Top 10 The Peanut Butter Conspiracy Songs

Peanut Butter Conspiracy Songs

Feature Photo: KRLA/Beat Publications-page 1, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The top 10 The Peanut Butter Conspiracy songs feature the musical material from the folk meets psychedelic rock group that was founded in Los Angeles, California in 1966. The founders were Alan Brackett, Jim Cherniss, Spencer Dryden, John Merrill, and Barbara “Sandi” Robison. At first, they went with The Young Swingers as a band name before becoming The Ashes, then The Crossing Guards, and finally, The Peanut Butter Conspiracy. During this process, there were lineup changes before it signed up with Columbia Records later in the year. Dryden was out as he replaced Skip Spence as the drummer for Jefferson Airplane. He was replaced by Jim Voigt.

It Happened

The Peanut Butter Conspiracy released its first studio album, The Peanut Butter Conspiracy is Spreading, along with its debut single, “It’s a Happening Thing.” It was a minor hit that slightly broke into the US Billboard Hot 100 at number ninety-three before dropping out into obscurity. When The Peanut Butter Conspiracy went on tour, Bill Wolff replaced Lance Baker Fent as its new guitarist. After this, a second studio album was recorded while still with Columbia’s label. Just like its predecessor, The Great Conspiracy was released in 1967 and it featured the single “Turn On a Friend (to the Good Life).”

It failed to make an appearance on the music charts but the album received mostly positive reviews by the critics. As far as musical content goes, this was The Peanut Butter Conspiracy at its best as a psychedelic rock group that honed in on this sound. What made The Great Conspiracy the best album coming from The Peanut Butter Conspiracy was the musical freedom the debut album lacked. The Peanut Butter Conspiracy is Spreading was more pop-oriented compared to the heavier rock sounds that came from the second album.

The third and final studio album recorded and released by The Peanut Butter Conspiracy was For Children of All Ages. This time, it was with a different label, Challenge Records as the contractual obligations the group had with Columbia were done. This particular recording had a new drummer, Michael Ney Stevens, and a new organist, Ralph Schuckett. Originally, For Children of All Ages was intended to be a side project for Alan Brackett. The majority of the music was composed in 1968 during a touring schedule he had with PBC. The songs were recorded at a studio in Hollywood that won the attention of a producer named Dave Burgess.

This resulted in the desire to polish up the work and bring in a lineup with the hope of turning For Children of All Ages into a hit album that would finally earn The Peanut Butter Factory global recognition as a popular rock band. At the time, the recording wasn’t quite as successful as everyone involved hoped. It did, however, eventually earn a nationwide audience but by this time The Peanut Butter Conspiracy was no more as it was officially disbanded in 1970. While Brackett was focused on what started out as his side project, bandmate John Merrill was seeking to put together another version of Ashes, a band that had folksier roots before The Peanut Butter Conspiracy got its name and psychedelic rock direction it took.

Spreading Out

In addition to recording the music material for three studio albums, The Peanut Butter Conspiracy also performed music for a series of movies that include 2000 Years Later, Angels from Hell, Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, Cherry Harry and Raquel, Hell Ride, and Run Angel Run. The most popular film from this collection was Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, a 1970 flick that was intended to serve as a prequel to the 1967 hit movie Valley of the Dolls. However, the satire and musical melodrama used in the film wound up changing its course to become a standalone movie that served as a parody instead of a prequel. Beyond the Valley of the Dolls also earned a cult following over the stretch of time that would also play a key role in the nationwide recognition of The Peanut Butter Conspiracy, especially for Barbara Robison.

After The Peanut Butter Conspiracy finished its tour in 1970 and the bandmates went their separate ways, the songwriting team of Brackett and Merrill wrote and produced for other musical artists. This includes Randy Meisner of the Eagles fame as he opted to break ties from the band and go solo. In addition to writing for other musicians, Brackett also wrote and performed music for a handful of movies and television shows such as Happy Days, Top Gun, and Witness. As for Robison, she spent eighteen months working for the LA-based musical, Hair.

