We have a lot of mini-themes this week, starting with a set of tracks from L.A. bands recorded in 1967. Can't get much more specific than that.
Artist: Buffalo Springfield
Title: Rock and Roll Woman
Source: CD: Retrospective (originally released on LP: Buffalo Springfield Again)
Writer: Stephen Stills
I refer to Buffalo Springfield this week as being one of the most successful bands of their time. I guess I should clarify that statement. Buffalo Springfield did not sell huge numbers of records (except for the single For What It's Worth). Nor did they pack in the crowds. As a matter of fact, when they played the club across the street from where Love was playing, they barely had any audience at all. Artistically, though, it's a whole 'nother story. During their brief existence Buffalo Springfield launched the careers of no less than four major artists: Neil Young, Richie Furay, Jim Messina and Stephen Stills. They also recorded more than their share of tracks that have held up better than most of what else was being recorded at the time. Case in point: Rock and Roll Woman, a Stephen Stills tune that still sounds fresh well over 40 years after it was recorded.
Title: Free Spirit
Source: CD: Spirit (bonus track)
Writer: John Locke
When Spirit entered the recording studio to work on their first album they recorded more music than they could fit on an LP. One of the tracks that got cut from the final lineup was this gem from keyboardist John Locke. Like most of the early Spirit material, Free Spirit incorporates jazz into the band's sound to a much greater degree than on later recordings.
Source: Nuggets-Original Artyfacts from the Psychedelic Era (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer: Emitt Rhodes
Label: Rhino (original label: A&M)
While San Francisco was basking in the Summer of Love, radio listeners in L.A. were exhorted to Live by local favorites the Merry-Go-Round. 16-year-old drummer Emitt Rhodes had already established himself with the Palace Guard, but took center stage with the Merry-Go-Round. He would later go on to have a moderately successful solo career in the early 70s.
Next up we have a progression through the years. What makes this particular progression stand out is that it starts in 1969. Usually I start a few years earlier, often ending in 69.
Artist: Rolling Stones
Title: Honky Tonk Women
Source: CD: The London Singles Collection (originally released as 45 RPM single) (duh)
Label: Abkco (original label: London)
After revitalizing their career with Jumpin' Jack Flash and Street Fighting Man in 1968, the Stones delivered the coup-de-grace with one of the biggest hits by anyone ever: the classic Honky Tonk Women. The song was the first single without Brian Jones, who had been found dead in his swimming pool shortly after being kicked out of the band. Jones's replacement, Mick Taylor (fresh from a stint with blues legend John Mayall), plays slide guitar on the track.
Artist: Allman Brothers Band
Title: Please Call Home
Source: Beginnings (originally released on LP: Idlewilde South)
Writer: Gregg Allman
Label: Polydor (original label: Capricorn)
Gregg Allman had already cut a few demo tapes before hooking up with brother Duane to form the Allman Brothers band in 1969. Only a couple of Gregg's earlier songs were recorded by the band. This, I believe, is one of them.
Artist: David Bowie
Title: Andy Warhol
Source: single B side (originally released on LP: Hunky Dory)
Writer: David Bowie
Label: RCA Victor
Although the song Changes appeared on Bowie's third LP for RCA, the label went back to Bowie's first RCA album, Hunky Dory, for the B side. The pairing makes for an interesting contrast between Bowie's pre and post Ziggy Stardust styles.
Artist: Country Joe and the Fish
Title: Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine
Source: Woodstock: 40 Years On: Back To Yasgur's Farm
Writer: Joe McDonald
Wrapping up the first segment of the show we have the unreleased (until 2009) live version of Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine from the Woodstock festival. Comparing this recording to the original 1967 studio version (or even the live version from the Monterey International Pop Festival), one can hear the "rock and soul" direction the band had been steadily moving in over the years.
Our second segment features songs recorded in 1966, from a rather eclectic mix of bands.
