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))
Label: Rhino (original label: Tower)
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: B.B. King
Title: Dance With Me
Source: British import CD: Blues On Top Of Blues
Writer(s): B.B. King
Label: BGO (original US label: Bluesway)
My first exposure to the music of B.B. King was an album called Blues On Top Of Blues. I had already heard of the legendary blues artist but had not actually been exposed to any of his recordings before buying the LP. Needless to say, I was impressed. Unlike the rock guitarists I was into at the time (Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Leigh Stephens, etc.), who were experimenting with all kinds of electronic effects, King had a clean, uncluttered sound that was completely at odds with current trends. The instrumentation on the album (King's 14th studio effort) was somewhat unusual for the time as well, with organ and horn section featured prominently on tracks like Dance With Me, which was, like all the songs on the LP, written by King himself. At the time the album was released, B.B. King was still not well-known outside of blues circles, a situation that would soon change, first with the release of the Lucille album and later with the hit single The Thrill Is Gone.
Artist: Fever Tree
Title: San Francisco Girls (Return Of The Native) (originally released on LP: Fever Tree)
Source: CD: Psychedelic Pop
Writer(s): Scott and Vivian Holtzman
Label: BMG/RCA/Buddah (original label: Uni)
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: Jefferson Airplane
Title: How Suite It Is
Source: LP: After Bathing At Baxters
Label: RCA Victor
The second side of After Bathing At Baxters starts off fairly conventionally (for the Airplane), with Paul Kantner's Watch Her Ride, the first third or so of something called How Suite It Is. This leads (without a break in the audio) into Spare Chaynge, one of the coolest studio jams ever recorded, featuring intricate interplay between Jack Cassidy's bass and Jorma Kaukonen's guitar, with Spencer Dryden using his drum kit as enhancement rather than as a beat-setter. In particular, Cassidy's virtuoso performance helped redefine what could be done with an electric bass.
Artist: Electric Prunes
Title: The Great Banana Hoax
Source: CD: Underground
Label: Collector's Choice/Rhino (original label: Reprise)
The second Electric Prunes LP, Underground, saw the band gaining greater creative control over the recording process than at any other time in their career (until their reformation in the 1990s). The album's opening track, The Great Banana Hoax, is notable for two reasons: first, it was composed by band members and second, it has nothing to do with bananas. The title probably refers to the rumor circulating at the time that Donovan's Mellow Yellow was really about smoking banana peels to get high. The song itself is an indication of the musical direction the band itself wanted to go in before it got sidetracked (some would say derailed) by producer David Hassinger, who would assert control to the point of eventually replacing all the original members of the band by their fourth album (yes, some producers had that kind of power in those days).
Artist: Ten Years After
Title: A Sad Song
Source: CD: Stonedhenge
Writer: Alvin Lee
The Base Exchange (BX) at Ramstein Air Force Base had, in 1969, a fairly sizable record and tape section, comparable to those of the large discount stores like K-Mart and Woolco that were starting to pop up in many US cities. Most LPs ran $2.50 (compared to $3.98 stateside), and included a mixture of domestic and import pressings of the most popular albums of the time. Each month the BX would feature one new LP for $1.50, and as a general rule it was something I would have bought anyway (like the European version of the Rolling Stones' Through The Past, Darkly album). Sometimes I would even take a chance on a band I had never heard of, if the cover looked interesting enough. One such case was an album from an obscure British blues band called Ten Years After. The album was called Stonedhenge, and the cover, featuring the famous monolithic stones against a maroon background, immediately grabbed me. It was probably the best purchase of its type I have ever made, as the album soon became one of my favorites. The LP has a unique structure, with each side starting and ending with tracks featuring the full band, alternating with short solo pieces from each of the band's four members (and including a full band track in the middle of each side). Side two of the album opens with A Sad Song, a quiet blues piece that was likely inspired by British blues guru John Mayall.
