Monday, February 5, 2018
Stuck in the Psychedelic Era # 1806 (starts 2/7/18)
This week, Arlo Guthrie presents his dissertation on the significance of the pickle (also known as The Motorcycle Song). Like his more famous Alice's Restaurant, The Motorcycle Song showcase's Guthrie's talent as a storyteller. We also have artists' sets from Them, the Jimi Hendrix Experience and the Doors as well as requested music from the rare McKendree Spring debut LP.
Artist: Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title: Purple Haze
Source: British import LP: Smash Hits (originally released in the UK as a 45 RPM single)
Writer: Jimi Hendrix
Label: Polydor (original label:Track)
Purple Haze has one of the most convoluted release histories of any song ever recorded. Originally issued in the UK on the Track label and in Europe on the Polydor label as a single, it scored high on the British charts. When Reprise got the rights to release the first Jimi Hendrix Experience album, Are You Experienced, in the US, 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. Purple Haze next appeared on the Smash Hits album, which was released pretty much everywhere. The song's next appearance was on a European double LP release on Polydor called The Singles, which collected all the tracks that had previously appeared on 7" vinyl anywhere, including posthumous releases. This was the way things stayed until the early 1990s, when MCA 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 currently existing major record conglomerates.
Artist: Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title: Gypsy Eyes
Source: CD: The Ultimate Experience (originally released on LP: Electric Ladyland)
Writer(s): Jimi Hendrix
Label: MCA (original label: Reprise)
Electric Ladyland, the last album by the Jimi Hendrix Experience, was a double LP mixture of studio recordings and live jams in the studio with an array of guest musicians. Gypsy Eyes is a good example of Hendrix's prowess at the mixing board as well as on guitar.
Artist: Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title: The Wind Cries Mary
Source: Simulated stereo British import LP: Smash Hits (originally released in UK as 45 RPM single and in US on LP: Are You Experienced?)
Writer: Jimi Hendrix
Label: Polydor (original US label: Reprise)
The US version of Are You Experienced was significantly different than its UK counterpart. For one thing, the original UK album was only available in mono. For the US version, engineers at Reprise Records, working from the original multi-track masters, created all new stereo mixes of about two-thirds of the album, along with all three of the singles that the Jimi Hendrix Experience had released in the UK. The third of these singles was The Wind Cries Mary, which had hit the British charts in February of 1967. When Are You Experienced became available in the UK and Europe, however, they did not use the Reprise mixes, instead using electronic rechannelling to create a simulated stereo sound. When Polydor decided that the band was taking too long on their third album, Electronic Ladyland, the label put together a late 1967 release called Smash Hits that collected the band's four European singles and B sides, along with selected album tracks from Are You Experienced, using the "fake" stereo mixes rather than the Reprise versions.
Artist: Swingin' Medallions
Title: Double Shot (Of My Baby's Love)
Source: Mono CD: Nuggets-Original Artyfacts From The First Psychedelic Era (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Rhino (original label: 4-Sale)
The Swingin' Medallions, from tiny Greenwood, South Carolina, scored a hit that was almost as popular in frat houses as Louie Louie. The song, Double Shot (Of My Baby's Love), was recorded in Muscle Shoals, Alabama and was released locally on the 4-Sale label. The song was re-released nationally in 1966 on Mercury's subsidiary label, Smash Records, becoming a national hit.
Artist: Shadows Of Knight
Title: Bad Little Woman
Source: Mono CD: Dark Sides (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Rhino (original label: Dunwich)
Originally recorded by an Irish R&B band called the Wheels, Bad Little Woman was the third single from the Chicago area's premier garage/punk band, the Shadows Of Knight. The group had previously scored big with their cover of Van Morrison's Gloria, taking the song to the top of the Chicago charts and into the top 10 nationally. The group's second single, a cover of Bo Diddley's Oh Yeah, had managed to make the US top 40 charts, but Bad Little Woman ended up stalling out at #91. Nonetheless, the track stands as one of the loudest and raunchiest examples of garage rock ever recorded, especially on the choruses, which were mastered about five decibels louder than the verses.
