Bubble Puppy: US - International Artists IA-128 (November 1968)
The Mooche: UK - Pye 7N 17735 (May 1969)
Throughout the 60's, and even into the 70's and beyond, it wasn't uncommon for a UK group to cover a US hit in the hope of beating them to the punch as far as a UK chart placing was concerned. It worked both ways, actually - after The Beatles hit the roof in the US, bands there weren't averse to poaching hits from the UK in the hope of hitting the Hot 100, and there are also myriad regional covers in local dialects made for different countries across the globe (something I might get around to a little feature on in the future).
But, back to the record at hand. Originally recorded by Bubble Puppy for the International Artists (IA) label (also home of the legendary 13th Floor Elevators), Hot Smoke And Sassafras peaked at number 14 in the US in early '69. It didn't get a UK release, which may seem strange but might be down to greed...
When Liberty Records expressed an interest in licensing the first 13th Floor Elevators album for UK release, IA asked for the then astronomical sum of $25,000. Liberty decided to pass. So, if IA had failed to learn its lesson, it might explain why there were no takers in the UK for Hot Smoke And Sassafras. It did, however, get a release in Australia (Festival FK-2834).
Meanwhile, back in the UK, enter East Anglia's The Mooche. For their debut (and, it turned out, only single for Pye Records) they jumped at the chance to record Hot Smoke And Sassafras, embellishing the song with some extra fuzz, flutes, and... oh, you can hear for yourself in a minute... In any case, they failed to chart.
So... I like The Bubble Puppy... I like The Mooche... but which is better? As Harry Hill would say, there's only one way to find out... FIGHT!
In the American corner: From Texas... THE BUBBLE PUPPY!
In the British corner: From East Anglia... THE MOOCHE!
PURPLE VERDICT: The Mooche just nick it. They add another dimension to what is already a great psych-rock track and send it through the roof, throwing in a false ending for good measure - altogether slightly more disorientating. It's a close thing though - feel free to have your say in the comments section :-)
WHERE TO FIND IT:
THE BUBBLE PUPPY:
Various - The Psychedelic Journey (Music Brokers CD 2012)
Bubble Puppy - A Gathering Of Promises (International Artists CD re-issue 2011)
Various - Hot Smoke And Sassafras - Psychedelic Pstones 1 (Castle/Sanctuary CD 2001)
Various - A Glass Menagerie (RPM Retrodisc CD 2007)
Various - Cave Of Clear Light, The Pye/Dawn Records Underground Trip (Esoteric CD 2010)