Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Stuck in the Psychedelic Era # 1217 (starts 4/26/12)

    This week we go deep underground. What's that? Stuck in the Psychedelic Era is already just about as underground as it gets? Well, this week we ramp it up a notch as we manage to avoid even our own top 25 songs from the past two years (with one minor exception). We do have a total of four songs that hit the top 40 on this week's show, but three of those are songs that you would not expect to hear on Stuck in the Psychedelic Era (like the format-breaking Wilson Pickett version of Land Of 1000 Dances). Read on.

Artist:    Easybeats
Title:    Good Times
Source:    CD: More Nuggets (originally released in Australia, Europe and the UK as 45 RPM single. Not released in the US)
Writer(s):    Vanda/Young
Label:    Rhino
Year:    1968
    Fans of the movie The Lost Boys and the early days of MTV may recognize Good Times as a hit for INXS in the 1980s. The song was originally recorded by the Easybeats, by far Australia's most popular band of the 60s. The group had relocated to London in late 1966, scoring an international hit with Friday On My Mind, but continued to have their greatest success Down Under, where they continued to hit the top of the charts with songs like Good Times, released in May of 1968. Eventually the songwriting team of Harry Vanda and George Young would go on to form 70s cult favorite Flash And The Pan, with Young being instrumental in helping his brothers Malcolm and Angus get their own band, AC/DC, off the ground later in the decade.

Artist:    Stone Poneys
Title:    Stoney End
Source:    LP: Stoney End (originally released on LP: Linda Ronstadt, Stone Poneys And Friends)
Writer(s):    Laura Nyro
Label:    Pickwick (original label: Capitol)
Year:    1968
    Better known as the title track for Barbra Streisand's breakthrough LP in 1970, Laura Nyro's Stoney End was first covered by the Stone Poneys on their 1968 LP, Linda Ronstadt, Stone Poneys And Friends. As the album title suggests, Ronstadt had come to dominate the group by the release of this, their final LP. After Ronstadt's solo recording career for the Asylum label took off in the early 1970s the Stone Poneys' original label tried to Capitol-ize (ugh) on her success with several compilations, including one called Stoney End, released in 1972 and later re-issued on the low-budget Pickwick label.

Artist:    Steppenwolf
Title:    Spiritual Fantasy
Source:    CD: Steppenwolf The Second
Writer(s):    John Kay
Label:    MCA (original label: Dunhill)
Year:    1968
    Spiritual Fantasy is a departure from the hard-driving rock that Steppenwolf in known for. The song foregoes the usual rock instrumentation in favor of acoustic guitar and string quartet. Lyrically, Spiritual Fantasy is about as introspective a song as the group's leader and primary songwriter, German-born Joachim Krauledat (better known as John Kay), ever wrote.

Artist:    Nilsson
Title:    Sister Marie
Source:    CD: Where The Action Is: L.A. Nuggets 1965-68 (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    D. Morrow
Label:    Rhino (original label: RCA Victor)
Year:    1968
    Well-known as John Lennon's 1970s drinking buddy, singer/songwriter Harry Nilsson first came to prominence in 1969 with the song Everybody's Talking from the movie Midnight Cowboy (the film that brought stardom to actor Dustin Hoffman as well). Although Nilsson is best known as a songwriter (Lennon once called him America's greatest), his first single, Sister Marie, actually came from an outside source.

Artist:    West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band
Title:    Watch Yourself
Source:    LP: Volume III-A Child's Guide To Good And Evil
Writer(s):    Robert Yeazel
Label:    Reprise
Year:    1968
    Although the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band usually wrote their own material, they occassionally drew from outside sources. One example is Watch Yourself, written by Robert Yeazel, who would go on to join Sugarloaf in time for their second LP, Spaceship Earth, writing much of the material on that album.

