Monday, December 17, 2018

Stuck with a hermit at Yuletide (# 1851) (starts 12/17/18)


    Just about every weekly radio show does a Christmas special this time of year, and for several years now Stuck In the Psychedelic Era has been no exception. There is a problem, though, and that is the unavoidable fact that for the most part the artists featured on Stuck in the Psychedelic Era never had the opportunity (or inclination, for that matter) to record Christmas songs. There are exceptions, of course, and this week you'll hear some of those by Jethro Tull, the Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, the Beach Boys, and others. But, unless I wanted to spend over half the show on Beach Boys Christmas songs (and there are nearly enough of those for an entire show), I knew I would have to take an entirely different approach to selecting the songs. After a couple of years of experimenting around with various approaches I finally decided to just pick out the coolest holiday tracks I could find, regardless of genre or year they were recorded, and have been doing it that way ever since. The addition of our second show, Rockin' in the Days of Confusion, gave me the opportunity to dig even deeper into the Yule (cata)log, adding artists like Bob Seger (with his mid-60s band The Heard), Ike And Tina Turner, The Royal Guardsmen and even Soupy Sales. So get ready to kick back and have a Cool Yule!

Artist:      John Lennon and Yoko Ono
Title:     Happy Xmas (War Is Over)
Source:      CD: Now That's What I Call Christmas (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Lennon/Ono
Label:     Zomba (original label: Apple)
Year:     1971
     Originally intended as an anti-Vietnam War song, John and Yoko's Happy Xmas (War Is Over) has long since acquired classic status and is now one of the most familiar songs of the season. It was first released in the US in December of 1971, but due to a problem with the publisher did not appear in the rest of the world until November of 1972.

Artist:      Beatles
Title:     Christmas Time (Is Here Again)
Source:      CD single: Free As a Bird
Writer(s):    Lennon/McCartney/Harrison/Starkey)
Label:    Apple/Capitol
Year:     Recorded 1966 and 1967, released 19671997
     Every year the Beatles would record a special Christmas message to go out to members of their fan club, and mail it out on what was then known as a floppy disc. This was not the same as a computer floppy disc, however. In fact, the medium the Beatles used eventually came to be known as a flexi-disc, just to keep things from getting any more confusing. Regardless of what you called it, the things tended to wear out after just a few plays and I doubt there are many playable copies of these discs left in the universe. Luckily for us, George Martin had the foresight to hang on to everything the Beatles ever recorded, including this tune, which was chopped up and used for the 1967 Christmas Greeting. When the Beatles Anthology was released in 1997, the piece was included on the Free As a Bird CD single, and we got to hear the song in its uninterrupted entirety for the first time. Included at the end are Christmas greetings from the 1966 fan club disc and a bit of poetry read by John Lennon.

Artist:      Simon And Garfunkel
Title:     Silent Night/7 O'Clock News
Source:      CD: Collected Works (originally released on LP: Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme)
Writer(s):    Gruber/Muhr, arr. Paul Simon   
Label:     Columbia       
Year:     1966
     Simon and Garfunkel's Silent Night/7 O'Clock News is unique for several reasons. The most obvious is that it uses two unrelated recordings to make an ironically chilling point. The first is a rendition of Franz Gruber's Silent Night, with vocals in the center channel and piano only coming from one speaker. As the song progresses a newscast in the other channel slowly gets louder. Eventually the song ends and there is only the news. What's also unusual is that this well-known Christmas carol is not featured on a Christmas album at all; instead it appears as the final track of the duo's 1966 LP Parsley, Sage, Rosemary And Thyme.

Artist:      Simon And Garfunkel
Title:     A Hazy Shade of Winter
Source:      CD: Collected Works (originally released as 45 RPM single and included on LP: Bookends)
Writer:    Paul Simon
Label:     Columbia
Year:     1966
     I wish I could take credit for putting Simon And Garfunkel's Silent Night/7 O'Clock News and A Hazy Shade of Winter back to back. The truth is I don't know who came up with the idea; my best guess is someone from Westwood One radio, as I first heard it done on one of their syndicated programs. Still, it's not a bad idea, and I happened to have a copy of the Westwood One version of the paired tracks, so there it is.

Artist:      Chuck Berry
Title:     Merry Christmas, Baby
Source:      Mono CD: The Chess Box (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer:    Baxter/Moore
Label:     Chess/MCA
Year:     1958
     Chuck Berry did not record too many cover tunes, as he was a prolific songwriter himself. However, for his 1958 Christmas single he cut this tasty version of Charles Brown's "other" Christmas song, Merry Christmas, Baby, originally recorded by Johnny Moore's Three Blazers (with Brown on lead vocal). The B side of Berry's single, Run Rudolph Run, was also a cover song, although the tune has come to be almost exclusively associated with Berry himself.

Artist:    Ike And Tina Turner
Title:    Merry Christmas Baby
Source:    CD: Cool Yule (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer(s):    Baxter/Moore
Label:    Rhino (original label: Warner Brothers)
Year:    1964
    Ike Turner was a talent scout for Chess Records that formed a band called the Kings Of Rhythm in the early 50s, immediately scoring a #1 R&B hit backing Jackie Brenston on a song called Rocket 88. By 1964 he had married Anna Mae Bullock, who changed her name to Tina Turner and began receiving co-billing on Ike's records, such as the 1964 B side, Merry Christmas Baby. Although lyrically the same as the Charles Brown song of the same name, the track is musically worlds away from Brown's slow blues number.

Artist:      Solomon Burke
Title:     Presents For Christmas
Source:      CD: Cool Yule (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Burke/Burke/Burke
Label:    Rhino (original label: Atlantic)
Year:     1966
     Solomon Burke was a staple artist for the Atlantic label at a time when Atlantic itself was being overshadowed by the Stax/Volt labels that it distributed. Nonetheless, Burke had several R&B hits throughout the sixties and was highly respected by his fellow artists. Presents For Christmas captures Burke at his peak in 1966.

Artist:      Jimmy McCracklin
Title:     Christmas Time
Source:      Mono CD: Blue Yule (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer:    Jimmy McCracklin
Label:    Rhino (original label: Art-Tone)
Year:     1961
     Jimmy McCracklin recorded one of the catchiest, yet underplayed, tunes of the 50s when he did The Walk. Christmas Time, from a few years later, actually sounds like beach music. Go figure.

Artist:      James Brown
Title:     Santa Claus, Santa Claus
Source:      CD: Cool Yule (originally released on LP: Soulful Christmas)
Writer(s):    Bobbitt/Jones
Label:     Rhino (original label: King)
Year:     1968
     Few people would ever accuse James Brown of being a blues artist, but this recording of Santa Claus, Santa Claus (sometimes called just Santa Claus) from 1968 shows what it would have sounded like if he was.
   
Artist:      Ed "Cookie" Byrnes
Title:     Yulesville
Source:      CD: Cool Yule (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Galanoy/Olafson/Barker
Label:    Rhino (original label: Warner Brothers)
Year:     1959
     The ABC TV network was a perennial also-ran that was just starting to find a winning formula in the late 50s with shows targeted toward a younger audience. The most popular of these was 77 Sunset Strip, starring Ed "Cookie" Byrnes. He and co-star Connie Stevens, staying in character, cut a hit novelty record called Cookie, Cookie, which played on Cookie's propensity for combing his hair. Byrnes, again in character, followed it up with this hip retelling of the classic poem Twas the Night Before Christmas.

Artist:    Elvis Presley
Title:    Santa Claus Is Back In Town
Source:    45 RPM single (reissue)
Writer(s):    Lieber/Stoller
Label:    RCA Victor
Year:    1957
    Santa Claus Is Back In Town is the opening track on the 1957 LP Elvis' Christmas Album.  The song, written by Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller, was also released that year in the UK as a single, going to the #7 spot on the charts. In the US, however, it remained available only as an album track until 1965, when it was released as a single, going to the #4 spot on the Billboard chart. For the B side, RCA reissued Blue Christmas, which had gone into the top 10 the previous year. The Blue Christmas/Santa Claus Is Back In Town single was certified platinum in 1999.

Artist:    Martels
Title:    Rockin' Santa Claus
Source:    Mono CD: Cool Yule (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Mason/Robinson
Label:    Rhino (original label: Bella)
Year:    1959
    Rock history is littered with one-hit wonders, many of whom only got to release one single. The Martels, however, released only half a single, as the other side of the record was by another artist altogether. They cut Rockin' Santa Claus for the tiny Bella label in San Jose, California in 1959, and were never heard from since.

Artist:      Ray Stevens
Title:     Santa Claus Is Watching You
Source:      45 RPM single
Writer:    Ray Stevens
Label:     Mercury
Year:     1962
     I've mentioned something called the Grab Bag before. Basically, it was a sealed paper bag (sometimes with a clear plastic front) containing four 45 RPM records, generally "cut-outs" that were no longer in print. The one my family bought for Christmas of 1964 had a Sing Along With Mitch Christmas EP in the front. By far the oddest record in the bag was Santa Claus Is Watching You by Ray Stevens, although I seem to remember that version being slightly different than the one heard here. One thing that both versions had in common was the presence of Clyde the Camel from Stevens's first hit, Ahab the Arab.

Artist:      Sonics
Title:     Santa Claus
Source:      Mono CD: Cool Yule (originally released on LP: Merry Christmas)
Writer:    Greg Roslie
Label:     Rhino (original label: Etiquette)
Year:     1965
     The Pacific Northwest was home to several bands that can only be described as proto-punk (think Louie Louie). One of the top bands on the scene up there was the Sonics, who recorded raw hard-driving songs with titles like Psycho, the Witch and Strychnine. Santa Claus is very much in the same vein, making it the punkiest Christmas song of the sixties, if not all time.

Artist:    Bob Seger And The Last Heard
Title:    Sock It To Me Santa
Source:    Mono: Christmas A Go-Go (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Seger/Honaker/Lagassa
Label:    Wicked Cool (original label: Cameo)
Year:    1966
    Years before he was singing that old time rock 'n' roll on his way to Katnandu, Bob Seger led a band called the Last Heard. The band was formed when Seger decided to leave his former band, the Omens, to record a song called East Side Story. The song, released on the local Hideout label, was Seger's first hit, selling about 50,000 copies, mostly in the Detroit area. This led to a deal with Cameo-Parkway Records. The first single released by the band on Cameo was a Christmas tune called Sock It To Me Santa that predates fellow Detroiter Mitch Ryder's Sock It To Me-Baby by a few weeks. Seger, of course, would eventually sign with Capitol Records, changing the name of the band to the Bob Seger System, and later, the Silver Bullet Band.

