Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Stuck in the Psychedelic Era # 1315 (starts 4/11/13)

Artist:    Rolling Stones
Title:    Let's Spend The Night Together
Source:    45 RPM single (stereo reissue)
Writer(s):    Jagger/Richards
Label:    London
Year:    1967
    I seem to recall some TV show (Ed Sullivan, maybe?) making Mick Jagger change the words to "Let's Spend Some Time Together". I can't imagine anyone doing that to the Stones now.

Artist:    Cream
Title:    Outside Woman Blues
Source:    CD: Disraeli Gears
Writer(s):    Arthur Reynolds
Label:    Polydor (original label: Atco)
Year:    1967
    Although Cream's second album, Disraeli Gears, is best known for its psychedelic cover art and original songs such as Strange Brew, Sunshine Of Your Love and Tales of Brave Ulysses, the LP did have one notable blues cover on it. Outside Woman Blues was originally recorded by Blind Joe Reynolds in 1929 and has since been covered by a variety of artists including Van Halen, Johnny Winters, Jimi Hendrix and even the Atlanta Rhythm Section.

Artist:    Jefferson Airplane
Title:    Plastic Fantastic Lover
Source:    CD: Surrealistic Pillow
Writer(s):    Marty Balin
Label:    RCA
Year:    1967
    Jefferson Airplane scored their first top 10 hit with Somebody To Love, the second single released from the Surrealistic Pillow album. Almost immediately, forward-thinking FM stations began playing other tracks from the album. One of those favored album tracks, Plastic Fantastic Lover, ended up being the B side of the band's follow-up single, White Rabbit. When the Airplane reunited in 1989 and issued their two-disc retrospective, 2400 Fulton Street, they issued a special stereo pressing of the single on white vinyl as a way of promoting the collection.

Artist:    Leaves
Title:    Too Many People
Source:    Mono CD: Nuggets-Original Artyfacts From The First Psychedelic Era
Writer(s):    Pons/Rinehart
Label:    Rhino (original label: Mira)
Year:    1965
    The Leaves are a bit unusual in that in a city known for drawing wannabes from across the world, this local band's members were all native L.A.ins. Formed by members of a fraternity at Cal State Northridge, the Leaves had their greatest success when they took over as house band at Ciro's after the Byrds vacated the slot to go on tour. Like many bands of the time, they were given a song to record as a single by their producer (Love Minus Zero) and allowed to write their own B side. In this case that B side was Too Many People, written by bassist Jim Pons and guitarist Bill Rhinehart. The song ended up getting more airplay on local radio stations than Love Minus Zero, making it their first regional hit. The Leaves had their only national hit the following year with their third attempt at recording the fast version of Hey Joe, the success of which led to their first LP, which included a watered down version of Too Many People. The version heard here is the 1965 original. Eventually Pons would leave the Leaves, hooking up first with the Turtles, then Frank Zappa's Mothers Of Invention.

Artist:    Grass Roots
Title:    You're A Lonely Girl
Source:    45 RPM single B side
Writer(s):    Sloan/Barri
Label:    Dunhill
Year:    1966
    In late 1965 songwriters/producers P.F. Sloan (Eve of Destruction) and Steve Barri decided to create a series of records by a band called the Grass Roots. The problem was that there was no band called the Grass Roots (at least not that they knew of), so Sloan and Barri decided to recruit an existing band and talk them into changing their name. The band they found was the Bedouins, one of the early San Francisco bands. As the rush to sign SF bands was still months away, the Bedouins were more than happy to record the songs Sloan and Barri picked out for them. The first single by the newly-named Grass Roots was a cover of Bob Dylan's Mr. Jones (Ballad Of A Thin Man). The B side was You're A Lonely Girl, a Sloan/Barri composition. The Bedouins would soon grow disenchanted with their role and move back to San Francisco, leaving Sloan and Barri the task of finding a new Grass Roots. Eventually they did, and the rest is history. The Bedouins never recorded again.

Artist:    Monkees
Title:    Pleasant Valley Sunday
Source:    CD: Nuggets-Classics From the Psychedelic 60s (originally released on LP: Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones, LTD.)
Writer:    Goffin/King
Label:    Rhino
Year:    1967
    After making it a point to play their own instruments on their third LP, Headquarters, the Monkees decided to once again use studio musicians for their next album, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones, LTD. The difference was that this time the studio musicians would be recording under the supervision of the Monkees themselves rather than Don Kirschner and the array of producers he had lined up for the first two Monkees LPs. The result was an album that many critics consider the group's best effort. The only single released from the album was Pleasant Valley Sunday, a song penned by the husband and wife team of Gerry Goffin and Carole King, and backed by the band's remake of the Tommy Boyce/Bobby Hart song Words, which had been recorded the previous year by the Leaves. Although both songs ended up making the charts, it was Pleasant Valley Sunday that got the most airplay and is considered by many to be Monkees' greatest achievement.

