Sunday, August 12, 2018
Stuck in the Psychedelic Era # 1833 (starts 8/15/18)
This week we have four sequences that start in one year and then work their way backwards through the years one at a time. The first one is a set of album tracks (and one B side) running from 1970 to 1966. From there we have a short second down featuring tracks from 1970-1968 from bands that were desperately hanging on, despite the fact that their best days were long behind them. Between downs we have a special artist's set from the Blues Project, taken from their 1966 Projections album, followed by a third down of singles from 1968-1966. A quick little tune from the Kinks (that hasn't been played on the show since 2010) sets up our longest down, running from 1971 to 1964, and featuring several tracks never heard on Stuck in the Psychedelic Era before this week. That still leaves us with half an hour to fill, though, forcing us to fudge things up a bit. Well, actually Vanilla Fudge, to be specific, with a set of seldom heard tracks from 1968. With just a few minutes left in the show, we go to the favorites stack for the final three songs of the week.
Artist: Janis Joplin
Title: Mercedes Benz
Source: CD: Love Is The Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-70 (originally released on LP: Pearl)
Label: Rhino (original label: Columbia)
Year: Recorded 1970, released 1971
Mercedes Benz was the last song recorded by Janis Joplin in October of 1970. After laying down this vocal track she went home and OD'd on Heroin.
Source: CD: Love Story (originally released on LP: Four Sail)
Writer(s): Arthur Lee
Following the release of Forever Changes, the classic Love lineup made only one more trip to the studio, recording a single that was released in 1968. Not long after that the group disbanded, with a new incarnation of the band making its vinyl debut the following year. Arthur Lee was contractually obligated to provide Elektra Records with one more Love LP even as he began working on tracks for the band's first album for Blue Thumb. As a result, Elektra got the first pick of the songs Lee was working on with his new lineup, including August, which features, in addition to Lee, guitarist Jay Donnellan, bassist Frank Fayad and drummer George Suranovich on what is arguably the hardest rocking tune ever released by a band called Love.
Artist: Moby Grape
Title: Boysenberry Jam
Source: LP: Grape Jam
For their second album, San Francisco's Moby Grape decided to throw in something extra. Instead of a single LP at the standard price, the group added a second album for just a dollar more. This second album, packaged in its own cover, was made up of a series of jam sessions featuring various band members, with a couple of guest artists thrown in. One of the hardest rocking of these was Boysenberry Jam, which features guitarist Jerry Miller, drummer Don Stevenson and bassist Bob Mosley on their usual instruments, along with Skip Spence playing the piano. This was really not all that much of a stretch, given that Spence, normally a guitarist, had been the original drummer of Jefferson Airplane, proving his versatility.
Title: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor
Source: 45 RPM single B side
By 1967 the Yardbirds had moved far away from their blues roots and were on their fourth lead guitarist, studio whiz Jimmy Page. The band had recently picked up a new producer, Mickey Most, known mostly for his work with Herman's Hermits and the original Animals. Most had a tendency to concentrate solely on the band's single A sides, leaving Page an opportunity to develop his own songwriting and production skills on songs such as Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor, a track that also shows signs of Page's innovative guitar style (including an instrumental break played with a violin bow) that would help define 70s rock.
Artist: Blues Magoos
Title: Love Seems Doomed
Source: CD: Kaleidoscopic Compendium (originally released on LP: Psychedelic Lollipop)
Unlike most of the tracks on the Blues Magoos' 1966 Debut LP, Psychedelic Lollipop, Love Seems Doomed is a slow, moody piece with a message. Along with the Paul Revere and the Raiders hit Kicks from earlier that year, Love Seems Doomed is one of the first songs by a rock band to carry a decidedly anti-drug message. While Kicks warned of the addictive qualities of drugs (particularly the phenomenon of the need larger doses of a drug to achieve the same effect over time), Love Seems Doomed focused more on how addiction affects the user's relationships, particularly those of a romantic nature. Love Seems Doomed is also a more subtle song than Kicks, which tends to hit the listener over the head with its message.
Title: Did He Die
Source: Stereo 45 RPM single B side
Writer(s): Sky Saxon
Of the four songs recorded for and released on the M-G-M label by the Seeds in 1970, the B side of the band's final single was arguably the best of the bunch. Did He Die is an anti-war song credited entirely to Sky Saxon, due more, I suspect, to his in your face lyrics than any actual musical contribution he may have made to the song. Still, the record does have flashes of the old Seeds magic, and serves as a fitting epitaph for one of the most iconic bands of the psychedelic era.
