The Quiet American
Aside from the scant notations on the reissues of the Relatively Clean Rivers and The Beat of the Earth LPs, there’s very little info about their creator, outré California musician Phil Pearlman. Starting off with surf/car tunes in the early ‘60s (Phil and the Flakes), by ’66 Pearlman—decidedly more “earthy, unpretentious, [and] ‘organic’” than the average beach dweller—was staging light shows, happenings, and concerts at a seedy bar near the Balboa pier in Newport Beach. As an art student at the newly established UC Irvine, he decided to record a free-form record as an “artistic statement.” The result was a pretty far-out student project, an album by his own loose-knit group, The Beat of the Earth. The record featured two side-long tracks of communal jamming, not unlike the first couple Amon Düül records (which this pre-dated by at least two years). On the rear of the jacket, Pearlman warned, “If you are looking for psychedelic music, do not buy this record unless you are looking for psychedelic music.” In Patrick Lundborg’s
interview with Karen Darby, who played alongside Pearlman in The Beat of the Earth, she states the group’s name came from sounds she heard emanating from Griffith Park Love-Ins. “All these small groups of musicians playing guitars, tambourines, flutes, auto-harps, bongos, anything that made sound, all simultaneously, created a type of orderly orchestral sound. The combined beats were primitive, primal, the beat of the earth.” Karen describes the band’s creative process as “unstructured, Stream of Consciousness, riffs and rhythms, celebration of each individual musician by allowingspontaneous expression based on group-orchestrated effort, without orchestrated (written) music.” Or as Phil said, “I don’t know man, let’s just let it happen.”
Another Pearlman LP, called The Electronic Hole, emerged in 1970, this time with a more Velvet Underground/Mothers of Invention sort of vibe. Both are integral parts of the Southern California (and specifically Orange County) musical and cultural journey. In 1976 Pearlman, by then having moved to a rustic East County farm, finished up another project, the Relatively Clean Rivers album. An unbelievable tripped-out slice of rural rock, the LP gives off the same laid-back nature vibe as vintage-era Dead, Mountain Bus, or the Wizards From Kansas, all with an important ecology message. Since then the most anyone’s heard about Pearlman is when his son Adam (above) showed up on video as an “Al Qaeda spokesman,” holding an automatic rifle and calling himself “Azzam the American.” “Adam was a very typical teenager,” said his aunt, Nancy Pearlman.