Artist:    Iron Butterfly
Title:    Termination
Source:    CD: In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida
Writer(s):    Brann/Dorman
Label:    Atco
Year:    1968
    Although most Iron Butterfly songs were written by keyboardist/vocalist Doug Ingle, there were a few exceptions. One of those is Termination, from the In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida album, which was written by guitarist Erik Brann and bassist Lee Dorman.
From a 21st century perspective Termination sounds less dated than most of Ingle's material.

Artist:    Santana
Title:    Incident At Neshabur
Source:    CD: Abraxas
Writer(s):    Gianguinto/Santana
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1970
    Incident At Neshabur is one of many instrumental tracks on the second Santana album, Abraxas. In fact, among rock's elite, Carlos Santana is unique in that nearly half of his entire recorded output is instrumentals. This is in large part because, with the exception of an occassional backup vocal, Santana never sings on his records. Then again, with as much talent as he has as a guitarist, he really doesn't need to.

Artist:    Music Machine
Title:    Affirmative No
Source:    CD: Beyond The Garage (originally released on LP: Bonniwell Music Machine)
Writer(s):    Sean Bonniwell
Label:    Sundazed (original label: Warner Brothers)
Year:    1967
    Unlike many of their fellow L.A. bands, who preferred to stay close to home, the Music Machine toured extensively after scoring their big national hit Talk Talk. While on the road the band worked on new material for a second album, booking studio time wherever they happened to be. One of those places was Muscle Shoals, Alabama, which had emerged as a rival to Memphis's Stax Studios as a hotbed of southern soul music. The Machine recorded two tracks there in early 1967, including Affirmative No, a song that manages to have a southern soul vibe without sacrificing any of the Music Machine's trademark garage/punk sound. Although the original group disbanded shortly after the songs were recorded, both tunes were included on the LP Bonniwell Music Machine, joining a handful of previously released Original Sound singles and several tracks recorded later in the year by a new Music Machine lineup.

Artist:    Music Machine
Title:    The People In Me
Source:    CD: Where The Action Is: L.A. Nuggets 1965-68 (originally released on LP: Turn On The Music Machine and as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Sean Bonniwell
Label:    Rhino (original label: Original Sound)
Year:    1966
    After Talk Talk soared into the upper reaches of the US charts the Music Machine's management made a tactical error. Instead of promoting the follow-up single, The People In Me, to the largest possible audience, the band's manager gave exclusive air rights to a new station at the far end of the Los Angeles AM radio dial. As local bands like the Music Machine depended on airplay in L.A. as a necessary step to getting national exposure, the move proved disastrous. Without any airplay on influential stations such as KFI, The People In Me was unable to get any higher than the # 66 spot on the national charts. Even worse for the band, the big stations remembered the slight when subsequent singles by the Music Machine were released, and by mid-1967 the original lineup had disbanded.

Artist:    Music Machine
Title:    The Eagle Never Hunts The Fly (originally released as 45 RPM single and included on LP: Bonniwell Music Machine)
Source:    CD: Beyond The Garage
Writer(s):    Sean Bonniwell
Label:    Sundazed (original label: Original Sound, stereo version: Warner Brothers)
Year:    1967
    The Music Machine was by far the most sophisticated of all the bands playing on L.A.'s Sunset Strip in 1966. Not only did they feature tight sets (so that audience members wouldn't get the chance to call out requests between songs), they also had their own visual look that set them apart from other bands. Dressed entirely in black (including dyed hair), and with leader Sean Bonniwell wearing one black glove, the Machine projected an image that would influence such diverse artists as the Ramones and Michael Jackson in later years. Musically, Bonniwell's songwriting showed a sophistication that was on a par with the best L.A. had to offer, demonstrated by a series of fine singles such as The Eagle Never Hunts the Fly. Unfortunately, problems on the business end prevented the Music Machine from achieving the success it deserved and Bonniwell eventually quit the music business altogether in disgust. By the way, this is the minor exception I talked about at the beginning of this post, as The Eagle Never Hunts The Fly was #21 on last year's Stuck in the Psychedelic Era most-played list.

