Sunday, July 28, 2019
Stuck in the Psychedelic Era # 1931 (starts 7/29/19)
This week the emphasis is on long sets from specific years (1966, 67 and 68), along with a pair of artists' sets from Big Brother and the Holding Company and the Jimi Hendrix Experience. We start off in 1967...
Artist: Electric Prunes
Song: Get Me To the World On Time
Source: Mono CD: The complete Reprise singles (originally released on LP: The Electric Prunes and as 45 RPM single)
Label: Real Gone/Rhino (original label: Reprise)
Songwriter Annette Tucker usually worked with Nancy Mantz, and the pair was responsible for the Electric Prunes biggest hit, I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night). On Get Me To The World On Time, which originally appeared on the band's first LP, she instead teamed up with Jill Jones and came up with a kind of psychedelic Bo Diddley song that ended up being the Prunes second biggest hit (and the first rock song that I ever heard first on an FM station rather than an AM one).
Title: Unhappy Girl
Source: 45 RPM single B side
Writer: The Doors
After the success of their first album and the single Light My Fire in early 1967, the Doors quickly returned to the studio, releasing a second LP, Strange Days, later the same year. The first single released from the new album was People Are Strange. The B side of that single was Unhappy Girl, from the same album. Both sides got played on the jukebox at a place called the Woog in the village of Meisenbach near Ramstein Air Force Base (which is where I was spending most of my evenings that autumn).
Artist: Music Machine
Title: Double Yellow Line
Source: LP: Nuggets Vol. 2-Punk (originally released as 45 RPM single and included on LP: Bonniwell Music Machine)
Writer(s): Sean Bonniwell
Label: Rhino (original label: Original Sound, stereo LP version released on Warner Brothers)
One of the Original Sound singles that also appeared on the Warner Brothers LP Bonniwell Music Machine, Double Yellow Line features lyrics that were literally written by Bonniwell on the way to the recording studio. In fact, his inability to stay in his lane while driving with one hand and writing with the other resulted in a traffic ticket. The ever resourceful Bonniwell wrote the rest of the lyrics on the back of the ticket and even invited the officer in to watch the recording session. He declined.
Artist: Mad River
Title: A Gazelle
Source: Mono British import CD: The Berkeley EPs (originally released in US on EP: Mad River)
Writer(s): Lawrence Hammond
Label: Big Beat (original label: Wee)
Mad River was formed in 1965 in Yellow Spings, Ohio, as the Mad River Blues Band. The group (after several personnel changes) relocated to the Berkeley, California in spring of 1967, and soon began appearing at local clubs, often alongside Country Joe And The Fish. Around this time the band came into contact with Lonnie Hewitt, a jazz musician who had started his own R&B-oriented label, Wee. After auditioning for Fantasy Records, the band decided instead to finance their own studio recordings, which were then issued as a three-song EP on Wee. With all their material having been written and arranged before the band left Ohio, and then perfected over a period of months, Mad River's EP was far more musically complex than what was generally being heard in the Bay Area at the time. The opening track, Amphetamine Gazell (the title having been temporarily shortened to A Gazelle for the EP) contains several starts and stops, as well as time changes. Bassist Lawrence Hammond's high pitched, almost operatic, vocal style actually enhances the lyrics, which drummer Greg Dewey described as "a teenager's idea of what it must be like to be hip and cool in California". The song was recut (with its original title restored and even more abrupt starts and stops), for Mad River's Capitol debut LP the following year.
Artist: Circus Maximus
Title: Travelin' Around
Source: LP: Circus Maximus
Writer: Bob Bruno
Circus Maximus was formed in Greenwich Village in 1967 by lead guitarist/keyboardist/vocalist Bob Bruno (who wrote most of the band's material) and guitarist/vocalist Jerry Jeff Walker, who went on to much greater success as a songwriter after he left the group for a solo career (he wrote the classic Mr. Bojangles, among other things). The lead vocals on the first Circus Maximus LP were split between the two, with one exception: guitarist Peter Troutner shares lead vocal duties with Bruno on the album's opening track, the high-energy Travelin' Around.
