Monday, December 11, 2017
Stuck in the Psychedelic Era # 1750 (starts 12/13/17)
Frank Zappa fans rejoice! Just three weeks after a side of We're Only In It For The Money we have side two of Absolutely Free, The M.O.I. American Pageant, including Brown Shoes Don't Make It.
Title: You Really Got Me
Source: Mono CD: British Beat (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer: Ray Davies
Label: K-Tel (original label: Reprise)
You Really Got Me has been described as the first hard rock song and the track that invented heavy metal. You'll get no argument from me on either of those.
Artist: Paul Revere And The Raiders
Title: Just Like Me
Source: CD: Greatest Hits
Just Like Me was the first top 10 single from Paul Revere And The Raiders, a band that deserves much more credit than they are generally given. The group started in the early part of the decade in Boise, Idaho, when Revere (his real name) hooked up with saxophonist Mark Lindsay. Like most bands at the time, the Raiders' repertoire consisted mostly of instrumentals, as PA systems were a luxury that required more space than was generally allotted to a small town band. It wasn't long before the Raiders relocated to Portland, Oregon, where they became a popular attraction at various clubs. After a hiatus caused by Revere's stint in the military, the band resumed its place as one of the founding bands of the Portland music scene. They soon made their first visit to a recording studio, recording Richard Berry's Louie Louie at around the same time as another popular Portland band, the Kingsmen. Due as much to superior promotion efforts from Wand Records as anything else, the Kingsmen's version ended up being a huge hit while the Raiders' version was virtually ignored. Undeterred, the band continued to grow in popularity, recording another single in 1964 (Like Long Hair) and going on tour. It was while playing in Hawaii that the band was noticed by none other than Dick Clark, who hired them to be the house band on his new afternoon TV show, Where The Action Is. He also got them a contract with Columbia Records, at the time the second-largest record company in the world. The Raiders were Columbia's first rock band, and they paired the band up with their hippest young producer, Terry Melcher. It was a partnership that would lead to a string of hits, starting with Steppin' Out in 1965. The next record, Just Like Me, was the first of a string of top 10 singles that would last until early 1967, when rapidly changing public tastes made the band seem antiquated compared to up and coming groups like Jefferson Airplane. Just Like Me, despite some rather cheesy lyrics, still holds up well after all these years. Much of the credit for that has to go to Drake Levin, whose innovative double-tracked guitar solo rocked out harder than anything else on top 40 radio at the time (with the possible exception of a couple of well-known Kinks songs).
Artist: Buffalo Springfield
Title: For What It's Worth
Source: LP: Homer (soundtrack) (originally released as 45 RPM single and added to LP: Buffalo Springfield)
Writer(s): Stephen Stills
Label: Cotillion (original label: Atco)
Most people associate the name Buffalo Springfield with the song For What It's Worth. And for good reason. The song is one of the greatest protest songs ever recorded, and to this day is in regular rotation on both oldies and classic rock radio stations. The song was written and recorded in November of 1966 and released in December. By then the first Buffalo Springfield LP was already on the racks, but until that point had not sold particularly well. When it became clear that For What It's Worth was becoming a breakout hit, Atco Records quickly recalled the album and added the song to it (as the opening track). All subsequent pressings of the LP (and later the CD) contain For What It's Worth, making earlier copies of the album somewhat of a rarity and quite collectable.
Artist: West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band
Title: Help, I'm A Rock
Source: CD: Part One
Writer(s): Frank Zappa
Label: Sundazed (original label: Reprise)
Ya gotta hand it to these guys. It takes cojones to record a cover of a Frank Zappa tune, especially within a year of the original Mothers of Invention version coming out. To top it off, the W.C.P.A.E.B. even released Help, I'm A Rock as a single, although the longer LP version is far superior.
Artist: Iron Butterfly
Title: Are You Happy
Source: CD: In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida
Writer(s): Doug Ingle
Besides the title track itself, probably the best known song on Iron Butterfly's In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida album is a Doug Ingle tune called Are You Happy. Opening with a distinctive drum pattern followed by a shouted "are you happy?", the song is one of the most upbeat tunes on the entire album, and was fittingly placed at the end of the LP's first side.
