Tuesday, May 16, 2017
Stuck in the Psychedelic Era # 1720 (starts 5/17/17)
This one is pretty much year to year, with an overview to get things started, then mostly single-year sets the rest of the way.
Title: Pushin' Too Hard
Source: Simulated stereo LP: The Seeds
Writer(s): Sky Saxon
Label: GNP Crescendo
The Seeds' Pushin' Too Hard is generally included on every collection of psychedelic hits ever compiled. And for good reason. The song is an undisputed classic.
Source: LP: Love
Writer(s): Arthur Lee
L.A's Sunset Strip blossomed as a hangout for teenaged baby boomers in the mid-1960s, with clubs like Ciro's and the Whisky-A-Go-Go pulling in capacity crowds on a regular basis. These clubs had learned early on that the best way to draw a crowd was to hire a live band, which gave rise to a thriving local music scene. Among the many bands playing the strip, perhaps the most popular was Love, the house band at the Whisky-A-Go-Go. Led by multi-instrumentalist Arthur Lee and boasting not one, but two songwriters (Lee and guitarist Bryan MacLean), Love made history in 1966 by being the first rock band signed to Elektra Records. Lee, a recent convert to the then-popular folk-rock style popularized by the Byrds (for whom MacLean had been a roadie) had come from an R&B background and counted a then-unknown Jimi Hendrix among his musician friends. Songs like Gazing, from Love's debut LP, gave an early indication that Lee, even while writing in the folk-rock idiom, had a powerful musical vision that was all his own.
Artist: Blues Magoos
Title: There She Goes
Source: CD: Kaleidoscopic Compendium (originally released as 45 RPM single)
You have to give the Blues Magoos credit for persistence. After their double A sided single from the album Electric Comic Book bombed (possibly due to confusion among radio programmers over which side of the record to play), the group went back into the studio and turned out three more singles before getting to work on their next LP, Basic Blues Magoos. The second of these three, There She Goes, was released in November of 1967 and, at least to my ears, sounds like it is trying just a bit too hard to be a top 40 hit. Maybe it was because everyone was saying that psychedelic music had already peaked (a premature pronouncement, in my opinion), or maybe it was just the general direction the top 40 was heading in as 1968 approached, but There She Goes has a bit of a bubblegum feel to it, compared to the band's earlier (and later) work.
Title: As You Said
Source: LP: Wheels Of Fire
Cream started off as a British blues supergroup, but soon found themselves putting out some of the finest psychedelic tunes east of the Atlantic. Much of the credit for this goes to the songwriting team of bassist Jack Bruce and Pete Brown. Brown was originally brought in as a songwriting partner for Ginger Baker, but soon found a better synergy with Bruce. The two went on to write some of Cream's most memorable songs, including Tales of Brave Ulysses, Deserted Cities of the Heart and White Room. As You Said, from Cream's third LP, Wheel's Of Fire, is somewhat unusual in that it features acoustical instruments exclusively (including Ginger Baker setting aside his drumsticks in favor of brushes).
Artist: Kaleidoscope (UK)
Title: Faintly Blowing
Source: British import CD: Further Reflections: The Complete Recordings 1967-1969 (originally released in UK on LP: Faintly Blowing)
Label: Grapefruit (original label: Fontana)
Kaleidoscope was one of those bands that were victims of their own bad timing. In this particular case it was being a pyschedelically-tinged soft rock band at a time when rock in general was taking a turn for the harder and moving away from psychedelia. Although their label, Fontana, had enough confidence in the band to finance two LPs and a number of singles, the group was never able to achieve commercial success. In retrospect, tracks like Faintly Blowing, the title track of their second album, would have had a much better chance had they been released during the Summer of Love rather than 18 months later.