Source: CD: Younger Than Yesterday
One of the earliest collaborations between Byrds songwriters David Crosby and Roger McGuinn was the up-tempo raga rocker Why. The song was first recorded at RCA studios in Los Angeles in late 1965 as an intended B side for Eight Miles High, but due to the fact that the band's label, Columbia, refused to release recordings made at their main rival's studios, the band ended up having to re-record both songs at Columbia's own studios in early 1966. Although the band members felt the newer versions were inferior to the 1965 recordings, they were released as a single in March of 1966. Later that year, for reasons that are still unclear, Crosby insisted the band record a new version of Why, and that version was used for the band's next LP, Younger Than Yesterday.
Artist: First Edition
Title: Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)
Source: LP: Nuggets Vol. 9-Acid Rock (originally released on LP: The First Edition and as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Mickey Newbury
Label: Rhino (original label: Reprise)
In 1968, former New Christy Mistrels members Kenny Rogers and Mike Settle decided to form a psychedelic rock band, the First Edition. Although Settle was the official leader on the first album, it was Rogers who would emerge as the star of the band, even to the point of eventually changing the band's name to Kenny Rogers and the First Edition. That change reflected a shift from psychedelic to country flavored pop that would eventually propel Rogers to superstar status.
Artist: Superfine Dandelion
Title: Crazy Town (Move On Little Children)
Source: CD: All Kinds Of Highs (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Big Beat (original label: Mainstream)
The Mile Ends were a Phoenix, Arizona band that were regulars at a local teen club called the Fifth Estate, which was run by a guy named Jim Musil. Musil became the group's manager, booking studio time to record a drinking song called Bottle Up And Go in 1966. Not long after that the group, now consisting of guitarists Mike McFadden and Ed Black, along with drummer Mike Collins, began calling themselves the Superfine Dandelion for a studio project sponsored by Musil. The group recorded an album's worth of material that came to the attention of Bob Shad, who was looking for material to issue on his Mainstream label. Shad bought the tapes, releasing the album in November of 1967. Shad chose Crazy Town (Move On Little Children) as a single, but a lack of interest by both radio and the record buying public brought the story of the Superfine Dandelion to a close by mid-1968.
Artist: Immediate Family
Source: Mono CD: Love Is The Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-70 (originally released on CD: What A Way To Come Down)
Label: Rhino (original label: Big Beat)
Year: Recorded 1967, released 1997
The members of the Immediate Family hailed from the city of Concord, a conservative suburb east of San Francisco bay. They didn't actually make music in their hometown, however. Instead they practiced at the home of organist Kriss Kovacs's mother Judy Davis (the vocal coach to the stars who numbered such diverse talents as Grace Slick, Barbra Streisand and even Frank Sinatra among her pupils). The band was able to get the backing to lay down some tracks at Golden State Recorders (the top studio in the area at the time), but reportedly lost their record deal due to emotional instability on the part of Kovacs. The song Rubiyat is an adaptation of the Rubiyat Of Omar Khayyam. Ambitious to be sure, but done well enough to make one wonder what it could have led to.
Artist: Buffalo Springfield
Title: Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing
Source: CD: Buffalo Springfield
Writer: Neil Young
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: Motorcycle Abileen
Title: (You Used To) Ride So High
Source: Mono CD: Where The Action Is: L.A. Nuggets 1965-68 (originally released on CD: Warren Zevon: The First Sessions)
Writer(s): Warren Zevon
Label: Rhino (original label: Varese Sarabande)
Year: Recorded 1966, released 2003
One of the ripple effects of the British Invasion was the near-disappearance of the solo artist from the top 40 charts for several years. There were exceptions, of course. Folk singers such as Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, pop singers such as Jackie DeShannon and Dionne Warwick and more adult-oriented vocalists such as Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin all did reasonably well, but if you wanted to be a rock and roll star you had to have a band. Producers took to creating band names for pieces that were in fact entirely performed by studio musicians, and in a few cases a solo artist would use a band name for his own recordings. One such case is the Motorcycle Abilene, which was in reality producer Bones Howe on various percussion devices working with singer/songwriter Warren Zevon, who sings and plays all non-percussion instruments on (You Used To) Ride So High, a song he wrote shortly after disbanding the duo Lyme And Cybelle (he was Lyme, presumably).
