Monday, June 19, 2017
Stuck in the Psychedelic Era # 1725 (starts 6/21/17)
The big one this week is the Grateful Dead's performance of Dark Star at Woodstock, which, for one reason or another, remained unreleased until 40 years after the fact. Of course, there are 23 other tracks as well...
Title: Pushin' Too Hard
Source: Simulated stereo LP: Nuggets Vol. 1-The Hits (originally released on LP: The Seeds and as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Sky Saxon
Label: Rhino (original label: GNP Crescendo)
Pushin' Too Hard was originally released as a single in 1965 (under the title You're Pushin' Too Hard), but did not make an immediate impression. The following year, however, the tune started getting some local airplay on Los Angeles area stations. This in turn led to the band recording their first album, The Seeds, which was released in spring of 1966. A second Seeds LP, A Web Of Sound, hit L.A. record stores in the fall of the same year. Meanwhile, Pushin' Too Hard started to get national airplay, hitting its peak position on the Billboard charts in February of 1967.
Artist: Chocolate Watchband
Title: Baby Blue
Source: Mono British import CD: Melts In Your Brain, Not On Your Wrist (originally released in US as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer(s): Bob Dylan
Label: Big Beat (original label: Uptown)
Many artists have covered Bob Dylan songs over the years, but few managed to do it with as much attitude as the Chocolate Watchband on their version of It's All Over Now Baby Blue. The song appeared in late 1966 as the B side of the Watchband's first "official" single, Sweet Young Thing. As good a track as Sweet Young Thing was (and it is indeed a good one), Baby Blue, being a bit more recognizable, may have been a better choice for a potential hit single. We'll never know.
Artist: Buffalo Springfield
Title: Broken Arrow
Source: CD: Retrospective-The Best Of Buffalo Springfield (originally released on LP: Buffalo Springfield Again)
Writer: Neil Young
The most experimental track ever to appear on a Buffalo Springfield album, Broken Arrow is basically a Neil Young solo piece arranged and co-produced by Jack Nitzsche. The track uses extensive editing and studio effects to highlight Young's highly personal lyrics.
Artist: Savage Resurrection
Title: Thing In "E"
Source: CD: Love Is The Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-70 (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): John Palmer
Label: Rhino (original label: Mercury)
Like many areas across the US during the mid-1960s, Contra Costa County, California (say that a few times fast) was home to a thriving local music scene, particularly in the city of Richmond. In 1967 members of several local bands got together to form a sort of garage supergroup, calling themselves Savage Resurrection. The band, consisting of lead vocalist Bill Harper, lead guitarist Randy Hammon, rhythm guitarist John Palmer, bassist Steve Lage and drummer Jeff Myer, was quite popular locally despite the relative youth of its members (Hammon, for instance, was all of 16 years old), and soon signed a management contract with Matthew Katz, who also managed such well-known San Francisco bands as Jefferson Airplane, Moby Grape and It's A Beautiful Day. Katz got the band a contract with Mercury records, and their first and only LP came out in 1968. Thing In "E" was the single from that album, which is still considered one of the best examples of psychedelic garage rock ever recorded. Touring soon took its toll, however, and Harper and Lage left the band soon after the album was released. The rest of the band continued with new members for a few months, but by the end of 1968 Savage Resurrection was little more than a footnote to the San Francisco music story.
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: Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title: Still Raining, Still Dreaming
Source: LP: Electric Ladyland
Writer: Jimi Hendrix
Still Raining, Still Dreaming, from the third Jimi Hendrix Experience album Electric Ladyland, is the second half of a live studio recording featuring guest drummer Buddy Miles, who would later join Hendrix and bassist Billy Cox to form Band Of Gypsys. The recording also features Mike Finnegan on organ, Freddie Smith on tenor sax and Larry Faucett on congas, as well as Experience member Noel Redding on bass.
Title: Pearly Queen
Source: CD: Traffic
Label: Island (original label: United Artists)
The second Traffic LP was less overtly psychedelic than the Mr. Fantasy album, with songs like Pearly Queen taking the band in a more funky direction. When the band reformed in 1970 without Dave Mason (who had provided the most psychedelic elements) the songwriting team of Steve Winwood and Jim Capaldi, who had written Pearly Queen, continued the trend.