Artist: Rolling Stones
Title: Let's Spend The Night Together
Source: CD: Between The Buttons
Label: Abkco (original label: London)
I seem to recall some TV show (Ed Sullivan, maybe?) making Mick Jagger change the words to "Let's Spend Some Time Together". I can't imagine anyone doing that to the Stones now. Nor can I imagine the band responding to such a request with anything but derisive laughter.
Artist: Blue Cheer
Title: Summertime Blues
Source: CD: The Best Of 60s Psychedelic Rock (originally released on LP: Vincebus Eruptum)
Label: Priority (original label: Philips)
European electronics giant Philips had its own record label in the 1960s. In the US, the label was distributed by Mercury Records, and was known primarily for a long string of hits by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. In 1968 the label surprised everyone by signing the loudest band in San Francisco, Blue Cheer. Their cover of the 50s Eddie Cochrane hit Summertime Blues was all over both the AM and FM airwaves that summer.
Artist: Pleasure (featuring Billy Elder)
Title: Poor Old Organ Grinder
Source: CD: Where The Action Is: L.A. Nuggets 1965-68 (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer: Tandyn Almer
Label: Rhino (original label: Tower)
Tandyn Almer had one of the most innovative minds in late 60s L.A., both in and out of the recording studio (he was the inventor of the dual-chamber bong, for instance). Poor Old Organ Grinder was a song originally intended for Tommy Flanders, the original lead vocalist for the Blues Project. Flanders, however, was not able to hit the high notes. As Almers was about to cancel the entire project one of the recording engineers, Billy Elder, convinced Almer to let him take a shot at the song, and the result is the recording heard here.
Artist: Stephen Stills
Title: To A Flame
Source: LP: Stephen Stills
Writer(s): Stephen Stills
Following the success of the Deja Vu album, Atlantic Records gave each of the members of Crosby, Still, Nash & Young (except for Neil Young, who was under contract to Reprise Records at the time) the chance to record solo albums. Stephen Stills' self-titled album was probably the most commercially successful of the three, and featured the talents of several guest artists, including Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr and John Sebastian. Not all of the songs on the LP got a lot of airplay, however. I don't ever recall hearing To A Flame on the radio, so, of course, I'm playing it on this week's show.
Artist: Big Brother And The Holding Company
Source: CD: Cheap Thrills
Janis Joplin, on the 1968 Big Brother And The Holding Company album Cheap Thrills, sounds like she was born to sing Gershwin's Summertime. Maybe she was.
Title: Topanga Windows
Source: CD: Spirit
Writer: Jay Ferguson
Ed Cassidy had already made a name for himself on the L.A. jazz scene when he married the mother of guitarist Randy California. He soon started jamming with his teenage stepson's friends, leading to the formation of a band initially known as Spirits Rebellious (but soon shortened to Spirit), one of the first rock bands to heavily incorporate jazz elements in their music. The majority of the songs on the group's self-title first album were written by lead vocalist Jay Ferguson, who would eventually leave the group to co-found Jo Jo Gunne and in recent years has been a soundtrack composer for movies and TV shows, including the theme song of the US TV show The Office.
Artist: Box Tops
Title: Cry Like A Baby
Source: CD: The Best Of 60s Supergroups (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Priority (original label: Mala)
The Box Tops' second top 5 single, Cry Like A Baby, was the result of an all-night songwriting session. The band's producer, Dan Penn, was under pressure from the record company to come up with a follow up hit to The Letter, and asked his friend Spooner Oldham for help writing a song. The session, though long, was unproductive, and the two decided to call it a night and have breakfast at a cafe across the street. During the course of the conversation, Oldham expressed his frustration, saying "I could just cry like a baby." Penn decided then and there that Cry Like A Baby would be the title of the song and by the time the left the restaurant they had the first verse written. When Box Tops vocalist Alex Chilton showed up later that morning the two songwriters played him a demo of the new tune that they had made and the rest is history.
