Monday, December 25, 2017

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 1752 (starts 12/27/17)

    1967 was the year that LPs became a force to be reckoned with in rock music. There were a number of reasons for this shift in the music world. Ever since the invention of radio, the AM band had dominated broadcasting, with FM stations garnering only a small fraction of the audience held by their AM counterparts. The majority of FM stations were, in fact, owned by AM stations, and usually carried the same programs as their parent stations, a practice known as simulcasting. In 1967, however, a new rule requiring FM radio stations to provide unique, non-simulcast programming for a certain number of hours per week went into effect. FM receivers were still somewhat of a rarity, however, and there was no way an FM station could go head to head with an existing AM station and pull in a large enough audience to attract advertising dollars. As a result, many station owners opted to run their FMs as a tax writeoff. This gave stations an opportunity to use the band to develop new formats. These formats were often spearheaded by former AM disc jockeys, who had long chafed at the limits imposed on them by the increasingly restrictive top 40 format. This, combined with a number of college radio stations going on the air, led to the development of so-called "underground" rock stations, found mostly in cities with a large college population.The nature of rock LPs was changing as well, as the old practice of using a lot of "filler" material was being supplanted by the artists themselves asserting more creative control over their recorded output. Yet another contributing factor to the rise of album rock is the fact that the members of the so-called baby boom generation were getting old enough to be able to afford albums (which generally cost four to five times as much as a typical single). The end result of all this was that, for the first time, a rock artist did not have to rely on a series of hit singles to be considered a success. Indeed, some of the most successful artists making their US debut in 1967, such as Jimi Hendrix and the Grateful Dead, got by without having any top 40 hits in the US at all. This week's show focuses on some of those album-oriented artists and their 1967 recordings.

Artist:    Butterfield Blues Band
Title:    Born Under A Bad Sign
Source:    LP: The Resurrection Of Pigboy Crabshaw
Writer(s):    Jones/Bell
Label:    Elektra
Year:    1967
    After two critically acclaimed LPs with the Butterfield Blues Band, guitarist Michael Bloomfield decided to get into other things in early 1967. Meanwhile, Paul Butterfield decided to add a horn section rather than replace Bloomfield. This gave the band's other guitarist, Elvin Bishop, an opportunity to strut his stuff. He did so well at strutting his stuff that Butterfield decided to name the band's next album The Resurrection Of Pigboy Crabshaw (Pigboy being Bishop's nickname). One of the tunes on that album is the William Bell song (co-written by Booker T. Jones) Born Under A Bad Sign, a song that would get even more exposure the following year when it was included on Cream's Wheels Of Fire.

Artist:     Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title:     Purple Haze
Source:     LP: Are You Experienced?
Writer:     Jimi Hendrix
Label:     Legacy (original label: Reprise)
Year:     1967
     Purple Haze has one of the most convoluted release histories of any song ever recorded. Originally issued in the UK as a single, it scored high on the British charts. When Reprise got the rights to release the first Hendrix album, Are You Experienced?, they chose to replace the first track on the album with Purple Haze, moving the original opening track, Foxy Lady, to side two of the LP. The song next appeared on the Smash Hits album, which in Europe was on the Polydor label. This was the way things stayed until the early 1990s, when MCA (now Universal) acquired the rights to the Hendrix catalog and re-issued Are You Experienced? with the tracks restored to the UK ordering, but preceded by the six non-album sides (including Purple Haze) that had originally been released prior to the album. Most recently, the Hendrix Family Trust has again changed labels and the US version of Are You Experienced? is once again in print, this time on Sony's Legacy label. This means that the song has now been released by all three of the currently existing major record companies.

Artist:    Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title:    If 6 Was 9
Source:    CD: Axis: Bold As Love
Writer(s):    Jimi Hendrix
Label:    Legacy (original label: Reprise)
Year:    1967
    Before 1967 stereo was little more than an excuse to charge a dollar more for an LP. That all changed in a hurry, as artists such as Jimi Hendrix began to explore the possibilities of the technology, in essence treating stereophonic sound as a multi-dimensional sonic palette. The result can be heard on songs such as If 6 Were 9 from the Axis: Bold As Love album, which is best listened to at high volume, preferably with headphones on.