Artist: Procol Harum
Title: Quite Rightly So
Source: LP: Shine On Brightly
In 1969, while living on Ramstein AFB in Germany, my dad managed to get use of one of the basement storage rooms in building 913, the 18-unit apartment building we resided in. For a few months (until getting in trouble for having overnight guests and making too much noise...hey I was 16, whaddaya expect?) I got to use that room as a bedroom. I had a small record player that shut itself off when it got to the end of the record, which meant I got to go to sleep every night to the album of my choice. As often as not that album was Shine On Brightly, a copy of which I had gotten in trade for another album (the Best of the Beach Boys I think) from a guy who was expecting A Whiter Shade of Pale and was disappointed to discover it was not on this album. I always thought I got the better end of that deal, despite the fact that there was a skip during the fade of Quite Rightly So, causing the words "one was me" to repeat over and over until I scooted the needle over a bit. Luckily Quite Rightly So is the first song on the album, so I was usually still awake to do that.
Artist: Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title: Castles Made Of Sand
Source: CD: Axis: Bold As Love
Writer(s): Jimi Hendrix
When I was a junior in high school I used to fall asleep on the living room couch with the headphones on, usually listening to pre-recorded tapes of either the Beatles' Revolver album or one of the first two albums by the Jimi Hendrix Experience. One song in particular from the second Hendrix album, Axis: Bold As Love, always gave me a chill when I heard it: Castles Made Of Sand. The song serves as a warning not to put too much faith in your dreams, and stands in direct contrast to the usual goal-oriented American attitude.
Artist: Shadows Of Knight
Source: CD: Even More Nuggets (originally released as 45 RPM single and included on LP: Gloria)
Writer(s): Van Morrison
Label: Rhino (original label: Dunwich)
For some reason I don't quite understand, I never paid much attention to current trends in popular entertainment other than as an outside observer. For example, when everyone else in my generation was tuned into the Beatles on the Ed Sullivan show, I was happily watching Car 54 Where Are You on a rival network. The same applies to the radio stations I listened to. KIMN was, by far, Denver's most popular top 40 station, yet I always managed to find myself listening to their rivals: first KDAB (until a flood took them off the air permanently), and then KBTR. For a short time in late 1966, however, KIMN had no rivals (KBTR had switched to an all-news format and KLZ-FM was still spending most of its broadcast day simulcasting the programming of its middle-of-the-road AM station). As a result, I found myself following KIMN's New Year's countdown of the year's top songs, which included a handful of tunes that I had never heard before. The highest ranked of these unfamiliar songs was one that immediately grabbed me: Gloria, as recorded by a Chicago area band called the Shadows Of Knight. It would be years before I even knew that this was actually a cover version of a song that had been released by Van Morrison's band, Them, but that had been banned in most US markets the previous year. All I knew is that it was a cool tune that would be one of the first songs I learned to play when I switched from violin to guitar the follwing summer.
Title: Got My Feet On The Ground
Source: Mono LP: Kinda Kinks
Writer(s): Ray Davies
For most people, the name Kinks brings to mind songs like You Really Got Me and Lola and not much else. Those a bit more in the known can easily identify several more Kinks tunes such as Sunny Afternoon, Come Dancing and A Well Respected Man. It takes a true Kinks fan, however, to fully appreciate the wealth of great material the Muswell Hillbillies have recorded over the past fifty years. Such a fan is my distant cousin Frank Van Norstrand, who until around 2012 managed to hang onto original vinyl copies of every Kinks LP released in the US from 1964-66. The only reason he does not still have those LPs is that I convinced him that songs like Got My Feet On The Ground from the album Kinda Kinks deserved to be heard on the radio and that the best way to make sure that happened was for those albums to be in my possession. Of course the real winner here is you, the listener, so enjoy!
