Monday, January 11, 2016
Stuck in the Psychedelic Era # 1603 (starts 1/13/16)
Title: Mr. Tambourine Man
Source: Mono CD: Billboard Top Rock 'N' Roll Hits-1965 (originally released as 45 RPM single and on LP: Mr. Tambourine Man)
Writer(s): Bob Dylan
Label: Rhino (original label: Columbia)
The term "folk-rock" was coined by the music press to describe the debut single by the Byrds. Mr. Tambourine Man had been written and originally recorded by Bob Dylan, but it was the Byrds' version that went to the top of the charts in 1965. Roger McGuinn, Gene Clark and David Crosby had begun work on the song in 1964, when their manager got his hands on an acetate of Dylan performing the song with Ramblin' Jack Elliott. The trio, calling themselves the Jet Set, were trying to develop a sound that combined folk-based melodies and lyrics with arrangements inspired by the British Invasion, and felt that Mr. Tambourine Man might be a good candidate for that kind of treatment. Although the group soon added bassist Chris Hillman and drummer Michael Clarke, producer Terry Melcher opted to use the group of Los Angeles studio musicians known as the Wrecking Crew for the instrumental track of the recording, along with McGuinn's 12-string guitar. Following the success of the single, the Byrds entered the studio to record their debut LP, this time playing their own instruments.
Artist: Country Joe And The Fish
Title: Section 43 (EP version)
Source: Mono British import CD: The Berkeley EPs (originally released on EP: Rag Baby #2)
Writer(s): Joe McDonald
Label: Big Beat (original label: Rag Baby)
Rag Baby was an underground journal published by Country Joe McDonald in mid-60s Berkeley, California. In 1965 McDonald decided to do a "talking issue" of the paper with an extended play (EP) record containing two songs by McDonald's band, Country Joe and the Fish and two by singer Peter Krug. In 1966 McDonald published a second Rag Baby EP, this time featuring four songs by Country Joe and the Fish. Among those was the original version of Section 43, a psychedelic instrumental that would appear in a re-recorded (and slightly changed) stereo form on the band's first LP, Electric Music For The Mind And Body, in early 1967.
Artist: Velvet Underground
Title: European Son
Source: CD: The Velvet Underground And Nico
Label: Polydor (original label: Verve)
The final track on the album The Velvet Underground And Nico was also, at seven minutes and 47 seconds, the longest. European Son was also the only track on the LP credited to the band's entire lineup (Lou Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison and Maureen Tucker). On the original pressing of the LP the song was subtitled To Delmore Schwartz. Schwartz had been Reed's literary mentor, but after hearing the song, Schwartz refused to have any contact with Reed, dying alone in a rundown New York hotel just three months after the album was released.
Title: I Wish I Was Five
Source: Mono CD: Nuggets II-Original Artyfacts From The British Empire And Beyond 1964-1969 (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer(s): John Kongos
Label: Rhino (original label: Pye)
Johnny Kongos And The Beat Men were a highly successful band in South Africa, releasing several hit singles from 1962 through 1966, when Kongo decided to relocate to London. He soon formed Floribunda Rose with several other relocated South Africans, releasing one single in 1967. By 1968 the group had renamed itself Scrugg and signed with the Pye label. Before disbanding in 1969, Scrugg released three singles. The B side of their first single for Pye was the wistful I Wish I Was Five, released in April of 1967.
Title: Silas Stingy
Source: LP: The Who Sell Out
Writer(s): John Entwistle
John Alec Entwistle did not write average songs. For example, his best known song, Boris The Spider, was about, well, a spider. Whiskey Man dealt with a drunk's imaginary friend. And then there was Silas Stingy, from The Who Sell Out. The song tells the story of a man who was so miserly he spent his entire fortune on protecting his money, thus ending up with nothing at all. One of my all-time favorite Who tracks.
Source: LP: Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones, LTD.
