Sunday, March 17, 2019
Stuck in the Psychedelic Era # 1912 (starts 3/18/19)
It's generally acknowledged that the psychedelic era hit its peak around 1967, and this week we acknowledge that with 15 songs from that year, spread out over three sets. In between we have a couple sets each from 1966 and 1968, a mid-60s Beatles set and a pair of tunes from 1965.
Artist: Shadows of Knight
Source: LP: Nuggets Vol. 2-Punk (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Van Morrison
Label: Rhino (original label: Dunwich)
The original Them version of Van Morrison's Gloria found itself banned on the majority of US radio stations due to controversial lyrics. By changing one line (essentially substituting "around here" for "up to my room") the suburban Chicago punk-blues band Shadows of Knight turned it into a huge hit and a garage band standard.
Title: Sunny Afternoon
Source: 45 RPM single
Writer: Ray Davies
My family got our first real stereo in late summer of 1966, just in time for me to catch the Kinks' Sunny Afternoon at the peak of its popularity. My school had just gone into split sessions and all my classes were over by one o'clock, which gave me the chance to explore the world of top 40 radio through decent speakers for a couple hours every day without the rest of the family telling me to turn it down (or off). Unfortunately, Denver's first FM rock station was still a few months off, so the decent speakers were handicapped by being fed an AM radio signal.
Artist: Country Joe And The Fish
Title: Section 43 (EP version)
Source: Mono British import CD: The Berkeley EPs (originally released on EP: Rag Baby #2)
Writer(s): Joe McDonald
Label: Big Beat (original label: Rag Baby)
Rag Baby was an underground journal published by Country Joe McDonald in mid-60s Berkeley, California. In 1965 McDonald decided to do a "talking issue" of the paper with an extended play (EP) record containing two songs by McDonald's band, Country Joe and the Fish and two by singer Peter Krug. In 1966 McDonald published a second Rag Baby EP, this time featuring four songs by Country Joe and the Fish. Among those was the original version of Section 43, a psychedelic instrumental that would appear in a re-recorded (and slightly changed) stereo form on the band's first LP, Electric Music For The Mind And Body, in early 1967.
Artist: Quicksilver Messenger Service
Title: Who Do You Love
Source: Mono CD: Love Is The Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-70 (originally released on CD: Quicksilver: Lost Gold And Silver)
Writer(s): Elias McDaniel
Label: Rhino (original label: Collector's Choice)
Year: Recorded 1966, released 1999
The classic San Francisco music scene (c 1966) had at its core three popular local bands: Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service. Although none of these bands were at their artistic peak, they did epitomize the spirit of the city's counter-culture and the Haight-Ashbury district in particular. The Airplane was the first to experience national success, thanks to a membership shuffle in late 1966 that brought Grace Slick and Spencer Dryden into the group. The Dead followed in 1967, leaving only Quicksilver without a record contract as late as 1968. By the time they did sign their deal to Capitol, Quicksilver had already had its own share of personnel changes, including the departure of original lead vocalist Jim Murray. In fact, the only QMS recording I know of with Murray at the helm is this 1966 demo of the Bo Diddley classic Who Do You Love, featuring an extended jam that was typical of the band in its early days.
Artist: Rolling Stones
Source: 45 RPM single (stereo reissue)
If there was a British equivalent to the Beach Boys' Good Vibrations in terms of time and money spent on a single song, it might be We Love You, a 1967 single released by the Rolling Stones. To go along with the single (with its state-of-the-art production) the band spent a considerable sum making a full-color promotional video, a practice that would not become commonplace until the advent of MTV in the 1980s. Despite all this, US radio stations virtually ignored We Love You, choosing to instead flip the record over and play the B side, a tune called Dandelion. As to why this came about, I suspect that Bill Drake, the man behind the nation's most influential top 40 stations, simply decided that the less elaborately produced Dandelion was better suited to the US market than We Love You and instructed his hand-picked program directors at such stations as WABC (New York), KHJ (Los Angeles) and WLS (Chicago) to play Dandelion. The copycat nature of top 40 radio being what it is, Dandelion ended up being a moderate hit in the US in the summer of '67.
Artist: Eric Burdon And The Animals
Title: Good Times
Source: British import CD: Winds Of Change
Label: Repertoire (original label: M-G-M)
By the end of the original Animals' run they were having greater chart success with their singles in the US than in their native UK. That trend continued with the formation of the "new" Animals in 1967 and their first single, When I Was Young. Shortly after the first LP by the band now known as Eric Burdon And The Animals came out, M-G-M decided to release the song San Franciscan Nights as a single to take advantage of the massive youth migration to the city that summer. Meanwhile the band's British label decided to instead issue Good Times, (an autobiographical song which was released in the US as the B side to San Franciscan Nights) as a single, and the band ended up with one of their biggest UK hits ever. Riding the wave of success of Good Times, San Franciscan Nights eventually did get released in the UK and was a hit there as well.