Title: Easy When I'm Dead
Source: CD: The Charlatans
Writer(s): Darrell DeVore
Label: One Way (original label: Philips)
1969 was not a great year for the Charlatans, a legendary San Francisco band that had been formed in 1964 and is often credited with creating the so-called San Francisco sound (and being the first band to take LSD prior to a performance when it was still legal). Only two of the original members, guitarist Mike Wilhelm and bassist Richard Olson, were still in the group at this point, and the band's sound was no longer considered anywhere near the cutting edge. Nonetheless, 1969 was the year the group finally got to record their only LP, entitled simply The Charlatans, for Mercury's subsidiary label Philips, which was also home to one of San Francisco's hardest rocking bands, Blue Cheer. Arguably the strongest material on the album was provided by one of the band's new members, keyboardist Darrell DeVore, who wrote Easy When I'm Dead. Predictably, the record was not a commercial success, and after a brief reunion of the original members later in the year, the Charlatans finally called it quits shortly before the beginning of the new decade.
Title: We've All Agreed To Help
Source: British import CD: Time Out! Time In! For Them
Label: Rev-Ola (original US label: tower)
Following the departure of Van Morrison, the remaining members of Them returned temporarily to Northern Ireland to recruit a new lead vocalist, Kenny McDowell, before "permanently" relocating to Los Angeles, California. Once in the Golden State, Them recorded a pair of psychedelically oriented LPs for the Tower label, both released in 1968. The second of these, Time Out! Time In! For Them, primarilly featured songs written by Sharon Pulley and Tom Lane, but there were a few exceptions, such as We've All Agreed To Help, which were credited to the entire band. To be honest,I think the Pulley/Lane tracks are stronger than the band's own material, but I thought you might want to take a listen for yourself.
Artist: Blues Project
Title: Wake Me, Shake Me
Source: LP: Tommy Flanders, Danny Kalb, Steve Katz, Al Kooper, Andy Kuhlberg, Roy Blumenfeld Of The Blues Project (originally released on LP: Projections)
Writer(s): arr. Al Kooper
Label: Verve Forecast
After losing their original lead vocalist, Tommy Flanders, in early 1966, the remaining members of the Blues Project decided to concentrate on their improvisational and songwriting skills, splitting vocal duties between them. Rather than trying to rework the same songs they had been performing with Flanders, they instead began to work up new material, including keyboardist Al Kooper's rock and roll arrangement of an old gospel song, Wake Me, Shake Me. It was this arrangement that appeared on the group's next LP, Projections.
rtist: Blues Project
Title: The Flute Thing
Source: Mono CD: Projections
Writer(s): Al Kooper
Label: Sundazed (original label: Verve Forecast)
The Blues Project was one of the most influential bands in rock history, yet one of the least known. Perhaps the first of the "underground" rock bands, the Project made their name by playing small colleges across the country (including Hobart College, where Stuck in the Psychedelic Era is produced). The Flute Thing, from the band's second album, Projections, features bassist Andy Kuhlberg on flute, with rhythm guitarist Steve Katz taking over the bass playing, joining lead guitarist Danny Kalb and keyboardist Al Kooper for a tune that owes more to jazz artists like Roland Kirk than to anything top 40 rock had to offer at the time.
Artist: Blues Project
Title: Fly Away
Source: LP:Tommy Flanders, Danny Kalb, Steve Katz, Al Kooper, Andy Kuhlberg, Roy Blumenfeld Of The Blues Project (originally released on LP: Projections)
Writer: Al Kooper
Label: Verve Forecast
Al Kooper was a guitarist with some talent (but no professional experience) on keyboards who was already sufficiently connected enough to be allowed in the studio when Bob Dylan was recording his Highway 61 Revisited album. Not content to be merely a spectator (Mike Bloomfield was already there as a guitarist), Kooper noticed that there was an organ in the studio and immediately sat down and started playing on the sessions. Dylan was impressed enough with Kooper's playing to not only include him on the album, but to invite him to perform with him at the upcoming Newport Jazz Festival as well. The gig became probably Dylan's most notorious moment in his career, as several folk purists voiced their displeasure with Dylan's use of electric instruments. Some of them even stormed the stage, knocking over Kooper's keyboards in the process. After the gig Kooper became an in-demand studio musician. It was in this capacity (brought in to play piano by producer Tom Wilson) that he first met Danny Kalb, Andy Kuhlberg, Tommy Flanders, Roy Blumenthal and Steve Katz, who had recently formed the Blues Project and were auditioning for Columbia Records at their New York studios. Kooper had been looking for an opportunity to improve his skills on the keyboards (most of his gigs as a studio musician were for producers hoping to cash in on the "Dylan sound", which he found limiting), and soon joined the band as their full-time keyboardist. In addition to his instrumental contributions to the band, he provided some of their best original material as well. One such tune is Fly Away, from the Projections album (generally considered to be the apex of the Blues Project's studio career).
