Sunday, February 17, 2019
Stuck in the Psychedelic Era # 1908 (starts 2/18/19)
This time around we have our usual mix of hits, B sides and album tracks, including the classic East-West from the Butterfield Blues Band, one of the first extended tracks to get played on underground college radio stations across the US. We also have a new Advanced Psych segment featuring some acoustic tracks for a change.
Title: Light My Fire (single version)
Source: 45 RPM single
Writer(s): The Doors
Once in a while a song comes along that totally blows you away the very first time you hear it. The Doors' Light My Fire was one of those songs. I liked it so much that I immediately went out and bought the 45 RPM single. Apparently I was not the only one, as the song spent three weeks at the top of the charts in July of 1967. Despite this success, the single version of the song, which runs less than three minutes, is all but forgotten by modern radio stations, which universally choose to play the full-length album version. Nonetheless, the single version, which was created by editing out most of the solo instrumental sections of the piece, is a historical artifact worth an occasional listen.
Artist: Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title: Highway Chile
Source: Simulated stereo British import LP: Smash Hits (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer(s): Jimi Hendrix
Label: Polydor (original label: Track)
The Jimi Hendrix Experience already had three hit singles in the UK before releasing their first LP, Are You Experienced, in May of 1967. The following month the band made its US debut at the Monterey International Pop Festival. The gig went over so well that Reprise Records soon made arrangements to release Are You Experienced in the US. To maximize the commercial potential of the LP, Reprise decided to include the A sides of all three singles on the album, even though those songs had not been on the British version. The B sides of all three singles, however, were not included on the album. Among those missing tracks was Highway Chile, a somewhat autobiographical song that was originally paired with The Wind Cries Mary. In April of 1968, prior to the release of the Electric Ladyland album, Polydor released an album called Smash Hits that collected all eight songs that had been released in single form up to that point, as well as a handful of tunes from the original UK version of Are You Experienced. Highway Chile was not included on the US version of Smash Hits, which was released the following year; in fact, Highway Chile was not released in the US at all during Hendrix's lifetime, finally appearing (in fake stereo) on the 1972 LP War Heroes.
Artist: Rolling Stones
Source: CD: Between The Buttons
Label: Abkco (original label: London)
The Rolling Stones' 1967 album Between The Buttons was made amidst growing problems for the band, both with their manager, Andrew Loog Oldham, and guitarist Brian Jones, whose heavy drug use was beginning to take its toll. Exascerbating the problem was the band's increasing frustration with the limitations of four-track technology, which often necessitated bouncing tracks from one machine to another to make room for more tracks, resulting in a loss of overall quality. In fact, Mick Jagger has called the entire album "garbage" (with the exception of one song that was only included on the British version of the LP), due to the poor audio quality of the finished product. Still, some of the songs, like Complicated, are good representations of where the band was musically at the time the album was recorded.
Title: Revolution (unissued original phased version)
Source: British import CD: 50 Minute Technicolour Dream
Writer(s): Keith Hopkins
Year: Recorded 1967, released 1998
Tomorrow only released one album during their existence, but it is considered one of the best British psychedelic albums ever made. Unfortunately, the release of the album was delayed almost a year, which in the late 1960s, with its quickly changing musical trends, was a fatal blow to the band. The first single released from that album was a song called Revolution that may have influenced John Lennon to write his own song with the same title after hearing it performed at London's UFO club in 1967. Tomorrow actually recorded two different versions of Revolution. The first one, recorded in 1967, included extensive stereo phasing effects, making it unsuitable to be folded down to a single track for AM radio broadcast. That version remained unreleased until 1998, when it was included on a retrospective CD called 50 Minute Technicolor Dream.
