Tuesday, February 7, 2017
Stuck in the Psychedelic Era # 1706 (starts 2/8/17)
Just when you think you know where this week's show is going, it up and takes a turn for the unexpected. Actually, I suppose that's the case every week.
Title: Hey Joe
Source: Mono LP: Nuggets Vol. 1-The Hits (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer: Billy Roberts
Label: Rhino (original label: Mira)
In 1966 there were certain songs you had to know how to play if you had any aspirations of being in a band. Among those were Louie Louie, Gloria and Hey Joe. The Byrds' David Crosby claims to have discovered Hey Joe, but was not able to convince his bandmates to record it before their third album. In the meantime, several other bands had recorded the song, including Love (on their first album) and the Leaves. The version of Hey Joe heard here is actually the third recording the Leaves made of the tune. After the first two versions tanked, guitarist Bobby Arlin, who had recently replaced founding member Bill Rinehart on lead guitar, came up with the idea of adding fuzz guitar to the song. It was the missing element that transformed a rather bland song into a hit record (the only national hit the Leaves would have). As a side note, the Leaves credited Chet Powers (aka Dino Valenti) as the writer of Hey Joe, but California-based folk singer Billy Roberts had copyrighted the song in 1962 and had reportedly been heard playing the tune as early as 1958.
Title: The Life I Live
Source: Mono CD: Nuggets II-Original Artyfacts From The British Empire And Beyond 1964-1969 (originally released in the Netherlands as 45 RPM single)
Label: Rhino (original label: Decca)
The phenomena of rebellious youth in the mid-1960s was not limited to just the English speaking world. In fact, while even the most radical bands in the US and Britain were still wearing hairstyles imitative of the Beatles, Holland's Q'65 had a look that would come to be associated with 70s rock stars, with shoulder-length (or longer) hair and a generally scruffy appearance. Musically, Q'65 started off in the same vein as such British blues bands as the Yardbirds or Rolling Stones, but soon began writing their own material, such as The Life I Live, an autobiographical declaration of a lifestyle that was still considered somewhat immoral (i.e. sex and drugs) in 1966 that became a huge hit in the Netherlands.
Artist: Eric Burdon And The Animals
Title: That Ain't Where It's At
Source: LP: The Best Of Eric Burdon And The Animals-Vol. II (originally released as 45 RPM single B side and included on LP: Eric Is Here)
Writer(s): Martin Siegel
In late 1966, following the departure of several key members, the original Animals decided to call it quits. Vocalist Eric Burdon, along with drummer Barry Jenkins, would eventually form a "new Animals" that would soon come to be known as Eric Burdon And The Animals. Along the way, however, things took a strange and unexpected turn. Burdon had long expressed his distaste for the "pop" songs that producer Mickey Most had provided for the Animals to record and release as singles, preferring instead to cover blues and R&B standards by John Lee Hooker, Jimmy Reed and the like. Yet somehow, in early 1967, Burdon (and Jenkins) appeared on an album called Eric Is Here credited to Eric Burdon And The Animals. The album itself was made up entirely of the kinds of songs that Burdon said he hated, and featured a string orchestra led by Horace Ott. Two of the songs from the album were actually released in December of 1966 as an Eric Burdon single. The B side of that single, a Martin Siegel tune called That Ain't Where It's At, was probably the best track on the entire album, and was included on the later M-G-M release The Best Of Eric Burdon And The Animals-Vol. II.
Title: Crawdaddy Simone
Source: Mono CD: Nuggets II-Original Artyfacts From The British Empire And Beyond 1964-1969 (originally released in UK as 45 RPM single B side)
Label: Rhino (original label: Columbia)
The Syndicats were formed in Tottenham in 1963 by bassist Kevin Driscoll and guitarist Steve Howe. The band's original manager was Driscoll's mother, who got them an audition with producer Joe Meek, who had made history in 1962 as the producer of the first British single to ever top the US charts, the Tornado's Telstar. Meek, who built his own studio in North London, had proved that Telstar was no fluke when he produced the Honeycombs' Have I The Right in 1964. Meek took an immediate liking to the Syndicats as well and produced three singles for the band, the last of which was a song called On The Horizon. For the B side of that single he told the band to "just go wild" on a tune written by keyboardist Jeff Williams and guitarist Ray Fenwick, who had replaced Howe (who would go on to greater fame as a member of Yes) prior to the recording sessions that resulted in Crawdaddy Simone. Like all of Meek's productions, the song starts off in your face and pretty much stays there for the next three minutes and fourteen seconds.
