Tuesday, June 7, 2016
Stuck in the Psychedelic Era # 1624 (starts 6/8/16)
Artist: Jefferson Airplane
Title: Somebody To Love
Source: Mono CD: Surrealistic Pillow (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Darby Slick
Label: RCA/BMG Heritage
It was common practice in the mid-1960s for producers to create two separate mixes for stereo and monoraul releases of the same album. Generally, more time was spent on the mono mix, as that is the one that would be most likely to be heard on top 40 radio stations, most of which did not broadcast in stereo. In 1967 this was still the predominant practice, although the stereo mixes were beginning to get a greater share of attention as FM rock stations began to show up in the larger radio markets. Sometimes there were major differences in the stereo and mono mixes (besides the obvious fact of two channels as opposed to one). One of the most obvious examples is Jefferson Airplane's Surrealistic Pillow album, which was released in early 1967. The stereo mix uses reverb extensively, a hallmark of RCA's Burbank studios at the time. The mono mix, on the other hand, is much cleaner, reflecting the band's actual stage sound more accurately. This can be easily discerned on the single version of Somebody To Love, which of course is the one most people heard on the radio in early 1967.
Artist: Left Banke
Title: Lazy Day
Source: LP: Walk Away Renee/Pretty Ballerina
Although known mostly for being pioneers of baroque-rock, the Left Banke showed that they could, on occassion, rock out with the best of them on tracks like Lazy Day, which closed out their debut LP. The song was also issued as the B side of their second hit, Pretty Ballerina. Incidentally, after the success of their first single, Walk Away Renee, the band formed their own publishing company for their original material, a practice that was fairly common then and now. Interestingly enough, they called that company Lazy Day Music.
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.
Title: I Want To Tell You
Source: CD: Revolver
Writer(s): George Harrison
Label: Parlophone (original US label: Capitol)
The first pre-recorded reel-to-reel tape I ever bought was the Capitol version of the Beatles' Revolver album, which I picked up about a year after the LP was released. Although my Dad's tape recorder had small built-in speakers, his Koss headphones had far superior sound, which led to me sleeping on the couch in the living room with the headphones on. Hearing songs like I Want To Tell You on factory-recorded reel-to-reel tape through a decent pair of headphones gave me an appreciation for just how well-engineered Revolver was, and also inspired me to (eventually) learn my own way around a recording studio. The song itself, by the way, is one of three George Harrison songs on Revolver; the most on any Beatle album up to that point, and a major reason that, when pressed, I almost always end up citing Revolver as my favorite Beatles LP.
Title: Lady Madonna
Source: CD: Past Masters-Volume Two (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Apple/Parlophone (original label: Capitol)
In spring of 1968, following the completion of the Magical Mystery Tour telefilm (and soundtrack album) the Beatles took off for India, where they studied Transcendental Meditation for several weeks along with several other celebrities. Before leaving, the group laid down tracks for their first single of 1968, a Paul McCartney tune called Lady Madonna. Released on March 15th it was, of course, a huge hit, going to #1 in the UK and #4 in the US. The song's success, however, paled when compared with their next release: Hey Jude, which would turn out to be the #1 song of the entire decade.
Title: Good Day Sunshine
Source: CD: Revolver
Label: Parlophone (original label: Capitol)
When the Beatles' Revolver album came out, radio stations all over the US began playing various non-single album tracks almost immediately. Among the most popular of those was Paul McCartney's Good Day Sunshine. It was in many ways an indication of the direction McCartney's songwriting would continue to take for several years.
Source: LP: Santana
Possibly the most successful (in the long term) of the musicians to emerge from late 60s San Francisco was Carlos Santana, a Mexican-born guitarist who still plays to sellout crowds worldwide. Santana's band originally got lukewarm reviews from the rock press, but after their legendary performance at Woodstock found themselves among rock's royalty. Waiting, the opening track from the group's 1969 debut LP, is an instrumental that was also released as the B side of the band's first single, Evil Ways.
