Shindig! Magazine:
Genesis, the 1969 album by teen siblings Wendy & Bonnie, is something that every Shindigger should have in his or her collection. Now, over forty years later, the elder Flower sister returns with New, an album awash with serenity and haunting reverie. New recalls Genesis, yet it doesn’t sound like a retread. Instead, it feels like an album by a lush contemporary Spanish indie band, from a label such as Siesta. Flower’s voice is impeccable still, whether ba-ba-ba-ing on the echoic ‘Skyways’, or melding with a flamenco guitar on ‘Jamais Toujours’. The highlight is ‘In The Attic’, a darkly layered piece featuring Broadcast’s James Cargill and Trish Keenan...There’s even a pretty Wendy & Bonnie vocal interlude towards the end of the album; dating from 1969, this flourish nevertheless fits in perfectly, which shows how timeless both Genesis and New are.
Jeanette Leech

"Great variance in styles, songs and singing marks the 14 tracks on this excellent album.”

Heaven magazine (translated from Dutch)
"Timeless! Great getting reacquainted with this cult heroine."

www.folkworld.eu (by Karsten Rube)
"At the beginning of the 70s, the Flower Sisters reflected the musical environment of San Francisco's flower children. Thirty-five years passed before Wendy Flower again turned to the music. And another five, until she dared to produce the album "New." The singer seems to have been kissed awake from a long slumber and to have arrived well rested and refreshed in the present. What looks like late self-realization is actually the result of a long journey to a lovely musical self-confidence. "New" is a clever and thoroughly catchy little gem.

Strutter Magazine:
Now this is an incredible story, because American singer-songwriter WENDY FLOWER was part of a sister-duo called WENDY AND BONNIE, whom released an album in 1969, but disappeared from the face of the earth after it’s release. Now 44 (!!!) years later there is a new album of Wendy and it is quite remarkable that it is actually quite a strong album, because she never recorded anything during the 70s, 80s, 90s and 00s! Anyway, on this ‘comeback’ album ‘New’, she got help from several musicians, such as producer Adam Rossi (LUCE, MEGAN SLANKARD, BRAD WOLFE), the late TRISH KEENAN and JAMES CARGILL, both of the band BROADCAST, Gawain Mathews (MICKEY HART BAND, BEN LEE), Ezra Lipp (SEAN HAYES), Paul Olguin (MARY WELLS, BOB WEIR, Savannah Jo Lack (ALANIS MORISSETTE, ROD STEWART), Joe Cohen (THOMAS DOLBY) and PAUL FREEMAN, who wrote a bunch of the material. The result is a very strong album that captures a sound like typical late 1960s singer-songwriter, yet also has something in common with the current Indie-Pop sound, although the breezy Jazzy Fusion-West Coast of the California Sunshine State can be heard during a lot of songs (just listen to the fantastic song “One last dream” and ”Child’s play”). Wendy’s vocals are still very strong and the music is really beautiful and quite enjoyable to listen to. 13 songs are included in total and as already mentioned before, there is definitely some diversity going on here as well, because a song like “In the attic” is almost pure Gothic/Doom like BLUE OYSTER CULT and especially COVEN did around 1969, while “Kindness of strangers” is one of the absolute highlights here, because not only this song rocks a little more, it also has a sorta 70s AOR/Classic Rock kinda approach, somehow reminding me of 70s HEART. It gets even rockier during the hidden closing track “Long night”. This record is a big surprise and if only Wendy would have recorded more music between 1969 and 2013, we might have called her new album the 30th record in her discography, but I am afraid this is just her 2nd album. However, it is never too late to start fresh and ‘New’ is definitely a great way to introduce yourself to the world again. Check out all on Wendy at: http://wendyflower.com/

Palo Alto Daily News
Out of the darkness, into the light. Wendy Flower returns with her first psych-pop-folk-jazz album since the 1969 cult classic “Wendy and Bonnie: Genesis.” The gorgeous, redemptive “New” proves to be a gloriously uplifting, genre-defying work (he said with all the objectivity he could muster). It seamlessly soars from Brian Wilson-esque mini-pop symphonies to a country heartbreaker, a breezy Brazilian-flavored song, a wistful flamenco tune, sunshine pop numbers and a couple of rockers. Flower’s signature lush, intricate harmonies are woven throughout.

By Chris Epting, author/music journalist (chrisepting.com)
Once a flower child, always a flower child I suppose, in both the figurative and literal sense. Wendy Flower first floated onto the music scene back in the late 1960s as part of the underground folk duo, Wendy and Bonnie. Their single release, the folk rock classic Genesis is a lost classic; a feathery and flowery soundtrack to the patchouli scented air of the era.
But now Flower herself is back with New, her first new pop albums since 1969. She is joined on the record by many ethereal friends with deep roots embedded in the rich 1960s soil. The credits of the musicians are all webbed around names like Bob Weir, Mickey Hart, even two other, less-Bay area related icons like Rod Stewart and Mary Wells.
But for all the strong support and atmospheric accompaniment, it is Flower herself here that commands the most attention. That she actually lived through the era and was raised in San Francisco in an ultra musical household gives her latest release an integrity and organic flavor that shimmers across the entire song cycle.
New sounds like it may have been recorded during the summer of love yet it is also very much grounded in the now, steeped in an earthiness and innocence that is simply timeless. In particular, the song “Wind Chimes” feels like a modern classic retro adventure back to the days of tie-dye and protest marches. And there are plenty of other tunes with gentle yet transportive power. “Child's Play,” “Ferris Wheel,” “In the Attic” and “Long Night” are all fully-flavored, emotional documents voiced by an authentic troubadour that doesn't have to act the part, because she is the part.
There are many modern artists today trying to capture or recapture the magical psychedelic air of the late 1960s. Wendy Flower produces the real article with New. Like some sort of musical time capsule, she has created the fine balance of preserving the essence of another era while wrapping it in a contemporary blanket. This is a soothing and evocative musical scrapbook that while feeling perhaps a bit nostalgic, also casts an eye forward toward the horizon, in the true spirit of what the 60s were supposed to be about in the first place.


