Sean Bonniwell of The Music Machine Passes Away

Posted on December 25, 2011 - by Julian Woolsey

Sean Bonniwell, frontman for cult garage psych band The Music Machine, passed away on December 20 at age 71. Very little information has been made available, but a post on his Facebook page at 1:18 AM ET this morning said:

"Sean passed away into eternity last Saturday. He was a man of great faith in Messiah. He will be missed. Until we meet again my friend... I will post memorial information here, it will be in early January. His Brother in Messiah, Nicklas"

Further postings on Bonniwell's Facebook page indicate that he had taken ill earlier this month.

Bonniwell, a California native, formed a band called The Ragamuffins in Los Angeles in 1965. In 1966, they changed their name to The Music Machine and released their debut album, '(Turn On) The Music Machine.' This album featured the band's only hits, the ferocious proto-punk single "Talk Talk," which reached #15 on the charts, and the follow-up "The People in Me," which peaked at #66.

With a signing to Warner Bros. Records in 1967, the band were renamed The Bonniwell Music Machine. A self-titled record was released in 1967, but was met with little success. A third album was recorded and finished in 1969, only to be shelved; tracks from this unreleased record appeared on 'Ignition,' a collection of rarities released by Sundazed Records in 2000.

In 1969, Capital Records put out an album called 'Close' by the artist T.S. Bonniwell; essentially a Sean Bonniwell solo album. This record showed a gentler, more poppy side of Bonniwell's writing, but received little label support and also failed to win over mass audiences. Bonniwell left the music industry after this and went into a period of spiritual quest, though he claims to have written over 300 songs since 1970. Most recently he collaborated with Los Angeles-based garage rock band The Larksmen, performing on stage with them as well as making guest appearances on their 2006 self-titled album.

In 2000, Bonniwell also released an autobiography entitled Beyond The Garage which talked about his life and The Music Machine.

  • Anonymous

    You are welcome to my music site. And enjoy free music http://musiclv.com/music-by-song/2974/play

  • pam gestri

    PEACE SEAN ~ HARD TO BELIEVE IT’S BEEN THIRTY SIX YEARS SINCE WE MET AND HARMONIZED IN SANTA CRUZ – YOUR BEAUTIFUL ‘IT’S THAT TIME OF YEAR AGAIN’ CHRISTMAS SONG ALWAYS MADE ME CRY – EVEN MORE SO NOW – YOU LIVE ON IN MY HEART – SAVE ME A PLACE AND WE’LL HARMONIZE AGAIN SOME DAY.  I KNOW YOU ARE HAPPY AND ENTERTAINING THE FOLKS UP ABOVE :)

    WALNETTO – MY LOVE AND STRENGTH TO YOU – I’LL NEVER FORGET THE THREE OF US CRAMMED IN THE PHOTO BOOTH AT THE BOARDWALK – GOOD TIMES!  PAM [CHROME THROATED SONG KISSER] 

  • Atlantisrecords

    as a matter of fact SEAN BONNIWELL’S  MUSIC MACHINE made great 60′s Garage/Rock/Soul  ahead of our time, with a mytical great feeling, in the same class as THE SEEDS(Sky Saxon passed away already) an other CULT-Bands from the 60′s. Sean Bonniwell passed away on 17.12.2011. I hope the music lives on, also in heaven!

    Bernie Rotzinger – Atlantis Records – Basel (Switzerland)

  • Eric

    Sorry about the spelling errors, bro but you know me………….”Watch out! YOURE STEPPING ALL OVER THE VOCAL. STAY OUTTA THE WAY OF THE VOCAL!!!!!”-Sean Bonniwell, session number 1,000 and………..:)

