Best remembered for their 1968 hit single "I Love You," the San Jose, California-based rock band People! was also an early vehicle for singer,
guitarist, and songwriter Larry Norman, who would later become a pivotal figure in Christian rock. People! was formed in 1965 by guitarist Geoff Levin; the initial lineup also featured bassist Robb Levin, keyboard player Albert Ribisi, drummer John Riolo, and singer and guitarist David Anderson. When he formed the group, Geoff Levin was a student at San Jose State University and giving guitar lessons in his spare time; one of his students was Mike Hunter, a disc jockey and program director at a popular local radio station, KLIV-AM, and Geoff persuaded Mike to become the group's manager. After Hunter came aboard, Anderson left the group and two singer-guitarists joined, Larry Norman and Gene Mason, with the intention of giving the band a more dynamic appearance on-stage; the band also added drummer Denny Fridkin after Riolo left to focus on his education. Combining elements of pop, folk-rock, and psychedelia, People! earned a loyal following on the California rock scene, headlining at a variety of venues and opening for the Who, the Doors, the Dave Clark Five, and Paul Revere & the Raiders. In 1967, People! scored a deal with Capitol Records; their debut single, "Organ Grinder" b/w "Riding High," attracted little interest, but the follow-up, a cover of the Zombies' "I Love You" with "Somebody Tell Me My Name" on the flipside, slowly became a hit in the United States, rising to number 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the spring of 1968, and a major chart success in Japan, Australia, Israel, and Italy. In response to the single's success, People! began work on an album, but just as the I Love You album was being released, Norman, who sang lead on the hit, left the group; Norman would later claim that Capitol made changes to the album without his permission (this has been dismissed by many people close to the group) and that the core members of the band had joined the Church of Scientology and were pressuring him to follow their lead (several members of the band did embrace Scientology, and are still involved with the church). Despite Norman's absence, People! continued, recording a second album for Capitol, Both Sides of People, in 1969, and in 1970, the group signed with Paramount Records for a third LP, There Are People and There Are People. A number of musicians drifted in and out of the band following their departure from Capitol, and in 1971, People! broke up. In 1974, Larry Norman and Gene Mason staged a People! reunion as a benefit for the Israeli Fund, though they were the only original members of the group to take part; the performance was later released as a live album by Norman's label Solid Rock Records, as was a 2006 People! performance in Oregon featuring Norman, Mason, and Denny Fridkin. In the fall of 2007, People! were inducted into the San Jose Rock Hall of Fame, and for the occasion, Norman, Mason, Fridkin, Ribisi, Riolo, Geoff Levin, and Robb Levin reunited for a short concert. It was one of Norman's final public performances; he died four months later.
I Love You (1968)
The title track's cover of Zombies member Chris White's fabulous song "I Love You" went Top 15 in the spring and summer of 1968. The anomaly that drifts in from seemingly out of nowhere, this causes one to wonder why bands who have success with someone else's music do not try reinventing other tunes. As Tommy James' composition "Tighter Tighter" for Alive 'N Kickin', Stan Vincent's "O-o-h Child" for the Stairsteps, and producer Paul Leka's visionary "Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye for Steam identified those bands, all three acts failed to follow up their radio play majesty with another magical arrangement of a great tune. In the case of Alive 'N Kickin', it's a poor album of filler to round out a sublime 45 RPM. People needed to craft an album of songs as beautifully arranged and performed as the title track here, and they failed to do so. Thirteen minutes and 25 seconds of "The Epic" is all that is on side two, and it is a major-league rip-off. At least Iron Butterfly made their signature song, "In a Gadda Da Vida," interesting by dragging it across most of an LP side, and an extended "I Love You" would have made this album a classic. Instead, there are competent but boring exercises like "1,000 Years B.C.," "Crying Shoes," the born-again-tinged "What We Need Is a Lot More Jesus and a Lot Less Rock & Roll," and "Nothing Can Stop the Elephants." Nothing can help this album, actually, except for the marvelous hit single. It's not as bad as the Alive 'N Kickin' disc, but it isn't as good as an album by Gary Lewis with no hit singles, like his New Directions disc, for example. And what does that say? The hit single is so perfect, so stunning, they really should have spread it across both sides of this Capitol record.
Both Sides Of People (1969)