PopCultureClassics.com Interview with Wendy, 2013

1967. Teen singer/songwriter Wendy Flower, with rising San Francisco psychedelic folk-rock band Crystal Fountain, is poised for a major label deal. She dreams of performing at The Fillmore, where she has seen many fiery artists burn up the stage.

Cut to 2003. A mere 36 years later, that dream comes true, as the U.K. band Super Furry Animals invites Wendy to sing with them.

It’s been a long and winding road for her. The album she created with her sister in the ‘60s, Wendy & Bonnie’s “Genesis,” has recently been heralded as a lost masterpiece. Now, at last, she has returned with her first pop album since that classic. It’s titled, simply and appropriately, “New.”

Of this 2013 release, Wendy tells Pop Culture Classics, “The new project was extremely challenging for me. I’d had an accident, fallen down a flight of stairs and was dealing with severe headaches and memory lapses for quite a while. That aggravated my existing issues. I suffer from illnesses, including fibromyalgia, which cause chronic pain. I also had health issues with my voice that I had to overcome. All of that made singing a challenge. But everyone has their own set of challenges and trials to go through. You just have to cope and move forward.

“So the album, which I had hoped to complete a number of years ago, was greatly delayed. Life kept getting in the way. My father passed. But in some ways, that also opened me up creatively. I wanted to justify the faith he had in my music.”

The wonders of “New” will exceed everyone’s expectations. One of the album’s more epic numbers is the opener, “Cinders.”

“It originated as a reaction to some tragedies,” Wendy explains. “I hesitated to put it out there. I feel like the energy you put out could come back to you. If you write about darkness and bleakness, it can bring that into your life. I was in that frame of mind at that time. My father was very ill. We had just lost my mother-in-law, who I was very close to. She believed in me. And there were my health problems. So I was starting to write some very depressing songs, ‘Cinders’ being one of them. But, whenever I write a depressing song, ultimately, for me, I have to have an uplifting ending. Because that’s how I feel we have to approach life. As you go through the challenges, you look for the light at the end of the tunnel. And ‘Cinders’ does offer hope.”

Hope shines throughout the stirring “Skyways.” “I used my father’s metronome at the beginning of it. We all have our path in life. There are so many different avenues you can take. Ultimately what’s right for one person may not be right for another. So we need tolerance to help us navigate through life.

“Unless maybe you’ve had a near death experience, we don’t really know where we’re going after this. But in the end, take a deep breath and it will all become clear. That’s what ‘Skyways’ says. Until then, why waste time fighting and condemning one another? We should just try to live a good life and be kind to one another while we’re here on this Earth together.

“Years ago, one of my little music students told me, ‘We’re all a part of the wind and the sky. I love birds. And when I die, I want to be an eagle.’ He said this out of the blue. That same night, he told his grandmother he would be leaving her soon and not to cry, because where he was going, it was a very, very special place. And that precious child, the very next day, died in an accident. Now, how did he know he was leaving us? We should listen to our children for wisdom. I really believe there is something beyond this life. And that feeling is echoed in ‘Skyways.’”

Another track that’s special to Wendy is “In The Attic,” which was recorded with Broadcast’s Trish Keenan and James Cargill, in the couple’s Birmingham, England home.

“It was one of those things where magic just happened. We just started playing the song, which my husband Paul had written, and it came to life. It was so wonderful working with Trish and with James.

“Later, after we’d gotten back to the U.S., Trish emailed me and said that she hoped, at the very least, we would make that track available as a download. We were thrilled. Trish was a consummate artist.

“My father passed on Christmas Eve, 2010. Not quite a month later, Trish died of complications from pneumonia. She left us way too early. I was in a state of shock. Being able to honor her was another reason I wanted to get this album out there. She was such a sweet, dear person to us. And such a talent.

“The mood of the ‘In The Attic’ song seemed to fit perfectly on the album, just before an old snippet of Wendy and Bonnie, which I’d found on an ancient reel-to-reel tape.

“Another song that’s very important to me is ‘One Last Dream,’ which my husband wrote. It’s such a sweet and amazing song. It’s about continuing to dream, no matter what, never stopping. Sometimes that’s hard to do. But it’s what keeps us alive inside. That song and ‘Wind Chimes,’ they just feel so good to me, when I sing them.”

Adam Rossi, of the Bay Area band Luce, engineered and, with Wendy, co-produced the “New” album. “He was very easy to work with,” Wendy says, “inspiring and extremely patient. I wasn’t sure if I was ready. But, at some point, you’ve got to let go and let other people hear your songs. The songs I had created alone in my room, at the piano, it was a bit frightening to put them out there. But Adam and my husband were very supportive. I wasn’t sure how we could make all these songs come together, but Adam had a sense of how to do that.”The album’s musicians included Gawain Mathews, guitar (Mickey Hart Band, Ben Lee); Ezra Lipp, drums and percussion (Sean Hayes, Huckle); Paul Olguin, electric and acoustic bass (Mary Wells, Bob Weir, Mazzy Star). Wendy and Rossi handled the keyboards. But Wendy also envisioned violin as part of the sonic tapestry.