Artist: Count Five
Title: Psychotic Reaction
Source: Simulated stereo LP: Nuggets Vol. 1-The Hits (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Rhino (original label: Double Shot)
San Jose, California, had a vibrant teen music scene in the late 60s, despite the fact that the relatively small (at the time) city was overshadowed by San Francisco at the other end of the bay (both cities were then, as now, considered part of the same metropolitan market). One of the more popular bands in town was Count Five, a group of five individuals who chose to dress up like Bela Lugosi's Dracula, capes and all. Musically, they idolized the Yardbirds (Jeff Beck era), and for slightly more than three minutes managed to sound more like their idols than the Yardbirds themselves (who by then had replaced Beck with Jimmy Page).
Artist: Jethro Tull
Title: It's Breaking Me Up
Source: LP: This Was
Writer(s): Ian Anderson
Label: Chrysalis (original label: Reprise)
Jethro Tull originally was part of the British blues scene, but even in the early days the band's principal songwriter Ian Anderson made no secret of the fact that he wanted to expand beyond the confines of that particular genre. Ironically, It's Breaking Me Up, from Jethro Tull's first LP, is an Anderson composition that is rooted solidly in the British blues style.
Artist: Fever Tree
Title: San Francisco Girls (Return Of The Native) (originally released on LP: Fever Tree)
Source: CD: Psychedelic Pop
Writer(s): Scott and Vivian Holtzman
Label: BMG/RCA/Buddah (original label: Uni)
A minor, but notable trend in 1968 was for producer/songwriters to find a band to record their material exclusively. A prime example is Houston's Fever Tree, which featured the music of husband and wife team Scott and Vivian Holtzman. San Francisco Girls (Return of the Native) was the single from that album, peaking in the lower reaches of the Hot 100 charts.
Title: Open My Eyes
Source: Mono CD: Nuggets-Original Artyfacts From The First Psychedelic Era (originally released as 45 RPM single and on LP: Nazz)
Writer(s): Todd Rundgren
Label: Rhino (original label: SGC)
The Nazz was a band from Philadelphia who were basically the victims of their own bad timing. 1968 was the year that progressive FM radio began to get recognition as a viable format while top 40 radio was being dominated by bubble gum pop bands such as the 1910 Fruitgum Company and the Ohio Express. The Nazz, on the other hand, sounded more like British bands such as the Move and Brian Augur's Trinity that were performing well on the UK charts but were unable to buy a hit in the US. The band had plenty of talent, most notably guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Todd Rundgren, who would go on to establish a successful career, both as an artist (he played all the instruments on his Something/Anything LP and led the band Utopia) and a producer (Grand Funk's We're An American Band, as well as many others). Open My Eyes was originally issued as the A side of a single, but ended up being eclipsed in popularity by its flip side, a song called Hello It's Me, that ended up getting airplay in Boston and other cities, eventually hitting the Canadian charts (a new version would become a solo hit for Rundgren five years later).
Title: Those Were The Days
Source: LP: Wheels Of Fire
Label: RSO (original label: Atco)
Drummer Ginger Baker only contributed a handful of songs to the Cream repertoire, but each was, in its own way, quite memorable. Those Are The Days, with its sudden changes of time and key, presages the progressive rock that would flourish in the mid-1970s. As was often the case with Baker-penned songs, bassist Jack Bruce provides the vocals from this Wheels Of Fire track.