Source: LP: Fresh Cream
Writer(s): Ginger Baker
By 1970, pretty much every rock band in the world featured a drum solo during live performances. Before 1966, however, the practice was unheard of; in fact, drum solos were considered solely the province of jazz musicians. The guy who changed all that was Ginger Baker of Cream, who, on the band's very first album provided the studio version of Toad. Due to the limitations of four-track recording, the entire drum solo, which takes up the bulk of the five-minute recording, is assigned to one single track, which on the stereo version of the song is mixed entirely to one channel/speaker. This makes for a rather odd listening experience under certain circumstances. A longer version of Toad recorded live at the Fillmore would appear on Cream's third album, Wheels Of Fire, in 1968 (this time with the drums mixed in full stereo).
Artist: Music Machine
Source: Mono British import CD: The Ultimate Turn On (originally released as 45 RPM single B side and included on LP: Turn On The Music Machine)
Writer(s): Sean Bonniwell
Label: Big Beat (original label: Original Sound)
Sean Bonniwell was a member of the mainstream (i.e. lots of appearances on TV variety shows hosted by people like Perry Como and Bob Hope) folk group The Lamplighters in the early 60s. By 1966 he had morphed into one of the more mysterious figures on the LA music scene, leading a proto-punk band dressed entirely in black. Bonniwell himself wore a single black glove (Michael Jackson was about seven years old at the time), and was one of the most prolific songwriters of the time. His recordings, often featuring the distinctive Farfisa organ sound, were a primary influence on later LA bands such as Iron Butterfly and the Doors. One of the first Music Machine tracks to appear on vinyl was Wrong, which was released as the B side of the band's first single and included on their debut LP.
Artist: Paul Revere And The Raiders
Source: Rechanneled Stereo CD: The Best Of 60s Supergroups (originally released on 45 RPM single)
Label: Priority (original label: Columbia)
Kicks was not the first pop song with a strong anti-drug message, but it was the first one to be a certified hit, making it to the number four spot on the US charts and hitting number one in Canada. It was also the biggest hit for Paul Revere and the Raiders until Indian Reservation went all the way to the top of the charts five years later.
Title: Sunshine Superman
Source: CD: Sunshine On The Mountain (originally released in edited form on 45 RPM vinyl and on LP: Sunshine Superman)
Writer: Donovan Leitch
Label: Sony Music Special Products (original label: Epic)
Donovan's hugely successful Sunshine Superman is sometimes credited as being the tsunami that launched the wave of psychedelic music that washed over the shores of pop musicland in 1967. OK, I made that up, but the song really did change the direction of American pop as well as Donovan's own career. Originally released as a three and a quarter minute long single, the full unedited four and a half minute long stereo mix of the song heard here did not appear on vinyl until Donovan's 1969 Greatest Hits album.
Artist: Count Five
Title: Psychotic Reaction
Source: Mono CD: The Best Of 60s Psychedelic Rock (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Priority (original label: Double Shot)
San Jose, California, was home to one of the most vibrant local music scenes in the late 60s, despite its relatively small, pre-silicon valley population. One of the most popular bands on that scene was Count Five, a group of five guys who dressed like Bela Lugosi's Dracula and sounded like the Jeff Beck-era Yardbirds. Fortunately for Count Five, Jeff Beck had just left the Yardbirds when Psychotic Reaction came out, leaving a hole that the boys from San Jose were more than happy to fill.
Artist: Unrelated Segments
Title: Story Of My Life
Source: Mono CD: Nuggets-Original Artyfacts From The First Psychedelic Era (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Rhino (original label: HBR)
The Unrelated Segments were a Detroit band that had most of its success regionally. Their nearest brush with national fame came when Story Of My Life was picked up for national distribution by Hanna-Barbera, the record label associated with such well-known TV stars as Huckleberry Hound, Yogi Bear and (later) Scooby-Doo. Hannah-Barbera not being known for its hit records, it's probably no surprise that the song did not climb too high on the charts.