Artist: Fat Mattress
Title: Walking Through A Garden
Source: Mono LP: Fat Mattress (promo copy)
Writer(s): Noel Redding
Despite being a member of one of the most popular, and highly respected bands in the world, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Noel Redding always felt a bit stifled by the dominance of Hendrix himself in the band, and wanted a chance to write and play his own material. Prior to hooking up with Hendrix in late 1966 Redding, as a guitarist, had been part of the early 1960s British group scene. In 1968, while the Experience was still together, Redding, along with vocalist Neil Landon, bass guitarist Jim Leverton and drummer Eric Dillon, formed the band Fat Mattress as a kind of side project. They eventually released two albums before disbanding in 1970. The songwriting chores for the band were split roughly evenly between Redding, Landon and Leverton, with Redding tending to work alone. Walking Through A Garden, from the first album, is a fairly typical Redding composition, with an emphasis on melody and lyrics rather than performance.
Artist: Syd Barrett
Title: Here I Go
Source: CD: An Introduction To Syd Barrett (originally released on LP: The Madcap Laughs)
Writer(s): Syd Barrett
Label: Capitol (original label: Harvest)
Pink Floyd's original bandleader, Syd Barrett, began showing signs of mental illness as early as 1967. By 1968, his state of mind had deteriorated to the point that the rest of the band decided to continue on without him. Meanwhile, Barrett, after attempting to record a handful of solo tracks, found himself in psychiatric care at Cambridge. The following year, somewhat recovered, Barrett got to work on his first solo LP, which eventually became The Madcap Laughs. One of the better tracks recorded around that time was Here I Go. Unlike many of Barrett's songs from the period, Here I Go had been written in a matter of minutes, and was recorded almost as quickly, requiring no overdubs. Among the backing musicians on the tune were members of Joker's Wild and Humble Pie. The track was produced by Mick Jones.
Artist: Allman Brothers Band
Title: Don't Want You No More/It's Not My Cross To Bear
Source: CD: Beginnings (originally released on LP: The Allman Brothers Band)
Label: Polydor (original label: Capricorn)
The first Allman Brothers band album sold poorly outside of the southeastern US and was pulled from the shelves within a year. Meanwhile, the second album, Idlewild South, did a bit better and the third album, recorded live at the Fillmore East, was a breakout hit. This prompted Capricorn, which in the meantime had morphed from a production house to a full-blown label, to reissue the first two albums as a 2-record set for the price of one. "Don't Want You No More is an instrumental (co-written by Steve Winwood) that serves as an introduction to both the band and the first album, and segues directly into the Gregg Allman tune "It's Not My Cross To Bear".
Artist: Crosby, Stills And Nash
Title: Marrakesh Express
Source: CD: Crosby, Stills And Nash
Writer(s): Graham Nash
The first time I ever heard of Crosby, Stills And Nash was on Europe's powerhouse AM station Radio Luxembourg, which broadcast in an American-style top 40 format during the evening and into the early morning hours. As was common on top 40 stations, Radio Luxembourg had a "pick hit of the week", a newly-released song that the station's DJs felt was bound to be a big hit. One night in July of 1969 I tuned in and heard the premier of the station's latest pick hit: Marrakesh Express, by Crosby, Stills And Nash. Sure enough, the song climbed the British charts rather quickly, peaking at #17 (20 positions higher than in the US). The song itself was based on real events that Graham Nash experienced on a train ride in Morocco while still a member of the Hollies. Nash had been riding first class when he got bored and decided to check out what was happening in the other cars. He was so impressed by the sheer variety of what he saw (including ducks and chickens on the train itself) that he decided to write a song about it. The other members of the Hollies were not particularly impressed with the song, however, and its rejection was one of the factors that led to Nash leaving the band and moving to the US, where he hooked up with David Crosby and Stephen Stills. Crosby and Stills liked the song, and it became the trio's first single.
