Monday, January 8, 2018
Stuck in the Psychedelic Era # 1802 (starts 1/10/18)
Well, let's see. Opening progression? Check. 1967 L.A. set? Check. Quiet and cool set? Check. Rolling Stones set? Check. More progressions, both up and down? Yep. Guess it's all there. Enjoy!
Artist: Beach Boys
Title: Good Vibrations
Source: 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 45 RPM record purchase I ever made.
Artist: Buffalo Springfield
Title: Rock And Roll Woman
Source: LP: Homer (soundtrack) (originally released on LP: Buffalo Springfield Again and as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Stephen Stills
Label: Cotillion (original label: Atco)
Buffalo Springfield did not sell huge numbers of records (except for the single For What It's Worth). Nor did they pack in the crowds. As a matter of fact, when they played the club across the street from where Love was playing, they barely had any audience at all. Artistically, though, it's a whole 'nother story. During their brief existence Buffalo Springfield launched the careers of no less than four major artists: Neil Young, Richie Furay, Jim Messina and Stephen Stills. They also recorded more than their share of tracks that have held up better than most of what else was being recorded at the time. Case in point: Rock and Roll Woman, a Stephen Stills tune that still sounds fresh well over 40 years after it was recorded.
Title: Jennifer Juniper
Source: British import CD: The Hurdy Gurdy Man
Writer(s): Donovan Leitch
Label: EMI (original label: Epic)
Donovan's British label, Pye, chose not to release 1967's Wear Your Love Like Heaven as a single. As a result, Donovan had no current singles on the British charts in January of 1968, when he recorded Jennifer Juniper. The song was an instant British hit when released the following month, going to the #5 spot on the charts. The song did not do as well when it was released a month later in the US, however, stalling out at #35. The song was later included on the 1968 LP The Hurdy Gurdy Man.
Title: Come Together
Source: LP: Abbey Road
After the Beatles released their 1968 double LP (the so-called White Album), they went to work on their final film project, a documentary about the band making an album. Unfortunately, what the cameras captured was a group on the verge of disintegration, and both the album and the film itself were shelved indefinitely. Instead, the band went to work recording an entirely new group of compositions. Somehow, despite the internal difficulties the band was going through, they managed to turn out a masterpiece: Abbey Road. Before the album itself came out, a single was released. The official A side was George Harrison's Something, the first Harrison song ever to be released as a Beatle A side. The other side was the song that opened the album itself, John Lennon's Come Together. In later years Come Together came to be Lennon's signature song and was a staple of his live performances.
Artist: Guess Who
Source: CD: American Woman
Label: Buddha/BMG (original label: RCA Victor)
Often dismissed as lightweights, the Guess Who nonetheless put out a classic with the American Woman album. The only track on side one that was not released as a single was Talisman, a moody ballad that features Randy Bachman on acoustic guitar and Burton Cummings on vocals. The track includes a piano coda played by Cummings.
Artist: Strawberry Alarm Clock
Title: Incense And Peppermints
Source: Mono LP: Nuggets Vol. 9-Acid Rock (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Rhino (original label: Uni)
Incense and Peppermints is one of the iconic songs of the psychedelic era, yet when it was originally released to Los Angeles area radio stations it was intended to be the B side of The Birdman of Alkatrash. Somewhere along the line a DJ flipped the record over and started playing Incense And Peppermints instead. The song caught on and Uni Records (short for Universal, which is now the world's largest record company) picked up the Strawberry Alarm Clock's contract and reissued the record nationally with Incense And Peppermints as the A side.
Artist: Music Machine
Title: Double Yellow Line
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)
One of the Original Sound singles that also appeared on the Warner Brothers LP Bonniwell Music Machine, Double Yellow Line features lyrics that were literally written by Bonniwell on the way to the recording studio. In fact, his inability to stay in his lane while driving with one hand and writing with the other resulted in a traffic ticket. The ever resourceful Bonniwell wrote the rest of the lyrics on the back of the ticket and even invited the officer in to watch the recording session. He declined.
Title: Twilight Sanctuary
Source: British import CD: All The Good That's Happening
Label: Grapefruit (original label: Capitol)
The Leaves were one of those groups that never really caught on outside the L.A. area, despite maintaining a full schedule of gigs from 1965-67 and appearing in a handful of low budget films. In fact, low budget seems to be the operative term when it comes to the Leaves. After having minor success on the national charts with their first album for Mira, the group was signed to Capitol. The band only recorded one LP for Capitol, and it has to be considered one of the most inconsistent LPs ever recorded. A first listen to All The Good That's Happening leaves one with the impression that the album was recorded by several different bands, none of which really seemed to gel. The opening track, Twilight Sanctuary, manages to encapsulate that entire concept in one song, as somehow the vocals just don't seem to really fit with the instrumental track.