Artist: Amboy Dukes
Title: Journey To The Center Of The Mind
Source: CD: The Best Of 60s Psychedelic Rock
Detroit was one of the major centers of pop music in the late 60s. In addition to the myriad Motown acts, the area boasted the popular retro-rock&roll band Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, the harder rocking Heard (later known as the Bob Seger System), the anarchistic MC5, and Ted Nugent's outfit, the Amboy Dukes, who scored big in 1968 with Journey To The Center Of The Mind.
Artist: Strawberry Alarm Clock
Source: LP: The Best Of The Strawberry Alarm Clock
The story of the Strawberry Alarm Clock almost seems like a "best of" (or maybe "worst of") collection of things that could have happened to a band during the psychedelic era. Signed with a local label: check. Released single: check. Started getting airplay on local radio stations: check. Record picked up by major label for national distribution: check. Record becomes hit: check. Band gets to record an entire album: check. Album does reasonably well on charts, mostly due to popularity of single: check. Band gets to record second album, but with more creative freedom, thanks to previous successes: check. Single from second album does OK, but nowhere near as OK as first hit single: check. Second album fails to chart: check. Second single from second album charts lower than either previous single. Band soldiers on for a while longer, but never manages to duplicate success of first single: check. Band disbands: check. In the case of the Strawberry Alarm Clock, the hit single was huge. Incense And Peppermints is still one of the best known songs of 1967. The second single, Tomorrow, not so much, although it did indeed make the top 40, peaking at #23. Not that it's a bad song, by any means. But, to be honest, it's no Incense And Peppermints, either.
Artist: Lovin' Spoonful
Title: You Didn't Have To Be So Nice
Source: 45 RPM single (stereo reissue)
Writer: John Sebastian
Label: Buddah (original label: Kama Sutra)
People who advocate for monoraul versions of recordings from the 1960s often cite the unnatural sounding separation between vocals and instruments on stereo recordings. Generally, I don't mind such separation myself, as I am usually sitting equally distant from the speakers and kind of like the illusion of things coming from different points in the stereo field. In the case of the Lovin' Spoonful's second single, You Didn't Have To Be So Nice, I have to side with the mono guys. The main reason is that the mix itself puts more emphasis on the backup vocals than it does on the lead vocals. In fact, the lead vocals are at times barely audible at all. Too bad George Martin didn't get the chance to do a remix on this one when he did the mid-period Beatles albums back in the 1980s.
Title: Harry Rag
Source: CD: Something Else By The Kinks
Writer: Ray Davies
By 1967 the Kinks were starting to feel the effects of a four-year ban on performing in the United States imposed in 1965 by the American Federation of Musicians due to their rowdy onstage behavior. Their last major US hit had been Sunny Afternoon the previous summer, although they continued to have success in their native England. Their 1967 album Something Else was their first LP to be released in stereo, but went virtually unnoticed in the US. The album was produced by Ray Davies, and included a wide variety of songs, including Harry Rag, a tune that could easily have been passed off as an English sea chanty. The Kinks would continue to struggle in the US until 1970, when the international hit Lola put them once again in the spotlight.
Artist: David Bowie
Source: CD: Sound+Vision Sampler (originally released as bonus track on CD reissue of Hunky Dory)
Writer: David Bowie
Year: Recorded 1971, released 1990
When CDs fist started coming out in the mid 1980s, the track lineups were the same as the album versions. One of the first companies to include bonus tracks was Ryko with its Sound+Vision series of remastered David Bowie albums in 1990. Bombers was a 1971 recording that appeared for the first time on the remastered Hunky Dory CD.
Title: Singing Winds, Crying Beasts
Source: European import CD: Pure...Psychedelic Rock (originally released on LP: Abraxas)
Writer(s): Mike Carabello
Label: Sony Music (original label: Columbia)
Mike Carabello, one of the three Santana percussionists, only had one solo songwriting credit on the three LPs he played on. It was a good one, though. Singing Winds, Crying Beasts is the opening track of the second Santana LP, Abraxas. The tune flows so naturally into the next track that it is sometimes considered a long intro to Black Magic Woman, despite the fact that Singing Winds, Crying Beasts is nearly five minutes long.