Writer(s): Craig Smith
The first song on the Monkees' fourth LP, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn And Jones, LTD. was also the most controversial. Michael Nesmith, as a side project, had been producing songs for a group led by Craig Vincent Smith called the Penny Arkade. One song in particular, Salesman, impressed Nesmith so much that he decided to produce a Monkees version of the song as well. The track was then used in a Monkees TV episode called The Devil And Peter Tork. NBC-TV at first refused to air the episode, claiming that the line "Salesman with your secret goods that you push while you talk" was a veiled drug reference (although producer Bert Schnieder was convinced the real reason was the liberal use of the word "hell" in the show's script).
Artist: Drag Set
Title: Day And Night
Source: Mono British import CD: Love, Poetry And Revolution (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Grapefruit (original label: Go)
For every British band to find international success in the mid-60s there were at least a dozen more that were never heard of outside their native land. Some of these bands (such as the Move and the Small Faces) were actually quite popular on their home turf, while others were barely able to scratch out a living and are for the most part long-forgotten. In between were the bands that had enough going for them to score a contract with one of the many new labels popping up, but were never able to get a record on the charts. Among those "in-betweeners" were a band called the Drag Set. They played gigs at the most popular London clubs in 1965 and 1966, which in turn led to them hooking up with Lionel Segal, who owned the Go label. The Drag Set released Day And Night in March of 1967, but the record went nowhere and the by the end of the year the band had renamed itself The Open Mind.
Artist: Sons Of Champlain
Source: CD: Love Is The Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-70 (originally released on LP: Loosen Up Naturally)
Writer(s): Steven Tollestrup
Label: Rhino (original label: Capitol)
Bill Champlin is probably best known as the lead guitarist for Chicago from 1981 to 2008 (more or less). In his earlier years he fronted his own band, the Sons Of Champlin. Like Chicago, the Sons were distinguished by the presence of a horn section, a trend that was just getting underway in 1969. Unlike most other bands of their type, however, the Sons Of Champlin were a San Francisco band, and one of the more popular local acts of their time. They did not show much of an interest in touring outside the Bay Area, however, and as a result got limited national exposure. The first single from the first of two albums they recorded for the Capitol label was a tune called 1982-A. I really can't say what the title has to do with the lyrics of the song, but it is a catchy little number nonetheless. Since leaving Chicago, Bill Champlin has returned to the Bay Area (and the Sons).
Artist: Fairport Convention
Source: Mono British import CD: Fairport Convention (bonus track)
Writer(s): Leonard Cohen
Sometime after the release of their debut LP, Fairport Convention went back into the studio to record one of their most popular concert numbers, a cover of Leonard Cohen's Suzanne, featuring solo vocals from Ian Matthews (then known as Ian MacDonald). The fact that there are no female vocals on the recording is an indication that the song was probably recorded after the departure of founding member Judy Dyble but before the arrival of new vocalist Sandy Denny.
Title: The End
Source: LP: The Doors
Writer(s): The Doors
Prior to recording their first album the Doors' honed their craft at various Sunset Strip clubs, working up live versions of the songs they would soon record, including their show-stopper, The End. Originally written as a breakup song by singer/lyricist Jim Morrison, The End runs nearly twelve minutes and includes a controversial spoken "Oedipus section". My own take on the famous "blue bus" line is that Morrison, being a military brat, was probably familiar with the blue shuttle buses used on military bases for a variety of purposes, including taking kids to school, and simply incorporated his experiences with them into his lyrics. The End got its greatest exposure in 1979, when Oliver Stone used it in his film Apocalypse Now.
Artist: Electric Prunes
Title: I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night)
Source: CD: Psychedelic Pop (originally released as 45 RPM single and on LP: I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night))
Label: BMG/RCA/Buddah (original label: Reprise)
The Electric Prunes biggest hit was I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night), released in early 1967. The record, initially released without much promotion from the record label, was championed by Seattle DJ Pat O'Day of KJR radio, and was already popular in that area when it hit the national charts (thus explaining why so many people assumed the band was from Seattle). I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night) has come to be one of the defining songs of the psychedelic era and was the opening track on both the original Lenny Kaye Nuggets compilation and Rhino's first Nuggets LP.
