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.