Title: Black Widow Spider
Source: CD: Time Out! Time In! For Them
Label: Rev-Ola (original label: Tower)
Usually when a band used outside songwriters it's because their producer forced them into it, and almost always was a sore point with the band members. The liner notes for Them's second album for Tower, on the other hand, included a thank you note from the band to Tom Lane and Sharon Pulley, who wrote nearly every song on Time Out! Time In! For Them.
Artist: Strawberry Alarm Clock
Title: Unwind With The Clock
Source: LP: Incense And Peppermints
After Incense And Peppermints became a huge international hit, the band was given the opportunity to record a full album, also titled Incense And Peppermints. The final track on the album, Unwind With The Clock, is a mostly instrumental piece with a jazzy feel to it that sounds like it was written specifically to be a set closer. The vocals that come in toward the end of the piece only reinforce that idea.
Artist: Bobby Fuller Four
Title: Baby My Heart
Source: Mono CD: Where The Action Is: L.A. Nuggets 1965-68
Writer: Sonny Curtis
Year: Recorded 1966; released 2009.
The Bobby Fuller Four perfected their blend of rock and roll and Tex-Mex in their native El Paso before migrating out to L.A. After scoring a huge hit with I Fought The Law, Fuller was found dead in his hotel room of unnatural causes. Baby My Heart, unreleased until 2009, is an indication of what might have been had Fuller lived long enough to establish himself further.
Artist: Rolling Stones
Title: Lady Jane
Source: CD: Flowers (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Label: Abkco (London)
One of the best early Rolling Stones albums is 1966's Aftermath, which included such classics as Under My Thumb, Stupid Girl and the eleven-minute Goin' Home. Both the US and UK versions of the LP included the song Lady Jane, which was also released as the B side to Mother's Little Helper (which had been left off the US version of Aftermath to make room for Paint It, Black). The policy at the time was for B sides that got a significant amount of airplay to be rated separately from the A side of the single, and Lady Jane managed to climb to the # 24 spot on the Hot 100 (Mother's Little Helper peaked at # 8). Both tunes were also included on the 1967 LP Flowers.
Artist: Eric Burdon and the Animals
Title: San Franciscan Nights
Source: 45 RPM single
In late 1966, after losing several original members over a period of about a year, the original Animals disbanded. Eric Burdon, after releasing one single as a solo artist (but using the Animals name), decided to form a "new" Animals, keeping only drummer Barry Jenkins from the previous lineup. After releasing a moderately successful single, When I Was Young, the new band appeared at the Monterey International Pop Festival in June of 1967. While in the area, the band fell in love with the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, during what came to be called the Summer Of Love. The first single to be released from their debut album, Winds Of Change, was a tribute to the city by the bay called San Franciscan Nights. Because of the topicality of the song's subject matter, San Franciscan Nights was not released in the UK as a single. Instead, the song Good Times (which was the US B side of the record), became the new group's biggest UK hit to date (and one of the Animals' biggest UK hits overall). Eventually San Franciscan Nights was released as a single in the UK as well (with a different B side) and ended up doing quite well.
