Sunday, October 6, 2019
Stuck in the Psychedelic Era # 1941 (starts 10/07/19)
Each segment of this week's show has its own unique characteristics. Our first half hour starts off by going down and ends up with our only single-year set of the week: 1969. Next we have the world according to Bob Dylan, David Peel and the Beatles. Our second hour starts with an Advanced Psych segment which leads into three "other" sides of Vanilla Fudge, setting things up for our final segment that takes a long journey through the years 1966 to 1970 and back. Speaking of 1970, we start with Santana...
Title: Hope You're Feeling Better
Source: CD: Abraxas
Writer(s): Gregg Rolie
Hope You're Feeling Better was the third single to be taken from Santana's Abraxas album. Although not as successful as either Black Magic Woman or Oye Como Va, the song nonetheless received considerable airplay on progressive FM rock stations and has appeared on several anthology anthems since its initial release.
Title: Questions 67 & 68
Source: CD: The Chicago Transit Authority
Writer(s): Robert Lamm
Label: Rhino (original label: Columbia)
Originally calling themselves The Big Thing, The Chicago Transit Authority moved to Los Angeles in 1968, changing their name in the process. After a year of touring the band headed to New York to record their first album in early 1969. The first single released from that album was Questions 67 & 68, which was released as a nearly five-minute long single in July. The song stalled out at the #71 spot, but two years later an edited version of the song made it to #24. By then the group had shortened its name to Chicago. The rest, as they say, is history.
Title: The Unknown Soldier
Source: 45 RPM single
Writer: The Doors
One of the oddest recordings to get played on top 40 radio was the Door's 1968 release, The Unknown Soldier. The song is notable for having it's own promotional film made by keyboardist Ray Manzarek, who had been a film major at UCLA when the Doors were formed. It's not known whether the song was written with the film in mind (or vice versa), but the two have a much greater synergy than your average music video. As for the question of whether the Doors themselves were anti-war, let's just say that vocalist Jim Morrison, who wrote the lyrics to The Unknown Soldier, was pretty much anti-everything.
Artist: West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band
Title: Help, I'm A Rock
Source: CD: Part One
Writer(s): Frank Zappa
Label: Sundazed (original label: Reprise)
Say what you will about the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, it takes cojones to record a cover of a Frank Zappa tune, especially within a year of the original Mothers of Invention version coming out. To top it off, the W.C.P.A.E.B. even released Help, I'm A Rock as a single, although the longer LP version is far superior.
Artist: Cat Mother and the All Night Newsboys
Title: Good Old Rock and Roll
Source: CD: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame-Vol. 1 (originally released on 45 RPM vinyl)
By 1969, folk-rock had morphed into what would come to be called country-rock. One of the early country-rock bands that is usually overlooked is Cat Mother and the All Night Newsboys. This is probably because their only hit, the '50s tribute song Good Old Rock and Roll, was not at all typical of the band's sound.
Artist: Steve Miller Band
Title: Brave New World
Source: LP: Homer soundtrack (originally released on LP: Brave New World)
Writer(s): Steve Miller
Label: Cotillion (original label: Capitol)
It took the Steve Miller Band half a dozen albums (plus appearances on a couple of movie soundtracks) to achieve star status in the early 1970s. Along the way they developed a cult following that added new members with each successive album. The fourth Miller album was Brave New World, the title track of which was used in the film Homer, a 1970 film that is better remembered for its soundtrack than for the film itself.
Artist: Janis Joplin
Title: Try (Just A Little Bit Harder)
Source: LP: I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama
A glance through the various playlists on this blog makes one thing abundantly clear: the psychedelic era was a time for bands, as opposed to individual stars. The music industry itself, however, tends to favor the single artist. Perhaps this is because it is easier to market (cynics would say exploit) an individual artist than a collective of musicians. In the case of Janis Joplin, people in the industry managed to convince her that her fellow members of Big Brother and the Holding Company were holding her back due to their lack of musicianship. A listen to her first album without her old bandmates puts the lie to that argument. Although the Kozmic Blues Band may indeed have had greater expertise as individual musicians than Big Brother, the energy that had electrified audiences at the Monterey Pop Festival and at various San Francisco ballrooms was just not there, and the album is generally considered somewhat limp in comparison to Cheap Thrills. The opening (and some would say best) track on the album is Try (Just A Little Bit Harder). While not a bad song, the recording just doesn't have the magic of a Piece of My Heart or Ball and Chain, despite a strong vocal performance by Joplin herself.