Artist:    Guilloteens
Title:    For My Own
Source:    Mono CD: Where The Action Is: L.A. Nuggets 1965-68 (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Bruell/Paul/Hutcherson/Davis
Label:    Rhino (original label: Hanna-Barbera)
Year:    1965
    Sometimes you don't quite end up where you expected to. The Guilloteens were a band from Memphis, Tennessee, who relocated to Los Angeles in the hopes of hitting the big time. At first it looked like things might just work out for the group, especially when Phil Spector himself took an interest in their music. Then their path took a strange turn when their manager instead got them a contract with the new Hanna-Barbera label being started by the successful animation team. As one of the band members put it: "We went from the wall of sound to Huckleberry Hound." The result was the single For My Own, released in 1965.

Artist:    Del-Vetts
Title:    Last Time Around
Source:    Mono LP: Nuggets Vol. 2-Punk (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Dennis Dahlquist
Label:    Rhino (original label: Dunwich)
Year:    1966
    The Del-Vetts were from Chicago's affluent North Shore. Their gimmick was to show up at a high school dance by driving their matching corvettes onto the gymnasium dance floor. Musically, like most garage/punk bands, they were heavily influenced by the British invasion bands. Unlike most garage/punk bands, who favored the Rolling Stones, the Del-Vetts were more into the Jeff Beck era Yardbirds. They had a few regional hits from 1965-67, the biggest being this single issued on the Dunwich label, home of fellow Chicago suburbanites the Shadows of Knight. This may well be the very first death rock song.

Artist:    West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band
Title:    Unfree Child
Source:    LP: Volume II
Writer(s):    Markley/Harris
Label:    Reprise
Year:    1967
    For those who are not familiar with reel-to-reel tape technology, here's a quick primer. As with all tape tech, a recording is created by a magnetic head imprinting patterns onto magnetic tape. This tape travels across the head at a predetermined speed. There were actually several speeds used over the years, all of which were standardized by measuring the length of tape travelling across the head in one second. In addition, each standard speed was exactly one half of the one above it, with the fastest having the highest quality. The fastest known speed was 30 inches per second (only used by computers, as far as I know), with 15 ips being the standard speed for studio recordings. Radio stations generally had machines that ran at either 15 or 7 1/2 ips, while home units ran at either 7 1/2 or 3 3/4. Dictating machines, which were virtually useless for recording music, used 1 7/8 or even 15/16 (which had so much tape hiss you could barely hear the recording itself). The advantage of halving the speed (besides the obvious economic advantage) is that the original key of the music is the same, albeit an octave lower. This made it possible to deliberately record something at the wrong speed, then play that recording back at the regular speed in the same key (but at half or double tempo). As the technology developed it became possible to put multiple tracks onto the same strip of tape, with first two, then three, four, eight and even sixteen tracks running parallel along the tape. This is what made it possible to record overdubs (by putting the original recording on one track and play it back while recording more stuff on another one), and to record in stereo. Unfree Child, which starts off a set of 1967 tracks from L.A. bands, has an intro that was actually recorded at a higher speed then played back at the next one down, giving it a deep growling sound. This type of effect, combined with backwards masking (created by playing the tape back to front and recording something on one of the unused tracks) is what got some heavy metal bands into trouble for putting hidden "Satanic" messages on their records.

Artist:    Simon And Garfunkel
Title:    Fakin' It
Source:    LP: Bookends
Writer(s):    Paul Simon
Label:    Columbia/Sundazed
Year:    1967
    Fakin' It, originally released as a single in 1967, was a bit of a departure for Simon And Garfunkel, sounding more like British psychedelic music than American folk-rock. The track starts with an intro that is similar to the false ending to the Beatles Strawberry Fields Forever; midway through the record the tempo changes drastically for a short spoken word section that makes a reference to a "Mr. Leitch" (the last name of the Scottish folksinger turned psychedelic pioneer Donovan). The stereo mix of Fakin' It was first released on the 1968 LP Bookends.