Title: All The King's Horses
Source: CD: The Monkees (bonus track originally released on LP: Missing Links, vol. 2)
Writer: Michael Nesmith
When the idea for the Monkees TV series was first pitched to NBC, the plan was for the band to perform two new songs on each episode. Once the series was given the green light, musical supervisor Don Kirschner (he of Rock Concert fame) brought in some of L.A.'s top studio talent to record a TON of material to use on the show. The actual band members were then brought in to record vocal tracks. The material being recorded came from a variety of sources. Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, who helped conceive the show in the first place, had considerable input, as did the professional songwriters such as Gerry Goffin, Carole King, Carole Bayer, Jeff Barri and others working for Kirschner out of the Brill building in New York. Finally, there was Michael Nesmith, who had already established himself as a professional songwriter with tunes such as Mary Mary (recorded by the Paul Butterfield Blues Band) and Different Drum (which would become Linda Ronstadt's first hit song) and thus couldn't be entirely ignored. One of Nesmith's early contributions was this song, which was not included on any of the original Monkees albums. The song finally saw the light of day on Rhino's second Missing Links volume, released in 1990.
Artist: Blues Magoos
Title: (We Ain't Got) Nothin' Yet
Source: LP: Nuggets Vol. 1-The Hits (originally released on LP: Psychedelic Lollipop)
Label: Rhino (original label: Mercury)
The Blues Magoos (original spelling: Bloos) were either the first or second band to use the word psychedelic in an album title. Both they and the 13th Floor Elevators released their debut albums in 1966 and it is unclear which one actually came out first. What's not in dispute is the fact that Psychedelic Lollipop far outsold The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators. One major reason for this was the fact that (We Ain't Got) Nothin' Yet was a huge national hit in early 1967, which helped album sales considerably. Despite having a unique sound and a look to match (including electric suits), the Magoos were unable to duplicate the success of Nothin' Yet on subsequent releases, partially due to Mercury's pairing of two equally marketable songs on the band's next single without indicating to stations which one they were supposed to be playing.
Title: I'm So Glad
Source: CD: Fresh Cream
Writer: Skip James
Label: Polydor (original US label: Atco)
Unlike later albums, which featured psychedelic cover art and several Jack Bruce/Pete Brown collaborations that had a decidedly psychedelic sound, Fresh Cream was marketed as the first album by a British blues supergroup, and featured a greater number of blues standards than subsequent releases. One of those covers that became a concert staple for the band was the old Skip James tune I'm So Glad. The song has become so strongly associated with Cream that the group used it as the opening number for all three performances when they staged a series of reunion concerts at the Royal Albert Hall in 2004.
Moving forward in time we have a pair of songs recorded in 1970 and released posthumously the following year. The loss of both Hendrix and Joplin within a few weeks of each other was a blow the counter-culture never recovered from.
Artist: Janis Joplin
Title: Cry Baby
Source: LP: Pearl
Although the song was written for the Electric Flag, once Janis Joplin got ahold of Cry Baby it was all hers. The same can be said of almost every song she recorded or performed.
Artist: Jimi Hendrix
Source: CD: First Rays of the New Rising Sun (originally released on LP: Rainbow Bridge)
Writer: Jimi Hendrix
Label: MCA (original label: Reprise)
Jimi Hendrix was working on a new double album when he died, but nobody else seemed to be sure where he was going with it. As there were several tracks that were unfinished at the time, Reprise Records gathered what they could and put them together on an album called The Cry Of Love. Freedom, a nearly finished piece (the unfinished part being a short "placesetter" guitar solo that Hendrix never got around to replacing with a final take), is the opening track from the album. Soon after that, a new Hendrix concert film called Rainbow Bridge was released along with a soundtrack album containing most of the remaining tracks from the intended double album. Finally, in 1997 MCA (with the help of original engineer Eddie Kramer and drummer Mitch Mitchell) pieced together what was essentially an educated guess about what would have been that album and released it under the name First Rays of the New Rising Sun.
This has to be one of the most unusual mini-themes ever: songs written for particular bands by husband-and-wife songwriting teams. I mean, how many of these even exist? The two featured here could quite possibly be the only ones of the psychedelic era.
Title: Black Widow Spider
Source: LP: Time Out! Time In! For Them
After Van Morrison left Them for a solo career, the band headed back to Belfast, where they recruited vocalist Kenny McDowell. Them soon relocated permanently to the US west coast, where they landed a contract with Tower Records. After a first album that featured songs from a variety of sources, they hooked up with Sharon Pulley and Tom Lane, who wrote an album's worth of material for the band. That album was Time Out! Time In! For Them, an album that has stayed under the radar for over 40 years. I hope through this show to give this album the recognition it deserves as a classic of the psychedelic era.