Artist: Bob Dylan
Title: It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)
Source: Mono LP: Bringing It All Back Home
Writer(s): Bob Dylan
I recently saw a picture of Bob Dylan sitting alone in a theater with the caption "Bob Dylan sitting with everyone that's a better songwriter than he is". While I may not go quite that far, I have to admit that you would have to search far and wide to find any song with lyrics equal to It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding). The song was first performed in October of 1964 and recorded in January of 1965 for inclusion on his album Bringing It All Back Home. Famous lines from the song include "Money doesn't talk, it swears," and "He not busy being born is busy dying." Dylan himself has repeatedly cited the song as one of his songs that means the most to him, and he has continued to perform it throughout his career (an estimated 772 times as of 2015).
Artist: Simon And Garfunkel
Title: For Emily, Whenever I Might Find Her
Source: CD: Collected Works (originally released on LP: Parsley, Sage, Rosemary And Thyme)
Writer(s): Paul Simon
Art Garfunkel's vocals were in the spotlight on For Emily, Whenever I Might Find Her, a track from the duo's third LP, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary And Thyme. Other than the vocals, the only other instrument heard on the track is Paul Simon's guitar. Garfunkel has called the piece, which is still in his solo repertoire, "one of the most challenging" to perform, due to its somewhat free-form structure. A live version of the song was released as a single in 1972, making it to the # 53 spot on the charts. This was actually the second time the song appeared on 7" vinyl, as the studio version was used as the B side for the late 1966 single A Hazy Shade Of Winter.
Artist: Eric Burdon and the Animals
Title: The Black Plague
Source: British import CD: Winds Of Change
Label: Repertoire (original US label: M-G-M)
One of the most interesting recordings of 1967 was Eric Burdon And The Animals' The Black Plague, which appeared on the Winds Of Change album. The Black Plague is a spoken word piece dealing with life and death in a medieval village during the time of the Black Plague (natch), set to a somewhat gothic piece of music that includes Gregorian style chanting and an occasional voice calling out the words "bring out your dead" in the background. The album itself had a rather distinctive cover, consisting of a stylized album title accompanied by a rather lengthy text piece on a black background, something that has never been done before or since on an album cover.
Artist: Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title: 1983…(A Merman I Should Turn To Be)
Source: CD: Electric Ladyland
Writer: Jimi Hendrix
Label: Legacy (original label: Reprise)
1983…(A Merman I Should Turn To Be)/Moon Turn The Tides (Gently, Gently Away) from the Electric Ladyland album is the longest work created purely in the studio by Jimi Hendrix, with a running time of over 16 minutes. The piece starts with tape effects that lead into the song's main guitar rift. The vocals and drums join in to tell a science fiction story set in a future world where the human race has had to move underwater in order to survive some unspecified catastrophe. After a couple verses, the piece goes into a long unstructured section made up mostly of guitar effects before returning to the main theme and closing out with more effects that combine volume control and stereo panning to create a circular effect. As is the case with several tracks on Electric Ladyland, 1983…(A Merman I Should Turn To Be)/Moon Turn The Tides (Gently, Gently Away) features Hendrix on both guitar and bass, with Mitch Mitchell on drums and special guest Chris Wood (from Traffic) on flute.
Artist: Big Brother And The Holding Company
Title: Catch Me Baby
Source: CD: Live At The Carousel Ballroom-1968
Year: Recorded 1968, released 2012
When it comes to music, Owsley "Bear" Stanley is best known for his association with the Grateful Dead, but he also worked with other groups from time to time. Among those other bands was Big Brother And The Holding Company, whom he captured on tape performing live at San Francisco's Carousel Ballroom in June of 1968. Bear's recording was not intended for public consumption, however. Instead, he deliberately recorded songs like Catch Me Baby for a very specific audience: the band itself. His technique was to feed the audio from the PA system (which in those days meant vocals with a bit of bleedover from the drums) onto one channel and everything else onto the other. This makes for an odd listening experience when the speakers are set up in a standard stereo configuration, but was an excellent way for the band members to assess their own performance. You might want to line the speakers up directly in front of you for this one, with the vocal speaker in the foreground and the instruments behind it. You'll then hear the performance pretty much the way the crowd at the Carousel Ballroom did on that June evening in 1968.
Artist: Rolling Stones
Title: Lady Jane
Source: European import LP: Aftermath (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Label: Abkco (original label: 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 in the US 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).