Artist:    Cyrkle
Title:    Red Chair Fade Away
Source:    CD: Red Rubber Ball (A Collection)
Writer(s):    Barry and Robin Gibb
Label:    Columbia/Legacy
Year:    1968
    The story of the Cyrkle is very much a story of quick success followed by a slow, arduous decline. Their first single, Red Rubber Ball, nearly topped the charts. The follow-up, Turn Down Day, did almost (but not quite) as well, and both are heard regularly on oldies radio stations. Their next single did a bit worse, as did the one after that and the one after that. In fact, each and every single the band released did slightly worse than its predecessor. Making things worse was the death of their manager, Brian Epstein, in mid-1967. One bright spot for the band was when co-founder Tom Dawes got wind that the 7-UP soft drink company was looking for a jingle for their new "un-cola" ad campaign. The band spent about half a day recording the jingle and Dawes took home a check for $10,000, pretty big money in 1967. Not long after, Dawes left the Cyrkle for good for a career in the advertising industry, turning out such memorable tunes as Plop Plop Fizz Fizz (Oh, What A Relief It Is). The final Cyrkle record was a single, Where Are You Going, released in January of 1968, with a cover of a Bee Gees LP track, Red Chair Fade Away, on the B side.

Artist:    Max Frost And The Troopers
Title:    Shape Of Things To Come
Source:    Mono CD: Nuggets-Original Artyfacts From The First Psychedelic Era (originally released as 45 RPM single and on LP: Wild In The Streets (soundtrack))
Writer(s):    Mann/Weill
Label:    Rhino (original label: Tower)
Year:    1968
    Max Frost was a politically savvy rock star who rode the youth movement all the way to the White House, first through getting the support of a hip young Senator, then getting the age requirements for holding high political office lowered to 21, and finally lowering the voting age to 14. Everyone over 30 was locked away in internment camps, similar to those used during WWII by various governments to hold those of questionable loyalty to the current regime. What? You don't remember any of that? You say it sounds like the plot of a cheapie late 60s teen exploitation flick? Right on all counts. "Wild in the Streets" starred Christopher Jones as the rock star, Hal Holbrook as the hip young senator, and a Poseidon Adventure-sized Shelly Winter as the rock star's interred mom. Richard Pryor, in his film debut, played the band's drummer/political activist Stanley X. Imagine that.

Artist:    Byrds
Title:    What's Happening?!?!
Source:    CD: Fifth Dimension
Writer(s):    David Crosby
Label:    Columbia/Legacy
Year:    1966
    David Crosby was just beginning to emerge as a songwriter on the third Byrds album, 5D. Most of his contributions on the album were collaborations with Jim (Roger) McGuinn; What's Happening!?!, on the other hand, was Crosby's first solo composition to be recorded by the group.

Artist:    Byrds
Title:    Eight Miles High
Source:    LP: Nuggets Vol. 9-Acid Rock (originally released as 45 RPM single and on LP: Fifth Dimension)
Writer(s):    Clark/McGuinn/Crosby
Label:    Rhino (original label: Columbia)
Year:    1966
    Gene Clark's final contribution to the Byrds was his collaboration with David Crosby and Roger McGuinn, Eight Miles High. Despite a newsletter from the most powerful man in top 40 radio, Bill Drake, advising stations not to play this "drug song", the song managed to hit the top 20 in 1966. The band members themselves claimed that Eight Miles High was not a drug song at all, but was instead referring to the experience of travelling by air. In fact, it was Gene Clark's fear of flying that led to his leaving the Byrds.

Artist:    Byrds
Title:    Why
Source:    CD: Fifth Dimension (bonus track)
Writer(s):    McGuinn/Crosby
Label:    Columbia/Legacy
Year:    1965
    One of the highlights of the Byrds' Younger Than Yesterday album, released in early 1967, was a song co-written by David Crosby and Jim (Roger) McGuinn called Why. Many of the band's fans already knew that a different version of the song had already been released as the B side of Eight Miles High the previous year. What was not as well-known, however, was that both songs had been first recorded at the RCA Studios in Burbank in December of 1965, but rejected by Columbia due to their being produced at studios owned by a hated competitor. Crosby has since said that he prefers the RCA recordings to the later ones made at Columbia's own studios, calling it "stronger...with a lot more flow to it".

