Sunday, May 17, 2020
Stuck in the Psychedelic Era # 2021 (20 Artists That Shaped The Psychedelic Era) (starts 5/18/20)
It's been ten years since Stuck in the Psychedelic Era made the transition from a live local show on a relatively small public radio station in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York to a nationally syndicated weekly show heard (at first) on a total of four stations. Happily, although one of those stations has since gone dark, the rest are still with us, and still carrying Stuck in the Psychedelic Era every week. Even better, they have been joined by dozens more stations from coast to coast over the past ten years, along with a couple overseas outlets as well. This week and next we celebrate with a pair of special editions of Stuck in the Psychedelic Era. The first looks at 20 Artists who helped shape the psychedelic era itself. Of course it can be legitimately argued that every artist that has ever been played on the show helped shape the psychedelic era (and there are literally hundreds); that is, in fact, a large part of what makes the psychedelic era itself unique in the history of recorded music. Still, with only two hours to work with, I had to narrow it down somewhat, so I went (for the most part) with the artists whose songs have been played the most on the show itself over the years. In fact, the final half hour is a kind of countdown of the top five artists of the psychedelic era, using the same criteria. I'm looking forward to any and all feedback you might want to send my way at hermitradio.com or on the show's Facebook page. Next week we shift the emphasis from artists to specific songs with an old-fashioned all-time top 30 countdown of the most-played songs on Stuck in the Psychedelic Era over the past ten years. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy listening to 20 Artists Who Shaped the Psychedelic Era as much as I enjoyed making it.
Artist: Bob Dylan
Title: The Times They Are A-Changin'
Source: Mono CD: The Best Of The Original Mono Recordings (originally released on LP: The Times They Are A-Changin')
Writer: Bob Dylan
If there was any single song that presaged the entire psychedelic era, it would have to be Bob Dylan's The Times They Are A-Changin', from his 1964 album of the same name. Indeed, five days after it was released the Beatles made their debut on the US charts, signalling the biggest single sea change in the history of the music industry. Dylan's lyrics foretell the social changes that would come over the next several years that would come to be known, in more ways than one, as the psychedelic era.
Title: I Want To Hold Your Hand
Source: CD: 1 (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Originally released in the UK in November of 1963, the Beatles' I Want To Hold Your Hand was originally slated for a January 1964 release, but when a Washington DC disc jockey started playing an imported copy of the British single in early December Capitol Records decided to move up the release of the song to December 26th. By the middle of January the song was in the US top 50 and on February 1st it took over the #1 spot, staying there for seven weeks and touching off what would come to be known as the British Invasion. Unlike many later Beatles songs that, despite being credited to the songwriting team of John Lennon and Paul McCartney were actually written by one or the other of the pair, I Want To Hold Your Hand was a true collaboration worked out in the basement of the house McCartney was living in. The group performed the song on the Ed Sullivan TV show in mid-January, setting all-time records for viewership. The tune was included on the band's first album for Capitol, Meet The Beatles, which actually ended up outselling the single, the first time in US history that had happened. It was not long before other British bands started hitting the US charts and American kids began growing their hair out in imitation of the Beatles, many of them even going so far as to form their own British-influenced garage bands.
Title: You Really Got Me
Source: Mono CD: British Beat (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer: Ray Davies
Label: K-Tel (original label: Reprise)
Although the Beatles touched off the British Invasion, it was the sheer in-your-face simplicity of You Really Got Me, recorded by an "upstart band of teenagers" from London's Muswell Hill district named the Kinks and released in August of 1964 that made the goal of forming your own band and recording a hit single seem to be a viable one. And sure enough, within a year garages and basements all across America were filled with guitars, amps, drums and aspiring high-school age musicians, some of whom would indeed get their own records played on the radio.
Title: Mr. Tambourine Man
Source: Mono CD: Billboard Top Rock 'N' Roll Hits-1965 (originally released as 45 RPM single and on LP: Mr. Tambourine Man)
Writer(s): Bob Dylan
Label: Rhino (original label: Columbia)
The term "folk-rock" was coined by the music press to describe the debut single by the Byrds. Mr. Tambourine Man had been written and originally recorded by Bob Dylan, but it was the Byrds version that went to the top of the charts in 1965. Roger McGuinn, Gene Clark and David Crosby had begun work on the song in 1964, when their manager got his hands on an acetate of Dylan performing the song with Ramblin' Jack Elliott. The trio, calling themselves the Jet Set, were trying to develop a sound that combined folk-based melodies and lyrics with arrangements inspired by the British Invasion, and felt that Mr. Tambourine Man might be a good candidate for that kind of treatment. Although the group soon added bassist Chris Hillman and drummer Michael Clarke, producer Terry Melcher opted to use the group of Los Angeles studio musicians known as the Wrecking Crew for the instrumental track of the recording, along with McGuinn's 12-string guitar. Following the success of the single, the Byrds entered the studio to record their debut LP, this time playing their own instruments.