In 1972, she began working with an American band that named itself Rush (not associated with the Canadian band). Merrill joined her as a member of the band where the two began to work with a pianist named Ivan Jean. Robison and Jean often toured together before her untimely death on April 22, 1988. At forty-two years old, Robison experienced an illness while she was performing in concert in Butte, Montana. Two weeks after this, she perished from toxic shock poisoning while she was treated in a hospital in Billings. In 2014, Brackett put together a CD recording titled Barbara, which served as a tribute to her life and career. The music material on it featured a collection of songs performed by the singer who performed a variety of genres that ranged between folk, pop, and psychedelic sounds.

Oddly enough, while The Peanut Butter Conspiracy enjoyed a career run spanning from 1966 to 1970, there was another group that had the same name for itself. Hailing out of South Africa, it was a group founded in 1968 that featured a mix of psychedelic and soul music that became hits in its nation, as well as Mozambique and Rhodesia. This was by sheer coincidence only as neither version of The Peanut Butter Conspiracy became popular enough to learn about the other during the time frame both bands were active. Between the two, the American version of The Peanut Butter Conspiracy eventually earned a cult following of its own, thanks to the success of Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and the musical influence of Brackett as a contributor to some of the most popular music featured in some of Hollywood’s most popular filmed productions.

What actually made The Peanut Butter Conspiracy stand out was the guitar solos that were performed live in concert and the psychedelic experimentation of sounds that were not nearly as prominent on any of the studio recordings produced by the group. What the fans in Los Angeles were exposed to was a greater version of a rock band the rest of the nation wouldn’t really experience until long after the bandmates of The Peanut Butter Conspiracy went their separate ways. It was among many promising rock groups who seemed to be ahead of their time as recording artists as the executives running the music industry still had too many restrictions in place. In order to truly appreciate the talent pool this band had to offer, listening to the extended versions of the songs that were recorded at three minutes or less would be the way to do it.

Top 10 The Peanut Butter Conspiracy Songs

#10 – Then Came Love

“Then Came Love,” was a song that was part of the tracklist belonging to The Peanut Butter Conspiracy is Spreading. Released in 1967, the charm of this song was the orchestra-style opening before transitioning to the traditional sound of a folksy pop tune that had the roster of The Peanut Butter Conspiracy sing in harmony together. For a traditionally Californian-style folk-pop song that focused on what made the hippy era so memorable, “Then Came Love” served as a wonderful gem.

#9 – Try Again

Written and performed by Alan Brackett, “Try Again” was a song featured on The Peanut Butter Conspiracy’s third studio album, For Children of All Ages. Released in 1969, Barbara Robison sang the lead with a hippy-style vibe that was cut up with psychedelic sound effects. While it may not stand out as a classic fan favorite as a Californian rock gem, it does have a special charm that summed up The Peanut Butter Conspiracy as a band that wasn’t afraid to dabble into different musical styles. As an album, For Children of All Ages was treated like an experiment while the band’s roster continued to develop as musicians.

#8 – What Did I Do Wrong?

“What Did I Do Wrong?” was a song recorded on the album For Children of All Ages. It was a 1969 release that was The Peanut Butter Factory’s third and final studio recording before disbanding in 1970. This was a song that featured Alan Brackett and his bandmates drifting away from psychedelic rock to a bluesy number that ultimately became a favorite among fans who preferred this softer edge to the group’s musical style as rockers. The album was a side project Brackett originally intended for himself but won over enough attention to turn it into a group effort with his bandmates before they went their separate ways.

#7 – Time is After You

Recorded as one of the songs on The Conspiracy Theory tracklist, “Time is After You” was written by Alan Brackett as he and his bandmates fulfilled their contract obligations as The Peanut Butter Conspiracy with Columbia Records in 1967. This was one of many tunes the group recorded that allowed each band member to experiment with psychedelic-based sounds as if they were musicians finally unleashed to do whatever their artistic hearts desired.

As far as single releases go, “Time is After You” was already a regional favorite when it debuted with Vault Records. At the time, The Peanut Butter Conspiracy’s lineup was Brackett, Lance Fent, John Merrill, Barbara “Sandi” Robison, and Jim Voigt and they were known as Ashes. “Time is After You” was a song that dove into the realm of paranoia as a wonderfully dark psychedelic tune designed to hook in the listener during its three-minute run.

#6 – Ecstasy

Much of the music material from The Peanut Butter Conspiracy sounded better live than as a studio recording, especially with its first album, The Peanut Butter Conspiracy is Spreading. It was the first of two 1967 album releases with The Conspiracy Theory becoming the second. From it was “Ecstacy,” one of the few songs performed by Alan Brackett, John Merrill, and Barbara Robison recorded together that enabled them to explore more musical freedom than they experienced when they first signed up with Columbia Records.