“I started on violin many years ago. My Dad was my first violin teacher. And then I studied at the Conservatory of Music. So the violin passages on a few of the songs were very important to me. I wanted to play them myself, but I’m very rusty. I haven’t really played in years. I dabble in many instruments, but I haven’t really mastered any. I do enjoy working at it, though.

“We had the pleasure of going out and seeing Ruth Gerson, a fine singer-songwriter in the Bay Area. And she was accompanied by an incredibly talented violinist, Savannah Jo Lack, who also performed a brief set of her own beautiful songs. I thought, ‘Oh, I wish I could play like her!’ I asked her if she might want to play on this project. To my surprise and delight, she said yes. She went above and beyond. She really liked the songs and put her heart into them. When I listened to her playing the violin storm at the opening of ‘Cinders,’ it brought tears to my eyes. I was referencing ‘Cloudburst’ in ‘The Grand Canyon Suite.’ And she really brought it to life.

“And the other fantastic musicians on the project, it was wonderful working with them. I felt like I did when way back in the days when my sister Bonnie and I got to record with the great session musicians in L.A. There was such professionalism. It was so exciting to hear, in the studio, the sounds that I had only heard in my head before. The whole nature of the song, with this energy from the musicians, can take twists and turns. It can have a new way of presenting itself. There’s no right or wrong. There are just different ways of presenting a song and different ways of listening to it.

“Usually, when I write, I hear the whole arrangement, all the parts, harmonies, instruments, come into me at once. I hear them in my head. I don’t have a real process, when I write a song. It just comes to me.

“And it comes to me in many different ways. It may be from a catch phrase or a melodic line. It may hit me in the middle of the night, where I hear something over and over and over in my head. My favorite time to write is just before sleep, sitting at the keyboard, when I’m most open and can allow the sounds to come through.

“My father taught music. My mother taught voice. But, for me, theory went in one ear and out the other. I’m such an ear person. I can read music, but it doesn’t come naturally to me. I like to go right to the emotional element of the music.

“There have been times when I’ve written a poem and then set it to music. But these days, generally speaking, it’s the music that hits me first.

“Ninety-nine percent of the songs, I throw away. They never see the light of day. But there are quite a few I have now that I do really like and hope I get a chance to record.”

On “New,” she enjoyed singing all the multi-layered harmonies in the studio. “My Grandma Fran, my Aunt Helen and my Mom Jeane and my sister Bonnie, we used to all sing together in harmony, during the holidays and whatnot, even when Bonnie and I were really young. So singing has really been a way of life for us.

“Even though Bonnie wasn’t singing with me on this project, I heard her parts in my head. That Wendy & Bonnie sound, those harmonies that we created together, that’s what we’re associated with. And I think my strengths are melody, harmony and counterpart.

“We had this amazing thing, years ago, with the sibling harmonies. We’ve talked a number of times about doing something together again. And that’s still a possibility. But the geographical distance between us makes it difficult. And Bonnie has her own music she’s working on. But we’re supportive of one another.

“I know that computers make it possible to collaborate with people anywhere. But I like being there, live, with somebody, so we can interact, hear the voices entwine, play off of one another. A lot of creativity happens, when you’re actually visually looking at each other. I’m not a computer person. I never will be.

“Technology is fascinating. It helps people get their art out to the world. But I believe technology may be the undoing of us in the end, because we’re not going out and smelling the roses, not going out to look at the ocean. Maybe that’s why we don’t seem to care enough about the environment.”

Wendy wasn’t sure whether anyone would care about her new music. So she agonized over releasing the “New” album. “It’s been so long since I created music for adults. I’d been doing only children’s music for years. I’m kind of a child myself,” she laughs. “I didn’t know if my new music would be relevant.”

Playing it for musician friends, Wendy received enthusiastic reactions to the material. More support came from the art world.

She approached a painter whose work she had admired on Facebook, Bisbee, Arizona-based Gretchen Baer, to see if she might be willing to do the cover art. Baer, a Wendy & Bonnie fan, loved the new album and created a stunning work that graces “New.” “Her imaginative, colorful art really speaks to me,” Wendy says. “She has even created videos to go with some of the songs.”

Wendy’s doubts about her album reflect her battle with insecurities. “I was a very fragile, sensitive child. But maybe that helped make me more compassionate.

“I was also sensitive in another way. Sometimes I would know things that were going to happen. Once I told my father it was going to snow. He said it didn’t snow in San Francisco. The next day, it snowed. He called me his little Wendy the witch.”

Feeling like an outsider growing up, Wendy found a home in music. Music was where she belonged.

“Music was an outlet for me and my sister Bonnie, as well. She was the only girl in the drum corps. My parents always provided an environment rich in the arts. We took ballet lessons. I would dance for hours and hours. I loved classical music. It was just so beautiful and moving. An involvement in the arts is invaluable for children.

“When my first pet, my dog, died, I played Respighi’s ‘Pines of Rome’ over and over again and cried. It was my way of letting my feelings out.”

Wendy was writing songs at eight years old. “I wrote a love song. I was too young to really understand those emotions. But I was already drawn to the minor chord changes and you can hear a sadness in my voice.”

Rock burst into her world. “I had my transistor radio and kept it glued to my ear all the time, like kids these days have their iPods. And I loved the music of the day, the girl groups, Motown, Brill Building, British Invasion. Then came the singer-songwriters. So there was all this great music happening.”

