Monday, May 21, 2018
Stuck in the Psychedelic Era # 1821 (starts 5/23/18)
Relatively speaking, this week's show is pretty mainstream. Of course, "pretty mainstream" for Stuck in the Psychedelic Era is still pretty far out there.
Artist: Jefferson Airplane
Title: Bringing Me Down
Source: LP: Jefferson Airplane Takes Off (also released as 45 RPM single)
Label: RCA Victor
One of several singles released mainly to San Francisco Bay area radio stations and record stores, Bringing Me Down is an early collaboration between vocalist Marty Balin and guitarist/vocalist Paul Kantner. Balin had invited Kantner into the band without having heard him play a single note. It turned out to be one of many right-on-the-money decisions by the young bandleader.
Artist: Buffalo Springfield
Title: Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing
Source: Mono CD: Retrospective (originally released as 45 RPM single and on LP: Buffalo Springfield)
Writer(s): Neil Young
One of the most influential folk-rock bands to come out of the L.A. scene was Buffalo Springfield. The band had several quality songwriters, including Neil Young, whose voice was deemed "too weird" by certain record company people. Thus we have Richie Furay singing a Young tune on the band's first single, Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing.
Title: Hungry Women
Source: British import CD: With Love-A Pot Of Flowers (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Wesley Watt
Label: Big Beat (original label: Mainstream)
Euphoria was the brainchild of multi-instrumentalists Wesley Watt and Bill Lincoln. The band existed in various incarnations, starting in 1966. Originally based in San Francisco, the group, minus Lincoln, relocated to Houston in early summer of 1966, only to return a couple months later with a pair of new members pirated from a band called the Misfits that had gotten in trouble with local law enforcement officials. Around this time they were discovered by Bob Shad, who was out on the west coast looking for acts to sign to his Chicago-based Mainstream label. The band recorded four songs at United studios, two of which, Hungry Women and No Me Tomorrow, were issued as a single in late 1966. The following year both songs appeared in stereo on Shad's Mainstream showcase LP With Love-A Pot Of Flowers, along with tunes from several other Bay Area acts that Shad had signed in 1966.
Artist: Strawberry Alarm Clock
Title: The World's On Fire
Source: LP: Incense And Peppermints
So you think because you've heard Incense And Peppermints (the song, not the album) about a million times, you have a pretty good grip on what the Strawberry Alarm Clock was all about? Well, a listen to the opening track of their first LP (also titled Incense And Peppermints) will disabuse you of that notion in a hurry. Running well over eight minutes in length, The World's On Fire is essentially an extended jam showcasing the talents of the band itself. The piece was also included in the 1968 film Psych-Out.
Artist: First Edition
Title: Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)
Source: CD: Even More Nuggets (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer: Mickey Newbury
Label: Rhino (original label: Reprise)
In 1968, former New Christy Mistrels members Kenny Rogers and Mike Settle decided to form a psychedelic rock band, the First Edition. Although Settle wrote most of the songs on the first album, it was Rogers who would emerge as the star of the group, even to the point of eventually changing the band's name to Kenny Rogers and the First Edition. That change reflected a shift from psychedelic to country flavored pop that would eventually propel Rogers to superstar status.
Title: Hall Of The Mountain King
Source: CD: The Who Sell Out (bonus track)
Writer(s): Edvard Greig
In the early 1960s various local instrumental rock and roll bands began to mix rocked out versions of classical pieces into their sets, such as Nut Rocker by B. Bumble And The Stingers (from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker). In the UK the most popular of these adaptations was Hall Of The Mountain King, from Greig's Peer Gynt Suite, which was actually recorded by several different bands. The Who did their own studio version of the piece in late 1967, although the recording was not released until 1995, as a bonus track on The Who Sell Out CD.
Title: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band/With A Little Help From My Friends
Source: LP: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
One of the first tracks recorded for the album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was the title track itself, which opens up side one of the LP. The following song, With A Little Help From My Friends (tentatively titled Bad Finger Boogie at the time), was recorded nearly two months later, yet the two sound like one continuous performance. In fact, it was this painstaking attention to every facet of the recording and production process that made Sgt. Pepper's such a landmark album. Whereas the first Beatle album took 585 minutes to record, Sgt. Pepper's took over 700 hours. At this point in the band's career, drummer Ringo Starr was generally given one song to sing (usually written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney) on each of the group's albums. Originally, these were throwaway songs such as I Wanna Be Your Man (which was actually written for the Rolling Stones), but on the previous album, Revolver, the biggest hit on the album ended up being the song Ringo sang, Yellow Submarine. Although no singles were released from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, With A Little Help From My Friends received considerable airplay on top 40 radio and is one of the most popular Beatle songs ever recorded.