Artist: Bob Dylan
Title: Watching The River Flow
Source: LP: Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits Volume II (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Bob Dylan
In July of 1966, Bob Dylan was involved in a serious motorcyle accident that kept him out of a recording studio for nearly 18 months, but it really took about five years for him to fully recover from it. During those five years he recorded a series of albums in Nashville with producer Bob Johnston, all of which had a strong country flavor to them. While putting the finishing touches on his 1970 album, New Morning, Dylan made it clear that he was ready to move on and no longer wanted to work with Johnston. As to where or what he wanted to move on to, it was unclear until he began working with Leon Russell, who helped him shape his 1971 single Watching The River Flow. Recorded in New York, the recording featured Carl Radle (Derek and the Dominos) on bass, Jesse Ed Davis (Taj Mahal's band) on guitar and Jim Keltner (who along with Russell had participated in Joe Cocker's Mad Dogs And Englishmen project) on drums. The song showed a strong blues influence, and featured Dylan's return to the singing style that he had become famous for (as opposed to his "Nashville crooning" style heard on songs like Lay Lady Lay). The lyrics of Watching The River Flow made it clear that Dylan was done playing the role of "spokesman for a generation" and was content to stay on the sidelines and stay focused on his personal life. The song barely missed the US top 40, peaking at #41 in the summer of 1971, but charted higher in Canada and the UK, as well as other places, and was featured as the opening track of his second Greatest Hits album, released the same year.
Artist: David Peel and the Lower East Side
Title: The American Revolution-Part 2
Source: LP: The American Revolution
Writer: Peel/DeLory/Darian/Van Winkle
If there was any one band that could be called a Yippie band, it was David Peel and the Lower East Side. As much street theater as rock and roll, the group consisted of three core members: David Peel (guitar, vocals), Billy Joe White (guitar, vocals), and Harold C. Black (tambourine, vocals), plus just about anyone who wanted to play and/or sing along. The group's first album was Have A Marijuana, recorded live at New York's Washington Square at a cost of around $4,000. The album was a surprise cult hit, netting Elektra nearly a million dollars. The band's priorities, however, were more about social issues than musical ones, and the group did not get around to recording another album until 1970. By then the Yippie movement had run its course, and the decision was made to abandon the street theater aspect of the group and concentrate instead on making a studio album. To do this, they enlisted several new semi-official members to record The American Revolution, arguably the first true punk-rock LP ever recorded. The songs covered a variety of topical issues, including sex (Girls, Girls, Girls), religion (God), and the still-raging Vietnam War (I Want To Kill You and Hey, Mr. Draft Board, a parody of Larry Verne's Mr. Custer). The songs themselves segue into each other on the LP, resulting in two suites running about 15 minutes each (one per side). This week we are presenting the second suite/side of The American Revolution, which includes the four songs mentioned above. Clash fans, enjoy!
Title: Wild Honey Pie/The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill/While My Guitar Gently Weeps
Source: LP: The Beatles
By early 1968 the Beatles were beginning to show signs that they would not be together as a band much longer. The group had just experienced their first commercial & critical failure, the Magical Mystery Tour telefilm (although the soundtrack did quite well). Additionally, each member (except maybe Ringo) was starting to move off in his own direction as a songwriter. Nonetheless they went ahead with plans to form Apple, a company designed to market not only their music, but other products as well. The first album released on the new label was titled simply The Beatles and had a plain white cover, resulting in it soon becoming known as the White Album. It was the Beatles' first double-LP set, and the only one to feature all-new material. The music covered a wide variety of styles, some of which are even now hard to describe. As an example we have Paul McCartney's Wild Honey Pie, which segues into John Lennon's The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill. I defy anyone to define exactly what genre these two tracks are representative of. George Harrison had already written several songs that had appeared on various Beatles albums (and an occasional B side) through 1968, but his first acknowledged classic was While My Guitar Gently Weeps, which immediately follows Bungalow Bill on the album. The recording features Harrison's close friend, guitarist Eric Clapton, who at that time was enjoying superstar status as a member of Cream.