Artist: Wilson Pickett
Title: Land Of 1000 Dances
Source: Atlantic Rhythm & Blues 1947-1974 volume 6 1966-1969 (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Chris Kenner
In the early 90s I did a short stint as program director for a slowly-dying full-service AM station in northeastern North Carolina. The station's music format had been Adult Contemporary since the early 70s, but in recent years had been surpassed in the local ratings by their own FM station in the same building. My idea was to get rid of the current stuff and concentrate on the station's fairly extensive library that dated back to the early 60s. One song that I wanted to put into rotation was Wilson Pickett's version of Chris Kenner's Land Of 1000 Dances, which had gotten extensive airplay on both top 40 and R&B stations in 1966. The station's owner and general manager, whose own musical tastes ran to what it known as "beach music" (a kind of soft R&B music that gave rise to a dance called the Shag), objected to my wanting to play the song, saying "That's not soul, it's hard rock." As he was the guy signing my paycheck I didn't have a whole lot of choice in the matter, but to this day whenever I hear "1,2,3" followed by the blaring horns of the Memphis-based Bar-Kays and the following buildup by the Muscle Shoals rhythm section (Chips Moman, Tommy Cogbill, Spooner Oldham and Roger Hawkins) to Pickett's James Brown-styled vocals I can't help but think of that former boss and his condemnation of the record as "hard rock".
Artist: Count Five
Title: They're Gonna Get You
Source: Simulated stereo 45 RPM single B side (reissue)
Writer(s): John Byrne
Label: Double Shot
It's been said that Psychotic Reaction was two and a half minutes of an American garage band sounding more like the Yardbirds than the Yardbirds themselves. The B side, They're Gonna Get You, is that same American garage band sounding more like what they probably sounded like the rest of the time.
Source: Mono British import CD: With Love-A Pot Of Flowers (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Label: Rhino (original label: Brent)
Although not as popular as the Chocolate Watchband or Count Five, the Otherside had its share of fans in the San Jose, California area. Enough, in fact, to land a deal with Brent Records. Their single, Streetcar, got some airplay on local radio stations, but failed to match the success of other area bands.
Title: Elijah (alternate take)
Source: CD: Spirit
Writer: John Locke
Since the mid-1960s many bands have had one long piece that they play in concert that is specifically designed to allow individual band members to strut their stuff. In a few cases, such as Iron Butterfly's In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida or Lynnard Skynnard's Freebird, it becomes their best-known song. In most cases, though, a studio version of the piece gets put on an early album and never gets heard on the radio. Such is the case with Spirit's show-stopper Elijah, which was reportedly never played the same way twice (in fact, this alternate take is evidence of that). Elijah, written by keyboardist John Locke, starts with a hard-rockin' main theme that is followed by a jazzier second theme that showcases one of the lead instruments (guitar, keyboards). The piece then comes to a dead stop while one of the members has a solo section of their own devising. This is followed by the main theme, repeating several times until every member has had their own solo section. The piece ends with a return to the main theme followed by a classic power rock ending.
Artist: Big Brother And The Holding Company
Title: Ball And Chain
Source: LP: Cheap Thrills
Writer(s): Willie Mae Thornton
Big Brother And The Holding Company electrified the crowd at the Monterey International Pop Festival in 1967 with their performance of Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton's Ball And Chain. The rest of the world, however, would have to wait until the following year to hear Janis Joplin's version of the old blues tune, when a live performance recorded at Bill Graham's Fillmore Auditorium was included on the LP Cheap Thrills.
Title: She Put A Hex On You
Source: LP: Time Out! Time In! For Them
After recruiting new lead vocalist Kenny McDowell, Them moved their base of operations to California, where they recorded two LPs for Capitol's tax writeoff label, Tower. The second of these was titled Time Out! Time In! For Them. While the style of the Van Morrison version of the band was very much in the same vein as the early Rolling Stones albums, Time Out! Time In! For Them featured more psychedelic material written by the husband and wife team of Tom Lane and Sharon Pulley. The second track on the album, She Put A Hex On You, superimposes some rather spooky lyrics over an R&B beat, accented by fuzz guitar from Jim Armstrong.
Artist: Pink Fairies
Title: Prologue/Right On, Fight On
Source: CD: Spirit Of Joy (originally released on LP: What A Bunch Of Sweeties)
Writer(s): Pink Fairies
Label: Polydor (UK import)
While most rock musicians in the early 1970s were dreaming of becoming rich and famous, there were a few notable exceptions on both sides of the Atlantic. Among those were Detroit's MC5, whose radical politics were at the forefront of everything they did, and the New York City street band David Peel and the Lower East Side, who were more a musical guerrilla theater group than an actual rock band. In the UK, it was the Pink Fairies bucking the establishment, performing such anarchic acts as giving free concerts outside the gates of places where other bands were playing for pay, such as the 1970 Isle Of Wight music festival. Formed from the ashes of another anarchic band, the Social Deviants, the Pink Fairies recorded three albums from 1971-73, finally cutting a single for Stiff Records in 1976 before splitting up. The group has reformed several times since.
Artist: Bee Gees
Title: Craise Finton Kirk Royal Academy Of Arts
Source: CD: Bee Gees 1st
Writer(s): Barry and Robin Gibb
Label: Reprise (original label: Atco)
The Bee Gees had already released two albums that were only available in Australia and New Zealand when they decided to become an actual band and move to England in 1967. To do this they recruited drummer Colin Petersen and guitarist Vince Melouney to join the Gibb brothers, who had until that point been primarily a vocal group. Upon arrival in London they went to work on the album that would come to be called Bee Gees 1st. The album itself was more psychedelic than the group's later releases, with tracks like Craise Finton Kirk Royal Academy Of Arts showing a somewhat whimsical side to the group. Thanks to the inclusion of no less than three solid hit singles on the LP, the Bee Gees were soon among the most popular bands in the UK, although it would be another 10 years before they achieved their greatest success as purveyors of disco music.
Title: Pleasant Valley Sunday
Source: CD: Nuggets-Classics From the Psychedelic 60s (originally released on LP: Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones, LTD.)
After making it a point to play their own instruments on their third LP, Headquarters, the Monkees decided to once again use studio musicians for their next album, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones, LTD. The difference was that this time the studio musicians would be recording under the supervision of the Monkees themselves rather than Don Kirschner and the array of producers he had lined up for the first two Monkees LPs. The result was an album that many critics consider the group's best effort. The only single released from the album was Pleasant Valley Sunday, a song penned by the husband and wife team of Gerry Goffin and Carole King, and backed by the band's remake of the Tommy Boyce/Bobby Hart song Words, which had been recorded the previous year by the Leaves. Although both songs ended up making the charts, it was Pleasant Valley Sunday that got the most airplay and is considered by many to be Monkees' greatest achievement.
Title: House For Everyone
Source: Mono CD: Mr. Fantasy (original US title: Heaven Is In Your Mind)
Writer(s): Dave Mason
Label: Island (original label: United Artists)
The original British release of Traffic's first LP, Mr. Fantasy, contained three Dave Mason songs, two of which were not included on the US version of the album (originally titled Heaven Is In Your Mind). The only one to appear on both LPs was House For Everyone, which has one of the more unique openings in the history of rock: the sound of a music box being wound up followed by a short musical phrase, repeated three times before Chris Wood's saxophone intro gets the song going. The tune itself, like all of Mason's material, almost sounds like an entirely different band than the majority of Traffic songs, which were written by Winwood and Capaldi. This disparity of sound would eventually lead to Mason leaving the band for a mildly successful solo career.
Source: Mono British import CD: Psychedelia At Abbey Road
Year: Recorded 1967, released 1998
One of the most overlooked bands on the British psychedelic scene was a group called Tomorrow. The group was formed in 1966 when vocalist Keith West and guitarist Steve Howe joined forces with bassist Junior Wood and drummer Twink Adler. One of the highlights of the band's stage performances was their cover of the Byrds' Why, which often featured extended solos by Howe. A studio version of Why was recorded, but was not released while the band was still together. In fact, the tape was misplaced for many years, finally surfacing in time to be included on EMI's Psychedelia At Abbey Road collection in 1998. By then Howe had become a major rock star as the guitarist for Yes during their most popular period.
