The Reinvigoration of a Classic 60s Rock Group

- Skip Press

Brothers Geoff and Robbie Levin began performing music publicly at the Offstage Folk Music Theater in San Jose, California. The venue featured many musicians who would later become well-known, such as David Crosby and Jerry Garcia. Geoff played bass in a group with Garcia long before The Grateful Dead ever embarked on a long strange trip. Then, after Bob Dylan went electric at the Newport Folk Festival in July of 1965, many folkies followed and rock musicians were born. The Levins formed a group with their friend Albert Ribisi, who now has a famous Hollywood actor son named Giovanni.

Geoff had fallen in love with musical movies as a kid and felt that his orchard-filled bucolic hometown was a cultural wasteland. Fitting in with the generational rebellion of the 60s, the Levin brothers and Ribisi were smoking marijuana, but their main emphasis in life was on music and making a mark in the burgeoning industry that was shaping the lifestyle of a generation. The boys named their group PEOPLE! with Geoff on guitar, Robbie on bass, Denny Fridkin on drums, Al Ribisi on keyboards, and the handsome duo of Gene Mason and Larry Norman as lead singers.

Like The Beatles and the Rolling Stones, PEOPLE! started out doing covers of existing hits. They made a big impact when radio station program manager Mikel Hunter Herrington (known locally as Captain Mikey), gave them a new Beatles album before it was played on the air. They locked themselves away for three days learning six songs, then the night of the album’s release, PEOPLE! performed all the songs on a local stage and blew away the audience.

Captain Mikey would, like PEOPLE!, eventually be inducted into the San Jose Rocks Hall of Fame and serve as the inspiration for fictional program directors Jeff Dugan in the 1978 movie FM, and Andy Travis on the 1980s television sitcom “WKRP in Cincinnati.” When he became the group’s manager, he got PEOPLE! signed with Capitol Records. They already had one 45 record released, but weren’t exactly topping the charts. Then Larry Norman discovered a B side of a single in a music store. It was “I Love You” by England’s The Zombies, and it was soon dramatically transformed by PEOPLE! With Mason’s strong lead complimented by Norman’s plaintive tenor and wonderful harmonies throughout, the band recorded their version of the tune, with Captain Mikey producing the new single and album.

After PEOPLE! played the song onstage for Artists & Repertoire people, Capitol Records put on a tenacious push to make the single a hit. One A&R man sat on a pole outside until a radio station played it, while another stood on his head at another station until the record got airtime.

In June 1968, the group’s iconic “I Love You” reached No. 14 on the Billboard Hot 100. It would later achieve number one in Japan (twice), as well as in Australia, Israel, Italy, the Philippines, and South Africa.

The young men were a major success, performing on Dick Clark’s hit TV show “American Bandstand” and scheduled to open for The Who on an American tour.

Then something happened. Geoff and Robbie (four years younger) were looking for life answers after trying psychedelics at an early age. Both brothers were tired of drugs by 1968, and so they and two other band members – Denny Fridkin and Albert Ribisi – joined a cult that had a mission in the San Jose area. Unfortunately, the brothers became zealots.

Within two weeks, Geoff was convinced he could analyze other people and evaluate them exactly, and as he and Robbie scrutinized those around them, they targeted Larry Norman, a Christian, as an anti-social personality because he preferred to stick with Christianity. (Norman’s faith was unshakeable; he would go on to become known as the Father of Christian Rock and release more than 100 albums.) Larry was fired from the band.

This put PEOPLE! in a tough spot. They toured with The Who but with Norman’s majorly important vocals missing, performing their hit song just wasn’t the same. The only consolation was that a long operatic-like piece called “The Epic” (Side Two of the PEOPLE! album), prompted a comment from Pete Townshend that he might write a rock opera someday.

Over the next few years, the group recorded several new singles and three albums but none were hits. By 1971, PEOPLE! was no more.

Robbie Levin got out of the cult before any of the others. Geoff ended up not speaking with his brother for 28 years because of their philosophical differences. On October 19, 2007, however, PEOPLE! was inducted into the San Jose Rocks Hall of Fame and they all reunited for a performance. It was Larry Norman’s last appearance with the group. Geoff and Robbie made up for a brief period.

In 2018, Geoff Levin formally left the cult, and talked everyone but Al Ribisi (who was still a member) into giving the band another try. Larry Norman died in 2008, so John Tristao, who was in PEOPLE! from 1969 to 1971 and was a member of the San Jose Rocks Hall of Fame after spending 21 years as John Fogerty’s replacement in Creedence Clearwater, became the primary lead singer for the group. Today, PEOPLE! is completing a new album and they have plans to document it with a film, both of which they hope to release in the fall of 2019.

Now all seniors, the band members take steps to stay as healthy as possible. Robbie, one of the founders of spinning and a retired clothing company magnate, keeps in top shape with cycling and a vegan diet. Geoff went on to fame as a film composer, record producer, and member of the highly-lauded spoken word group Celestial Navigations (with keyboardist Chris Many and actor Geoffrey Lewis). Geoff has been eating organic and following a healthy lifestyle for decades, and recently began taking the NMN supplement Herbalmax Reinvigorator. He has already noticed a difference.

There’s a reason the supplement works. The way NMN builds up levels of the molecule NAD+ (nicotinamide adenine) in body cells is reminiscent of the career arc of PEOPLE! Every human’s NAD+ levels decrease with age and by age 50, a typical person has only half the NAD+ they had in their 20s. NAD+ fights DNA damage and inflammation, and boosts mitochondria, the “energy power plants” in cells. Studies have shown that NMN supplements provide benefits associated with exercise, may slow aging, and contribute to longer telomeres in cells and thus, to longer life.

NMN expert David Sinclair, Ph.D., a Professor in the Department of Genetics at Harvard Medical, takes NMN and Resveratrol daily. In addition to offering a substantial amount of NMN, Herbalmax Reinvigorator also contains pterostilbene, a compound used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine that is closely related structurally to resveratrol. Pterostilbene mimics the effects of calorie restriction on a molecular level and also activates sirtuins, proteins involved in regulating cellular processes including the aging and death of cells and their resistance to stress.

NMN and the wonders it seems to bring about feels as magical as “I Love You” was to PEOPLE! If you find yourself dreaming of the energy and drive of youth but don’t know what to do to reclaim it, you might want to give NMN a try. It might be sweet music to your health.