Artist: Derek And The Dominos
Title: Bell Bottom Blues
Source: CD: Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs
Label: Polydor (original label: Atco)
Bell Bottom Blues, from the Derek And The Dominos album Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs, is at once one of the many and one of the few. It is one of the many songs inspired by/written for George Harrison's wife Pattie Boyd by Eric Clapton, who was in love with her at the time. At the same time it is one of the few songs on the album that does not include guitarist Duane Allman on it. Clapton wrote the song after Boyd asked him to pick up a pair of bell-bottom jeans on his next trip to the US (apparently they were not available in London at that time). The song was released twice as a single in 1971, but did not chart higher than the #78 spot. In 2015 drummer Bobby Whitlock, who had helped write the third verse, was given official credit as the song's co-writer.
Artist: James Brown/Famous Flames
Source: Mono CD: All-Time 20 Greatest Hits (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Lowman Pauling
Label: Polydor (original label: Federal)
James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, got his start with a group called the Gospel Starlighters, which eventually became the Famous Flames. Their first big hit was Please, Please, Please, which went into the top 10 on the R&B charts in 1956. The original group lasted until 1957, but did not have any other hit records. By the end of the decade, however, Brown had re-formed the Flames as his backup vocal group, accompanying the James Brown Orchestra (sometimes called the James Brown Band). A string of hits followed, including Think, the first Brown song to make the mainstream top 40 chart. By the end of 1960s Brown had established himself as one of the most influential artists of the 20th century and is credited with creating and developing funk music, as well as laying the groundwork for what would eventually become hip-hop and rap music.
Artist: Big Brother And The Holding Company
Title: Oh, Sweet Mary
Source: LP: Cheap Thrills
The only song credited to the entire membership of Big Brother And The Holding Company on their Cheap Thrills album was Oh, Sweet Mary (although the original label credits Janis Joplin as sole writer and the album cover itself gives only Joplin and Peter Albin credit). The tune bears a strong resemblance to Coo Coo, a non-album single the band had released on the Mainstream label before signing to Columbia. Oh, Sweet Mary, however, has new lyrics and, for a breath of fresh air, a bridge section played at a slower tempo than the rest of the tune.
Artist: Big Brother And The Holding Company
Source: CD: Cheap Thrills (bonus track)
Year: Recorded 1968, released 1999
Although producer John Simon was convinced that the best way to record Big Brother And The Holding Company was live, he did have the band cut a few tracks in the studio as well. Some of these, such as Summertime and Piece Of My Heart, ended up on the 1968 album Cheap Thrills. Others, like Roadblock, ended up on the shelf, where they stayed until 1999, when a newly remastered CD of the album included them as bonus tracks. Although it's not a bad song by any means, it's hard to imagine any of the tracks that were used for the original album being cut to make way for it.
Artist: Big Brother and the Holding Company
Title: Piece Of My Heart
Source: LP: Cheap Thrills
By 1968 Big Brother and the Holding Company, with their charismatic vocalist from Texas, Janis Joplin, had become as popular as fellow San Francisco bands Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead. Somehow, though, they were still without a major label record deal. That all changed with the release of Cheap Thrills, with cover art by the legendary underground comix artist R. Crumb. The album itself was a curious mixture of live performances and studio tracks, the latter being led by the band's powerful cover of the 1966 Barbara Lynn tune Piece Of My Heart. The song propelled the band, and Joplin, to stardom. That stardom would be short-lived for most of the band members, however, as well-meaning but ultimately wrong-headed advice-givers convinced Joplin that Big Brother was holding her back. The reality was that the band was uniquely suited to support her better than anyone she would ever work with again.
Artist: Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title: The Wind Cries Mary
Source: LP: The Essential Jimi Hendrix Volume Two (originally released on LP Are You Experienced?)