When she hit her teens, on the rare occasions when she could wrangle parental approval - or sneak out of the house - she would head to the Fillmore to catch bands like Jefferson Airplane, Buffalo Springfield and Janis Joplin with Big Brother and the Holding Company.
Wendy Flower with Super Furry Animals at the Fillmore, San Francisco, 2003“It was a road change for me. When I was a teenager, my Mom and I were clashing a bit. I got along great with my Dad, but he was so busy with his teaching and playing drums in jazz bands.”

Soon Wendy was busy with her first rock band, Crystal Fountain, teaming with Ove Anderson, Jerry Maraini, Skip Walde, Don Coupe and John Anderson. She penned original tunes with the band members, including the first acetate, “Sensations.”

“These were very talented guys. I’m still in touch with some of them. When I sang in front of this band, for me, it was just electric. I would dance all over the stage. I probably overdid it,” Wendy laughs. “But it was really fun.”

Major label interest mushroomed. The Crystal Fountain, with charismatic Wendy as lead vocalist, seemed to have unlimited potential. Her sister Bonnie later joined the band as its fourth drummer. “She was so little, but she just blew everybody away with her chops.”

Family friend Cal Tjader, the great jazz vibraphonist, wanted the teenaged Wendy and Bonnie, with their unique harmonies and sophisticated compositions, to record for the label he co-owned, Skye Records, as a duo. Skye was then home to Lena Horne, Gabor Szabo, Airto Moreira, Grady Tate and Gary McFarland. The Flower parents pushed for this path, rather than Wendy’s rock band. Wendy and Bonnie, still minors, acceded to their parents wishes.

So it was off to Los Angeles for what was an auspicious beginning, “Genesis.” “I had never flown in a plane before, never taken a cab before. I was kind of a fish out of water, but it was quite an adventure. Going into the studio, I was elated.”

Genesis” was produced by the innovative composer/arranger, Gary McFarland. Playing on the sessions were such renowned artists as guitarist Larry Carlton, keyboardist Mike Melvoin, drummer Jim Keltner and bassist Randy Cierly.

“Gary McFarland and all the studio musicians were truly amazing to work with and very sweet to us. Gary, who was extremely gifted, was very open to ideas. I don’t think he ever really got all the credit or attention he deserved. He died at 38, tragically. A very sad story. He tried to be really sensitive to our songs and our vision for them. It was so exciting to hear the other musicians really make our music come to life.

“I learned so much from Gary. Bonnie and I couldn’t wait to see him again after the sessions. We were eager to work with him again. He said, ‘See you next time I’m in San Fran.’ But that was never to be. Such a terrible loss.”

Everyone was thrilled at the way the girls’ songs translated to vinyl. From sunshine pop gems to melancholy moments to jazzy and psychedelic-flavored tunes, all enriched by the girls unique harmonies, “Genesis” mesmerized anyone who gave it a listen.

“The label threw a big dinner for us, but I hardly ate anything, because I was shy about eating in front of people,” Wendy recalls. “Norman Schwartz, one of the other owners of the record company, said to us,’ How does it feel to have made this amazing album? You kids are going to be driving Jaguar XKEs in another year.’ They really built our hopes up. We were so excited.”

Then the company went bankrupt. “We didn’t see it coming. They just went belly up. It was a very difficult time. We had just done two San Francisco television shows and were all excited about doing ‘The Merv Griffin Show,’ which was national. We suddenly heard from our p.r. woman. She called and apologized to us and said she was no longer working for Skye and could no longer take care of us. Then Cal called us to tell us what had happened.”

The Flower sisters did some session work, appearing on several Tjader albums, including “Descarga.” They also performed on a few jingles. “I loved working in the studio. I hoped we could continue doing that forever.

“Cal wanted to take us with him to Fantasy Records. But Bonnie wanted to go in a different direction. And the label only wanted us as a sister duo, with the sibling harmonies, which they thought was more of a novelty. They weren’t interested in us as solo artists. And the situation broke my heart. It was a very depressing time for me, personally. And I just felt like I didn’t fit in anywhere. When I had the band, I felt I had everything to look forward to. Now the rug had been ripped from beneath my feet. It seemed like I had nothing.

“I didn’t think it was over. I knew music would be in my life in some form. I kept trying to get bands together with friends. It became frustrating, because the bands I got involved with, by the time the sound was coming together, somebody would leave and we’d be starting all over again. And I just didn’t feel comfortable in the bar scene. I needed to find something else to do with my life.”

Eventually, Wendy found a gratifying new avenue for her creativity - teaching and children’s music.

“I hated office work. I don’t type well. I love helping people. That’s what’s fulfilling to me. It came down to working either in geriatrics or with children.

“I remembered one time my Dad had Bonnie and myself come to his school to sing some folk songs for the children. It was a wonderful experience. And I thought, ‘This is what I’d like to do. I’d like to take my guitar into classrooms and sing.’ I finally found something that I loved doing, where I felt comfortable and could still be creative and do music.

“You can learn a lot from children. Around them, you can be yourself. I felt like I fit in. Maybe the fact that I couldn’t have children of my own added to how rewarding this was for me.”

She earned her Early Childhood Education degree and taught music to pre-schoolers and kindergartners. Wendy created her own fanciful puppet characters. She recorded a children’s music cassette, “My Pet Songs,” about kindness to animals. Later, she released “Flower Power,” a folk-rock CD with ‘60s-style positive messages for kids and families.

She found out from a friend that her old “Genesis” albums were fetching hundreds of dollars on eBay. “I wished I hadn’t used my copies as Frisbees,” Wendy says, laughing.

