I didn’t know much (anything) about the band Cactus until a few years ago. Somehow I tripped across the fact that the Van Halen brothers loved this band, so naturally I had to check Cactus out. Bought the Cactus Anthology CD – great.
Someone billed Cactus as the “American Led Zeppelin,” which looking back is an enormous statement to make. But at the time (early 1970), it just meant a loud and hard rock blues band with good musicians: Carmine Appice (skins) and Tim Bogert (bass), both from the Vanilla Fudge; Rusty Day (vox) from the Amboy Dukes (which Ted Nugent was in) and Detroit guitar-slinger Jim McCarty.
Cactus’ stuff is great. Hard, sort of fast and of course a vintage rock sound. Can I hear the VH influence? Yes, definitely in the riff/drums interaction.
You can also hear that Jim McCarty has some sort of fuzz box, or maybe is driving a small amp to the point of blowing it up. Looked into it, and it seems to have been curtain number 1: a fuzzbox into a Marshall Super Lead. More specifically: a ’59 ‘burst Les Paul Standard (since stolen) or a ’54 Strat (ditto) into an Ampeg Scrambler (info) into a Marshall Super Lead. He also apparently used a Fender Twin, but it’s not clear whether that was separate from the Marshalls or in conjunction with them.
Simple chain, sounds killer.
> He apparently used two 100w Super Leads that had somehow been “tricked out” to 120 watts, no info available on the mod(s).
> Decades ago, the ’69 ‘burst, the ’54 Strat (“probably the greatest single-sounding guitar I ever owned,” Jim said in an interview) and a Gibson Hummingbird acoustic that had belonged to Hendrix were all stolen from Jim at the same time. He never got them back.
> From a thread on the Les Paul Forum: “Halfway through recording the first Cactus album he got the ’59 Les Paul Standard Burst for $600 from Dan Armstrong (famous for his lucite guitars). The reverse Firebird was purchased in St. Louis for $300 along with a ’54 Strat for $500…. All of these were acquired around 1970.”
> Cactus didn’t last long for various reasons (drugs, couldn’t get along, same story), reunited a few years ago (different singer) and then disbanded because apparently Tim Bogert was playing too much “lead bass.” From the above Les Paul Forum thread: “After playing a gig in July at the Magic Bag in the Detroit area, McCarty left Cactus for the same reason he left the band 30+ years ago. He can’t deal with Tim Bogert’s going off and playing ‘lead bass’ instead of playing the tunes. Jeff Beck quit Beck, Bogert and Appice for the same reason, just read the Beck biography ‘Crazy Fingers.’ While Tim did great at the B.B.King show, when they played Detroit they did a sound check and everything was fine. The night of the show, Tim went back and cranked up the volume to ’11’ and began to go wild soloing over everything. McCarty told Tim to turn down and Tim looked at him all wild-eyed and said: ‘It doesn’t get any better than this!’ McCarty was devastated: 30 years later and things hadn’t changed a bit. Tim was still a loose cannon. Fortunately the B.B.King CD preserves a record of what could have been. At the Detroit show the bass was so brutally loud the soundman cranked up the kick drum and the whole night you could feel the bass and drums pounding on your chest – it was a real shame. Maybe they can work it out, but I doubt it – McCarty said he’ll never work with Tim again.”
> Jim is still playing, and now his favorite pedal apparently is a Keeley-modded Tube Screamer.
Unfortunately there isn’t a whole lot of Cactus on YouTube, but here’s a taste:
> Lots of fuzz! (Not as much fuzz on the studio recordings.)
2007 Live, Evil
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