Title: Magic Bus (alternate version)
Source: Simulated stereo LP: Meaty Beaty Big And Bouncy (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Pete Townshend
Label: MCA (original label: Decca)
Magic Bus was originally released as a single in 1968 and ran about three and a half minutes. At the time it was recorded an alternate take was also made that ran almost four and a half minutes. This alternate version was electronically rechanneled for stereo and included on the 1971 album Meaty, Beaty, Big and Bouncy. When the album was reissued on CD in the 1980s it was discovered that there were no unaltered copies left of the longer version, so rather than to put a "fake stereo" version on the CD, the shorter mono single version was used. This is that longer version, never issued on CD.
Source: Nuggets-Classics From The Psychedelic 60s (originally released on LP: The Birds, The Bees, And The Monkees)
Label: Rhino (original label: Colgems)
The last Monkees top 10 single was also Michael Nesmith's least favorite Monkees song. Valleri was a Tommy Boyce/Bobby Hart composition that the group had first recorded for the first season of their TV show in 1966. Apparently nobody was happy with the recording, however, and the song was never issed on vinyl. Two years later the song was re-recorded for the album The Birds, The Bees And The Monkees and subsequently released as a single. The flamenco-style guitar on the intro (and repeated throughout the song) was played by studio guitarist Louie Shelton, after Nesmith refused to participate in the recording.
Artist: Canned Heat
Title: Boogie Music
Source: LP: Progressive Heavies (originally released on LP: Living The Blues and as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer(s): L.T.Tatman III
Label: United Artists (original label: Liberty)
Canned Heat was formed in 1966 by a group of San Francisco Bay Area blues purists. Although a favorite on the rock scene, the band continued to remain true to the blues throughout their existence, even after relocating to the Laurel Canyon area near Los Angeles in 1968. The band's most popular single was Going Up the Country from the album Living the Blues. An edited version of Boogie Music, also from Living the Blues, was issued as the B side of that single. This is a stereo mix of that version, featured on a United Artists anthology album released in 1969.
Title: Inside Looking Out
Source: Mono LP: Animalization
One of the last songs recorded by the Animals before their first breakup, Inside Looking Out (a powerful song about life in prison) was covered a few years later by Grand Funk Railroad, who made it one of their concert staples. This has always been one of my all-time favorite rock songs, no matter who recorded it.
Title: 7&7 Is
Source: Mono CD: Nuggets-Original Artyfacts From The First Psychedelic Era (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Arthur Lee
Label: Rhino (original label: Elektra)
The first rock band signed to Elektra Records was Love, a popular L.A. club band that boasted two talented songwriters, Arthur Lee and Bryan MacLean. On the heels of their first album, which included the single My Little Red Book and one of the first recordings of the fast version of Hey Joe, came their most successful single, the manic 7&7 Is, released in July of 1966.
Title: A Well Respected Man
Source: 45 RPM single (reissue)
Writer: Ray Davies
Label: Eric (original label: Reprise)
Year: Released 1965, charted 1966
The Kinks were one of the original British Invasion bands, scoring huge R&B-influenced hits with You Really Got Me and All Day And All Of The Night in 1964. The hits continued in 1965 with more melodic songs like Set Me Free and Tired Of Waiting For You. 1966 saw Ray Davies's songwriting take a satiric turn, as A Well Respected Man (actually released in late 1965) amply illustrates. Over the next few years the Kinks would continue to evolve, generally getting decent critical reviews and moderate record sales for their albums. The title of one of those later albums, Muswell Hillbillies, refers to the Davies brothers hometown of Muswell Hill, North London.
Artist: Grand Funk Railroad
Title: Nothing Is The Same
Source: CD: Closer To Home
Writer(s): Mark Farner
Grand Funk Railroad's fans continued to defy the rock press by buying copies of the band's albums throughout 1970, despite universally negative reviews. In fact, the band was awarded no less than three gold records that year, including their third studio LP, Closer To Home. The album includes some of their best recordings, including Nothing Is The Same, a hard rocker that includes both tempo and key changes, as well as some of Mark Farner's best lead vocals.