Title: Nobody Loves You When You're Down And Out
Source: British import CD: Now And Them
Writer(s): Jimmie Cox
Label: Rev-Ola (original US label: Tower)
The artist that comes to mind when I see the title of this Jimmy Cox tune is, of course, Eric Clapton, who included it on the Derek and the Dominos Layla album. This version of Nobody Loves You When You're Down And Out, featuring vocalist Kenny McDowell, actually predates Clapton's by a couple years.
Title: Young Woman
Source: LP: Time Out! Time In! For Them
Time Out! Time In! For Them is an overlooked classic of the psychedelic era. Featuring compositions by the husband and wife team of Tom Pulley and Vivian Lane (such as Young Woman, a song that touches on a somewhat familiar theme of the time), the album showcases the vocal talents of Kenny McDowell, who had the unenviable task of replacing Van Morrison in Ireland's premier rock band.
Title: I Happen To Love You
Source: Simulated stereo British import CD: Now And Them (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Label: Rev-Ola (original US label: Ruff)
Following the departure of frontman Van Morrison in June of 1966, the remaining members of Them returned to Belfast, where they recruited Kenny McDowell, formerly of a band called the Mad Lads, who had in fact opened for Them on several occasions. With no record deal, however, the band was at a loss as to what to do next; the solution came in the form of a recommendation from Carol Deck, editor of the California-based magazine The Beat, which led to the band relocating to Amarillo, Texas, where they cut a single for the local Scully label. The follow up single, released on Ruff Records, was a tune called Walking In The Queen's Garden that came to the attention of the people at Capitol Records, who reissued the single on their Tower subsidiary. Within a month the record company had issued a promo version of the single that shifting the emphasis to the original B side, a Gerry Goffin/Carole King collaboration called I Happen To Love You that had been previously recorded by the Electric Prunes, but not issued as a single. This led to Now And Them, the first of two albums the band released on the Tower label in 1968. A fake stereo mix was created specifically for the LP.
Title: Inside Looking Out
Source: Simulated stereo LP: The Best Of Eric Burdon And The Animals-Vol. II (originally released as 45 RPM single)
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: Electric Prunes
Source: Mono CD: Where The Action Is: L.A. Nuggets 1965-68 (originally released on LP: Underground)
Label: Rhino (original label: Reprise)
After the moderately successful first Electric Prunes album, producer David Hassinger loosened the reigns a bit for the followup, Underground. Among the original tunes on Underground was Hideaway, a song that probably would have been a better choice as a single than what actually got released: a novelty tune called Dr. Feelgood written by Annette Tucker and Nancie Mantz, who had also written the band's first hit, I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night).
Artist: Arlo Guthrie
Title: Motorcycle Song (Significance Of The Pickle)
Source: The Best Of Arlo Guthrie
Writer(s): Arlo Guthrie
Label: Warner Brothers
To be honest, I am not sure when this particular recording was made. Arlo Guthrie originally recorded the Motorcycle Song for his 1967 debut album, Alice's Restaurant. The first live recording of the song was released the following year on the LP Arlo. However, his reference to having been performing the song for twelve years makes me think this is a mid-seventies performance. It's even possible that the greatest hits album, issued in 1977, was the first time this particular performance was released.
Artist: Arlo Guthrie
Title: Coming Into Los Angeles
Source: CD: The Best of Arlo Guthrie (originally released on LP: Running Down The Road)
Writer: Arlo Guthrie
Label: Warner Brothers (original label: Rising Son)
Completing our double dose of Arlo Guthrie we have a song that he played live at Woodstock. The original Woodstock album, however, subsituted this studio version for the live performance. This was probably done at Guthrie's request, as several of the performers expressed dissatisfaction with the recordings made at the festival, either due to problems with the sound system or, in some cases, the performances themselves. This is understandable given the adverse conditions many of them had to deal with (rain, audio problems, lack of sleep, etc.).