Artist:      Beach Boys
Title:     Little Saint Nick (stereo single version)
Source:      CD: Beach Boys Ultimate Christmas (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Wilson/Love
Label:    Capitol
Year:     1963
     When the Beach Boys first recorded Little Saint Nick they were the hottest surf music band in the country. A year later Beatlemania had set in, and a new version of Little Saint Nick was recorded for the Beach Boys Christmas Album. The new version put a greater emphasis on the vocals, and much of the original instrumentation was deleted from the arrangement. That is the version that usually gets heard on commercial radio every year. In the mid-70s, Carl Wilson, who by then had stepped into the leader's role formerly held by older brother Brian, pulled out the original 1963 tapes and created a new stereo mix of the song. The instruments have greater prominence in this version and include the distinctive sound of sleighbells that were completely exorcised from the 1964 version.

Artist:    Soupy Sales
Title:    Santa Claus Is Surfin' To Town
Source:    Mono CD: Christmas A Go-Go (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Gillespie/Coots
Label:    Wicked Cool/Reprise
Year:    1963
    Best known as the host of a popular kids' show on TV, Soupy Sales cut this bit of weirdness for the Reprise label in 1963. Need I say more?

Artist:      Eartha Kitt
Title:     Santa Baby
Source:      Mono CD: Billboard Greatest Christmas Hits 1935-1954 (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Javits/Springer/Springer
Label:     Rhino (original label: RCA Victor)
Year:     1953
     Eartha Kitt has one of the most unique voices in the history of jazz, and put it to good use on the original 1953 version of Santa Baby, a tune that has unfortunately in recent years become associated with Madonna. Kitt continued to perform with nearly as much energy as she had in the 50s right up to her death on Christmas Day, 2008.

Artist:      Rufus Thomas
Title:     I'll Be Your Santa Baby
Source:      Mono CD: Christmas A Go-Go (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer:    Thomas/Roberts
Label:     Wicked Cool (original label: Stax)
Year:     1973
     Rufus Thomas had a long and storied career going back to the 1950s, first with Bear Cat, an answer song to Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller's Hound Dog, and later with his own series of "dog" hits (Walking the Dog being the most famous). By the mid-1960s he was an important member of the Stax/Volt stable of artists, where his daughter Carla was making a name for herself with hits like B-A-B-Y and (with Otis Redding) Tramp. After Stax severed its distribution deal with Atlantic Records Rufus Thomas stayed with the now fully independent Stax, releasing I'll Be Your Santa Baby in 1973.

Artist:      Clarence Carter
Title:     Back Door Santa
Source:      CD: Christmas A Go-Go (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Carter/Daniel
Label:     Wicked Cool (original label: Atlantic)
Year:     1969
     Clarence Carter is an icon of the beach music (for you non-Carolinians, beach music has nothing to do with surf music) crowd. For everyone else, he is a moderately successful soul artist known mostly for his mid-70s hit Slip Away. Regardless of where you might know him from, his Back Door Santa will surprise you with its down and funky energy.

Artist:    Ramsey Lewis Trio
Title:    Winter Wonderland
Source:    45 RPM single B side (reissue)
Writer(s):    Bernard/Smith
Label:    Cadet (original label: Argo)
Year:    1960
    The Ramsey Lewis Trio released their first LP, Ramsey Lewis and the Gentlemen of Swing, in 1956. They remained primarily a jazz band over their first ten years of existence, releasing several singles on the Argo label, a Chess subsidiary. As well as original material, the group recorded their own distinctive versions of standards such as the holiday-oriented Winter Wonderland, which appeared as a B side in 1960.

Artist:      Bobby "Boris" Pickett
Title:     Monster's Holiday
Source:      45 RPM single
Writer:    Bobby Pickett
Label:     Garpax
Year:     1962
     Bobby Picket scored big with his Halloween hit Monster Mash in 1962, and quickly followed it up with this sequel set around the Christmas holidays. Legendary producer Gary Paxton was responsible for both recordings making it onto vinyl and on the air.

Artist:      Spike Jones and His City Slickers
Title:     All I Want For Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth)
Source:      Mono CD: Billboard Greatest Christmas Hits 1935-1954 (originally released as 78 RPM single)
Writer:    Don Gardner
Label:    Rhino (original label: RCA Victor)
Year:     1948
     Spike Jones and His City Slickers were a highly talented bunch who made music out of sound effects, toy instruments, and whatever else it occurred to them to use. Their forte was the novelty record, and no one did it better.  All I Want For Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth) was written by Middleton, NY schoolteacher Donald Yetter Gardner, who was inspired to write the song when he asked his second grade class what they wanted for Christmas and was struck by how many of them were lisping due to missing front teeth.

Artist:      Chipmunks
Title:     The Chipmunk Song
Source:      CD: Billboard Greatest Christmas Hits 1955-Present (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer:    Ross Bagdasarian
Label:    Rhino (original label: Liberty)
Year:     1958
     In 1958 pop-jazz composer/bandleader Ross Bagdasarian decided to play around with a variable-speed tape recorder and came up with the novelty hit Witch Doctor. He followed it up by using multiple tape machines to create a trio of sped up voices that he called the Chipmunks, and released this smash hit in time for the Christmas season. The success of The Chipmunk Song led to a Saturday morning cartoon series and a series of albums for the Liberty label. His son, Ross Bagdasarian Jr. has revived the concept in recent years, although not with the same level of success. Bagdasarian himself, incidentally, had a small part as a lonely pianist in the Alfred Hitchcock film Rear Window.

Artist:    Royal Guardsmen
Title:    Snoopy's Christmas
Source:    45 RPM single
Writer(s):    Hugo & Luigi/Weiss
Label:    Laurie
Year:    1967
    Like many American bands, the Ocala, Florida based Posmen decided to change their name to something more Anglo sounding in the wake of the British invasion of 1964. As the Royal Guardsmen they had their first regional hit in 1966 with a song called Baby Let's Wait. It was their next release, however, that established the direction the group's career would take from that point on. Snoopy vs. the Red Baron was a huge national hit, going all the way to the #2 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 in late 1966. Several more Snoopy themed songs followed, including Snoopy's Christmas, released in 1967. The most recent of these is Snoopy vs. Osama, which came out in 2006.

Artist:    Dodie Stevens
Title:    Merry, Merry Christmas Baby
Source:    Mono CD: Cool Yule (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Sylvia/Lopez
Label:    Rhino (original label: Dot)
Year:    1960
    Dodie Stevens only had one hit record, the semi-novelty Pink Shoelaces, which came out in 1959. That didn't stop her from trying her luck with a contemporary holiday tune called Merry, Merry Christmas Baby the following year. The song, based on the Tune Weavers' Happy, Happy Birthday Baby, came out on the Dot label, which was no stranger to cover songs, having established itself by releasing sanitized Pat Boone remakes of songs originally recorded by Little Richard and other early rock 'n' roll artists.

Artist:    Otis Redding
Title:    Merry Christmas Baby
Source:    45 RPM single B side
Writer(s):    Baxter/Moore
Label:    Atco
Year:    1968
    Merry Christmas Baby was originally released by Johnny Moore's Three Blazers, which featured Charles Brown on guitar and vocals, in 1947. Several different versions of the song have been recorded over the years by such diverse artists as Chuck Berry, Ike & Tina Turner, Hansen, Christina Aguilara, Bruce Springsteen and Brown himself. Otis Redding's version of the song was released in 1968, almost a year after the plane crash that killed the singer and most of his band.

Artist:      Charles Brown
Title:     Please Come Home For Christmas
Source:      CD: Billboard Greatest Christmas Hits 1955-Present (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Brown/Redd
Label:    Rhino (original label: King)
Year:     1960
     By now just about everyone is familiar with the Eagles version of Please Come Home For Christmas. Not everyone, however, knows the song was written by blues great Charles Brown. Even fewer have actually heard Brown's 1960 original, which is a shame, as it blows the Eagles version clean out of the water.

Artist:      Johnny Preston
Title:     (I Want a) Rock and Roll Guitar
Source:      CD: Cool Yule (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer:    J.P. Richardson
Label:    Rhino (original label: Mercury)
Year:     1960
     Johnny Preston recorded his signature song in 1960, the classic Running Bear, penned by J.P. Richardson, the Big Bopper. The pair teamed up again to create a brand new Christmas song, (I Want a) Rock and Roll Guitar, later the same year. Interesting enough, by the middle of the decade a guitar was exactly what many kids were indeed asking for. I should know; I got my first guitar (and amp) as a Christmas present after badgering my parents mercilessly for months. I think between the two they might have run about $100, which made it the most expensive Christmas I ever had.

Artist:      Ventures
Title:     Sleigh Ride
Source:     LP: The Ventures Christmas Album
Writer:    Leroy Anderson
Label:    Dolton
Year:     1965  
        The Ventures are by far the most successful instrumental rock group in history, with over 100 albums released over several decades. One of the most successful of these was their 1965 Christmas album, which featured this surfinated version of Leroy Anderson's Sleigh Ride, a piece usually associated with the Boston Pops Orchestra.

Artist:    Brenda Lee
Title:    Papa Noel
Source:    CD: Cool Yule (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer(s):    Ray Botkin
Label:    Rhino
Year:    1958
    Just about everyone is familiar with Brenda Lee's 1958 hit Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree. Not as well known is the flip side of that single, a song called Papa Noel. Lee, known as "Little Miss Dynamite" was first discovered by country legend Red Foley when still in her teens.

Artist:    Crystals
Title:    Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
Source:    Mono CD: A Christmas Gift For You
Writer(s):    Coots/Gillespie
Label:    Phil Spector Records (original label: Philles)
Year:    1963
    In 1963 Phil Spector was riding high as one of the most successful record producers on the East coast. His "wall of sound" was heard on top 40 radio stations coast to coast on recordings by groups like the Crystals, who hit it big with And Then He Kissed Me and Da Doo Ron Ron that same year. Late in the year Spector issued an album called A Christmas Gift For You, which featured all the groups on his Philles label. The Crystals had three songs on the album, including an arrangement of Santa Claus Is Coming To Town that was later used by Bruce Springsteen.

Artist:    Ronettes
Title:    Frosty The Snowman
Source:    Mono CD: A Christmas Gift For You
Writer(s):    Nelson/Rollins
Label:    Phil Spector Records (original label: Philles)
Year:    1963
    1963 was probably the peak year for the Ronettes, with two of their biggest hits, Baby I Love You and Be My Baby, being released that year. To cap it all off they contirbuted a trio of tunes to Phil Spector's classic holiday LP, the first of which was their unique take on Frosty The Snowman.   

