Sunday, January 12, 2020
Stuck in the Psychedelic Era # 2003 (starts 1/13/20)
This week we have artists' sets from Hendrix and Cream, a fairly psychedelic blues set, a whole bunch of tunes from 1967, and, just for the fun of it, a set of garage sounding singles from three different countries. To get things started, we take a short trip through the years 1965 through 1968, beginning with a Bob Dylan classic...
Artist: Bob Dylan
Title: Subterranean Homesick Blues
Source: 45 RPM single (reissue)
Writer(s): Bob Dylan
1965 was the year Bob Dylan went electric, and got his first top 40 hit, Subterranean Homesick Blues, in the process. Although the song, which also led off his Bringing It All Back Home album, stalled out in the lower 30s, it did pave the way for electrified cover versions of Dylan songs by the Byrds and Turtles and Dylan's own Like A Rolling Stone, which would revolutionize top 40 radio. A line from the song itself, "you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows", became the inspiration for a radical offshoot of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) that called itself the Weathermen.
Source: Mono LP: Animalization
As a general rule, the original Animals wrote very little of their own material, preferring to record covers of their favorite blues songs to supplement the songs from professional songwriters that producer Mickie Most picked for single release. One notable exception is Cheating, a strong effort from vocalist Eric Burdon and bassist Chas Chandler that appeared on the Animalization album. The hard-driving song was also chosen for release as a B side in 1966.
Artist: Jefferson Airplane
Title: Embryonic Journey
Source: LP: Surrealistic Pillow
Writer(s): Jorma Kaukonen
Label: RCA Victor
Jorma Kaukonen originally considered Embryonic Journey to be little more than a practice exercise. Other members of Jefferson Airplane insisted he record it, however, and it has since come to be identified as a kind of signature song for the guitarist, who played the tune live when the band was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.
Artist: Flamin' Groovies
Title: I'm Drowning
Source: Mono CD: Love Is The Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-70 (originally released on LP: Sneakers)
Writer(s): Roy Loney
Label: Rhino (original label: Snazz)
An anomaly among San Francisco bands, the Flamin' Groovies were in a sense a throwback to the early days of the local SF music scene, with an emphasis on basic rock and roll rather than extended jamming or psychedelic experimentation. Although they eventually ended up signing a contract with a major label, it was their self-issued 10" mono LP (or maybe EP) Sneakers that captured the essence of the band. I'm Drowning was written by original lead vocalist Roy Loney, who would be gone by the time the band made their major label debut.
Artist: Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title: EXP/Up From The Skies
Source: LP: Axis: Bold As Love
Writer(s): Jimi Hendrix
Label: Experience Hendrix/MCA (original label: Reprise)
The second Jimi Hendrix Experience album, Axis: Bold As Love, is very much a studio creation. Hendrix had been taking a growing interest in what could be done in stereo with multiple tracks to work with (at a time when most artists were putting the bulk of their energy into making the best mono mixes for AM radio), and came up with a masterpiece. What makes the achievement even more remarkable is the fact that he actually only had four tracks to work with (compared to the virtually unlimited number available with modern digital equipment). EXP, which opens the album, is an exercise in creative feedback bouncing from speaker to speaker. The intro to the piece is a faux interview of a slowed-down Hendrix (posing as his friend Paul Caruso) by bassist Noel Redding. The track leads directly into Up From The Skies, the only song on the album to be issued as a single in the US. Up From The Skies features Hendrix's extensive use of a wah-wah pedal, with vocals and guitar panning back and forth from speaker to speaker over the jazz-styled brushes of drummer Mitch Mitchell.
Artist: Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title: Castles Made Of Sand
Source: CD: The Ultimate Experience (originally released on LP: Axis: Bold As Love)
Writer: Jimi Hendrix
Label: MCA (original label: Reprise)
Although born in Seattle, Washington, James Marshall Hendrix was never associated with the local music scene that produced some of the loudest and raunchiest punk-rock of the mid 60s. Instead, he paid his professional dues backing R&B artists on the "chitlin circuit" of clubs playing to a mostly-black clientele, mainly in the southern US. After a short stint leading his own soul band, Jimmy James and the Blue Flames, Hendrix, at the behest of one Chas Chandler, moved to London, where he recuited a pair of local musicians, Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding, to form the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Although known for his innovative use of feedback, Hendrix was quite capable of knocking out some of the most complex "clean" riffs ever to be committed to vinyl. A prime example of this is Castles Made Of Sand. Hendrix's highly melodic guitar work combined with unusual tempo changes and haunting lyrics makes Castles Made Of Sand a classic that sounds as fresh today as it did when Axis: Bold As Love was released in 1967. The first time I ever heard this song it gave me chills.
