Artist: Bob Dylan
Title: Highway 61 Revisited
Source: CD: Highway 61 Revisited
Writer(s): Bob Dylan
US Highway 61 is part of the old Federal highway system that was developed in the 1920s and 30s and has since been largely supplanted by the Interstate highway system. It was at a crossroads along this route that legendary bluesman Robert Johnson is said to sold his soul to the devil in exchange for a successful career. In 1965 Bob Dylan decided to revisit the legend and add to it for his landmark album on which he invented an electrified version of the folk music he had become famous for. His backup musicians included some of the top talent in the New York area, including guitarist Michael Bloomfield of the Butterfield Blues Band and organist Al Kooper, who, incidentally, plays the police whistle heard throughout the title track of Highway 61 Revisited.
Artist: Blues Magoos
Title: Worried Life Blues
Source: LP: Psychedelic Lollipop
Writer(s): Major Merriweather
Major "Big Macao" Merriweather was an early blues artist who is best known for a song he wrote and recorded in 1941. Worried Life Blues has since been covered literally hundreds of times, including a 1965 version on the US-only LP The Animals On Tour. The Blues Magoos apparently were impressed by the Animals' recording of the song, as they copied the arrangement pretty much note for note for their own debut LP, Psychedelic Lollipop, the following year.
Artist: Rolling Stones
Title: Yesterday's Papers
Source: LP: Between The Buttons
Between The Buttons was the Rolling Stones first album of 1967 and included their first forays into psychedelic music, a trend that would dominate their next LP, Their Satanic Majesties Request. The opening track of Between The Buttons was Yesterday's Papers, a song written in the wake of Mick Jagger's breakup with his girlfriend Chrissie Shrimpton (who, after the album was released, tried to commit suicide). The impact of the somewhat cynical song was considerably less in the US, where it was moved to the # 2 slot on side one to make room for Let's Spend The Night Together, a song that had only been released as a single in their native UK.
Title: One Rainy Day
Source: Mono LP: Magic People
Label: Verve Forecast
The Paupers were formed in Toronto in 1965, but did not really catch fire until Scottish immigrant Adam Mitchell became the group's lead vocalist and (with drummer Skip Prokop) primary songwriter. He made his debut with the band on August 14th; within a month the group had signed a contract with M-G-M Records, at the time one of the major US labels. In early 1967 the group came under the guidance of Albert Grossman, who was already well-known as Bob Dylan's manager. Grossman quickly re-negotiated the contract with M-G-M and got the band signed to its associate label, Verve Forecast, releasing a single, If I Call You By Some Name. The band quickly established a reputation for its live performances, reportedly upstaging the Jefferson Airplane on that band's first trip to New York. For some reason the band was unable, however, to create the same kind of excitement in the studio that characterized their live performances. Their debut LP, Magic People, barely cracked the Billboard top 200 album charts and none of their singles charted at all. The band started experiencing personnel changes, although they continued to play high-profile gigs, such as opening for the Jimi Hendrix Experience and the Soft Machine in February of 1968. A second album and corresponding tour followed, but by then drummer Skip Procop was getting interested in doing session work (appearing on Peter Paul And Mary's I Dig Rock And Roll Music, among others), and by 1969 the Paupers were history and Prokop was back in Toronto forming a new band, Lighthouse.
Artist: Penny Arkade
Source: Mono CD: Where The Action Is: L.A. Nuggets 1965-68 (originally released on CD: Not The Freeze)
Writer(s): Craig Vincent Smith
Label: Rhino (original label: Sundazed)
Year: Recorded: 1967; released 2009
In 1967 Michael Nesmith, realizing that the Monkees had a limited shelf life, decided to produce a local L.A. band, Penny Arkade, led by singer/songwriter Craig Vincent Smith. Nesmith already had several production credits to his name with the Monkees, including a recording of Smith's Salesman on their 4th LP. Swim, like Salesman, has a touch of country about it; indeed, Nesmith himself was one of the earliest proponents of what would come to be called country-rock. In 1967, however, country-rock was still at least a year away and Nesmith was unable to find a label willing to release the record.