Artist: Beach Boys
Title: Good Vibrations
Source: Mono CD: Good Vibrations-Thirty Years Of The Beach Boys (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Although I had originally discovered top 40 radio in 1963 (when I had received a small Sony transistor radio for my birthday), it wasn't until 1966 that I really got into it in a big way. This way due to a combination of a couple of things: first, my dad bought a console stereo, and second, my junior high school went onto split sessions, meaning that I was home by one o'clock every day. This gave me unprecedented access to Denver's two big top 40 AM stations, as well as an FM station that was experimenting with a Top 100 format for a few hours each day. At first I was content to just listen to the music, but soon realized that the DJs were making a point of mentioning each song's chart position just about every time that song would play. Naturally I began writing all this stuff down in my notebook (when I was supposed to be doing my homework), until I realized that both KIMN and KBTR actually published weekly charts, which I began to diligently hunt down at various local stores. In addition to the songs occupying numbered positions on the charts, both stations included songs at the bottom of the list that they called "pick hits". These were new releases that had not been around long enough to achieve a chart position. The one that most stands out in my memory was the Beach Boys' Good Vibrations, a song I liked so much that I went out and bought it the afternoon I heard it. Within a few weeks Good Vibrations had gone all the way to the top of the charts, and I always felt that some of the credit should go to me for buying the record when it first came out. Over the next couple of years I bought plenty more singles, but to this day Good Vibrations stands out as the most important record purchase I ever made (at least in my own mind).
Title: Time Won't Let Me
Source: Mono CD: Nuggets-Original Artyfacts From The First Psychedelic Era (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Rhino (original label: Capitol)
One of Cleveland's most popular local bands was a group called Tom King And The Starfires. Formed in 1959, the band had a series of regional instrumental hits in the early 1960s before adding lead vocalist Sonny Gerachi in 1965 and changing their name to the Outsiders. King, energized by the change, took the band into Cleveland Recording Company's studios to cut demos of the band, which he then shopped around to various national record labels. The group signed a contract with Capitol Records, releasing their first single, Time Won't Let Me, in January of 1966. The song ended up being the band's biggest hit, although it was not their last charted single by any means. Starfires drummer Jimmy Fox, who had temporarily left the group at the time Time Won't Let Me was recorded, returned in time to appear on several of the band's later singles, and would later go on to form his own band, the James Gang, with guitarist Joe Walsh and bassist Tom Kriss. Vocalist Sonny Geracci eventually left the Outsiders as well, reappearing a few years later with a band called Climax singing a song called Precious and Few, which is one of the greatest juxtapositions of artist names and song titles ever. King would continue to release records under the Outsiders name using various lineups until 1972 or so.
Artist: Zakary Thaks
Title: Bad Girl
Source: Mono CD: Nuggets-Original Artyfacts From The First Psychedelic Era (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Rhino (originally labels: J-Beck and Mercury)
Carl Becker, owner of the J-Beck and Cee Bee record labels in Corpus Christie, Texas, discovered the Zakary Thaks blowing away the competition in early 1966 at a battle of the bands at a local hangout known as the Carousel Club. At the time the lead vocalist, Chris Gerniottis, was all of fifteen years old; in fact, the oldest member of the band was only seventeen. Becker took the band into the studio in nearby McAllen to cut a pair of sides for J-Beck: a hot cover of the Kinks' I Need You and the Thaks' own composition, Bad Girl. Bad Girl became a big enough hit around South Texas to get picked up by Mercury for national distribution, becoming the first of half a dozen singles for the band.
Artist: Phil Ochs
Title: Cross My Heart
Source: CD: The Best Of Phil Ochs (originally released on LP: Pleasures Of The Harbor)
Writer(s): Phil Ochs
When it comes to 60s singer/songwriters associated with folk music, the two names that come to mind are Bob Dylan and Phil Ochs. Both were known for being socially conscious, although Dylan was generally considered to be a bit more on the angry side, while Ochs was more introspective. After Ochs signed with A&M Records in 1967 his music became increasingly darker and more complex musically, moving in an entirely different direction than Dylan. Whereas Dylan incorporated blues-based rock into his late 60s recordings, Ochs experimented more with jazz and classical elements, such as the harpsichord heard on Cross My Heart, from his first (and most popular) A&M album, Pleasures Of The Harbor. As time went on, Ochs's music reflected the artist's growing despair over what was going on in the world. Eventually Ochs's recorded output would decrease almost to nothing as his emotional state deteriorated. On April 6th, 1976, Ochs hanged himself at his sister's house in Far Rockaway, NY at age 35.
Source: More Nuggets (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer: Emitt Rhodes
Label: Rhino (original label: A&M)
While San Francisco was basking in the Summer of Love, radio listeners in L.A. were exhorted to Live by local favorites the Merry-Go-Round. 16-year-old drummer Emitt Rhodes had already established himself with the Palace Guard, but took center stage with the Merry-Go-Round. He would later go on to have a moderately successful solo career in the early 70s.