    • RockyBboosalis

      A truly unique individual…verbose but keenly articulate,too..we could make each other crazy, and did so consistently and constantly, in and out of my studio, after gigs, at meals in burger joints and taco stands, while on the golf course, at the Thanksgiving dinner table, on a few  quiet Christmas Eves, on drives up and down highway 99, in your garage, …We were a little like fire and gasoline….mainly because of our dispositions, my agnosticism,( backed by my sarcastic and nihilistic tongue),our mutual bull headed stubbornness, our alpha male-ism, our willingness to philosophize for hours on end, our mutual delight in debate…all the Talk/talk… and our ultimate fondness and respect for each other.  …Sean, I apologize, (now that it is too late)..and I know you’d graciously accept that dark irony with your singular whimsical smile and a puff of smoke  from one of your ever present little cigars … Yes, I apologize, for letting the friendship lapse over the last  few years … for not taming my own ego more often in the studio to accommodate your vision and for not fully armoring myself to your brilliant eccentricities. You never miss the water until the well runs dry. You might be surprised at how much I will miss you. You will always loom large in my memory… I hope you were right about the metaphysical transport you as a Christian were so assured of…(as a doubting Thomas I have to dread death and ache at its claim on you) …no balm  for me…but I will concede and take solace from the fact  that if anyone in my personal travels through this vale of tears we call life…ever walked the walk of his Christian Vision …it was you!!!… and I have to believe your faith saw you through your journey through Valley of the Shadow of Death. 
      Adios amigo…Rocky
      Eric…hope all well with you and yours.

  • Eric

    I was truely blessed to be able to call Sean a dear friend. I also had the great fortune of working with Sean on numerous occasions in the studio playing guitar on some his more unique tracks :). Im very sad that my friend has shuffled off the mortal coil my am so happy to see him so well remembered. Rest well, amigo….see you at the end of the tour and if you see Bruno tell him I said “Sorry…..Its everyman for himself.” Love you brother.

  • Rick White

    I just learned today, that my friend Sean Bonniwell of The Music Machine passed away on December 20th 2011. Sean was a gifted, intelligent man who easily made me a friend of his. I consider it an honor to have known him. We shared music, emails, and several discussions; but I never got to meet him in person. He died while hospitalized for pneumonia, in mid-December of this year. He was born August 16th 1940. TMM’s hit song in 1966 was “Talk Talk”. TMM was noted for their “fuzz tone” guitar sound and gothic-esq garage rock persona. Sean was a true musical genius. Rest In Peace, my friend. Your unique garage rock music will continue to bring joy to millions.-Rick White, former lead singer for The Human Beinz-

    • Anonymous

      I met Sean at a radio station in the summer of 1990 in Central California.
      I believe he was cutting a commercial for a friend’s business. He was
      a great guy, we spent an hour or so talking about The Music Machine,
      Arthur Lee, & the LA scene of the 60′s. RIP Sean. Rick White, the first 45  I purchased was Nobody But Me, love your music.

      Kevin

    • Jerry Harrington

        The human beinz. Another old band from the sixties.( nobody but me ! ) I had just about forgotten that one. Great song though… as well as (talk talk). Remember the clique (Splash One and Love Aint Easy) I have been talking with their bass player on  Facebook. All of you have a special place in my memory.

         Are all of the human beinz still alive ?  If so, what are your ages ?  Do you still play together ? Great to here from you, Keep Rockin

                                                                Jerry

  • http://CydneyX.blogspot.com/ Cydney

    A truly unique and gifted man.  Sean was extremely intelligent… just brilliant!  He had a delightful sense of humour.  Sean lived a unique life, and followed his own path, always.

    And he had that beautiful face… such striking and unusual features.

    Seldom do you come across a man with such keen intellect who also carried such deep spiritual and religious conviction.  He trusted God.  That’s not an easy thing to do in this world.

    I hope he is with his saviour tonight, in the warmth of family and loved ones who’ve passed on before him, and that all he knows now is JOY.

    God bless you, dear man… I was so fortunate to have crossed your path.

    CydneyX

  • Montycheens

    Godspeed, Sean. You are loved and never to be forgotten.