Artist: 13th Power (aka Max Frost And The Troopers)
Title: Free Lovin'
Source: CD: Shape Of Things To Come (originally released on LP: Wild In The Streets soundtrack)
Label: Captain High (original label:Tower)
One of the most intriguing mysteries in rock 'n' roll history concerns a band called the 13th Power. At the core of this mystery is the fact that nobody knows for sure whether there even was a band called the 13th Power. The first time I saw the name was on the 1968 soundtrack album from the movie Wild In The Streets. On that LP, all the songs that had been "performed" in the movie by Max Frost And The Troopers were credited to the 13th Power. However, the hit single from the movie, Shape Of Things To Come, listed Max Frost And The Troopers as the artist. To make things even more confusing, Tower Records, in the wake of the success of the single, released an entire album by Max Frost And The Troopers called (you guessed it) Shape Of Things To Come. Two tracks from that LP were subsequently released as a single on Mike Curb's Sidewalk label, with the 13th Power shown as the artist of record (sorry). The writing credits on those two tracks (and indeed, on most of the tracks on the Shape Of Things To Come album itself) included Paul Wibier, Dale Beckner, Stewart Martin, G. McClain and Barney Hector, all of which had been involved in writing songs for other soundtrack albums for Curb. (Just to confuse the matter even further some of those earlier songs were credited to a band called Mom's Boys.) Muddying the waters even further is a 13th Power single that came out in October of 1967 on the Sidewalk label, several months before the Wild In The Streets soundtrack album was released. The A side of that single was written by Wibier and Hector, while the B side is credited to Wibier/ McClain/ Martin/ Beckner and Hector. As a general rule, rock songs credited to five people are the work of an entire band, making this the likely lineup of the 13th Power, if indeed such a band actually existed. There is also a persistent rumor that the Max Frost And Troopers tracks on both albums were actually the work of Davie Allen And The Arrows, a moderately successful instrumental group that was best known for a tune called Blues Theme (from a 1966 movie called The Wild Ones). According to this rumor, the vocalist on Free Lovin' and other songs from the film was either Christopher Jones (who starred in the film) or possibly Paul Wibier. If anyone has any more information on the 13th Power, feel free to contact me through the Stuck in the Psychedelic Era web page (www.hermitradio.com).
Artist: Music Machine
Source: CD: Beyond The Garage (originally released on LP: Bonniwell Music Machine)
Writer: Sean Bonniwell
Label: Sundazed (original label: Warner Brothers)
Discrepancy, one of Sean Bonniwell's most sophisticated recordings with his band the Music Machine, features two simultaneous vocal lines. The main one, sung by Bonniwell (in the left channel) as a single melody line, tells the story of a deteriorating relationship. In the opposite channel we hear a breathy multi-part vocal line that tells the same story from the perspective of the subconscious. The two come together lyrically from time to time to express key concepts such as the line "now I know I'm losing you", only to once again diverge onto their separate tracks. The bridge serves to further unite the two divergent lines with the repeating plea to "tell me what to do". Discrepancy is one of the few tracks recorded by the original Music Machine lineup that was never released on Original Sound Records, either as an LP track or on a 45 RPM single. Instead, the song was included on the LP Bonniwell Music Machine, released by Warner Brothers in 1967.
Source: CD: Revolver
Writer(s): George Harrison
Label: Parlophone (original US label: Capitol)
The Beatles' 1966 LP Revolver was a major step forward, particularly for guitarist George Harrison, who for the first time had three of his own compositions on an album. Making it even sweeter was the fact that one of these, Taxman, was chosen to lead off the album itself. Although Harrison is usually considered the band's lead guitarist, the solo in Taxman is actually performed by Paul McCartney, whose own style had a harder edge than Harrison's. Harrison, on the other hand, reportedly played bass (McCartney's usual instrument) on the track. This made the song difficult to perform live, but, as the world would soon know, the group had already decided to retire from live performing altogether in order to concentrate on perfecting their studio work.
Artist: George Harrison
Title: Dream Scene
Source: CD: Wonderwall Music
Writer(s): George Harrison
Here's one for trivia buffs: What was the first LP released on the Apple label? If you answered The Beatles (White Album) you'd be close, but not quite on the money. The actual first Apple album was something called Wonderwall Music from a film called (what else?) Wonderwall. The album itself was quite avant garde, with virtually no commercial potential. One of the most notable tracks on the album is Dream Scene, an audio collage that predates John Lennon's Revolution 9 by several months.
Title: I Wish I Was Five
Source: Mono CD: Nuggets II-Original Artyfacts From The British Empire And Beyond 1964-1969 (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer(s): John Kongos
Label: Rhino (original label: Pye)
Johnny Kongos And The Beat Men were a highly successful band in South Africa, releasing several hit singles from 1962 through 1966, when Kongo decided to relocate to London. He soon formed Floribunda Rose with several other relocated South Africans, releasing one single in 1967. By 1968 the group had renamed itself Scrugg and signed with the Pye label. Before disbanding in 1969, Scrugg released three singles. The B side of their first single for Pye was the wistful I Wish I Was Five, released in April of 1967.