“Genesis” had become a cult favorite. Interest from such artists as Stereolab and Broadcast, as well as such producers as Irwin Chusid and Mike Alway led to the album’s release on CD via the Sundazed label. It earned rave reviews from North American, UK, European and Japanese critics, as well as continuous global airplay.

“When people started talking about ‘Genesis’ again, I was shocked,” Wendy says. “I had mixed feelings about it being re-released, because we were so young back then and the songs were so personal. I didn’t really want to rehash the past. That was not a happy time for me. And I wasn’t sure how it would be received this time. I still can’t believe that it has done as well as it has. So many people have contacted me, through my website or Facebook, saying how much the songs mean to them. And most of them are so young! When they say all these wonderful things, sometimes I think they must be talking about someone else. It just doesn’t seem real to me.

“There are so many wonderful singer-songwriters out there, paying their dues, deserving their day in the sun. So I’m like,’ Why is this happening to me?’ I can’t believe this kind of acclaim would come to us, for this project that we did when I was 16. Apparently it has struck a resonant chord with people, all these years later. The music has spoken to them. It’s so overwhelming and beautiful and gratifying to think that the album did amount to something, after all this time.”The ingenious Welsh band Super Furry Animals chose a sample from “By The Sea,” one of the beloved songs from “Genesis,” to open their “Phantom Power” CD. While playing San Francisco’s legendary Fillmore Theater in 2003, they invited Wendy to join them on stage. She performed a duet of the band’s “Hello Sunshine” with front man Gruff Rhys to a standing, cheering, full house. SFA included the rehearsal of that number in their DVD documentary “American Sasquatch.” She sang with the band in following years in New York and at London’s ICA.“We had been told that they were going to use a sample of one of our songs. But when I put on their ‘Phantom Power’ album and suddenly, the first thing you hear is my voice and Bonnie finger-picking guitar, I couldn’t believe it. I got to meet them and they’re the most wonderful guys you’d ever want to meet.

“One of fondest musical memories I’ll ever have is meeting them at Fillmore Auditorium and them asking me sing at the sound check with them. So I finally got my feet planted on the Fillmore stage. I sang the snippet of ‘By The Sea’ and then did a sort of call-and-response duet with Gruff [Rhys] on ‘Hello Sunshine.’ They liked it so much, they asked me to sing it that night at the show. I was blown away. I said, Yes! I’d love to!’ But then I thought, ‘What am I doing? I must be nuts.’ I’d been performing only for children for many years. Suddenly I was going to sing with a rock band at the Fillmore. It was quite an an adventure, I must say. But everything went well that evening. I was traumatized. But nobody threw tomatoes at me,” Wendy laughs. “It was wonderful. And all of the Super Furry Animals’ fans were so welcoming to me. They didn’t say, ‘Who’s that old lady singing with Gruff?’ They were very nice to me.”

In June 2007, at Andy Votel’s invitation, Wendy traveled to England and was warmly received as the closing act at the U.K.’s Llama Festival. Supporting her were Jane Weaver (Misty Dixon), as well as members of Major Dawson, Booger Red, Beep Seals, All Traps Set, and Romper. [Wendy guests on Jane Weaver’s recent album, “Fallen By Watchbird.”]

Wendy then played the Meltdown Festival, which was curated by Jarvis Cocker. Sean O’Hagan and the High Llamas backed her at that show, where she was featured as one of the “Lost Ladies of Folk,” along with Susan Christie and Bonnie Dobson. Again Jane Weaver joined her on harmonies.

“I’d heard Jane’s music and she’s wonderful,” Wendy says. “When Bonnie couldn’t go with me, I was lucky enough to have Jane sing the harmonies with me. I sang some of the Wendy and Bonnie songs, but at a couple of those shows, also some of the songs that wound up on the ‘New’ album. And when the audience was enthusiastic about the new songs, that was really validating for me. And being in the midst of all that talent at Meltdown, it was an unforgettable experience.

“It was so beautiful there in England. To me, it was like Shangri-La. I would like to go back. I would like to live there. Beautiful place, beautiful people. I felt like I was meant to be there. We went to London, Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham and Devon. I’d never been overseas before. And here I was, actually riding the ferry cross the Mersey!

Laetitia Sadier, renowned for her work as a member of Stereolab and Monade, featured a cover of “By The Sea” on her brilliant solo album, “The Trip.” Flower says, “It was truly a thrill to hear her version, which is a very fresh take on the song. And very flattering that she wanted to do it.”

There’s a lot of fresh music in Wendy Flower’s future. Now living by the sea in Northern California, she continues to write intricate pop songs. Before her father passed, Flower was working with him on developing a music curriculum for preschoolers and she would like to bring that to fruition. There’s also an environmental music project based on one of his stories. She’s also eager to get back to performing. “I’m open to the possibility that my Dad is still here, in some way, guiding me.”

It was a long time between “Genesis” and “New.” But hopefully, Wendy will share more new music with us soon.

“Music is my life. Music has saved me, in many ways. It’s very therapeutic for me. When I’m singing, I feel no pain. For me, there’s nothing that can touch that feeling, when I’m totally into a song. Music is the best way for me to express myself.”

You can get more information, photos and even autographed CDs at wendyflower.com. You can “Like” Wendy’s music at: www.facebook.com/wendyflowermusic.

SHINDIG MAGAZINE Interview, 2007
By Jeanette Leech
“From Genesis to Revival”

In 1969, if you lived in San Francisco and your surname was Flower, you really had to release a record or the hippie police would come and get you.  But Genesis by sisters Wendy and Bonnie, seventeen and thirteen respectively, was no hollow cash-in on the twin fortunes of geography and nomenclature.