Artist: Grass Roots
Title: Let's Live For Today
Source: CD: Even More Nuggets (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Rhino (original label: Dunhill)
This well-known 1967 hit by the Grass Roots started off as a song by the Italian band the Rokes, Piangi Con Mi, released in 1966. The Rokes themselves were originally from Manchester, England, but had relocated to Italy in 1963. Piangi Con Mi was their biggest hit to date, and it the band decided to re-record the tune in English for release in Britain (ironic, considering that the band originally specialized in translating popular US and UK hits into the Italian language). The original translation didn't sit right with the band's UK label, so a guy from the record company came up with new lyrics and the title Let's Live For Today. The song still didn't do much on the charts, but did get the attention of former Brill building songwriter Jeff Barri, whose current project was writing and producing a studio band known as the Grass Roots with his partner P.F. Sloan. The song became such a big hit that the Grass Roots became a real perfoming band, cranking out several hits over the next couple of years.
Title: You're Lost Little Girl
Source: LP: Strange Days
Writer: The Doors
The Doors second LP, Strange Days, was stylistically similar to the first, and served notice to the world that this band was going to be around for awhile. Songwriting credit for You're Lost Little Girl (a haunting number that's always been a personal favorite of mine) was given to the entire band, a practice that would continue until the release of The Soft Parade in 1969.
Artist: Music Machine
Title: The Eagle Never Hunts The Fly
Source: LP: Nuggets Vol. 2-Punk (originally released as 45 RPM single and included on LP: Bonniwell Music Machine)
Writer(s): Sean Bonniwell
Label: Rhino (original label: Original Sound, stereo LP version released on Warner Brothers)
The Music Machine was by far the most advanced of all the bands playing on Sunset Strip in 1966-67. Not only did they feature tight sets (so that audience members wouldn't get the chance to call out requests between songs), they also had their own visual look that set them apart from other bands. With all the band members dressed entirely in black (including dyed hair) and wearing one black glove, the Machine projected an image that would influence such diverse artists as the Ramones and Michael Jackson in later years. Musically, Bonniwell's songwriting showed a sophistication that was on a par with the best L.A. had to offer, demonstrated by a series of fine singles such as The Eagle Never Hunts the Fly. Unfortunately, problems on the business end prevented the Music Machine from achieving the success it deserved and Bonniwell eventually quit the music business altogether in disgust.
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: Teddy And His Patches
Title: Suzy Creamcheese
Source: Mono CD: Love Is The Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-70 (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Dave Conway
Label: Rhino (original label: Chance)
Teddy And His Patches were a group of high school students who heard the phrase "Suzy Creamcheese, what's got into you" from a fellow San Jose, California resident and decided to make a song out of it. Reportedly none of the band members had ever heard the Mothers Of Invention album Freak Out, where the phrase had originated. Nonetheless, they managed to turn out a piece of inspired madness worthy of Frank Zappa himself.
Title: All You Need Is Love
Source: LP: Magical Mystery Tour
So, you're the Beatles, it's mid-1967 and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is the most popular album in the world. What do you do for an encore? How about setting up the first live worldwide television broadcast in history to premier your new single? That's exactly what happened with All You Need Is Love. Predictably, the song was soon occupying the #1 spot on the singles charts.
Title: Doctor Robert
Source: CD: Revolver (originally released in US on LP: Yesterday...And Today)
Label: Parlophone (original label: Capitol)
Dr. Robert is one of the few Beatles songs that was released in the US before it was released in the UK. The song was included on the US-only LP Yesterday...And Today, which came out in June of 1966. Most of the tunes on that album were tracks that had either been issued as singles or had appeared on the British versions of the band's two previous albums (Help! and Rubber Soul) but had been left off the US versions of those LPs. Dr. Robert, however, would not be released in the UK until the Revolver album came out in the fall. Concerning the subject matter of the song, John Lennon later claimed that he himself was Dr. Robert, as he was the one who carried the pills for the band in their early days. A likely story.
Title: Hello, Goodbye
Source: LP: Magical Mystery Tour
1967 was unquestionably a good year for the Beatles. Their first release was a double A sided single, Strawberry Fields Forever/Penny Lane, both sides of which were major hits. They followed that up with the #1 album of the year, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, and another hit single, All You Need Is Love. To finish out the year they released yet another major hit single, Hello Goodbye. The only downside to the year was the cool reception that was afforded their December telefilm, Magical Mystery Tour, although the songs themselves were well-received when released in the UK as a double-EP set (complete with full color booklet containing stills from the film, as well as lyric sheets). As EPs were not considered a viable format in the US, Capitol Records put together an LP that included all six tracks from the telefilm on one side of the album and the five single sides (Hello Goodbye had used I Am The Walrus from Magical Mystery Tour as a B side) on the other. That album has since become the official version of Magical Mystery Tour, although the EP continued to be available in the UK for several years following its initial release.