Writer: Jimi Hendrix
The US version of Are You Experienced was significantly different than its UK counterpart. For one thing, the original UK album was only available in mono. For the US version, engineers at Reprise Records, working from the original multi-track masters, created all new stereo mixes of about two-thirds of the album, along with all three of the singles that the Jimi Hendrix Experience had released in the UK. The third of these singles was The Wind Cries Mary, which had hit the British charts in February of 1967.
Artist: Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title: Bold As Love
Source: CD: Axis: Bold As Love
Writer(s): Jimi Hendrix
Label: Experience Hendrix/MCA (original label: Reprise)
When working on the song Bold As Love for the second Jimi Hendrix Experience album in 1967, Jimi reportedly asked engineer Eddie Kramer if he could make a guitar sound like it was under water. Kramer's answer was to use a techique called phasing, which is what happens when two identical sound sources are played simultaneously, but slightly (as in microseconds) out of synch with each other. The technique, first used in 1958 but seldom tried in stereo, somewhat resembles the sound of a jet plane flying by. This is not to be confused with chorusing (sometimes called reverse phasing), a technique used often by the Beatles which electronically splits a single signal into two identical signals then delays one to create the illusion of being separate tracks.
Artist: Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title: Crosstown Traffic
Source: LP: The Essential Jimi Hendrix Volume Two (originally released on LP: Electric Ladyland)
Writer(s): Jimi Hendrix
Label: MCA (original label: Reprise)
By 1968 it didn't matter one bit whether the Jimi Hendrix Experience had any hit singles; their albums were guaranteed to be successful. Nonetheless the Electric Ladyland album had no less that three singles on it (although one was a new stereo mix of a 1967 single). The last of these was Crosstown Traffic, a song that has been included on several anthologies over the years.
Artist: Lovin' Spoonful
Title: Summer In The City
Source: LP: Hums of the Lovin' Spoonful
Label: Sundazed/Kama Sutra
The Lovin' Spoonful changed gears completely for what would become their biggest hit of 1966: Summer In The City. Inspired by a poem by John Sebastian's brother, the song was recorded for the album Hums Of The Lovin' Spoonful. That album was an attempt by the band to deliberately record in a variety of styles; in the case of Summer In The City, it was a rare foray into psychedelic rock for the band. Not coincidentally, Summer In The City is also my favorite Lovin' Spoonful song.
Title: My Flash On You
Source: Mono LP: Love
Writer(s): Arthur Lee
Sounding a bit like the fast version of Hey Joe (which was also on Love's debut LP), My Flash On You is essentially Arthur Lee in garage mode. A punk classic.
Title: Why Can't You Give Me What I Want
Source: Mono LP: Red Rubber Ball
The Cyrkle was originally a frat-rock band from Easton, Pennsylvania called the Rhondells consisting of Don Danneman on guitar, Tom Dawes on bass, Marty Freid on drums and Earl Pickens on keyboards. In 1965, while playing gigs in Atlantic City they hooked up with a new manager, Brian Epstein, who promptly renamed them the Cyrkle (the odd spelling provided by John Lennon, a member of another band managed by Epstein). Under the new name and management, the band soon found themselves opening for the Beatles (on their last North American tour) and scoring a top 5 hit with Red Rubber Ball in the summer of 1966. The hit single was soon followed by an album of the same name that included a mix of cover tunes and Cyrkle originals such as Why Can't You Give Me What I Want. It was a volatile time in the pop music world, however, and the Cyrkle soon found themselves sounding a bit dated, and by 1968, after one more LP and a series of singles, each of which did successively worse than the previous one, the band decided to throw in the towel.