Source: CD: Abbey Road
Take Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. Turn a few notes around, add some variations and write some lyrics. Add the Beatles' unmistakeable multi-part harmonies and you have John Lennon's Because, from the Abbey Road album. A simply beautiful recording.
Title: She's Leaving Home
Source: LP: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
One of the striking things about the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is the sheer variety of songs on the album. Never before had a rock band gone so far beyond its roots in so many directions at once. One of Paul McCartney's most poignant songs on the album was She's Leaving Home. The song tells the story of a young girl who has decided that her stable homelife is just too unfulling to bear and heads for the big city. Giving the song added depth is the somewhat clueless response of her parents, who can't seem to understand what went wrong.
Artist: Electric Prunes
Title: Ain't It Hard
Source: Mono CD: I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night) (bonus track originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Collector's Choice/Rhino (original label: Reprise)
The Electric Prunes got their big break in 1966 when a real estate saleswoman heard them playing in a garage in L.A.'s San Fernando Valley and told her friend Dave Hassinger about them. Hassinger was a successful studio engineer (having just finished the Rolling Stones' Aftermath album) who was looking to become a record producer. The Prunes were his first clients, and Hassinger's production style is evident on their debut single. Ain't It Hard had already been recorded by the Gypsy Trips, and the Electric Prunes would move into more psychedelic territory with their next release, the iconic I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night).
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: Blue Cheer
Title: Out Of Focus
Source: Dutch import LP: Vincebus Eruptum
Writer: Dickie Peterson
With the possible exception of the Grateful Dead (when they were using the Owsley-designed sound system), the loudest band to come out of San Francisco was Blue Cheer. The album Vincebus Eruptum, highlighted by the band's feedback-drenched version of Eddie Cochrane's Summertime Blues, is considered by some to be the first heavy metal album ever recorded. Out Of Focus, which opens side 2 of the LP, was issued as the B side of Summertime Blues and got some airplay on college radio at the time.
Artist: Led Zeppelin
Title: How Many More Times
Source: LP: Homer (soundtrack) (originally released on LP: Led Zeppelin)
Label: Cotillion (original label: Atlantic)
Like many early Led Zeppelin songs, How Many More Times was originally credited to the band members (except, for contractual reasons, singer Robert Plant). More recent releases of the song, however, list Chester Burnett (Howlin' Wolf) as a co-writer, despite the fact that he and the members of Led Zeppelin had never met. This is because of the similarity, especially in the lyrics, to a 1951 Howlin' Wolf record called How Many More Years. The band reportedly tried to trick radio programmers into playing the eight and a half minute song by listing it on the album cover as being three minutes and thirty seconds long. I doubt anyone was fooled.
Title: Boom Boom
Source: LP: The Animals On Tour
Writer(s): John Lee Hooker
One of the highlights of the Animals' first UK album was their energetic rendition of John Lee Hooker's Boom Boom. The performance was so strong, in fact, that M-G-M chose to release the song as a single in early 1965. This was followed by a US-only album called The Animals On Tour that featured the tune as its opening track. Despite the title, The Animals On Tour was not a live album. Rather, it was a collection of blues and R&B cover songs, many of which were learned from records acquired by the band members at local record stores during their 1964 US tour (thus the album title).
Title: Can't Explain
Source: Mono CD: Love Story (originally released on LP: Love)
Love's original lineup consisted of bandleader Arthur Lee on vocals, Johnny Echols on lead guitar, John Fleckenstein on bass and Don Conka on drums, with Lee, a prolific songwriter, providing the band's original material. They were soon joined by singer/songwriter/guitarist Bryan MacLean, who gave up his traveling gig as a roadie for the Byrds. Before they completed their first album, however, Fleckenstein and Conka had been replaced by Ken Forssi and Snoopy Pfisterer, although Lee himself provided most of the drums and some of the bass tracks on the LP. Two of the tracks on the album, however, are rumored to have been performed by the original five members, although this has never been verified. One of those tracks is Can't Explain, on which Fleckenstein has a writing credit. The song is certainly one of the band's earliest recordings and captures Love's hard-edged "L.A.-in" take on folk-rock.
