From the liner notes:
Looking back on it, to truly understand the Green Pajamas’ Book of Hours you have to place it into the context of the time it was conceived. 1986 was the year REM released Life’s Rich Pageant and Sonic Youth released Evol. The Smiths released The Queen is Dead and XTC released Skylarking. The Paisley Underground’s brief flowering in the public’s consciousness has withered and died sometime around 1985, Steve Wynn of the Dream Syndicate and Dan Stuart of Green on Red fittingly bookmarking the end of the era with their darkly drunken paean The Lost Weekend. Closer to the Pajamas’ Seattle home, Nirvana’s Bleach was still three years away from blowing everyone’s minds; Mudhoney’s Superfuzz Bigmuff EP wasn’t released until October 1988 (though it’s true to say that elsewhere in the city, Jack Endino was already laying the foundations of arguably Seattle’s most famous export, grunge, with Skin Yard). This then emphatically was not the time to be dabbling with psychedelic pop.
The Green Pajamas didn’t so much dab the essence of psychedelic pop behind their ears though than completely drench themselves in 90% proof patchouli, and by 1986 were already masters of the craft without actually having released an album. Their cassette-only release Summer of Lust had slipped out in July 1984 and the following year, their Kim the Waitress/Jennifer 45 had earned them a modicum of well-deserved worldwide attention.
I can’t remember the exact details now, but there was then something of a rent in the paisley fabric. The line-up of Jeff Kelly (guitars, vocals, keyboards), Joe Ross (bass, mostly), Karl Wilhelm (drums, usually) and relative newcomer Steven Lawrence (guitar) faltered. Jeff released a solo album, Baroquen Hearts (again, on cassette – the 1980s equivalent of the CD-R). It all went ominously quiet for a while.
The announcement in late 1986 that the Green Pajamas’ official debut album Book of Hours was to be released on Tom Dyer’s Green Monkey Records label on both LP and, inevitably, cassette tape was greeted then with a fair amount of interest, over here in England at least, where principal Pajamas songwriter Jeff Kelly was already being lauded a master of his craft. The new line-up saw the departure of Joe Ross, replaced by Bruce Haedt on keyboards and vocals, with Jeff and Steven taking turns on bass and guitar duties. The band’s sound became a lot more polished, the instrumentation far more lush, with cellos, brass, pipes and inevitably sitars all stirred into the mix. And something had happened to Jeff’s songwriting. His ability to knock out instant, unforgettable Beatles-esque paisley pop classics like Kim the Waitress and Katie Lied, the fabulous Peppermint Stick (originally debuted on the Green Monkey Records Monkey Business compilation in 1986) and the oft-overlooked and utterly brilliant ‘In This Castle’ (which always reminded me of Arthur Lee and Love) was undiminished, but now the songs were lyrically more dense, melodically darker and altogether more complex. The outstanding song on and centrepiece of Book of Hours was, and remains, the utterly brilliant The Night Miss Sundby Died – but coupled with that was the wistful Ten Thousand Words, the longing of The First Rains of September, the whimsical Men in Your Life and the darkly threatening Paula and Time of Year (the latter being my own personal favourite track from this album).
During the course of 1987 Book of Hours was re-released in Greece by the short-lived DiDi Records label with the additional song Falling Through the Hole included, and in 1988 the album was released in Germany by The Bouncing Corporation with three alternative tracks, including two more Beatles-esque ballads My Red Balloon and the gorgeous Under the Observatory, which included a lovely cello contribution I seem to remember by guest musician Carla Torgerson of The Walkabouts. The following year, 1989, saw one final reissue of the album in LP format, again with an alternate song (this time Big Surprise), this time on the AuGoGo Records label of Australia. By then however the Green Pajamas had themselves moved on considerably, both musically and in terms of the band’s composition – another story for another time.
I’ve long thought a CD release of Books of Hours, with all the complexities of songs being omitted and added by the various re-releases of the 1980s, was long overdue. Hopefully this release will at long last set the record straight and finally reveal the original masterpiece beneath the patina of the passing years.
Phil McMullen, January 2010