Artist:    Darlene Love
Title:    Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)
Source:    Mono CD: A Christmas Gift For You (also released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Spector/Greenwich/Barry
Label:    Phil Spector Records (original label: Philles)
Year:    1963
    Only one song from Phil Spector's A Christmas Gift For You was ever released as a single: Darlene Love's solo track, Christmas (Baby Please Come Home). Surprisingly, it was not a major hit and to this day is one of the least-played songs on the album.

Artist:      Jack Scott
Title:     There's Trouble Brewin'
Source:      CD: Cool Yule (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Laura Veronica
Label:    Rhino (original label: Groove)
Year:     1963
    Canadian born Jack Scott was one of the great rockabilly performers of the late 50s, scoring several top 10 hits, including My True Love and Burning Bridges. This 1963 recording of There's Trouble Brewin' shows him at the peak of his vocal powers.

Artist:      Canned Heat
Title:     Christmas Blues
Source:      Mono CD: Billboard Rock and Roll Christmas (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer(s):    Canned Heat
Label:    Rhino (original label: Liberty)
Year:     1968
     Possibly the strangest pairing on record was the 1968 remake of The Chipmunk Song by the Chipmunks and Canned Heat. Yes, you read that correctly. Canned Heat did indeed provide the instrumental backing tracks for Simon, Theodore and Alvin's 10th anniversary remake of their best-known song. The B side of that record is a true gem: an original Canned Heat composition called Christmas Blues.

Artist:      Jethro Tull
Title:     Christmas Song
Source:      British import EP
Writer:    Ian Anderson
Label:    Chrysalis
Year:     1968
     I wanted to play one set made up entirely of songs from the psychedelic era performed by artists that I feature on the show on a fairly regular basis. One of these artists is the band Jethro Tull, led by flautist/acoustic guitarist/vocalist Ian Anderson. His somewhat cynical Christmas Song, originally released in the UK in 1968, did not appear in the US until the 1973 anthology album Living In the Past.
   
Artist:      Cadillacs
Title:     Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Source:      45 RPM vinyl
Writer:    Johnny Marks
Label:    Josie
Year:     1956
     Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer has been recorded by a lot of different artists over the years, but this version by the Cadillacs stands out for its pure sense of fun. Doo-wop was at the peak of its popularity in 1956 and the Cadillacs, led by Earl "Speedoo" Carroll, were among the best of the bunch.

Artist:      Drifters
Title:     White Christmas
Source:      Mono CD: Billboard Greatest Christmas Hits 1955-Present (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer:    Irving Berlin
Label:    Rhino (original label: Atlantic)
Year:     1955
     The Drifters were a kind of early R&B doowop supergroup made up of ex-members of other R&B groups such as Billy Ward's Dominoes. The most distinctive voice of the original Drifters was high tenor Clyde McPhatter (for whom Ray Stevens's famous camel was named), which is heard prominently on their version of Irving Berlin's White Christmas. Over the years the group's lineup changed many times and led to several former members forming competing groups, all using the Drifters name. Over time, members of these offshoots would in turn form their own Drifters, despite having virtually no connection to the original group. This is why it sometimes seems that half the doowop singers in the world claim to be former members of the Drifters.

Artist:      Marquees
Title:     Christmas In the Congo
Source:      Mono CD: Cool Yule (Originally released as 45 RPM single, possibly promo only)
Writer(s):    Masten/Botkin
Label:    Rhino (original label: Warner Brothers)
Year:     1959
     I recently saw a signed publicity photo of the Marquees taken sometime in the late 1950s. One of the signatures is Marvin Gaye's. What I have not been able to find is any evidence that this record was actually released commercially, although at least one promo copy is known to exist.

Artist:      King Curtis
Title:     The Christmas Song
Source:      45 RPM single
Writer(s):    Mel Torme
Label:    Atco
Year:     1966
     King Curtis was one of the most in-demand saxophone players of the first wave of rock and roll. His best known work was on the song Yakety Yak by the Coasters in 1958. In the sixties he became the music director for the Atlantic Records group, appearing on a variety of recordings by artists such as Solomon Burke and occassionally releasing material on the Atco label under his own name. Tragically, his life was cut short when he was the victim of a stabbing when he attempted to stop junkies from shooting up on his front steps in New York.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Rockin' the Holidays of Confusion (# 1851) (starts 12/17/18)


    Just about every weekly radio show does a Christmas special this time of year, and for several years now Stuck In the Psychedelic Era has been no exception. There is a problem, though, and that is the unavoidable fact that for the most part the artists featured on Stuck in the Psychedelic Era never had the opportunity (or inclination, for that matter) to record Christmas songs. There are exceptions, of course, and this week you'll hear some of those by Jethro Tull, the Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, the Beach Boys, and others. But, unless I wanted to spend over half the show on Beach Boys Christmas songs (and there are nearly enough of those for an entire show), I knew I would have to take an entirely different approach to selecting the songs. After a couple of years of experimenting around with various approaches I finally decided to just pick out the coolest holiday tracks I could find, regardless of genre or year they were recorded, and have been doing it that way ever since. The addition of our second show, Rockin' in the Days of Confusion, gave me the opportunity to dig even deeper into the Yule (cata)log, adding artists like Bob Seger (with his mid-60s band The Heard), Ike And Tina Turner, The Royal Guardsmen and even Soupy Sales. So get ready to kick back and have a Cool Yule!

Artist:      John Lennon and Yoko Ono
Title:     Happy Xmas (War Is Over)
Source:      CD: Now That's What I Call Christmas (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Lennon/Ono
Label:     Zomba (original label: Apple)
Year:     1971
     Originally intended as an anti-Vietnam War song, John and Yoko's Happy Xmas (War Is Over) has long since acquired classic status and is now one of the most familiar songs of the season. It was first released in the US in December of 1971, but due to a problem with the publisher did not appear in the rest of the world until November of 1972.

Artist:      Beatles
Title:     Christmas Time (Is Here Again)
Source:      CD single: Free As a Bird
Writer(s):    Lennon/McCartney/Harrison/Starkey)
Label:    Apple/Capitol
Year:     Recorded 1966 and 1967, released 19671997
     Every year the Beatles would record a special Christmas message to go out to members of their fan club, and mail it out on what was then known as a floppy disc. This was not the same as a computer floppy disc, however. In fact, the medium the Beatles used eventually came to be known as a flexi-disc, just to keep things from getting any more confusing. Regardless of what you called it, the things tended to wear out after just a few plays and I doubt there are many playable copies of these discs left in the universe. Luckily for us, George Martin had the foresight to hang on to everything the Beatles ever recorded, including this tune, which was chopped up and used for the 1967 Christmas Greeting. When the Beatles Anthology was released in 1997, the piece was included on the Free As a Bird CD single, and we got to hear the song in its uninterrupted entirety for the first time. Included at the end are Christmas greetings from the 1966 fan club disc and a bit of poetry read by John Lennon.

Artist:      Simon And Garfunkel
Title:     Silent Night/7 O'Clock News
Source:      CD: Collected Works (originally released on LP: Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme)
Writer(s):    Gruber/Muhr, arr. Paul Simon  
Label:     Columbia      
Year:     1966
     Simon and Garfunkel's Silent Night/7 O'Clock News is unique for several reasons. The most obvious is that it uses two unrelated recordings to make an ironically chilling point. The first is a rendition of Franz Gruber's Silent Night, with vocals in the center channel and piano only coming from one speaker. As the song progresses a newscast in the other channel slowly gets louder. Eventually the song ends and there is only the news. What's also unusual is that this well-known Christmas carol is not featured on a Christmas album at all; instead it appears as the final track of the duo's 1966 LP Parsley, Sage, Rosemary And Thyme.

Artist:      Simon And Garfunkel
Title:     A Hazy Shade of Winter
Source:      CD: Collected Works (originally released as 45 RPM single and included on LP: Bookends)
Writer:    Paul Simon
Label:     Columbia
Year:     1966
     I wish I could take credit for putting Simon And Garfunkel's Silent Night/7 O'Clock News and A Hazy Shade of Winter back to back. The truth is I don't know who came up with the idea; my best guess is someone from Westwood One radio, as I first heard it done on one of their syndicated programs. Still, it's not a bad idea, and I happened to have a copy of the Westwood One version of the paired tracks, so there it is.

Artist:      Chuck Berry
Title:     Merry Christmas, Baby
Source:      Mono CD: The Chess Box (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer:    Baxter/Moore
Label:     Chess/MCA
Year:     1958
     Chuck Berry did not record too many cover tunes, as he was a prolific songwriter himself. However, for his 1958 Christmas single he cut this tasty version of Charles Brown's "other" Christmas song, Merry Christmas, Baby, originally recorded by Johnny Moore's Three Blazers (with Brown on lead vocal). The B side of Berry's single, Run Rudolph Run, was also a cover song, although the tune has come to be almost exclusively associated with Berry himself.

Artist:    Ike And Tina Turner
Title:    Merry Christmas Baby
Source:    CD: Cool Yule (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer(s):    Baxter/Moore
Label:    Rhino (original label: Warner Brothers)
Year:    1964
    Ike Turner was a talent scout for Chess Records that formed a band called the Kings Of Rhythm in the early 50s, immediately scoring a #1 R&B hit backing Jackie Brenston on a song called Rocket 88. By 1964 he had married Anna Mae Bullock, who changed her name to Tina Turner and began receiving co-billing on Ike's records, such as the 1964 B side, Merry Christmas Baby. Although lyrically the same as the Charles Brown song of the same name, the track is musically worlds away from Brown's slow blues number.

Artist:      Solomon Burke
Title:     Presents For Christmas
Source:      CD: Cool Yule (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Burke/Burke/Burke
Label:    Rhino (original label: Atlantic)
Year:     1966
     Solomon Burke was a staple artist for the Atlantic label at a time when Atlantic itself was being overshadowed by the Stax/Volt labels that it distributed. Nonetheless, Burke had several R&B hits throughout the sixties and was highly respected by his fellow artists. Presents For Christmas captures Burke at his peak in 1966.

Artist:      Jimmy McCracklin
Title:     Christmas Time
Source:      Mono CD: Blue Yule (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer:    Jimmy McCracklin
Label:    Rhino (original label: Art-Tone)
Year:     1961
     Jimmy McCracklin recorded one of the catchiest, yet underplayed, tunes of the 50s when he did The Walk. Christmas Time, from a few years later, actually sounds like beach music. Go figure.

