Tuesday, April 5, 2016
Stuck in the Psychedelic Era # 1615 (starts 4/6/16)
Title: Tomorrow's Gonna Be Another Day
Source: 45 RPM single
Label: RCA Victor
The Astronauts were formed in the early 60s in Boulder, Colorado, and were one of the few surf bands to come from a landrocked state. They had a minor hit with an instrumental called Baja during the height of surf's popularity, but were never able to duplicate that success in the US, although they did have considerable success in Japan, even outselling the Beach Boys there. By 1965 they had started to move away from surf music, adding vocals and taking on more of a garage-punk sound. What caught my attention when I first ran across this promo single in a commercial radio station throwaway pile was the song's title. Tomorrow's Gonna Be Another Day, written by Tommy Boyce and producer Steve Venet, was featured on the Monkees TV show and was included on their 1966 debut album. This 1965 Astronauts version of the tune has a lot more attitude than the Monkees version. Surprisingly the song didn't hit the US charts, despite being released on the biggest record label in the world (at that time), RCA Victor.
Title: (I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone
Source: CD: More Of The Monkees (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Label: Rhino (original label: Colgems)
When Screen Gems/Columbia Pictures announced that they would be doing a new TV series about a rock band called the Monkees, Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart had hopes of being chosen for the project, not only as songwriters, but as actual performing members of the group itself. That part didn't work out (although years later they would participate in a Monkees revival), but they did end up providing the bulk of the songs used for the show. The first of these songs was Last Train To Clarksville, which was released as a single just prior to the show's debut in the fall of 1966 and ended up being a huge hit for the group. For the November 1966 followup single a Neil Diamond song, I'm A Believer, was chosen for the A side of the record. The B side was another Boyce/Hart song, (I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone, that had been previously released by Paul Revere and the Raiders on their Midnight Ride album earlier in the year. The Monkees version of the song ended up being a hit in its own right, going all the way to the #20 spot (I'm A Believer ended up being the #1 song of 1967). Although there were two different mono mixes of the song released, it is the stereo version from the album More Of The Monkees that is most often heard these days.
Artist: Chocolate Watchband
Title: Expo 2000
Source: British import CD: Melts In Your Brain, Not On Your Wrist (originally released on LP: No Way Out)
Writer(s): Richie Podolor
Label: Big Beat (original label: Tower)
If you ignore the fact that Expo 2000, from the first Chocolate Watchband album, No Way Out, is performed by uncredited studio musicians and thus is a complete misrepresentation, it's really a pretty decent instrumental. Too bad we'll never know who actually performed it. We do know, however, that it was written by Richard Podolor.
Artist: Moby Grape
Title: Murder In My Heart For The Judge
Source: LP: Great Grape (originally released on LP: Wow)
Writer(s): Don Stevenson
Moby Grape was one of those bands that probably should have been more successful than they were, but were thrown off-track by a series of bad decisions by their own support personnel. First, Columbia damaged their reputation by simultaneously releasing five singles from their debut LP in 1967, leading to accusations that the band was nothing but hype. Then their producer, David Rubinson, decided to add horns and strings to many of the tracks on their second album, Wow, alienating much of the band's core audience in the process. Still, Wow did have its share of fine tunes, including drummer Don Stevenson's Murder In My Heart For The Judge, probably the most popular song on the album. The song proved popular enough to warrant cover versions by such diverse talents as Lee Michaels, Chrissy Hynde and Three Dog Night.
Artist: Jefferson Airplane
Title: Star Track
Source: CD: Crown Of Creation
Writer(s): Jorma Kaukonen
Jorma Kaukonen was already starting to develop his unique "psychedelic blues" style that would characterize his band Hot Tuna as early as 1968, with the Jefferson Airplane recording of Star Track from the Crown Of Creation album. As well as playing lead guitar, Kaukonen provides the lead vocals on the track.