Title: She's Not There
Source: 45 RPM single (stereo reissue)
Writer: Rod Argent
Label: London (original label: Parrot)
Most of the original British invasion bands were guitar-oriented, like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. One notable exception was the Zombies, whose leader, Rod Argent, built the group around his electric piano. Their first single, She's Not There, was a major hit on both sides of the Atlantic and is ranked among the top British rock songs of all time.
Artist: Ace Of Cups
Title: Interlude: Transistor/Stones
Source: CD: Ace Of Cups
Writer(s): Mary Gannon
Label: High Moon
Stones is one of the oldest songs in the Ace Of Cups repertoire, dating back to 1967. What makes the 2018 version of the track truly unique, however, is the fact that drummer Diane Vitalich puts some of the band's shared experience into her lead vocals on the tune, which was written, and originally sung, by the group's founder, Mary Gannon. It turns out that bandmate Denise Kaufman was present (and five months pregnant) at the infamous 1969 Rolling Stones concert at Altamont that erupted into violence, and was in fact seriously injured when her skull was fractured by a thrown beer bottle. To make things worse, the Stones themselves refused to let their helicopter be used to transport her to a hospital, endangering both her and the baby. Although things turned out OK in the long run, Vitalich, for the studio version of Stones, replaced a line in the song's bridge about how the Ace Of Cups loved the Rolling Stones with the following: "You can rock like a Rolling Stone, but baby I ain't buyin' it."
Artist: Electric Prunes
Title: African Bees
Source: CD: Feedback
The 3006 Electric Prunes album Feedback sounds like a group of talented musicians with nothing to prove having the time of their lives. Which, of course, is exactly what it is. Their always present sense of whimsy is well-represented by African Bees, a tune that somehow manages to make me think of Frank Zappa, Mitch Mitchell and John Belushi all at the same time. Even better, Mark Tulin's bass line on the song is nothing short of phenomenal (he also plays keyboards).
Artist: Strawberry Zots
Title: Pretty Flowers
Source: LP: Cars, Flowers, Telephones
Writer(s): Mark Andrews
Albuquerque's Strawberry Zots were led by Mark Andrews, who either wrote or co-wrote all of the band's original material. Their only LP, Cars, Flowers, Telephones, was released locally on the StreetSound label and reissued on CD the following year by RCA records. My personal favorite track on the album is Pretty Flowers, which starts off the LP's second side. Unfortunately the song is handicapped by its low-fidelity production, which may have been a deliberate attempt to emulate the sound of 60s psychedelia, but ends up sounding, like much of the music of the 1980s, over-compressed.
Artist: Vanilla Fudge
Title: Come By Day, Come By Night
Source: Mono CD: The Complete Atco Singles (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer(s): Mark Stein
The Vanilla Fudge version of the Supremes' You Keep Me Hangin' On was first released as a single in 1967, but tanked before it could hit the top 60. In 1968 the song was re-released with a different B side and made the top 20. That secondB side, Come By Day, Come By Night, was written by keyboardist Mark Stein, and was never released on a Vanilla Fudge album. The song is now available on a CD called The Complete Atco Singles.
Artist: Vanilla Fudge
Title: Take Me For A Little While
Source: LP: Vanilla Fudge
Writer(s): Trade Martin
The original single version of Vanilla Fudge's cover of the Holland-Dozier-Holland penned Supremes hit You Keep Me Hangin' On was yet another cover of a tune written by a man but originally sung by female artists. Take Me For A Little While, written by Trade Martin, was first released in 1965, with two versions, one by Evie Sands and the other by Jackie Ross, coming out at about the same time.
Artist: Vanilla Fudge
Title: Where Is My Mind
Source: Mono CD: The Complete Atco Singles (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Mark Stein
When Vanilla Fudge first released You Keep Me Hangin' On as a single in June of 1967, the record stiffed. Undaunted, the band continued to work on their debut LP, which included both sides of the single and was a major success when it was released in August of 1967, going all the way to the #6 spot on the Billboard album chart. Still, the band wanted a hit single, so they returned to the studio to cut two new tracks. One of these was an original composition by keyboardist Mark Stein called Where Is My Mind, which was chosen to be the A side of the new single, released in January of 1968. Unfortunately for the band, that record got such a cold reception from radio stations that their label quickly issued a special copy of the single featuring only the record's B side, a cover of Dusty Springfield's The Look Of Love (which also stiffed). It was not until June of 1968, when You Keep Me Hangin' On was reissued as a single, that Vanilla Fudge got their first (and only) top 40 hit.
