Monday, August 28, 2017
Stuck in the Psychedelic Era # 1735 (starts 8/30/17)
With the end of the summer of 2017 comes the final installment in our presentation of Country Joe McDonald's new album. We have two tracks from 50 this week, including Seashore Symphony #2, a collaboration with Bernie Krause (of Beaver & Krause).
Title: Tired Of Waiting For You
Source: Mono CD: The Best Of 60s Supergroups (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer: Ray Davies
Label: Priority (original label: Reprise)
After a series of hard-rocking hits such as You Really Got Me and All Day And All Of The Night, the Kinks surprised everyone with the highly melodic Tired Of Waiting For You in 1965. As it turns out the song was just one of many steps in the continually maturing songwriting of Ray Davies.
Title: 7&7 Is
Source: LP: Nuggets Vol. 9-Acid Rock (originally released as 45 RPM single. Stereo version released on LP: Da Capo)
Writer(s): Arthur Lee
Label: Rhino (original label: Elektra)
The word "seven" does not appear anywhere in the song 7&7 Is. In fact, I have no idea where Arthur Lee got that title from. Nonetheless, the song is among the most intense tracks to ever make the top 40. 7&7 Is starts off with power chords played over a constant drum roll (possibly played by Lee himself), with cymbals crashing over equally manic semi-spoken lyrics. The song builds up to an explosive climax: an atomic bomb blast followed by a slow post-apocalyptic instrumental that quickly fades away.
Title: Pictures of Lily
Source: Simulated stereo LP: Magic Bus (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer: Pete Townshend
Label: MCA (original label: Decca)
Now considered one of the great bands of British Rock, the Who was primarily a singles band in their early years, often appearing on the popular TV dance program Ready Steady Go. Pictures of Lily, with its unconventional subject matter (adolescent masturbation), was the last real single released before the classic Who Sells Out started their transition to album-oriented rock that would lead them to produce the first-ever rock-opera: Tommy. Both US albums that featured this song (Meaty Beaty Big And Bouncy and Magic Bus: The Who On Tour) were actually compilation albums consisting primarily of singles that had been successful in the band's native England, but were virtually unknown in North America.
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. The B side of that single was another track from Living The Blues that actually had a longer running time on the single than on the album version. Although the single uses the same basic recording of Boogie Music as the album, it includes a short low-fidelity instrumental tacked onto the end of the song that sounds suspiciously like a 1920s recording of someone playing a melody similar to Going Up The Country on a fiddle. The only time this unique version of the song appeared in stereo was on a 1969 United Artists compilation called Progressive Heavies that also featured tracks from Johnny Winter, Traffic, the Spencer Davis Group and others.
Artist: Jethro Tull
Title: It's Breaking Me Up
Source: LP: This Was
Writer(s): Ian Anderson
Label: Chrysalis (original label: Reprise)
Jethro Tull originally was part of the British blues scene, but even in the early days the band's principal songwriter Ian Anderson made no secret of the fact that he wanted to expand beyond the confines of that particular genre. Ironically, It's Breaking Me Up, from Jethro Tull's first LP, is an Anderson composition that is rooted solidly in the British blues style.
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: Gone Is The Sadman
Source: 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: Deram)
Timebox is one of those bands that by all rights should have had much more success than they were able to achieve. Why this should be is a mystery. They had plenty of talent, good press and were signed to a major label (Deram). Yet none of their singles were able to make a connection with the record buying public. Originally formed in Southport in 1965 as Take Five, the band relocated to London the following year, changing their name to Timebox at the same time. After releasing a pair of singles on the small Picadilly label, the band added a couple of new members, including future Rutles drummer John Halsey. Within a few months they were signed to the Deram label, and released several singles over the next few years. One of their best tunes, Gone Is The Sandman, was actually released as a B side in late 1968.
Artist: Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title: Voodoo Child (Slight Return)
Source: CD: Electric Ladyland
Writer: Jimi Hendrix
Label: Legacy (original label: Reprise)
Although never released as a single (although it was released posthumously on an EP in the UK and Europe), Voodoo Child (Slight Return), has become a staple of classic rock radio over the years. The song was originally an outgrowth of a jam session at New York's Record Plant, which itself takes up most of side one of the third Jimi Hendrix Experience album, Electric Ladyland. This more familiar studio reworking of the piece has been covered by a variety of artists over the years.