Title: Roadhouse Blues
Source: CD: Morrison Hotel
Writer(s): Morrison/The Doors
After getting less than favorable reviews for their fourth LP, The Soft Parade, the Doors decided to go back to their roots for 1970s Morrison Hotel. One of the many bluesier tunes on the album was Roadhouse Blues, a song that soon became a staple of the group's live performances.
Title: My Eyes Have Seen You
Source: LP: Strange Days
Writer(s): The Doors
It's strange. Some reviewers seem to think that the album Strange Days is inferior to the first Doors album. They justify this view by citing the fact that almost all the songs on both albums were already in the band's repertoire when they signed their record contract with Elektra. The implication is that the band naturally selected the best material for the first album, making Strange Days a collection of sloppy seconds. There is one small problem with this theory however. Pick a song at random from Strange Days and listen to it and in all likelihood it will sound every bit as good as a song randomly picked from the first album (and probably better than one picked from either of the Doors' next two LPs). In fact, I'll pick one for you: My Eyes Have Seen You. See what I mean?
Title: The Spy
Source: CD: Morrison Hotel
Writer(s): Jim Morrison
As the 1960s drew to a close, the Doors, who had been riding high since 1967, were at a low point. In fact, it could be argued that the last few months of 1969 were the worst in the band's career. Vocalist Jim Morrison had been arrested for indecent exposure for exposing himself onstage in Miami the previous March. This had resulted in the cancellation of over two dozen performances as well as a sizable number of radio stations refusing to play their records. In June, the band released their fourth album, The Soft Parade, which was critically panned for its overuse of horns and strings. The album was also the first to give individual members of the band songwriting credits (previously all songwriting credits were shared by the four band members). This was brought about by Morrison's wish to distance himself from the lyrics of the album's opening track, Tell All The People, which had been written by guitarist Robby Krieger. Adding to the problems, Morrison had been arrested for causing a disturbance on an airplane and charged under a new hijacking law that carried a fine up of to $10,000 and ten years in prison. In November, the Doors started work on their fifth album, to be called Morrison Hotel (with the second side subtitled Hard Rock Cafe). After the poor reception of The Soft Parade the band decided to take a back to basics approach. One thing that did not change, however, was the policy of band members taking individual song credits. Thus, we have songs like The Spy (originally called Spy In The House Of Love), which was inspired by Morrison's fiery relationship with his longtime girlfriend Pamela Coulson. Morrison Hotel would end up being a turning point for the Doors; their next LP, L.A. Woman, is universally considered one of their best.
Title: I'm A Man
Source: Mono Australian import CD: Over, Under, Sideways, Down (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Elias McDaniel
Label: Raven (original label: Epic)
For many, the Yardbirds version of I'm a Man is the definitive version of this Bo Diddley classic. Oddly enough, the song was released as a single only in the US, where it made it into the top 10 in 1965.
Artist: Count Five
Title: Psychotic Reaction
Source: Mono CD: Love Is The Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-70 (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Rhino (original label: Double Shot)
San Jose, California, had a vibrant teen music scene in the late 60s, despite the fact that the relatively small city was overshadowed by San Francisco at the other end of the bay (both cities are considered part of the same metropolitan market). One of the more popular bands in town was this group of five individuals who chose to dress up like Bela Lugosi's Dracula, capes and all. Musically, they idolized the Yardbirds (Jeff Beck era), and for slightly more than three minutes managed to sound more like their idols than the Yardbirds themselves (who by then had replaced Beck with Jimmy Page).
Artist: McKendree Spring
Title: No Regrets
Source: LP: McKendree Spring (promo copy)
Writer(s): McKendree Spring
From Glens Falls, NY, McKendree Spring was one of the last folk-rock groups to begin their recording career, and (to my knowledge) the only one to use synthesizers. The band, consisting of Fran McKendree (vocals and guitar), Fred Holman (bass), Dr. Michael Dreyfuss (electric violin, viola, Moog, Arp), and Martin Slutsky (electric guitar) kept recording steadily through 1976, and reunited for an album of new material in 2007. No Regrets is from their somewhat rare first album, released in 1969.