Artist: Janis Joplin
Title: Half Moon
Source: LP: Pearl
Writer(s): John & Johanna Hall
Half Moon was the B side of Janis Joplin's biggest-selling single, Me And Bobby McGee. As such, it is one of Joplin's best known songs from the Pearl album. The song itself was written (with his wife Johanna) by John Hall, who later went on to form his own band, Orleans, which scored major hits in the late 1970s with Dance With Me and Still The One, both of which were written by Hall. In 1977 Hall left Orleans to pursue a solo career, becoming active in the anti-nuclear movement as well, co-founding Musicians United for Safe Energy with Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt and Graham Nash. While living in Saugerties, NY, he co-founded two citizens' groups, which led to his election to the Saugerties Board of Education. Hall continued to write songs, both for himself and other artists, while simultaneously pursuing a political career that led to him serving two terms in the US House of Representatives.
Title: Tired Of Waiting For You
Source: 45 RPM single (reissue)
Writer(s): Ray Davies
Label: Eric (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.
Artist: Jefferson Airplane
Title: And I Like It
Source: LP: Jefferson Airplane Takes Off
Label: RCA Victor
Jorma Kaukonen was giving guitar lessons when he was approached by Marty Balin about joining a new band that Balin was forming. Kaukonen said yes and became a founding member of Jefferson Airplane. The two seldom collaborated on songwriting, though. One of the few examples of a Balin/Kaukonen composition is And I Like It from the band's first album. The song sounds to me like what Hot Tuna would sound like but with Balin's vocals instead of Kaukonen's.
Title: Baby, You're A Rich Man
Source: LP: Magical Mystery Tour
Baby, You're A Rich Man was one of the last collaborations between John Lennon and Paul McCartney and addresses the Beatles' longtime manager Brian Epstein, although not by name. Lennon came up with the basic question "how does it feel to be one of the beautiful people?" (a popular term for the young and hip in late 60s London), which became the basis for the song's verses, which were combined with an existing, but unfinished, Paul McCartney chorus (Baby, You're A Rich Man, too). The finished piece was issued as the B side of the Beatles' second single of 1967, All You Need Is Love, and later remixed in stereo and included on the US-only LP version of Magical Mystery Tour.
Title: Medicated Goo
Source: LP: Last Exit
Originally released as a single in 1968, Medicated Goo was one of the last songs released by Traffic before the group disbanded in the wake of Steve Winwood's decision to join Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker and Rick Grech to form Blind Faith. After the group had split up, producer Jimmy MIller was able to cobble together enough material to complete a third Traffic album, Last Exit, in 1969. Medicated Goo, a legitimate hit single, was an obvious choice for inclusion on the LP.
Artist: Jimi Hendrix/Band Of Gypsys
Title: Born Under A Bad Sign
Source: CD: Blues
Year: Recorded 1969, released 2010
Jimi Hendrix first met Albert King in the early 1960s, when Hendrix was a member of Little Richard's touring band. The two hit it off immediately, and King even showed Hendrix how to bend strings horizontally rather than vertically (the fact that they were both left-handed giving them common ground). When King made his Stax debut in 1967, Booker T. Jones and William Bell collaborated to give him what was to become his signature song: Born Under A Bad Sign. At the end of 1969 Hendrix, working with Buddy Miles and Billy Cox, recorded a seven and a half minute instrumental version of the tune that did not get released until 2010. It was worth the wait.
Artist: Peter And The Silhouettes
Title: The Natural Man
Source: Mono Australian import CD: Tol-Puddle Martyrs (originally released on LP: The Scene From Northern Victoria)
Label: Secret Deals (original label: Pacific)
Peter and the Silhouettes only released two songs before renaming themselves Tol-Puddle Martyrs in 1967. Both songs were included on an anthology album released only in Australia called The Scene From Northern Victoria. One of the two songs included on that 1966 LP was The Natural Man, now available on a CD called simply Tol-Puddle Martyrs that collects all the band's 60s releases.