Title: Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds
Source: LP: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Label: Parlophone/EMI (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: Coloured Rain
Source: Mono CD: Mr. Fantasy (originally released on LP: Heaven Is In Your Mind)
Label: Island (original label: United Artists)
Traffic, in its early days, was a band with an almost schizophrenic identity. On the one hand there was Steve Winwood, who was equally adept at guitar, keyboards and vocals and was generally seen as the band's leader, despite being its youngest member. His opposite number in the band was Dave Mason, an early example of the type of singer/songwriter that would be a major force in popular music in the mid-1970s. The remaining members of the band, drummer/vocalist Jim Capaldi and flautist/saxophonist Chris Wood, tended to fall somewhere between the two, although they more often sided with Winwood in his frequent creative disputes with Mason. One of these disputes involved the choice of the band's second single. Mason wanted to follow up the successful Paper Sun with his own composition, Hole In My Shoe, while the rest of the band preferred the group composition, Coloured Rain. Mason won that battle, but would end up leaving the band before the release on the group's first LP, Mr. Fantasy. This in turn led to the album being revised considerably for its US release, which was issued under a completely different title, Heaven Is In Your Mind, with most of Mason's contributions being excised from the album (although, oddly enough, Hole In My Shoe, which was not on the original LP, was included on the US album). One final example of the band's schizophrenic nature was in the way the group was marketed. In the US, Traffic was, from the beginning, perceived as a serious rock band along the lines of Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience. In their native land, however, they were, thanks in part to the top 40 success of both Paper Sun and Hole In My Shoe as well as Winwood's fame as lead vocalist for the Spencer Davis Group, dismissed as a mere pop group. Mason would rejoin and leave the group a couple more times before achieving solo success in the mid-70s with the hit We Just Disagree, while Traffic would go on to become a staple of progressive FM rock radio in the US.
Title: Small Beginnings
Source: 45 RPM single
Writer: Peter Banks
Before Steve Howe joined Yes, the group featured Peter Banks on lead guitar. After the first Yes album, Banks left the group to form a new band, Flash. Despite having a similar sound to Yes at a time when such bands were in vogue, Flash failed to achieve more than a small fraction of the original band's success.
Title: Preachin' Love
Source: Mono British import CD: Mellow Yellow (bonus track originally released as 45 RPM B side)
Writer: Donovan Leitch
Label: EMI (original US label: Epic)
Due to a contract dispute with his UK record label, Pye Records, Mellow Yellow (the song), did not get released in Donovan's native country until early 1967, well after the song had already run its course on the US charts. Preachin' Love, a swing jazz tune recorded in late 1966, was chosen as the record's B side. Around the same time Donovan's next US single, Epistle To Dippy, was released, also with Preachin' Love as the B side. The song was not included on any albums, however, until re-issued in the UK on the Mellow Yellow CD.
Title: Out Of Our Tree
Source: Mono CD: Nuggets-Original Artyfacts from the Psychedelic Era (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Rhino (original label: Etiquette)
The Pacific Northwest was, and is, home to a louder, harder-rocking and generally raunchier style of rock and roll than most other regions of the country. It's never been explained exactly why this is, but Kurt Cobain may have touched on it when he said that because the weather is such that it discourages outdoor activities (i.e, it rains a lot), there really isn't much else to do but go to places where live music is played. Another reason for the scene developing the way it did might be these guys, who practically invented raunch and roll. The Wailers were formed in 1958, doing mostly instrumental versions of songs by Chuck Berry, Little Richard and other early rock and roll/R&B artists. One of the hallmarks of the Wailers was that they played hard and loud, influencing later bands such as the Sonics to do the same. This meant that in order to be heard over the instruments, a vocalist had to basically scream out the lyrics. Etiquette Records, which was started by the Wailers themselves, was one of the first labels to release records with a healthy amount of distortion built in. This may have been due to budget limitations or it could have been a deliberate aesthetical choice. The result was garage-rock classics such as Out Of Our Tree, the echoes of which can be heard in the Grunge movement of the early 1990s.
