number one on the Billboard charts on March 25. Though it’s often covered and enshrined in film, nobody seems to notice that it’s about unrequited love: the singer meeting the object of his desire only in his imagination. But the song’s stalker underpinnings didn’t keep Bart Mendoza, veteran of several local bands, from essaying the tune on his new EP 66/68, released via local Pacific Records and European label Snap!! Records.

Bart Mendoza’s 66/68 EP

Besides the Turtles tune, 66/68 also features two other big hits from that era; Bobby’s Hebb’s “Sunny,” a well-crafted yet creepy ode to newfound love, and “Different Drum” by Linda Ronstadt with her old band the Stone Poneys (written by the late Michael Nesmith), a sweetly sad rejection of monogamy. The one relative obscurity is “Beechwood Park” by the Zombies, from their cult album Odessey and Oracle, with its sweet summoning of a place, and a lover, who may or may not have existed in the first place.

“I’m in the midst of an overhaul of my archives,” explains Mendoza. “Apparently, over the past four decades, lots of projects got sidelined for reasons ranging from lack of funds to lack of time. Much unreleased music has turned up ,and I figured we might as well do something with it, otherwise it will all eventually be lost, just another pile of tapes in somebody’s closet before that final trip to the curb. These four tracks fit together thematically, so it made sense. The common thread is my vocals. Pacific Records’ enthusiasm when they heard the songs was encouraging, [and] having them put together such a nice package, especially with Michael Buchmiller’s artwork, [that] sealed the deal.”

Each song was left over from a project which fell apart. “I’m really not sure why they didn’t happen, but ‘Different Drum’ was for a Mike Nesmith tribute album. Had it ever been released, ‘Happy Together’ probably would have been a Mission: To Mars* [one of Mendoza’s old bands] album bonus track. Both ‘Beechwood Park’ and ‘Sunny’ are from an EP project with Normandie Wilson & The Joyelles.”

Mendoza grew up in southeast San Diego and, in addition to Mission: To Mars*, he’s played with mod band Manual Scan, jangly power pop rockers The Shambles, and True Stories, whose music is inspired by the end of the ‘60s and dawn of the ‘70s. He picked this EP’s songs from his own formative listening. “Except for ‘Beechwood Park,’ these are tunes that were huge international hits. I recall hearing them on the radio as well as family trips to Tijuana. These songs were everywhere, playing in shops, blasting out of car stereos, and on various TV shows.”

Musical immersion had a lot to do with setting his sights on a career. “I loved Top 40 AM radio from the moment I discovered a transistor radio at home. Keep in mind this was pre-FM boom. My mom and grandfather both played guitar, so that was a big influence. Music has been my life’s obsession as far back as I can remember. Wanting to be an actual musician? It’s The Beatles. I knew all the hits, but I think I can trace the moment back to a 1972 Saturday afternoon Bowling for Dollars screening of A Hard Day’s Night. My parents had gone out for a bit, and I was watching my siblings. Mom put the movie on and said, ‘You’ll like this.’ By the time it got to the concert scene at the end, I knew what I was going to be doing with my life.”

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Bart Mendoza (center): picking up the musical pieces and seeing what fits together.
Bart Mendoza (center): picking up the musical pieces and seeing what fits together.

“Happy Together,” performed by the Turtles, came out on Valentine’s Day 1967, and hit number one on the Billboard charts on March 25. Though it’s often covered and enshrined in film, nobody seems to notice that it’s about unrequited love: the singer meeting the object of his desire only in his imagination. But the song’s stalker underpinnings didn’t keep Bart Mendoza, veteran of several local bands, from essaying the tune on his new EP 66/68, released via local Pacific Records and European label Snap!! Records.

Bart Mendoza’s 66/68 EP

Besides the Turtles tune, 66/68 also features two other big hits from that era; Bobby’s Hebb’s “Sunny,” a well-crafted yet creepy ode to newfound love, and “Different Drum” by Linda Ronstadt with her old band the Stone Poneys (written by the late Michael Nesmith), a sweetly sad rejection of monogamy. The one relative obscurity is “Beechwood Park” by the Zombies, from their cult album Odessey and Oracle, with its sweet summoning of a place, and a lover, who may or may not have existed in the first place.

“I’m in the midst of an overhaul of my archives,” explains Mendoza. “Apparently, over the past four decades, lots of projects got sidelined for reasons ranging from lack of funds to lack of time. Much unreleased music has turned up ,and I figured we might as well do something with it, otherwise it will all eventually be lost, just another pile of tapes in somebody’s closet before that final trip to the curb. These four tracks fit together thematically, so it made sense. The common thread is my vocals. Pacific Records’ enthusiasm when they heard the songs was encouraging, [and] having them put together such a nice package, especially with Michael Buchmiller’s artwork, [that] sealed the deal.”

Each song was left over from a project which fell apart. “I’m really not sure why they didn’t happen, but ‘Different Drum’ was for a Mike Nesmith tribute album. Had it ever been released, ‘Happy Together’ probably would have been a Mission: To Mars* [one of Mendoza’s old bands] album bonus track. Both ‘Beechwood Park’ and ‘Sunny’ are from an EP project with Normandie Wilson & The Joyelles.”

Mendoza grew up in southeast San Diego and, in addition to Mission: To Mars*, he’s played with mod band Manual Scan, jangly power pop rockers The Shambles, and True Stories, whose music is inspired by the end of the ‘60s and dawn of the ‘70s. He picked this EP’s songs from his own formative listening. “Except for ‘Beechwood Park,’ these are tunes that were huge international hits. I recall hearing them on the radio as well as family trips to Tijuana. These songs were everywhere, playing in shops, blasting out of car stereos, and on various TV shows.”

Musical immersion had a lot to do with setting his sights on a career. “I loved Top 40 AM radio from the moment I discovered a transistor radio at home. Keep in mind this was pre-FM boom. My mom and grandfather both played guitar, so that was a big influence. Music has been my life’s obsession as far back as I can remember. Wanting to be an actual musician? It’s The Beatles. I knew all the hits, but I think I can trace the moment back to a 1972 Saturday afternoon Bowling for Dollars screening of A Hard Day’s Night. My parents had gone out for a bit, and I was watching my siblings. Mom put the movie on and said, ‘You’ll like this.’ By the time it got to the concert scene at the end, I knew what I was going to be doing with my life.”

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