Tuesday, October 6, 2015
Stuck in the Psychedelic Era # 1541 (starts 10/7/15)
Artist: Grateful Dead
Title: The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion)
Source: CD: The Grateful Dead
Writer: McGannahan Skjellyfetti
Label: Warner Brothers
I once knew someone from San Jose, California who had an original copy of the single version of The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion), the opening track from the first Grateful Dead album. It was totally worn out from being played a few hundred times, though.
Title: Peter Perceival Patterson's Pet Pig Porky/Pleasant Valley Sunday
Source: LP: Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones, LTD.
The album version of Pleasant Valley Sunday differs from the single version in two ways. First, on the original LP Peter Tork's spoken piece Peter Perceival Patterson's Pet Pig Porky precedes the song on the album and is considered part of the same track. Second, the mix is different, with the background vocals more prominent on the stereo album mix. This is the mix used on most compilation CDs and thus heard on the radio more often. One of these days I'll dig up a copy of the single mix for comparison's sake.
Artist: Captain Beefheart And His Magic Band
Title: Yellow Brick Road
Source: 45 RPM single B side
Writer(s): Van Vliet/Bermann
Following a pair of singles for Herb Alpert's A&M that garnered modest airplay on a handful of Los Angeles area radio stations, Captain Beefheart And His Magic Band set out to record a set of heavily R&B flavored demos. The label, however, didn't like what they heard and soon dropped the band from their lineup. Undeterred, the group soon signed with Kama Sutra's brand new subsidiary label, Buddah. The resulting album, Safe As Milk, was the first LP to be released on the new label. Among the more experimental tracks on the album was Yellow Brick Road, a mono mix of which has recently been reissued as the B side of a single. Also of note is the presence of 20-year-old Ry Cooder on slide guitar.
Title: Break On Through (To The Other Side)
Source: LP: The Doors
Writer(s): The Doors
The first Doors song to be released as a single was not, as usually assumed, Light My Fire. Rather, it was Break On Through (To The Other Side), the opening track from the band's debut LP, that was chosen to do introduce the band to top 40 radio. Although the single was not an immediate hit, it did eventually catch on with progressive FM radio listeners and still is heard on classic rock stations from time to time.
Title: Pushin' Too Hard
Source: Simulated stereo LP: Nuggets Vol. 1-The Hits (originally released on LP: The Seeds and as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Sky Saxon
Label: Rhino (original label: GNP Crescendo)
Pushin' Too Hard was originally released as a single in 1965 (under the title You're Pushin' Too Hard), but did not make an immediate impression. The following year, however, the tune started getting some local airplay on Los Angeles area stations. This in turn led to the band recording their first album, The Seeds, which was released in spring of 1966. A second Seeds LP, A Web Of Sound, hit L.A. record stores in the fall of the same year. Meanwhile, Pushin' Too Hard started to get national airplay, hitting its peak position on the Billboard charts in February of 1967.
Artist: Music Machine
Title: Talk Talk
Source: CD: More Nuggets (originally released as 45 RPM single and on LP: Turn On The Music Machine)
Writer(s): Sean Bonniwell
Label: Rhino (original label: Original Sound)
When it came time for Sean Bonniwell's band, the Music Machine, to go into the studio to record an album, the group decided to go for the best sound possible. This meant signing with tiny Original Sound Records, despite having offers from bigger labels, due to Original Sound having their own state-of-the-art eight-track studios. Unfortunately for the band, they soon discovered that having great equipment did not mean Original Sound made great decisions. One of the first, in fact, was to include a handful of cover songs on the Music Machine's first LP that were recorded for use on a local TV show. Bonniwell was livid when he found out, as he had envisioned an album made up entirely of his own compositions (although he reportedly did plan to use a slowed-down version of Hey Joe that he and Tim Rose had worked up together). From that point on it was only a matter of time until the Music Machine and Original Sound parted company, but not until after they scored a big national hit (# 15) with Talk Talk (which had been recorded at the four-track RCA Studios) in 1966.
Artist: Chocolate Watchband
Title: No Way Out
Source: Mono CD: Love Is The Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-70 (originally released on LP: No Way Out and as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer(s): Ed Cobb
The Chocolate Watchband, from the southern part of the San Francisco Bay Area (specifically Foothills Junior College in Los Altos Hills), were fairly typical of the South Bay music scene, centered in San Jose. Although they were generally known for lead vocalist Dave Aguilar's ability to channel Mick Jagger with uncanny accuracy (and a propensity for blowing better known acts off the stage), producer Ed Cobb gave them a more psychedelic sound in the studio with the use of studio effects and other enhancements (including adding tracks to their albums that were performed entire by studio musicians). The title track of No Way Out is credited to Cobb, but in reality is a fleshing out of a jam the band had previously recorded, but never released.