Artist: Beach Boys
Title: Let's Go Away For Awhile
Source: Mono CD: Pet Sounds
Writer(s): Brian Wilson
After spending six months and a record amount of money making Good Vibrations, Brian Wilson and Capitol Records decided to use an existing track for the B side of the single rather than take the time to record something new. The chosen track was Let's Go Away For Awhile, a tune from the Pet Sounds album that Wilson described as the most satisfying instrumental piece he had ever written.
Artist: Spanky And Our Gang
Title: Sunday Will Never Be The Same
Source: LP: Spanky And Our Gang
The terms "rock star" and, for that matter "rock music", did not come into common usage until the late 1960s. Prior to that we had "pop stars" singing "pop songs", which included virtually everything that made it into the top 40, from Dean Martin ballads like Everybody Loves Somebody Sometimes to funky James Brown tunes like Papa's Got A Brand New Bag. One of the last of the true pop groups was Spanky And Our Gang. Actually more artistically oriented than they are generally given credit for, Spanky And Our Gang were saddled with a producer who was more concerned with getting an album out quickly to cash in on a hit single than making a quality record. The hit single in question was Sunday Will Never Be The Same, which, despite the band achieving success with other tunes as well, came to define the band in the minds of record buyers, and actually hobbled their efforts to be seen as more than just a Mamas and Papas clone. Not long after the death of multi-instrumentalist Malcolm Hale (from either bronchial pneumonia or carbon monoxide poisoning from a faulty heating system, depending on whose account you read), who had been the group's primary arranger and de facto leader, Spanky And Our Gang disbanded, with lead vocalist Spanky McFarlane going on to a solo career and eventual membership in the Mamas And The Papas as Cass Elliot's replacement.
Title: Carpet Man
Source: Mono British import CD: Psychedelia At Abbey Road (originally released in UK as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Jimmy Webb
Label: EMI (original label: Columbia)
Not every artist who recorded at London's famed Abbey Road Studios became famous. Like all studios, Abbey Road had its share of artists who cut maybe one single and then faded off into obscurity. Among the most obscure bands to record at Abbey Road was the Nocturnes, whose sole shot at fame was a cover of the Fifth Dimension's Carpet Man, recorded and released in 1968.
Artist: Bubble Puppy
Title: Beginning (remix)
Source: Mono British import CD: A Gathering Of Promises
Label: Charly (original label: International Artists)
The Bubble Puppy came into existence in 1967, when two former members of the legendary Corpus Christie,Texas garage band the Bad Seeds, guitarist Rod Prince and keyboardist/bassist Roy Cox, relocated to San Antonio, recruiting guitarist Todd Potter and drummer Craig Root to form the new band. Success came quickly in the form of the band's very first gig, opening for the Who at the San Antonio Colosseum. After David Fore replaced Root in the band, the group relocated to Austin, where they got a steady gig at the Vulcan Gas Company. By 1968 the Bubble Puppy was traveling all over Texas for gigs, and late in the year got a contract with Houston-based International Artists, a label that had already gained notoriety by signing the 13th Floor Elevators and Red Crayola. After releasing a surprise top 40 hit, Hot Smoke And Sassafras in December of 1968, the band got to work on a full album, A Gathering Of Promises. International Artists failed to get the album, which was full of fine tunes like Beginning (which became the band's second single), out quickly enough to capitilize of the popularity of Hot Smoke And Sassafras, and further hurt the band's chance of success by refusing to grant licensing rights for Hot Smoke And Sassafras to Apple Records for European release. By 1970 the band and the label had parted company, with the Bubble Puppy relocating to Los Angeles and changing their name to Demian.
