Sunday, January 5, 2020
Stuck in the Psychedelic Era # 2002 (starts 1/6/20)
This week features the return of our Advanced Psych segment with a set of rather upbeat tunes. Also on the show we have artists' sets from three bands that at one time or another all had the same name. Two of them recorded under that name (Grass Roots), while the one that originally had that name ended up calling themselves something else entirely: Love.
Artist: Simon And Garfunkel
Title: Mrs. Robinson
Source: LP: Bookends
Writer(s): Paul Simon
A shortened version of Mrs. Robinson first appeared on the soundtrack for the film The Graduate in 1967, but it wasn't until the Bookends album came out in 1968 that the full four minute version was released. Although the Graduate was one of the most successful films of the decade, I suspect that many more people have heard the song than have seen the film. Take that, movie snobs!
Artist: Big Brother And The Holding Company
Title: Down On Me
Source: CD:Live At The Carousel Ballroom-1968
Writer(s): trad., arr. Joplin
Year: Recorded 1968, released 2012
The first single by Big Brother And The Holding Company, Down On Me, barely missed making the top 40 charts when it was released in 1967, peaking at # 42. As can be heard on their Live At The Carousel Ballroom-1968 CD, recorded directly off the sound board by Owsley "Bear" Stanley, their performance of the old song from the 1930s only got better with time.
Title: Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring
Source: CD: Traffic
Label: Island (original US label: United Artists)
Although officially a Traffic song, the funky Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring, from the second Traffic album, actually features only two of the band's four members; Jim Capaldi, who wrote the lyrics to the song, plays drums, while Steve Winwood does everything else. This was a fairly common occurence on Traffic albums, as Winwood is equally proficient on guitar, keyboards, and of course vocals.
Artist: Procol Harum
Title: In Held Twas In I
Source: CD: Shine On Brightly
Although the idea of grouping songs together as "suites" was first tried by Jefferson Airplane on their 1967 album After Bathing At Baxter's, Procol Harum's 17-minute long In Held Twas In I, from their 1968 album Shine On Brightly, is usually cited as the first progressive rock suite. The title comes from the first word of each section of the piece that contains vocals (several sections are purely instrumental). The work contains some of the best early work from guitarist Robin Trower, who would leave the group a few years later for a solo career. Shine On Brightly was the last Procol Harum album to include organist Matthew Fisher, who came up with the famous opening riff for the group's first hit, A Whiter Shade Of Pale.
Artist: Blues Project
Title: Two Trains Running
Source: LP: Projections
Writer(s): McKinley Morganfield
Label: Verve Forecast
Possibly the most influential (yet least known outside of musicians' circles) band of the Psychedelic Era was the Blues Project. Formed in 1965 in Greenwich Village, the band worked its way from coast to coast playing mostly college campuses, in the process blazing a path that continues to be followed by underground/progressive/alternative artists. As if founding the whole college circuit wasn't enough, they were arguably the very first jam band, as their version of the Muddy Waters classic Two Trains Running demonstrates. Among those drawing their inspiration from the Blues Project were a group of young musicians who were participating in Ken Kesey's Electric Cool-Aid Acid Tests. Like several other San Francisco residents they caught the Blues Project at the Fillmore Auditorium in April of 1966, and soon began to incorporate long improvisational sections into their own performances.
Title: Up In Her Room
Source: Mono British import CD: Singles As & Bs 1965-1970 (originally released on LP: A Web Of Sound and as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer: Sky Saxon
Label: Big Beat (original label: GNP Crescendo)
One of the first extended jams released on a rock album, the fourteen and a half-minute Up In Her Room, from the Seeds' second LP, A Web Of Sound, is a sort of sequel to Van Morrison's Gloria (but only the original Them version; the secret of the Shadows Of Knight's success with the song was to replace the line "she comes up to my room" with "she comes around here"). The much shorter mono edit of the song (about three and a half minutes) heard here was released as the B side of the second issue of Mr. Farmer in January of 1967.
