Home Read Albums Of The Week: Betty | Handful

Albums Of The Week: Betty | Handful

If The Doors were a biker boogie band, they would have sounded like these dudes.

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE: “In this impossibly rare 1971 private pressing LP, L.A. rockers Betty lay down who they really are like a breathing snapshot in time.

The performances and mix sound like they were done on the fly, which in the private pressing tradition means the artists are captured unfiltered with diamond-in-the-rough vitality. Their influences are seamlessly integrated into a personality-filled biker-rock roadhouse attack, with discreet echoes of Canned Heat, Steppenwolf and The Doors, with an early ’60s U.K. beat rock curveball tossed in for good measure. That said, they’re not slick enough to compromise their own reality by aping their influences. The musical elements here will be familiar, but the band’s audacious attitude fire this baby up with undiluted excitement. The music feels like real life captured out in the wild rather than created in the studio.

Betty were a working band out of L.A., gigging primarily around Pasadena at the time. An early biker vibe dominates, while post-’60s West Coast moves moderate the more typical hard-drinking-woman-trouble-raising-hell scenarios the genre usually exemplifies. Most of the songs are about women — and despite the cover pic, there’s a genuine sense of appreciation for the ladies here, with little in the way of macho posturing. The guitars keep it tough and the singer’s preposterously ragged confidence hits the bullseye from left field continually. Anthon Davis may be a bit over the top, but it really works. Character to spare.

Betty considsted of main songwriter Davis on guitar and lead vocals, with Mike McMahon on guitar and backing vocals, Kerry Kanbara on bass and backing vocals, and Al Rodriguez on drums and backing vocals. Tom Jordan guests on keyboards and Lee Marks guests on backing vocals. McMahon and Marks also helped with the writing on several tracks.

Only 200 copies of Handful were custom pressed by Thin Man Records in 1971, made to sell at live shows. Betty unleashed an uncompromising serendipitously emergent killer here.


Boogie With You a kicks in with a rugged Grateful Dead shuffle and an outsider misfit vocal approach akin to Ray Harlowe and Gyp Fox in attitude. A tough fuzz-guitar riff backbones the groove while Wild West saloon piano throws some bar band in the twilight zone action into the atmosphere. A briefly recurring Doorsy flash happens when the lyric goes “You’re the best woman that I’ve ever seen, or at least that I’ve had.” The title says succinctly what is on the singer’s mind.

Blind With Shame is the first curveball, an unexpected gear shift into dead ringer ’60s U.K. beat rock vocal harmonies crossed with funkier street-rock and  blues moves. The lead vocal is wonderfully crude and effective. Thick fuzz guitar break contrasts nicely with the retro beat rock flashback. An odd duck that walks just fine.

Just For Fun is a stone killer, stalking dark and dangerous groove, garage intensity, a distant flash and on Foxey Lady with some Blue Cheer sludge. There is a terrific extended guitar solo that is relaxed and acidic, this takes the band into a psychedelic zone. The singer found out the chick he’s been getting it on with has another main dude and she’s just playing around… he really digs her but he is bummed! He loses but we won.

High Rolling-N-The-Freeway is earlier rock ’n’ roll gone sideways enough that it doesn’t come across as terminal oldies retro, it just makes for a glorious mess with a wacko mix, buried drums and detached, rootsy vocal phrasing. High rollin’ on the freeway equals high rollin’ on the lady! Long free is the general message and the track includes an out of left field wah-wah guitar break as a bonus quirk. Familiar but original sounds in these guys hands.

River Bummin grabs immediately as a straight up primitive sieze-the-day minimal Americana chill rocker but also hints at something coming from way further out. It’s a maverick blast of basic primal guitar sound with more Wild West piano moves that gets far out during the break. The attitude here makes the personal need to keep moving resonate universally. This track is unusual enough to transcend genre. Marks did this song in a very different version on the rare folk country freak California LP by Good Dog Banned.


Handful (Of Love) is messed up just right, so basic it’s outrageous, reaching into proto heavy-rock absurdity. Primal sinister on-the-prowl riff unfolds as the central message of the LP is unleashed in a tribal way… take a chance, get yourself a handful of love, you want it, you need it! Brilliant back up vocal arrangement using the song title as the singer goes deep into it.

Thank You has a remarkably primitive mix with gushy organ, buried drums, disorienting vocal harmonies, fuzz grunge and freaky wah-wah action. It’s another song expressing appreciation for his lady. Swirling circular chord change pattern creates a cumulative trance vibe by the end. Plain spoken and heartfelt with even a bit of vulnerability on display.

Learn How To Boogie uses a straight-up classic boogie groove, as always the vocals are raw and real to the point of caricature at times in a good get-down fun way. Singer laments that he can’t dance, sees a little girl, takes a chance and thusly is glad he learned how to boogie. A glimpse into a simpler world. Canned Heat adjacent vibe with some gnarly Henry Vestine moves during the guitar break. No doubt they jammed this one out live!

Harley Perdoo adds to the subtle biker flavor underlying the action through the whole LP. Another menacing stalker riff with tough guitar and ominous organ. Harley is bad news, he needs to feel some pain, no ladies in sight on this track. Remarkably unhinged guitar break goes sideways into almost arty noise territory, almost off the tracks but more interesting because of its misfire qualities. One of those terrific quirks you find on private pressing LPs that would have been removed as “incorrect” as soon as these guys got further up the food chain.

Lights Gonna Shine is another curveball. Another reason music sounds naturally more personal in the rule free zone of private pressings… you can have nine hard-rocking apples in a row and one peculiar orange to wrap things up. Davis hands the mic over to McMahon and the music mellows with acoustic guitar, delicate lounge prog drama and an off-the-wall, haphazard singer-songwriter vocal style. A funny way to end the ride but it works!”