Artist: Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title: If 6 Was 9
Source: LP: Axis: Bold As Love
Writer(s): Jimi Hendrix
Label: MCA/Experience Hendrix (original label: Reprise)
Before 1967 stereo was little more than an excuse to charge a dollar more for an LP. That all changed in a hurry, as artists such as Jimi Hendrix began to explore the possibilities of the technology, in essence treating stereophonic sound as a multi-dimensional sonic palette. The result can be heard on songs such as If 6 Were 9 from the Axis: Bold As Love album, which is best listened to at high volume, preferably with headphones on. Especially the spoken part in the middle, when Jimi says the words "I'm the one who's got to die when it's time for me to die, so let me live my life the way I want." It sounds like he's inside your head with you.
Title: Magical Mystery Tour
Source: CD: Magical Mystery Tour
Label: Apple/Parlophone (original label: Capitol)
1967 had been a great year for the Beatles, starting with their double-sided hit single Strawberry Fields Forever/Penny Lane, followed by the iconic Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album and their late summer hit All You Need Is Love, with its worldwide TV debut (one of the few events of the time to utilize satellite technology). The next project, however, did not go over quite so well. It had been over two years since the group's last major movie (HELP!), and the band decided that their next film would be an exclusive for broadcast on BBC-TV. Unlike the previous two films, this new project would not follow traditional filmmaking procedures. Instead it would be a more experimental piece; a series of loosely related songs and comedy vignettes connected by a loose plot about a bus trip to the countryside. Magical Mystery Tour made its debut in early December of 1967 to overwhelmingly negative reaction by viewers and critics alike (partially because the film was shown in black and white on the tradition minded BBC-1 network; a later rebroadcast in color on BBC-2 went over much better). The songs used in the film, however, were quite popular. Since there were only six of them, far too few for a regular LP, it was decided to issue the album as a pair of 45 RPM EPs, complete with lyric sheets and booklet recounting the story from the film. The original EPs were available in both stereo and mono versions in Europe and the UK. In the US, where the six tunes were supplemented by the band's five remaining single sides from 1967 to create an LP, Magical Mystery Tour was only available in stereo. Although both the EP and LP versions have different sequencing than the telefilm, all three open the same way, with the film's title song.
Title: Care Of Cell 44
Source: CD: Odessey And Oracle (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Rod Argent
Label: Varese Sarabande (original US label: Columbia)
By mid-1967 things were looking pretty grim for the Zombies. After a brilliant start with the smash hit She's Not There, the band had a series of singles that did progressively worse on the charts, leading their British label, Decca, to drop the group from its roster. Gigs were becoming scarce as well, and the members of the band were getting desperate for cash. Somehow, though, they managed to get a deal with CBS Records, which had been formed in 1962 to distribute recordings by American artists originally issued on the US Columbia label, but, starting in 1965, had been occasionally signing British acts as well. Even more remarkable was the fact that the band was given complete artistic control to produce an entire album, something that was virtually unheard of in 1967 (even the Beatles had to work with a producer provided by their record label, in their case the legendary George Martin). The bulk of the album, which came to be called Odessey And Oracle, was recorded at EMI's Abbey Road studios. Since they were not recording for an EMI-owned label they had to book studio time on a as-available basis, often going weeks between sessions. This gave them time to perfect the songs before committing them to tape, but it also left them financially strapped. The first track released from the project was Care Of Cell 44, a song that takes the form of a letter to a loved one who is about to be released from prison. The single was released in both the UK and the US in November of 1967, but failed to chart, and the Zombies disbanded the following month. Nonetheless, CBS issued the album in April of 1968; in the US Columbia Records, which had issued the Care Of Cell 44 single, chose not to release the album at all until staff producer Al Kooper (who Super Session was a surprise hit in 1968) convinced Columbia to release it on their little-known Date subsidiary at a budget price in June. Late in the year the final track on the album, a song called Time Of The Season, began getting airplay, ultimately becoming a top five hit single in 1969.