Innovative albums genuinely conceived of and made by teens, as opposed to those guided by a know-it-all svengali, are a rare breed.  Wendy and Bonnie Flower proved that adolescent music need not be navel-gazing melodrama by combining lyrical clarity with stylish melodies, nuanced harmonizing and a wide range of musical influences to produce ten sublime tracks whose impact continues to grow.

Despite living in the San Francisco Bay region, the clan Flower were not scenesters over at Haight-Ashbury.  “My parents were not fond of rock and roll,” recalls Wendy.  Instead, classical and jazz infused the siblings’ early life.  Both parents were professional musicians and counted jazz innovator Cal Tjader as a family friend.  He broadened the youngsters’ horizons further, inviting the Flowers to his all-night happenings and tossing in Latin and Brazilian records to the sisters’ musical upbringing.   Nevertheless, Wendy and Bonnie were still kids, and jazz purity didn’t preclude them from love for the popular.  “We picked up influences from the radio of the time, such as the Beatles” says Wendy.

By her early teens, Wendy knew singing was her direction.  She formed the scratchy garage band Crystal Fountain along with Ove Anderson, Jerry Maraini, Skip Walde, Don Coupe and John Anderson.  Unbeknownst to her parents Wendy started skipping homework and sneaking out to get her rock ‘n’ roll thrills, leading to Crystal Fountain’s first acetate ‘Sensations’.  “I didn’t show the record to my parents until years later,” remembers a sheepish Wendy.  Crystal Fountain, though, had a peculiar problem.  A succession of their drummers kept running off to join the US Marines.  Bonnie was now a nifty drummer and, after all, a twelve year old girl was unlikely to desert the group for the military, so she joined the group alongside Wendy and the boys.  Crystal Fountain recorded a few more songs and released two, now hopelessly scarce, garage-psych singles that garnered local radio play.  Alongside the group, Wendy and Bonnie had also begun to collaborate at home on more personal material, recorded lovingly by their father.

Cal Tjader heard Wendy and Bonnie’s striking lyrics and burgeoning vocal connectivity, and was impressed enough to play their home demos for Skye, the record label Tjader co-owned with Gary McFarland and Gabor Szabo.  Skye offered recording time for a single, ‘The Paisley Window Pane’ and ‘The Winter Is Cold’ (the latter eventually bumped off the 45 in favour of the more socially aware ‘It’s What’s Really Happening’).  The label liked what they heard and gave the sisters less than a month to come up with an album. 

In a blitz of creativity that can surely only come from adolescent exuberance rather than adult hand-wringing, Wendy and Bonnie hit Skye’s tight deadline and came up with the other eight tracks that would make up Genesis.  Says Wendy of the intensive progress: “It was a magical melding of ideas that fit together, as sometimes happens with siblings, like a psychic music connection”.

November 1968 saw those songs recorded at LA’s United Recording Studios in three sessions, with Wendy, now seventeen, on lead and Bonnie, thirteen, harmonizing and contributing guitar to ‘By The Sea’.  Wendy has fond memories of the sessions, especially the mentorship of producer Gary McFarland.  “He opened us up,” she says, “showing us all about overdubbing, and teaching us more about counterparts and melody lines”.  The sisters’ innocence was balanced by some of the most experienced jazz sessioneers the West Coast had to offer: Jim Keltner on drums, Larry Carlton on guitar, Mike Melvoin and Michael Lang on Hammond organ and piano and Randy Cierly on electric bass.  Carlton’s guitar is particularly effective, providing a musical knowledge to the songs without overpowering their graceful harmonies, and his one fret workout (on the girl-group inflected ‘You Keep Hanging Up My Mind’) adds a strident energy to the most radio-friendly track on the album.  These veteran musicians were genuinely impressed by the mature chord changes and subtle melodies the teens had conjured up in their bedroom.  The sessions finished with a sore-throated Wendy giving her all to ‘Let Yourself Go Another Time’, the song that opens the album.

Genesis is one insidious record.  It’s tougher than the sibling soft-pop of The Free Design, to which it’s often compared, with antsy organs and jazz rhythms shoring up the charm of the harmonies.  In the politicized ‘It’s What’s Really Happening’, the musicians work the understated protest of the lyrics to create a snapshot of the despair in the less salubrious directions of the late 60s world.  The big issues mix seamlessly with the personal, as the heartfelt ‘I Realized You’ tugs you back to that time when every friendship was important, every dream still there for the grabbing and true love would find you in the end.  The music-box quality of ‘Children Laughing’ reminds the listener that Wendy and Bonnie really are prodigious teenagers, as an adult simply couldn’t produce these sentiments without sounding hopelessly contrived.  The multiplicity of the girls’ musical upbringing is evident, with jazz and samba spatters shuffling against each other and mixing in turn with folkish earnestness and pure pop joy.  With no strings or horns on the album, the deceptive simplicity of the arrangements only adds to the intimacy.  Hear it once, you’ll like it.  Hear it twice, you’re intrigued.  Hear it three times and you want to scrabble in the grooves to get into its heart.

The sisters were rightly pleased with themselves and their album.  Genesis came out as part of Skye’s Discovery Series and, with their ages falsified on the sleevenotes, Wendy and Bonnie began the promotional trail.  Skye organized performances at local venues and spots on local TV, and an advertising campaign began as the album was shipped to stores.  Four songs of equal quality to the material on Genesis were demoed for the next album.  But then Skye, after only two years of releasing a body of high quality jazz and jazz-influenced albums, went bust.  Wendy and Bonnie’s prospective big break, a national TV variety show, was cancelled.  There was no money for any further promotion and Genesis sank.