Title: Dear Mr. Fantasy
Source: LP: Progressive Heavies (originally released on LP: Heaven Is In Your Mind)
Label: United Artists
Steve Winwood is one of those artists that has multiple signature songs, having a career that has spanned decades (so far). Still, if there is any one song that is most closely associated with the guitarist/keyboardist/vocalist, it's the title track of Traffic's Mr. Fantasy album.
Artist: Grateful Dead
Title: Casey Jones
Source: LP: Workingman's Dead
Label: Warner Brothers
After three albums worth of studio material that the band was not entirely happy with, the Grateful Dead finally achieved their goal with the 1969 release of the double-LP Live Dead. So where do you go when you've finally accomplished your original mission? For the Dead the answer was to concentrate on their songwriting skills. The results of this new direction were heard on their next two studio LP's, Workingman's Dead and American Beauty, both released in 1970. One of the highlights of Workingman's Dead was Casey Jones, a song based on an old folk tale (albeit updated a bit for a 1970 audience). Casey Jones was just one of many classic songs written by the team of guitarist Jerry Garcia and poet/lyricist Robert Hunter.
Artist: Led Zeppelin
Title: Immigrant Song
Source: Stereo 45 RPM single
Although the third Led Zeppelin album is known mostly for its surprising turn toward a more acoustic sound than its predecessors, the first single from that album actually rocked out as hard, if not harder, than any previous Zeppelin track. In fact, it could be argued that Immigrant Song rocks out harder than anything on top 40 radio before or since. Starting with a tape echo deliberately feeding on itself the song breaks into a basic riff built on two notes an octave apart, with Robert Plant's wailing vocals sounding almost like a siren call. Guitarist Jimmy Page soon breaks into a series of power chords that continue to build in intensity for the next two minutes, until the song abruptly stops cold. The lyrics of Immigrant Song were inspired by the band's trip to Iceland in 1970.
Title: Who Do You Think You Are
Source: Mono LP: Ain't It Hard (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Sundazed (original label: Viva)
In the early 60s the ABC TV network ran a show called Hootenanny, which was a musical variety show built around the folk music revival that had swept the nation. With the advent of the British Invasion, however, Hootenanny took a ratings hit and found itself replaced with a new, more pop/rock oriented show called Shindig in the fall of 1964. The show had its own house band, the Shindiggers, who later became the Shindogs. The Shindogs had a wealth of talent, including Delaney Bramlett, who would go on to greater fame working with Eric Clapton in the early 70s with his own band, Delaney And Bonnie And Friends. Shindig was cancelled in January of 1966 (to be replaced by a new show, Batman), but the Shindogs stayed together long enough to record a single, Who Do You Think You Are, for Snuff Garrett's Viva label.
Artist: Simon and Garfunkel
Title: Somewhere They Can't Find Me
Source: CD: Collected Works (originally released on LP: Sounds of Silence)
Writer: Paul Simon
Simon and Garfunkel's success as a folk-rock duo was actually due to the unauthorized actions of producer John Simon, who, after working on Bob Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited album, got Dylan's band to add new tracks to the song Sound of Silence. The song had been recorded as an acoustic number for the album Wednesday Morning 3AM, which had, by 1966, been deleted from the Columbia catalog. The new version of the song was sent out to select radio stations, and got such positive response that it was released as a single, eventually making the top 10. Meanwhile, Paul Simon, who had since moved to London and recorded an album called the Paul Simon Songbook, found himself returning to the US and reuniting with Art Garfunkel. Armed with an array of quality studio musicians they set about making their first electric album, Sounds of Silence. The song Somewhere They Can't Find Me was one of the new songs recorded for that album. The song shows a strong influence from British folk guitarist Bert Jansch, whom Simon greatly admired.