Artist: Frumious Bandersnatch
Title: Hearts To Cry
Source: British import CD: The Berkeley EPs (originally released on self-titled EP)
Writer: Jack King
Label: Big Beat (original label: Muggles Gramophone Works)
Rock music and the real estate business have something in common: location can make all the difference. Take the San Francisco Bay Area. You have one of the world's great Cosmopolitan cities at the north end of a peninsula. South of the city, along the peninsula itself you have mostly redwood forest land interspersed with fairly affluent communities along the way to Silicon Valley and the city of San Jose at the south end of the bay. The eastern side of the bay, on the other hand, spans a socio-economic range from blue collar to ghetto and is politically conservative; not exactly the most receptive environment for a hippy band calling itself Frumious Bandersnatch, which is a shame, since they had at least as much talent as any other band in the area. Unable to develop much of a following, they are one of the great "should have beens" of the psychedelic era, as evidenced by Hearts To Cry, the lead track of their 1968 untitled EP.
Artist: Beacon Street Union
Title: Blue Avenue
Source: British import CD: The Eyes Of The Beacon Street Union
Writer(s): Wayne Ulaky
Label: See For Miles (original US label: M-G-M)
Although never issued as a single in the US, Blue Avenue, from The Eyes Of The Beacon Street Union, was the band's most popular song among UK radio listeners. This is due to the fact that the song was played by England's most influential DJ, John Peel, on his "Top Gear" show. One of the many garage bands I was in learned the song and played it at a failed audition for the Ramstein AFB Airman's club, although all five guys in the audience seemed to get a kick out of seeing and hearing me strum my guitar's strings on the wrong side of the bridge.
Artist: Pretty Things
Title: Talkin' About The Good Times
Source: Mono British import CD: Psychedelia At Abbey Road (originally released in UK as 45 RPM single)
Label: EMI (original label: Columbia)
Although the Pretty Things, co-founded by guitarist Dick Taylor and vocalist Phil May, had started off doing R&B cover tunes (as did their London contemporaries the Who and the Rolling Stones), by late 1967 they had moved into psychedelic territory, with Taylor and May developing their songwriting skills at the same time. Working with producer Norman Smith (who had just finished engineering Pink Floyd's debut LP), the band recorded a pair of sides for EMI's flagship Columbia label at Abbey Road studios in November. The resulting single, Talkin' About The Good Times, was successful enough to give the band the opportunity to record an entire album, the legendary S.F. Sorrow.
Artist: Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title: House Burning Down
Source: CD: Electric Ladyland
Writer(s): Jimi Hendrix
Label: Legacy (original label: Reprise)
The third Jimi Hendrix Experience album, Electric Ladyland, was the first to be produced entirely by Hendrix himself, rather than with Chas Chandler (with more than a little help from engineer Eddie Kramer). It was also the first to use state-of-the-art eight-track recording technology (not to be confused with the later 8-track tape cartridge), as well as several new tech toys developed specifically for Hendrix to play with. The result was an album with production standards far beyond anything else being attempted at the time. One song that showcases Hendrix's prowess as a producer is House Burning Down. Using effects such as phasing, double-tracking and stereo panning, Hendrix manages to create music that sounds like it's actually swirling around the listener rather than coming from a specific location. It's also the only rock song I can think of that uses a genuine tango beat (in the verses).
Artist: Ten Years After
Title: Portable People
Source: CD: Ten Years After (bonus track originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Alvin Lee
Following the release of the 1967 debut LP, Ten Years After got to work on what was to be a followup album. These plans got sidetracked, however, when it was decided that their second LP would be made up of live performances taped at a London club near a recording studio. This left the band with several finished studio recordings, many of which were the same songs that would appear on the live Undead album. Two of the other unused studio tracks became the band's first US single, the A side of which was a tune called Portable People. This song remained unavailable in any other form for several years, finally appearing as a bonus track on the CD version of their first album.