Artist: 13th Floor Elevators
Title: Fire Engine
Source: CD: The Psychedelic Sounds Of The 13th Floor Elevators
Label: Collectables (original label: International Artists)
In the summer of 1971 the band I was in, Sunn, did a cover of Black Sabbath's War Pigs as part of our regular repertoire. For the siren effect at the beginning of the song we used our voices, which always elicited smiles from some of the more perceptive members of the audience. Listening to Fire Engine, from The Psychedelic Sounds Of The 13th Floor Elevators, has the same effect on me, for pretty much the same reason. The main difference is that the Elevators actually did it with the tape rolling on one of their own original songs, something Sunn never got the opportunity to do.
Artist: Rolling Stones
Title: Sympathy For The Devil
Source: LP: Beggar's Banquet
When I was a teenager I would occasionally hear some adult make a comment about how rock and roll was the "Devil's music." This only got more ridiculous in 1968, when the Rolling Stones released Sympathy For The Devil as the opening track on their Beggar's Banquet album. Mick Jagger, who wrote the lyrics, was actually somewhat mystified by such reactions, as it was, after all, only one song on an album that also included such tunes as Prodigal Son (based on a Bible story) and Salt Of The Earth, a celebration of the common man. There is no doubting, however, that Sympathy For The Devil itself is a classic, and has been a staple of the band's live sets since the late 1980s.
Artist: Rolling Stones
Title: Doncha Bother Me
Source: British import LP: Aftermath
Label: Abkco (original US label: London)
Aftermath was an album of firsts. It was the first Rolling Stones album to consist entirely of original compositions by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. It was the first Rolling Stones album released in true stereo. It was the first Rolling Stones album to be recorded entirely in the US. Finally, it was the album that saw Brian Jones emerge as a multi-instrumentalist, leaving Richards to do most of the guitar work. At over 50 minutes, Aftermath was one of the longest albums released by a rock band up to that point, and it features one of the first rock songs to run over 10 minutes in length (Goin' Home). Although Jones (and bassist Bill Wyman) did a lot of experimenting with new (to them) instruments, several of the tracks, such as Doncha Bother Me, are classic Stones material in the vein of the Chicago blues that was such a major influence on the band's style.
Artist: Rolling Stones
Title: No Expectations
Source: LP: Beggar's Banquet
After the heavy dose of studio effects on Their Satanic Majesties Request, the Rolling Stones took a back-to-basics approach for their next album, Beggar's Banquet, the first to be produced by Jimmy Miller (who had previously worked with Steve Winwood in Traffic and the Spencer Davis Group). No Expectations, the second track on the album, uses minimal instrumentation and places a greater emphasis on Mick Jagger's vocals and Brian Jones's slide guitar work. Sadly, it was to be Jones's last album as a member of the Rolling Stones, as heavy drug use was already taking its toll (and would soon take his life as well).
Artist: Phil Ochs
Title: The Highwayman
Source: CD: There But For Fortune (originally released on LP: I Ain't Marching Anymore)
Phil Ochs switched from journalism to songwriting just in time to be at the forefront of the anti-Vietnam war movement. His hit single, I Ain't Marching Anymore, became an anthem of the movement in 1965. Ochs followed the song up with an album of the same name. Included on that album were songs that, although coming from a similar political direction as I Ain't Marching Anymore, actually cover a broader range of subjects. The Highwayman, for example, resembles nothing more than a traditional English folk song, with its themes of romance and tragic death. Not long after the album was released, Ochs decided to move out to the West Coast, which in turn signalled a shift in his music to a more experimental style that added elements of jazz and classical music to his folk-based compositions.