Title: White Room
Source: LP: Progressive Heavies (originally released as 45 RPM single and on LP: Wheels Of Fire)
Label: United Artists (original label: Atco)
In order to get songs played on top 40 radio, record companies made it a practice to shorten album cuts by cutting out extended instrumental breaks and extra verses. This version of the Cream classic White Room, clocking in at just over three minutes, is a typical example.
Source: CD: Meaty Beaty Big And Bouncy (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Pete Townshend
Label: MCA (original label: Atco)
In the spring of 1967 my dad, a career military man, got word that he was being transferred from Denver, Colorado to Weisbaden, Germany. By the end of summer, our entire family had relocated to a converted WWII Panzer barracks called Kastel that was serving as a housing area for married US military personnel and their families. It was probably the smallest housing area in all of Europe, consisting of only eight buildings. Needless to say, there were not many other American kids my age living there, which actually ended up working to my advantage. You see, in Denver I had been playing first chair violin in the Smiley Junior High School orchestra; a position that looked good to the adults in the room but was the kiss of death to a 14-year-old trying desperately to fit in with his peers. So, naturally, as one of only half a dozen or so teenaged boys in the Kastel Housing Area, I jumped at the chance to learn how to play the guitar (a much cooler instrument than the violin to a 14-year-old). There were two guys at Kastel who a) had a guitar and b) were willing to put up with an obnoxious Freshman long enough to teach him a few chords. The first was was a Sophomore named Darrell Combs, who went by the nickname Butch (his older sister Darlene being responsible for that one). The other was a Junior named Mike Davenport, who had been in Germany longer than the rest of us and had his own amp. Mike also had a collection of records that had been popular on Radio Luxembourg, the US-styled top 40 station that was aimed at a British audience and played mostly songs from the UK charts. Among those records were several singles by the Who, including their chart-topping 1966 UK hit Substitute. Mike and Butch had been trying to figure out the chords to Substitute, but had not been able to get beyond the intro of the song. After listening to the record once or twice (yes, I'm bragging) I was able to figure out the rest of the song. Not long after that I was able to talk my parents into buying me a guitar and a small amp as an early Christmas present (that ended up doubling as my 15th birthday present as well). With three guitarists, two amps, and a drummer named Zachary Long in our arsenal, we formed a band called The Abundance Of Love (hey, it was 1967, OK?), which soon got changed to the Haze And Shades Of Yesterday and finally just The Shades. One of the first songs we learned to play was (you guessed it), Substitute by the Who. The Shades ended up lasting until the summer of 1968, at which time my dad got transferred again, this time to Ramstein AFB, Germany.
Artist: Buffalo Springfield
Title: Rock And Roll Woman
Source: CD: Retrospective (originally released on LP: Buffalo Springfield Again and as 45 RPM single)
Writer: Stephen Stills
Buffalo Springfield did not sell huge numbers of records (except for the single For What It's Worth). Nor did they pack in the crowds. As a matter of fact, when they played the club across the street from where Love was playing, they barely had any audience at all. Artistically, though, it's a whole 'nother story. During their brief existence Buffalo Springfield launched the careers of no less than four major artists: Neil Young, Richie Furay, Jim Messina and Stephen Stills. They also recorded more than their share of tracks that have held up better than most of what else was being recorded at the time. Case in point: Rock and Roll Woman, a Stephen Stills tune that still sounds fresh well over 40 years after it was recorded.
Artist: Electric Prunes
Title: You Never Had It Better
Source: Mono CD: Underground (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Label: Collector's Choice
Following the lack of a hit single from their second album, Underground, the Electric Prunes took one last shot at top 40 airplay with a song called Everybody Knows Your Not In Love. The band might have had better luck if they had pushed the flip side of the record, You Never Had It Better, which is a much stronger song. As it is, the record stiffed, and producer David Hassinger reacted by stripping the band of any creative freedom they might have had and made an album called Mass in F Minor using mostly studio musicians. The band, having signed away the rights to the name Electric Prunes to Hassinger when they first started working with him, could do nothing but watch helplessly as Hassinger created an album that had little in common with the original band other than their name. Because of this, the original members soon left, and Hassinger brought in a whole new group for two more albums before retiring the Prunes name for good. In recent years several members of the original band have reformed the Electric Prunes. Whether they had to get permission to use the name is unknown.