Title: Sunshine Superman
Source: British import CD: Psychedelia At Abbey Road (originally released as 45 RPM single and on LP: Sunshine Superman)
Writer(s): Donovan Leitch
Up until the early 1970s there was an unwritten rule that stated that in order to get played on top 40 radio a song could be no more than three and a half minutes long. There were exceptions, of course, such as Bob Dylan's Like A Rolling Stone, but as a general rule the policy was strictly adhered to. Sometimes an artist would record a song that exceeded the limit but nonetheless was considered to have commercial potential. In cases like these the usual practice was for the record company (or sometimes the producer of the record) to create an edited version of the master recording for release as a single. Usually in these cases the original unedited version of the song would appear on an album. In the case of Donovan's Sunshine Superman, however, the mono single version was used for the album as well, possibly because the album itself was never issued in stereo. In fact, it wasn't until 1969 that the full-length original recording of Sunshine Superman was made available as a track on Donovan's first Greatest Hits collection. This was also the first time the song had appeared in stereo, having been newly mixed for that album. An even newer mix was made in 1998 and is included on a British anthology album called Psychedelia At Abbey Road. This version takes advantage of digital technology and has a slightly different sound than previous releases of the song.
Title: I Can't See Your Face In My Mind
Source: LP: Strange Days
Writer(s): The Doors
One of the most haunting Doors ever recorded is I Can't See Your Face In My Mind, from their second 1967 LP, Strange Days. It also ranks among the most sadness-evoking song titles I've ever run across. Such is the power of poetry, I guess. Frankly I'm surprised that the Alzheimer's Association hasn't purchased the rights to the song to use on one of their TV fundraising spots.
Artist: Small Faces
Title: Song Of A Baker
Source: British import CD: Ogden's Nut Gone Flake
Label: Charly (original label: Immediate)
According to the liner notes for the CD reissue of the 1968 Small Faces album, Ogden's Nut Gone Flake, the inspiration for Song Of A Baker came indirectly from the Who's Pete Townshend, who had turned bassist Ronnie Lane onto a book on Sufi beliefs. My own knowledge of Sufi beliefs is limited to a few scenes from the movie Jewel Of The Nile, so all I can do is speculate on how those beliefs actually relate to the song itself.
Artist: Rolling Stones
Title: Honky Tonk Woman
Source: LP: Through The Past, Darkly
After revitalizing their career with Jumpin' Jack Flash and Street Fighting Man in 1968, the Stones delivered the coup-de-grace in 1969 with one of the greatest rock songs ever recorded: the classic Honky Tonk Women. The song was the band's first single without Brian Jones, who had been found dead in his swimming pool shortly after leaving the group. Jones's replacement, Mick Taylor (fresh from a stint with blues legend John Mayall), plays slide guitar on the track.
Artist: Moby Grape
Source: LP: Moby Grape
Writer(s): Skip Spence
As an ill-advised promotional gimmick, Columbia Records released five separate singles concurrently with the first Moby Grape album. Of the five singles, only one, Omaha, actually charted, and it only got to the #86 spot. Meanwhile, the heavy promotion by the label led to Moby Grape getting the reputation of being over-hyped, much to the detriment of the band's career.
Artist: Jefferson Airplane
Title: White Rabbit
Source: CD: Psychedelic Pop (originally released on LP: Surrealistic Pillow)
Writer: Grace Slick
The first time I heard White Rabbit was on Denver's first FM rock station, KLZ-FM. The station branded itself as having a top 100 (as opposed to local ratings leader KIMN's top 60), and prided itself on being the first station in town to play new releases and album tracks. It wasn't long before White Rabbit was officially released as a single, and went on to become a top 10 hit, the last for the Airplane.