Artist: Max Frost And The Troopers
Title: Shape Of Things To Come
Source: CD: Even More Nuggets (originally released 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: Bob Seger System
Title: Ramblin' Gamblin' Man
Source: 45 RPM single (reissue)
Writer(s): Bob Seger
Label: Starline (original label: Capitol)
People who are familiar with the 70s and 80s hits of Bob Seger's Silver Bullet Band may be surprised to hear how much raw energy there is on Seger's early recordings with the Bob Seger System. The best known of these early records is Ramblin' Gamblin' Man, released as a single in 1969. The song did pretty well at the time, but it would be several years before Seger would return to the charts.
Artist: Tom Dae Turned On
Title: I Shall Walk
Source: CD: A Lethal Dose Of Hard Psych (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Tom Dae
Label: Arf! Arf! (original label: Hitt)
Rockville, Connecticutt was home to Tom Dae, one of the more prolific, yet obscure, artists of the psychedelic era. His earliest record was a song that his father (who worked at a major record label) wrote called You've Got It Made, which was released by Dae's band the High Tensions. Other singles followed, with names such as TD and the Tensionettes, the TD Trio and Love 70, as well as the High Tensions, appearing on the labels. His 1970 effort, I Shall Walk, was a heavily produced track credited to Tom Dae Turned On.
Title: Fancy Colours
Source: LP: Chicago
Writer(s): Robert Lamm
Although the Chicago Transit Authority's debut album was a critical and commercial success, it was eclipsed by their sophomore effort, entitled simply Chicago (the band had shortened its name to avoid litigation by the city of Chicago's mass transit system). The double-LP consisted entirely of original material, much of which came from keyboardist Robert Lamm, and included three top 10 singles. One of Lamm's lesser-known compositions was Fancy Colours, which may be the nearest thing to pure psychedelia ever recorded by the band. The song opens side three of the album, and is followed by one of Chicago's best-known tunes, 25 Or 6 To 4.
Artist: Jimi Hendrix
Title: Star-Spangled Banner/Purple Haze/Woodstock Improvisation
Source: CD: Woodstock: 40 Years On: Back To Yasgur's Farm
The most famous Woodstock moment was actually witnessed by a relatively small portion of the crowd, as most of the festival goers had left by early Monday morning, when Jimi Hendrix took the stage with a group of musicians he had been jamming with following the disbanding of the Jimi Hendrix Experience earlier in the year. Following a short warmup jam, Hendrix broke into his feedback drenched interpretation of the Star-Spangled Banner, which led into Purple Haze, featuring a blistering guitar solo at the end of the song which abruptly transitions to a quiet instrumental piece to close out the entire Woodstock festival.
Artist: Al Kooper/Mike Bloomfield/Barry Goldberg/Harvey Brooks/Eddie Hoh
Title: Albert's Shuffle
Source: LP: Super Session
There is no doubt that one of the most important and influential albums of the late 1960s was the Super Session album. Released in 1968, the album was conceived in part because keyboardist/producer Al Kooper felt that Michael Bloomfield had never been recorded in the right context to truly showcase his prowess as a guitarist. Taking advantage of his position as staff producer for Columbia Records, Kooper enlisted keyboardist Barry Goldberg and bassist Harvey Brooks (both of which had been Bloomfield's bandmates in the Electric Flag), as well as ace studio drummer Eddie Hoh for a series of taped jam sessions. Although Bloomfield himself went AWOL midway through the sessions, the quintet managed to get several outstanding tracks recorded, including Albert's Shuffle, which opens the LP.
Title: For Your Love
Source: Mono CD: British Beat (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Graham Gouldman
The last Yardbirds song to feature guitarist Eric Clapton, For Your Love was the group's fist US hit, peaking at the # 6 slot. The song did even better in the UK, peaking at # 3. Following its release, Clapton left the Yardbirds, citing the band's move toward a more commercial sound and this song in particular as reasons for his departure (ironic when you consider songs like his mid-90s hit Change the World or his slowed down lounge lizard version of Layla). For Your Love was written by Graham Gouldman, who would end up as a member of Wayne Fontana's Mindbenders and later 10cc with Kevin Godley and Lol Creme.