Artist: Palace Guard
Title: Falling Sugar
Source: Mono CD: Nuggets-Original Artyfacts From The First Psychedelic Era (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Rhino (original label: Orange-Empire and Verve)
Whereas most garage bands favored a Rolling Stones approach to rock 'n' roll, the Palace Guard tried hard to emulate the Beatles. Unfortunately, they didn't have the talent to really pull it off, despite the presence of drummer Emmet Rhodes, who would soon leave the Guard to front his own band, the Merry-Go-Round, then embark on a moderately successful solo career.
Artist: Quiet Jungle
Source: Mono CD: An Overdose Of Heavy Psych (originally released in Canada as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Mark Taylor
Label: Arf! Arf! (original label: Yorkshire)
Musically speaking, 1967 was a busy year in the US, with the Summer of Love in San Francisco, the aftermath of the Sunset Strip crackdowns on teenagers in Los Angeles, Andy Warhol's unveiling of the Velvet Underground in New York, and of course, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band casting its shadow over everything. It's easy to see, then, how happenings in neighboring Canada pretty much went under the radar, with bands like the Guess Who cranking out hit after hit without getting any attention whatsoever south of the border. That all changed in 1969 for that band, but other groups, such as Toronto's Quiet Jungle, were never successful outside of Canada itself. That did not stop Yorkshire Records from putting out plenty of singles, however, including Everything, a 1967 tune from the aforementioned Quiet Jungle.
Artist: Beacon Street Union
Title: Beautiful Delilah
Source: LP: The Eyes Of The Beacon Street Union
Writer(s): Chuck Berry
Although Beautiful Delilah was not Chuck Berry's most serious song by any means, the Beacon Street Union took it almost into Spike Jones territory on their 1968 debut LP, The Eyes Of The Beacon Street Union. All it needs is a police whistle.
Artist: Bubble Puppy
Source: British import CD: A Gathering Of Promises
Label: Charly (original label: International Artists)
The Bubble Puppy came into existence in 1967, when two former members of the legendary Corpus Christie,Texas garage band the Bad Seeds, guitarist Rod Prince and keyboardist/bassist Roy Cox, relocated to San Antonio, recruiting guitarist Todd Potter and drummer Craig Root to form the new band. Success came quickly in the form of the band's very first gig, opening for the Who at the San Antonio Colosseum. After David Fore replaced Root in the band, the group relocated to Austin, where they got a steady gig at the Vulcan Gas Company. By 1968 the Bubble Puppy was traveling all over Texas for gigs, and late in the year got a contract with Houston-based International Artists, a label that had already gained notoriety by signing the 13th Floor Elevators and Red Crayola. After releasing a surprise top 40 hit, Hot Smoke And Sassafras in December of 1968, the band got to work on a full album, A Gathering Of Promises. International Artists failed to get the album, which was full of fine tunes like Lonely, out quickly enough to capitilize of the popularity of Hot Smoke And Sassafras, and further hurt the band's chance of success by refusing to grant licensing rights on the single to Apple Records for European release. By 1970 the band and the label had parted company, with the Bubble Puppy relocating to Los Angeles and changing their name to Demian.
Artist: Chambers Brothers
Title: CD: Time Has Come Today
Source: The Time Has Come
Writer(s): Joe and Willie Chambers
The Chambers Brothers were an eclectic band with a gospel music background that dated back to the mid-50s, when oldest brother George finished his tour of duty with the US Army and settled down in the L.A. area. His three brothers soon followed him out to the coast from their native Mississippi, and began playing the Southern California gospel circuit before going after a more secular audience in the early 60s. Their best-known recording was Time Has Come Today, considered to be one of the defining tracks of the psychedelic era. The song, written by brothers Joe and Willie Chambers, was originally recorded in 1966 and released as a single, but went largely unnoticed by radio and the record-buying public. In 1967 the band recorded a new, eleven-minute version of Time Has Come Today for their album The Time Has Come. This version got considerable airplay on the handful of so-called "underground" FM stations that were starting to pop up across the US in college towns and major metropolitan areas, but was considered too long for most commercial stations. The following year an edited version of the track was released, getting enough airplay to make the top 40; as a result the full-length version has become somewhat of a rarity on the radio since the shorter version was made available in stereo. This week Stuck in the Psychedelic Era presents the full-length version of Time Has Come Today. Enjoy!