Artist:      James Brown
Title:     Santa Claus, Santa Claus
Source:      CD: Cool Yule (originally released on LP: Soulful Christmas)
Writer(s):    Bobbitt/Jones
Label:     Rhino (original label: King)
Year:     1968
     Few people would ever accuse James Brown of being a blues artist, but this recording of Santa Claus, Santa Claus (sometimes called just Santa Claus) from 1968 shows what it would have sounded like if he was.
   
Artist:      Ed "Cookie" Byrnes
Title:     Yulesville
Source:      CD: Cool Yule (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Galanoy/Olafson/Barker
Label:    Rhino (original label: Warner Brothers)
Year:     1959
     The ABC TV network was a perennial also-ran that was just starting to find a winning formula in the late 50s with shows targeted toward a younger audience. The most popular of these was 77 Sunset Strip, starring Ed "Cookie" Byrnes. He and co-star Connie Stevens, staying in character, cut a hit novelty record called Cookie, Cookie, which played on Cookie's propensity for combing his hair. Byrnes, again in character, followed it up with this hip retelling of the classic poem Twas the Night Before Christmas.

Artist:    Elvis Presley
Title:    Santa Claus Is Back In Town
Source:    45 RPM single (reissue)
Writer(s):    Lieber/Stoller
Label:    RCA Victor
Year:    1957
    Santa Claus Is Back In Town is the opening track on the 1957 LP Elvis' Christmas Album.  The song, written by Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller, was also released that year in the UK as a single, going to the #7 spot on the charts. In the US, however, it remained available only as an album track until 1965, when it was released as a single, going to the #4 spot on the Billboard chart. For the B side, RCA reissued Blue Christmas, which had gone into the top 10 the previous year. The Blue Christmas/Santa Claus Is Back In Town single was certified platinum in 1999.

Artist:    Martels
Title:    Rockin' Santa Claus
Source:    Mono CD: Cool Yule (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Mason/Robinson
Label:    Rhino (original label: Bella)
Year:    1959
    Rock history is littered with one-hit wonders, many of whom only got to release one single. The Martels, however, released only half a single, as the other side of the record was by another artist altogether. They cut Rockin' Santa Claus for the tiny Bella label in San Jose, California in 1959, and were never heard from since.

Artist:      Ray Stevens
Title:     Santa Claus Is Watching You
Source:      45 RPM single
Writer:    Ray Stevens
Label:     Mercury
Year:     1962
     I've mentioned something called the Grab Bag before. Basically, it was a sealed paper bag (sometimes with a clear plastic front) containing four 45 RPM records, generally "cut-outs" that were no longer in print. The one my family bought for Christmas of 1964 had a Sing Along With Mitch Christmas EP in the front. By far the oddest record in the bag was Santa Claus Is Watching You by Ray Stevens, although I seem to remember that version being slightly different than the one heard here. One thing that both versions had in common was the presence of Clyde the Camel from Stevens's first hit, Ahab the Arab.

Artist:      Sonics
Title:     Santa Claus
Source:      Mono CD: Cool Yule (originally released on LP: Merry Christmas)
Writer:    Greg Roslie
Label:     Rhino (original label: Etiquette)
Year:     1965
     The Pacific Northwest was home to several bands that can only be described as proto-punk (think Louie Louie). One of the top bands on the scene up there was the Sonics, who recorded raw hard-driving songs with titles like Psycho, the Witch and Strychnine. Santa Claus is very much in the same vein, making it the punkiest Christmas song of the sixties, if not all time.

Artist:    Bob Seger And The Last Heard
Title:    Sock It To Me Santa
Source:    Mono: Christmas A Go-Go (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Seger/Honaker/Lagassa
Label:    Wicked Cool (original label: Cameo)
Year:    1966
    Years before he was singing that old time rock 'n' roll on his way to Katnandu, Bob Seger led a band called the Last Heard. The band was formed when Seger decided to leave his former band, the Omens, to record a song called East Side Story. The song, released on the local Hideout label, was Seger's first hit, selling about 50,000 copies, mostly in the Detroit area. This led to a deal with Cameo-Parkway Records. The first single released by the band on Cameo was a Christmas tune called Sock It To Me Santa that predates fellow Detroiter Mitch Ryder's Sock It To Me-Baby by a few weeks. Seger, of course, would eventually sign with Capitol Records, changing the name of the band to the Bob Seger System, and later, the Silver Bullet Band.

Artist:      Beach Boys
Title:     Little Saint Nick (stereo single version)
Source:      CD: Beach Boys Ultimate Christmas (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Wilson/Love
Label:    Capitol
Year:     1963
     When the Beach Boys first recorded Little Saint Nick they were the hottest surf music band in the country. A year later Beatlemania had set in, and a new version of Little Saint Nick was recorded for the Beach Boys Christmas Album. The new version put a greater emphasis on the vocals, and much of the original instrumentation was deleted from the arrangement. That is the version that usually gets heard on commercial radio every year. In the mid-70s, Carl Wilson, who by then had stepped into the leader's role formerly held by older brother Brian, pulled out the original 1963 tapes and created a new stereo mix of the song. The instruments have greater prominence in this version and include the distinctive sound of sleighbells that were completely exorcised from the 1964 version.

Artist:    Soupy Sales
Title:    Santa Claus Is Surfin' To Town
Source:    Mono CD: Christmas A Go-Go (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Gillespie/Coots
Label:    Wicked Cool/Reprise
Year:    1963
    Best known as the host of a popular kids' show on TV, Soupy Sales cut this bit of weirdness for the Reprise label in 1963. Need I say more?

Artist:      Eartha Kitt
Title:     Santa Baby
Source:      Mono CD: Billboard Greatest Christmas Hits 1935-1954 (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Javits/Springer/Springer
Label:     Rhino (original label: RCA Victor)
Year:     1953
     Eartha Kitt has one of the most unique voices in the history of jazz, and put it to good use on the original 1953 version of Santa Baby, a tune that has unfortunately in recent years become associated with Madonna. Kitt continued to perform with nearly as much energy as she had in the 50s right up to her death on Christmas Day, 2008.

Artist:      Rufus Thomas
Title:     I'll Be Your Santa Baby
Source:      Mono CD: Christmas A Go-Go (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer:    Thomas/Roberts
Label:     Wicked Cool (original label: Stax)
Year:     1973
     Rufus Thomas had a long and storied career going back to the 1950s, first with Bear Cat, an answer song to Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller's Hound Dog, and later with his own series of "dog" hits (Walking the Dog being the most famous). By the mid-1960s he was an important member of the Stax/Volt stable of artists, where his daughter Carla was making a name for herself with hits like B-A-B-Y and (with Otis Redding) Tramp. After Stax severed its distribution deal with Atlantic Records Rufus Thomas stayed with the now fully independent Stax, releasing I'll Be Your Santa Baby in 1973.

Artist:      Clarence Carter
Title:     Back Door Santa
Source:      CD: Christmas A Go-Go (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Carter/Daniel
Label:     Wicked Cool (original label: Atlantic)
Year:     1969
     Clarence Carter is an icon of the beach music (for you non-Carolinians, beach music has nothing to do with surf music) crowd. For everyone else, he is a moderately successful soul artist known mostly for his mid-70s hit Slip Away. Regardless of where you might know him from, his Back Door Santa will surprise you with its down and funky energy.

Artist:    Ramsey Lewis Trio
Title:    Winter Wonderland
Source:    45 RPM single B side (reissue)
Writer(s):    Bernard/Smith
Label:    Cadet (original label: Argo)
Year:    1960
    The Ramsey Lewis Trio released their first LP, Ramsey Lewis and the Gentlemen of Swing, in 1956. They remained primarily a jazz band over their first ten years of existence, releasing several singles on the Argo label, a Chess subsidiary. As well as original material, the group recorded their own distinctive versions of standards such as the holiday-oriented Winter Wonderland, which appeared as a B side in 1960.

Artist:      Bobby "Boris" Pickett
Title:     Monster's Holiday
Source:      45 RPM single
Writer:    Bobby Pickett
Label:     Garpax
Year:     1962
     Bobby Picket scored big with his Halloween hit Monster Mash in 1962, and quickly followed it up with this sequel set around the Christmas holidays. Legendary producer Gary Paxton was responsible for both recordings making it onto vinyl and on the air.

Artist:      Spike Jones and His City Slickers
Title:     All I Want For Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth)
Source:      Mono CD: Billboard Greatest Christmas Hits 1935-1954 (originally released as 78 RPM single)
Writer:    Don Gardner
Label:    Rhino (original label: RCA Victor)
Year:     1948
     Spike Jones and His City Slickers were a highly talented bunch who made music out of sound effects, toy instruments, and whatever else it occurred to them to use. Their forte was the novelty record, and no one did it better.  All I Want For Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth) was written by Middleton, NY schoolteacher Donald Yetter Gardner, who was inspired to write the song when he asked his second grade class what they wanted for Christmas and was struck by how many of them were lisping due to missing front teeth.

Artist:      Chipmunks
Title:     The Chipmunk Song
Source:      CD: Billboard Greatest Christmas Hits 1955-Present (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer:    Ross Bagdasarian
Label:    Rhino (original label: Liberty)
Year:     1958
     In 1958 pop-jazz composer/bandleader Ross Bagdasarian decided to play around with a variable-speed tape recorder and came up with the novelty hit Witch Doctor. He followed it up by using multiple tape machines to create a trio of sped up voices that he called the Chipmunks, and released this smash hit in time for the Christmas season. The success of The Chipmunk Song led to a Saturday morning cartoon series and a series of albums for the Liberty label. His son, Ross Bagdasarian Jr. has revived the concept in recent years, although not with the same level of success. Bagdasarian himself, incidentally, had a small part as a lonely pianist in the Alfred Hitchcock film Rear Window.

Artist:    Royal Guardsmen
Title:    Snoopy's Christmas
Source:    45 RPM single
Writer(s):    Hugo & Luigi/Weiss
Label:    Laurie
Year:    1967
    Like many American bands, the Ocala, Florida based Posmen decided to change their name to something more Anglo sounding in the wake of the British invasion of 1964. As the Royal Guardsmen they had their first regional hit in 1966 with a song called Baby Let's Wait. It was their next release, however, that established the direction the group's career would take from that point on. Snoopy vs. the Red Baron was a huge national hit, going all the way to the #2 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 in late 1966. Several more Snoopy themed songs followed, including Snoopy's Christmas, released in 1967. The most recent of these is Snoopy vs. Osama, which came out in 2006.

