Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Stuck in the Psychedelic Era # 1337 (starts 9/11/13)
Title: My White Bicycle
Source: British CD: Psychedelia At Abbey Road-1965-1969 (originally released in UK as 45 RPM single)
Label: EMI (original label: Parlophone)
Along with Pink Floyd and the Soft Machine, Tomorrow was among the most influential of the British psychedelic bands that popped up in the wake of the Beatles' Revolver and Sgt. Pepper's albums. Evolving out of the In Crowd, a popular British R&B group in the mold of the Spencer Davis Group and the early Who, Tomorrow featured a young Steve Howe (who go on to stardom as a founding member of Yes) on lead guitar and Keith West on vocals. The group was slated to appear in the film Blow-Up, but ultimately lost out to the Yardbirds, who had just recruited Jimmy Page as a second lead guitarist. Unfazed, Tomorrow went into Abbey Road studios and cut My White Bicycle, a song inspired by the practice in Amsterdam of providing free bicycles to anyone who wanted to use one as long as they turned it back in when they were done with it.
Artist: John Mayall's Bluesbreakers
Title: Oh, Pretty Woman
Source: LP: Crusade
John Mayall's Bluesbreakers were, in one sense, a training ground some for Britain's most talented blues musicians, including Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Mick Taylor and Keef Hartley, all of which went on to greater fame as either members of popular bands (Cream, Fleetwood Mac, the Rolling Stones) or as leaders of their own groups. Following the departure of Clapton, the band recruited Taylor to take over lead guitar duties for the 1967 album Crusade, which also featured McVie on bass and Hartley on drums. This lineup would only last for one album, as the next incarnation of the band would feature Fleetwood on drums and Green on guitar.
Artist: 13th Floor Elevators
Title: Slide Machine
Source: British import CD: Easter Everywhere
Writer(s): R. P. St. John
Label: Charly (original label: International Artists)
Following a successful tour of Southern California in late 1966, the 13th Floor Elevators returned to their native Austin, Texas to begin work on a second LP. Unlike the first album, which (like most debut efforts of the time) was recorded in a matter of days, Easter Anywhere took several months to complete. During that time the band underwent personnel changes and a continuously deteriorating relationship with Internation Artists Records, which kept setting up inappropriate gigs instate when the band would have been better served building up a national following. In addition, some of the band members were exhibiting increasingly bizarre behavior due to excessive drug use, which slowed work on the album down considerably. One more factor contributing to the tardiness of the LP was the band's desire to make an album that would be thematically consistent throughout rather than a random collection of songs like their debut LP had been. The fact that the theme itself was pretty cosmic made it that much harder to capture in the recording studio. Although nearly all the material on the album was written by the band members themselves, one track, Slide Machine, was credited to the mysterious R.P. St. John.
Title: I Can See For Miles
Source: LP: The Who Sell Out
Writer: Pete Townshend
I Can See For Miles continued a string of top 10 singles in the UK and was the Who's biggest US hit ever. Pete Townshend, however, was disappointed with the song's performance on the UK charts. He said that the song was the ultimate Who song and as such it should have charted even higher than it did. It certainly was one of the heaviest songs of its time and there is some evidence that it prompted Paul McCartney to come up with Helter Skelter in an effort to take the heaviest song ever title back for the Beatles. What makes the story even more bizarre is that at the time McCartney reportedly had never actually heard I Can See For Miles and was going purely by what he read in a record review. I Can See For Miles was also used as the closing track of side one of The Who Sell Out, released in December of 1967. Some of the commercials and jingles heard at the beginning of the track were recorded by the band itself. Others were lifted (without permission) from Radio London, a pirate radio station operating off the English coast.
Artist: Tim Buckley
Title: Once Upon A Time
Source: Mono CD: Where The Action Is: L.A. Nuggets 1965-68
Year: Recorded 1967, released 2009
Tim Buckley was one of those people whose style it is almost impossible to define. His first album, consisting of songs he and his friend Bob Beckett had written while still attending high school, was released in 1966 on Elektra Records, and was considered folk music. Before recording a follow-up, Buckley switched gears, recording Once Upon A Time in a deliberate effort to achieve commercial success. Elektra Records chose not to release the song, however, and Buckley soon eased into a more eclectic vein, writing songs that incorporated elements of several genres, including folk, rock and even jazz.
Artist: West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band
Title: Smell of Incense
Source: Mono CD: My Mind Goes High (originally released on LP: Volume 2)
Label: Warner Strategic Marketing (original label: Reprise)
One of the commercially strongest songs on the second West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band album for Reprise was Smell of Incense. The length of the track, however (over five minutes), meant it would never get airplay on AM radio. England Dan Seals and John Ford Coley, however, took a shorter version of the tune to the # 56 spot on the charts while still in high school in 1968 with their band Southwest F.O.B.