Artist: Fraternity Of Man
Title: Bikini Baby
Source: LP: Fraternity Of Man
Writer(s): Fraternity Of Man
Fraternity Of Man was made up of former members of the Factory, a popular L.A. club band led by Lowell George, and the Mothers of Invention, led by Frank Zappa. As could be expected with such a pedigree, Fraternity Of Man was not exactly what you would call a band with a lot of commercial potential. They did, however, gain infamy with their song Don't Bogart That Joint, a track from their debut LP which was subsequently used in the film Easy Rider. Another track from that debut album, Bikini Baby, shows just how weird these guys could be.
Title: Oh! Darling
Source: CD: Abbey Road
Paul McCartney reportedly recorded vocals for the Abbey Road track Oh! Darling on several consecutive days (always using the first take) in an effort to make it sound like he had been performing it night after night in a club. In an interview shortly before his death, former bandmate John Lennon had this to say about the song: "Oh! Darling was a great one of Paul's that he didn't sing too well. I always thought I could have done it better—it was more my style than his. He wrote it, so what the hell, he's going to sing it."
Artist: Uriah Heep
Title: Bird Of Prey
Source: LP: Uriah Heep
Writer(s): David Byron
Although for the most part the practice of drastically altering the track lineup of British albums for US release had been abandoned by 1970, there were still a few exceptions, albeit relatively minor ones. One of these was the first Uriah Heep album, which replaced the song Lucy Blue with Bird Of Prey on the US version. More notably, the album itself was retitled and had different cover art in the US. Apparently the people at Mercury Records figured that Very 'Eavy...Very 'Umble was just too British for the American buying public.
Artist: Del Shannon
Title: Color Flashing Hair
Source: British import CD: The Further Adventures Of Charles Westover
Writer(s): Del Shannon
Label: BGO (original US label: Liberty)
Del Shannon's 1968 album The Further Adventures Of Charles Westover was a complete departure from anything the singer/guitarist had done before. Abandoning his trademark falsetto vocal style and victim's lyrics, Shannon takes on a variety of subjects, such as a dream about trying to reach out to a girl but being unable to touch her. Color Flashing Hair features what sounds like a thousand strings as well as some fine guitar work from Shannon himself.
Artist: Amboy Dukes
Title: Journey To The Center Of The Mind
Source: LP: Nuggets Vol. 1-The Hits (originally released on LP: Journey To The Center Of The Mind and as 45 RPM single)
Label: Rhino (original label: Mainstream)
Detroit was one of the major centers of pop music in the late 60s. In addition to the myriad Motown acts, the area boasted the popular retro-rock&roll band Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, the harder rocking Bob Seger System, the non-Motown R&B band the Capitols, and Ted Nugent's outfit, the Amboy Dukes, who scored big in 1968 with Journey To The Center Of The Mind.
Artist: Beau Brummels
Title: Laugh Laugh
Source: Mono LP: Nuggets-Original Artyfacts from the Psychedelic Era (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Ron Elliott
Label: Rhino (original label: Autumn)
It was difficult for an American band to get a hit record in 1964. Some, such as San Francisco's Beau Brummels, decided the best way was to beat the Brits at their own game. Laugh Laugh, their debut single, was released in December of that year as one of the first singles on popular local DJ Tom Donahue's Autumn label. Ultimately, the decision to emulate British rock worked against the Brummels, as they were never considered part of the blossoming San Francisco music scene.
Artist: Canned Heat
Title: Long Way From L.A.
Source: CD: The Very Best Of Canned Heat (Originally released on LP: Historical Figures And Ancient Heads)
Writer: Jud Baker
Label: Capitol (original label: United Artists)
By 1971 Canned Heat had already hit its commercial peak and was on a long downhill slope saleswise. Their label, Liberty, had been folded into United Artist Records (which had bought Liberty a couple years earlier), and did not seem in the least bit interested in promoting the Heat's latest album, Historical Figures And Ancient Heads. To make things worse, founding member and guitarist Alan "Blind Owl" Wilson had passed away the previous year, forcing the band to make its first lineup changes since bringing drummer Fito De La Parra into the group in 1968. On the other hand, the band, which had initially been perceived as a bunch of blues-loving hippies trying to emulate their idols, was now fully accepted by the blues community, and had even recorded an album with blues legend John Lee Hooker (Hooker 'n' Heat) that is considered among the finest blues albums ever recorded. Long Way From L.A., an odd choice for a single with its blatant cocaine references, is one of the highlights of their 1971 LP Historical Figures And Ancient Heads.