Artist:    Dodie Stevens
Title:    Merry, Merry Christmas Baby
Source:    Mono CD: Cool Yule (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Sylvia/Lopez
Label:    Rhino (original label: Dot)
Year:    1960
    Dodie Stevens only had one hit record, the semi-novelty Pink Shoelaces, which came out in 1959. That didn't stop her from trying her luck with a contemporary holiday tune called Merry, Merry Christmas Baby the following year. The song, based on the Tune Weavers' Happy, Happy Birthday Baby, came out on the Dot label, which was no stranger to cover songs, having established itself by releasing sanitized Pat Boone remakes of songs originally recorded by Little Richard and other early rock 'n' roll artists.

Artist:    Otis Redding
Title:    Merry Christmas Baby
Source:    45 RPM single B side
Writer(s):    Baxter/Moore
Label:    Atco
Year:    1968
    Merry Christmas Baby was originally released by Johnny Moore's Three Blazers, which featured Charles Brown on guitar and vocals, in 1947. Several different versions of the song have been recorded over the years by such diverse artists as Chuck Berry, Ike & Tina Turner, Hansen, Christina Aguilara, Bruce Springsteen and Brown himself. Otis Redding's version of the song was released in 1968, almost a year after the plane crash that killed the singer and most of his band.

Artist:      Charles Brown
Title:     Please Come Home For Christmas
Source:      CD: Billboard Greatest Christmas Hits 1955-Present (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Brown/Redd
Label:    Rhino (original label: King)
Year:     1960
     By now just about everyone is familiar with the Eagles version of Please Come Home For Christmas. Not everyone, however, knows the song was written by blues great Charles Brown. Even fewer have actually heard Brown's 1960 original, which is a shame, as it blows the Eagles version clean out of the water.

Artist:      Johnny Preston
Title:     (I Want a) Rock and Roll Guitar
Source:      CD: Cool Yule (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer:    J.P. Richardson
Label:    Rhino (original label: Mercury)
Year:     1960
     Johnny Preston recorded his signature song in 1960, the classic Running Bear, penned by J.P. Richardson, the Big Bopper. The pair teamed up again to create a brand new Christmas song, (I Want a) Rock and Roll Guitar, later the same year. Interesting enough, by the middle of the decade a guitar was exactly what many kids were indeed asking for. I should know; I got my first guitar (and amp) as a Christmas present after badgering my parents mercilessly for months. I think between the two they might have run about $100, which made it the most expensive Christmas I ever had.

Artist:      Ventures
Title:     Sleigh Ride
Source:     LP: The Ventures Christmas Album
Writer:    Leroy Anderson
Label:    Dolton
Year:     1965 
        The Ventures are by far the most successful instrumental rock group in history, with over 100 albums released over several decades. One of the most successful of these was their 1965 Christmas album, which featured this surfinated version of Leroy Anderson's Sleigh Ride, a piece usually associated with the Boston Pops Orchestra.

Artist:    Brenda Lee
Title:    Papa Noel
Source:    CD: Cool Yule (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer(s):    Ray Botkin
Label:    Rhino
Year:    1958
    Just about everyone is familiar with Brenda Lee's 1958 hit Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree. Not as well known is the flip side of that single, a song called Papa Noel. Lee, known as "Little Miss Dynamite" was first discovered by country legend Red Foley when still in her teens.

Artist:    Crystals
Title:    Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
Source:    Mono CD: A Christmas Gift For You
Writer(s):    Coots/Gillespie
Label:    Phil Spector Records (original label: Philles)
Year:    1963
    In 1963 Phil Spector was riding high as one of the most successful record producers on the East coast. His "wall of sound" was heard on top 40 radio stations coast to coast on recordings by groups like the Crystals, who hit it big with And Then He Kissed Me and Da Doo Ron Ron that same year. Late in the year Spector issued an album called A Christmas Gift For You, which featured all the groups on his Philles label. The Crystals had three songs on the album, including an arrangement of Santa Claus Is Coming To Town that was later used by Bruce Springsteen.

Artist:    Ronettes
Title:    Frosty The Snowman
Source:    Mono CD: A Christmas Gift For You
Writer(s):    Nelson/Rollins
Label:    Phil Spector Records (original label: Philles)
Year:    1963
    1963 was probably the peak year for the Ronettes, with two of their biggest hits, Baby I Love You and Be My Baby, being released that year. To cap it all off they contirbuted a trio of tunes to Phil Spector's classic holiday LP, the first of which was their unique take on Frosty The Snowman.  

Artist:    Darlene Love
Title:    Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)
Source:    Mono CD: A Christmas Gift For You (also released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Spector/Greenwich/Barry
Label:    Phil Spector Records (original label: Philles)
Year:    1963
    Only one song from Phil Spector's A Christmas Gift For You was ever released as a single: Darlene Love's solo track, Christmas (Baby Please Come Home). Surprisingly, it was not a major hit and to this day is one of the least-played songs on the album.

Artist:      Jack Scott
Title:     There's Trouble Brewin'
Source:      CD: Cool Yule (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Laura Veronica
Label:    Rhino (original label: Groove)
Year:     1963
    Canadian born Jack Scott was one of the great rockabilly performers of the late 50s, scoring several top 10 hits, including My True Love and Burning Bridges. This 1963 recording of There's Trouble Brewin' shows him at the peak of his vocal powers.

Artist:      Canned Heat
Title:     Christmas Blues
Source:      Mono CD: Billboard Rock and Roll Christmas (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer(s):    Canned Heat
Label:    Rhino (original label: Liberty)
Year:     1968
     Possibly the strangest pairing on record was the 1968 remake of The Chipmunk Song by the Chipmunks and Canned Heat. Yes, you read that correctly. Canned Heat did indeed provide the instrumental backing tracks for Simon, Theodore and Alvin's 10th anniversary remake of their best-known song. The B side of that record is a true gem: an original Canned Heat composition called Christmas Blues.

Artist:      Jethro Tull
Title:     Christmas Song
Source:      British import EP
Writer:    Ian Anderson
Label:    Chrysalis
Year:     1968
     I wanted to play one set made up entirely of songs from the psychedelic era performed by artists that I feature on the show on a fairly regular basis. One of these artists is the band Jethro Tull, led by flautist/acoustic guitarist/vocalist Ian Anderson. His somewhat cynical Christmas Song, originally released in the UK in 1968, did not appear in the US until the 1973 anthology album Living In the Past.
   
Artist:      Cadillacs
Title:     Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Source:      45 RPM vinyl
Writer:    Johnny Marks
Label:    Josie
Year:     1956
     Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer has been recorded by a lot of different artists over the years, but this version by the Cadillacs stands out for its pure sense of fun. Doo-wop was at the peak of its popularity in 1956 and the Cadillacs, led by Earl "Speedoo" Carroll, were among the best of the bunch.

Artist:      Drifters
Title:     White Christmas
Source:      Mono CD: Billboard Greatest Christmas Hits 1955-Present (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer:    Irving Berlin
Label:    Rhino (original label: Atlantic)
Year:     1955
     The Drifters were a kind of early R&B doowop supergroup made up of ex-members of other R&B groups such as Billy Ward's Dominoes. The most distinctive voice of the original Drifters was high tenor Clyde McPhatter (for whom Ray Stevens's famous camel was named), which is heard prominently on their version of Irving Berlin's White Christmas. Over the years the group's lineup changed many times and led to several former members forming competing groups, all using the Drifters name. Over time, members of these offshoots would in turn form their own Drifters, despite having virtually no connection to the original group. This is why it sometimes seems that half the doowop singers in the world claim to be former members of the Drifters.

Artist:      Marquees
Title:     Christmas In the Congo
Source:      Mono CD: Cool Yule (Originally released as 45 RPM single, possibly promo only)
Writer(s):    Masten/Botkin
Label:    Rhino (original label: Warner Brothers)
Year:     1959
     I recently saw a signed publicity photo of the Marquees taken sometime in the late 1950s. One of the signatures is Marvin Gaye's. What I have not been able to find is any evidence that this record was actually released commercially, although at least one promo copy is known to exist.

Artist:      King Curtis
Title:     The Christmas Song
Source:      45 RPM single
Writer(s):    Mel Torme
Label:    Atco
Year:     1966
     King Curtis was one of the most in-demand saxophone players of the first wave of rock and roll. His best known work was on the song Yakety Yak by the Coasters in 1958. In the sixties he became the music director for the Atlantic Records group, appearing on a variety of recordings by artists such as Solomon Burke and occassionally releasing material on the Atco label under his own name. Tragically, his life was cut short when he was the victim of a stabbing when he attempted to stop junkies from shooting up on his front steps in New York.
 had been using as an encore, on their Pictures At An Exhibition album.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Stuck in the Psychedelic Era # 1850 (starts 12/10/18)



    This week we feature the entire first side of the landmark 1968 Moody Blues album In Search Of The Lost Chord, as well as a set of tunes from Love. We also have sets from 1967, 1968 and a couple progressions through the years. Busy week.

Artist:     Buffalo Springfield
Title:     Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing
Source:     CD: Buffalo Springfield
Writer:    Neil Young
Label:     Atco
Year:     1966
     One of the most influential folk-rock bands to come out of the L.A. scene was the Buffalo Springfield. The Springfield had several quality songwriters, including Neil Young, whose voice was deemed "too weird" by certain record company people. Thus we have Richie Furay handling the lead vocals on Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing, the group's debut single. The track was just one of several Young songs sung by Furay on the band's first album. By the time the second Buffalo Springfield album was released things had changed somewhat, and Young got to do his own lead vocals on songs like Mr. Soul and Broken Arrow.

Artist:       Cyrkle
Title:    Two Rooms
Source:    45 RPM single B side
Writer:    (Marty Fried)
Label:    Columbia
Year:        1967
        The Cyrkle were just a bit too clean-cut for their time. Looking like early 60s college fraternity guys, they had a great 1966, scoring back-to-back top 10 singles with Red Rubber Ball and Turn Down Day, hiring Brian Epstein as their manager and getting signed to be the opening act for Epstein's other band, the Beatles, on their final US tour. Despite having more than their share of talent, creatively, vocally and instrumentally, they found themselves unable to keep up with rapidly changing public tastes, and soon faded off into obscurity. Two Rooms, a hard to find 1967 B side written by drummer Marty Fried, hints at what could have been.