Title: The Diamond Hard Blue Apples Of The Moon (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Source: LP: Autumn To Spring
Label: Charisma (original label: Immediate)
The Nice are primarily remembered for two things: First, they were the band that made Keith Emerson famous, thanks in part to the second thing: their highly charged adaptation of Leonard Bernstein's America, from West Side Story. Actually, it was their live performance of America at the Royal Albert Hall that brought them the most notoriety, thanks to Emerson's burning of an American flag during the song itself (this also got Emerson banned for life from the Royal Albert Hall, something he had reason to regret later on). An edited version of America was also released as a single in 1968, but did not chart in the US. The B side of that single was a tune called The Diamond Hard Blue Apples Of The Moon that qualifies as an overlooked classic of the psychedelic era. The stereo mix of the song appeared on the 1972 album Autumn 1967-Spring 1968, which was released the following year in the US as Autumn To Spring.
Artist: Crosby, Stills And Nash
Title: Wooden Ships
Source: CD: Crosby, Stills And Nash
Among the various legendary characters on the late 60s San Francisco music scene, none is more reviled than Matthew Katz. His mistreatment of It's A Beautiful Day is legendary. Just about every band he managed was desperate to get out of their contract with him, including Moby Grape and Jefferson Airplane. In fact, it was because of the Airplane's fight to get out from under Katz's thumb that Paul Kantner did not get a writing credit for Wooden Ships on the first Crosby, Stills and Nash album. David Crosby had this to say on the matter: "Paul called me up and said that he was having this major duke-out with this horrible guy who was managing the band, and he was freezing everything their names were on. 'He might injunct the release of your record,' he told me. So we didn’t put Paul’s name on it for a while. In later versions, we made it very certain that he wrote it with us. Of course, we evened things up with him with a whole mess of cash when the record went huge." Although Jefferson Airplane eventually won their battle with Katz, others weren't so fortunate. Katz's San Francisco Sound still owns the rights to recordings by Moby Grape and It's A Beautiful Day, which explains why it's so hard to find quality copies of those recordings these days. Anyone want to take a guess how much the surviving members of those bands receive in royalties from the CD reissues of their albums? (Hint: at least one member of Moby Grape was known to have been living under a bridge at one point).
Artist: Guess Who
Title: 969 (The Oldest Man)
Source: CD: American Woman
Writer(s): Randy Bachman
Label: Buddha/BMG (original label: RCA Victor)
Although Burton Cummings was known primarily for his role as the Guess Who's lead vocalist, he got a chance to strut his stuff instrumentally as a flautist on 969 (The Oldest Man), an instrumental by Randy Bachman. Bachman himself showed a glimpse of the guitar prowess that he would become known for with his next band, Bachman Turner Overdrive, in the mid-1970s on the track.
Artist: Pink Floyd
Title: One Of These Days
Source: CD: Meddle
Label: Pink Floyd Records (original label: Harvest)
In their early years Pink Floyd was a band that was talked about more than heard, at least in the US. That began to change with the release of their 1971 LP Meddle and its opening track, One Of These Days, which got a significant amount of airplay on progressive FM radio stations.
Artist: Jefferson Airplane
Title: 3/5 Of A Mile In 10 Seconds
Source: LP: Surrealistic Pillow
Writer(s): Marty Balin
Label: RCA Victor
Marty Balin says he came up with the title of the opening track of side two of Jefferson Airplane's Surrealistic Pillow album by combining a couple of random phrases from the sports section of a newspaper. 3/5 Of A Mile In 10 Seconds works out to 216 MPH, by the way.
Title: Hang On Sloopy
Source: 45 RPM single
The McCoys were a fairly typical Eastern Ohio band of the mid-60s, playing parties, teen clubs, high school dances and occassionally opening for out of town acts. In 1965 the McCoys opened for the Strangeloves, who were on the road promoting their hit single I Want Candy (of course, the Strangeloves were in reality a trio of professional songwriters who had come up with a rather unusual gimmick: they passed themselves off as sons of an Australian sheepherder). The members of the Strangeloves were so impressed with the McCoys, particularly vocalist/guitarist Rick Derringer, that they offered them the song that was slated to be the follow-up to I Want Candy: a song called Hang On Sloopy. The instrumental tracks for the song had already been recorded, so the only member of the McCoys to actually appear on the record is Derringer. Hang On Sloopy went all the way to the top of the charts, becoming one of the top 10 singles of the year and providing a stellar debut for Derringer, who went on to hook up with both Johnny Winter and the Edgar Winter Group before embarking on a successful solo career.