Artist: Kaleidoscope (UK)
Title: Flight From Ashiya
Source: Mono CD: Nuggets II-Original Artyfacts From The British Empire And Beyond 1964-1969 (originally released in UK as 45 RPM single)
Label: Rhino (original label: Fontana)
Although they did not have any hit singles, London's Kaleidoscope had enough staying power to record two album's worth of material for the Fontana label before disbanding. The group's first release was Flight From Ashiya, a single released in September of 1967. Describing a bad plane trip with a stoned pilot, the song is filled with chaotic images, making the song's story a bit hard to follow. Still, it's certainly worth a listen.
Artist: Steve Miller Band
Source: LP: Revolution soundtrack
Writer(s): Steve Miller
Label: United Artists
Before releasing their debut LP on the Capitol label in 1968, the Steve Miller Band appeared in the documentary film Revolution, which was filmed the previous year on the streets of San Francisco. Among the songs performed in the film, and then re-recorded in the studio for the soundtrack album, was a trippy instrumental called Superbyrd, which doesn't sound anything like Superbird by Country Joe and the Fish (who also appeared in the film).
Artist: Big Brother And The Holding Company
Title: I Need A Man To Love
Source: LP: Cheap Thrills
Big Brother and the Holding Company recorded their first album at the Chicago studios of Mainstream records in 1967. Mainstream, however, was a jazz label and their engineers had no idea how to make a band like Big Brother sound good. When the band signed to Columbia the following year it was decided that the best way to record the band was onstage at the Fillmore West. As a result, when Cheap Thrills was released, four of the seven tracks were live recordings, including the Janis Joplin/Peter Albin collaboration I Need A Man To Love.
Artist: Insect Trust
Title: Mountain Song
Source: LP: The Insect Trust
It's sometimes assumed that psychedelic rock was purely a west coast phenomena. The truth is that there were psychedelic bands popping up all over the place in the late 1960s. New York's brand of psychedelia was decidedly more avant garde than in other locations, due to the city's position as a major art center. The most famous link between pop art and psychedelic rock was Andy Warhol's sponsorship of the Velvet Underground, but it was not the only one. The United States Of America was born directly out of the New York art scene before relocating to Los Angeles. Less known was the Insect Trust, which included saxophonist Robert Palmer, who would go on to greater fame as the longtime popular music critic for the new York Times. The front person for the group was vocalist Nancy Jeffries, whose voice is heard on Mountain Song, a relatively quiet tune credited to the entire band. After a second, more R&B-oriented album for a different label, the Insect Trust disbanded in the early 1970s.
Artist: Jelly Bean Bandits
Source: British Import CD: All Kinds Of Highs (originally released on LP: The Jelly Bean Bandits)
Label: Big Beat (original label: Mainstream)
Of the various albums released on Bob Shad's Mainstream label from 1966-1969, one of the most fully realized was the first (and only) album by the Jelly Bean Bandits. Formed as the Mirror in 1966, the Bandits built up a following in the native Newburgh, NY and surrounding areas over a period on months. The particularly brash move of tearing pages out of the yellow pages and showing up unannounced at the offices of various record labels led them to a meeting with Shad at Mainstream's New York offices. After listening to the band's demos Shad offered the Jelly Bean Bandits a contract to record three albums, but, sadly, only one was released. One of the highlights of that album was Tapestries, sung by drummer Joe Scalfari. The Bandits immediately got to work on a second album, but a combination of internal and financial difficulties, coupled with lack of promotional support from their label, led to the group's early demise.
Artist: Buffalo Springfield
Title: Rock And Roll Woman
Source: LP: Homer (soundtrack) (originally released on LP: Buffalo Springfield Again and as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Stephen Stills
Label: Cotillion (original label: Atco)
Buffalo Springfield did not sell huge numbers of records (except for the single For What It's Worth) while they were together. Nor did they pack in the crowds. As a matter of fact, when they played the club across the street from where Love was playing, they barely had any audience at all. Artistically, though, it's a whole 'nother story. During their brief existence Buffalo Springfield launched the careers of no less than four major artists: Neil Young, Richie Furay, Jim Messina and Stephen Stills. They also recorded more than their share of tracks that have held up better than most of what else was being recorded at the time. Case in point: Rock And Roll Woman, a Stephen Stills tune that still sounds fresh well over 40 years after it was recorded.
Artist: Music Machine
Title: Astrologically Incompatible
Source: Mono British import CD: My Mind Goes High (originally released in US as 45 RPM single)
Writer: Sean Bonniwell
Label: Warner Strategic Marketing (original label: Warner Brothers)
While touring extensively in 1967 the Music Machine continued to take every possible opportunity to record new material in the studio, while at the same time working to change record labels. The first single to be issued on the Warner Brothers label was Bottom Of The Soul, released in late 1967. The B side of that record was Astrologically Incompatible, one of the first rock songs to deal with astrological themes, albeit in a slightly tongue-in-cheek manner.
Artist: Spencer Davis Group
Title: I'm A Man
Source: Mono LP: Progressive Heavies (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: United Artists
The Spencer Davis Group, featuring Steve and Muff Winwood, was one of the UK's most successful white R&B bands of the sixties, cranking out a steady stream of hit singles. Two of them, the iconic Gimme Some Lovin' and I'm A Man, were also major hits in the US, the latter being the last song to feature the Winwood brothers. Muff Winwood became a successful record producer. The group itself continued on for several years, but were never able to duplicate their earlier successes. As for Steve Winwood, he quickly faded off into obscurity, never to be heard from again. Except as the leader of Traffic. And a member of Blind Faith. And Traffic again. And some critically-acclaimed collaborations in the early 1980s with Asian musicians. Oh yeah, and a few major solo hits (Higher Love, Roll With It...that kinda thing) in the mid-to-late 1980s. Other than that, nothing.
Source: Stereo 45 RPM single (reissue)
The Supremes weren't exactly known as a psychedelic group, nor were their primary songwriters, Lamont Dozier and the Holland brothers. Nonetheless, together they produced one of the most psychedelic tunes ever to come out of Motown. Well, it was 1967, after all.
Artist: Kaleidoscope (US)
Title: You Don't Love Me
Source: CD: Pulsating Dreams (originally released on LP: A Beacon From Mars)
Writer(s): Willie Cobbs
Label: Retroworld/Floating World (original label: Epic)
Despite being a product of the same club scene that brought us Love, the Byrds and the Doors, Kaleidoscope had a reputation for being the "eclectic electric" band. A listen to their first two albums confirms that Kaleidoscope did indeed cover a wide range of musical ground, including a mix of original compositions and cover versions of older material such as Willie Cobbs' signature tune You Don't Love Me. The band's original lineup of David Saul Feldthouse, David Lindley, Fenrus Epp and Chris Darrow (multi-instrumentalists all), along with drummer John Vidican (who also played a little tympani), only recorded two LPs (the second of which was 1968's A Beacon From Mars) before internal friction led to the departure of Darrow and Vidican. Kaleidoscope continued on with new members for two more albums before finally disbanding in 1970.
Artist: Max Frost And The Troopers
Title: Shape Of Things To Come
Source: Mono CD: Nuggets-Original Artyfacts From The First Psychedelic Era (originally released as 45 RPM single and on LP: Wild In The Streets (soundtrack))
Label: Rhino (original label: Tower)
Max Frost was a politically savvy rock star who rode the youth movement all the way to the White House, first through getting the support of a hip young Senator, then getting the age requirements for holding high political office lowered to 21, and finally lowering the voting age to 14. Everyone over 30 was locked away in internment camps, similar to those used during WWII by various governments to hold those of questionable loyalty to the current regime. What? You don't remember any of that? You say it sounds like the plot of a cheapie late 60s teen exploitation flick? Right on all counts. "Wild in the Streets" starred Christopher Jones as the rock star, Hal Holbrook as the hip young senator, and a Poseidon Adventure-sized Shelly Winter as the rock star's interred mom. Richard Pryor, in his film debut, played the band's hook-handed drummer/political activist Stanley X. The band itself, Max Frost And The Troopers, was actually either a group called the 13th Power (as credited on the label) or Davie Allen And The Arrows, an instrumental group that was often called on to provide music for teen-oriented B movie soundtracks.
Artist: Sound Sandwich
Title: Tow Away
Source: Mono LP: Ain't It Hard (released to radio stations as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Johnny Cole
Label: Sundazed (original label: Viva)
Sound Sandwich was a young (as in high school age) Los Angeles band that came under the wing of producer Johnny Cole, who wrote both of the band's singles. The second of these, Tow Away, does not show up in the database I usually use, leading me to believe the record was only released as a promo to L.A. area radio stations shortly before Viva Records closed its doors permanently.
Source: Mono CD: Where The Action Is: L.A. Nuggets 1965-68 (originally released on LP: Thorinshield)
Label: Rhino (original label: Philips)
Before 1966 it was virtually unheard of for a newly-signed band to record an album without first putting out a single to get an idea of their sales potential. By 1967, however, due to a variety of reasons, including the rise of album-oriented FM rock stations and the interest being shown in album tracks by groups like the Blues Project and the Butterfield Blues Band, as well as more established groups like the Beatles and the Beach Boys, some labels, particularly those not having a lot of top 40 hits anyway such as Philips (yes, the same company that invented CD technology and makes light bulbs), started taking chances with new acts such as L.A.'s Thorinshield. Sounding like a slightly more commercial version of the San Francisco bands making headlines that year on songs like Daydreaming, Thorinshield released one self-titled album before its members moved on to other things.
Artist: Strawberry Alarm Clock
Source: LP: The Best Of The Strawberry Alarm Clock
The story of the Strawberry Alarm Clock almost seems like a "best of" (or maybe "worst of") collection of things that could have happened to a band during the psychedelic era. Signed with a local label: check. Released single: check. Started getting airplay on local radio stations: check. Record picked up by major label for national distribution: check. Record becomes hit: check. Band gets to record an entire album: check. Album does reasonably well on charts, mostly due to popularity of single: check. Band gets to record second album, but with more creative freedom, thanks to previous successes: check. Single from second album does OK, but nowhere near as OK as first hit single: check. Second album fails to chart: check. Second single from second album charts lower than either previous single. Band soldiers on for a while longer, but never manages to duplicate success of first single: check. Band disbands: check. In the case of the Strawberry Alarm Clock, the hit single was huge. Incense And Peppermints is still one of the best known songs of 1967. The second single, Tomorrow, not so much, although it did indeed make the top 40, peaking at #23. Not that it's a bad song, by any means. But, to be honest, it's no Incense And Peppermints, either.
Artist: Electric Prunes
Title: Dr. Do-Good
Source: CD: Underground
Label: Collector's Choice/Rhino (original label: Reprise)
I have a theory that the decision makers at Reprise Records didn't bother to actually listen to this bit of weirdness from Underground, the second Electric Prunes album. Instead, they apparently just looked at the songwriting credits, saw that Dr. Do-Good was written by Annette Tucker and Nancy Mantz (the same songwriting team that had come up with the band's first big hit, I Had Too Much To Dream), and decided to issue it as the first single from the album, leaving everyone, including producer Dave Hassinger and the band members themselves, scratching their heads.
Title: So You Want To Be A Rock And Roll Star
Source: Mono LP: Younger Than Yesterday
By early 1967 there was a building resentment among musicians and rock press alike concerning the instant (and in many eyes unearned) success of the Monkees. One notable expression of this resentment was the Byrds' So You Want To Be A Rock And Roll Star, which takes a somewhat sarcastic look at what it takes to succeed in the music business. Unfortunately, much of what they talk about in the song continues to apply today (although the guitar has been somewhat supplanted by the computer as the instrument of choice).
Artist: Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title: Foxy Lady
Source: LP: The Essential Jimi Hendrix Volume Two (originally released on LP: Are You Experienced)
Writer(s): Jimi Hendrix
The first track on the original release of Are You Experienced was Foxy Lady. The British custom of the time was to not include any songs on albums that had been previously released as singles. When Reprise Records got the rights to release the album in the US, it was decided to include three songs that had all been top 40 hits in the UK. One of those songs, Purple Haze, took over the opening spot on the album, and Foxy Lady was moved to the middle of side 2. For some reason Reprise Records misspelled the title as Foxey Lady, and continued to do so on posthumous compilations such as The Essential Jimi Hendrix Volume Two.
Title: Strange Brew
Source: LP: Disraeli Gears
During sessions for Cream's second album, Disraeli Gears, the trio of Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker recorded an instrumental track for an old blues tune, Lawdy Mama. Producer Felix Pappalardi and his wife Janet Collins reworked the melody and lyrics to create an entirely new song, Strange Brew. Clapton provided the lead vocals for the song, which was issued as a single in Europe and the UK, as well as being chosen as the lead track for the album itself.
Title: Preachin' Love
Source: Mono British import CD: Mellow Yellow (bonus track originally released as 45 RPM B side)
Writer: Donovan Leitch
Label: EMI (original US label: Epic)
Due to a contract dispute with his UK record label, Pye Records, Mellow Yellow (the song), did not get released in Donovan's native country until early 1967, well after the song had already run its course on the US charts. Preachin' Love, a swing jazz tune recorded in late 1966, was chosen as the record's B side. Around the same time Donovan's next US single, Epistle To Dippy, was released, also with Preachin' Love as the B side. The song was not included on any albums, however, until re-issued in the UK on the Mellow Yellow CD.
Title: Yellow Submarine
Source: CD: Revolver
Ringo's greatest hit. (What, you expected some sort of hidden insight into one of the best-known songs in pop culture history???)
Title: Ticket To Ride
Source: CD: Help!
Label: Parlophone (original label: Capitol)
Trying to figure out the Beatles' catalog can be a bit confusing, as Capitol Records, which had the rights to release the band's recordings in the US, had their own ideas about what should be on a Beatles album, which was often at odds with the wishes of the band members themselves. Some US albums, such as Beatles '65, had no British counterpart at all, while others had different track lineups than the original UK versions. Probably the most radically altered of the original LPs was the soundtrack album to the film Help! In the UK, side one of the album contained songs from the film itself, while side two contained a collection of unrelated studio recordings, some of which had been intended for, but not used in, the film. In the US, however, the Help album included incidental orchestral pieces heard throughout the movie interspersed with the songs heard on side one of the UK album. Among the tracks heard on both versions was Ticket To Ride, which was also issued as a single in the US (using one of the songs from side two of the UK Help album as a B side). The tune has gone on to become one of the most recognizable Beatle songs ever.
Source: CD: Revolver
Writer(s): George Harrison
The Beatles' 1966 LP Revolver was a major step forward, particularly for guitarist George Harrison, who for the first time had three of his own compositions on an album. Making it even sweeter was the fact that one of these, Taxman, was chosen to lead off the album itself. Although Harrison is usually considered the band's lead guitarist, the solo in Taxman is actually performed by Paul McCartney.
Source: Mono LP: Love
Writer(s): Arthur Lee
L.A's Sunset Strip blossomed as a hangout for teenaged baby boomers in the mid-1960s, with clubs like Ciro's and the Whisky-A-Go-Go pulling in capacity crowds on a regular basis. These clubs had learned early on that the best way to draw a crowd was to hire a live band, which gave rise to a thriving local music scene. Among the many bands playing the strip, perhaps the most popular was Love, the house band at the Whisky-A-Go-Go. Led by multi-instrumentalist Arthur Lee and boasting not one, but two songwriters (Lee and guitarist Bryan MacLean), Love made history in 1966 by being the first rock band signed to Elektra Records. Lee, a recent convert to the then-popular folk-rock style popularized by the Byrds (for whom MacLean had been a roadie) had come from an R&B background and counted a then-unknown Jimi Hendrix among his musician friends. Songs like Gazing, from Love's debut LP, gave an early indication that Lee, even while writing in the folk-rock idiom, had a powerful musical vision that was all his own.
Artist: Janis Ian
Title: Society's Child
Source: Mono CD: Songs Of protest (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Janis Ian
Label: Rhino (original label: Verve Forecast)
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) 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. Ironic, considering that Society's Child ends with the protagonist backing down and giving in to society's rules.
Artist: Blues Magoos
Title: Tobacco Road
Source: LP: Psychedelic Lollipop
Writer(s): John D. Loudermilk
For years I've been trying to find a DVD copy of a video I saw on YouTube. It was the Blues Magoos, complete with electric suits and smoke generators, performing Tobacco Road on a Bob Hope TV special. The performance itself was a vintage piece of psychedelia, but the true appeal of the video is in Hope's reaction to the band immediately following the song. You can practically hear him thinking "Well, that's one act I'm not taking with me on my next USO tour."
Title: Tell Her No
Source: 45 RPM single (stereo reissue)
Writer(s): Rod Argent
Label: London (original label: Parrot)
Rod Argent was responsible for writing four well-known hit songs, which were spread out over a period of eight years (and two bands). The second of these was the Zombies' Tell Her No, released in 1965. The song got mixed reviews from critics, all of which measured the tune against Beatle songs of the same period.
Title: Pushin' Too Hard
Source: Simulated stereo LP: Nuggets Vol. 1-The Hits (originally released on LP: The Seeds and as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Sky Saxon
Label: Rhino (original label: GNP Crescendo)
Pushin' Too Hard was originally released as a single in 1965 (under the title You're Pushin' Too Hard), but did not make an immediate impression. The following year, however, the tune started getting some local airplay on Los Angeles area stations. This in turn led to the band recording their first album, The Seeds, which was released in spring of 1966. A second Seeds LP, A Web Of Sound, hit L.A. record stores in the fall of the same year. Meanwhile, Pushin' Too Hard, which had been reissued with a different B side in mid-1966, started to get national airplay, hitting its peak position on the Billboard charts in February of 1967.