Artist: Harbinger Complex
Title: Sometimes I Wonder
Source: Mono CD: Love Is The Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-70 (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Label: Rhino (original label: Amber)
The city of San Francisco had a well-documented music scene in the 1960s that brought bands like Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead and Santana to national prominence. Across the bay, however, was a more typical mid-60s scene centered around teen-oriented bands that would play high school dances, shopping center parking lots and of course participate in various "battle of the bands" competitions. Among the best of these was Fremont's Harbinger Complex. Formed in 1963 by guitarists Ron Rotarius and Bob Hoyle III, who had playing together since they were in the eighth grade, the group was first known as the Norsemen. When Hoyle was called to active duty in Vietnam in 1965 the band brought in vocalist Jim Hockstaff and changed its name to Harbinger Complex. Hoyle returned from 'Nam in 1966, and he and Hockstaff soon formed a writing partnership. All of the band's releases, including the 1966 B side Sometimes I Wonder, were written by the pair. After Hockstaff's departure in early 1967 the group tried to continue on with a new vocalist, but did not make any more records. By the end of the year Harbinger Complex was history.
Title: I Am The Walrus
Source: 45 RPM single B side
There were actually three different versions of the Beatles' I Am The Walrus released in late 1967, all of which were made from the same basic tracks. The first, heard here, was a mono single version that was issued as the B side of Hello Goodbye in late November. This version features a four-beat intro and has an extra bar of music immediately preceding the words "Yellow matter custard" in the middle of the song. The second version was the stereo version featured on the US-only Magical Mystery Tour album. This version is basically the same as the mono version, but does not contain the extra bar in the middle. The third version appeared in early December in Europe and the UK on the stereo pressing of the Magical Mystery Tour soundtrack EP. This version features a six beat intro, but is otherwise identical to the US stereo version. In the early 1980s engineers at Capitol Records created a fourth version of I Am The Walrus that uses the six beat intro from the UK stereo version and includes the extra bar in the middle of the song from the US single version. This fourth version was included on the Beatles' Rarities album, and has, to my knowledge, never been issued on CD.
Title: Mrs. Gillespie's Refrigerator
Source: Mono British import CD: Love, Poetry And Revolution (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Grapefruit (original label: Reaction)
Sands got their big break when they were observed playing at a place called the Cromwellian Club by Beatles manager Brian Epstein. Liking what he heard, Epstein got the band signed to his NEMS management company. His partner at NEMS, Robert Stigwood, had recently formed his own label, Reaction Records, and released Sands' only single in September of 1967, a song called Mrs. Gillespie's Refrigerator that was written by Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb of the Bee Gees, who also recorded for Reaction. Unfortunately, Epstein died less than two weeks before the record was released, and the single got virtually no promotion as a result.
Artist: Blues Magoos
Title: Life Is Just A Cher O' Bowlies
Source: CD: Kaleidoscopic Compendium (originally released on LP: Electric Comic Book)
Although not as big a seller as their first LP (probably due to a lack of a major hit single), Electric Comic Book is nonetheless one of the great psychedelic albums. Life Is Just a Cher-O'-Bowlies, with its tongue in cheek approach, is about as typical a Blues Magoos song as anything this New York band ever recorded.
Artist: Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title: Can You See Me
Source: LP: Smash Hits (originally released in UK on LP: Are You Experienced)
Writer(s): Jimi Hendrix
Before releasing the first Jimi Hendrix Experience album, Are You Experienced, in the US, Reprise Records decided to make some changes to the track lineup, adding three songs that had been released as non-album singles in the UK and remixing the entire album in stereo. To make room for the extra tracks, three songs were cut from the original UK version of the LP. The most popular of these was Can You See Me, a song that was included in the band's set when they made their US debut at the Monterey International Pop Festival in June of 1967. Despite the audience's positive response to the song, the band apparently dropped Can You See Me from their live set shortly after Monterey. The song was originally slated to be released as the B side of The Wind Cries Mary, but instead was used as an album track. In 1969, a previously unreleased stereo mix of Can You See Me (presumably made at the same time as the US version of the Are You Experienced album) was included on the US version of the Smash Hits LP.