Artist:    Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title:    Are You Experienced?
Source:    LP: Are You Experienced?
Writer(s):    Jimi Hendrix
Label:    Legacy (original label: Reprise)
Year:    1967
    Until the release of Are You Experienced by the Jimi Hendrix Experience the emphasis in rock music (then called pop) was on the 45 RPM single, with albums seen as a luxury item that supplemented an artist's career rather than defined it. Are You Experience helped change all that. The album was not only highly influential, it was a major seller, despite getting virtually no airplay on top 40 radio. The grand finale of the LP was the title track, which features an array of studio effects, including backwards masking and tape loops. Interestingly enough, the album was originally issued only in a mono version in the UK, with European pressings using a simulated stereo mix. After Reprise bought the rights to release the LP in the US it hired its own engineers to create stereo mixes of the songs from the four-track master tapes.

Artist:    Cream
Title:    Strange Brew
Source:    CD: Disraeli Gears
Writer(s):    Clapton/Collins/Pappalardi
Label:    Polydor (original label: Atco)
Year:    1967
    Strange Brew, the opening track from Cream's Disraeli Gears album, was also released as a single in early 1967, although it did not chart in the US. Nonetheless, the song has proven popular enough over the years to be included on pretty much every Cream anthology album ever compiled, and even inspired a Hollywood movie of the same name.

Artist:    Cream
Title:    Take It Back
Source:    LP: Disraeli Gears
Writer(s):    Bruce/Brown
Label:    Atco
Year:    1967
    After seven years of serving in the Air Force liason office at Fitzsimmons Army Hospital in Aurora, Colorado, my dad got transferred to Weisbaden Air Force Base in Germany. Standard practice at the time was for the married GI to go on ahead of the rest of the family and find a place to live "on the economy." My dad, already having quite a bit of time in the service, was able to instead get a spot in a place called Kastel, which was a group of WWII Panzer barracks that had been adapted for use by American military with families. When the rest of us arrived in August I was happily surprised to find that my dad, in addition to finding us a place to live, had bought a state-of-the-art Akai X-355 Tape Recorder, along with a pair of Koss headphones. I of course had to go to the Base Exchange to look for pre-recorded tapes. Already having experience with reel to reel machines, I knew that tapes recorded at 3 3/4 ips had more tape hiss than those recorded at 7 1/2 ips, so I was resolved to only buy tapes recorded at the faster speed. Unfortunately several albums I wanted were only available at the slower speed. The problem was resolved a year later when my dad finally got a Dual turntable to hook up to the tape recorded. I immediately went out and bought a reel of blank tape; the first album I made a copy of was Cream's Disraeli Gears. I would often fall asleep listening to that tape, which meant I ended up sleeping through the last songs on the album, including Take It Back. I must have done some kind of sleep learning, though, since to this day I can quote the lyrics of the entire song.

Artist:    Cream
Title:    Tales Of Brave Ulysses
Source:    CD: Disraeli Gears
Writer:    Clapton/Sharp
Label:    Polydor (original label: Atco)
Year:    1967
    Cream was one of the first bands to break British tradition and release singles that were also available as album cuts. This tradition likely came about because the most popular 45 RPM records (both singles and extended play 45s) tended to stay in print indefinitely in the UK, unlike in the US, where a hit single usually had a shelf life of around 4-6 months then disappeared forever. When the Disraeli Gears album was released, however, the song Strange Brew, which leads off the LP, was released in Europe as a single. The B side of that single was Tales Of Brave Ulysses, which opens side two of the album.

Artist:    Ten Years After
Title:    I Can't Keep From Crying Sometimes
Source:    CD: Ten Years After
Writer(s):    Blind Willie Johnson, arr. Al Kooper
Label:    Deram
Year:    1967
    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 than Kooper himself.