Artist: Buffalo Springfield
Title: Rock And Roll Woman
Source: LP: Homer (soundtrack) (originally released on LP: Buffalo Springfield Again and as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Stephen Stills
Label: Cotillion (original label: Atco)
Buffalo Springfield did not sell huge numbers of records (except for the single For What It's Worth) while they were together. Nor did they pack in the crowds. As a matter of fact, when they played the club across the street from where Love was playing, they barely had any audience at all. Artistically, though, it's a whole 'nother story. During their brief existence Buffalo Springfield launched the careers of no less than four major artists: Neil Young, Richie Furay, Jim Messina and Stephen Stills. They also recorded more than their share of tracks that have held up better than most of what else was being recorded at the time. Case in point: Rock And Roll Woman, a Stephen Stills tune that still sounds fresh well over 50 years after it was recorded.
Artist: 13th Floor Elevators
Source: British import CD: Easter Everywhere
Label: Charly (original label: International Artists)
The first album by the 13th Floor Elevators has long been considered a milestone, in that it was one of the first truly psychedelic albums ever released (and the first to actually use the word "psychedelic" in the title). For their followup LP, the group decided to take their time, going through some personnel changes in the process. Still, the core membership of Roky Erickson, Tommy Hall and Stacy Sutherland held it together long enough to complete Easter Everywhere, releasing the album in 1967. The idea behind the album was to present a spiritual vision that combined both Eastern and Western religious concepts (and some pretty heavy philosophy) in a rock context. For the most part, such as on tracks like Levitation, it succeeds remarkably well, considering the strife the band was going through at the time.
Title: Dear Mr. Fantasy
Source: LP: Progressive Heavies (originally released on LP: Heaven Is In Your Mind)
Label: United Artists
Steve Winwood is one of those artists that has multiple signature songs, having a career that has spanned decades (so far). Still, if there is any one song that is most closely associated with the guitarist/keyboardist/vocalist, it's the title track of Traffic's Mr. Fantasy album.
Artist: Chambers Brothers
Title: Time Has Come Today
Source: CD: The Best Of 60s Psychedelic Rock (originally released on LP: The Time Has Come)
Writer(s): Joe and Willie Chambers
Label: Priority (original label: Columbia)
Year: LP released 1967, single edit released 1968
Time Has Come Today has one of the most convoluted histories of any song of the psychedelic era. First recorded in 1966 and released as a two-and-a-half minute single the song flopped. The following year an entirely new eleven minute version of the song was recorded for the album The Time Has Come, featuring an extended pyschedelic section filled with various studio effects. In late 1967 a three minute edited version of the song was released that left out virtually the entire psychedelic section of the recording. Soon after that, the single was pulled from the shelf and replaced by a longer edited version that included part of the psychedelic section. That version became a hit record in 1968, peaking just outside the top 10. This is actually a stereo recreation of that mono second edited version.
Artist: Electric Prunes
Source: CD: Underground
Label: Collector's Choice/Rhino (original label: Reprise)
Annette Tucker and Nancie Mantz were songwriters who had their greatest success when the Electric Prunes released one of their songs, I Had Too Much Too Dream (Last Night), in early 1967. The record was such a great success, in fact, that the band's producer insisted that the group record more Tucker/Mantz songs, including a second charted single, Get Me To The World On Time, and several album tracks. One of those album tracks, I, is the only recording by the original band to exceed the five minute mark, an ironic fact considering that it is the song with the shortest title in the history of recorded music.
Title: Mr. Dieingly Sad
Source: CD: Battle Of The Bands (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Don Ciccone
Label: Era (original label: Kapp)
The Critters were not, by any stretch of the imagination, a psychedelic band. Still, when in comes to the year 1966, one of the first songs that pops into to my mind is their hit single Mr. Dieingly Sad. The Critters were formed when Don Ciccone, who sang and played guitar, and saxophonist Bob Podstawski joined a New Jersey the Vibratones in 1964, transforming them from an instrumental band to one of the first American bands to compete directly with the British Invasion bands. The band soon released their first single on the Musicor label, switching to Kapp Records the following year. Mr. Diengly Sad became the group's only top 20 hit, peaking at #17 as the summer of 1966 was coming to a close. The group split up in 1968, and after a stint in the military Ciccone joined the 4 Seasons for awhile (temporarily replacing Frankie Valli, who had left the group for a solo career), and later toured with Tommy James And The Shondells. Eventually Ciccone formed a new incarnation of the Critters in 2007, releasing an album called Time Pieces that included updated versions of their first top 40 hit, Younger Girl, and a spell-corrected Mr. Dyingly Sad. Don Ciccone passed away on October 8, 2016 at the age of 70 after suffering a heart attack.