Artist: Tol-Puddle Martyrs
Title: Psych-Out USA
Source: Australian import CD: Psych-Out USA
Label: Secret Deals
Tol-Puddle Martyrs evolved out of an earlier Australian band, Peter And The Silhouettes, that contributed a pair of tunes to a 1966 anthology album showcasing bands from Northern Victoria. As the Martyrs they recorded a handful of singles that saw some airplay on local radio. Bandleader Peter Rechter then went on to front several other bands over the years, eventually reforming the Martyrs in the 21st century. They have released three CDs since reforming, the first of which is Psych-Out USA, released in 2007.
Artist: Psychedelic Furs
Source: LP: The Psychedelic Furs
Writer(s): Psychedelic Furs
Led by brothers Richard and Tim Butler (on vocals and bass respectively), the Psychedelic Furs were formed in London in 1977, at the height of the punk rock era. One of punk's more prominent characteristics was a sneering attitude toward 60s rock; the Psychedelic Furs chose their name deliberately to distance themselves from this attitude and instead embrace the legacy of the psychedelic era. Their 1980 debut LP, although not a success in the US, did well in Europe, and went all the way to #18 on the UK album chart. The album's opening track was India, a six-minute long song that established the group's overall sound.
Artist: Jigsaw Seen
Source: CD: Old Man Reverb
Writer(s): Dennis Davison
The Jigsaw Seen has been around since 1988, when it was formed by Dennis Davison, formerly of the United States Of Existence. The group's first single, Jim Is The Devil, was released by Get Hip Records in 1989, with their debut LP Shortcut Through Clown Alley appearing the following year on the New Jersey based Skyclad Records. The band's latest release is an album called Old Man Reverb that manages to combine elements of Americana, art-rock, psych and garage-rock on tunes like Abide.
Title: It Ain't Me Babe
Source: 45 RPM single (reissue)
Writer: Bob Dylan
Label: Trip (original label: White Whale)
The Turtles started out as a local high school surf band called the Crossfires. In 1965 they were signed to a record label that technically didn't exist yet. That did not deter the people at the label (which would come to be known as White Whale) from convincing the band to change its name and direction. Realizing that surf music was indeed on the way out, the band, now called the Turtles, went into the studio and recorded four songs. One of those was Bob Dylan's It Ain't Me Babe. The Byrds had just scored big with their version of Dylan's Mr. Tambourine Man and the Turtles took a similar approach with It Ain't Me Babe. The song was a solid hit, going to the #8 spot on the national charts and leading to the first of many Turtles releases on White Whale.
Artist: Jefferson Airplane
Title: Blues From An Airplane
Source: CD: Jefferson Airplane Takes Off
Label: RCA/BMG Heritage
Blues From An Airplane was the opening song on the first Jefferson Airplane album, Jefferson Airplane Takes Off. Although never released as a single, it was picked by the group to open their first anthology album, The Worst Of Jefferson Airplane, as well. The song is one of two tunes on Takes Off co-written by lead vocalist Marty Balin and drummer Skip Spence.
Title: Outside Woman Blues
Source: LP: Disraeli Gears
Writer(s): Arthur Reynolds
Although Cream's second album, Disraeli Gears, is best known for its psychedelic cover art and original songs such as Strange Brew, Sunshine Of Your Love and Tales of Brave Ulysses, the LP did have one notable blues cover on it. Outside Woman Blues was originally recorded by Blind Joe Reynolds in 1929 and has since been covered by a variety of artists including Van Halen, Johnny Winters, Jimi Hendrix and even the Atlanta Rhythm Section.
Artist: Electric Prunes
Title: Everybody Knows You're Not In Love
Source: Mono CD: Underground (bonus track originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Collector's Choice/Rhino (original label: Reprise)
The Electric Prunes had greater creative control over their second album than they did over their first. That control continued into early 1968, when Everybody Knows You're Not In Love, a single penned by band members Mark Tulin and James Lowe, was released. Unfortunately, the record didn't sell well and the next album, David Axelrod's Mass In F Minor, was played almost entirely by studio musicians. The original group broke up during the recording of Mass and did not play together again until the 21st century.
Source: 45 RPM single
Writer(s): Ray Davies
Label: Polygram/PolyTel (original label: Reprise)
The Kinks were at their commercial low point in 1969 when they released their third single from their controversial concept album Arthur or The Decline And Fall Of The British Empire. Their previous two singles had failed to chart, even in their native England, and the band had not had a top 20 hit in the US since Sunny Afternoon in 1966. Victoria was a comeback of sorts, as it did manage to reach the #62 spot in the US and the #33 spot in the UK.