Artist:    Grateful Dead
Title:    Morning Dew
Source:    LP: The Grateful Dead
Writer(s):    Dobson/Rose
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1967
    One of the most identifiable songs in the Grateful Dead repertoire, Morning Dew was the first song ever written by Canadian folk singer Bonnie Dobson, who came up with the song in 1961 the morning after having a long discussion with friends about what life might be like following a nuclear holocaust. She began performing the song that year, with the first recorded version appearing on her 1962 live album At Folk City. The song was not published, however, until 1964, when Fred Neil decided to record his own version of the song for his album Tear Down The Walls. The first time the song appeared on a major label was 1966, when Tim Rose recorded it for his self-titled Columbia Records debut album. Rose had secured permission to revise the song and take credit as a co-writer, but his version was virtually identical with the Fred Neil version of the song. Nonetheless, Rose's name has been included on all subsequent recordings (though Dobson gets 75% of the royalties), including the Grateful Dead version heard on their 1967 debut LP.

Artist:    Love
Title:    Live And Let Live
Source:    CD: Forever Changes
Writer(s):    Arthur Lee
Label:    Elektra/Rhino
Year:    1967
    In late spring of 1967 L.A.'s most popular local band, Love, was falling apart, mostly due to constant partying on the part of some of the band members. This became a real issue for producer Bruce Botnick when it came time to begin sessions for the band's third LP, Forever Changes. Botnick had already lost his co-producer on the project, Neil Young, when Young's own band, Buffalo Springfield, found themselves hugely popular in the wake of the success of the single For What It's Worth, and Botnick was now faced with a heavier-than-expected workload. Botnick's solution to the problem became evident when the band entered Sunset Sound Recorders on June 9th, only to find a group of studio musicians already set up and ready to record. Two new Arthur Lee songs were recorded that day, and the rest of the band was literally shocked in sobriety, returning to the studio the next day to record overdubs on the tracks to make them sound more like the work of the band itself. After two month's worth of intensive practice, the band was ready to return to the studio, recording the first track for the album performed entirely by the band itself, Live And Let Live. The unusual first line of the song was reportedly the result of Lee falling asleep in a chair with his nose running during practice sessions.

Artist:    Rolling Stones
Title:    2000 Light Years From Home
Source:    CD: Their Satanic Majesties Request
Writer(s):    Jagger/Richards
Label:    Abkco (original label: London)
Year:    1967
    Nowhere was the ripple effect of the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band more noticable than on the Rolling Stones fall 1967 release Their Satanic Majesties Request. The cover featured the band members in various sorcerous regalia in a seven-inch picture on the kind of holographic paper used for "magic rings" found in bubble-gum machines and pasted over regular album-cover stock, which was a simple pattern of faded white circles on a blue background (it kind of looked like dark wallpaper). Musically it was the most psychedelic Stones album ever released. Interesting enough, different songs were released as singles in different countries. In the US the single was She's A Rainbow, while in Germany and the Netherlands 2,000 Light Years From Home (the US B side of She's A Rainbow) got significant airplay, making the top 5 in both countries.

Artist:    Doors
Title:    The End
Source:    LP: The Doors
Writer(s):    The Doors
Label:    Elektra
Year:    1967
    Prior to recording their first album the Doors' honed their craft at various Sunset Strip clubs, working up live versions of the songs they would soon record, including their show-stopper, The End. Originally written as a breakup song by singer/lyricist Jim Morrison, The End runs nearly twelve minutes and includes a controversial spoken "Oedipus section". My own take on the famous "blue bus" line is that Morrison, being a military brat, was probably familiar with the blue shuttle buses used on military bases for a variety of purposes, including taking kids to school, and simply incorporated his experiences with them into his lyrics.  The End got its greatest exposure in 1979, when Oliver Stone used it in his film Apocalypse Now.

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