Title: Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Lady
Source: CD: Love Is The Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-70 (originally released on LP: Sea Train)
Label: Rhino (original label: Edsel)
Following the breakup of the Blues Project, two of the members, bassist/flautist Andy Kuhlberg and drummer Roy Blumenthal, relocated to San Francisco. They hooked up with Richard Greene (violin, keyboards, viola, vocals), John Gregory (guitar, vocals), Don Kretmar (bass, saxophone) and vocalist Jim Roberts to form Seatrain. Their first album, Sea Train, appeared in 1969 on the obscure Edsel label.
Artist: Mamas And The Papas
Title: California Dreamin'
Source: LP: If You Believe Your Eyes And Ears (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): John Phillips
California Dreamin' was written in 1963 by John Phillips, who along with his wife Michelle was living in New York City at the time. The two of them were members of a folk group called the New Journeymen that would eventually become The Mamas And The Papas. Phillips initially gave the song to his friend Barry McGuire to record, but McGuire's version failed to chart. Not long after that McGuire introduced Philips to Lou Adler, president of Dunhill Records who quickly signed The Mamas And The Papas to a recording contract. Using the same instrumental backing track (provided by various Los Angeles studio musicians known as the Wrecking Crew), The Mamas And The Papas recorded new vocals for California Dreamin', releasing it as a single in late 1965. The song took a while to catch on, but eventually peaked in the top five nationally.
Artist: Bob Dylan
Title: Tombstone Blues
Source: CD: Highway 61 Revisited
Writer(s): Bob Dylan
One of the most influential albums in rock history was Bob Dylan's 1965 LP Highway 61 Revisited. Although he had experimented with adding electric guitar, bass and drums to some of the songs on his previous album, Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited was his first LP to feature electric instruments on every track. Of these, the most notable was probably the guitar work of Michael Bloomfield, who would soon come to prominence as lead guitarist for the Butterfield Blues Band. Bloomfield's work is most prominent on blues-based tracks such as Tombstone Blues, which follows the classic Like A Rolling Stone on side one of the original LP.
Artist: Mouse And The Traps
Title: A Public Execution
Source: Mono CD: More Nuggets (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Rhino (original label: Fraternity)
It's easy to imagine some kid somewhere in Texas inviting his friends over to hear the new Bob Dylan record, only to reveal afterwards that it wasn't Dylan at all, but this band he heard while visiting his cousins down in Tyler. Speaking of cousins, A Public Execution was inspired by a misunderstanding concerning a cousin and a motorcycle ride. According to Ronnie "Mouse" Weiss, his fiancee actually broke up with him after getting word that Mouse had been seen giving an attractive girl a ride. It turned out the attractive girl in question was his cousin from across the state who had come for a visit, but by the time the truth came out Weiss and his band had their first of many regional hit records.
Title: Too Many People
Source: Simulated stereo LP: Nuggets Vol. 2-Punk (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Rhino (original label: Mira)
The Leaves are a bit unusual in that in a city known for drawing wannabes from across the world, this local band's members were all native L.A.ins. Formed by members of a fraternity at Cal State Northridge, the Leaves had their greatest success when they took over as house band at Ciro's after the Byrds vacated the slot to go on tour. Like many bands of the time, they were given a song to record as a single by their producer (Love Minus Zero) and allowed to write their own B side. In this case that B side was Too Many People, written by bassist Jim Pons and guitarist Bill Rhinehart. The song ended up getting more airplay on local radio stations than Love Minus Zero, making it their first regional hit. The Leaves had their only national hit the following year with their third attempt at recording the fast version of Hey Joe, the success of which led to their first LP, which included a watered down version of Too Many People. The version heard here is the 1965 original. Eventually Pons would leave the Leaves, hooking up first with the Turtles, then Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention.