Sunday, April 28, 2019
Stuck in the Psychedelic Era # 1918 (starts 4/29/19)
This week's highlights include a set of Jimi Hendrix Experience tracks that remained unreleased until the 21st century, and a portion of Curt Boettcher's masterpiece: an album called Begin, by the Millennium. We also have the Turtles masquerading as a couple of other bands and Deep Purple with one of the best covers of a Beatles song ever recorded. And that's not even the half of it.
Title: Who Do You Love
Source: CD: Even More Nuggets (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer: Elias McDaniel
Label: Rhino (original label: Dunhill)
Lansing, Michigan was home to the Woolies, who scored a minor hit covering Bo Diddley's Who Do You Love, thanks in large part to the song being issued on Lou Adler's Dunhill Records, which was at that time one of the hottest new labels around.
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.
Artist: 13th Floor Elevators
Title: Kingdom Of Heaven
Source: CD: The Psychedelic Sounds Of the 13th Floor Elevators
Writer(s): Powell St. John
Label: Collectables (original label: International Artists)
Before moving out to San Francisco and co-forming Mother Earth with Tracy Nelson, Powell St. John wrote several songs for Austin's 13th Floor Elevators. Among the St. John compositions appearing on the first Elevators LP was Kingdom Of Heaven, a song that meshed well with the band's more spiritual leanings.
Title: Strange Days
Source: LP: Strange Days
Writer(s): The Doors
One of the first rock albums to not picture the band members on the front cover was the Doors' second LP, Strange Days. Instead, the cover featured several circus performers doing various tricks on a city street, with the band's logo appearing on a poster on the wall of a building. The album itself contains some of the Doors' most memorable tracks, including the title song, which also appears on their greatest hits album despite never being released as a single.
Artist: Drag Set
Title: Day And Night
Source: Mono British import CD: Love, Poetry And Revolution (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Grapefruit (original label: Go)
For every British band to find international success in the mid-60s there were at least a dozen more that were never heard of outside their native land. Some of these bands (such as the Move and the Small Faces) were actually quite popular on their home turf, while others were barely able to scratch out a living and are for the most part long-forgotten. In between were the bands that had enough going for them to score a contract with one of the many new labels popping up, but were never able to get a record on the charts. Among those "in-betweeners" were a band called the Drag Set. They played gigs at the most popular London clubs in 1965 and 1966, which in turn led to them hooking up with Lionel Segal, who owned the Go label. The Drag Set released Day And Night in March of 1967, but the record went nowhere and the by the end of the year the band had renamed itself The Open Mind.
Title: Blue Jay Way
Source: British import stereo 45 RPM EP: Magical Mystery Tour
Writer(s): George Harrison
One night in 1967, while staying at a rented house on Blue Jay Way in the Hollywood hills, Beatle George Harrison got a phone call. Some friends that he was waiting for had gotten lost in the fog and were trying to find their way to the house. Harrison gave them some directions and suggested they ask a police officer for help. To help keep himself awake while waiting for his friends to show up, Harrison wrote a song about the situation that eventually became his only musical contribution to the band's new project, a telefilm called Magical Mystery Tour. Some people consider it the best track in the movie.
Artist: Status Quo
Title: Pictures Of Matchstick Men
Source: Simulated stereo CD: The Best Of 60s Psychedelic Rock (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Francis Rossi
Label: Priority (original label: Cadet Concept)
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).
Title: The Ostrich
Source: CD: Born To Be Wild-A Retrospective (originally released as 45 RPM single B side and included on LP: Steppenwolf)
Writer(s): John Kay
Label: MCA (original label: Dunhill)
Although John Kay's songwriting skills were still a work in progress on the first Steppenwolf album, there were some outstanding Kay songs on that LP, such as The Ostrich, a song that helped define Steppenwolf as one of the most politically savvy rock bands in history. An edited version of The Ostrich was released several weeks earlier than the album itself as the B side of Steppenwolf's first single, A Girl I Knew.
Title: The Know It All/Karmic Dream Sequence #1/There Is Nothing More To Say
Source: LP: Begin
Curt Boettcher, despite looking about 15 years old, was already at 24 an experienced record producer by early 1968, having worked with the Association on their first album, as well as co-producing Sagittarius with Gary Usher and producing his own group, the Ballroom, in 1967. Among the many people he had worked with were multi-instrumentalist Keith Olsen, drummer Ron Edgar and bassist Doug Rhodes, all of which had been members of Sean Bonniwell's Music Machine in 1966-67. Following the release of the debut Eternity's Children album, which Olsen and Boettcher co-produced, the two formed a new group called the Millennium. In addition to the aforementioned Music Machine members, the Millennium included singer/songwriter/guitarists Lee Mallory, Sandy Salisbury, and Michael Fennelly, all of who Boettcher had worked with on various studio projects, and Joey Spec, who would go on to form his own Sonic Past Music label many years later. Working on state-of-the-art 16 track equipment at Columbia's Los Angeles studios, they produced the album Begin, which, at that point in time, was the most expensive album ever made and only the second (after Simon & Garfunkel's Bookends) to use 16-track technology. The only problem was that by the time the album was released in mid-1968, public tastes had changed radically from just a year before, with top 40 listeners going for the simple bubble-gum tunes coming from the Buddah label and album fans getting into louder, heavier groups like Blue Cheer and the Jimi Hendrix Experience. There was no market for the lavishly produced Begin album, which failed to chart despite getting rave reviews from the press. A second Millennium album was shelved, and the members went their separate ways. In more recent years the album has attained legendary status as, in the words of one critic, "probably the single greatest 60s pop record produced in L.A. outside of the Beach Boys".
Artist: Deep Purple
Source: LP: Shades Of Deep Purple
It takes brass for a band to include a Beatles cover on their debut LP, especially if they have chosen to completely rearrange the song, a la Vanilla Fudge. Nonetheless, that is exactly what happened on the album Shades Of Deep Purple, which hit the stands in 1968. The Beatles cover song in question is the classic Help! Deep Purple gives it a kind of slow, soft treatment that is both light years away from the original, and, in my opinion, quite an enjoyable listen.
Title: Think About It
Source: Mono Australian import CD: Over, Under, Sideways, Down (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Label: Raven (original label: Epic)
The final Yardbirds record was a single released in early 1968. Although the group made TV appearances in Europe to promote the A side, Good Night Josephine, it is the B side of that record, Think About It, that deserves to be considered the last Yardbirds song. Instrumentally the song sounds a lot like something off of Led Zeppelin's first couple of albums. Once Keith Relf's vocals come in, however, there is no doubt that this is vintage Yardbirds, and quite possibly the best track of the entire Jimmy Page era.
Title: It Won't Be Wrong
Source: LP: Turn! Turn! Turn!
The Byrds' It Won't Be Wrong, by all rights, should have been a hit single, and it almost was, despite the failure of Columbia Records to properly promote the song. Written in 1964 by Jim (now Roger) McGuinn and his friend Harvey Gerst, the song was first released as the B side of a single by the Beefeaters, an early version of the Byrds, but was recut in late 1965 for inclusion on the Turn! Turn! Turn! album. Early in 1966, the song was also released as the B side of the single Set You Free This Time. That, as it turns out, was a mistake, as disc jockeys soon began playing It Won't Be Wrong instead. Columbia was slow to react to this move, however, and continued to promote Set You Free This Time, releasing it as a single on their CBS label in the UK. After finally noticing that It Won't Be Wrong was getting more airplay in the US, the label re-released the record in the UK with the sides officially reversed, but by then there was too much confusion associated with the single and neither side charted there. Meanwhile, despite the lack of promotion, It Won't Be Wrong managed to make it to the #63 spot in the US.
Artist: Fleur De Lys
Source: CD: Nuggets II-Original Artyfacts From The British Empire And Beyond 1964-1969 (originally released in UK as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Pete Townshend
Label: Rhino (original label: Immediate)
Circles was a song by the Who that was originally slated to be released in the UK on the Brunswick label as a follow-up to the highly successful My Generation. A dispute between the band and the label and their producer, Shel Talmy, led to the Who switching labels and releasing another song, Substitute, in its place, with Circles (retitled Instant Party) on the B side of the record. When Talmy slapped the band with a legal injunction, the single was withdrawn, and another band, the Fleur De Lys, took advantage of the situation, recording their own version of Circles and releasing it on the Immediate label. Just to make things more confusing Brunswick issued the Who's version of Circles as the B side of A Legal Matter later the same month.
Artist: Stephen Stills
Title: Love the One You're With
Source: 45 RPM single (stereo promo pressing)
Writer(s): Stephen Stills
Depending on your point of view Crosby, Stills and Nash (and sometimes Young) have either split up several times over the years or have never actually split up at all. It was during one of these maybe split-ups that Stills recorded Love the One You're With, one of his most popular tunes. Presumably he and singer Judy Collins were no longer an item at that point.
Artist: Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title: Lover Man
Source: CD: Valleys Of Neptune
Writer(s): Jimi Hendrix
Year: Recorded 1969, released 2010
Valleys Of Neptune is a collection of unreleased tracks featuring (mostly) members of the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Nearly all the tracks, including Lover Man, are credited to Hendrix, although there are a couple of blues covers on the disc as well. Although Valleys Of Neptune contains an album's worth of material, it all sounds like jams that were not intended to be heard by the general public. Whether some of these tracks may have developed into actual compositions is a question that will probably never be answered, as the group split up not long after these recordings were made and Hendrix himself changed musical directions over the next year.
Artist: Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title: Foxy Lady (live in studio)
Source: 45 RPM single B side
Writer(s): Jimi Hendrix
Year: Recorded 1967, released 2018
In November of 1967 the Jimi Hendrix Experience was still very much an underground phenomenon in the US. Their June appearance at the Monterey International Pop Festival had introduced the band to an audience that numbered in the thousands, and their records were being played heavily on college radio, but for the most part mainstream America was still unaware of them. In Europe, however, it was an entirely different story. Jimi Hendrix was the hottest thing on the London scene by the time 1967 started; it wasn't long before the word spread to the continent about the outrageously talented guitarist with an equally outrageous stage presence. Most of that year was spent touring Europe, including stops at various TV and radio studios in several countries. One of these was in the Netherlands, where the Experience performed Foxy Lady live in the studio in November of 1967. The recording of this performance has surfaced as the non-album B side of the Lover Man single released (in limited quantity) for Record Store Day 2018.
Artist: Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title: Sunshine Of Your Love
Source: CD: Valleys Of Neptune
Year: Recorded 1969, released 2010
One of Cream's biggest hits, Sunshine Of Your Love was dedicated to Jimi Hendrix. In return, the Jimi Hendrix Experience often performed their own instrumental version of the song, adding an extended improvisational section to the piece. On February 16, 1969 the group recorded this studio version of the tune, which runs nearly seven minutes.
Artist: Blues Magoos
Title: (We Ain't Got) Nothin' Yet
Source: LP: Nuggets Vol. 1-The Hits (originally released on LP: Psychedelic Lollipop)
Label: Rhino (original label: Mercury)
The Blues Magoos (original spelling: Bloos, not surprising for a bunch of guys from the Bronx) were either the first or second band to use the word psychedelic in an album title. Both they and the 13th Floor Elevators released their debut albums in 1966 and it is unclear which one actually came out first. What's not in dispute is the fact that Psychedelic Lollipop far outsold The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators. One major reason for this was the fact that (We Ain't Got) Nothin' Yet was a huge national hit in early 1967, which helped album sales considerably. Despite having a unique sound and a look to match (including electric suits), the Magoos were unable to duplicate the success of Nothin' Yet on subsequent releases, partially due to Mercury's pairing of two equally marketable songs on the band's next single without indicating to stations which one they were supposed to be playing.
Artist: Moby Grape
Source: Mono European import CD: Pure...Psychedelic Rock (originally released on LP: Moby Grape)
Writer: Skip Spence
Label: Sony Music (original label: Columbia)
As an ill-advised promotional gimmick, Columbia Records released five separate singles concurrently with the first Moby Grape album. Of the five singles, only one, Omaha, actually charted, and it only got to the #86 spot. Meanwhile, the heavy promotion by the label led to Moby Grape getting the reputation of being over-hyped, much to the detriment of the band's career.
Title: White Room
Source: LP: Progressive Heavies (originally released as 45 RPM single and on LP: Wheels Of Fire)
Label: United Artists (original label: Atco)
In order to get songs played on top 40 radio, record companies made it a practice to shorten album cuts by cutting out extended instrumental breaks and extra verses. This version of the Cream classic White Room, clocking in at just over three minutes, is a typical example.