Artist:    Mitch Ryder And The Detroit Wheels
Title:    Sock It To Me-Baby!
Source:    45 RPM single
Writer(s):    Crewe/Brown
Label:    Dyna Voice
Year:    1967
    It's unclear whether this song or Aretha Franklin's recording of "Respect" came out first. Regardless, both of them were being heard on top 40 radio long before Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In made its TV debut. This is the first song on this week's show to hit the top 40, by the way, and not exactly what you would normally hear on Stuck in the Psychedelic Era.

Artist:    Every Mother's Son
Title:    Dolls In The Clock
Source:    LP: Every Mother's Son's Back
Writer(s):    Dennis and Larry Larden
Label:    M-G-M
Year:    1967
    For being the largest city in the world (at the time) New York had relatively few popular local bands. Perhaps this is because of the wealth of entertainment and cultural choices in the Big Apple. In fact, the only notable local music scene was in Greenwich Village, which was more into folk and blues than mainstream rock. There were a few rock bands formed in New York, though. One example was Every Mother's Son, one-hit wonders with Come On Down To My Boat in 1967. The group was successful enough to record a second LP, Every Mother's Son's Back, later the same year. Although the album had no hit singles, it did have some interesting tracks such as Dolls In The Clock.

Artist:    Sly And The Family Stone
Title:    I Want To Take You Higher
Source:    CD: The Best Of 60s Psychedelic Rock (originally released on LP: Stand and as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer(s):    Sly Stone
Label:    Priority (original label: Epic)
Year:    1969
    Sylvester Stewart was a major presence on the San Francisco music scene for several years, both as a producer for Autumn Records and as a popular local disc jockey. In 1967 he decided to take it to the next level, using his studio connections to put together Sly And The Family Stone. The band featured a solid lineup of musicians, including Larry Graham, whose growling bass line figures prominently in their 1969 recording of I Want To Take You Higher . The song was originally released as a B side, but after the group blew away the crowd at Woodstock the recording was re-released as a single the following year, which makes it this week's second top 40 hit (albeit an unintended one).

Artist:    Savoy Brown
Title:    Looking In
Source:    CD: Looking In
Writer(s):    Simmonds/Peverett
Label:    Deram
Year:    1970
    In mid-1970 lead vocalist Chris Youlden and the rest of Savoy Brown parted company, leaving Dave Peverett to double up as vocalist and guitarist for the band. The remaining four members (Peverett, bassist Tone Stevens, drummer Roger Earl and guitarist/founder Kim Simmonds) immediately went to work on what would be Savoy Brown's sixth LP. Looking In, when released, ended up being the most successful album in the band's entire run, and the only one to make the British charts (Savoy Brown had always done better with US audiences than in their native UK). Among the many listenable tunes on Looking In is the title track, written by Peverett and Simmonds. Unfortunately, this particular Savoy Brown lineup was not to last, as Simmonds summarily dismissed the rest of the group shortly after Looking In was released, citing musical differences. Simmonds set about putting together a new lineup, while the other three erstwhile members formed their own band, Foghat, a band that would ironically have far more commercial success than Savoy Brown ever achieved. 

Artist:    Herman's Hermits
Title:    Leaning On A Lamp Post (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Source:    CD: Greatest Hits
Writer(s):    Gay
Label:    Abkco (original label: M-G-M)
Year:    1966
    Before the Beatles popularized British rock, there was something called skiffle music. Echoes of this uniquely British popular musical form can be heard in several of Herman's Hermits tunes such as I'm Henry VIII I Am and Leaning On A Lamp Post. Interestingly enough, neither of these hits was released as a single in the UK itself. Now tell me you actually expected to hear Herman's Hermits on Stuck in the Psychedelic Era.

Artist:    Janis Joplin
Title:    A Woman Left Lonely
Source:    LP: Pearl
Writer(s):    Penn/Oldham
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1970
    During the recording sessions for the album that would come to be called Pearl, producer Paul Rothchild asked Janis Joplin to try occassionally singing like she did in church growing up in Texas. Nowhere is this approach evident than on A Woman Left Lonely, a song that starts quietly and slowly builds up to a soulful climax in the trademark Joplin style. A mono mix of the song was prepared, but a single was never released.

