The neo-psychedelic movement in the 80′s may have seen a boost in sitar use and bands swathed in paisley but there was precious little vinyl that was as truly hallucinogenic and skin crawling as early psychedelia had been. “Yellow Shampoo”, a slab of acid battery drippings caked over a bummer of a bad trip, may have proved the exception.
“Yellow Shampoo”, like all of Mendlessohn’s Brain’s material, was written by Diakon Wilson Neugarten, a/k/a Dean Newgarden, the musical prodigy behind this five piece teen freakrock outfit from Elkhart, Indiana. Newgarden’s parents belonged to one of the more conservative sects of Mennonites which generally shun many of the provocative colors and modern conveniences their son enjoyed writing songs about.
Dean kept his rockstar double-life a secret from his elders for as long as he could but when an independently pressed 45 of the song broke out in northwestern Virginia, they could no longer continue to ignore the requests for interviews scotch-taped to the family’s horse and buggy carriage.
Still a minor, young Dean needed his parents’ consent to sign with the proto-punk Scratch Records in Los Angeles. The Neugarten’s slick Mennonite lawyers entered in a clause in the contract which stipulated that their son’s music could only be sold at agricultural fairs and country stores where Mennonite goods are sold. The agreement proved a disastrous one commercially. Even the DIY punk label was not used to accepting record returns with chicken droppings and hayseeds caked on them but in terms of barn airplay in 1986, no one could touch Mendlessohn’s Brain.
“The rumor that ‘Yellow Shampoo’ was not about Fabergé Organic Shampoo but golden showers didn’t exactly endear the band to MTV”, recalls Newgarden today. “We were yanked off 120 Minutes almost immediately but videos with girls dry humping a Corvette got to stay on”.
Our Mendlessohn’s Brain BONUS B-SIDE OF DUBIOUS DISTINCTION continues the tributes to Hall of Fame songwriters Burt Bacharach and Hal David. “We love Love’s version of ‘My Little Red Book’ and learned to play it from that version,” says Newgarden. “I understand it has way different chords from the Bacharach produced Manfred Mann version heard in the movie What’s New Pussycat. We also shaved about 25 seconds off the song’s running time because we learned it off the 24 Original Happening Hits album that way.”
They really had to truncate a lot of songs to fit 24 on an album. There’s a version of “Wooly Bully” there that ends not long after “one-two-three-quartro!’”