Gruppo vocale californiano artefice di armonie sofisticate applicate a vecchi successi degli anni '30 e '40. Il gruppo nasce a Santa Cruz col nome di Tikis, nel 1963, eseguendo una musica vagamente surf e approdando alla Autumn Records insieme alla prima ondata di formazioni di San Francisco (Beau Brummels, Great Society e Mojo Men). Due brani (Darkest Night Of The Year e Pay Attention To Me) sono raccolti su ARTISTI VARI/SAN FRANCISCO ROOTS (Vault 1964, USA). Nel 1966 passano alla Warner Bros; l'organico viene completato da John Petersen, dei Beau Brummels, e il nome cambia in HARPERS BIZARRE (storpiatura della famosa rivista di moda americana). Nel Novembre di quell'anno raggiungono i Top 20 con una versione di 50th Street Bridge Song, di Paul Simon; qualche mese dopo pubblicano FEELIN' GROOVY (Warner Bros 1967 USA), considerato un classico del soft rock di quella stagione. Con Ted Templeman (n. 1944, USA) e Dick Scoppettone (n. 1945, USA) responsabili di gran parte delle armonie vocali, collaborano all'album in veste di arrangiatori 4 noti personaggi: Leon Russell, Randy Newman, Ron Elliott e Perry Botkin. Con l'uscita di ANYTHING GOES (Warner Bros 1967 USA) il gruppo si affina; in repertorio una eccellente Anything Goes (di Cole Porter, con Van Dyke Parks al piano) Chattanooga Choo Choo (Glenn Miller) e una insolita Milord, di Moustaki. Dopo l'abbandono del chitarrista Ed James, gli HARPERS BIZARRE pubblicano altri due album: THE SECRET LIFE OF HARPERS BIZARRE (Warner Bros 1969 USA) con Sentimental Journey e brani di Gershwin e Bacharach e HARPERS BIZARRE 4 (Warner Bros 1970 USA), con Blackbird dei Beatles e Knock On Wood di Eddie Floyd. E' leggenda che nel disco suoni anche Ry Cooder, ipotesi mai confermata dal chitarrista. Nel 1970 il gruppo si scioglie; dei componenti, il solo ad avere fortuna è Ted Templeman, che si afferma come produttore all'interno della Warner. Nel 1976 i 4 restanti si riunisono per l'eccellente AS TIME GOES BY (Forest Bay 1976 USA) ricco di melodie care al cinema e al musical degli anni '40 (As Time Goes By è il tema celebre di Casablanca).
Harpers Bizarre was an American sunshine pop band of the 1960s, best known for their Broadway/sunshine pop sound and their remake of Simon & Garfunkel's "The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)."
Harpers Bizarre was formed out of the Tikis, a band from Santa Cruz, California, that had some local successes with Beatlesque songs in the mid 1960s. The Tikis had been signed to Tom Donahue's Autumn Records from 1965 to 1966 and had released two singles on that label. In 1967, record producer Lenny Waronker got hold of the Simon & Garfunkel song "The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)," determined to make it into a hit single. The Tikis recorded it using an arrangement created by Leon Russell, featuring extended harmonies reminiscent of the work of Brian Wilson or even the Swingle Singers. The song was released under a new band name, "Harpers Bizarre" (a play on the magazine Harper's Bazaar), so as not to alienate the Tikis' fanbase. The Harpers Bizarre version of the song reached No. 13 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart in April 1967, far exceeding any success that the Tikis thus far had. The track reached No. 34 in the UK Singles Chart.
The success of the single prompted Harpers Bizarre to record their debut album. At this point the band consisted of Ted Templeman (born 24 October 1944; vocals, drums, guitar); Dick Scoppettone (born 5 July 1945; vocals, guitar, bass); Eddie James (guitar); Dick Yount (bass, vocals) and John Petersen (8 January 1945 – 11 November 2007; drums, percussion, vocals). Petersen had previously already enjoyed a brief spell of success as member of the Beau Brummels; James left after the release of the group's second album and was replaced by Tom Sowell. Under the guidance of producer Lenny Waronker (and Templeman, who emerged as the leader of the group), Harpers Bizarre developed a unique sound which experimented with heavy vocal layering. Most of Harpers Bizarre's recordings are cheerful and airy, both in subject matter and musical accompaniment, often with string and woodwind arrangements. Their music is most closely associated with the sunshine pop and baroque pop genres.
In addition to covering several old standards (including Cole Porter's "Anything Goes" and Glenn Miller's "Chattanooga Choo Choo"), Harpers Bizarre also recorded the work of several contemporary songwriters, including one-time Tikis member Randy Newman, Van Dyke Parks and Harry Nilsson, who also appear on their recordings in the guise of session musicians and/or arrangers. One of their recordings was the mildly controversial Randy Newman number, "The Biggest Night of Her Life", about a schoolgirl who is "too excited to sleep" because she has promised to lose her virginity on her sixteenth birthday to a boy whom her parents like "because his hair is always neat".
After the band's initial chart ascendancy with "The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)", none of Harpers Bizarre's subsequent singles achieved the same level of success. "Chattanooga Choo Choo" did reach No. 1 on Billboard 's Easy Listening chart, despite a drug reference ("do another number down in Carolina"). The band broke up shortly after their last album was released in 1969. Templeman has stated that they broke up over whether to continue with their producer: "Well, the lowdown was that the rest of the band didn't want Lenny to produce us anymore, but I did. So, it was me against them. (Laughs) And that was it."
On October 31, 1969, while returning to San Francisco after playing a concert in Pasadena, California, their TWA flight was hijacked. All the passengers were safely released in Denver. However, the plane and its crew continued on to Rome, Italy where the hijacker was apprehended. This incident covered 6,900 miles, the longest distance ever covered in a airplane hijacking incident.
In 1967 they contributed the title-song for the TV series Malibu U., starring Ricky Nelson.
Their music can also be heard in the 1968 film I Love You, Alice B. Toklas, and their rendition of "Anything Goes" is heard over the opening scenes of the 1970 film The Boys in the Band.In 1976, a partial reunion of the group occurred (without Templeman) to record an album, As Time Goes By, that is often overlooked in Harpers Bizarre discographies.
Drummer John Petersen, husband of Templeman's sister Roberta, died suddenly on November 11, 2007 of a heart attack.
Feelin' Groovy (1967)
Anything Goes (1967)
Secret Life of Harpers Bizarre (1968)
Harpers Bizarre 4 (1969)
As Time Goes By (1976)
Feelin' Groovy: The Best of Harpers Bizarre (1997)
(NB the compilation albums Dance with Me - The Autumn Teen Sounds and Someone To Love - The Birth Of The San Francisco Sound contain the Tikis 2 45s and several other previously unreleased recordings.)
Trade ad for Harpers Bizarre's single "Chattanooga Choo Choo"