Artist: Blues Project
Title: The Flute Thing
Source: CD: Anthology (originally released on LP: Projections)
Writer(s): Al Kooper
Label: Polydor (original label: Verve Forecast)
Keyboardist/vocalist/songwriter Al Kooper started his professional career as a guitarist, touring with the Royal Teens long after they had faded from the public view following their only hit single, a novelty song called Short Shorts. By the mid-1960s Kooper had gotten to know several people in the New York music industry, including producer Tom Wilson, who invited Kooper to a fateful Bob Dylan recording session in 1965. Dylan was working on a new song, Like A Rolling Stone, but was having trouble getting the sound he wanted. Kooper, noticing an unused organ in the corner of the studio, began to play riffs on the instrument that Dylan took an immediately liking to. Kooper soon found his services to be in demand on the New York studio scene and was present when a new band called the Blues Project auditioned for Columbia Records. Although Columbia did not sign the band, Kooper ended up joining the group as a way to hone his organ skills onstage. Kooper was also interested in developing his songwriting skills, providing several songs for the group's second LP, Projections. Among the Kooper compositions on the album was an instrumental called The Flute Thing, a piece inspired by Roland Kirk that gave the band's bassist, Andy Kuhlberg, an opportunity to show off his skills as a flautist.
Title: Somethin' Goin' On
Source: LP: Child Is Father To The Man
Writer(s): Al Kooper
After leaving the Blues Project just prior to the band's appearance at the Monterey International Pop Festival, Al Kooper volunteered his services to the festival promoters as part of the stage crew and hastily put together a band of his own to make a one-off appearance at the festival itself. Following that, Kooper returned to New York to do studio work, becoming a staff producer at Columbia Records. While there, he conceived the idea of combining rock and jazz in a new band to be called Blood, Sweat & Tears. The group's first LP, Child Is Father To The Man, featured Kooper on both keyboards and vocals on several new tunes, most of which were written by Kooper himself. Among these new tunes was Somethin' Goin' On, a powerful blues-based piece that helped establish the new group's distinct sound. Kooper would leave BS&T following the release of Child Is Father To The Man. The band itself would go on to even greater success with the addition of vocalist David Clayton Thomas, while Kooper would soon embark on what is considered by many to be the greatest jam album of them all: Super Session.
Artist: Al Kooper/Mike Bloomfield/Harvey Brooks/Eddie Hoh
Title: His Holy Modal Majesty
Source: LP: Super Session
One of the earliest electronic keyboard instruments was a device that came to be known as the Kooperphone, thanks to its use by Al Kooper as early as 1966, when he was a member of the Blues Project. The instrument could not play chords, only single notes, and Kooper used it extensively on tracks like His Holy Modal Majesty on the 1968 album Super Session. If that were all there was to the track it might be remembered as little more than a curiosity piece. Thanks to the outstanding improvisational abilities of Kooper, guitarist Michael Bloomfield, bassist Harvey Brooks and drummer Eddie Hoh however, the piece soars, changing style and tempo with a fluidity rarely found outside of jazz circles.
Artist: Manfred Mann
Title: Mighty Quinn (Quinn The Eskimo)
Source: 45 RPM single
Writer: Bob Dylan
In 1965 there were a rash of bands doing cover versions of Bob Dylan songs. Almost all of these were protest songs of one sort or another. By 1968, however, things had changed, and the most popular Dylan cover of the year was the relatively harmless Mighty Quinn (Quinn The Eskimo), recorded by Manfred Mann. It turned out to be the third biggest US hit in Manfred Mann's long career, surpassed only by 1965's Do-Wah-Diddy-Diddy and 1974's Blinded By The Light.