Artist: Beach Boys
Title: When I Grow Up (To Be A Man)
Source: Mono LP: Made In USA (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Brian Wilson
1964 was a good year for the Beach Boys. They managed to get their first #1 hit during the height of Beatlemania with I Get Around and then returned to the top 40 that fall with Brian Wilson's "coming of age" song, When I Grow Up (To Be A Man). The tune was even more popular in Canada, where it spent two weeks at the top of the charts. Wilson at first expressed dissatisfaction with his lead vocals (which he shared with Mike Love), calling them "whiney." Like all the Beach Boys records produced by Wilson When I Grow Up (To Be A Man) was not originally mixed in stereo (although there was a Douphonic simulated stereo version available on the 1965 LP Beach Boys Today). Most subsequent reissues of the song have been of Wilson's original mono mix, although a true stereo mix was done for the 1993 Summer Dreams anthology.
Title: Tired Of Waiting For You
Source: Mono CD: The Best Of 60s Supergroups (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer: Ray Davies
Label: Priority (original label: Reprise)
After a series of hard-rocking hits such as You Really Got Me and All Day And All Of The Night, the Kinks surprised everyone with the highly melodic Tired Of Waiting For You in 1965. As it turns out the song was just one of many steps in the continually maturing songwriting of Ray Davies.
Title: Gonna Make You
Source: Mono CD: Greatest Hits (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
The Troggs hit the British music scene in a big way in 1966, with the international smash Wild Thing. They followed it up with a string of top 10 singles, including the controversial I Can't Control Myself. In the US, the song was released by two competing labels (apparently due to confusion caused by the Troggs switching labels in the UK), Fontana (which had released Wild Thing) and Atco. The B side of the single, Gonna Make You, is a solid example of what the Troggs were all about musically.
Title: I Am The Walrus
Source: Stereo British import 45 RPM EP: Magical Mystery Tour
Common practice in the UK in the 1960s was to avoid duplication between single releases and album tracks. This led to a unique situation for the Beatles and their British label, EMI/Parlophone, in December of 1967. The band had self-produced a new telefilm to be shown on BBC-TV called Magical Mystery Tour and wanted to make the songs from the film available to the record-buying public in time for Christmas. The problem was that there were only six songs in the one-hour telefilm, not nearly enough to fill an entire album. The solution was to release the songs on a pair of Extended Play 45 RPM records, along with several pages of song lyrics, illustrations and stills from the film itself. My own introduction to Magical Mystery Tour was a friend's German copy of the EPs, and when years later I had the opportunity to pick up a copy of the original UK version, I of course couldn't resist. That copy got totalled in a flood a few years back, but in 2012 I was finally able to locate another copy of the EP set, which is the source of this week's airing of the ultimate British psychedelic recording, I Am The Walrus.
Artist: Jethro Tull
Title: Beggar's Farm
Source: LP: This Was
Although Jethro Tull would eventually come to be considered almost a backup band for flautist/vocalist/songwriter Ian Anderson, in the early days the group was much more democratically inclined, at least until the departure of guitarist and co-founder Mick Abrahams. In addition to providing a more blues-based orientation for the band, Abrahams shared songwriting duties with Anderson as well, including collaborations such as Beggar's Farm from the band's 1968 debut LP, This Was.
Artist: Rolling Stones
Title: She's A Rainbow
Source: Mono CD: Singles Collection-The London Years (originally released on LP: Their Satanic Majesties Request)
The Stones had their own brand of psychedelia, which was showcased on their 1967 album Their Satanic Majesties Request. The album itself, after zooming to the top of the charts, lost its momentum quickly, despite the fact that She's A Rainbow, which was released as a single, was a major top 40 hit.
Artist: Rolling Stones
Title: Mother's Little Helper
Source: British import LP: Aftermath
Label: Abkco (original label: London)
By 1966 the Rolling Stones had already had a few brushes with the law over their use of illegal drugs. Mother's Little Helper, released in Spring of '66, is a scathing criticism of the abuse of legal prescription drugs by the parents of the Stones' fans. Perhaps more than any other song of the time, Mother's Little Helper illustrates the increasingly hostile generation gap that had sprung up between the young baby boomers and the previous generation. The song was originally released in the UK as the opening track of the album Aftermath, but was left off the US version of the album in favor of Paint It, Black. As a result, the true stereo mix of the song heard here was not available in the US for many years (the version on the 1969 greatest hits album Through The Past, Darkly was in fake stereo).
Artist: Rolling Stones
Title: The Last Time
Source: Mono CD: Singles Collection-The London Years (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Abkco (original label: London)
Released in late winter of 1965, The Last Time was the first single to hit the top 10 in both the US and the UK (being their third consecutive #1 hit in England) and the first one written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Despite that, it would be overshadowed by their next release: (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction, which went to the top of the charts everywhere and ended up being the #1 song of 1965.