Artist:    Donovan
Title:    West Indian Lady
Source:    British import CD: The Hurdy Gurdy Man (originally released in US)
Writer(s):    Donovan Leitch
Label:    EMI (original US label: Epic)
Year:    1968
    Released in October of 1968, The Hurdy Gurdy Man is generally considered the most musically diverse of all of Donovan's albums. West Indian Lady, for example, incorporates a calypso beat, similar to the one used on his 1967 single There Is A Mountain.

Artist:    Jimi Hendrix/Band Of Gypsys
Title:    Villanova Junction Blues
Source:    Mono LP: People, Hell And Angels
Writer(s):    Jimi Hendrix
Label:    Experience Hendrix/Legacy
Year:    Recorded 1969, released 2013
    Usually known as the untitled instrumental that finishes out the Woodstock movie, Villanova Junction Blues was first performed in the studio by Band Of Gypsys (Hendrix, Billy Cox and Buddy Miles) prior to their live performances at Madison Square Garden at the end of 1969. The studio version remained unreleased until 2013, when it was included on the album People, Hell And Angels.

Artist:     Love
Title:     My Little Red Book
Source:     Mono CD: Love Story (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer:     Bacharach/David
Label:     Elektra/Rhino
Year:     1966
     My Little Red Book was a song originally composed by Burt Bacharach and Hal David for the soundtrack of the movie What's New Pussycat and performed by Manfred Mann. It didn't sound anything like Love's version (the first rock single issued on the Elektra label), which is acknowledged as one of the first true punk classics.

Artist:    Love
Title:    She Comes In Colors
Source:    CD: Da Capo (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Arthur Lee
Label:    Elektra
Year:    1966
    Arthur Lee's transition from angry punk (on songs like 7&7 Is and My Little Red Book) to a softer, more introspective kind of singer/songwriter was evident on Love's second LP, Da Capo. Although there were still some hard rockers, such as Stephanie Knows Who, the album also includes songs like She Comes In Colors, which was released ahead of the album as the band's third single in late 1966. The song was one of Lee's first to inspire critics to draw comparisons between Lee's vocal style and that of Johnny Mathis.

Artist:    Love
Title:    Andmoreagain
Source:    CD: Love Story
Writer(s):    Arthur Lee
Label:    Elektra/Rhino
Year:    1967
    If there is any one song that validates comparisons of Johnny Mathis and Love's Arthur Lee, it's Andmoreagain, from the third Love album, Forever Changes. Oddly enough, the song has also drawn comparisons to the music of Burt Bacharach, particularly for its soft melody and use of major 7th chords. This is somewhat ironic, given that Bacharach reportedly hated Love's version of My Little Red Book, a song he wrote for the soundtrack of the film What's New, Pussycat.

Artist:    Steppenwolf
Title:    Magic Carpet Ride
Source:    LP: Nuggets Vol. 9-Acid Rock (originally released on LP: Steppenwolf The Second)
Writer(s):    Moreve/Kay
Label:    Rhino (original label: Dunhill)
Year:    1968
    Steppenwolf's second top 10 single was Magic Carpet Ride, a song that combines feedback, prominent organ work by Goldy McJohn and an updated Bo Diddly beat with psychedelic lyrics. Along with Born To Be Wild, Magic Carpet Ride (co-written by vocalist John Kay and bassist Rushton Moreve) has become one of the defining songs of both Steppenwolf and the psychedelic era itself.

Artist:    Rolling Stones
Title:    Parachute Woman
Source:    CD: Beggar's Banquet
Writer:    Jagger/Richards
Label:    Abkco (original label: London)
Year:    1968
    The last Rolling Stones album with the original lineup was Beggar's Banquet, released in 1968. The album itself was a conscious effort on the part of the band to get back to their roots after the psychedelic excesses of Their Satanic Majesties Request. Sadly, Brian Jones was fast deteriorating at the time and his contributions to the album are minimal compared to the band's earlier efforts. As a result, Keith Richards was responsible for most of the guitar work on Beggar's Banquet, including both lead and rhythm parts on Parachute Woman.

Artist:    Canned Heat
Title:    Boogie Music
Source:    LP: Progressive Heavies (originally released on LP: Living The Blues and as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer(s):    L.T.Tatman III
Label:    United Artists (original label: Liberty)
Year:    1968
    Canned Heat was formed in 1966 by a group of San Francisco Bay Area blues purists. Although a favorite on the rock scene, the band continued to remain true to the blues throughout their existence, even after relocating to the Laurel Canyon area near Los Angeles in 1968. The band's most popular single was Going Up the Country from the album Living the Blues. The B side of that single was another track from Living The Blues that actually had a longer running time on the single than on the album version. Although the single uses the same basic recording of Boogie Music as the album, it includes a short low-fidelity instrumental tacked onto the end of the song that sounds suspiciously like a 1920s recording of someone playing a melody similar to Going Up The Country on a fiddle. The only time this unique version of the song appeared in stereo was on a 1969 United Artists compilation called Progressive Heavies that also featured tracks from Johnny Winter, Traffic, the Spencer Davis Group and others.

Artist:     Doors
Title:     People Are Strange
Source:     LP: Strange Days (also released as 45 RPM single)
Writer:     The Doors
Label:     Elektra
Year:     1967
     The first single from the second Doors album was People Are Strange. The song quickly dispelled any notion that the Doors might be one-hit wonders and helped establish the band as an international act as opposed to just another band from L.A. The album itself, Strange Days, was a turning point for Elektra Records as well, as it shifted the label's promotional efforts away from their original rock band, Love, to the Doors, who ironically had been recommended to the label by the members of Love.

Artist:    Janis Ian
Title:    Society's Child (Baby I've Been Thinking)
Source:    45 RPM single (reissue)
Writer(s):    Janis Ian
Label:    Polydor (original label: Verve Forecast)
Year:    1966
    Janis Ian began writing Society's Child, using the title Baby I've Been Thinking, when she was 13 years old, finishing it shortly after her 14th birthday. She shopped it around to several record labels before finally finding one (Now Sounds) willing to take a chance on the controversial song about interracial dating. The record got picked up and re-issued in 1966 by M-G-M's experimental label Verve Forecast, a label whose roster included Dave Van Ronk, Laura Nyro and the Blues Project, among others. Despite being banned on several radio stations the song became a major hit when re-released yet another time in early 1967. Ian had problems maintaining a balance between her performing career and being a student which ultimately led to her dropping out of high school. She would eventually get her career back on track in the mid-70s, scoring another major hit with At Seventeen, and becoming somewhat of a heroine to the feminist movement.

Artist:    Easybeats
Title:    Heaven And Hell
Source:    CD: Nuggets-Classics From The Psychedelic 60s (originally released in UK as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Vanda/Young
Label:    Rhino (original label: Parlophone)
Year:    1967
    Throughout the mid-60s Australia's most popular band was the Easybeats, often called the Australian Beatles. Although their early material sounded like slightly dated British Invasion music (Australia had a reputation for cultural lag, and besides, half the members were British immigrants), by late 1966 guitarist Harry Vanda (one of the two Dutch immigrant members of the group) had learned enough English to be able to replace vocalist Stevie Wright as George Young's writing partner. The new team was much more adventurous in their compositions than the Wright/Young team had been, and were responsible for the band's first international hit, Friday On My Mind. By then the Easybeats had relocated to England, and continued to produce fine singles such as Heaven And Hell.

Artist:    Beatles
Title:    I Feel Fine
Source:    CD: Past masters-volume one (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Lennon/McCartney
Label:    Apple/Parlophone (original US label: Capitol)
Year:    1964
    The Beatles capped off their most successful year, 1964, with a double-sided hit single, released just in time for the Christmas season on November 27th. The "official" A side was I Feel Fine, a John Lennon song that is considered the first pop song to use deliberate feedback (on the song's intro). The tune continued a streak of consecutive number one songs for the Fab Four that would continue well into the next year.

Artist:    Them
Title:    Little Girl
Source:    Mono LP: Them
Writer(s):    Van Morrison
Label:    Parrot
Year:    1965
    If punk rock is defined by attitude, then Them, from Belfast, Northern Ireland, could well be the world's first punk rock band. Led by Van Morrison, they were known as much for their rudeness to the British music press as they were for their music, which helped inspire countless American garage-rock bands in the mid-1960s. Their debut LP, released under the title The Angry Young Them in the UK and simply as Them in the US (with the song title Gloria featured prominently on the album cover) in 1965, contained half a dozen Morrison originals. Among those originals was a tune called Little Girl, about a young man's obsession with a fourteen-year-old girl. It would not be the last rock song of its type.

Artist:    Jefferson Airplane
Title:    Blues From An Airplane
Source:    CD: The Worst Of Jefferson Airplane (originally released on LP: Jefferson Airplane Takes Off)
Writer(s):    Balin/Spence
Label:    BMG/RCA
Year:    1966
    Blues From An Airplane was the opening song on the first Jefferson Airplane album, Jefferson Airplane Takes Off. Although never released as a single, it was picked by the group to open their first anthology album, The Worst Of Jefferson Airplane, as well.

Artist:    Procol Harum
Title:    A Christmas Camel
Source:    Simulated stereo LP: Procol Harum
Writer(s):    Brooker/Reid
Label:    Deram
Year:    1967
    In 1966 Gary Brooker, former member of British cover band the Paramounts, formed a songwriting partnership with lyricist Keith Reid. By spring of 1967 the two had at least an album's worth of songs written but no band to play them. They solved the dilemma by placing an ad in Melody Maker and soon formed a group called the Pinewoods. Their very first record was A Whiter Shade Of Pale, which soon became the number one song on the British charts (after the Pinewoods changed their name to Procol Harum). The problem was that the group didn't know any other songs, a problem that was solved by firing the drummer and guitarist and replacing them with two of Brooker's former bandmates, B.J. Wilson and Robin Trower. This second version of the group soon recorded an LP, which included several strong tracks such as A Christmas Camel.

Artist:     Status Quo
Title:     Pictures Of Matchstick Men
Source:     Simulated stereo CD: British Beat (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer:     Francis Rossi
Label:     K-Tel (original label: Cadet Concept)
Year:     1968
     The band with the most charted singles in the UK is not the Beatles or even the Rolling Stones. It is, in fact, Status Quo, quite possibly the nearest thing to a real life version of Spinal Tap. Except for Pictures of Matchstick Men, the group has never had a hit in the US. On the other hand, they remain popular in Scandanavia, playing to sellout crowds on a regular basis (yes, they are still together).