Title: Torn Between Temptations
Source: German import CD: Turtle Soup
Label: Repertoire (original US label: White Whale)
By 1969 the Turtles, as the only money-making act on While Whale Records, had enough clout to dictate to the label who would produce theirlatest album. They chose Ray Davies of the Kinks, who had recently released an album called The Village Green Preservation Society that the members of the Turtles admired. Davies and the band, however, had entirely different ideas about how the album should sound. When the band members heard Davies first mix they were dismayed to hear almost all of the band's instrumental work buried underneath layers of strings and horns, and insisted that the album be remixed to sound more like, well, the Turtles. As a result, some songs, such as Torn Between Temptations, sound slightly unfinished. The piece itself is a hybrid of styles. On the surface Torn Between Temptations sounds more like a country song than a rock tune. The underlying structure, though, is similar to that of ranchero music, with a change of key between verse and chorus. Lyrically, something seems to be missing, but I can't quite put my finger on what, even after finding a web site with the lyrics written out for me.
Artist: Jade Hexagram
Title: Crushed Purple
Source: British import CD: Love, Poetry and Revolution
Year: Recorded 1968, released 2009
Although perhaps not as well publicized as that of San Francisco or Los Angeles, London had a thriving underground music scene in the late 1960s that was at least the equal of any other similar scene anywhere. In addition to bands that would eventually become major acts (Pink Floyd, T-Rex, Soft Machine and others) there were several other talented groups that never got the break they deserved. One such band was Jade Hexagram. Formed in South Wales, the Hexagram made their share of club appearances before finally getting a chance to cut a demo of original material, including a tune called Crushed Purple, at London's Marquee Studios in early 1968. They were unable to land a record deal, however, and by the end of the year had called it quits.
Title: The Fool On The Hill
Source: British import stereo 45 RPM Extended Play album: Magical Mystery Tour
The Beatles only came up with six new songs for their 1967 telefilm Magical Mystery Tour, enough to fill up only one side of an LP. Rather than use outtakes and B sides to complete the album (which they had done in 1965 for the Help album), the band chose to release the six songs on a two-record 45 RPM Extended Play set, complete with a booklet that included the storyline, lyric sheets and several still photographs from the film itself. Magical Mystery Tour appeared in this form in both the UK and in Europe, while in the US and Canada, Capitol Records instead issued the album in standard LP format, using the band's 1967 singles and B sides to fill up side two. None of the songs from the telefilm were issued as singles, although one, I Am The Walrus, was used as the B side to the Hello Goodbye single. Another song, Fool On The Hill, was covered by Sergio Mendes and Brazil '66, making the US charts in early 1968. By the 1980s, however, the only version of the song still played on the radio was the original Beatles version, with the footage from the Magical Mystery Tour telefilm used as a video on early music TV channels.
Title: Shut Up
Source: German import CD: Black Monk time
Label: Repertoire (original label: Polydor International)
There are a lot of contenders for the title of "first punk rock band". Detroit's MC5 get mentioned often, as do Chicago's Shadows Of Knight. Some give credit to L.A.'s Standells, while others cite Pacific Northwest bands such as the Wailers and the Sonics as being the first true punks. Serious consideration has to be given, however, to a group of five members of the US Army stationed in Frankfurt Germany, who decided to augment their GI haircuts by shaving the centers of their heads and calling themselves the Monks. Vocalist/guitarist Gary Burger, organist Larry Clarke, drummer Roger Johnston, bassist Eddie Shaw and banjoist Dave Day began hitting the trinkhauses (combination bars and dance halls) around the area in 1965, moving up to more visible venues the following year after their Army stint was over (apparently they had all been drafted at around the same time). Their style, unlike other bands of the time, was loud, harsh and direct, with lyrics about death, war and hate rather than the usual love ballads made popular by British bands like the Beatles and Herman's Hermits. This, combined with surprisingly strong musicianship, got them a contract with the German branch of Polydor Records. They released their first single, Complication, early in the year, following it up with an LP, Black Monk Time, that summer. In retrospect, the Monks were too far ahead of their time to be a commercial success, but have come to be highly regarded as forerunners of British punk bands such as the Sex Pistols and the Clash. Shut Up, from Black Monk Time, is just a small sample of what the Monks were all about.