Artist: Strawberry Alarm Clock
Source: LP: The Best Of The Strawberry Alarm Clock
The story of the Strawberry Alarm Clock almost seems like a "best of" (or maybe "worst of") collection of things that could have happened to a band during the psychedelic era. Signed with a local label: check. Released single: check. Started getting airplay on local radio stations: check. Record picked up by major label for national distribution: check. Record becomes hit: check. Band gets to record an entire album: check. Album does reasonably well on charts, mostly due to popularity of single: check. Band gets to record second album, but with more creative freedom, thanks to previous successes: check. Single from second album does OK, but nowhere near as OK as first hit single: check. Second album fails to chart: check.
Second single from second album charts lower than either previous single. Band soldiers on for a while longer, but never manages to duplicate success of first single: Band disbands: check. In the case of the Strawberry Alarm Clock, the hit single was huge. Incense And Peppermints is still one of the best known songs of 1967. The second single, Tomorrow, not so much, although it did indeed make the top 40, peaking at #23. Not that it's a bad song, by any means. But, to be honest, it's no Incense And Peppermints, either.
Artist: Full Treatment
Title: Just Can't Wait
Source: Mono CD: Where The Action Is: L.A. Nuggets 1965-68 (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer: Buzz Clifford
Label: Rhino (original label: A&M)
In the fall of 1966 Brian Wilson produced the classic Beach Boys single Good Vibrations, which sent vibrations of its own throughout the L.A. studio scene. Suddenly producers were stumbling all over themselves to follow in Wilson's footsteps with mini-symphonies of their own. Buzz Clifford and Dan Moore, calling themselves the Full Treatment, created Just Can't Wait in 1967 and quickly sold the master tape to A&M Records. Despite enthusiam for the recording at the label, the song was mostly ignored by radio stations and the Full Treatment was never heard from again.
Title: Coffee Cup
Source: Mono CD: Love Is The Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-70 (originally released on LP: With Love-A Pot Of Flowers)
Label: Rhino (original label: Mainstream)
The Wildflower was somewhat typical of the San Francisco brand of folk-rock; less political in the lyrics and less jangly on the instrumental side. Although Coffee Cup was recorded in 1965, it did not get released until the summer of love two years later, on a collection of recordings by a variety of artists on Bob Shad's Mainstream label.
Title: Unhappy Girl
Source: LP: Strange Days
Writer(s): The Doors
After the success of their first album and the single Light My Fire in early 1967, the Doors quickly returned to the studio, releasing a second LP, Strange Days, later the same year. The first single released from the new album was People Are Strange. The B side of that single was Unhappy Girl, from the same album. Both sides got played on the jukebox at a neighborhood gasthaus known as the Woog in the village of Meisenbach near Ramstein Air Force Base (don't ask me how I know that).
Title: No Escape
Source: LP: The Seeds
Label: GNP Crescendo
Following up on their 1965 Los Angeles area hit Can't Seem To Make You Mine, the Seeds released their self-titled debut LP the following year. The album contained what would be the band's biggest (and only national) hit, Pushin' Too Hard, as well as several other tracks such as No Escape that can be considered either as stylistic consistent or blatantly imitative of the big hit record. As Pushin' Too Hard was not yet a well-known song when the album was released, I tend to lean more toward the first interpretation.
Artist: Beach Boys
Title: That's Not Me
Source: Mono LP: Pet Sounds
The Beach Boys were about as mainstream as bands like Love and the Music Machine were underground, yet Brian Wilson was turning out music every bit as original as any of the club bands in town. The album Pet Sounds is considered one of the masterpieces of the era, with the majority of songs, including That's Not Me, written by Wilson with lyrics by Tony Asher.
Artist: Lovin' Spoonful
Title: Summer In The City
Source: LP: Hums of the Lovin' Spoonful
Label: Sundazed/Kama Sutra
The Lovin' Spoonful changed gears completely for what would become their biggest hit of 1966: Summer In The City. Inspired by a poem by John Sebastian's brother, the song was recorded for the album Hums Of The Lovin' Spoonful. That album was an attempt by the band to deliberately record in a variety of styles; in the case of Summer In The City, it was a rare foray into psychedelic rock for the band. Not coincidentally, Summer In The City is also my favorite Lovin' Spoonful song.
Title: Inside Looking Out
Source: Mono CD: The Best Of Eric Burdon And The Animals (originally released as 45 RPM single and included on LP: Animalization)
Label: Polydor (original label: M-G-M)
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.
Artist: Paul Revere and the Raiders
Source: Simulated stereo LP: Midnight Ride (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Kicks was not the first pop song with a strong anti-drug message, but it was the first one to be a certified hit, making it to the number four spot on the US charts and hitting number one in Canada. It was also the biggest hit for Paul Revere and the Raiders until Indian Reservation went all the way to the top five years later.