Artist:    Grand Funk Railroad
Title:    Gimme Shelter
Source:    Canadian import CD: Heavy Hitters! (edited version originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Jagger/Richards
Label:    Capitol
Year:    1971
    It takes cojones to record a cover version of one of the  Rolling Stones' most popular (and critically acclaimed) songs. It takes even more to do it just two years after the Stones version came out. But then, we are talking about Grand Funk Railroad, who have to be considered one of the most ballsy bands in rock history. The single version of Grand Funk's version of Gimme Shelter runs almost two minutes shorter than the version heard on the Survival album, and if you listen closely you can hear a particularly sloppy edit in the middle of Mark Farner's last guitar solo toward the end of the song.

Artist:    Moody Blues
Title:    In Search Of The Lost Chord (side one)
Source:    CD: In Search Of The Lost Chord
Writer(s):    Edge/Lodge/Thomas
Label:    Deram
Year:    1968
    The Moody Blues followed up their groundbreaking album Days Of Future Past with another concept album, this time tackling the subjects of search and discovery from various perspectives. In Search Of The Lost Chord opens with Departure, a poem by percussionist Graeme Edge. Normally Edge's poems were recited by Mike Pinder on the band's albums, but here Edge recites his own work, ending in maniacal laughter as the next track, Ride My See-Saw, fades in. Ride My See-Saw, written by bassist John Lodge, is one of the Moody Blues' most popular songs, and is often used as an encore when the band performs in concert. Dr. Livingstone I Presume is a bit of a change in pace from flautist Ray Thomas, about the famous African explorer. Oddly enough, there is no flute on the track. From there the album proceeds to Lodge's House Of Four Doors, one of the most complex pieces ever recorded by the group. Each verse of the song ends with the opening of a door (the sound effect having been created on a cello), followed by an interlude from a different era of Western music, including Minstrel, Baroque and Classical. The fourth door opens into an entirely different song altogether, Legend Of A Mind, with its signature lines: "Timothy Leary's dead. No, no, he's outside looking in." Although never released as a single, the track got a fair amount of airplay on college and progressive FM radio stations, and has long been considered a cult hit. The album's first side concludes with the final section of House Of Four Doors.

Artist:    Turtles
Title:    You Baby
Source:    45 RPM single
Writer(s):    Sloan/Barri
Label:    White Whale
Year:    1966
    After first hitting the charts with their version of Bob Dylan's It Ain't Me Babe, the Turtles released yet another "angry young rebel" song, P.F. Sloan's Let Me Be. Realizing that they needed to vary their subject matter somewhat if they planned on having a career last longer than six months, the band formerly known as the Crossfires went with another Sloan tune, You Baby, for their first single of 1966. Although the music was in a similar style to Let Me Be, the lyrics, written by Steve Barri, were fairly typical of teen-oriented love songs of the era. The Turtles would continue to record songs from professional songwriters for single release for the remainder of their existence, with their original compositions showing up mostly as album tracks and B sides.

Artist:    Tomorrow
Title:    My White Bicycle
Source:    Mono British CD: Psychedelia At Abbey Road-1965-1969 (originally released in UK as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Hopkins/Burgess
Label:    EMI (original label: Parlophone)
Year:    1967
    Along with Pink Floyd and the Soft Machine, Tomorrow was among the most influential of the British psychedelic bands that popped up in the wake of the Beatles' Revolver and Sgt. Pepper's albums. Evolving out of the In Crowd, a popular British R&B group in the mold of the Spencer Davis Group and the early Who, Tomorrow featured a young Steve Howe (who go on to stardom as a founding member of Yes) on lead guitar and Keith West on vocals. The group was slated to appear in the film Blow-Up, but ultimately lost out to the Yardbirds, who had just recruited Jimmy Page as a second lead guitarist. Unfazed, Tomorrow went into Abbey Road studios and cut My White Bicycle, a song inspired by the practice in Amsterdam of providing free bicycles to anyone who wanted to use one as long as they turned it back in when they were done with it.

Artist:    Deep Purple
Title:    Hush
Source:    LP: Tales Of Deep Purple
Writer:    Joe South
Label:    Tetragrammaton
Year:    1968
    Deep Purple scored a huge US hit in 1968 with their rocked out cover of Hush, a tune written by Joe South that had been an international hit for Billy Joe Royal the previous year. Oddly enough, the song was virtually ignored in their native England. The song was included on the album Tales Of Deep Purple, the first of three LPs to be released in the US on Tetragrammaton Records, a label partially owned by actor/comedian Bill Cosby. When Tetragrammaton folded shortly after the release of the third Deep Purple album, The Book Of Taleisyn, the band was left without a US label, and went through some personnel changes, including adding new lead vocalist Ian Gilliam (who had sung the part of Jesus on the original Jesus Christ Superstar album) before signing to Warner Brothers and becoming a major force in 70s rock. Meanwhile, original vocalist Rod Evans hooked up with drummer Bobby Caldwell and two former members of Iron Butterfly to form Captain Beyond before fading from public view.

Artist:    Grateful Dead
Title:    Sitting On Top Of The World
Source:    CD: The Grateful Dead
Writer(s):    Jacobs/Carter
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1967
    Most versions of Sitting On Top Of The World (such as the one by Cream) have a slow, melancholy tempo that emphasizes the irony of the lyrics. The Grateful Dead version, on the other hand, goes at about twice the speed and has lyrics I have never heard on any other version. I suspect this is because, like most of the songs on the first Dead album, the tune was part of their early live repertoire; a repertoire that called for a lot of upbeat songs to keep the crowd on their feet. Is this Rob "Pig Pen" McKernon on the vocals? I think so, but am open to any corrections you might want to send along (just use the contact button on the www.hermitradio.com website).

Artist:     Cream
Title:     SWLABR
Source:     CD: Disraeli Gears (also released as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer(s): Bruce/Brown
Label:     Polydor (original label: Atco)
    Year: 1967
    I distinctly remember this song getting played on the local jukebox just as much as the single's A side, Sunshine Of Your Love (maybe even more). Like most of Cream's more psychedelic material, SWLABR (an anagram for She Was Like A Bearded Rainbow) was written by the songwriting team of Jack Bruce and Pete Brown. Brown had originally been brought in as a co-writer for Ginger Baker, but soon realized that he and Bruce had better songwriting chemistry.

Artist:    Monkees
Title:    Words
Source:    45 RPM single B side
Writer(s):    Boyce/Hart
Label:    Colgems
Year:    1967
    The Monkees made a video of the Tommy Boyce/Bobby Hart song Words that shows each member in the role that they were best at as musicians: Mickey Dolenz on lead vocals, Peter Tork on guitar, Michael Nesmith on bass and Davy Jones on drums. This was not the way they were usually portrayed on their TV show, however. Neither was it the configuration on the recording itself, which had Nesmith on guitar, Tork on Hammond organ, producer Chip Douglas on bass and studio ace Eddie Hoh on drums. The song appeared on the album Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones, LTD as well as being released as the B side of Pleasant Valley Sunday. Even as a B side, the song was a legitimate hit, peaking at #11 in 1967.

Artist:    Guess Who
Title:    It's My Pride
Source:    Mono CD: Nuggets II-Original Artyfacts From The British Empire And Beyond 1964-1969 (originally released in Canada as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer(s):    Randy Bachman
Label:    Rhino (original label: Quality)
Year:    1967
    The Guess Who were formed in 1962 in Winnipeg, Manitoba as Chad Allen and the Reflections, changing their name to Chad Allen and the Expression in 1964. The group recorded a cover of a Johnny Kidd song, Shakin' All Over, in 1965. The record was not released under the band's actual name, however; in a bid to get more airplay for the song, the record was credited to "Guess Who?". This was during the peak of the British Invasion, and the producers hoped that DJs might assume it was some well-known British band and give the record a shot. Of course, such a thing could never happen these days, as commercial radio DJs are not allowed to choose what music to play. The ploy worked so well (the song was a hit in both the US and Canada) that the band decided to keep the name Guess Who, and continued to crank out hit after hit in their native Canada, although they would not hit the US charts again until 1969. In 1966 the group picked up a second vocalist, Burton Cummings, and within a few months founder Allen left the band, leaving Cummings as the group's front man. One of their better songs was It's My Pride, a B side written by guitarist Randy Bachman and released as a single in 1967. Bachman would soon team up with Cummings to write a string of hits, including These Eyes and American Woman, before leaving the Guess Who in the early 70s to form his own band, Bachman-Turner Overdrive.

Artist:    Country Joe And The Fish
Title:    Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine
Source:    LP: Electric Music For The Mind And Body
Writer(s):    Joe McDonald
Label:    Vanguard
Year:    1967
    While not as commercially successful as the Jefferson Airplane or as long-lived as the Grateful Dead (there's an oxymoron for ya), Country Joe and the Fish may well be the most accurate musical representation of what the whole Haight-Ashbury scene was about, which is itself ironic, since the band operated out of Berkeley on the other side of the bay. Of all the tracks on their first album, Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine probably got the most airplay on various underground radio stations that were popping up on the FM dial at the time (some of them even legally).

Artist:    George harrison
Title:    What Is Life
Source:    LP: All Things Must Pass
Writer(s):    George Harrison
Label:    Capitol (original label: apple)
Year:    1970
    Following the official announcement in early 1970 that the Beatles had broken up the rock press eagerly awaited the first solo albums from John Lennon and Paul McCartney. They were not quite prepared, however, for All Things Must Pass, the three-LP box set from the "quiet Beatle", George Harrison, to outperform both of the albums from Harrison's former bandmates. Yet that's exactly what happened, with All Things Must Pass topping the charts in several countries. The first single from the album, My Sweet Lord, did even better, becoming the UK's #1 song of the entire year. The second single from the album, What Is Life, was released in early 1971, when My Sweet Lord was finally showing signs of having run its course, and immediately shot into the top 10 as well. The song remained a concert favorite for the rest of Harrison's life, and has made several "best of" lists over the years.

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 1850 (starts 12/10/18)



    This week it's free form rambling time, as we manage to fit in a baker's dozen of tunes, ranging from 1968 to 1975, ordered by...but no, that would be revealing too much.