Artist: Penny Peeps
Title: Model Village
Source: Mono import CD: Insane Times (originally released in UK as 45 RPM single)
Label: Zonophone (UK) (original label: Liberty)
Although the British psychedelic era was considerably shorter (only about two years long) than its American counterpart, there are a surprisingly large number of British psych-pop singles that were never issued in the US. Among those was a somewhat forgettable song called Little Man With A Stick, released in 1967 by a band called the Penny Peeps. The band took its name from the risque coin-fed viewers at Brighton Beach (apparently London's version of Coney Island). Emulating his American counterparts, producer Les Reed (who wrote Little Man), allowed the band itself to come up with its own B side. The result was Model Village, a track that manages to convey a classic garage-rock energy while remaining uniquely British.
Title: Tribal Gathering
Source: The Notorious Byrd Brothers
In January of 1967 David Crosby attended something called "The Gathering of the Tribes: The Human Be-In" at San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. Crosby was so impressed by the event and those attending it that he wrote a song about the experience. Tribal Gathering was recorded by the Byrds on August 16, 1967. Within two months Crosby would be kicked out of the band by Chris Hillman and Jim (Roger) McGuinn. Despite this, Tribal Gathering was included on the Byrds' next LP, The Notorious Byrd Brothers, which was released in January of 1968.
Title: I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better
Source: LP: Mr. Tambourine Man
Writer: Gene Clark
A solid example of Gene Clark's songwriting, I'll Feel A Whole Lot Better was the first Byrds song not written by Bob Dylan to get played on the radio.
Title: Universal Mind Decoder
Source: CD: The Notorious Byrd Brothers (bonus track)
On July 31, 1967, the Byrds recorded the basic tracks for what would become their next single, Change Is Now. They did not yet have lyrics or even a title for the piece, and picked the somewhat whimsical working title Universal Mind Decoder for the session. Jim (Roger) McGuinn added a guitar track to the piece that would later be replaced by fills from Clarence White, who would end up replacing David Crosby in the band by the time the single was released.
Artist: Jimi Hendrix
Title: Easy Blues
Source: LP: People, Hell And Angels
Writer(s): Jimi Hendrix
Year: Recorded 1969, released 2013
Jimi Hendrix did not record with other guitarists very often, making this 1969 jazzy blues jam somewhat of a novelty. In addition to second guitarist Larry Lee (who would join Hendrix onstage at Woodstock), Easy Blues features Hendrix's old army buddy and former bandmate Billy Cox on bass and the Experience's Mitch Mitchell on drums.
Artist: Creedence Clearwater Revival
Source: CD: Chronicles (originally released as 45 RPM B side and included on LP: Green River)
Writer(s): John Fogerty
Yes, I know Creedence Clearwater Revival is not what you would call a psychedelic band. Nonetheless, they made some of the best rock records of 1969, including Commotion, which was released as the B side of Green River. Personally I think it sounds pretty psychedelic. So there.
Artist: Buffalo Springfield
Title: For What It's Worth (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Source: CD: Retrospective
Writer(s): Stephen Stills
Most people associate the name Buffalo Springfield with the song For What It's Worth. And for good reason. The song is one of the greatest protest songs ever recorded, and to this day is in regular rotation on both oldies and classic rock radio stations. The song was written and recorded in November of 1966 and released in January of 1967. By then the first Buffalo Springfield LP was already on the racks, but until that point had not sold particularly well. When it became clear that For What It's Worth was turning into a major hit, Atco Records quickly recalled the album and added the song to it (as the opening track). All subsequent pressings of the LP (and later the CD) contain For What It's Worth, making earlier copies of the album somewhat of a rarity and quite collectable.
Artist: Otis Redding
Title: Mr. Pitiful
Source: 45 RPM single (reissue)
Otis Redding got his first big break when he recorded These Arms Of Mine in late 1962. The song took off on the R&B charts the following year, eventually selling over 800,000 copies. Redding followed the song up with a series of R&B hits in the same slow soulful style, leading one music critic to dub him Mr. Pitiful. Redding, always one to recognize an opportunity, took the title and, along with co-writer Steve Cropper, came up with his first up-tempo hit in 1965. By the time of his death in late 1967 Redding had established himself as one of the top R&B acts in the country, and, thanks to a electrifying set at the Monterey International Pop Festival in June of 1967, was well on the way to becoming a major star on top 40 radio as well.
Title: It Won't Be Long
Source: Mono CD: With The Beatles
The second Beatles LP, With The Beatles, starts off in powerful fashion with the Lennon/McCartney track It Won't Be Long. The song was also included on the band's first record for Capitol in the US, Meet the Beatles, and was an important piece of the Beatlemania phenomenon.