Title: When I Was In My Prime
Source: British import CD: Cruel sister
Writer(s): Trad. Arr. McShee
Label: Castle (original US label: Reprise)
Jacqui McShee takes center stage on When I Was In My Prime, singing a capella on the traditional tune on the 1970 LP Basket Of Light. Of all the Pentangle albums, Basket Of Light was the most folk-based, with all the songs being in the public domain and arranged by the band members.
Our final half hour consists mainly of tracks from three different bands calling themselves the Grass Roots. According to guitarist Johnny Echols, the original Grass Roots were becoming quite popular in 1965, and had been getting offers from various record labels. One of these labels was Dunhill, whose head, Lou Adler, approached the band during a gig at a local club. The band members told him to talk to their manager, which Adler took as being blown off by the band itself. A few weeks later someone told the band that they had just heard them on a local Los Angeles radio station doing a Bob Dylan cover. This was, of course, news to the band, who had not recorded any Bob Dylan covers. It was soon determined that Adler, apparently still angry over being blown off, had commissioned songwriters P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri to come up with their own band called the Grass Roots and get a record out under that name ASAP. After consulting with a lawyer, the original Grass Roots decided to change their name, turning the whole thing into a sort of contest by tossing out several suggestions to the crowd at their next gig and seeing which one got the most enthusiastic reaction. The overwhelming winner was Love, which became the band's new name. Eventually Love came to be the house band at the Whisky A Go Go, which in turn led to them becoming the first rock band signed to Jac Holzman's Elektra label. Meanwhile, the band that had recorded the Dylan cover soon had a falling out with Adler, Sloan and Barri and returned to their native San Francisco, performing as the Grass Roots until Adler got a cease and desist order from a local judge. Dunhill Records then hired a third band to become the Grass Roots. That group went on to release several singles, including the top 10 1967 hit Let's Live For Today. This gave the band a bit of leverage, leading to the following situation:
Artist: Grass Roots
Source: LP: Feelings
In 1968 the Grass Roots, banking on the popularity of their 1967 hit Let's Live For Today, decided to assert themselves and take artistic control of their newest album, Feelings, writing much of the material for the LP themselves. Unfortunately for the band, the album, as well as its title track single, fared poorly on the charts. From that point on the Grass Roots were firmly under the control of producers/songwriters Steve Barri and P.F. Sloan, cranking out a series of best-selling hits such as I'd Wait A Million Years and Midnight Confessions (neither of which get played on Stuck in the Psychedelic Era, incidentally).
But let's go back to 1965, and that Bob Dylan cover...
Artist: Grass Roots
Title: Mr. Jones (A Ballad Of A Thin Man)
Source: Mono CD: Love Is The Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-70 (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Bob Dylan
Label: Rhino (original label: Dunhill)
In late 1965 songwriters/producers P.F. Sloan (Eve of Destruction) and Steve Barri were commissioned by Dunhill Records' head Lou Adler to create a series of records by a band called the Grass Roots. Sloan and Barri were apparently unaware that there was already a local L.A. band calling itself the Grass Roots (although, according to one of that band's members, Adler himself was quite aware of them and had even approached them about a possible recording contract). Sloan and Barri recorded a demo themselves of a song called Where Were You When I Needed You and sent it out to several San Francisco area radio stations. After getting positive feedback on the demo Sloan and Barri decided to recruit an existing band and talk them into changing their name. The band they found was the Bedouins, the winner of a battle of the bands in San Mateo. As the rush to sign SF bands was still months away, the Bedouins were more than happy to record the songs Sloan and Barri picked out for them. The first single by the newly-named Grass Roots was a cover of Bob Dylan's Mr. Jones (A Ballad Of A Thin Man). The band soon got to work promoting the single to Southern California radio stations, but with both the Byrds and the Turtles already on the charts with Dylan covers it soon became obvious that the market was becoming saturated with folk-rock. After a period of months the band, who wanted more freedom to write and record their own material, had a falling out with Sloan and Barri and it wasn't long before they moved back to San Francisco, leaving drummer Joel Larson in L.A. The group, with another drummer, continued to perform as the Grass Roots until Dunhill Records ordered them to stop. Eventually Dunhill would hire a local L.A. band called the 13th Floor (not to be confused with Austin, Texas's 13th Floor Elevators) to be the final incarnation of the Grass Roots; that group would crank out a series of top 40 hits over a period of about eight years. Meanwhile the original lineup changed their name but never had the opportunity to make records again.