Artist:    Moby Grape
Title:    8:05
Source:    LP: Moby Grape
Writer(s):    Miller/Stevenson
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1967
    Moby Grape was formed out of the ashes of a band called the Frantics, which featured the songwriting team of guitarist Jerry Miller and drummer Don Stevenson. The two continued to write songs together in the new band. One of those was 8:05, one of five songs on the first Moby Grape album to be released simultaneously as singles.

Artist:    Love
Title:    Old Man
Source:    CD: Forever Changes
Writer(s):    MacLean/Breadcrust
Label:    Elektra
Year:    1967
    An often overlooked fact about the L.A. band Love is that they had not one, but two quality singer/songwriters in the band. Although Arthur Lee wrote the bulk of the band's material, it was Bryan McLean who wrote and sang one of the group's best-known songs, the haunting Alone Again Or, which opens their classic Forever Changes album. A second McLean song, Old Man, was actually one of the first tracks recorded for Forever Changes. At the time, the band's rhythm section was more into sex and drugs than rock and roll, and McLean and Lee arranged to have studio musicians play on Old Man, as well as on one of Lee's songs. The rest of the group was so stunned by this development that they were able to temporarily get their act together long enough to complete the album. Nonetheless, the two tunes with studio musicians were left as is, although reportedly Ken Forssi did step in to show Carol Kaye how the bass part should be played (ironic, since Kaye is estimated to have played on over 10,000 recordings in her long career as a studio musician).

Artist:    Cream
Title:    Strange Brew
Source:    CD: Disraeli Gears
Writer(s):    Clapton/Collins/Pappalardi
Label:    Polydor (original label: Atco)
Year:    1967
    Strange Brew, the opening track from Cream's Disraeli Gears album, was also released as a single in Europe and the UK (but not in the US) in early 1967. The song has proven popular enough over the years to be included on pretty much every Cream anthology album ever compiled, and even inspired a Hollywood movie of the same name.

Artist:    Cream
Title:    N.S.U.
Source:    LP: Fresh Cream
Writer(s):    Jack Bruce
Label:    Atco
Year:    1966
    Like most bands in the 60s, Cream released their first single, Wrapping Paper, before the LP Fresh Cream hit the racks. Unlike most bands in the 60s, however, the band sold more copies of the album than of the single (which was not on the album itself). For a follow up single, the band recorded a new tune, I Feel Free, using the LP's opening track, N.S.U., as a B side. This second single did well enough to prompt Atco Records to add it to the US version of the album, deleting the studio version of Spoonful to make room for it.

Artist:    Cream
Title:    Dance The Night Away
Source:    CD: Disraeli Gears
Writer(s):    Bruce/Brown
Label:    Polydor
Year:    1967
    With Disraeli Gears, Cream established itself as having a psychedelic side as well as their original blues orientation. Most of the more psychedelic material, such as Dance the Night Away, was from the songwriting team of Jack Bruce and Pete Brown.

Artist:    Wilson Pickett
Title:    Land Of 1000 Dances
Source:    45 RPM single (reissue)
Writer(s):    Chris Kenner
Label:    Atlantic   
Year:    1966
    In the early 90s I did a short stint as program director for a slowly-dying full-service AM station in northeastern North Carolina. The station's music format had been Adult Contemporary since the early 70s, but in recent years had been surpassed in the local ratings by their own FM station in the same building. My idea was to get rid of the current stuff and concentrate on the station's fairly extensive library that dated back to the early 60s. One song that I wanted to put into rotation was Wilson Pickett's version of Chris Kenner's Land Of 1000 Dances, which had gotten extensive airplay on both top 40 and R&B stations in 1966. The station's owner and general manager, whose own musical tastes ran to what it known as "beach music" (a kind of soft R&B music that gave rise to a dance called the Shag), objected to my wanting to play the song, saying "That's not soul, it's hard rock."  As he was the guy signing my paycheck I didn't have a whole lot of choice in the matter, but to this day whenever I hear "1,2,3" followed by the blaring horns of the Bar-Kays and the following buildup by the MGs to Pickett's James Brown-styled vocals I can't help but think of that former boss and his condemnation of the record as "hard rock".