Title: Randy Scouse Git
Source: CD: Headquarters
Label: Rhino (original label: Colgems)
The original concept for the Monkees TV series was that the band would be shown performing two new songs on each weekly episodes. This meant that, even for an initial 13-week order, 26 songs would have to be recorded in a very short amount of time. The only way to meet that deadline was for several teams of producers, songwriters and studio musicians to work independently of each other at the same time. The instrumental tracks were then submitted to musical director Don Kirschner, who brought in Mickey Dolenz, Davy Jones, Peter Tork and Michael Nesmith to record vocal tracks. Although some of the instrumental tracks, such as those produced by Nesmith, had Nesmith and Tork playing on them, many did not. Some backing tracks were even recorded in New York at the same time as the TV show was being taped in L.A. In a few cases, the Monkees themselves did not hear the songs until they were in the studio to record their vocal tracks. A dozen of these recordings were chosen for release on the first Monkees LP in 1966, including the hit single Last Train To Clarksville. When it became clear that the show was a hit and a full season's worth of episodes would be needed, Kirschner commissioned even more new songs (although by then Clarksville was being featured in nearly every episode, mitigating the need for new songs somewhat). Without the band's knowledge Kirschner issued a second album, More Of The Monkees, in early 1967, using several of the songs recorded specifically for the TV show. The band members were furious, and the subsequent firestorm resulted in the removal of Kirschner from the entire Monkees project. The group then hired Turtles bassist Chip Douglas to work with the band to produce an album of songs that the Monkees themselves would both sing and play on. The album, Headquarters, spent one week at the top of the charts before giving way to the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. There were, however, no singles released from the album; at least not in the US. It turns out that the seemingly nonsensical title of the album's final track, Randy Scouse Git, was actually British slang for "horny guy from Liverpool", or something along those lines. The song was released everywhere but the continental US under the name Alternate Title and was a surprise worldwide hit.
Artist: Tommy James And The Shondells
Title: Mony Mony
Source: CD: Billboard Top Rock 'N' Roll Hits-1968 (originally released as45 RPM single)
Sometime around 1964, a kid named Tommy James took his band, the Shondells, into a recording studio to record a simple song called Hanky Panky. The song was released on the Roulette label and went absolutely nowhere. Two years later a Pittsburgh DJ, looking for something different to make his show stand out from the crowd, decided to dig out a copy of the record and play it as a sort of on-air audition. The audience loved it, and the DJ soon contacted James, inviting him and the Shondells to make a personal appearance. Unfortunately by this time there were no Shondells, so James hastily put together a new band to promote the record. It wasn't long before the word spread and Hanky Panky was a national hit. James and his new Shondells then commenced to pretty much single-handedly keep Roulette Records afloat for the next three or four years with songs like their 1968 jukebox favorite Mony Mony, one of many top 10 singles for the band.
Artist: Neil Young/Crazy Horse
Title: Cinnamon Girl
Source: LP: Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
Writer(s): Neil Young
My favorite Neil Young song has always been Cinnamon Girl. I suspect this is because the band I was in the summer after I graduated from high school used an amped-up version of the song as our show opener (imagine Cinnamon Girl played like I Can See For Miles and you get a general idea of how it sounded). If we had ever recorded an album, we probably would have used that arrangement as our first single. I finally got to see Neil Young perform the song live (from the 16th row even) with Booker T. and the MGs as his stage band in the mid-1990s. It was worth the wait.
Title: Snowblind Friend
Source: CD: Born To Be Wild-A Retrospective (originally released on LP: Steppenwolf 7)
Writer(s): Hoyt Axton
Label: MCA (original label: Dunhill)
One of the most popular tracks from the first Steppenwolf album was a Hoyt Axton tune called The Pusher. For their next few albums the group wrote most of their own material, but included another Axton tune, Snowblind Friend, on their seventh LP. Although not released as a single, the tune did well on progressive rock radio stations, and is generally considered one of their better tunes from 1970. The band had gone through a few personnel changes by that point, and the song features new members Larry Byrom (guitar) and George Biondo (bass), both of which had been members of a band called T.I.M.E. before replacing Michael Monarch and Nick St. Nicholas in Steppenwolf.
Title: Mother's Lament
Source: CD: Disraeli Gears
Writer: Trad. Arr. Cream
Label: Polydor (original US label: Atco)
The shortest-ever Cream recording was an old English drinking song called Mother's Lament. Vocals on the song were led by drummer Ginger Baker, and the track was chosen to close out the Disraeli Gears album. By one of those odd coincidences of the music industry, the album was issued in Europe on the Polydor label (as were many cutting-edge bands of the time, including the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Procol Harum and the Who), which at the time did not issue records in the US. By the late 1980s, however, Polydor was well established in the US and all the Cream albums on Compact Disc were released under the Polydor imprint.