Artist: Circus Maximus
Title: You Know I've Got The Rest Of My Life To Go
Source: CD: Circus Maximus
Writer(s): Bob Bruno
Circus Maximus was formed in 1967 by guitarist/vocalist/keyboardist Bob Bruno and guitarist/vocalist Jerry Jeff Walker in New York's Greenwich Village. The group, originally called the Lost Sea Dreamers, combined elements of folk, rock, jazz and country to create their own unique brand of psychedelic music. Their self-title debut album contained rock songs from both songwriters, with Walker's tunes leaning more toward folk and country while Bruno's contained elements of jazz, as can be heard on You Know I've Got The Rest Of My Life To Go. The band released a second album in early 1968 before splitting up, with Walker becoming a successful songwriter and Bruno hooking up with various jazz musicians over the next few years. Bassist Gary White also had some success as a songwriter, penning Linda Ronstadt's first solo hit, Long, Long Time.
Title: Across The Universe
Source: CD: Let It Be...Naked
Across The Universe was recorded in 1968 and was in serious contention for release as a single that year (ultimately Lady Madonna was chosen instead). The recording sat in the vaults until 1969, when it was included on a charity album for the World Wildlife Fund. Phil Spector would eventually get his hands on the master tape, slowing it down and adding strings and including it on the Let It Be album. Finally, in 2003, Paul McCartney issued the original unedited version of the song on the album Let It Be...Naked.
Source: LP: The Beatles
John Lennon's songwriting continued to take a more personal turn with the 1968 release of The Beatles, also known as the White Album. Perhaps the best example of this is the song Julia. The song was written for Lennon's mother, who had been killed by a drunk driver in 1958, although it also has references to Lennon's future wife Yoko Ono (Yoko translates into English as Ocean Child). Julia is the only 100% solo John Lennon recording to appear on a Beatle album.
Title: Dig A Pony
Source: CD: Let It Be...Naked
Let It Be evolved from a proposed television show that would have featured the Beatles playing songs from their self-titled 1968 double LP (commonly known as the White Album). This idea was soon abandoned in favor of the band working up an entirely new batch of songs for the project. The group decided it would be even cooler to film their rehearsals of the new songs, allowing the audience an inside look at the creative process. Finally, all the songs would be performed without any overdubs or other studio enhancements, making for a more intimate listening experience. Filming began on Jan 2, 1969, and almost immediately the project began to fall apart. First off, the location used for the shooting was a cavernous film studio that was not in the least bit suited to creating music in. The time of day was all wrong as well. The band had gotten into the habit of recording into the early morning hours; showing up at the studio at 10AM was not their cup of tea. Finally, there were tensions within the group which were only made worse by the uncomfortable working conditions. As a result, the film showed an extremely unhappy band seemingly on the verge of breaking up.
Steps were taken to rectify the situation, including moving the entire project to Apple headquarters in West London and inviting Billy Preston to sit in with the group on keyboards. On January 30th the Beatles staged what was to be their final public performance on the rooftop of Apple, recording several tunes, including Dig A Pony. The Beatles then put the entire Let It Be project on the shelf and got to work on an entirely new album in conjunction with producer George Martin, who had been deliberately excluded from the Let It Be project. That album, Abbey Road, would be the final recording project for the Beatles. Meanwhile, legendary producer Phil Spector had been brought in to see what could be done with the Let It Be tapes. The resulting album, released in 1970, featured heavily orchestrated versions of what had been meant to be deliberately bare-bones recordings. Finally, in 2003, Paul McCartney went back to the original unenhanced tapes to assemble Let It Be...Naked.
Artist: Lovin' Spoonful
Title: Revelation: Revolution 69
Source: 45 RPM single
Label: Kama Sutra
After the departure of John Sebastian, the Lovin' Spoonful attempted to continue on as a band, with drummer Joe Butler taking over as lead vocalist. The decision to do so may well have been influenced by the people at Kama Sutra, who really had no other stars on their label and were dependedent on sales of Lovin' Spoonful records for their livlihood. Whatever the reason, it didn't work out, and after Revelation: Revolution 69 failed to chart, the band called it quits. Kama Sutra Records became a subsidiary of Buddah Records, but never had the success they had enjoyed when the Spoonful was at its commercial peak.
