What’s most instantly appealing about Pinkiny Canandy is the somewhat absurd (even for the era) album cover. Decked out in faintly purple tights, swashbuckler boots, a cape and neo-Mod hairstyle, Pinkiny Canandy (aka Michael Chain) strikes a triumphant pose, having broken through the album’s cover to survey the racks of similarly forgotten cutouts, deletions and otherwise orphaned albums. Flipping the album over, one is greeted by five comic panels that tell the story of Pinkiny Canandy and, ostensibly, outline the songs on the album. Things get even more intense on the inner gatefold, the action ramping up to a cliffhanger that promises to resolve itself next time.
Only there wouldn’t be a next time. Pinkiny Canandy proved to be the only album released by Chain under the moniker. No stranger to the music industry, Chain had, several years prior to Pinkiny Canandy’s 1969 release, been a member of the Knack (not to be confused with the “My Sharona” group of the same name). Making a name for themselves on the Sunset Strip in the mid-1960s, the Knack signed with Capitol Records, released four singles and, like so many bands of that era, became little more than a footnote in the history of pop music.
Borrowing elements of the Knack’s garage rock aesthetic, adding a dash of bubblegum, proto-power pop and the Kinks’ knack for deceptively catchy melodies housing densely structured, often humorous lyrics, Chain struck out on his own with the somewhat anomalous Pinkiny Canandy album and persona. Despite its 1969 release date, it really sounds more like the ensuing decade, proving itself somewhat ahead of the curve in terms of song structure and style. Much like the Kinks, Chain here forgoes the hippie and psychedelic elements so common in late-‘60s recordings in favor of a more pop/rock approach. More mature than bubblegum yet too light for FM, Pinkiny Canandy was an album without a target demographic.
Most striking, aside from the instrumental arrangements, are Chain’s lyrics. Full of sly wit and wry wordplay, his are the words of a comedian subverting pop music expectations, taking the proverbial piss out of the very idea of rock stardom. On “Goodbye Goodbye” he sings, “We would like to say so long and thank all for clapping for us/But we’d have to stretch the songs by adding another chorus.” Similarly, “Boop Bop a Doop I Love You” features the chorus, “Yes I’m a star, do you wanna see my scar/Where a teeny-bopper hit me with a peanut butter jar?.”
The trouble with Pinkiny Canandy, if it can be labeled as such, is its refusal to adhere to any one particular style for longer than a few minutes. “Mr. Keiley’s Roof” carries hints of Harry Nilssen’s ornate self-harmonizing on the song’s chorus. “Christopher Centipede,” despite its decidedly kid-friendly, decidedly bubblegum lyrics, is a massive earworm, one that proves nearly impossible to shake days and weeks after hearing it. “Mutual Indemnity Insurance Company,” a country rocker, is perhaps the greatest song ever to detail insurance policy coverage options. Despite this lack of clear stylistic identity, Chain proves himself to be an underrated songwriter who, despite a valiant attempt in this hidden gem, never managed to break through to a wider audience.
Still performing in California, Chain continues to write and record new material, as well as work on his comedy routine. All this in addition to a career that saw his songs covered by the likes of Claudine Longet, B.J. Thomas and Vicki Lawrence, voice work on the original “Transformers” cartoon series, a host of television writing gigs and bit parts on both the big and small screens. A restless renaissance man, Chain’s Pinkiny Canandy proved little more than a glorious blip in a long and varied career. Just short of being a lost classic, it’s certainly a hidden gem worth picking up should you find yourself faced with the caped also-ran.