Source: CD: Younger Than Yesterday
One of the earliest collaborations between Byrds songwriters David Crosby and Roger McGuinn was the up-tempo raga rocker Why. The song was first recorded at RCA studios in Los Angeles in late 1965 as an intended B side for Eight Miles High, but due to the fact that the band's label, Columbia, refused to release recordings made at their main rival's studios, the band ended up having to re-record both songs at Columbia's own studios in early 1966. Although the band members felt the newer versions were inferior to the 1965 recordings, they were released as a single in March of 1966. Later that year, for reasons that are still unclear, Crosby insisted the band record a third version of Why, and that version was used for the band's next LP, Younger Than Yesterday.
Artist: Spencer Davis Group
Title: I'm A Man
Source: 45 RPM single
Label: United Artists
The Spencer Davis Group, featuring Steve and Muff Winwood, was one of the UK's most successful white R&B bands of the sixties, cranking out a steady stream of hit singles. Two of them, the iconic Gimme Some Lovin' and I'm A Man, were also major hits in the US, the latter being the last song to feature the Winwood brothers. Muff Winwood became a successful record producer. The group itself continued on for several years, but were never able to duplicate their earlier successes. As for Steve Winwood, he quickly faded off into obscurity, never to be heard from again. Except as the leader of Traffic. And a member of Blind Faith. And Traffic again. And some critically-acclaimed collaborations in the early 1980s with Asian musicians. Oh yeah, and a few major solo hits like Higher Love and Roll With It in the late 80s. Other than that, nothing.
Artist: Ultimate Spinach
Title: (Ballad Of The) Hip Death Goddess
Source: LP: Ultimate Spinach
Writer(s): Ian Bruce-Douglas
Ultimate Spinach was the brainchild of Ian Bruce-Douglas, who wrote and arranged all the band's material. Although the group had no hit singles, some tracks, such as (Ballad of the) Hip Death Goddess received a significant amount of airplay on progressive "underground" FM stations. The recording has in more recent years been used by movie producers looking to invoke a late 60s atmosphere.
Artist: Pink Floyd
Title: Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun
Source: CD: A Saucerful of Secrets
Writer(s): Roger Waters
Label: EMI (original label: Tower)
With mental illness pretty much taking Sid Barrett out of the Pink Floyd equation by 1968, the other members of the band stepped up their own songwriting for the band's second LP, A Saucerful Of Secrets. Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun, a Roger Waters composition, is the only Pink Floyd recording to have both Barrett and his replacement, David Gilmour (who sings the lead vocal on the track), playing guitar parts and was considered strong enough to be included on the Works compilation album in the early 80s. A Saucerful Of Secrets is the only Pink Floyd album that failed to chart in the US, due in part to it being released on Capitol's Tower subsidiary, which was generally regarded as a tax writeoff by the Capitol bigwigs and thus received virtually no promotional help from the parent company.
Artist: Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title: Gypsy Eyes
Source: 45 RPM single B side
Writer: Jimi Hendrix
Among the many ways that Jimi Hendrix was an innovator was in his approach to studio recordings. Whereas previous artists had concentrated on their mono mixes, with the stereo versions often done almost as an afterthought, Hendrix instead saw stereo mixing as fertile ground for creative experimentation. By the time of Electric Ladyland he was doing only stereo mixes; the mono mix heard here is a simple recombining of the two channels rather than a seperate dedicated mix.
Artist: United States of America
Title: Hard Coming Love
Source: LP: The United States of America
Following the success of the Monterey International Pop Festival and the wave of new San Francisco bands such as the Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead, Columbia Records chief Clive Davis set out to corner the market on counter-culture rock artists. Among those signed were Taj Mahal, Sly and the Family Stone, Moby Grape, the Chambers Brothers, Laura Nyro and this group of L.A. avant-garde artists who had decided to become rock musicians, despite none of them having any sort of rock 'n' roll background. Led by pioneer performance artist Joseph Byrd and fronted by vocalist Dorothy Moscowitz, the United States of America was one of the first groups to make extensive use of electronics. Byrd was one of the first musicians to discover that just because something sounds great through an expensive sound system doesn't mean it will still sound good when played through cheap speakers. Unfortunately he didn't learn that until several of the tracks on the group's only LP were recorded and mixed.
Artist: Simon And Garfunkel
Title: Mrs. Robinson
Source: LP: Bookends
Writer(s): Paul Simon
A shortened version of Mrs. Robinson first appeared on the soundtrack for the film The Graduate in 1967, but it wasn't until the Bookends album came out in 1968 that the full four minute version was released.