Artist: Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title: Manic Depression
Source: Dutch import LP: The Singles (originally released on LP: Are You Experienced)
Writer(s): Jimi Hendrix
Label: Polydor (original label: Reprise)
My dad bought an Akai X-355 reel to reel tape recorder when we moved to Ramstein, Germany in early 1968. It was pretty much the state of the art in home audio technology at the time. The problem was that we did not have a stereo system to hook it into, so he bought a set of Koss headphones to go with it. One of my first purchases was a pre-recorded reel to reel tape of Are You Experienced. The Akai had an auto-reverse system and I would lie on the couch with the headphones on to go to sleep every night listening to songs like Manic Depression. Is it any wonder I turned out like I did?
Artist: Eric Burdon and the Animals
Title: Yes, I'm Experienced
Source: British import CD: Winds Of Change
Label: Repertoire (original label: M-G-M)
A grand tradition dating back to the early Rhythm and Blues recordings was something called the "answer song". Someone would record a song (Hound Dog, for example), that would become popular. In turn, another artist (often a friend of the original one), would then come up with a song that answered the original tune (Bear Cat, in our example earlier). This idea was picked up on by white artists in the late 50s (Hey Paula answered by Hey Paul). True to the tradition, Eric Burdon answered his friend Jimi Hendrix's Are You Experienced with this song, done in a style similar to another Hendrix tune, Manic Depression.
Artist: Led Zeppelin
Title: I Can't Quit You/How Many More Times
Source: CD: Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin has come under fire for occassionally "borrowing" lyrics and even guitar riffs from old blues songs (never mind the fact that such "borrowing" was a common practice among the old bluesmen themselves) but, at least in the case of the first Zeppelin album, full songwriting credit was given to Willie Dixon for a pair of songs, one of which was I Can't Quit You. Still, it can't be denied that messrs. Page, Plant, Bonham and Jones completely revamped the blues classic into something uniquely their own. Like many early Led Zeppelin songs, How Many More Times was originally credited to the band members (except,for contractual reasons, singer Robert Plant). More recent releases of the song, however, list Chester Burnett (Howlin' Wolf) as a co-writer, despite the fact that he and the members of Led Zeppelin had never met. This is because of the similarity, especially in the lyrics, to a 1951 Howlin' Wolf record called How Many More Years. The band tried to trick radio programmers into playing the eight and a half minute song by listing it on the album cover as being three minutes and thirty seconds long. I doubt anyone was fooled.
Artist: Beacon Street Union
Title: Sportin' Life
Source: British import CD: The Eyes Of The Beacon Street Union
Writer(s): Beacon Street Union
Label: See For Miles
Although writing credits on Sportin' Life were given to the entire band, there is evidence that the Beacon Street Union actually got the song from the Lovin' Spoonful. It always sounded to me like an old Hoagy Carmichael song. Anybody have any more info on this one?
Artist: Ten Years After
Title: I Can't Keep From Crying Sometimes
Source: CD: Ten Years After
Writer(s): Al Kooper
The first Ten Years After album had several cover tunes on it, including one that was actually a cover of a cover. Al Kooper of the Blues Project had initially reworked Blind Willie Johnson's I Can't Keep From Crying Sometimes for inclusion on a blues sampler album for Elektra Records called What's Shakin', while at the same time working up a harder-edged version of the song for the Blues Project, which became the opening track for their Projections LP. Alvin Lee based his own interpretation of the tune on Kooper's solo arrangement, taking an even quieter approach to the song.
Artist: Blues Magoos
Title: Love Seems Doomed
Source: CD: Kaleidoscopic Compendium (originally released on LP: Psychedelic Lollipop)
Unlike most of the tracks on the Blues Magoos' 1966 Debut LP, Psychedelic Lollipop, Love Seems Doomed is a slow, moody piece with a message. Along with the Paul Revere and the Raiders hit Kicks from earlier that year, Love Seems Doomed is one of the first songs by a rock band to carry a decidedly anti-drug message. While Kicks warned of the addictive qualities of drugs (particularly the phenomenon of the need larger doses of a drug to achieve the same effect over time), Love Seems Doomed focused more on how addiction affects the user's relationships, particularly those of a romantic nature. Love Seems Doomed is also a more subtle song than Kicks, which tends to hit the listener over the head with its message.