Artist: Led Zeppelin
Title: Ramble On
Source: CD: Led Zeppelin II
Some songs grab you the first time you hear them, but soon wear out their welcome. Others take a while to catch on, but tend to stay with you for a lifetime. Then there are those rare classics that manage to hook you from the start and yet never get old. One such song is Led Zeppelin's Ramble On, from their second LP. The song starts with a Jimmy Page acoustic guitar riff played high up on the neck with what sounds almost like footsteps keeping time (but turns out to be John Bonham playing bongo style on a guitar case). John Paul Jones soon adds one of the most melodic bass lines ever to appear in a rock song, followed closely by Robert Plant's Tolkien-influenced lyrics. For the chorus the band gets into electric mode, with guitar, bass and drums each contributing to a unique staggered rhythmic pattern. The song also contains one of Page's most memorable solos, that shares tonal qualities with Eric Clapton's work on Cream's Disraeli Gears album. Although I usually don't pay much attention to lyrics, one set of lines from Ramble On has stuck with me for a good many years:
"'Twas in the darkest depths of Mordor I met a girl so fair.
But Gollum and the evil one crept up and slipped away with her."
Fun stuff, that!
Artist: Cross Fires (Turtles)
Title: Surfer Dan
Source: CD: The Turtles Present The Battle Of The Bands
Writer: The Turtles
Label: Manifesto (original label: White Whale)
In 1968 the Turtles decided to self-produce four recordings without the knowledge of their record label, White Whale. When company executives heard the tapes they rejected all but one of the recordings. That lone exception was Surfer Dan, which was included on the band's 1968 concept album Battle of the Bands. The idea was that each track (or band, as the divisions on LPs were sometimes called) would sound like it was recorded by a different group. As the Turtles had originally evolved out of a surf band called the Crossfires, the name Cross Fires was the obvious choice for the Surfer Dan track. The song was also chosen to be the B side of Elenore, the Turtles biggest hit of 1968.
Title: She's My Girl
Source: Mono LP: Nuggets Vol. 9-Acid Rock (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Rhino (original label: White Whale)
A favorite among the Turtles' members themselves, She's My Girl is full of hidden studio tricks that are barely (if at all) audible on the final recording. Written by Gary Bonner and Al Gordon, the same team that came up with Happy Together, the song is a worthy follow up to that monster hit.
Artist: Quad City Ramblers (Turtles)
Title: Too Much Heartsick Feeling
Source: CD: The Turtles Present The Battle Of The Bands
Writer(s): The Turtles
Label: Manifesto (original label: White Whale)
Fans of modern country music probably have no idea what country music sounded like in the 1960s. It was not entirely unlike this 1968 recording of Too Much Heartsick Feeling by the Quad City Ramblers, who were actually the Turtles on the album The Turtles Present The Battle Of The Bands. I have no idea which band member is actually doing the vocals on this track, nor do I care to know, truth be told.
Source: LP: Nuggets Vol. 2-Punk (originally released on LP: Here Are The Sonics)
Writer: Gerry Roslie
Label: Rhino (original label: Etiquette)
From 1965 we have a band that maintains a cult following to this day: the legendary Sonics, generally considered one of the foundation stones of the Seattle music scene. Although the majority of the songs on their albums were cover tunes, virtually all of their originals are now considered punk classics; indeed, the Sonics are often cited as the first true punk rock band.
Artist: Young Rascals
Title: What Is The Reason
Source: LP: Collections
Label: Warner Special Products/Rhino (original label: Atlantic)
My first high school dance was a Sadie Hawkins Day dance held at the General H. H. Arnold High School gym in Weisbaden, Germany. Onstage was a band of military brats calling themselves the Collections, so called because they covered every tune on the second Young Rascals album. That night (probably the best night of my entire freshman year, thanks to a sophomore whose name I've long since forgotten but who looked a lot like Cindy Williams in American Graffiti) inspired me to A): talk my parents into buying a cheap guitar and amp so I could join up with other guys who lived in our housing area to form "The Abundance Of Love", aka "The Haze And Shades Of Yesterday", aka "The Shades", and B) find and buy a copy of the Collections album (which ended up taking over 40 years to do).
