How the Cedars Invaded the Land of Blue Pajamas
At a nightclub years ago, while overpraising some now-forgotten musical discovery, I found myself upstaged by a stranger who was raving about something even more obscure he claimed to have heard in London. Articulate but thoroughly lubricated, he raved about a legendary late-sixties Israeli garage band called the Seders. The band, he claimed, were what the late-sixties Beatles and Kinks would have sounded like if they had thoroughly devoured Eastern rhythms rather than politely nibbling. Two beers later, when he was explaining how the Seders also inspired a dance craze in Turkey, I stopped listening and filed those thoughts in the part of my brain that stores Apocryphal Rantings of Drunk Guys at Concerts.
Earlier this month, a quickie post on “the Sea-ders” at the Aquarium Drunkard website made me drop my burrito. For your information, the drunk guy at the long-ago show was telling the truth, except for botching one crucial detail. The awkwardly hyphenated band, later renamed the Cedars, were Lebanese rock pioneers from prewar Beirut who got signed to Decca and made a minor splash in London in 1967 before calling it a day. The band’s hard-charging debut single, “Thanks a Lot,” could pass for an outtake from the Beatles’ Revolver, fusing a slightly sugar-coated pop melody with beguiling swirls of rhythm flying miles higher than “Eight Miles High,” and sounding more like tomorrow than “Tomorrow Never Knows.” “I Don’t Know Why” vaguely resembles the Kinks’ Ray Davies having an identity crisis on a Mediterranean adventure.
This stuff isn’t just exported Britpop, either. While nobody would confuse the Cedars with a virtuoso like Marcel Khalife, the Cedars were also an indelibly Lebanese band, capturing the cross-cultural exuberance of prewar Beirut and the glories of an embattled city that has advanced world culture for more than 5000 years.
But what about the Turkish dance craze? That part is partially true as well. Perhaps the best-known Cedars song is “For Your Information,” whose heavy freakbeat has long made it a cult favorite among afficionados of Nuggets-style psychedelia. While it never became a huge UK hit, the song improbably caught like wildfire in Turkey, where it has become the Ur-text of Turkish garage-rock and inspired a dozen or so cover versions.
The most famous cover of “For Your Information” is by Mavi Işıklar(the Blue Lights), whose reworked version, “Iyi Düşün Taşın,” was recently featured in a Turkish sitcom. The English translation of a Turkish Wikipedia entry provides this useful information about the band: “Jihad was formed from Manisa morning and pronouns… One of the lottery, a newspaper in 1964, taking the stage and they are much appreciated….Members from time to time in the military, such as going abroad because of changes in light blue pajamas with the group singing, a bedroom scene to bring their signature as they also interesting.” That’s just for your information, not for your comprehension.
The Cedars (Sea-Ders), “Thanks a Lot”
The Cedars, “For Your Information”
Mavi Işıklar, “Iyi Düşün Taşın”