One more grail to knock off the list, I picked up the 1967 debut LP by The Cake last Sunday afternoon at the Fall Record and CD Show at the Leonard VFW Post (in Depew, outside Buffalo, NY). Accompanied by two of my closest and dearest friends, Douglas and Mark, there’s nothing like lightening the wallet on a stack of rare dusty vinyl.
The Cake were a female trio (Eleanor Barooshian (aka Chelsea Lee), Jeanette Jacobs, and Barbara Morillo) formed in New York City in 1966. The girls recorded their full-length debut album for Decca Records, with production by Jack Nitzsche, himself an arranger for Phil Spector. Their debut single (and lead track on the album, simply titled The Cake) is “Baby That’s Me,” written by Jack Nitzsche and Jackie DeShannon. Drenched in echo and reverb, the song successfully approximates Phil Spector’s “Wall of Sound” production style utilized for mid-60s girl groups like The Ronettes and The Crystals. Where The Cake differed from the girl groups from just a few years before was the amount of artistic control they were given over their work and career. The Cake co-wrote three of the ten songs on their debut album (and seven on the follow-up, A Slice of the Cake). Incorporating not only girl group sounds, but also psychedelia, R&B, and baroque chamber pop influences, their approach was nothing if not eclectic.
Decca were sure they had a hit on their hands. The label hyped the “Baby That’s Me” single to the hilt, and played up their hipster cred (the girls palled around the Sunset Strip with Jimi Hendrix, The Soft Machine, and Traffic, among others), and cited George Harrison as a fan. But the single failed to set the pop charts on fire as expected. By 1968, The Cake were no more but the girls continued to work, cutting backing vocals for Jimi on the Electric Ladyland album and The Soft Machine’s 1968 debut The Soft Machine, Vol. 1.
The full story of The Cake is a fascinating one. If you want to know more, you can read an amazing and in-depth biography of The Cake over at Dangerous Minds.