Title: Empty Pages
Source: 45 RPM single (reissue)
Label: Silver Spotlight (original label: United Artists)
Traffic was formed in 1967 by Steve Winwood, after ending his association with the Spencer Davis Group. The original group, also featuring Dave Mason, Jim Capaldi and Chris Wood, put out two and a half albums before disbanding in early 1969. Shortly thereafter, following a successful live reunion album, Welcome to the Canteen, Winwood got to work on what was intended to be his first solo LP. For support Winwood called in Capaldi and Wood to back him up on the project. It soon became apparent, however, that what they were working on was actually a new Traffic album, John Barleycorn Must Die. Although Empty Pages was released as a single (with a mono mix heard here), it got most of its airplay on progressive FM stations, and as those stations were replaced by (or became) AOR (album oriented rock) stations, the song continued to get extensive airplay for many years.
Title: Nature's Way
Source: CD: The Best Of Spirit (originally released on LP: Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus)
Writer: Randy California
Nature's Way is one of the best-known and best-loved songs in the Spirit catalog. Originally released on the 1970 LP Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus, the song was finally issued as a single in 1973, long after lead vocalist Jay Ferguson and bassist Mark Andes had left the band. The single mix is a bit different from the album version, particularly at the end of the song, which originally ended with a tympani roll by drummer Ed Cassidy that led into the next track on the album. The single version omits that drum roll entirely.
Artist: Tyrannosaurus Rex
Title: The Sea Beasts
Source: CD: Unicorn
Writer(s): Marc Bolan
Label: A&M (original label: Blue Thumb)
Nearly everyone is familiar with a song called Get It On (aka Bang A Gong), a huge hit in the early 70s by a group known as T-Rex. Not all that many people, however, are aware that the band was originally called Tyrannosaurus Rex, and consisted of only two members, Marc Bolan and Steve Peregrin Took. Tyrannosaurus Rex, in its original incarnation, was best described as a psychedelic folk duo with a stong emphasis on fantasy themes on songs like The Sea Beasts, which appeared on the group's third LP, Unicorn. Took split with Bolan following the release of Unicorn after Bolan refused to use any of Took's compositions on the next Tyrannosaurus Rex album, A Beard Of Stars. Bolan replaced Took with Mickey Finn, who would remain a member after T-Rex expanded to become an electric rock band.
Artist: Beacon Street Union
Title: Blue Avenue
Source: LP: The Eyes Of The Beacon Street Union
Writer(s): Wayne Ulaky
One of Boston's most popular bands, the Beacon Street Union, had already migrated to New York City by the time their first album, The Eyes Of The Beacon Street Union (produced by the legendary Tom Wilson), made its debut in February of 1968. The band itself was made up of Boston University dropouts John Lincoln Wright (lead vocals), Paul Tartachny (guitar, vocals), Robert Rhodes (keyboards, brass), Richard Weisberg (drums), and Wayne Ulaky (bass). Ulaky wrote what was probably the band's best-known song, Blue Avenue. The tune was particular popular in the UK, where it was often heard on John Peel's Top Gear program. The Beacon Street Union, however, fell victim to hype; in this case the ill-advised attempt on the part of M-G-M records to market several disparate bands as being part of the "boss-town sound". After a second LP, The Clown Died In Marvin Gardens (produced by future Partridge Family impressario Wes Farrell) failed to equal the somewhat limited success of their debut LP, the Beacon Street Union decided to call it quits.
Artist: Fantastic Zoo
Title: Light Show
Source: 45 RPM single
Label: Double Shot
The Fantastic Zoo had its origins in Denver, Colorado, with a band called the Fogcutters. When the group disbanded in 1966, main members Don Cameron and Erik Karl relocated to Los Angeles and reformed the group with new members. After signing a deal with local label Double Shot (which had a major hit on the charts at the time with Count Five's Psychotic Reaction), the group rechristened itself Fantastic Zoo, releasing their first single that fall. Early in 1967 the band released their second and final single, Light Show. The song did not get much airplay at the time, but has since become somewhat of a cult favorite.
Title: Dirty Water
Source: Mono LP: Nuggets Vol. 1-The Hits (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer: Ed Cobb
Label: Rhino (original label: Tower)
Dirty Water has long since been adopted by the city of Boston (and especially its sports teams), yet the band that originally recorded this Ed Cobb tune was purely an L.A. band, having started off playing cover tunes for frat parties in the early 60s. Lead vocalist/drummer Dickie Dodd, incidently, was a former Mouseketeer who had played on the surf-rock hit Mr. Moto as a member of the Bel-Airs.