Title: Coloured Rain
Source: CD: Smiling Phases (originally released on LP: Heaven Is In Your Mind)
Label: Island (original label: United Artists)
Traffic, in its early days, was a band with an almost schizophrenic identity. On the one hand there was Steve Winwood, who was equally adept at guitar, keyboards and vocals and was generally seen as the band's leader, despite being its youngest member. His opposite number in the band was Dave Mason, an early example of the type of singer/songwriter that would be a major force in popular music in the mid-1970s. The remaining members of the band, drummer/vocalist Jim Capaldi and flautist/saxophonist Chris Wood, tended to fall somewhere between the two, although they more often sided with Winwood in his frequent creative disputes with Mason. One of these disputes involved the choice of the band's second single. Mason wanted to follow up the successful Paper Sun with his own composition, Hole In My Shoe, while the rest of the band preferred the group composition, Coloured Rain. Mason won that battle, but would end up leaving the band before the release of the group's first LP, Mr. Fantasy. This in turn led to the album being revised considerably for its US release, which was issued under a completely different title, Heaven Is In Your Mind, with most of Mason's contributions, along with his picture, being excised from the album (although, oddly enough, Hole In My Shoe, which was not on the original LP, was included on the US album). One final example of the band's schizophrenic nature was in the way the group was marketed. In the US, Traffic was, from the beginning, perceived as a serious rock band along the lines of Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience. In their native land, however, they were, thanks in part to the top 40 success of both Paper Sun and Hole In My Shoe as well as Winwood's fame as lead vocalist for the Spencer Davis Group, dismissed as a mere pop group. Mason would rejoin and leave the group a couple more times before achieving solo success in the mid-70s with the hit We Just Disagree, while Traffic would go on to become a staple of progressive FM rock radio in the US.
Artist: Jefferson Airplane
Title: Chauffeur Blues
Source: LP: Jefferson Airplane Takes Off
Writer(s): Lester Melrose (disputed, may have been Lizzie Douglas)
Label: RCA Victor
The Jefferson Airplane's original female vocalist was Signe Toly Anderson. Unlike Grace Slick, who basically shared lead vocals with founder Marty Balin, Anderson mostly functioned as a backup singer. The only Airplane recording to feature Anderson as a lead vocalist was Chauffeur Blues, a cover of an old Memphis Minnie tune. The song was featured on the band's first LP, Jefferson Airplane Takes Off.
Artist: Electric Prunes
Title: I've Got A Way Of My Own
Source: 45 RPM single
Writer(s): L. Ransford
Year: Recorded 1966, released 2016
Not all of the songs the Electric Prunes recorded during sessions for their debut LP, I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night), ended up being included on the album itself. Among the unused tracks was a cover of a Hollies B side called I've Got A Way Of My Own. The song was actually one of the first tunes that the band recorded, while they were still, in the words of vocalist James Lowe, "searching for a sound and style we could capture on a record." Following the sessions the band decided that harmonies were better left to other groups, and I've Got A Way Of My Own remained unreleased until the 21st century.
Title: Lost In My World
Source: LP: Nuggets Vol. 4-Pop pt. 2 (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Label: Rhino (original label: Capitol)
Once upon a time, in the legendary city called Cleveland, Ohio, there was a (mostly) instrumental R&B cover band called the Starfires. Formed in 1958 by a then-15-year-old Tom King, the Starfires cut an early single for the local Pama label, which was owned by King's uncle. The Starfires remained a popular local act for several years, gradually modifying their sound to suit changing tastes. The most significant change was the addition of lead vocalist Sonny Geraci, who sang on their late 1965 recording of Time Won't Let Me, a tune co-written by King and his cousin, Chet Kelley. Someone from Capitol Records heard the recording and the Starfires were signed to the label in early 1966, changing their name to the Outsiders at the same time. Time Won't Let Me became a top 5 hit in spring of 1966. The band's third single for the label was a cover of the Isley Brothers tune Respectable that made it into the top 20 in late summer of the same year. The B side of Respectable, Lost In My World, is stylistically similar to Time Won't Let Me, and was composed by the same songwriting team. The Outsiders ended up releasing four albums for Capitol before splintering off into two separate groups, both of which used the name Outsiders. King, as founder, ultimately won the rights to the name. Sonny Geraci, leader of the rival group, ended up rechristening his band Climax, scoring a top 10 hit with a song called Precious And Few a couple of years later.