Artist: ? And The Mysterians
Title: 96 Tears
Source: 45 RPM single (reissue)
Writer(s): The Mysterians
Label: Abkco (original label: Cameo)
Although his birth certificate gives the name Rudy Martinez, the leader of the Mysterians had his name legally changed to "?" several years ago. He asserts that he is actually from the planet Mars and has lived among dinosaurs in a past life. Sometimes I feel like I'm living among dinosaurs in this life, so I guess I can relate a little. The band's only major hit, 96 Tears, has the distinction of being the last top 10 single on the Cameo label before Cameo-Parkway went bankrupt and was bought by Allen Klein, who now operates the company as Abkco.
Artist: Syndicate Of Sound
Title: Little Girl
Source: CD: Nuggets-Classics From The Psychedelic 60s (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Rhino (original labels: Hush & Bell)
San Jose California, despite being a relatively small city in the pre-silicon valley days, was home to a thriving music scene in the mid 60s that produced more than its share of hit records from 1966-68. One of the earliest and biggest of these hits was the Syndicate Of Sound hit Little Girl, which has come to be recognized as one of the top garage-rock songs of all time. Little Girl was originally released regionally in mid 1966 on the Hush label, and reissued nationally by Bell Records a couple months later.
Title: I Tell Myself
Source: LP: A Web Of Sound
Writer(s): Marcus Tybalt
Label: GNP Crescendo
Sky Saxon was unquestionably responsible for the success of the Seeds, who hit the national charts in early 1967 with the classic Pushin' Too Hard. The song had actually first appeared as a 1965 single (as You're Pushin' Too Hard), but did not get much airplay at the time). By the time the song became a hit the band had already released a second album, A Web Of Sound. Nearly every Seeds song was either written or co-written by Saxon himself. The only exception I know of is I Tell Myself, a tune written by Hollywood songster Marcus Tybalt, which appears on the second LP, and the Seeds version almost sounds like a parody of a pop tune (which may well have been their intention for all I know).
Artist: We The People
Title: Mirror Of Your Mind
Source: Mono CD: Even More Nuggets (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer: Thomas Talton
Label: Rhino (original label: Challenge)
We The People were formed when an Orlando, Florida newspaper reporter talked members of two local bands to combine into a garage/punk supergroup. The result was one of the most successful regional bands in Florida history. After their first recording got airplay on a local station, they were signed to record in Nashville for Challenge Records (a label actually based in Los Angeles) and cranked out several regional hits over the next few years. The first of these was Mirror Of Your Mind. Written by lead vocalist Tom Talton, the song is an in-your-face rocker that got played on a number of local stations and has been covered by several bands since.
Artist: Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title: One Rainy Wish
Source: LP: Axis: Bold As Love
Writer: Jimi Hendrix
Label: MCA (original label: Reprise)
In the summer of 1967 my dad (who was a Sergeant in the Air Force), got transferred to Lindsay Air Station in Weisbaden, Germany. The housing situation there being what it was, it was several weeks before the rest of us could join him, and during that time he went out and bought an Akai X-355 reel to reel tape recorder that a fellow GI had picked up in Japan. The Akai had small speakers built into it, but the best way to listen to it was through headphones. It would be another year before he would pick up a turntable, so I started buying pre-recorded reel to reel tapes. Two of the first three tapes I bought were Are You Experienced and Axis: Bold As Love, both by the Jimi Hendrix Experience. As I was forced to share a bedroom with my little brother I made it a habit to sleep on the couch instead, usually with the headphones on listening to Axis: Bold As Love. I was blown away by the stereo effects on the album, which I attributed (somewhat correctly) to Hendrix, although I would find out years later that much of the credit belongs to engineer Eddie Kramer as well. One Rainy Wish, for example, starts off with all the instruments in the center channel (essentially a mono mix). After a few seconds of slow spacy intro the song gets into gear with vocals isolated all the way over to the left, with a guitar overdub on the opposite side to balance it out. As the song continues, things move back and forth from side to side, fading in and out at the same time. It was a hell of a way to drift off to sleep every night.
Artist: Jimi Hendrix
Source: Stereo 45 RPM single
Writer(s): Jimi Hendrix
Year: Recorded 1968, released 2013
Although the Jimi Hendrix Experience did not officially disband until 1969, Hendrix himself was spending more and more time working with musicians outside the band as early as mid-1968. The Electric Ladyland album itself features guest appearances by the likes of Steve Winwood, Buddy Miles and Chris Wood, among others, and for years there have been even more recordings by non-Experience members rumored to exist. Among those legendary tracks is Somewhere, a piece that features Miles on drums, and, unusually, Stephen Stills on bass. In addition to a special 45 RPM single release, Somewhere is available on the 2013 album People, Hell and Angels. According to engineer Eddie Kramer, this is the final collection of unreleased studio tracks to be issued by the Hendrix family estate.
Artist: Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title: Bold As Love
Source: LP: Axis: Bold As Love
Writer(s): Jimi Hendrix
Label: MCA (original label: Reprise)
When working on the song Bold As Love for the second Jimi Hendrix Experience album in 1967, Jimi reportedly asked engineer Eddie Kramer if he could make a guitar sound like it was under water. Kramer's answer was to use a techique called phasing, which is what happens when two identical sound sources are played simultaneously, but slightly (as in microseconds) out of synch with each other. The technique, first used in 1958 but seldom tried in stereo, somewhat resembles the sound of a jet plane flying by. This is not to be confused with chorusing (sometimes called reverse phasing), a technique used often by the Beatles which splits a single signal into two identical signals then delays one to create the illusion of being separate tracks.
Artist: Rare Earth
Title: I Just Want To Celebrate
Source: 45 RPM single
Label: Rare Earth
So it's mid-September of 1971 and Sunn has just regrouped after losing our lead guitarist/backup drummer (and primary chick magnet) Dave to the US Air Force (he wanted to get married and needed the money). Luckily, we had three guitarists in the band, which had come in handy when Mike the drummer went to Nebraska to make some college start up money working the harvest and Dave had taken over on the drums (he was no Mike but at least he could keep a beat). But now Mike was back, Dave was gone, and after a month hiatus we had just scored our first gig: a one-shot at a little club in Weatherford, Oklahoma, where DeWayne (the rhythm guitarist) and Mike were enrolled as freshmen at a small liberal-arts college (Southwestern State). We had not practiced at all since losing Dave (and Mike hadn't played with us in almost two months) and were a bit rusty for the first set, but by the end of the third set we were cookin'! During the break the club manager asks us if we would be interested in becoming the house band, to play every Friday night. About that time, the jukebox plays the current Rare Earth hit, I Just Want To Celebrate, and we take to the stage and begin jamming along to the song. The jukebox gets unplugged and we just keep on jamming, a rather impromptu way to start the final set of the night. It could have been a seminal moment in the history of rock and roll if it weren't for the fact that it had already been decided a few days earlier that this was to be Sunn's farewell performance.