Artist: Fever Tree
Title: San Francisco Girls (Return of the Native)
Source: CD: Psychedelic Pop (originally released on LP: Fever Tree)
Writer: Scott & Vivian Holtzman
Label: BMG/RCA/Buddah (original label: Uni)
Fever Tree hailed from Houston, Texas and had a distinctive double lead guitar sound that predated groups like Wishbone Ash and the Allman Brothers Band. All the material on the band's first album was written by Scott and Vivian Holtzman, who also produced the album. The song San Francisco Girls (Return of the Native) was a big regional hit in east Texas and moderately successful elsewhere.
This week's second hour kicks off with a five song progression through the years starting in 1965.
Source: CD: Help!
Label: Parlophone (original US label: Capitol)
There is really nothing I can say about this song that hasn't already been said about a million times.
Artist: Count Five
Title: Psychotic Reaction
Source: CD: Nuggets-Classics From the Psychedelic 60s (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Rhino (original label: Double Shot)
In late 1966 five guys from San Jose California managed to sound more like the Yardbirds that the Yardbirds themselves, especially considering that Jeff Beck was no longer a Yardbird in late 1966. One interesting note about this record is that as late as the mid-1980s the 45 RPM single on the original label was still available in record stores, complete with the original B side. Normally songs more than a year or two old were only available on anthology LPs or on reissue singles with "back-to-back hits" on them. The complete takeover of the record racks by CDs in the late 1980s changed all that.
Artist: Strawberry Alarm Clock
Title: The Birdman of Alkatrash
Source: single B side
Writer: M. Weitz
The Birdman of Alkatrash was originally intended to be an A side. For some reason stations instead began playing the other side of the record and it became one of the biggest hits of 1967. That song? Incense and Peppermints.
Artist: Steve Miller Band
Title: Dear Mary
Source: CD: Sailor
Writer: Steve Miller
When Steve Miller first arrived in San Francisco he was reportedly puzzled by the local music scene. After all, he had just left Chicago, where a long tradition of electric blues had created a highly competitive atmosphere for musicians. In comparison he found the local Bay Area bands sloppy, inconsistent and unprofessional. Yet they were drawing the crowds and creating quite the buzz nationally. Undeterred, Miller soon formed his own group and held them to Chicago standards of musicianship, securing a deal with Capitol in the process. Dear Mary, from the band's second album, certainly sounds more Chicago than San Francisco.
Source: LP: Chicago Transit Authority
Writer: Robert Lamm
Speaking of Chicago we have the band that actually had the temerity to name themselves after the Second City itself. Well, it wasn't quite as bad as it sounds. They only shortened the name after being threatened with lawsuits by the city transit system, which happened to have the same name as the band's original moniker: The Chicago Transit Authority. One thing that made CTA stand out (besides the presence of a horn section) was the fact that the band had three lead vocalists and four quality songwriters. Listen, from the first album, comes from keyboardist Robert Lamm, who also sings the song.
The next set has no particular theme, just four good songs played back to back to finish out the segment.
Title: Inside Looking Out
Source: LP: Animalization
One of the last songs recorded by the Animals before their first breakup, Inside Looking Out (a powerful song about life in prison) was covered a few years later by Grand Funk Railroad, who made it one of their concert staples. This has always been one of my all-time favorite rock songs.
Artist: Grass Roots
Title: Let's Live For Today
Source: CD: Battle of the Bands (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Era (original label: Dunhill)
This well-known 1967 hit by the Grass Roots started off as a song by the Italian band the Rokes, Piangi Con Mi, released in 1966. The Rokes themselves were originally from Manchester, England, but had relocated to Italy in 1963. Piangi Con Mi was their biggest hit to date, and it the band decided to re-record the tune in English for release in Britain (ironic, considering that the band originally specialized in translating popular US and UK hits into the Italian language). The original translation didn't sit right with the band's UK label, so a guy from the record company came up with new lyrics and the title Let's Live For Today. The song still didn't do much on the charts, but did get the attention of former Brill building songwriter Jeff Barri, whose current project was writing and producing a studio band known as the Grass Roots. The song became such a big hit that the Grass Roots became a real perfoming band and had several hits over the next couple of years.
