Serpentine was a Dutch soul-psych band that released the album In the Grass on Pink Elephant in 1970. Later that year, they changed their name to Apartment 1 and issued a second album, Open House.
Members: Frank van Tijn (drums, vocals), Peter van der Sande (vocals, guitar, cello, organ, bass), Bob de Laat (saxophone, 1967-69), Dick Pels (guitar, 1967-69), Patrick Verboom (trumpet, 1967-69), Ralf Dragstra (keyboards, trombone), Rob Morel (bass, 1967-69), Onny Lopulalan (guitar, 1969-72)
Serpentine formed in 1967 as an R&B/beat septet that featured singer/bassist Peter van der Sande, drummer Frank van Tijn, and three members of the Dean Allen Set, including keyboardist/trombonist Ralf Dragstra.
By 1969, they’d trimmed to the quartet of Sande, Tijn, Dragstra, and guitarist Onno Lopulalan. Their first single, “Yesterday Papers” (b/w “Round and Round”), appeared that year on Polydor. The a-side (not the namesake Rolling Stones song) is a mid-tempo soul-psych rocker, primarily in D# and F#, with Tooth-like harmonies, sinewy guitar licks, and rhythmic low-end piano.
Serpentine – In the Grass
Serpentine signed to Pink Elephant, the white pop division of four “Elephant” labels recently established by Dureco (the Dutch Record Company). The band’s singular album as Serpentine, In the Grass, appeared in early 1970. It features 12 songs, mostly in the 2–3-minute range. Sande composed six tracks and co-wrote the other six with English producer Robbie Dale (aka The Admiral), a one-time DJ on the offshore stations Radio Caroline and Radio Veronica.
In the Grass spawned three singles: “Powerful Jim” (b/w “I’ve Only Got Myself”), “Instant Alison” (b/w “Hey Dreamer”), and “Belinda Tomorrow” (b/w “Wake Up (It’s a New Day)”). The album was engineered by John Sonneveld (George Baker Selection, Livin’ Blues, Spin). The simple b&w cover, designed by Ronald van Santen, shows a gradient spherical object.
The tracks “Instant Alison” and “Hey Dreamer” appear on the 1970 Pink Elephant compilation Never Marry a Pink Elephant along with cuts by Shocking Blue and German hard-rockers Jeronimo. “Powerful Jim” appears on the label’s other 1970 comp, How Pink Are Those Elephants Over There, which also features the theme song of US funksters Kool & the Gang. Both collections sport cover photos of posed hippy models.
Apartment 1 – Open House
In late 1970, the same four members reemerged as Apartment 1 and released a second album, Open House, also on Pink Elephant. It features 10 songs, mostly in the 3–4-minute range, including “Step Inside,” “Eternal Moralist,” “Fuzz Buzz,” “Dictionary,” and “Whats Going On.” Sande composed eight of the tracks with co-writes on five by Dale. Lopulalan and Dragstra co-wrote two numbers, the instrumentals “Step Inside” and “Dragstream.”
Musically, Open House echoes the rock/soul hybrid of 1968/69 Spooky Tooth, as evident on the mid-tempo ballads (“Dictionary,” “Whats Going On”) and the gruffer, more guttural tracks (“Like a Queen”). Apartment 1 also takes stabs at blazing psych-rock (“Fuzz Buzz”), post-Nice instrumentals (“Step Inside”), and music-hall harmony pop (“Going Up Town”).
- “Step Inside” (4:09): Instrumental (Ekseption style). Intro: closed-cadence five-note theme (in Cm, modulates to G7). Guitar/harpsichord riff, drum rolls. Main: open-cadence organ flow, lyrical lead guitar… harpsichord solo over stop/start backing… descending organ motif (in Dm) over brisk bass and tense, speedy drumming… wailing guitar solo over motif. Repeat main sequence. Roaming left/right channel drum solo. Repeat main sequence.
- “Eternal Moralist” (3:05): Mid-tempo soul ballad. Octave-spanning bass line (in Cm), shaky rhythm (accented 3rd). Organ-laden chorus, extended vowels (sonorous, Bell/Harrison/Marriott-like). Solo: echoey piano chords over organ; brief up-scaling guitar lead.
- “Fuzz Buzz” (2:54): Uptempo psych rocker. Revved engines roar and fade. Angular guitar figure (light fuzz-tone, in Dm). Remote baritone vocals (commanding). Belted chorus (in G). Plunging refrain (“destroying”… C-B♭-F). High-end guitar solo (clean, scaly) over contrapuntal low-end bass.
- “Dictionary” (2:24): Mid-tempo soul ballad. Intro: Faint organ riff countered with light guitar/piano (E-G progression). Plaintive, restrained verse… fold-out bridge. Chorus: swelling vocals under-laid with sustained organ (D-A-C-G) and drum rolls. (Spooky Two influence.)
- “Whats Going On” (3:32): Mid-tempo soul ballad. Intro: Guitar/piano interplay (teary ivory in Gm). Flaring vocals, shifting verses interspersed with tensed-up chordal motif (soft fuzz). Rising chorus (major key), shifting chords, melodic vocal flow.
Open House sports cover art that shows an open interior with a hat-lined floor and yellowish walls rendered three-dimensional with superimposed natural landscapes (trees, lakes, hills, valleys). Sonneveld engineered the album.
Open House spawned three singles: “Step Inside” (b/w “Fuzz Buzz”), “Eternal Moralist” (b/w the non-album “Sweet Little Pink Electric Guitar”), and “Like a Queen” (b/w “What’s Going On”). All came in picture sleeves that sport tinted variations of the album image. The band is listed as Apartment 1 on the sleeves and Apartment One on the labels.
At around the same time, Sande and Lopulalan played on the 1970 release Amalgamation by fellow Pink Elephant act O.P.M.C., another Admiral One/Sonneveld production. Sande joined jazz-rockers Solution and sang on their 1971 debut album.
As of 2021, In the Grass has never been reissued. According to Discogs, copies of the album sell for a median price of $123.32. The higher valued Open House got its first CD reissue in 2014 on the German archival label O-Music, which also pressed it on vinyl in 2015.
- Serpentine — In the Grass (1970)
- Apartment 1 — Open House (1970)
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