Artist:    Seeds
Title:    Girl I Want You
Source:    LP: The Seeds
Writer(s):    Sky Saxon
Label:    GNP Crescendo
Year:    1966
    Considering what else was available on vinyl in 1966, a listen to Girl I Want You, from the first Seeds LP, makes it easy to understand why some people in Los Angeles were convinced that the Seeds were actually visitors from another planet.

Artist:    Butterfield Blues Band
Title:    Get Out Of My Life Woman
Source:    CD: East-West
Writer(s):    Alan Toussaint
Label:    Elektra
Year:    1966
    The second Butterfield Blues Band album, East-West, released in 1966, is best known for the outstanding guitar work of Mike Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop. One often overlooked member of the group was keyboardist Mark Naftalin, who, along with Butterfield and Bishop, was a founding member of the band. Naftalin's keyboard work is the highlight of the band's cover of Alan Toussaint's Get Out Of My Life Woman, which was a hit for Lee Dorsey the same year.

Artist:    Motorcycle Abileen
Title:    (You Used To) Ride So High
Source:    Mono CD: Where The Action Is: L.A. Nuggets 1965-68 (originally released on CD: Warren Zevon: The First Sessions)
Writer(s):    Warren Zevon
Label:    Rhino (original label: Varese Sarabande)
Year:    Recorded 1966, released 2003
    One of the ripple effects of the British Invasion was the near-disappearance of the solo artist from the top 40 charts for several years. There were exceptions, of course. Folk singers such as Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, pop singers such as Jackie DeShannon and Dionne Warwick and more adult-oriented vocalists such as Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin all did reasonably well, but if you wanted to be a rock and roll star you had to have a band. Producers took to creating band names for pieces that were in fact entirely performed by studio musicians, and in a few cases a solo artist would use a band name for his own recordings. One such case is the Motorcycle Abilene, which was in reality producer Bones Howe on various percussion devices working with singer/songwriter Warren Zevon, who sings and plays all non-percussion instruments on (You Used To) Ride So High, a song he wrote shortly after disbanding Lyme And Cybelle (he was Lyme).

Artist:    Country Joe And The Fish
Title:    Super Bird
Source:    CD: Electric Music For The Mind And Body
Writer(s):    Joe McDonald
Label:    Vanguard
Year:    1967
    Country Joe and the Fish, from Berkeley, California, were one of the first rock bands to incorporate political satire into their music. Their I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-To-Die Rag is one of the most famous protest songs ever written. Superbird is even heavier on the satire than the Rag. The song, from the band's debut LP, puts president Lyndon Johnson, whose wife was known as "Ladybird", in the role of a comic book superhero.

Artist:    Buffalo Springfield
Title:    Bluebird
Source:    LP: Homer (soundtrack) (originally released on LP: Buffalo Springfield Again)
Writer(s):    Stephen Stills
Label:    Cotillion (original label: Atco)
Year:    1967
    When it comes right down to it Buffalo Springfield has one of the highest ratios of songs recorded to songs played on the radio of any band in history, especially if you only count the two albums worth of material that was released while the band was still active. This is probably because Buffalo Springfield had more raw songwriting talent than just about any two other bands. Although Neil Young was just starting to hit his stride as a songwriter, bandmate Stephen Stills was already at an early peak, as songs like Bluebird clearly demonstrate.

Artist:    Eric Burdon And The Animals
Title:    Sky Pilot
Source:    CD: The Best Of Eric Burdon And The Animals (originally released on LP: The Twain Shall Meet)
Writer(s):    Burdon/Briggs/Weider/Jenkins/McCulloch
Label:    Polydor (original label: M-G-M)
Year:    1968
    After the original Animals lineup disbanded in late 1966, lead vocalist Eric Burdon quickly set out to form a "New Animals" group that would come to be called Eric Burdon and the Animals. Their biggest hit was 1968's Sky Pilot, a song that was so long it had to be split across two sides of a 45 RPM record. The uninterrupted version of the song was included on the group's second album, The Twain Shall Meet.

Artist:    Fever Tree
Title:    San Francisco Girls (Return of the Native)
Source:    LP: Fever Tree
Writer(s):    Hlotzman/Holtzman/Michaels
Label:    Uni
Year:    1968
    A minor trend in 1968 was for producer/songwriters to find a band to record their material exclusively. A prime example is Houston's Fever Tree, which featured the music of husband and wife team Scott and Vivian Holtzman. San Francisco Girls (Return of the Native) was the single from that album, peaking in the lower reaches of the Hot 100 charts.