Artist: Things To Come
Title: Come Alive
Source: Mono CD: Where The Action Is: L.A. Nuggets 1965-68 (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer: Russ Ward
Label: Rhino (original label: Warner Brothers)
Long Beach, California was home to a band known as Things To Come, which featured drummer Russ Ward, who, as Russ Kunkel, would go on to become one of L.A.'s hottest studio drummers. Come Alive is a solid piece of garage rock written by Ward/Kunkel.
Artist: Eric Burdon And War
Title: Blues For Memphis Slim
Source: LP: Eric Burdon Declares "War"
Writer(s): War/Peter Chapman
"When the acid trip is over, you've got to come back to Mother Blues." Eric Burdon's ad-libbed line from the track Blues From Memphis Slim, pretty much sums up the state of the former Animals lead vocalist's career as of 1970. The original Animals had been founded with the blues in mind, with the band members, including Burdon, preferring the cover tunes of artists like John Lee Hooker and Jimmy Reed featured on their albums to the hit singles provided to the band by their producer, Mickey Most. Finally, in 1966, the group officially disbanded, just as Burdon was discovering the mind-expanding qualities of hallucinogenic substances (he had been a hard drinker up to that point). In early 1967 Burdon formed a "New Animals" that would soon come to be called Eric Burdon And The Animals. This band had little in common with the original Animals (other than Burdon's distinctive vocals), and was, by any measure, pure acid rock. But after a couple of albums, even that group started to change, taking on more of an R&B sound with tracks like their extended version of River Deep, Mountain High. Finally, in 1969, this group disbanded as well, leaving Burdon and his producer, Jerry Goldstein, looking for a new band and a new sound for the singer. They found it in a Los Angeles nightclub, where a band called Nightshift was backing up former football star Deacon Jones. Burdon and Goldstein persuaded the multi-racial band to change their name to War, and got to work on an album called Eric Burdon Declares "War". The album featured mostly suites such as Blues For Memphis Slim, which was built around the bluesman's classic Mother Earth, with several added instrumental sections composed by the band. At thirteen and a half minutes, it is the longest track on the album. After a second album with the group (The double-LP The Black Man's Burdon), Eric Burdon left the group, leaving War to become one of the more popular bands of the 1970s.
Artist: Jethro Tull
Title: It's Breaking Me Up
Source: CD: This Was
Writer(s): Ian Anderson
Label: Chrysalis/Capitol (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 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: Big Brother And The Holding Company
Title: I Need A Man To Love
Source: LP: Cheap Thrills
Big Brother and the Holding Company recorded their first album at the Chicago studios of Mainstream records in 1967. Mainstream, however, was a jazz label and their engineers had no idea how to make a band like Big Brother sound good. When the band signed to Columbia the following year it was decided that the best way to record the band was onstage at the Fillmore West. Those concert tapes were ultimately deemed unfit for release, with the exception of the album's final track, the electrifying cover of Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton's Ball And Chain, and it was decided that the way to go was to recreate the band's stage show within the confines of the recording studio, much as the Beatles had done for their debut LP. To enhance the illusion, prerecorded crowd noises were added to the final mixes of songs like I Need A Man To Love, a collaboration between vocalist Janis Joplin and guitarist Sam Andrew.
Title: Get Yourself Home
Source: Mono CD: Nuggets II-Original Artyfacts From The British Empire And Beyond 1964-1969 (originally released in UK as 45 RPM single)
Label: Rhino (original label: HMV)
The Fairies were compadres of the more famous Pretty Things, sharing an occasional song and eventually a drummer. Their second single, Get Yourself Home, was actually supposed to be recorded by the Pretty Things themselves, but after making a demo the PTs decided to pass the song along the Fairies, who issued it as their second single in 1965. After a third single failed the chart, the Fairies disbanded, with drummer John "Twink" Alder moving on to The In Crowd, Tomorrow (with guitarist Steve Howe) and eventually the Pretty Things themselves before joining up with former members of the Deviants to form the Pink Fairies in 1970.
Artist: We The People
Title: Mirror Of Your Mind
Source: Mono CD: Nuggets-Original Artyfacts From The First Psychedelic Era (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Thomas Talton
Label: Rhino (original label: Challenge)
We The People were formed when an Orlando, Florida newspaper reporter talked members of two local bands to combine into a garage/punk supergroup. The result was one of the most successful regional bands in Florida history. After their first recording got airplay on a local station, they were signed to record in Nashville for Challenge Records (a label actually based in Los Angeles) and cranked out several regional hits over the next few years. The first of these was Mirror Of Your Mind. Written by lead vocalist Tom Talton, the song is an in-your-face rocker that got played on a number of local stations and has been covered by several bands since.