Artist: Beacon Street Union
Title: Mystic Mourning
Source: British import CD: The Eyes Of The Beacon Street Union
Label: See For Miles (original label: M-G-M)
If I had to choose one single recording that represents the psychedelic era, my choice would be Mystic Mourning, from the album The Eyes Of The Beacon Street Union. Everything about the tune screams (whispers? purrs?) psychedelic, starting with a short spacy intro of electric piano over cymbals, leading into a raga beat with a solo bass line that builds up to a repeating riff that ends up getting played at various times by guitar, bass, and/or piano. The lyrics are appropriately existential, and both guitar and piano get a chance to show their stuff over the course of the nearly six-minute track.
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.
Source: CD: Fresh Cream
Writer(s): Jack Bruce
Label: Polydor (original label: Atco)
Although Cream recorded several songs that bassist/vocalist Jack Bruce co-wrote with various lyricists (notably poet Pete Brown), there were a few that Bruce himself wrote words for. One of these is Dreaming, a song from the band's first LP that features both Bruce and guitarist Eric Clapton on lead vocals. Dreaming is also one of the shortest Cream songs on record, clocking in at one second under two minutes in length.
Title: Sweet Wine
Source: LP: Fresh Cream
When Cream was formed, both bassist Jack Bruce and drummer Ginger Baker had new music for the band to record (guitarist Eric Clapton having chosen to shut up and play his guitar for the most part). Most of these new songs, however, did not yet have words to go with the music. To remedy the situation, both musicians brought in outside lyricists. Baker chose poet Pete Brown, while Bruce chose to bring in his wife, Janet Godfrey. After a short time it became apparent that Bruce and Brown had a natural affinity for each other's material, and formed a partnership that would last years. Baker, meanwhile, tried working with Godfrey, but the two only came up with one song together, Sweet Wine, which was included on the band's debut LP, Fresh Cream.
Source: CD: Fresh Cream
Writer(s): Jack Bruce
Label: Polydor (original label: Atco)
Although most of Jack Bruce's Cream songs were co-written with lyricist Pete Brown, there were some exceptions. One of the most notable of these is N.S.U. from Cream's debut LP. The song has proven popular enough to be included in the band's repertoire when they reunited for a three-day stint at the Royal Albert Hall in 2005.
Artist: Mothers of Invention
Title: The M.O.I. American Pageant
Source: CD: Absolutely Free
Writer(s): Frank Zappa
Label: Ryko (original label: Verve)
Following up on their debut double-LP Freak Out, the Mothers came up with one of the first concept albums with Absolutely Free, which consisted of two "rock oratorios", each taking up one side of the album. Included in the M.O.I. American Pageant is Brown Shoes Don't Make It, which composer Frank Zappa described as a two-hour musical in condensed form (it runs slightly less than 7 minutes). The Pageant starts with Status Back Baby, which leads into Uncle Bernie's Farm, followed by Son Of Suzy Creamcheese before getting into Brown Shoes Don't Make It. As a coda, the piece ends with American Drinks And Goes Home. The entire oratoria runs about 19 minutes total.
Artist: Velvet Underground
Title: The Black Angel's Death Song
Source: CD: The Velvet Underground And Nico
Label: Polydor (original label: Verve)
The Black Angel's Death Song was one of the more infamous early Velvet Underground songs. The song was written by John Cale and Lou Reed, who later said "The idea here was to string words together for the sheer fun of their sound, not any particular meaning." The band performed it at the Cafe Bizarre in Greenwich Village in 1965, prompting the club's manager to tell them not to play the song again. Of course the Velvets responded by playing it again "with a vengeance", resulting in them being fired. The studio version of The Black Angel's Death Song was recorded in 1966, features Cale's viola prominently throughout the track. Both Reed and Sterling Morrison detuned their guitars a full step for the recording.