Artist: Jefferson Airplane
Title: Bringing Me Down
Source: 45 RPM single
Label: RCA Victor
One of several singles released mainly to San Francisco Bay area radio stations and record stores, Bringing Me Down is an early collaboration between vocalist Marty Balin and guitarist/vocalist Paul Kantner. Balin had invited Kantner into the band without having heard him play a single note. It turned out to be one of many right-on-the-money decisions by the young bandleader.
Artist: Jefferson Airplane
Title: It's No Secret
Source: LP: Jefferson Airplane Takes Off
Writer: Marty Balin
Label: RCA Victor
The first Jefferson Airplane song to get played on the radio was not Somebody To Love. Rather, it was It's No Secret, from the first Airplane album, that got extensive airplay, albeit only in the San Francisco Bay area. Still, the song was featured on a 1966 Bell Telephone Hour special on Haight Ashbury that introduced a national TV audience to what was happening out on the coast and may have just touched off the exodus to San Francisco the following year.
Artist: Jefferson Airplane
Title: Let Me In
Source: 45 RPM single B side
Label: RCA Victor
Marty Balin deserves recognition for his outstanding abilities as a leader. Most people don't even realize he was the founder of Jefferson Airplane, yet it was Balin who brought together the diverse talents of what would become San Francisco's most successful band of the 60s and managed to keep the band together through more than its share of controversies. One indication of his leadership abilities is that he encouraged Paul Kantner to sing lead on Let Me In, a song that the two of them had written together for the band's debut LP, Jefferson Airplane Takes Off, despite the fact that Balin himself had no other onstage role than to sing lead vocals.
Artist: Shadows Of Knight
Source: CD: Even More Nuggets (originally released as 45 RPM single and on LP: Gloria)
Writer(s): Van Morrison
Label: Rhino (original label: Dunwich)
The original Them version of Van Morrison's Gloria found itself banned on the majority of US radio stations due to controversial lyrics. By changing one line (substituting "around here" for "up to my room") the suburban Chicago punk-blues band Shadows of Knight turned it into a huge hit and (perhaps more importantly) a garage band standard.
Artist: Strawberry Alarm Clock
Title: Incense And Peppermints
Source: Mono CD: The Best Of 60s Psychedelic Rock (originally released as 45 RPM single B side; re-released as A side)
Label: Priority (original label: All-American; reissued nationally on Uni Records)
Incense and Peppermints started off as an instrumental, mostly because the band simply couldn't come up with any lyrics. Their producer decided to bring in professional songwriters to finish the song, and ended up giving them full credit for it. This did not sit well with the band members. In fact, they hated the lyrics so much that their regular vocalist refused to sing on the record. Undaunted, the producer brought in the lead vocalist from another local L.A. band to sing the song, which was then put on the B side of The Birdman Of Alcatrash. Somewhere along the line a local DJ flipped the record over and started playing Incense And Peppermints instead. The song caught on and Uni Records (short for Universal, which is now the world's largest record company) picked up the Strawberry Alarm Clock's contract and reissued the record nationally with Incense And Peppermints as the A side.
Artist: Grass Roots
Source: LP: Nuggets Vol. 9-Acid Rock (originally released on LP: Feelings and as 45 RPM single)
Label: Rhino (original label: Dunhill)
The Grass Roots had their origins as the San Francisco band the Bedoins, but by 1968 had lost all but one of the original members and had become pretty much a vehicle for the songwriting team of Jeff Barri and P.F. Sloan. They released three singles in 1968, the third of which was Midnight Confessions, the group's only certified gold record. The song immediately preceeding it was Feelings which failed to chart (possibly because it was not written by Sloan and Barri). Of course that means I play Feelings fairly regularly. Midnight Confessions? Not at all.