The timing was awful for Wendy in particular, fresh from quitting high school to concentrate on her full-time music career.  She sang a few back-ups for Tjader, and undertook some water-treading advertising work, before another jazz label, Fantasy, offered to take on the sisters.  But the moment was gone; Bonnie was wary after the Skye disaster and chose college instead, while Fantasy wanted a package deal and wouldn’t sign Wendy as a solo artist.  The two sisters did not record or perform as a duo again.  Wendy chucked her excess copies of Genesis around as frisbees.

If that wasn’t enough to quell the sisters’ enthusiasm, their hero of the Genesis sessions, Gary McFarland, fell victim to a fatal heart attack from a spiked drink in a New York bar in 1971.  Wendy and Bonnie were crushed: “I had hoped we would work together again.  Gary had so much more beautiful music inside him” recalls Wendy.  Genesis faded further into the distance for Wendy and Bonnie during the seventies and eighties, but both sisters retained some of the ingredients that had propelled the album into such creative heights.  Bonnie continued singing and developed her love for Latin jazz percussion.  Wendy too continued to hold music central to her work as a children’s entertainer and puppet designer, releasing two albums for children: My Pet Songs and, more recently, Flower Power.

But while the Flower sisters were going about their lives, the word was spreading among a new generation about the unique beauty of Genesis, despite the album having not been available for decades.  Wendy and Bonnie first learned of their hipster resurgence from Irwin Chusid, the renowned champion of outsider music, who reissued the album on CD on Sundazed in 2001.  The whole network of fans, vinyl obsessives and crate digging artists then unfolded to the stunned sisters, many of whom like Stereolab, Broadcast, Super Furry Animals and él records supremo Mike Alway were championing Genesis as a major influence on their own work.

Thirty-five years on, acclaim for Genesis keeps building.  Wendy has recently been performing the songs from the album with contemporary Manchester-based folk artist Jane Weaver harmonizing the Bonnie parts.  Wendy and Jane first performed together in New York, in the midst of an electrical storm with only five minutes to soundcheck.  “Not an ideal first date”, remarks Jane, “but we did really well considering we’d never sung together.  We just click.”  Wendy and Jane continued performing, their chemistry growing.  “Wendy said to me that I should feel free to put my own slant on the songs,” says Jane, “but I really wanted to try to emulate Bonnie’s part to do the powerful innocence of the songs justice.”  In June the love all coalesced in the extraordinary ‘Lost Ladies of Folk’ event at the Queen Elizabeth Hall as part of Jarvis Cocker’s Meltdown.  Curated by noted musical archaeologist Andy Votel and also featuring performances by Susan Christie and Bonnie Dobson, Wendy and Jane wowed an open-mouthed crowd. 

Nowadays both Wendy and Bonnie are still making music, and finally enjoying the applause that should have been showered on them all those years ago.  But it’s still a little overwhelming for Wendy.  “I’m my harshest critic, so it always surprises me when somebody writes me and says how much the album means to them.”  Long may their Paisley Window Pane shine.

A few words with Wendy Flower

You’ve recently done a clutch of live performances in the UK.  How did you find those events?
Life-altering.  Friendships were forged that I hope will last a lifetime.  It was great fun to play the Trof club in Manchester, and I played the LLAMA festival in Devon too.  I was surrounded by talented musicians - Rick and Chris from Voice of the Seven Woods, John and Matt from Major Dawson and Ian from Beep Seals.  Another great thrill on the UK visit was having the opportunity to sing with Super Furry Animals at the ICA in London, and to meet my myspace friends El Goodo.  SFA are such a sweet and generous bunch of guys.  I owe so much to them.
With ‘Lost Ladies of Folk’, the night was like a dream come true, quite surrealistic, actually.  The audiences were so receptive.  Andy Votel is the unsung hero of the event, developing the whole concept; he and Dom Thomas of B-Music have been so supportive.  And Jarvis Cocker made ‘Lost Ladies’ a reality.    Part of the thrill was working with such gifted musicians at Meltdown – The High Llamas, led by the genius, Sean O'Hagan, with the fabulous guitarist Pete Aves.  I once again had the pleasure of singing with the golden-voiced Jane Weaver.  She did her own lovely set that night, as did Cate Le Bon and Emma Tricca.  I have a feeling these talented ladies will never be "lost."

Did you know the other ‘Lost Ladies’ – Susan Christie and Bonnie Dobson – before the event?
I had never met them, but I was a great admirer of their music.  I recently stumbled on an old reel-to-reel tape of my friends and family singing Bonnie Dobson's amazing song ‘Morning Dew’.  They're extraordinary women, as well as tremendous artists.  I hope to work with them again.

Tell us a little about your musical upbringing.
My mother was a jazz vocalist and voice teacher.  Years ago, she sang on a local radio show.  My father was a professional drummer, for years in the house band at the famous San Francisco night spot Bimbo’s 365 Club, and also a music instructor.   He continues to work with me by creating original, illustrated music stories for the children in my classes.  And he’s 87 years old!  I've been lucky enough to meet some of the people I admired from the 60s, most recently Robert Lamm of Chicago.  I was delighted to learn that one of his favourite albums is Gary McFarland's America The Beautiful.  Bonnie and I have recently participated in Kristian St. Clair's new documentary, "This Is Gary McFarland!" 

