A garage band from Fremont, CA, the Harbinger Complex are best remembered for their 1966 fuzz-punk classic "I Think I'm Down" (Brent 7056). The quintet centered on lead vocalist Jim Hockstaff and his songwriting partner B. Hoyle III. Hockstaff's Dionysian exploits -- the siring of several love children -- got him banned from Fremont's Washington High, yet his musicianship inspired student Jim Sawyers (later of the Topsiders, Otherside, Vejtables, and the Syndicate of Sound -- to hone his own nascent guitar skills. The Baytovens and the Harbinger Complex backed Paul Revere & the Raiders at an Oakland Auditorium concert in April 1966, and both headlined again at a KRFC-sponsored gig at the College of San Mateo on October 15. The Complex's publicity shot for this pair of performances shows Hockstaff sitting astride a barnyard mule, microphone in hand, looking like a half-crocked itinerant preacher, surrounded by his four bandmates. The accompanying blurb -- a load of pretentious, pseudo-psychedelic codswollop -- reads thus: "Five muddy bodies lie upon a desolate street. Sudden inspiration doth lendse [sic] them well. A Harbinger beckons them. Ominous groans -- the anguished sounds of dying animals. Courageous lads, they set forth on a one-way trip. Neglect not your surging blood, pounding pulse, throbbing limbs! Five naked souls untamed, uninhibited, crawl into your head. Walk inside your mind, filling your body with an unknown substance...You have experienced the Harbinger Complex." Kerouac, it ain't.
The Hockstaff/Hoyle composition "I Think I'm Down" is kick-a** proto-punk at its finest. Its folksy flipside, "My Dear and Kind Sir," is a genteel slice of 19th century Americana -- the Harbinger Complex equivalent of the Byrds' "Oh! Susannah." Another 1966 single effort by the group, "Sometimes I Wonder" b/w "Tomorrow's Soul Sound" (Amber 8999), lacked the confident punch of the Brent 45's A-side. In 1967, Mainstream Records (which owned subsidiary Brent) released a various artist's compilation album titled A Pot of Flowers which featured both sides of the Brent single and two new Hockstaff-Hoyle tunes ("Time to Kill" and "When You Know You're in Love"). "Kill," with its Vietnam double entendre, is somewhat pedestrian, while "Love" is sparkling, syncopated, and snappy. A Pot of Flowers (Mainstream S-6100) was reissued in the '80s as part of Mindrocker, Vol. 10. "I Think I'm Down" has also appeared on the compilations Nuggets, Vol. 12: Punk, Pt. 3, Sound of the Sixties: San Francisco, Pt. 2 (with its flipside, "My Dear and Kind Sir"), and Rhino's four-CD box set: Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era, 1965-1968. ~ Stansted Montfichet