Artist: Rolling Stones
Title: I'm Free
Source: Mono CD: Singles Collection-The London Years (originally released in UK on LP: Out Of Our Heads and in US as 45 RPM single B side and on LP: December's Children)
Label: Abkco (original US label: London)
My 1965 the songwriting team of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards was in high gear, cranking out hit after hit with tunes like The Last Time and Satisfaction. The follow-up to Satisfaction was Get Off My Cloud, which included an excellent B side, I'm Free, that had already appeared in the UK as the last track on Out Of Our Heads. The song was left off the US version of the album, and would later appear on a US-only LP called December's Children (And Everybody's).
Artist: Rolling Stones
Title: Under My Thumb
Source: CD: Aftermath
Label: Abkco (original label: London)
With the exception of certain Beatle tracks, pretty much every popular song from the beginning of recorded music through the year 1966 had been released as a single either on 45 or 78 RPM records (and for a while in the 1950s, on both). With Under My Thumb, from the Aftermath album, the Rolling Stones proved that someone besides the fab four could record a classic that was available only as a 33 1/3 RPM LP track. In a sense, then, Aftermath can be considered the very foundation of album rock, as more and groups put their most creative energy into making albums rather than singles in the ensuing years. Thanks, Stones.
Title: Signed D.C.
Source: Mono CD: Love Story (originally released on LP: Love)
Writer(s): Arthur Lee
One of the most striking tunes on the first Love album is Signed D.C., a slow ballad in the tradition of House of the Rising Sun. The song takes the form of a letter penned by a heroin addict, and the imagery is both stark and disturbing. Although Lee was known to occasionally say otherwise, the song title probably refers to Love's original drummer Don Conka, who left the band before their first recording sessions.
Artist: Grateful Dead
Title: Good Morning Little Schoolgirl
Source: CD: The Grateful Dead
Writer(s): Sonny Boy Williamson
Label: Warner Brothers
As long as there has been a music called "blues" there have been instances of one artist "borrowing" ideas from another, both lyrical and musical. Because of this it is often difficult to know the origins of many well-known tunes. One such song that has a rather confusing pedigree is Good Morning Little Schoolgirl. Part of the confusion is that there are actually two different songs that use the title, as well as many of the same lyrics. Adding to the mess is the fact that there are also multiple versions of the song's writer, Sonny Boy Williamson, as well. The earliest known version of the song was first recorded in 1937 by the original Sonny Boy Williamson in 1937 under the title Good Morning, School Girl and released on the Bluebird label. The melody itself, however, has been traced to a 1934 song called Back And Side Blues by Son Bonds. A 1948 recording of the song by Leroy Dallas used the title Good Morning Blues; Smokey Hogg's version, which reached number five on the Billboard R&B chart in 1950, was called Little School Girl. The first electric version of the song was released in 1953 by Joe Hill Louis, sporting the title Good Morning Little Angel. Several more versions of the song were released throughout the 1950s and early 60s by a variety of artists, including John Lee Hooker, Lightnin' Hopkins, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Muddy Waters, Doctor Ross, Junior Wells and Buddy Guy. Meanwhile, in 1961, Don Level and Bob Love, recording as Don And Bob, recorded an Everyly Brothers styled song called Good Morning Little Schoolgirl that used several of the same lyrics but had an entirely different melody and chord structure. This version was picked up by the Yardbirds for their second single, released in 1964. Most later rock versions of Good Morning Little Schoolgirl, including the one heard on the first Grateful Dead album, are based on the Sonny Boy Williamson original.
Artist: Tangerine Zoo
Title: Can't You See
Source: British import CD: All Kinds Of Highs (originally released in US on LP: The Tangerine Zoo)
Label: Big Beat (original label: Mainstream)
Not all Boston area bands in 1968 were part of the overly hyped "bosstown sound" perpetrated on an unsuspecting public by executives at M-G-M Records. One of the bands that did not participate in the hoax was the Tangerine Zoo from nearby Swansea. The Zoo, consisting of Tony Taviera, Wayne Gagnon, Ron Medieros, Bob Benevides and Donald Smith, were discovered by Bob Shad while playing a gig in Newport, Rhode Island. Shad was so impressed with the band that he immediately signed them to his Mainstream label. The Tangerine Zoo ended up recording two albums for Mainstream; the first of these, which included Can't You See, took about 13 hours to record and mix.
Artist: Jefferson Airplane
Title: Good Shepherd
Source: CD: The Worst Of Jefferson Airplane (originally released on LP:Volunteers)
Writer(s): Trad., arr. Kaukonen
Jorma Kaukonen is given credit for arranging the traditional tune Good Shepherd for the fifth Jefferson Airplane album, Volunteers. The song is a good example of how much the group's sound had changed over a three year period, moving in several different directions at once.
