“The country I knew had almost disappeared”
FJ McMahon, cult singer-songwriter and Vietnam vet, returns to action...
The morning after, FJ McMahon is still savouring the night before. Backed by dream-psych band Quilt, the veteran singer-songwriter chose LA’s The Sanctuary for his first ever live performance of Spirit Of The
Golden Juice. The only album of McMahon’s career passed virtually unnoticed in 1969, but a series of reissues (the latest on Anthology) have elevated it to the status of cult classic.
“I knew there was interest in the album, but didn’t realise how much until last night,” says McMahon, down the line from his Californian home. “It was a sell-out crowd and we ended up getting two standing ovations. It was completely overwhelming.”
Spirit Of The Golden Juice was the product of his experiences during the ’60s. Over spare psych-folk arrangements, his measured, authoritative voice lays out an existential document of a nation in spiritual crisis. And McMahon was better qualified than most in taking the temperature of the era. he enlisted in the US Air Force in 1965 and, two years later, was called up to serve in Vietnam. “I’d been stationed up near San Francisco and would guard nuclear weapons by night, then party in haight-Ashbury and Golden Gate Park in the daytime,” he recalls. “I left the US in the Summer Of Love, came back a year later and the country I knew had almost disappeared. I felt total alienation. If you were a returning Vietnam vet, the first thing you’d do was take your uniform off and throw it away, because you’d be attacked. The party was over.”
McMahon fed this sense of uncertainty and disquiet into Spirit
Of The Golden Juice (named after the IW harper bourbon that “fuelled the times”) and joined the anti-war
FJ McMahon in the late ’60s, charting a nation in spiritual crisis