Artist: Crescent Six
Title: And Then
Source: Mono CD: A Heavy Dose Of Lite Psych (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Gregory Ferrera
Label: Arf! Arf! (original label: Rust)
One of the earliest psychedelic tracks was a single called And Then by New Jersey's Crescent Six. Virtually nothing else is known about the record, which was released on New York's Rust Records label.
Artist: Simon And Garfunkel
Title: The Sun Is Burning
Source: LP: Wednesday Morning 3AM
Writer(s): Ian Campbell
The "great folk music scare" (to quote Martin Mull) of the early 60s was centered, for the most part, on traditional American ballads and original compositions by American artists. There was, however, a British folk revival going on at the same time, albeit a bit more underground than its US counterpart. At the forefront of the British folk revival was the Ian Campbell Folk Group, who were well-known for their numerous appearances at various festivals as well as frequent visits to the BBC radio and TV studios. American folk artists Simon And Garfunkel (particularly Simon) were fans of the British folk scene, and so it was surprise that the duo included Campbell's The Sun Is Burning on their own debut LP, Wednesday Morning 3AM, in 1964. In fact, when the album initially failed to generate much interest in the US, Paul Simon relocated to London, recording a solo album there before returning to the States in 1966 and reuniting with Art Garfunkel.
Artist: Vanilla Fudge
Title: The Sky Cried/When I Was A Boy
Source: LP: Renaissance
The first Vanilla Fudge LP, released in 1967, was filled with psychedelicized versions of established hits such as Cher's Bang Bang, the Beatles' Eleanor Rigby and of course, the Supremes' You Keep Me Hangin' On. For their second LP the group went with a concept album built around Sonny and Cher's The Beat Goes On. The group's third LP, Renaissance, finally revealed the band members' abilities as songwriters (although there were still a pair of cover songs on the album). The opening track on the album, The Sky Cried/When I Was A Boy, was written by bassist Tim Bogert and organist/vocalist Mark Stein.
Artist: Vanilla Fudge
Title: Come By Day, Come By Night
Source: 45 RPM B side
Writer(s): Mark Stein
The Vanilla Fudge version of the Supremes' You Keep Me Hangin' On was first released as a single in 1967, but tanked before it could hit the top 60. In 1968 the song was re-released with a different B side and made the top 20. That B side, Come By Day, Come By Night, was written by keyboardist Mark Stein, and was never released on a Vanilla Fudge album. The song is now available on a CD called The Complete Atco Singles.
Artist: Vanilla Fudge
Title: Season of the Witch
Source: LP: Renaissance
Writer: Donovan Leitch
The Vanilla Fudge are generally best remembered for their acid rock rearrangements of hit songs such as You Keep Me Hangin' On, Ticket To Ride and Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down). Their third album, Renaissance, while actually featuring more original material that their previous albums, still included a couple of these cover songs. The best-known of these was this rather spooky (and a little over-the-top) version of Donovan's Season Of The Witch, a song that was also covered by Al Kooper and Stephen Stills the same year on the first Super Session album.
Artist: Buffalo Springfield
Title: For What It's Worth (Stop, Hey What's That Sound)
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 (Stop, Hey What's That Sound). 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: Human Expression
Title: Optical Sound
Source: Mono CD: Nuggets-Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Rhino (original label: Accent)
One thing Los Angeles had become known for by the mid-1960s was its urban sprawl. Made possible by one of the world's most extensive regional freeway systems, the city had become surrounded by suburbs on all sides (except for the oceanfront). Many of these suburbs were (and are) in Orange County, home to Anaheim stadium, Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm. The O.C. was also home to the Human Expression, a band that recorded a trio of well-regarded singles for the Accent label. The second of these was Optical Sound. True to its name, the song utilized the latest technology available to achieve a decidedly psychedelic sound.
Title: Fresh Garbage
Source: CD: The Best Of Spirit (originally released on LP: Spirit)
Writer(s): Jay Ferguson
Label: Epic (original label: Ode)
Much of the material on the first Spirit album was composed by vocalist Jay Ferguson while the band was living in a big house in California's Topanga Canyon outside of Los Angeles. During their stay there was a garbage strike, which became the inspiration for the album's opening track, Fresh Garbage. The song starts off as a fairly hard rocker and suddenly breaks into a section that is pure jazz, showcasing the group's instrumental talents, before returning to the main theme to finish out the track.The group used a similar formula on about half the tracks on the LP, giving the album and the band a distinctive sound right out of the box.