Title: Crawling King Snake
Source: LP: L.A. Woman
Writer(s): John Lee Hooker
Although it had been part of the Doors' stage repertoire for several years, Crawling King Snake was actually recorded on the last day of sessions for their sixth studio album, L.A. Woman. Jim Morrison had designated the final day of recording for the album to be "blues day". Of the three songs recorded that day, Crawling King Snake was the only actual blues cover song, the others being Doors originals. The song itself was a 1949 R&B hit for John Lee Hooker, who was given songwriting credit for the piece, although earlier versions of the tune, dating back to the 1920s, are known to exist. L.A. Woman was the final Doors studio album to feature Morrison on vocals, and the singer expressed pleasure in being able to finally record a blues album with the band.
Title: Morning Will Come (alternate mono mix)
Source: CD: Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus
Writer: Randy California
When Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus was released, the band members told Rolling Stone magazine that if the album did sell significantly better than their previous couple of LPs, the group would probably disband. As it turned out, the album did reasonably well. Despite this vocalist Jay Ferguson and bassist Mark Andes left the band soon after to help form Jo Jo Gunne. In the years since, Twelve Dreams has come to be regarded as a landmark album, bridging the gap between the psychedelic era and the progressive rock movement of the early 1970s. Several tracks were considered for single release, including Morning Will Come. This alternate mono mix of the song puts a greater emphasis on the horns and vocals than the album version.
Artist: Captain Beefheart And His Magic Band
Title: Steal Softly Thru Snow
Source: CD: Trout Mask Replica
Writer(s): Don Van Vliet
Label: Reprise (original label: Straight)
Captain Beefheart (Don Van Vliet), is one of the most controversial figures in modern music. Starting off covering blues standards such as Diddy Wah Diddy, the Captain quickly began taking on avant-garde qualities, which in turn led to frequent personnel changes in his Magic Band. Adding to the controversy is the question as to whether Beefheart actually composed the songs he took sole credit for, or whether, as claimed by some band members, he simply gave his musicians general guidelines and let them work out the details. Regardless, the third Beefheart album to be released was the first one in which he was given total artistic freedom, thanks to his old high school friend Frank Zappa being in charge of Straight Records. The result was Trout Mask Replica, a double album that is still considered an avant-garde rock classic. One of the more fun aspects of the album are the musician credits, which include Zoot Horn Rollo on glass finger guitar and flute, Antennae Jimmy Semens on steel-appendage guitar, Captain Beefheart on bass clarinet, tenor sax, soprano sax and vocal, The Mascara Snake on bass clarinet and vocal, Rockette Morton on bass and narration and Drumbo on, of course, drums. The album was produced by Zappa himself, who wisely kept his mouth shut and let the Captain do what he wanted on tracks like Steal Softly Thru Snow, whether Zappa thought it was right or wrong. The result was one of the most memorable releases of the psychedelic era.
Artist: James Gang
Title: Stone Rap/Collage
Source: CD: Yer' Album
Label: MCA (original label: Bluesway)
Sometime in early 1969 (more or less) three students from Kent State University (yes, that one!) travelled to New York to record an album at the Hit Factory. Apparently they had been continually confronted by fans who kept asking them "when is yer' album coming out?", so when it came time to come up with a name for the LP, the natural choice was Yer' Album. That LP launched the careers of two legends: first, the band itself, the James Gang, who would (with an ever-changing lineup) release a total on nine studio albums (and one live LP) before finally disbanding in 1976. The second legend was lead guitarist/vocalist Joe Walsh, who would go on to have a highly successful solo career before becoming an even bigger star as a member of the Eagles. Walsh wrote about half the songs on that first album, including Collage, a collaboration with his friend Patrick Cullie. Although Yer Album was released in 1969, the James Gang had actually been in existence since 1966. Led by drummer Jim Fox, the band's original lineup also included bassist Tom Kriss, who would leave the group after the release of their first LP.
Title: The Makers
Source: British import CD: Love, Poetry And Revolution (originally released in Italy on LP: Old Songs, New Songs)
Writer(s): Chuck Fryers
Label: Grapefruit (original label: Miura)
The Sorrows were originally formed in 1963 as one of many British R&B-styled groups (think early Who and Kinks). They signed with Pye records the following year, releasing several singles and one album before disbanding relocating to Italy in 1967, where they went through several personnel changes. In 1968 that had a hit with their Italian language version of the Hollies' Listen To Me on the Miura label. This led to an album for the label called Old Songs, New Songs, which combined cover versions of current British hits and Sorrows originals. The best of the original tracks was The Makers, penned by new member Chuck Fryers.