Source: LP: Fifth Dimension
Writer(s): Roger McGuinn
The second single from the Byrds' third LP, Fifth Dimension, suffered from the same problem as its predecessor. Both 5D and Eight Miles High were branded as drug songs by people who had no clue as to what the songs were really about, which had the effect of discouraging the more conservative radio programmers from playing the songs. In the case of 5D, the song was, according to songwriter Roger McGuinn, an attempt to explain Einstein's theory of relativity in layman's terms. In a 1966 interview McGuinn had this to say about the song: "It's sort of weird but...what I'm talking about is the whole universe, the fifth dimension, which is height, width, depth, time and something else. But there definitely are more dimensions than five. It's infinite. The fifth dimension is the threshold of scientific knowledge." Despite McGuinn's attempts to explain the song, many people insisted on believing it was about an LSD trip, and the single died quickly after being released in late 1966.
Title: I Am The Walrus
Source: CD: Magical Mystery Tour
Label: Apple/Parlophone (original US label: Capitol)
I once ranked over 5000 recordings from the 1920s through the 1990s based on how many times I could listen to each track without getting sick of hearing it. My original intention was to continue the project until I had ranked every recording in my collection, but after about ten years of near-continuous listening to 90-minute cassette tapes that I would update weekly I finally decided that I needed a break, and never went back to it. As a result, many of my favorite recordings (especially album tracks) never got ranked. Of those that did, every song on the top 10 was from the years 1966-69, with the top five all being from 1967. Although I never returned to the project itself, the results I did get convinced me that I was indeed stuck in the psychedelic era, and within five years I had created a radio show inspired by the project. Not surprisingly, the number one recording on my list was I Am The Walrus, a track from the Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour that is often considered the apex of British psychedelia.
Artist: Five Americans
Title: Peace And Love
Source: LP: Now And Then
Writer(s): Michael Rabon
Formed as the Mutineers in Durant, Oklahoma in 1962, the Five Americans are best known for their 1967 hit Western Union. Their first single (as the Mutineers) was released in 1963, an instrumental called Jackin' Around. With the advent of the British invasion, the group began adding vocals to their repertoire, and, perhaps more importantly, acquired a Vox Continental electric organ. By then the band had relocated to Dallas, playing regularly at a club called the Pirate's Nook. It was there that they came to the attention of John Abdnor, who signed them to his Abnak label. Now known as the Five Americans, the band had their first national hit in 1966 with I Saw The Light, a song that was originally released in 1965. The group charted even higher with Western Union, following it up with a few more charted singles over the next year or so. Throughout this period Abdnor had control of the band's finances, a situation that did not favor the band members themselves. By 1969 it was all falling apart, and after a final double LP called Now And Then (which included several tracks that had previously appeared as singles) the Five Americans were no more. One of the more interesting tracks on Now And Then (which was actually billed as Mike Rabon and the Five Americans, after the band's lead guitarist and front man) is a song called Peace And Love that may actually qualify as the most psychedelic song the band ever recorded.
Artist: Grateful Dead
Title: Dark Star
Source: Woodstock: 40 Years On: Back To Yasgur's Farm
Year: Recorded 1969, released 2009
The most legendary of all the songs in the Grateful Dead performing repertoire was Dark Star. The extended jam often ran for a full hour or more. Thanks to the band's policy of allowing (even encouraging) fans to bring their own recording equipment to the band's concerts, there are literally hundreds of recordings of Dark Star being performed over the years, some of them taped directly from the band's own sound board. The band's performance of Dark Star at Woodstock was marred by technical difficulties, and at the request of the band members remained unreleased for 40 years.
Artist: Creedence Clearwater Revival
Title: Fortunate Son
Source: LP: Willy And The Poor Boys
Writer(s): John Fogerty
John Fogerty says it only took him 20 minutes to write what has become one of the iconic antiwar songs of the late 1960s. But Fortunate Son is not so much a condemnation of war as it is an indictment of the political elite who send the less fortunate off to die in wars without any risk to themselves. In addition to being a major hit single upon its release in late 1969 (peaking at #3 as half of a double-A sided single), Fortunate Son has made several "best of" lists over the years, including Rolling Stone magazine's all-time top 100. Additionally, in 2014 the song was added to the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".