Artist: Guess Who
Title: It's My Pride
Source: Mono CD: Nuggets II-Original Artyfacts From The British Empire And Beyond 1964-1969 (originally released in Canada as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer(s): Randy Bachman
Label: Rhino (original label: Quality)
The Guess Who were formed in 1962 in Winnipeg, Manitoba as Chad Allen and the Reflections, changing their name to Chad Allen and the Expression in 1964. The group recorded a cover of a Johnny Kidd song, Shakin' All Over, in 1965. The record was not released under the band's actual name, however; in a bid to get more airplay for the song, the record was credited to "Guess Who?". This was during the peak of the British Invasion, and the producers hoped that DJs might assume it was some well-known British band and give the record a shot. (Of course, such a thing could never happen these days, as commercial radio DJs are not allowed to choose what music to play.) The ploy worked so well (the song was a hit in both the US and Canada) that the band decided to keep the name Guess Who, and continued to crank out hit after hit in their native Canada, although they would not hit the US charts again until 1969. In 1966 the group picked up a second vocalist, Burton Cummings, and within a few months founder Allen left the band, leaving Cummings as the group's front man. One of their better songs was It's My Pride, a B side written by guitarist Randy Bachman and released as a single in 1967. Bachman would soon team up with Cummings to write a string of hits, including These Eyes and American Woman, before leaving the Guess Who in the early 70s to form his own band, Bachman-Turner Overdrive.
Source: LP: Wheels Of Fire
Label: RSO (original label: Atco)
Although the songwriting team of Jack Bruce and Pete Brown are best known for providing Cream with its more psychedelic songs such as White Room and SWLABR, they did occasionally come up with bluesier numbers such as Politician from the Wheels Of Fire album. The song quickly became a staple of Cream's live performances.
Title: Sunshine Of Your Love
Source: CD: The Best Of 60s Supergroups (originally released on LP: Disraeli Gears)
Label: Priority (original label: Atco)
Although by mid-1967 Cream had already released a handful of singles in the UK, Sunshine Of Your Love, featuring one of the most recognizable guitar rifts in the history of rock, was their first song to make a splash in the US. Although only moderately successful in edited form on AM Top-40 radio, the full-length LP version of the song received extensive airplay on the more progressive FM stations, and turned Disraeli Gears into a perennial best-seller. Clapton and Bruce constantly trade off lead vocal lines throughout the song. The basic compatibility of their voices is such that it is sometimes difficult to tell exactly who is singing what line. Clapton's guitar solo (which was almost entirely edited out of the AM version) set a standard for instrumental breaks in terms of length and style that became a hallmark for what is now known as "classic rock."
Title: As You Said
Source: LP: Wheels Of Fire
Label: RSO (original label: Atco)
Cream started off as a British blues supergroup, but soon found themselves putting out some of the finest psychedelic tunes east of the Atlantic. Much of the credit for this goes to the songwriting team of bassist Jack Bruce and Pete Brown. Brown was originally brought in as a songwriting partner for Ginger Baker, but soon found a better synergy with Bruce. The two went on to write some of Cream's most memorable songs, including Tales of Brave Ulysses, Deserted Cities of the Heart and White Room. As You Said, from Cream's third LP, Wheel's Of Fire, is somewhat unusual in that it features acoustical instruments exclusively (including Ginger Baker setting aside his drumsticks in favor of brushes).
Artist: Rolling Stones
Title: Paint It Black
Source: Mono CD: Singles Collection-The London Years (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Abkco (original label: London)
One of the truly great Rolling Stones songs, Paint It Black was not included on the original UK release of the 1966 Aftermath album. This was because of the British custom of not including songs on LPs that were also available as 45 RPM singles (which, unlike their American counterparts, remained available for sale indefinitely) or extended play 45s (which had no US counterpart). In the US, however, Paint It Black was used to open the album, giving the entire LP a different feel from the British version (it had a different cover as well). Paint It Black is also the only song on Aftermath that was mixed only in mono, although US stereo pressings used an electronic rechannelling process to create a fake stereo sound. Luckily for everyone's ears, modern CDs use the unenhanced mono mix of the tune.