Artist: Paul Revere and the Raiders
Title: Steppin' Out
Source: Mono CD: Nuggets-Original Artyfacts From The First Psychedelic Era (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Rhino (original label: Columbia)
1965 was the year that Paul Revere and the Raiders hit the big time. The Portland, Oregon band had already been performing together for several years, and had been the first rock band to record Louie Louie in the spring of 1963, getting airplay on the West Coast and Hawaii but losing out nationally to another Portland band, the Kingsmen, whose version was recorded the same month as the Raiders'. While playing in Hawaii the band came to the attention of Dick Clark, who was looking for a band to appear on his new afternoon TV program, Where The Action Is. Clark introduced the band to Terry Melcher, a successful producer at Columbia Records, which led to the Raiders being the first actual rock band signed by the label. Appearing on Action turned out to be a major turning point for the band, who soon became the show's defacto hosts as well as house band. The Raiders' first national hit in their new role was Steppin' Out, a song written by Revere and vocalist Mark Lindsay about a guy returning from military service (as Revere himself had done in the early 60s, reforming the band upon his return) and finding out his girl had been unfaithful. Working with Melcher, the Raiders enjoyed a run of hits from 1965-67 unequalled by any other Amercian rock band of the time.
Title: John Riley
Source: LP: Fifth Dimension
The third Byrds album, Fifth Dimension, saw many changes in the group, not the least of which was the loss of the band's primary songwriter, Gene Clark. In addition, the band made a conscious decision not to include any Bob Dylan cover songs on the album. Combined with a change of producer this made for a very different sounding album than the Byrds' first two efforts. Among the album's four cover songs was a traditional English folk ballad called John Riley that had been previously recorded by Judy Collins and Joan Baez, among others. The Byrds version of John Riley, based on the Baez interpretation of the song, showcases the band's rich harmonies, perhaps more than any other track on Fifth Dimension.
Title: How Nice?
Source: Mono British import CD: My Mind Goes High (originally released in US as 45 RPM single)
Label: Warner Strategic Marketing (original label: Warner Brothers)
The Tokens were a vocal group formed in 1955 by Hank Medress. The original lineup included Neil Sedaka, but did not start having chart success until 1960, when Medress rebooted the group to include lead vocalist Jay Siegel and brothers Phil and Mitch Margo. In addition to taking The Lion Sleeps Tonight to the top of the charts, the Tokens became well-known throughout the music industry as producers and songwriters as well as vocalists, participating in literally hundreds of recordings over a period of several years. In 1967 they signed with Warner Brothers Records, releasing an album called It's A Happening World (one of the groups they had produced in 1966 was named, coincidentally, the Happenings). The single from that album was a track called How Nice, that shows just how well-versed the group was in getting the most out of a four-track studio.
Artist: Fifty Foot Hose
Title: Red The Sign Post
Source: CD: Love Is The Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-70 (originally released on LP: Cauldron)
Label: Rhino (original label: Limelight)
Although most of the more avant-garde bands of the psychedelic era were headquarted in New York, there were some exceptions, such as San Francisco's Fifty Foot Hose. The core members of the band were founder and bassist Louis "Cork" Marcheschi, guitarist David Blossom, and his wife, vocalist Nancy Blossom. The group used a lot of unusual instruments, such as theramin, Moog synthesizer and prepared guitar and piano. Probably their most commercial song was Red The Sign Post from the LP Cauldron. After that album the group called it quits, with most of the members joining the cast of Hair. In fact, Nancy Blossom played lead character Sheila in the San Francisco production of the musical.
Title: Kings And Queens
Source: LP: Renaissance
The original Yardbirds effectively ended their existence in 1968, although guitarist Jimmy Page, who had joined the group in 1966, continued to use the name through early 1969. Meanwhile, founding members Keith Relf and Jim McCarty formed a new, more progressive band called Renaissance, with new members Louis Cennamo, John Hawken and Relf's sister Jane. The group recorded one album for Elektra, which was produced by another ex-Yardbird, Paul Samwell-Smith, and had begun work on a follow-up LP when all but Hawken decided to call it quits. Hawken was able to eventually complete the second album, Illusion, with a new lineup, which in turn was the foundation for the later, more famous version of Renaissance.