Artist: Max Frost And The Troopers
Title: Shape Of Things To Come
Source: CD: Shape Of Things To Come (originally released on LP: Wild In The Streets soundtrack)
Label: Captain High (original label: Tower)
Max Frost was a politically savvy rock star who rode the youth movement all the way to the White House, first through getting the support of a hip young Senator, then getting the age requirements for holding high political office lowered to 21, and finally lowering the voting age to 14. Everyone over 30 was locked away in internment camps, similar to those used during WWII by various governments to hold those of questionable loyalty to the current regime. What? You don't remember any of that? You say it sounds like the plot of a cheapie late 60s teen exploitation flick? Right on all counts. "Wild in the Streets" starred Christopher Jones as the rock star, Hal Holbrook as the hip young senator, and a Poseidon Adventure-sized Shelly Winter as the rock star's interred mom. Richard Pryor, in his film debut, played the band's drummer/political activist Stanley X. Imagine that.
Title: So You Want To Be A Rock And Roll Star
Source: Mono LP: Younger Than Yesterday
By early 1967 there was a building resentment among musicians and rock press alike concerning the instant (and in some eyes unearned) success of the Monkees. One notable expression of this resentment was the Byrds' So You Want To Be A Rock And Roll Star, which takes a somewhat sarcastic look at what it takes to succeed in the music business. Unfortunately, much of what they talk about in the song continues to apply today (although the guitar has been somewhat supplanted by the computer as the instrument of choice).
Artist: Country Joe McDonald
Title: I'm Free/(interview segment: Berkeley)/Seashore Symphony #2
Source: CD: 50
Writer(s): Joe McDonald
Label: Rag Baby
We wrap up our summer-long presentation of Country Joe McDonald's latest album, 50, with two tracks from the album itself, buffered by a few words from Joe about how life in Berkeley was not the same as life in San Francisco during the psychedelic era. The longer of these tracks (in fact the longest track on the album itself) is a collaboration with Bernie Krause, who was half of Beaver And Krause, pioneers of electronic music in the early 1970s. In recent years Krause has dedicated himself to assembling the world's largest recorded library of natural sounds, usually by going out and recording those sounds himself. Some of those sounds can be heard on Seashore Symphony #2.
Artist: Bob Dylan
Title: Bob Dylan's 115th Dream
Source: Mono LP: Bringing It All Back Home
Writer(s): Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan presents a somewhat twisted parallel history of the United States on a six and a half minute long track called Bob Dylan's 115th Dream, from his 1965 album Bringing It All Back Home. The track itself starts off with a magical moment in which Dylan starts the song without realizing the rest of the band is deliberately doing nothing. After a bit of laughter he starts over and the band is right there with him. Fun stuff that is also about as compelling as it gets.
Artist: Rolling Stones
Title: I Am Waiting
Source: British import LP: Aftermath
Label: Abkco (original label: London)
The Aftermath album was a turning point for the Rolling Stones. For one thing, it was their first album recorded entirely in the US, and at a much more leisurely pace than their previous albums. This afforded the band the opportunity to spend more time working on their arrangements before committing songs to tape. It also gave Brian Jones a chance to experiment with instruments not normally associated with rock and roll music, such as sitar, dulcimer, marimbas, and koto. Aftermath was also the first Rolling Stones album made up entirely of songs written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, including the semi-acoustical I Am Waiting.
Artist: Electric Prunes
Title: Capt. Glory
Source: CD: Underground
Writer(s): James Lowe
Label: Collector's Choice/Rhino (original label: Reprise)
Electric Prunes lead vocalist James Lowe says one of his favorite vocals on the second Electric Prunes album, Underground, was on the song called Capt. Glory. Although he cites the song's "loose, silly" quality, my cynical side thinks it may have something to do with the fact that it is the only track on the album with writing credits going solely to Lowe himself.
Title: Got To Hurry
Source: Mono Canadian import LP: Shapes Of Things
Writer(s): O. Rasputin
The writing credits for the B side of the Yardbirds' third single (and first international hit) have long been disputed. On the original label credit is given to O. Rasputin, which was a pseudonym for producer Giorgio Gomelsky. According to guitarist Eric Clapton, however, it was he who actually wrote the song after hearing Gomelsky humming a vague melody. Clapton's biographer, Marc Roberty, asserts that it was actually the first song Clapton ever wrote, while other sources describe Got To Hurry as something cobbled together out of a group jam.
