Chevy Chase on Drugs…Probably

Chamaeleon ChurchYou know Chevy Chase as the sketch comedy and film star whose act largely involved falling or having things fall on him. Whatever the permutation, the results were Nielsen and Box Office gold.

And if you’re old enough to remember his short-lived late night show, you also know how unbearable it is to spend an hour with him.

Believe it or not though, he’s actually borderline tolerable across 31 minutes and 13 seconds, which is how long it would take you to listen to the one and only album by his psychedelic rock band, Chamaeleon Church. And yes, the band opted to spell ‘chameleon’ like a bunch of assholes on mind-altering substances.

Long before he found fame as Fletch, Chevy Chase was a drummer. In fact, he originally cut his teeth on the kit for the Leather Canary, a band that included future Steely Dan cranks Walter Becker and Donald Fagan. His next stop on the way to stardom was the Church, a band that was going places.

Chamaeleon Church was actually part of an altogether embarrassing and ill-advised marketing scheme called the Bosstown Sound. Lumped together with other bands of varying talent and lysergic influence, including such well-remembered acts as Orpheus and Eden’s Children, the Church became part of a cynical and poorly-executed attempt by MGM executives to replicate the San Francisco scene in the decidedly less groovy City on the Charles.

Chamaeleon Church - Chamaeleon Church F+The bands and their audiences responded in kind by also being less groovy. That said, Chevy’s group may actually stand a notch or two above some of their dopier contemporaries.  Their self-titled 1968 debut,was produced by Alan Lorber, a master architect of light psychedelic syrup and the brains behind Bosstown.

You can even hear Chevy—allegedly the owner of perfect pitch—singing on this one.

According to Wikipedia, Lorber’s stylistic approach included a more muted bass drum sound, a decision which infuriated Chase. In fact, the band was collectively displeased with the final product, which they felt was not representative of the harder edge they brought to their live performances.

UnknownThe band called it quits after the disappointment of their first record. In spite of the band’s objections, it does hold up a bit better than some of the other druggy dreck to come from the Bosstown Massacre. Indeed, the marketing campaign was itself a pretty big failure, though this didn’t stop Chase’s former bandmates Tony Scheuren and Ted Myers from subsequently joining one of Bosstown’s more ridiculous outfits, Ultimate Spinach.

As for Chevy Chase, his very next stop after Chamealeon Church was the Channel One underground comedy troop and, soon thereafter, stardom.


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