Artist:    Black Sabbath
Title:    Iron Man
Source:    LP: Paranoid
Writer(s):    Iommi/Osbourne/Butler/Ward
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1970
    Black Sabbath tended to write songs as a group, with Tony Iommi coming up with a guitar riff, Ozzy Osbourne figuring out a melody, Geezer Butler writing lyrics and Bill Ward adding the finishing touches with his drum set. One of their most famous tracks, Iron Man, started off exactly that way. When Ozzy Osbourne heard Tony Iommi's riff he remarked that it sounded "like a big iron bloke walking about". Butler took the idea and ran with it, coming up with a song about a man who travels to the future, sees the devastation and returns to his own time to try to change things. Unfortunately he gets caught in a magnetic field that turns him into living steel, mute and unable to verbally express himself. His efforts to communicate are met with indifference and even mockery, angering him to the point that he himself becomes the cause of the destruction he had witnessed. The song is considered one of foundation stones of what came to be called heavy metal. It's continued popularity is evidenced by the fact that it was used in the Iron Man movies, despite having no real connection to the film, other than being the title character's favorite song.

Artist:     Lighthouse
Title:     Lonely Places
Source:     45 RPM single B side
Writer:     P. Hoffert/B. Hoffert
Label:     Evolution (original label: GRT)
Year:     1972
     The Canadian band Lighthouse was an attempt by drummer Skip Prokop (formerly of The Paupers) and others to incorporate both horns and strings into a rock band. Lonely Places, which was released as the B side of the band's 1972 single, Sunny Days,  shows that the idea had potential but never really got off the ground.

Artist:    Eric Clapton
Title:    Slunky
Source:    LP: Eric clapton
Writer(s):    Bramlett/Clapton
Label:    Atco
Year:    1970
    Eric Clapton got to know Delaney Bramlett after (on George Harrison's recommendation) Clapton invited Delaney And Bonnie And Friends to be Blind Faith's opening band for their 1969 tour. By the time the tour was over, Clapton was sitting in with Delaney And Bonnie for several appearances, telling friends that he preferred their music to that of Blind Faith. After Blind Faith split up (bet you saw that coming), Clapton appeared on the 1970 LP Delaney And Bonnie And Friends On Tour With Eric Clapton. Bramlett and Clapton collaborated on an instrumental called Slunky that would become the opening track of Clapton's first solo LP that same year. Many of the same musicians from this group accompanied Clapton on the LP, including several that would become part of Clapton's next band, Derek And The Dominos.

Artist:    Gun
Title:    Sunshine
Source:    German import CD: Gun
Writer(s):    Adrian Gurvitz
Label:    Repertoire (original label: CBS)
Year:    1968
    When I was a junior in high school I switched from guitar to bass to form a three-piece band called Sunn. Mostly what we did was jam onstage, although we did learn a handfull of cover songs as well. One of those songs we actually learned by playing it on the jukebox at the local youth center over and over. A British band called Gun had released a tune called Race With The Devil that caught on quickly with the dependent kids at Ramstein AFB in Germany. None of us, however, actually had a copy of the record. A rival band had already started playing Race With The Devil, so we decided to instead go for the B side, Sunshine. Luckily, the song has few lyrics, and tends to repeat them a lot, so we didn't have to spend a whole lot of nickels to get them all down. Ditto for the musical part, as the song is basically just three chords over and over. Still, it turned out to be one of our most popular numbers, since it was about the only song in our repertoire you could slow dance to. Also, the simple structure allowed Dave, our guitarist, to extend the song as long as he felt like jamming, which was generally all night.

Artist:    Deep Purple
Title:    Hey Joe
Source:    LP: Shades Of Deep Purple
Writer(s):    Billy Roberts
Label:    Tetragrammaton
Year:    1968
    My first impression of Deep Purple was that they were Britain's answer to the Vanilla Fudge. After all, both bands had a big hit in 1968 with a rearranged version of someone else's song from 1967 (Vanilla Fudge with the Supremes' You Keep Me Hangin' On and Deep Purple with Billy Joe Royal's Hush). Additionally, both groups included a Beatles cover on their debut LP (Fudge: Ticket To Ride, Purple: Help). Finally, both albums included a depressing Cher cover song. In the Vanilla Fudge case it was one of her biggest hits, Bang Bang. Deep Purple, on the other hand, went with a song that was actually more closely associated with the Jimi Hendrix Experience (although Cher did record it as well): Hey Joe. The Deep Purple version of the Billy Roberts classic (originally credited to the band on the label itself), is probably the most elaborate of the dozens of recorded versions of the song (which is up there with Louie Louie in terms of quantity), incorporating sections of the Miller's Dance (by Italian classical composer Manuel de Falla), as well as an extended instrumental section, making the finished track over seven and a half minutes long.

Artist:    Randy California
Title:    Day Tripper
Source:    European import CD: Pure...Psychedelic Rock (originally released on LP: Kapt. Kopter And The (Fabulous) Twirly Birds)
Writer(s):    Lennon/McCartney
Label:    Sony Music (original US label: Epic)
Year:    1972
    In 1972, with his band Spirit having fallen apart (temporarily as it turned out), guitarist Randy California released his first solo LP, Kapt. Kopter And The (Fabulous) Twirly Birds, on which he also sang lead vocals. The album contained a mix of original tunes and covers, of which Day Tripper was the most recognizable. Indeed, one of the primary criticisms of the album was the fact that most of the cover songs sounded like jams on the songs' main riffs rather than actual arrangements.

Artist:    National Lampoon
Title:    (Down The Dial To) Kung Fu Christmas
Source:    CD: Greatest Hits Of The National Lampoon (originally released as 45 RPM single and on LP: Goodbye Pop 1952-1976)
Writer(s):    Doyle-Murray/Guest/Shaffer
Label:    Uproar (original label: Epic)
Year:    1975
    The 1970s were a golden age for counter-culture humor, with stars like George Carlin, Richard Pryor and Cheech And Chong rising to prominence in the decade. Their were also collectives like Second City and the Credibility Gap making waves in comedy circles. Perhaps the most influential source of counter-culture humor, however, was a magazine called National Lampoon. By the mid-1970s, the NatLamp franchise included a weekly radio show, an off-Broadway play (with the key word being "off"), several LPs and, within a few years, several movies. Some of the most talented comedians of the decade contributed to National Lampoon albums, including Brian Doyle-Murray, Christopher Guest and bandleader Paul Shaffer (yes, That Paul Shaffer), who came up with a song parody called (Down The Dial To) Kung Fu Christmas for the 1975 album Goodbye Pop 1952-1976. The tune, which features David Hurdon on lead vocal, nails the sound of mid-70s soul, including several ghetto references and, of course, Kung Fu.

Artist:    Fleetwood Mac
Title:    Sentimental Lady
Source:    CD: Bare Trees
Writer(s):    Bob Welch
Label:    Reprise
Year:    1972
    One of the great rock love songs of the 1970s, Bob Welch's Sentimental Lady spent several weeks in the top 20 in late 1977. Welch's solo version of the song, from his French Kiss album, was not the original recorded version of the song, however. That title goes to the 1972 Fleetwood Mac version of the song from the Bare Trees album, featuring Welch on lead vocals backed by Christine McVie. Unlike the Welch version, Fleetwood Mac's Sentimental Lady has a second verse and runs about four and a half minutes in length (Welch's solo version is about three minutes long).

Artist:     Kak
Title:     Lemonade Kid
Source:     British import CD: Kak-Ola (originally released on LP: Kak)
Writer:     Gary Lee Yoder
Label:     Big Beat (original label: Epic)
Year:     1969
     Kak was a group from Davis, California that was only around long enough to record one LP for Epic. That self-titled album did not make much of an impression commercially, and was soon out of print. Long after the band had split up, critics began to notice the album, and copies of the original LP are now highly-prized by collectors. Songs like the Lemonade Kid show that Kak had a sound that holds up better today than many of the other artists of the time. In fact, after listening to this track a couple times I went out and ordered a copy of the import CD reissue of the Kak album.

Artist:    Led Zeppelin
Title:    Bron-Yr-Aur
Source:    LP: Physical Graffitti
Writer(s):    Jimmy Page
Label:    Swan song
Year:    1975
    When the time came to decide on what kind of album Led Zeppelin's sixth effort would be, it was decided to include all eight of the new recordings the band had made since Houses Of The Holy had come out. Some of these recordings however, were quite lengthy, meaning they would not all fit on a standard length LP. The solution was to expand the new album, making it a double-LP by including several outtakes from previous album sessions. The earliest of these was a short instrumental piece by guitarist Jimmy Page called Bron-Yr-Aur, written in 1970 at the Welsh cottage of the same name and recorded later that same year. It is, to my knowledge, the only released Led Zeppelin track running under the two-minute mark.

Artist:    Steve Miller Band
Title:    Quicksilver Girl
Source:    CD: Sailor
Writer(s):    Steve Miller
Label:    Capitol
Year:    1968
    Steve Miller moved to San Francisco from Chicago and was reportedly struck by what he saw as a much lower standard of musicianship in the bay area than in the windy city. Miller's response was to form a band that would conform to Chicago standards. The result was the Steve Miller Band, one of the most successful of the San Francisco bands, although much of that success would not come until the mid-1970s, after several personnel changes. One feature of the Miller band is that it featured multiple lead vocalists, depending on who wrote the song. Miller himself wrote and sings on Quicksilver Girl, from the band's second LP, Sailor.

Artist:    Jethro Tull
Title:    We Used To Know
Source:    European import LP: Stand Up
Writer(s):    Ian Anderson
Label:    Chrysalis (original US label: Reprise)
Year:    1969
    The first of many personnel changes for Jethro Tull came with the departure of guitarist Mick Abrahams in late 1968. His replacement was Tony Iommi from the band Earth, who joined just in time to make an appearance miming the guitar parts to A Song For Jeffrey on the Rolling Stones' Rock And Roll Circus, a TV special slated for a December airing on British TV, but pulled from the schedule at the last minute by the Stones themselves, who were not satisfied with their own performances on the show. The following month Iommi went back to Earth (who eventually changed their name to Black Sabbath) and Jethro Tull found a new guitarist, Martin Barre, in time to begin work on their second LP, Stand Up. Barre's guitar work is featured prominently on several tracks on Stand Up, including We Used To Know, a song that starts quietly and slowly builds to a wah-wah pedal dominated instrumental finale.

Artist:    Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title:    All Along The Watchtower
Source:    CD: The Ultimate Experience (originally released on LP: Electric Ladyland)
Writer(s):    Jimi Hendrix
Label:    MCA (original label: Reprise)
Year:    1968
    Although there have been countless covers of Bob Dylan songs recorded by a variety of artists, very few of them have become better known than the original Dylan versions. Probably the most notable of these is the Jimi Hendrix Experience version of All Along The Watchtower on the Electric Ladyland album. Hendrix's arrangement of the song has been adopted by several other musicians over the years, including Neil Young (at the massive Bob Dylan tribute concert) and even Dylan himself.