Artist:    October Country
Title:    My Girlfriend Is A Witch
Source:    Mono CD: Where The Action Is: L.A. Nuggets 1965-68 (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Michael Lloyd
Label:    Rhino (original label: Epic)
Year:    1968
    By 1968 the L.A. under-age club scene was winding down, and several now out of work bands were making last (and sometimes only) attempts at garnering hits in the studio. One such band was October Country, whose first release had gotten a fair amount of local airplay, but who had become bogged down trying to come up with lyrics for a follow-up single. Enter Michael Lloyd, recently split from the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band and looking to become a record producer. Lloyd not only produced and wrote the lyrics for My Girlfriend Is A Witch, he also ended up playing drums on the record as well.

Artist:    Sugarloaf
Title:    Gold And The Blues
Source:    LP: Sugarloaf
Writer(s):    Corbetta/Pollock/Raymond/Webber
Label:    Liberty
Year:    1970
    There don't seem to be very many tracks highlighting instrumental work in rock radio these days, and virtually none in what passes for top 40. Perhaps that's just a natural consequence of the emergence of a "front" person as the center of attention in the 70s. There was a time, however, that every member of a band played an instrument, and many albums included at least one instrumental track. Gold And The Blues, from the debut Sugarloaf album, is basically a blues jam that shows that Jerry Corbetta was far more than just the guy who sang Green-Eyed Lady and Don't Call Us, We'll Call You; he was quite possibly the best rock organist ever. Bob Webber's guitar work on the tune ain't half bad, either.

Artist:    Fleetwood Mac
Title:    My Dream
Source:    LP: Then Play On (first US version)
Writer(s):    Danny Kirwan
Label:    Reprise
Year:    1969
    Danny Kirwan was only 17 and fronting his own band, Boilerhouse, when he came to the attention of Fleetwood Mac founder Peter Green. Green invited the band to play a few opening gigs for Fleetwood Mac and before long the two guitarists were participating in after hours jams together. Drummer Mick Fleetwood invited Kirwan to join the band, and Kirwan became the group's fifth official member (Christine McVie still having guest artist status at that point). After making his debut sharing lead guitar duties with Green on an instrumental single, Albatross, Kirwan settled in as a songwriting member of the band in time for their 1969 LP Then Play On, contributing as many songs to the album as Green himself (although the US version left two of those songs off the LP). Shortly after Then Play On's release, the group had a huge international hit with Oh, Well (part one), which led to the band's US label, Reprise, recalling the album and reissuing it with Oh Well (parts one and two) added to it. To make way for the nearly nine-minute track, two more of Kirwan's songs were deleted from the lineup. One of those two songs was the instrumental My Dream, which has been reinserted into the lineup on recent CD releases.

Artist:    Procol Harum
Title:    Skip Softly (My Moonbeams)
Source:    CD: Shine On Brightly
Writer(s):    Brooker/Reid
Label:    A&M
Year:    1968
    Procol Harum is not generally thought of as a novelty act. The closest they ever came was this track from the Shine On Brightly album that steals shamelessly from a classical piece I really should know the name of but don't. Even then, Skip Softly (My Moonbeams) ends up being as much a showcase for a then-young Robin Trower's guitar work as anything else.

...and speaking of guitar work:

Artist:    Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title:    Voodoo Childs (Slight Return)
Source:    Import LP: The Singles Album (originally released on LP: Electric Ladyland)    `
Writer(s):    Jimi Hendrix
Label:    Polydor (UK)
Year:    1968
    Although never released as a single in the US, Voodoo Child (Slight Return), has become a staple of classic rock radio over the years and is often cited as one of the greatest guitar songs ever recorded. The song was originally an outgrowth of a jam session (spelled Voodoo Chile) at New York's Record Plant, which itself takes up most of side one of the Electric Ladyland LP. A more refined studio version of the song was created when the band had to do multiple takes for a film crew and Hendrix decided to make something more productive out of the sessions. Voodoo Child (Slight Return) closes side four of the LP, and was released on a three-song EP in Europe shortly after Hendrix's death in 1970.

Artist:    Grateful Dead
Title:    China Cat Sunflower
Source:    CD: Aoxomoxoa
Writer(s):    Hunter/Garcia/Lesh
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1969
    The third Grateful Dead album, Aoxomoxoa, was an experimental mixture of live audio and studio enhancements, much in the same vein as their previous effort, Anthem Of The Sun. One track on the album, China Cat Sunflower, is almost entirely a studio creation, and as such has a cleaner sound than the rest of the LP.

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.

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