Sopwith Camel formed in late 1965 with a lineup consisting of vocalist and saxophone player Peter Kraemer, guitarists Terry MacNeil and William Sievers, bassist Martin Beard and drummer Norman Mayell.
Kraemer had dreamed up the name for the band while living in Haight-Ashbury at 1090 Page Street, the infamous 25-room Victorian house with the basement ballroom where Big Brother and the Holding Company rehearsed and performed.
He ran into guitarist Terry MacNeil in a bookstore, and within a week they had written eight songs. Adding Sievers, Mayell and Beard, they began performing at the Matrix, one of the first clubs to present psychedelic music.
Their big break came when Erik Jacobsen, the 26-year-old producer who had produced seven Top 10 hits for The Lovin’ Spoonful, came out to San Francisco scouting talent.
Sopwith Camel became the second San Francisco band to get a recording contract with a national record label and the first to have a Top 40 hit.
Their eponymous debut album was released in 1967 on the Kama Sutra label, and their only hit single, Hello, Hello, became the first hit to emerge from the San Francisco rock scene and reached #26 on the US pop music charts in January 1967.
The band was unable to follow up the success of their first album and hit single and disbanded within six months amidst a sea of bickering.
In 1970, Kraemer and MacNeil started writing songs together, eventually deciding to re-form the band. Their comeback album, The Miraculous Hump Returns From The Moon (1973) stiffed, and their tour literally went up in smoke when the truck loaded with their equipment caught fire.
Bear and Mayell went on to play sessions for Erik Jacobsen in the late Sixties and early Seventies, appearing on Norman Greenbaum’s hit Spirit In The Sky.
Sopwith Camel’s debut album has been re-released twice – as Frantic Desolation in 1986 and as Hello Hello Again in 1990.
Drums, sitar, harmonica