Artist: Blues Project
Title: Two Trains Running
Source: LP: Projections
Writer(s): McKinley Morganfield
Label: Verve Forecast
Possibly the most influential (yet least known outside of musicians' circles) band of the Psychedelic Era was the Blues Project. Formed in 1965 in Greenwich Village, the band worked its way from coast to coast playing mostly college campuses, in the process blazing a path that continues to be followed by underground/progressive/alternative artists. As if founding the whole college circuit wasn't enough, they were arguably the very first jam band, as their version of the Muddy Waters classic Two Trains Running shows. Among those drawing their inspiration from the Blues Project were the Warlocks, a group of young musicians who were traveling with Ken Kesey on the Electric Cool-Aid Acid Test tour bus. The Warlocks would soon change their name to the Grateful Dead and take the jam band concept to a whole new level. Still, they may never have moved in that direction at all if it weren't for the Blues Project.
Artist: West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band
Source: CD: Part One
Label: Sundazed (original label: Reprise)
I have recently been in contact with Robert Morgan, brother of the late Ron Morgan, guitarist for the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band. I asked him if his brother had ever received royalties from songs like 1906, which was essentially a Morgan composition with spoken lyrics tacked on by bandleader/vocalist Bob Markley. He replied that Ron had received a check for something like eight dollars shortly before his death, but that he had always felt that Markley had paid him fairly for his services. He then went on to say that Ron Morgan was more interested in making his mark than in getting any financial compensation. Attitudes like that are why I do this show. It's hard to imagine anybody in today's music business making a statement like that and meaning it.
Artist: Fever Tree
Title: Man Who Paints The Pictures
Source: LP: Fever Tree
Fever Tree is one of those bands that bridges the gap from the psychedelic rock of the late 60s to the progressive rock of the early 70s. Formed in Houston, the band recorded a couple of singles for Bob Shad's Mainstream label, both of which were successful enough for their producers, the husband and wife team of Scott and Vivian Holtzman, to move the band to Los Angeles, where they signed with Uni Records (now known as MCA). Fever Tree's 1968 debut LP for Uni featured arrangements by David Angel, who had provided string and horn arrangements for the critically-acclaimed Love album, Forever Changes, the previous year. Overall, side one is the stronger side of the LP, featuring the band's best-known song, San Francisco Girls (Return Of The Native), and the hard-rocking Man Who Paints The Pictures, among others.
Title: Bony Moronie
Source: Mono LP: Red Rubber Ball
Writer(s): Larry Williams
The history of rock and roll is filled with one-hit wonders. Less common, however, are groups than managed to crack the upper reaches of the charts a second time, only to suffer diminishing returns with each subsequent effort. Such was the case with the Cyrkle, who burst on the scene with Red Rubber Ball and Turn Down Day in 1966. Originally a frat-rock band called the Rhondells, the group's fortunes turned in a big way on Labor Day of 1965, when New York attorney Nathan Weiss caught their gig in Atlantic City. Weiss in turn recommended the band to his business partner, Brian Epstein, who was looking for an American band to manage (I guess the Beatles weren't enough for him). Epstein renamed the band the Cyrkle (John Lennon providing the variant spelling) and set them up as the opening band for the Beatles' last US tour, including their final gig at San Francisco's Candlestick Park on August 29, 1966. Along the way, the group signed with Columbia Records, recording two LPs and several singles for the label before disbanding in early 1968. The first album, Red Rubber Ball, was a solid example of sunshine pop, as evidenced by the band's unique arrangement of Larry Williams's Bony Moronie. Two of the band's members, Don Dannemann and Tom Dawes, went on to become successful jingle writers (Dannemann wrote the original Un-Cola song while Dawes came up with "Plop plop fizz fizz" for Alka-Seltzer. The other two members became successful in other fields; one, Marty Fried is a bankruptcy attorney and the other, Earl Pickens, is a surgeon.
Title: The Walking Song
Source: French import CD: Happy Together
Label: Magic (original label: White Whale)
When they weren't recording hit songs by professional songwriters, the Turtles were busy developing their own songwriting talents, albeit in a somewhat sardonic direction. One early example is The Walking Song, which contrasts the older generation's obsession with material goods with a "stop and smell the roses" approach favored by the song's protagonist. This type of writing would characterize the later careers of two of the band members, Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan, who, after performing with the Mothers at the Fillmore East would become known as the Phlorescent Leech (later Flo) and Eddie.
Artist: Big Brother And The Holding Company
Source: CD: Cheap Thrills
Janis Joplin, on the 1968 Big Brother And The Holding Company album Cheap Thrills, sounds like she was born to sing Gershwin's Summertime. Maybe she was.