Title: I've Got You On My Mind
Source: Mono CD: The Huns Conquer Ithaca, NY 1966
Writer(s): Steven Dworetz
Year: Recorded 1966, released 2017
Ithaca, NY, is rightly known as the home of Cornell University, one of the nation's top Ivy League schools. What a lot of people are unaware of, however, is that there is a second large institute of higher learning in the area. Ithaca College, like Cornell, has its own radio station, as well as television facilities that date back to the 1960s. It was at these facilities, in their original downtown location, that the Huns, a short-lived but phenomenally popular local band, made their only studio recordings in May of 1966. Those recordings, made on monoraul equipment, sat unreleased for over 50 years before finally being made public on a 2017 CD called The Huns Conquer Ithaca, NY 1966. The band was founded by bassist Frank Van Nostrand and organist John Sweeney in the fall of 1965. By the end of the year their lineup included vocalist Rich La Bonte, guitarists Carl "Buz" Warmkessel and Keith Ginsberg and drummer Steven Dworetz, who wrote I've Got You On My Mind. Despite being new on the scene, the Huns found plenty of places to play, racking up a total of 51 gigs over a nine month period, while the members themselves attended classes at Ithaca College during the daytime (when they weren't being harrassed by department heads over the length of their hair). Although popular with the student crowd the members of the Huns were not well-liked by officials at the college itself. In fact, the Huns' existence came to an end when the founding members were "encouraged to pursue their academic careers elsewhere". Shades of Animal House!
Artist: Chocolate Watchband
Title: Are You Gonna Be There (At The Love-In) (originally released on LP: No Way Out and as 45 RPM single)
Source: LP: Nuggets Vol. 2-Punk
Label: Rhino (original label: Tower)
It took me several years to sort out the convoluted truth behind the recorded works of San Jose, California's most popular local band, the Chocolate Watchband. While it's true that much of what was released under their name was in fact the work of studio musicians, there are a few tracks that are indeed the product of Dave Aguilar and company. Are You Gonna Be There, a song used in the cheapie teenspliotation flick the Love-In and included on the Watchband's first album, is one of those few. Ironically, the song was co-written by Don Bennett, the studio vocalist whose voice was substituted for Aguilar's on a couple of other songs from the same album.
Artist: Love Sculpture
Title: I Believe To My Soul
Source: British import CD: Blues Helping
Writer(s): Ray Charles
Label: EMI (original label: Rare Earth)
Most people know the name Dave Edmunds from an early 70s cover of the song I Hear You Knockin' (But You Can't Come In), which still gets played on oldies stations from time to time. What a lot of people don't realize, however, is that Edmunds is one of the hottest blues guitarists ever to emerge from the British blues scene of the late 1960s. A listen to the album Blues Helping, however, will erase any doubts about his abilities. Many of the tracks on Blues Helping are cover songs, including a blistering rendition of Ray Charles' I Believe To My Soul, a song that includes one of the most famous lyrical lines ever: "I heard you say 'Oh, Johnny', when you know my name is Ray" (or in this case, Dave).
Artist: King Crimson
Title: I Talk To The Wind/Epitaph
Source: CD: In The Court Of The Crimson King
Label: Discipline Mobile Global (original label: Atlantic)
During my years in Albuquerque, New Mexico I had a friend named Dave Meaden. It was Dave who first introduced me to King Crimson's first album, In The Court Of The Crimson King, featuring lyrics by poet Peter Sinfield. Dave was such a big fan of Sinfield's work that he had actually handwritten the entire lyrics to Epitaph on a flag that he had hanging in his living room. I usually don't pay all that much attention to lyrics, being more of an instrumentalist, but for this particular piece I have to make an exception. In fact, I'm posting the entire text of Epitaph right here:
The wall on which the prophets wrote is cracking at the seams.
Upon the instruments of death the sunlight brightly gleams.
When every man is torn apart with nightmares and with dreams,
Will no one lay the laurel wreath as silence drowns the screams?
Between the iron gates of fate, the seeds of time were sown,
And watered by the deeds of those who know and who are known;
Knowledge is a deadly friend when no-one sets the rules.
The fate of all mankind, I see, is in the hands of fools.
Confusion will be my epitaph,
As I crawl a cracked and broken path.
If we make it we can all sit back and laugh.
But I fear tomorrow I'll be crying,
Yes I fear tomorrow I'll be crying.
Epitaph is preceded on the album by a Greg Lake composition called I Talk To The Wind, with lyrics by Sinfield. The song is a quiet, reflective piece, highlighted by classically-oriented flute solos by Ian McDonald. The two tracks are tightly-sequenced on the original LP, and really need to be heard as one continuous piece to be fully appreciated.