Title: Sally Simpson
Source: CD: Tommy
Writer(s): Pete Townshend
Label: MCA (original label: Decca)
The Who's rock opera Tommy deals with a phenomena that wouldn't actually be named until over a decade later: the cult of personality. In fact, these days the character Tommy might even be referred to as a "rock star" (as the term has come to be used in recent years). This is somewhat ironic, as the members of the Who were themselves rock stars throughout the 70s and 80s.
Artist: Curtis Mayfield
Title: (Don't Worry) If There's A Hell Below, We're All Gonna Go
Source: CD: Curtis Mayfield And The Impressions-The Anthology 1961-1977 (originally released on LP: Curtis)
Writer(s): Curtis Mayfield
Curtis Mayfield released his first single as a solo artist in 1970, following his separation from the Impressions, a vocal group he had led since the departure of vocalist Jerry Butler in 1958. (Don't Worry) If There's A Hell Below, We're All Gonna Go was an instant hit with critics in the US, with its recitation from the Book of Revelations and solid bass line. The song was a hit on the R&B charts, but did not cross over to top 40 radio. The song acquired new fans when the extended version appeared on Mayfield's debut solo LP, entitled simply Curtis. At nearly eight minutes in length, the track presaged the extended funk jams that would become fashionable among cutting edge R&B groups like Parliament/Funkadelic in the 1970s.
Artist: Iron Butterfly
Title: Filled With Fear
Source: LP: Ball
Writer(s): Doug Ingle
After the delayed success of their second LP, In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, Iron Butterfly went back to the studio to record their follow-up album, Ball. Although Ball did not have a monster hit on it, it is generally considered a better album overall, with a depth and breadth of songwriting not found on their previous efforts. One of the most memorable tracks on the album is Filled With Fear, a song about paranoia with music that matches the lyrics perfectly.
Artist: Iron Butterfly
Title: Iron Butterfly Theme
Source: LP: Evolution-The Best Of Iron Butterfly (originally released on LP: Heavy)
Writer(s): Doug Ingle
Label: Rhino (original label: Atco)
Although much of the material on the first Iron Butterfly album, Heavy, has a somewhat generic L.A. club sound to it, the final track, the Iron Butterfly Theme, sounds more in line with the style the band would become known for on their In-A-Gadda-Vida album a few months later.
Artist: Iron Butterfly
Title: Real Fright
Source: LP: Ball
Real Fright is one of the more memorable tracks on Ball, the last Iron Butterfly album to feature guitarist Eric Brann, who left the band to embark on a totally unremarkable solo career. They never learn.
Artist: Buffalo Springfield
Source: CD: Retrospective (originally released on LP: Buffalo Springfield Again)
Writer: Stephen Stills
When it comes right down to it Buffalo Springfield has one of the highest ratios of songs recorded to songs played on the radio of any band in history, especially if you only count the two albums' worth of material that was released while the band was still active. This is probably because Buffalo Springfield had more raw songwriting talent than just about any two other bands. Although Neil Young was just starting to hit his stride as a songwriter, bandmate Stephen Stills was already at an early peak, as songs like Bluebird clearly demonstrate.
Title: Old Man
Source: CD: Forever Changes
An often overlooked fact about the L.A. band Love is that they had not one, but two quality singer/songwriters in the band. Although Arthur Lee wrote the bulk of the band's material, it was Bryan McLean who wrote and sang one of the group's best-known songs, the haunting Alone Again Or, which opens their classic Forever Changes album. A second McLean song, Old Man, appears later on the same side of the album.
Artist: Grateful Dead
Title: Sitting On Top Of The World
Source: CD: The Grateful Dead
Label: Warner Brothers
Most versions of Sitting On Top Of The World (such as the one by Cream) have a slow, melancholy tempo that emphasizes the irony of the lyrics. The Grateful Dead version, on the other hand, goes at about twice the speed and has lyrics I have never heard on any other version. I suspect this is because, like most of the songs on the first Dead album, the tune was part of their early live repertoire; a repertoire that called for a lot of upbeat songs to keep the crowd on their feet. Is this Rob "Pig Pen" McKernon on the vocals? I think so, but am open to any corrections you might want to send along (just use the contact button on the www.hermitradio.com website).