Artist: Eric Burdon and the Animals
Title: The Black Plague
Source: British import CD: Winds Of Change
Label: Repertoire (original US label: M-G-M)
One of the most interesting recordings of 1967 was Eric Burdon And The Animals' The Black Plague, which appeared on the Winds Of Change album. The Black Plague is a spoken word piece dealing with life and death in a medieval village during the time of the Black Plague (natch), set to a somewhat gothic piece of music that includes Gregorian style chanting and an occasional voice calling out the words "bring out your dead" in the background. The album itself had a rather distinctive cover, consisting of a stylized album title accompanied by a rather lengthy text piece on a black background, something that has never been done before or since on an album cover.
Title: Hampstead Incident
Source: Mono LP: Mellow Yellow
Writer: Donovan Leitch
The Beatles started a trend (one of many) when they used a harpsichord on the Rubber Soul album, released in December of 1965. By early 1967 it seemed that just about everyone had a song or two with the antique instrument featured on it. Unlike many of the recordings of the time, Hampstead Incident manages to use the harpsichord, as well as several other instruments not normally associated with folk-rock, effectively without overdoing it.
Title: Season Of The Witch
Source: CD: Sunshine On The Mountain (originally released on LP: Sunshine Superman)
Writer: Donovan Leitch
Label: Sony (original label: Epic)
Season Of The Witch has proved to be one of the most popular and enduring tracks on Donovan's Sunshine Superman album. Due to a contract dispute with Pye Records, the album was not released in the UK until late 1967, and then only as an LP combining tracks from both the Sunshine Superman and Mellow Yellow albums. Like all tracks from both Sunshine Superman and Mellow Yellow, Season Of The Witch was only available in a mono mix until 1969, when a new stereo mix was created from the original multi-track masters for the singer/songwriter's first greatest hits compilation. Season of the Witch has since been covered by an impressive array of artists, including Al Kooper and Stephen Stills (on the Super Session album) and Vanilla Fudge.
Title: Mellow Yellow
Source: Mono LP: Mellow Yellow
Writer(s): Donovan Leitch
Although the Mellow Yellow album came out in early 1967, the title track had been released several months earlier as a followup to Donovan's breakthrough US hit Sunshine Superman. Ironically, during Donovan's period of greatest US success none of his recordings were being released in his native UK, due to his ongoing contract dispute with Pye Records.
Title: Hall Of The Mountain King
Source: CD: The Who Sell Out (bonus track)
Writer(s): Edvard Greig
In the early 1960s various local instrumental rock and roll bands began to mix rocked out versions of classical pieces into their sets, such as Nut Rocker by B. Bumble And The Stingers (from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker). In the UK the most popular of these adaptations was Hall Of The Mountain King, from Greig's Peer Gynt Suite, which was actually recorded by several different bands. The Who did their own studio version of the piece in late 1967, although the recording was not released until 1995, as a bonus track on The Who Sell Out CD.
Source: LP: The Who Sell Out
The Who's most psychedelic album was The Who Sell Out, released in December of 1967. In addition to a wealth of outstanding songs, the album contained several short faux commercials such as the song Medac, written by bassist John Entwistle, which runs 57 seconds. The piece tells the story of a boy whose acne is out of control until he tries a new product, Medac, which makes his face as smooth as "a baby's bottom". The tune is immediately followed by one of the Who's most underrated tracks, Pete Townshend's Relax, which (unlike the rest of the album) was recorded in New York.
Source: CD: The Who Sell Out
Writer(s): Pete Townshend
Label: MCA (original label: Decca)
The Who Sell Out was released just in time for Christmas 1967. It was a huge success in England, where Radio London was one of the few surviving pirate radio stations still broadcasting following the launch of BBC-1 earlier in the year. Incidentally, the inclusion of the various jingles on the album reportedly resulted in a flurry of lawsuits against the Who.