Title: Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds
Source: CD: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Label: Parlophone (original US label: Capitol)
The top album of 1967 was the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. It was also the first US Beatle album to have a song lineup that was identical to the original UK LP. As such, it was also the first Beatle album released in the US to not include any songs that were also released as singles. Nonetheless, several tracks from the LP found their way onto the playlists of both top 40 AM and "underground" FM stations from coast to coast. Among the most popular of these tracks was John Lennon's Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, which shows up on just about everyone's list of classic psychedelic tunes.
Title: Birthday/Yer Blues
Source: LP: The Beatles
One of the great ironies of rock history was that the album entitled simply The Beatles was the one that had the fewest songs with all four of the band members playing on them. By 1968 the Beatles were experiencing internal conflicts, and nearly all of John Lennon and Paul McCartney's songs were played by just the two of them, while George Harrison's songs (and Ringo Starr's single contribution as a songwriter) featured an array of some of the UK's top musicians (including guitarist Eric Clapton). The opening tracks of side three of the album are typical of this approach, as Birthday is essentially a McCartney solo piece. Yer Blues, on the other hand, has Lennon singing and playing guitar, with probably McCartney on bass and drums. The first performance of Yer Blues in front of a live audience was in December of 1968 as part of the Rolling Stones Rock And Roll Circus. It was not the Beatles however, that performed the tune. Instead, Yer Blues was played by the Dirty Mac, a jam band consisting of Lennon, Clapton, drummer Mitch Mitchell (of the Jimi Hendrix Experience), and the Stones' Keith Richards on bass. That performance was never seen, other than by the studio audience, until the entire Circus was released on DVD a few years ago (Mick Jagger reportedly had the entire project shelved due to his dissatisfaction with the Stones' performance).
Artist: Rolling Stones
Title: Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing In The Shadow?
Source: Mono CD: Flowers
Label: Abkco (original label: London)
By mid-1966 there was a population explosion of teenage rock bands popping up in garages and basements all across the US, the majority of which were doing their best to emulate the grungy sound of their heroes, the Rolling Stones. The Stones themselves responded by ramping up the grunge factor to a previously unheard of degree with their last single of the year, Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing In The Shadow? It was the most feedback-laden record ever to make the top 40 at that point in time, and it inspired America's garage bands to buy even more powerful amps and crank up the volume (driving their parents to drink in the process).
Artist: Count Five
Title: Psychotic Reaction
Source: Mono CD: Nuggets-Classics From The Psychedelic 60s (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Rhino (original label: Double Shot)
Although San Jose, Ca. is a rather large city in its own right (the 10th-largest city in the US in fact), it has always had a kind of suburban status, thanks to being within the same media market as San Francisco. Nonetheless, San Jose had its own very active music scene in the mid-60s, and Count Five was, for a time in late 1966, at the top of the heap, thanks in large part to Psychotic Reaction tearing up the national charts.
Artist: Blues Magoos
Title: Tobacco Road
Source: LP: Psychedelic Lollipop
Writer(s): John D. Loudermilk
For years I've been trying to find a DVD copy of a video I saw on YouTube. It was the Blues Magoos, complete with electric suits and smoke generators, performing Tobacco Road on a Bob Hope TV special. The performance itself was a vintage piece of psychedelia, but the true appeal of the video is in Hope's reaction to the band immediately following the song. You can practically hear him thinking "Well, that's one act I'm not taking with me on my next USO tour."
Artist: David Axelrod
Source: British import CD: Ah Feel Like Ahcid (originally released on LP: Song Of Innocence)
Writer(s): David Axelrod
Label: Zonophone (original label: Capitol)
One of the more unique talents of the psychedelic era was a man named David Axelrod. Originally known as a jazz producer, working with such artists as Lou Reed and Cannonball Adderly, Axelrod came to the attention of the rock world when he scored an entire Catholic Mass for a rock band, the Electric Prunes' Mass In F Minor, in 1968. The piece was sung entirely in Latin and featured mostly studio musicians playing the complicated score. The same year, Axelrod released Song Of Innocence, setting the words of poet William Blake to modern music. The opening track of Song Of Innocence is Urizen, named for one of Blake's key characters.
Source: Mono European import LP: Disraeli Gears
Label: Lilith (original label: Atco)
I distinctly remember this song getting played on the local jukebox just as much as the single's A side, Sunshine Of Your Love (maybe even more). Like most of Cream's more psychedelic material, SWLABR (the title being an anagram for She Walks Like A Bearded Rainbow) was written by the songwriting team of Jack Bruce and poet Pete Brown. Brown had originally been brought in as a co-writer for Ginger Baker, but soon realized that he and Bruce had better songwriting chemistry.