Artist: Steve Piper
Source: CD: Mirror
Writer(s): Steve Piper
Not every talented musician signs a contract with a major record label. Many, for a variety of reasons, choose to remain local, appearing at a variety of venues and often building up a following that is every bit as loyal as the largest international audience. One such local artist is Steve Piper of Rochester, NY. He has been performing, both as a solo artist and as a member of various groups, for several years now, occasionally recording an album's worth of material in his home studio. Recently he sent me a copy of his third CD, Mirror, with a note mentioning how most of the album is in a quiet, acoustic vein, but that one track, Sunnyland, may fit into Stuck in the Psychedelic Era's Advanced Psych segment. As it turns out, Sunnyland does indeed fit in with this week's acoustically-oriented Advanced Psych segment.
Artist: Country Joe McDonald
Title: Round And Round
Source: CD: 50
Writer(s): Joe McDonald
Label: Rag Baby
One of the most haunting tracks on the 2017 Country Joe McDonald album, 50, Round And Round is about nothing less than life itself. Well, our lives, at least. I kind of doubt that the various non-sentient species on our planet think much about this stuff. Regardless, it's a beautiful tune, well worth listening to.
Artist: Ace Of Cups
Title: We Can't Go Back Again
Source: CD: Ace Of Cups
Label: High Moon
According to Ace Of Cups founder Mary Gannon, Denise Kaufman wrote We Can't Go Back Again on keyboards rather than her usual guitar and first presented it to the group at their rehearsal space in Sausalito. Producer Dan Shae helped update the song for inclusion of the 2018 Ace Of Cups album. The lyrics are at once a caution about squandering what little time we have on this planet and an invitation to reach out to others while we still can.
Title: Nature's Way/Animal Zoo/Love Has Found A Way/Why Can't I Be Free
Source: CD: Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus
Spirit was one of those bands that consistently scored well with the critics, yet was never truly able to connect with a large segment of the record buying audience at any given time. Perhaps their best album was Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus, released in 1970 to glowing reviews. Despite this, the album actually charted lower than any of their three previous efforts, and would be the last to feature the band's original lineup. In the long haul, however, Twelve Dreams has become the group's top selling album, thanks to steady catalog sales over a period of years. Unlike many more popular records of the time, Twelve Dreams sounds as fresh and original today as when it first appeared, as can be easily heard on the four-song medley that makes up the bulk of the LP's first side. Indeed, despite never having charted as a single, Nature's Way, a Randy California tune which starts the sequence, is one of the best-known songs in the entire Spirit catalog. Additionally, its ecological theme segues naturally into Animal Zoo, a Jay Ferguson tune with a more satirical point of view. Love Has Found A Way, written by vocalist Ferguson and keyboardist John Locke, can best described as psychedelic space jazz, while Why Can't I Be Free is a simple, yet lovely, short coda from guitarist California. Although Spirit, in various incarnations, would continue to record for many years, they would never put out another album as listenable as Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus.
Artist: Bob Dylan
Title: Like A Rolling Stone
Source: CD: Highway 61 Revisited
Writer: Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan incurred the wrath of folk purists when he decided to use electric instruments for his 1965 LP Highway 61 Revisited. The opening track on the album is the six-minute Like A Rolling Stone, a song that was also selected to be the first single released from the new album. After the single was pressed, the shirts at Columbia Records decided to cancel the release due to its length. An acetate copy of the record, however, made it to a local New York club, where, by audience request, the record was played over and over until it was worn out (acetate copies not being as durable as their vinyl counterparts). When Columbia started getting calls from local radio stations demanding copies of the song the next morning they decided to release the single after all. Like A Rolling Stone ended up going all the way to the number two spot on the US charts, doing quite well in several other countries as well. Personnel on this historic recording included guitarist Michael Bloomfield, pianist Paul Griffin, drummer Bobby Gregg, bassist Joe Madho, guitarist Charlie McCoy and tambourinist Bruce Langhorne. In addition, guitarist Al Kooper, who was on the scene as a guest of producer Tom Wilson, sat in on organ, ad-libbing a part that so impressed Dylan that he insisted it be given a prominent place in the final mixdown. This in turn led to Kooper permanently switching over to keyboards for the remainder of his career.