Artist: Guess Who
Title: American Woman
Source: European import CD: Pure...Psychedelic Rock (originally released on LP: American Woman)
Label: Sony Music (original label: RCA Victor)
American Woman is undoubtably the most political song ever recorded by the Guess Who, a generally non-political Canadian band. My dad had by then been transferred from Weisbaden to Ramstein AFB, which was and is a huge base in Germany with enough Canadian personnel stationed there to justify their own on-base school. I found myself hanging out with mostly Canadian kids when I lived there and I gotta tell you, they absolutely loved this song. They also loved to throw it in my face as often as possible.
Artist: Led Zeppelin
Title: Thank You
Source: CD: Led Zeppelin II
Like most early Led Zeppelin tunes, Thank You bears a resemblance to an earlier song by another artist; in this case Traffic's Dear Mr. Fantasy. Not only do the two songs share the same basic three-chord structure made famous by Van Morrison's Gloria, but they also have similar enough tempos that you can actually sing the melody of one while listening to the other. The difference is in the bridges of the two tunes, which go in entirely different directions, as well as in the basic melody of each song.
Title: Black Widow Spider
Source: LP: Time Out! Time In! For Them
After Van Morrison left Them for a solo career, the band headed back to Belfast, where they recruited vocalist Kenny McDowell. Them soon relocated permanently to the US west coast, where they landed a contract with Tower Records. After a first album that featured songs from a variety of sources, they hooked up with Sharon Pulley and Tom Lane, who wrote an album's worth of material for the band. That album was Time Out! Time In! For Them, an album that has stayed under the radar for over 40 years, despite tunes like Black Widow Spider, which closes out the first side of the LP.
Source: Mono LP: Nuggets Vol. 2-Punk (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Otis Redding
Label: Rhino (original label: Atco)
Sounding a lot like the Rascals, the Vagrants were a popular Long Island band led by singer Peter Sabatino and best remembered for being the group that had guitarist Leslie Weinstein in it. Weinstein would change his last name to West and record a solo album called Mountain before forming the band of the same name. This version of Respect is fairly faithful to the original Otis Redding version. Unfortunately for the Vagrants, Aretha Franklin would release her radically rearranged version of the song just a few weeks after the Vagrants, relegating their version of the tune (and the Vagrants themselves) to footnote status.
Title: Turn! Turn! Turn!
Source: Mono LP: Turn! Turn! Turn!
Writer(s): Pete Seeger
After their success covering Bob Dylan's Mr. Tambourine Man, the band turned to an even more revered songwriter: the legendary Pete Seeger. Turn! Turn! Turn!, with lyrics taken directly from the book of Ecclesiastes, was first recorded by Seeger in the early 60s, nearly three years after he wrote the song.
Title: Heart Full Of Soul
Source: 45 RPM single (reissue)
Writer: Graham Gouldman
The Yardbirds' follow-up single to For Your Love was a huge hit, making the top 10 on both sides of the Atlantic in 1965. The song, the first to feature guitarist Jeff Beck prominently, was written by Graham Gouldman, whose own band, the Mockingbirds, was strangely unable to buy a hit on the charts. Gouldman later went on to be a founding member of 10cc, who were quite successful in the 1970s.
Title: So What!!
Source: Mono CD: Nuggets-Original Artyfacts From The First Psychedelic Era (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Chris Gaylord
Label: Rhino (original label: Era)
In some ways the story of the Lyrics is fairly typical for the mid-1960s. The Carlsbad, California group had already established itself as a competent if somewhat bland cover band when in 1964 they recruited the local cool kid, Chris Gaylord (who was so cool that he had his own beat up old limo, plastered on the inside with Rolling Stones memorabilia, of course), to be their frontman. Gaylord provided the band with a healthy dose of attitude, as demonstrated by their 1965 single So What!! The song was written by Gaylord after he had a brief fling with a local rich girl. Gaylord's tenure lasted until mid-1966. Although the band continued without him, they never again saw the inside of a recording studio.