In 1969, guitarist/vocalist Michael Fennelly met up with a group called Stonehenge who were playing at a Sunset Strip club in LA called Thee Experience.
Stonehenge had been tentatively offered a record deal with Elektra on the condition that they replaced their lead singer, which they did – with Fennelly.
Choosing the name Crabby Appleton (the name of a villain in a cartoon that aired on the Captain Kangaroo show in the 50s and 60s) they released their eponymous debut album in 1970.
The five-piece were the perfect group for 1970, armed with post-Beatles pop smarts, a pre-Cheap Trick hard rock edge and a shaggy/hirsute image to match.
Album opener Go Back (heavy Big Star-meet-Badfinger) underlined their irresistible knack for a melody but, released as a 45, it stalled at #36 on the Billboard chart.
Other tracks on the album were also superb, including the Zombies-styled Peace By Peace, the pre-mega Fleetwood Mac vibe of All My Friends and the ambitious prog-pop of Hunger For Love.
The group’s second album, Rotten To The Core, found the band stretching in different directions but the LP failed to connect with its intended audience and the band decided to call it a day.
Maybe it was the name that killed them, or perhaps just bad luck. Either way, Crabby Appleton deserved better and will remain one of the greatest ‘lost’ groups of American music.
In 1973, Michael Fennelly moved to England and began a solo career. He released two solo albums, Lane Changer (1974) – produced by ex-Zombies bassist Chris White and featuring Rod Argent on synthesizer – and Stranger’s Bed (1975).
Felix ‘Flaco’ Falcon