Artist:    Donovan
Title:    Bert's Blues
Source:    Sunshine On The Mountain (originally released on LP: Sunshine Superman)
Writer(s):    Donovan Leitch
Label:    Sony (original label: Epic)
Year:    1966
    In 1966 Scottish singer/songwriter Donovan Leitch got into a contractual dispute with his record label, Pye Records UK. Up to that point his records had appeared in the US on the independent Hickory label. Now, however, he was about to make his US major label debut (on Epic), and the dispute with Pye led to his newest album, Sunshine Superman, being released only in North America. Like Bob Dylan, Donovan was beginning to expand beyond his folk roots, but in addition to the usual rock instruments (guitar, bass, drums, organ) Donovan used older acoustic instruments such as strings and harpsichord as well as experimenting with modern jazz arrangements and instrumentation. Somehow he managed to combine all of these elements in one track, Bert's Blues. Surprisingly, it worked.

Artist:    Byrds
Title:    I Know My Rider (I Know You Rider)
Source:    CD: Fifth Dimension
Writer(s):    arr. McGuinn/Clark/Crosby
Label:    Columbia/Legacy
Year:    1966
    Throughout their existence the Byrds recorded more material than they actually released. This has proven a boon to the folks at BMG/Sony, who have been able to include several bonus tracks on every remastered Byrds CD on their Legacy label. This week we have a classic Byrds reworking of an old folk tune, I Know My Rider (I Know You Rider), recorded in 1966, around the same time as their sessions for the Fifth Dimension album.

Artist:    Groupies
Title:    Primitive
Source:    CD: Nuggets-Original Artyfacts From The First Psychedelic Era (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Cortez/Derosiers/Hendleman/McLaren/Peters/Venet
Label:    Rhino (original label: Atco)
Year:    1966
    You know, with a name like the Groupies you would expect an all-female band or at least something like the Mothers of Invention. Instead we get a band that billed themselves as "abstract rock." I guess that is using the term abstract in the same sense that scientific journals use it: to distill something complicated down to its basic essence, because these guys were musically exactly what the title of their only single implied: primitive.

Artist:    Simon and Garfunkel
Title:    Sparrow
Source:    CD: Collected Works (originally released on LP: Wednesday Morning 3AM)
Writer(s):    Paul Simon
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1964
    Sparrow is one of Paul Simon's most memorable tunes from the first Simon And Garfunkel album, Wednesday Morning 3AM. The 1964 album failed to make the charts and was soon deleted from the Columbia catalog. The LP was re-issued in 1966 after producer Tom Wilson added electric instruments to another track from the album, The Sound Of Silence, turning Simon And Garfunkel into household names.

Artist:    Kinks
Title:    It's All Right
Source:    LP: Kinkdom
Writer(s):    Ray Davies
Label:    Reprise
Year:    1964
    It's All Right, the original B side of the Kinks first hit, You Really Got Me, was not available on an LP until the 1965 album Kinkdom, which was a US-only album made up mostly of tracks that had previously been issued only in the UK. The song shows how strong an influence early US rock and roll had on Ray Davies's songwriting.

Artist:    Velvet Underground
Title:    Heroin
Source:    CD: The Velvet Underground And Nico
Writer(s):    Lou Reed
Label:    Polydor (original label: Verve)
Year:    1967
    A true underground classic in every sense of the word, Heroin, from The Velvet Underground And Nico, is undistilled Lou Reed, supplemented by John Cale's droning viola and Maureen Tucker's unique stand-up style of drumming.

Artist:    Blues Project
Title:    No Time Like The Right Time
Source:    CD: Nuggets-Original Artyfacts From The First Psychedelic Era (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Al Kooper
Label:    Rhino (original label: Verve Forecast)
Year:    1967
    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.

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