Title: 20,000 Miles In The Air
Source: LP: Taos
As near as I can tell, Taos might well be the ultimate Hippie band, having been founded by five young men who had moved to the legendary Taos Commune sometime prior to 1970. The five included Jeff Baker on guitar and vocals, Steve Oppenheim on keyboards and vocals, Albie Ciappa on drums, Burt Levine on guitar and banjo, and Kit Bedford on bass. The album itself has an almost British feel to it, with songs like 20,000 Miles In The Air featuring multi-part harmonies over a somewhat subdued instrumental track.
Title: The Low Spark Of High-Heeled Boys
Source: CD: Smiling Phases (originally released on LP: The Low Spark Of High-Heeled Boys)
Traffic was formed in 1967 by guitarist/keyboardist/vocalist Steve Winwood, drummer/vocalist Jim Capaldi, flautist/saxophonist Chris Wood and bassist/multi-instrumentalist Dave Mason. Winwood, at 18 the youngest member of the band, was already an established star as lead vocalist of the Spencer Davis Group, and it was in part his desire for more creative freedom that led to Traffic's formation. From the beginning there was creative tension within the band, and less than two years later the group broke up when Winwood left to join Blind Faith. In early 1970, following the demise of Blind Faith, Winwood began working on a solo album that ended up being a new Traffic album, John Barleycorn Must Die, instead. This was followed in 1971 by the band's most successful album, The Low Spark Of High-Heeled Boys. The long title track (eleven and a half minutes' worth) shows a more relaxed sounding band, with Wood, Capaldi, new bassist Rich Grech and percussionist Reebop Kwaku Baah creating a moody backdrop for Winwood's interpretation of Capaldi's somewhat cynical lyrics. Despite its length, The Low Spark Of High-Heeled Boys became a staple of FM rock stations for many years.
Artist: Rolling Stones
Title: Out Of Time
Source: CD: Flowers (originally released in UK on LP: Aftermath)
Label: Abkco (original label: London)
Year: 1966 (UK), 1967 (US)
The history of the Rolling Stones' Out Of Time is actually somewhat convoluted. Originally released only in the UK on the Aftermath LP (the US version of the album having a different track lineup), the song was soon covered by British singer Chris Farlowe, whose Mick Jagger-produced single went to the top of the UK charts in July of 1966. A shorter alternate mix of the Stones' version was then released in the US as part of the record company-compiled Flowers album. Finally, in 1975 the original Rolling Stones version of Out Of Time was released internationally as a single, enjoying moderate success in the US, UK and other countries.
Artist: Rolling Stones
Title: 2000 Light Years From Home
Source: CD: Their Satanic Majesties Request
Label: Abkco (original label: London)
Nowhere was the ripple effect of the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band more noticable than on the Rolling Stones fall 1967 release Their Satanic Majesties Request. The cover featured the band members in various sorcerous regalia in a seven-inch picture on the kind of holographic paper used for "magic rings" found in bubble-gum machines and pasted over regular album-cover stock, which was a simple pattern of faded white circles on a blue background (it kind of looked like dark wallpaper). Musically it was the most psychedelic Stones album ever released. Interesting enough, different songs were released as singles in different countries. In the US the single was She's A Rainbow, while in Germany and the Netherlands 2,000 Light Years From Home (the US B side of She's A Rainbow) got significant airplay, making the top 5 in both countries.
Artist: Rolling Stones
Title: Mother's Little Helper
Source: Mono CD: Flowers
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.
Title: Message From The Country
Source: LP: Message From The Country
Writer(s): Jeff Lynne
The Move was one of those bands that was extremely popular in its native UK without having any success whatsoever in the US. Although primarily a singles band, they did manage to release four albums over a period of years, the last of which was Message From The Country. Even as the album was being recorded, several members, including Jeff Lynne, were already working on the first album by the Move's successor, the Electric Light Orchestra. A conscious effort was made, however, to keep the two projects separate, with the Move album getting the more psychedelic material (such as the title track), while ELO took a more progressive rock approach.