Artist: Procol Harum
Title: Conquistador (1971 stereo mix)
Source: CD: Procol Harum
For reasons that are lost to history, the first Procol Harum album was released five months earlier in the US than it was in the UK. It also was released with a slightly different song lineup, a practice that was fairly common earlier in the decade but that had been pretty much abandoned by mid-1967. One notable difference is the inclusion of A Whiter Shade Of Pale on the US version (the British practice being to not include songs on LPs that had been already issued on 45 RPM records). The opening track of the UK version was Conquistador, a song that would not become well-known until 1972, when a live version with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra backing up the band became a hit single. The original 1967 album was mixed entirely in monoraul (single channel), although in 1971 Malcolm Jones created new stereo mixes of three songs from the LP, including Conquistador.
Artist: Led Zeppelin
Title: Heartbreaker/Living Loving Maid (She's Just A Woman)
Source: CD: Led Zeppelin II
For years album (now called classic) rock radio stations have been playing Led Zeppelin's Heartbreaker and letting the album play through to the next song, Living Loving Maid (She's Just A Woman). Back when Stuck in the Psychedelic Era was a local show being played live I occassionally made it a point to play Heartbreaker and follow it with something else entirely. Since people now expect this of me I decided to pull a fast one and let the two songs play back to back, just like the big guys do (just don't expect me to do it again).
Title: Hey Joe
Source: Mono LP: Love
Writer(s): Billy Roberts
There are contradictory stories of the origins of the song Hey Joe. Some say it's a traditional folk song, while others have attributed it to various songwriters, including Tim Rose and Dino Valenti (under his birth name Chet Powers). As near as I've been able to determine the song was actually written by an obscure California folk singer named Billy Roberts, who reportedly was performing the song as early as 1958. The song circulated among West Coast musicians over the years and eventually caught the attention of the Byrds' David Crosby. Crosby was unable to convince his bandmates to record the song, although they did include it in their live sets at Ciro's on L.A.'s Sunset Strip. One of the Byrds' roadies, Bryan Maclean, joined up with Arthur Lee's new band, Love, and brought Crosby's version of the song (which had slightly different lyrics than other, more popular versions) with him. In 1966 Love included Hey Joe on their debut album, with Maclean doing the vocals. Meanwhile another L.A. band, the Leaves, recorded their own version of Hey Joe (reportedly using misremembered lyrics acquired from Love's Johnny Echols) in 1965, but had little success with it. In 1966 they recorded a new version of the song, adding screaming fuzz-drenched lead guitar parts by Bobby Arlin, and Hey Joe finally became a national hit. With two other L.A. bands (and Chicago's Shadows Of Knight) having recorded a song that David Crosby had come to regard as his own, the Byrds finally committed their own version of Hey Joe to vinyl in late 1966 on the Fifth Dimension album, but even Crosby eventually admitted that recording the song was a mistake. Up to this point the song had always been recorded at a fast tempo, but two L.A. songwriters, Sean Bonniwell (of the Music Machine) and folk singer Tim Rose, came up with the idea of slowing the song down. Both the Music Machine and Tim Rose versions of the songs were released on albums in 1966. Jimi Hendrix heard the Rose recording and used it as the basis for his own embellished version of the song, which was released as a single in the UK in late 1966 (although it did not come out in the US until the release of the Are You Experienced album in 1967).
Title: Stephanie Knows Who
Source: CD: Da Capo
Writer(s): Arthur Lee
Following up on a strong, if not spectacular debut LP followed by a national hit record (7&7 Is), Love went into the studio with two new members to record their second album, Da Capo. By this point the band had established themselves as the most popular band on the Sunset Strip, and the music on Da Capo is a fair representation of what the group was doing onstage (including the 17 minute Revelation, which takes up the entire second side of the LP). The opening track, Stephanie Knows Who, is hard proto-punk, showcasing the band's tightness with abrupt changes in tempo throughout the song. The tune also features the harpsichord playing of "Snoopy" Pfisterer, who switched over from drums to keyboards for the LP, making way for Michael Stewart, who stayed with the band for their next LP, Forever Changes.
Title: Signed D.C.
Source: Mono LP: Love
Writer(s): Arthur Lee
The only acoustic track on the first Love album was Signed D.C., a slow ballad in the tradition of House of the Rising Sun. The song takes the form of a letter penned by a heroin addict, and the imagery is both stark and disturbing. Although Lee was known to occasionally say otherwise, the song title probably refers to Love's original drummer Don Conka, who left the band before their first recording sessions.
Artist: Music Machine
Title: Dark White
Source: CD: Ignition
Writer(s): Sean Bonniwell
Year: Recorded 1969, released 2003
One of the final recordings by Sean Bonniwell using the name Music Machine, Dark White is also one of the most sophisticated, both lyrically and musically. And since Bonniwell's music was by far the most sophisticated to get labeled "garage rock", that is really saying a lot. The song is best described as a cat and mouse love dance (but that really falls short of the mark as well). Best just to take a listen and decide for yourself.