Inextricably linked with the Chocolate Watchband -- by virtue of a dizzying personnel swap in November 1965 -- the Otherside are today far less known than their sister group, but were no less talented. the Otherside evolved from the Topsiders, a surf combo formed at Fremont, CA's Washington High School in 1964. The quartet included Jim Sawyers (lead guitar), Ken "Toad" Matthew (drums, vocals), Tom Antone (bass), and David Tolby (born David Phelps; second lead guitar). This lineup's high-water mark was a mid-1965 appearance at a KLIV Battle of the Bands at San Jose's Civic Auditorium. Joined briefly by rhythm guitarist Skip Spence, the Topsiders -- upon Spence's departure -- adopted a new handle. Spence, drafted to drum for the Jefferson Airplane, gave Sawyers and company the alternate moniker that the Airplane had rejected.
Thus was the Otherside born, and the band began a whirlwind series of personnel shifts. Citing personal differences with Tolby, Sawyers -- after a final show at the Oakland Civic Auditorium -- accepted the Vejtables' offer to replace Reese Sheets. Enter Edward Johnston "Ned" Torney III, lead axe of the Chocolate Watchband. Torney, whose keyboard and string-bending skills had been honed through an impressive succession of apprenticeships -- including stints with future Remains member Barry Tashian and East Coast surf instrumentalists the Roadrunners -- had already been asked to join the Otherside at an earlier November gig where both bands had played. Torney decided to jump ship and take Sawyers' place. His defection temporarily slew the Watchband, whose phoenix soon rose again from the ashes with Tolby (now calling himself Sean) in tow. Meanwhile, original Watchbanders Jo Kemling (keyboards) and Danny Phay (vocals) followed Torney and joined the remaining two Othersiders: Matthew and Antone.
The new Otherside, runners-up at a KEWB-sponsored Battle of the Bands at the Oakland Civic Auditorium in late November 1965, gained the endorsement of radio DJ Johnny G, and the band began drawing huge crowds. Stylistically, they emulated the British Invasion groups the Rolling Stones, Beatles, Animals, Yardbirds, and perhaps most notably, the Who. From January to May 1966, however, Torney -- drafted and stationed at Letterman Army Hospital in San Francisco -- was merely a weekend participant. To help fill his shoes, Martin Van Slyke Battey (harmonica, guitar, vocals) came aboard. At this juncture, the Otherside shared billing with the pre-CreedenceGolliwogs at the Brass Rail. Torney's return in May 1966 made the quintet top-heavy and rendered Kemling superfluous. His departure was soon followed by that of Phay. Guitarist Alan Graham -- pilfered from the Lord Jim Quintet -- was recruited to assist on vocals. It was this lineup of the Otherside that cut the group's sole recording, the single "Walking Down the Road" b/w "Streetcar" (Brent 7061, December 1966). "Road," a turbo-charged remake of an old Kingston Trio tune, features a jangly, dissonant bridge -- conjuring images of a Keystone Kops paddywagon on acid.
"Streetcar," a Who-inspired Battey/Graham original, had an intriguingly psilocybic middle eight as well, and compared favorably with Townshend's best efforts on the My Generation LP. The session was engineered by Bones Howe at Hollywood's Sunset Recorders. A third Otherside original, believed lost, was also cut. "Road" and "Streetcar" subsequently appeared on the various artists' compilation A Pot of Flowers (Mainstream S-6100; 1967 -- reissued in the 1980s as part of Mindrocker, Vol. 10) and Sound of the Sixties: San Francisco, Pt. 2. Separately, "Streetca" showed up on Boulders, Vol. 2 and "Road" on The '60s Choice, Vol. 2. With the arrival of Antone's draft notice -- and Battey's departure -- the Otherside took in bassist Wayne Paulsen and rechristened themselves Bogus Thunder. The tumultuous saga of the Otherside is chronicled in Alec Palao and Judd Cost's Cream Puff War magazine (number two, February 1993; Santa Clara, CA). ~ Stansted Montfichet