Artist: Deep Purple
Title: Kentucky Woman
Source: Something's Burning-Rock 'N' Roll Hall Of Fame-Volume 1 (originally released on LP: The Book Of Taleisyn)
Writer(s): Neil Diamond
Label: Legacy (original label: Tetragramatton)
The original Deep Purple hit the scene in 1968 with their monster hit version of Joe South's Hush, which had been an international hit for Billy Joe Royal the previous year. Later the same year they tried to make lightning strike twice with a similarly styled cover of Neil Diamond's Kentucky Woman. Although not as successful as Hush, the song still did reasonably well on the charts and showed that the band had staying power. After releasing a third LP that was handicapped by the band's US label folding within days of the record's release, the band lost its original lead vocalist Rod Evans, who would soon resurface with a new band called Captain Beyond. Meanwhile, Deep Purple achieved iconic status after recruiting vocalist Ian Gillam (the voice of Jesus on the original Jesus Christ Superstar album) to replace Evans.
Artist: Shocking Blue
Source: Simulated stereo 45 RPM single (1986 reissue)
Writer(s): Robbie Van Leeuwin
Label: 21 (original label: Colossus)
One of only a handful of songs to top the charts by different artists in different decades, Venus was originally released in 1969 by Dutch group Shocking Blue and went to the #1 spot in several countries, including the US, in early 1970. In the mid-1980s the song was re-recorded by Bananarama and once again hit the top spot. By then Atlantic Records had acquired the rights to the original Shocking Blue recording (the Colossus label having gone out of business in 1971) and reissued it on its 21 Records subsidiary.
Artist: Jethro Tull
Title: Jeffrey Goes To Leicester Square
Source: CD: Stand Up
Writer: Ian Anderson
Label: Chrysalis/Capitol (original label: Reprise)
Jethro Tull incorporated traditional Indian instruments on Jeffrey Goes To Leicester Square, one of a pair of tunes named for future Tull bassist Jeffrey Hammond by the band's primary songwriter, Ian Anderson.
Title: Cold Wind
Source: LP: Clear
Writer(s): Jay Ferguson
Label: Epic (original label: Ode)
Much of the music on the third Spirit album, clear, is so laid back it can almost be called ambient music. Cold Wind, by vocalist Jay Ferguson, certainly fits that description to a T. Truth to tell, I have a hard time paying attention to it for its entire three minutes and 20 seconds.
Artist: Wee Four
Source: 45 RPM single
Label: Nu Sound
Vocalist/drummer Terry Pilittere founded the Dimensions in Rochester, NY in 1962. In 1965, after a couple of personnel changes, the band changed its name to the Wee Four (apparently inspired by the fact that none of them members was over 5'8" tall). In 1966 they released their only single, Weird, on the Nu Sound label. The garage rock classic was written by Pilittere with his friend Jim Obi. After recording a few more unreleased tunes with the Wee Four, Pilittere split with the band to record as a solo artist.
Title: She Done Moved
Source: Mono CD: Where The Action Is: L.A. Nuggets 1965-68 (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Dick And Bud Johnson
Label: Rhino (original label: ABC)
ABC Paramount was a record label specifically formed to release records by artists who appeared on the ABC TV network (which was owned by the Paramount theater chain, which in turn had originally been owned by Paramount Pictures, who had divested themselves of the theater chain as a result of an anti-trust action). By the 60s the label had expanded into a major player in the industry with artists ranging from teen-idol Steve Alaimo to R&B favorites like the Impressions and the Tams. In 1966 they dropped the Paramount from their name and became simply ABC records (using the TV network logo). One of the last singles released before the change was She Done Moved, a middle-class teenager's lament from the Spats, an Orange County, California band led by brothers Dick and Bud Johnson. The song describes the heartbreak of having one's girlfriend suddenly relocate to another town, in this case Kansas City. As a military brat myself, I can relate somewhat.
Artist: Shadows Of Knight
Title: Bad Little Woman
Source: LP: Back Door Men
Label: Sundazed (original label: Dunwich)
For the opening track of the second LP, Back Door Men, Chicago's Shadows Of Knight cranked up the volume on a cover of a little-known tune called Bad Little Woman that had originally been recorded by a Northern Irish band called the Wheels. And when I say cranked up the volume I mean that literally, as the overall level of the recording jumps several decibels following the first verse. As the mono single version of the song does the exact same thing I'm going to assume it was done during the recording process itself.