Artist: Grass Roots
Title: Dinner For Eight/Feelings (reprise)
Source: LP: Feelings
The third, and most commercially successful, band to call themselves the Grass Roots was original known as the 13th Floor, and consisted of Creed Bratton (vocals, guitar), Rick Coonce (drums, percussion), Warren Entner (vocals, guitar, keyboards), and Kenny Fukomoto (vocals, bass). Before becoming the Grass Roots, the 13th Floor lost Fukomoto to the Draft, and eventually Rob Grill was chosen as his replacement. As was fairly common practice at the time, the band itself didn't play the instrument tracks on their singles; that duty was handled in large part by the pool of L.A. studio musicians known as the Wrecking Crew. Apparently they did have some input into the making of their first LP, Let's Live For Today, but not enough to satisfy the band members. With a top 10 single under their belt they were able to make their next LP, Feelings, themselves, with only some keyboard parts added by studio musicians. They also got to write a lot of the material for Feelings, including the title track, which had been written when they were still the 13th Floor, and the album's final track, Dinner For Eight, written by Bratton. The album was not a commercial success, however, and their next LP, Lovin' Things, was once again dominated by studio musicians, and only included two songs written and performed by the band members themselves.
Title: You I'll Be Following
Source: German import CD: Love
Writer(s): Arthur Lee
When the Byrds decided to tour heavily to support their early hits Mr. Tambourine Man and Turn! Turn! Turn!, Arthur Lee's band Love was more than happy to fill the void left on the L.A. club scene. The group, original known as the Grass Roots, quickly established itself as the top band on the strip, a title it would hold until the scene itself died out in 1968. From Lee's perspective, the secret to keeping that title was staying close to home, a policy that would prevent them from achieving any kind of major national success. Ironically, Love ultimately found their greatest popularity in the UK, where they managed to build an ever-growing following despite never having played there. Love was the first rock band signed to Jac Holzman's Elektra label, and was also one of the first US rock albums to feature material exclusively arranged (and mostly written) by members of the band itself. One of those originals was You I'll Be Following, a song that had been in their repertoire since their Grass Roots days.
Title: My Little Red Book
Source: Mono LP: Love
The first rock record ever released by Elektra Records was a single by Love called My Little Red Book. The track itself (which also opens Love's debut LP), is a punked out version of tune originally recorded by Manfred Mann for the What's New Pussycat movie soundtrack. Bandleader Arthur Lee was first exposed to the song when watching the movie in a local theater, and immediately went home and came up with his own version of the tune. Needless to say, Love's take on My Little Red Book was not exactly what composers Burt Bacharach and Hal David had in mind.
Title: Signed D.C.
Source: German import CD: Love
Writer(s): Arthur Lee
The only acoustic track on the first Love album was Signed D.C., a slow ballad in the tradition of House of the Rising Sun. The song takes the form of a letter penned by a heroin addict, and the imagery is both stark and disturbing. Although Lee was known to occasionally say otherwise, the song title probably refers to Love's original drummer Don Conka, who left the band before their first recording sessions due to (you guessed it) heroin addiction. Signed D.C. is generally regarded as Arthur Lee's first true masterpiece.
Title: I Can't Believe It
Source: 45 RPM single B side
Writer(s): Eric Burdon
Although generally recognized as one of the greatest vocalists of the British Invasion (indeed, one of the greatest rock vocalists of all time), Eric Burdon's abilities as a songwriter are often overlooked. And, to be honest, most of his songwriting credits were shared with one or more bandmates, especially after the original Animals disbanded and a "new" Animals appeared in 1967. One of his few solo credits came for a song called I Can't Believe It, which was included on the US version of the 1965 Animal Tracks and worldwide as the B side of the single We Gotta Get Out Of This Place. To my knowledge, the song never appeared on an LP outside of North America.