Artist: New Colony Six
Title: Don't You Think It's Time You Stopped Your Crying
Source: Mono CD: Breakthrough
Label: Sundazed (original label: Centaur)
When you're young and in a rock 'n' roll band, there is no greater thrill than hearing your song on the radio for the first time. Or at least that's the way it was in mid-1960s Chicago, when a song called I Confess by a local band called the New Colony Six started getting airplay on WLS. Back then there were no college radio stations or underground FM outlets, so if your song got played, it got played alongside the most popular hits of the day and was heard by literally millions of listeners. For the most part WLS did not play songs by local bands. They were, after all, the second most listened to radio station in the entire United States (after New York's WABC), with a nighttime signal that could be heard halfway across the country (I remember picking it up in New Mexico in the early 1970s). Still, there was something about I Confess that made people want to hear it over and over. The song ended up hitting the #2 spot on WLS in early 1966, which led to the band, consisting of Ray Graffia, Jr. (vocals), Chick James (drums), Pat McBride (harmonica), Craig Kemp (organ), Wally Kemp (bass), and Gerry Van Kollenburg (guitar), to return to the studio to record Breakthrough, their first LP for Centaur Records, which was owned by Ray Graffia, Sr. Unusual for the time, most of the songs on Breakthrough were original compositions, including Don't You Think It's Time You Stopped Your Crying, which was, according to Graffia, written for Wally Kemp, who tended to take his breakups with various girlfriends rather hard. Interestingly enough, Kemp himself is credited as co-writer of the tune. The New Colony Six had a decent run over the years, scoring several more local hits, including I Will Always Think About You, which hit #1 on WLS on its way to becoming the group's first national top 40 hit, and Things I'd Like To Say, which topped out at #2 locally and made the top 20 on the national charts. Like many of their contemporaries, the NC6 went through many personnel changes over the years before finally disbanding in 1974.
Artist: Bob Dylan
Title: Just Like A Woman
Source: CD: Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits (originally released on LP: Blonde On Blonde)
Writer(s): Bob Dylan
By late 1966 the shock of Bob Dylan's going electric had long since worn off and Dylan was enjoying a string of top 40 hits in the wake of the success of Like A Rolling Stone. One of the last hits of the streak was Just Like A Woman, a track taken from his Blonde On Blonde album. This was actually the first Bob Dylan song I heard on top 40 radio.
Title: Inside Looking Out
Source: Mono LP: Animalization
One of the last songs recorded by the Animals before their first breakup, Inside Looking Out (a powerful song about life in prison) was covered a few years later by Grand Funk Railroad, who made it one of their concert staples. This has always been one of my all-time favorite rock songs, no matter who recorded it.
Title: Writer In The Sun
Source: LP: Mellow Yellow
Writer: Donovan Leitch
In 1966-67 Donovan's career was almost derailed by a contractual dispute with his UK label, Pye Records. This resulted in two of his albums, Sunshine Superman and Mellow Yellow, not being issued in the UK. At the time he felt that there was a real chance that he would be forced into retirement by the dispute, and wrote Writer In The Sun as a way of addressing the subject. Ironically his career was going nowhere but up in the US due to him switching from the relatively small Hickory label to industry giant Columbia's subsidiary label Epic Records and scoring top 10 singles with Sunshine Superman and Mellow Yellow. His success with those records in the US may have been a factor in Pye settling with the singer-songwriter and issuing a British album that combined tracks from the two albums in late 1967.
Artist: Janis Ian
Title: I'll Give You A Stone If You Throw It (Changing Tymes)
Source: 45 RPM single (reissue) (originally released on LP: Janis Ian)
Writer: Janis Ian
Label: Polydor (original label: Now Sounds, reissued nationally on Verve Forecast)
Janis Ian got her first poem published in a national magazine at age 12. Not content with mere literary pursuits, the talented Ms. Ian turned to music. After being turned down by several major labels, Ian finally got a contract with the tiny New Sounds label and scored her first major hit with Society's Child, a song about interracial dating that was banned on several stations in the southern US. This led to her self-titled debut album at age 15, and a contract with M-G-M subsidiary Verve Forecast. I'll Give You A Stone If You Throw It (Changing Tymes) is taken from that first LP.