As the older sibling, did you boss Bonnie about?
I mentioned this to Bonnie and we got a little laugh out of it.  Bonnie said that I was a bit of a taskmaster and overprotective.  In my defence, I'd had some difficult personal experiences and didn't want her to have to go through what I did. 

Did you and Bonnie really come up with Genesis within a month?
‘The Paisley Window Pane’ and ‘The Winter Is Cold’ were the original sessions, and when Skye decided they wanted a full LP, we really had less than a month to come up with the rest of the songs.  ‘It’s What’s Really Happening’ came from a poem I had previously written, called ‘Riding The Wind’.  I used to sing the lyrics with a different melody, during the band days.  ‘The Paisley Window Sill’, which later we changed to ‘The Paisley Window Pane’, was Bonnie’s idea.  But mostly it was a total collaboration between the two of us.

You had some terrific musicians on the album.  Can you tell us a little about the sessions?
The legendary guitarist Gabor Szabo attended some of sessions.  He wanted to play on ‘By The Sea’, but for some reason, it never happened.  Larry Carlton said that he wished that he’d had more time to work on his guitar solo on ‘You Keep Hanging Up On My Mind’.  But we thought it was wonderful.  The drummer, Jim Keltner, complimented us on the songs, saying they had pretty chord changes and melodies.  That meant a lot to us.

What’s your favourite song on Genesis?
My answer has changed over the years.  At this point in time, it would have to be “By The Sea,” because of the Super Furry Animals connection [they used this as a sample to open their sixth album, Phantom Power].  It was such a thrill to have a bit of that heard on the beginning of ‘Hello Sunshine’, which is a wonderful song on its own.

Where was the photo on the album cover taken?
It was shot in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.  I didn’t mind it, and I’m generally not happy with photos of myself.  As for Bonnie, I don’t think the photo did her justice.  

Did you perform the songs live at the time?
We had several live performances, a couple on local television.  One had John Denver on it.  He was very nice to us.  We were booked on a national TV variety show, when the record label went bankrupt and the plug was pulled.  We performed at California schools, at a private party for the San Francisco Giants, at a music workshop, where we were filmed for the public television station.  The enthusiastic reaction of the youngsters at the workshop inspired me to later become involved in children’s music.

What about the demos you recorded, which have now been made available as bonus tracks on the Genesis CD reissue?
They were intended for the second album, had the label not gone under.  However, ‘Story of a Conventional Man’ and ‘Cover My Child’ met with resistance from some at the label, who wanted something more sweet and light, rather than controversial.

How often do you listen to the album these days?
Very rarely.  I had to study it again for the UK performances.

And you met your husband through Skye?
Cal Tjader first introduced us.  Paul was scheduled to be the next pop album for Skye’s Discovery Series.  The two of us briefly played in a band together.  We were good friends and were attracted to each other, but we were both very shy and didn’t act on those feelings.  We lost touch for decades. And then I was singing some original tunes in an Olde World Puppet Theatre production; Paul’s a journalist, as well as a musician, and, as fate would have it, he was writing a story about the show.  So we met again.  We’ve now been married for nearly 18 years.  It reminds me of the theme of ‘I Realized You’, about a friendship that ends up blossoming into love.  

You have just released a new CD, Flower Power, songs for children, which you’ve called “a 60s vibe for today’s families”.  You can see a lot of continuity with Genesis in the subject matter of these songs.  This is a bit of a big question, but how do you see the world having changed since Genesis?
Many people, believing in the messages, helped us put together that Flower Power album.  And we all wanted to heighten awareness of a worthwhile organization called Free The Children (freethechildren.com).  Sadly, I don’t think the world has learned anything.  We’re still dealing with war, poverty, racism and environmental destruction.  I can’t believe that enlightenment is still so elusive.  What kind of world are we passing down to our children?  Will there be a world for our children’s children?  
Perhaps I’m still too caught up in the idealism of the ‘60s.  Small acts of kindness can do a lot to spread positivity.  We all need to participate to help our world change for the better.  Whenever I watch one of my favourite films, “The Day The Earth Stood Still,” it reminds me of the importance of everyone pulling together and getting past our differences.

Who are your favourite modern artists?
There are so many, and my myspace page lists them at length.   But in short - all the wonderful people I’ve worked with, plus Sean Lennon, Petra Haden, Edith Frost, Monade.  I can’t wait to hear the new CDs from Stereolab and Broadcast.

Are there any more collaborations in the pipeline?
I’d love to work with Laetitia Sadier.  She and Tim Gane are amazing talents.  I’m always eager to work with Sean O’Hagan, Pete Aves and Jane Weaver, as well as SFA and all those musicians who joined me at the LLAMA festival.  The subject has also come up with other vocalists I admire, including Linda Draper and Tara Busch.  My husband Paul and I recently jammed with Trish and James of Broadcast, which was an incredible experience.  They’re so creative and imaginative.  For the fun of it, we did a home recording of Paul’s song ‘In The Attic’.  That was especially relevant to me, because I’d been excavating ancient reels from my parents’ attic for a new deluxe edition of Genesis that Sundazed plans to release in 2008.

What’s your next project?
Right now, my focus is on the new CD I’m working on.  My husband has written many of the songs with me.  If any of those other artists would like to participate, I would love that.  I’m really excited about the new material.  We played a few of the songs at a couple of the UK shows and the response was enthusiastic.

We’ll be revamping my website in the near future to offer news of the upcoming projects -www.wendyflower.com

We would love to return to the UK.  I now think of it as a second homeland.  Some of my ancestors come from England.  There’s a possibility I’ll be playing some more festivals there!