Artist: Butterfield Blues Band
Source: CD: East-West
Along with the Blues Project, the Butterfield Blues Band (and guitarist Michael Bloomfield in particular) are credited with starting the movement toward improvisation in rock music. Both are cited as influences on the new bands that were cropping up in San Francisco in late 1966m including Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service and the Grateful Dead. The first Butterfield album did not have much in the way of improvisation, however, as Butterfield himself was a Chicago blues traditionalist who, like many of his idols, held the reins of the band tightly and did not tolerate deviation. By the time of the band's second LP, however, the group was becoming more of a democracy, especially after their successful live shows brought rave reviews for the musicianship of the individual members, especially Bloomfield (who in some polls was rated the number one guitarist in the country). Bloomfield used this new clout to push for more improvisation, and the result was the classic album East-West. The title track itself is a modal piece; that is, it (in jazz terms) stays on the One rather than following a traditional blues progression. Within that framework Bloomfield's solo uses scales found in eastern music (Indian in particular); hence the title of the piece: East-West. Another difference between East-West and the first Butterfield album was that second guitarist Elvin Bishop, who had played strictly rhythm guitar on the debut, got a chance to do some solo work of his own on East-West. Bishop would soon find himself the band's lead guitarist when Bloomfield left to form the Electric Flag in 1967.
Artist: Red Crayola
Title: War Sucks
Source: Mono LP: The Parable Of Arable Lands
Label: International Artists
New York had the Velvet Underground. L.A. had the United States of America. San Francisco had 50 Foot Hose. And Texas had the Red Crayola. Formed by art students at the University of St. Thomas (Texas) in 1966, the band was led by singer/guitarist and visual artist Mayo Thompson, along with drummer Frederick Barthelme (brother of novelist Donald Barthelme) and Steve Cunningham. The band was almost universally panned by the rock press but has since achieved cult status as a pioneer of avant-garde psychedelic punk and is considered a forerunner of "lo-fi" rock. The band's debut album, The Parable Of Arable Land, released in 1967, was reportedly recorded in one continuous session and utilizes the services of "The Familiar Ugly", a group of about 50 friends of the band, each of which was invited to play whatever they pleased on whatever sound-producing device they chose to (such as blowing into a soda bottle), filling time between the actual songs on the album. Roky Erickson, leader of the Red Crayola's International Artists labelmates 13th Floor Elevators, can be heard playing organ as part of the cacaphony.
Artist: Chocolate Watchband
Source: British import CD: Melts In Your Brain, Not On Your Wrist (originally released on LP: The Inner Mystique)
Label: Big Beat (original label: Tower)
Year: Backing tracks recorded 1968, lead vocals recorded 2005
By early 1968 the Chocolate Watchband had fallen on hard times. In fact, the original group had disbanded, only to reform at the behest of Tower Records and producer Ed Cobb, who wanted to put out a second Watchband LP. In short order a new group featuring mostly former members of the Watchband was formed. Cobb, however, did not have the time to wait for the new lineup to gel and got to work on the album without them. In fact, the entire first side of The Inner Mystique was performed by studio musicians. Additionally, Cobb pulled out unreleased tapes from the archive to help fill out the album, including the original band's cover of a Standells tune called Medication. Like their earlier track Let's Talk About Girls, Medication featured studio vocalist Don Bennett rather than the band's actual lead vocalist, Dave Aguilar. It's not known for sure why the substitution was made, unless perhaps Cobb was feeling pressure from the rock press, which had dismissed Aguilar as a Mick Jagger wannabe. Finally, in 2005, Aguilar recorded brand new vocals to go with the original 1968 track.