“Ecstasy” still sounded better live than as a studio recording but it was one of the highlights of an album that was regarded as the band’s best. Designed as a song to take the listener on a musical trip, part of the song’s charm was the frenzy guitarwork performed by Brackett and Merrill while Robison’s vocals stood out as one of the few leading ladies who performed in a popular rock band at the time.

#5 – Too Many Do

“Too Many Do” was a song from The Great Conspiracy album, the second studio recording from The Peanut Butter Conspiracy. Released in late 1967, this was a group that dove into psychedelic rock with extended tracks Alan Brackett confessed was something he and his fellow bandmates enjoyed. Singing vocals with Brackett was Barbara Robison who was again referred to as Sandi Peanut Butter as part of a publicity gimmick that went with the band’s name.

Also seeming to let loose like never before was John Merrill on lead guitar and Jim Voigt on drums. Brackett’s performance as bass guitarist was also at its best for a song that didn’t receive as much attention as it deserved while The Peanut Butter Conspiracy was still together as a band. “Too Many Do” was a song that made history as one of the first songs played on the radio that wasn’t under three minutes long.

#4 – Pleasure

When The Great Conspiracy was recorded as an album in 1967, The Peanut Butter Conspiracy experimented more heavily with different rock sounds that had a stronger psychedelic feel to the songs than the group’s debut album. It also had Barbara Robison share the role of lead vocalist with Alan Brackett. However, this was not the case with “Pleasure” as her powerful singing voice shone through with enough emotional intensity to make this song an easy fan favorite. The bass performance by Alan Brackett also exemplified why he became so popular in Hollywood as a musical contributor to movies and television after his days with The Peanut Butter Conspiracy were over.

#3 – Dark on You Now

“Dark on You Now” was a single that was featured on The Peanut Butter Conspiracy’s debut album, The Peanut Butter Conspiracy is Spreading. Unlike “It’s a Happening Thing,” it failed to make an impression on any of the US Billboard music charts. It did, however, become a local favorite among the fan base that was growing in Los Angeles, California. When “Dark On You Now” was originally recorded in 1966, the band was called The Ashes and it was a slower version than the 1967 recording as The Peanut Butter Conspiracy.

#2 – It’s a Happening Thing

“It’s a Happening Thing” was the debut single released by The Peanut Butter Factory after just signing up with Columbia Records. On the US Billboard Hot 100, it was a minor hit at number ninety-three. The debut album was The Peanut Butter Conspiracy is Spreading, which featured studio musicians James Burton and Glen Campbell to help boost the band’s sound in the studio. This was a song that embraced the trends of what was culturally referred to as “flower power.” Singing as Sandi Peanut Butter, Barbara Robison shared the vocals and harmonies with Alan Brackett for a song that became a favorite among the Los Angeles fan base right after it was released as a single in 1967.

#1 – You Should Know (live version)

The best version of “You Should Know” was the live performance featured on the compilation album, Spreading the Ashes. With live music recorded between 1966 and 1967, it featured songs from a group that was known as the Ashes as well as The Peanut Butter Conspiracy. As the Ashes, the songs were folksy rock while as The Peanut Butter Conspiracy, it was a heavier focus on psychedelic sounds. The studio album version of “You Should Know” was on The Peanut Butter Conspiracy is Spreading tracklist that was released in 1967 but was limited to just over two minutes as Alan Brackett, John Merrill, and Barbara Robison had to comply with the rules laid out by the record labels at that time.

Songs recorded on albums were not to exceed the three-minute mark. However, these same rules didn’t apply to live recordings and this is where songs like “You Should Know” brought out the best from bands like The Peanut Butter Conspiracy. Spreading the Ashes was an album that was released in 2005 by the Big Beat label before it was digitally rereleased in 2013 by Ace Records. While The Peanut Butter Conspiracy’s brand of rock music may not have won over a nationwide audience as much as it hoped during the late 1960s, it certainly won one as the appreciation of psychedelic music grew to become one of the most popular subgenres of rock music enjoyed today.

Top 10 The Peanut Butter Conspiracy Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023

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