Artist: Jefferson Airplane
Source: CD: Surrealistic Pillow
Writer: Paul Kantner
Label: RCA Victor
One of the first songs written by Paul Kantner without a collaborator was this highly listenable tune from Surrealistic Pillow. Kantner says the title simply refers to the basic chord structure of the song, which is built on a two chord verse (D and C) and a two chord bridge (B and A). That actually fits, but what about the 25 part? [insert enigmatic smile here]
Artist: E Types
Title: Put The Clock Back On The Wall
Source: Nuggets-Original Artyfacts from the Psychedelic Era (originally released as 45 RPM single)
On a related subject we have a song that is titled after a popular phase of the time. After a day or two of losing all awareness of time (and sometimes space) it was time to put the clock back on the wall, or get back to reality if you prefer. The "E" types were from Salinas, California, which at the time was known for it's sulfiric smell by travelers along US 101. As many people from Salinas apparently went to nearby San Jose as often as possible, the "E" Types became regulars on the local scene, eventually landing a contract with Tower Records and Ed Cobb, who also produced the Standells and the Chocolate Watch Band. The Bonner/Gordon songwriting team were just a couple months away from getting huge royalty checks from the Turtles' Happy Together when Put The Clock Back On The Wall was released in early 1967.
Our final segment of the week starts off with a set of tunes from 1969, including the two longest tracks of the night.
Artist: Creedence Clearwater Revival
Source: LP: Willie and the Poor Boys
Writer: John Fogerty
Creedence Clearwater Revival, unlike most of their contemporaries, specialized in short, compact songs that usually went right to the top of the charts...almost. Actually, CCR holds the record for most #2 songs without ever hitting the top spot, but that just means they tried harder. Here, though, we have an exception: a Creedence album track that runs well over six minutes.
Artist: Country Weather
Title: Fly To New York
Source: Love Is The Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-70 (originally released only to radio stations)
Year: recorded: 1969; released: 2005
Country Weather started off as a popular dance band in Contra Costa County, California. In 1968 they took the name Country Weather and began gigging on the San Francisco side of the bay. In 1969, still without a record contract, they recorded an album side's worth of material, made a few one-sided test copies and circulated them to local radio stations. Those tracks, including Fly To New York, were eventually released on CD in 2005 by the Swedish label RD Records.
Title: Something's Got Hold of My Toe
Source: LP: Last Exit
Traffic only made two albums before splitting up in 1968 (they reformed in 1970). After the breakup, Island Records assembled a collection of singles, B sides, live recordings and one unreleased track for a third album, titled Last Exit. The unreleased track is called Something's Got Hold of My Toe, an instrumental that sounds like it was a warm-up jam that just happened to get recorded.
Title: My Little Red Book
Source: LP: Nuggets Vol. 2-Punk (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Rhino (original label: Elektra)
My Little Red Book was a song originally composed by Burt Bacharach and Hal David for the soundtrack of the movie What's New Pussycat and performed by Manfred Mann. It didn't sound anything like Love's version. A true punk classic.
Artist: Blues Project
Title: No Time Like The Right Time
Source: CD: Nuggets-Original Artyfacts from the Psychedelic Era (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer: Al Kooper
Label: Rhino (original label: Verve Forecast)
The Blues Project were ahead of their time. They were the first jam band. They virtually created the college circuit for touring rock bands. Unfortunately, they also existed at a time when having a hit single was the considered a necessity. The closest the Blues Project ever got to a hit single was No Time Like The Right Time, which peaked at # 97 and stayed on the charts for all of two weeks. Personally, I rate it among the top 5 best songs ever.
Title: Young Girl Blues
Source: LP: Mellow Yellow
Writer: Donovan Leitch
We wrap up this week's show with a track from the Mellow Yellow album, an LP that, due to a contractual dispute with Pye records, was only released in the US. Although Donovan's music is generally upbeat, the songs on Mellow Yellow, including Young Girl Blues, reflect the negativity he was feeling due to the dispute.