Artist: Rolling Stones
Title: Street Fighting Man
Source: LP: Beggar's Banquet
The Rolling Stones were at a low point in their career following their most psychedelic album, Their Satanic Majesties Request, which came out in late 1967. As a response to charges in the rock press that they were no longer relevant the Stones released Jumpin' Jack Flash as a single in early 1968, following it up with the Beggar's Banquet album later in the year. The new album included the band's follow-up single, Street Fighting Man, a song that was almost as anthemic as Jumpin' Jack Flash itself and went a long ways toward insuring that the Rolling Stones would be making music on their own terms for as long as they chose to.
Artist: Jelly Bean Bandits
Title: Neon River
Source: British import CD: All Kinds Of Highs (originally released on LP: Jelly Bean Bandits)
Label: Big Beat (original label: Mainstream)
Some bands focus on their live performances, while others tend to put more energy into their studio work. The Jelly Bean Bandits, from Newburgh, NY, were definitely in the second category. According to organist Mike Rabb, the band did most of its gigging at two clubs, one in Newburgh and one in nearby Poughkeepsie, with regular bookings in Vermont and a couple of gigs in New Jersey. They were able to put together a fairly decent demo tape, which they presented to Bob Shad, president of Mainstream Records. Shad immediately signed up the Bandits for three albums, although only one actually got released. The band itself, however, had an exceptionally clear vision of what they wanted to record, as can be heard on tracks like Neon River.
Artist: Orange Wedge
Title: From The Womb To The Tomb
Source: Mono CD: An Overdose Of Heavy Psych (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Label: Arf! Arf! (original label: Blue Flat Ownsley Memorial)
Recorded in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1968, From The Womb To The Tomb was the only single from Orange Wedge, a forerunner of more famous Michigan bands such as the Stooges and the MC5.
Title: She's My Girl
Source: Mono LP: Nuggets Vol. 9-Acid Rock (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Rhino (original label: White Whale)
A favorite among the Turtles' members themselves, She's My Girl is full of hidden studio tricks that are barely (if at all) audible on the final recording. Written by the same team as Happy Together, the song is a worthy follow up to that monster hit.
Title: Dance The Night Away
Source: CD: Disraeli Gears
Label: Polydor (original label: Atco)
The album Fresh Cream was perhaps the first LP from a rock supergroup, although at the time a more accurate description would have been British blues supergroup. Much of the album was reworking of blues standards by the trio of Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker, all of whom had established their credentials with various British blues bands. With Disraeli Gears, however, Cream showed a psychedelic side as well as their original blues orientation. Most of the more psychedelic material, such as Dance the Night Away, was from the songwriting team of Bruce and lyricist Pete Brown.
Artist: Blues Project
Title: No Time Like The Right Time
Source: Mono CD: Nuggets-Original Artyfacts From The First Psychedelic Era (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Al Kooper
Label: Rhino (original label: Verve Forecast)
The Blues Project were ahead of their time. They were the first jam band. They virtually created the college circuit for touring rock bands. Unfortunately, they also existed at a time when having a hit single was the considered a necessity. The closest the Blues Project ever got to a hit single was No Time Like The Right Time, which peaked at # 97 and stayed on the charts for all of two weeks. Personally, I rate it among the top 5 best songs of the psychedelic era.
Title: You Set The Scene
Source: CD: Where The Action Is: L.A. Nuggets 1965-68 (originally released on LP: Forever Changes)
Writer(s): Arthur Lee
Label: Rhino (original label: Elektra)
During the production of Forever Changes, vocalist/guitarist Arthur Lee became convinced that he was destined to die soon after the release of the album. Accordingly, he crafted lyrics that were meant to be his final words to the world. As the final track on the LP, You Set The Scene in particular reflected this viewpoint. As it turned out, Forever Changes was not Lee's swan song. It was, however, the last album to feature the lineup that had been the most popular band on Sunset Strip for the past two years. Subsequent Love albums would feature a whole new group of musicians backing Lee, and would have an entirely different sound as well. Ironically, Lee was still around at the dawn of the 21st century over 30 years later (dying of acute myeloid leukemia in 2006), outliving several of his old bandmates.