Title: Can't Seem To Make You Mine
Source: Mono CD: Nuggets-Classics From the Psychedelic 60s (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer: Sky Saxon
Label: Rhino (original label: GNP Crescendo)
The first truly psychedelic record to hit the L.A. airwaves was the Seeds' March 1965 debut single, Can't Seem To Make You Mine. The song was also chosen to lead off the first Seeds album the following year. Indeed, it could be argued that this was the song that first defined the "flower power" sound, predating the Seeds' biggest hit, Pushin' Too Hard, by several months.
Title: For Your Love
Source: Mono CD: British Beat (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Graham Gouldman
The last Yardbirds song to feature guitarist Eric Clapton, For Your Love was the group's first US hit, peaking in the # 6 slot. The song did even better in the UK, peaking at # 3. Following its release, Clapton left the Yardbirds, citing the band's move toward a more commercial sound and this song in particular as reasons for his departure (ironic when you consider songs like his mid-90s hit Change the World or his slowed down lounge lizard version of Layla). For Your Love was written by Graham Gouldman, who would end up as a member of Wayne Fontana's Mindbenders and later 10cc with Kevin Godley and Lol Creme.
Title: We Gotta Get Out Of This Place (US version)
Source: Mono LP: The Best Of The Animals (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Abkco (original label: M-G-M)
In 1965 producer Mickey Most put out a call to Don Kirschner's Brill building songwriters for material that could be recorded by the Animals. He ended up selecting three songs, all of which are among the Animals' most popular singles. Possibly the best-known of the three is a song written by the husband and wife team of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil called We Gotta Get Out Of This Place. The song (the first Animals recording to featuring Dave Rowberry, who had replaced founder Alan Price on organ) starts off with what is probably Chas Chandler's best known bass line, slowly adding drums, vocals, guitar and finally keyboards on its way to an explosive chorus. The song was not originally intended for the Animals, however; it was written for the Righteous Brothers as a follow up to (You've Got That) Lovin' Feelin', which Mann and Weil had also provided for the duo. Mann, however, decided to record the song himself, but the Animals managed to get their version out first, taking it to the top 20 in the US and the top 5 in the UK. As the Vietnam war escalated, We Gotta Get Out Of This Place became a sort of underground anthem for US servicemen stationed in South Vietnam, and has been associated with that war ever since. Incidentally, there were actually two versions of We Gotta Get Out Of This Place recorded during the same recording session, with an alternate take accidentally being sent to M-G-M and subsequently being released as the US version of the single. This version (which some collectors and fans maintain has a stronger vocal track) appeared on the US-only LP Animal Tracks in the fall of 1965 as well as the original M-G-M pressings of the 1966 album Best Of The Animals. The original UK version, on the other hand, did not appear on any albums, as was common for British singles in the 1960s. By the 1980s record mogul Allen Klein had control of the original Animals' entire catalog, and decreed that all CD reissues of the song would use the original British version of the song, including the updated (and expanded) CD version of The Best Of The Animals. This expanded version of the album had first appeared on the ABKCO label in 1973, but with the American, rather than the British, version of We Gotta Get Out Of This Place. Luckily I have a copy of that LP, which is where this track was taken from. It's not in the best of shape, but it's worth putting up with a few scratches to hear the song the way the troops heard it back in '65.
Artist: Rolling Stones
Title: (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction
Source: CD: Singles Collection-The London Years (originally released on LP: Out Of Our Heads and as 45 RPM single )
Label: Abkco (original label: London)
Singles released in the UK in the 60s tended to stay on the racks much longer than their US counterparts. This is because singles were generally not duplicated on LPs like they were in the US. (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction was a good example. In the US, the song was added to the Out Of Our Heads album, which had a considerably different song lineup than the original UK version. In the UK and Europe the song was unavailable as an LP track until Big Hits (High Tide And Green Grass) was released, yet the single remained available until at least late 1967, when I had the opportunity to listen to a copy of it in a German department store. All the store's singles were behind the counter, and you had to ask the store clerk to play the record for you, which you would then listen to on headphones.
Artist: Blues Project
Title: Two Trains Running
Source: CD: The Blues Project Anthology (originally released on LP: Projections)
Writer: McKinley Morganfield
Label: Polydor (original label: Verve Folkways)
My first two years as a student at the University of New Mexico were spent living off-campus in a large house shared by five other people (a varying number of which were also students). One day while rummaging through the basement I ran across a couple boxes full of reel-to-reel tapes. As I was the only person living there with a reel-to-reel machine and nobody seemed to know where the tapes had come from, I appropriated them for my own use. Unfortunately, many of the tapes were unlabeled, so all I could do was make a guess as to artists and titles of the music on them. One of those tapes was labelled simply "Love Sculpture". It wasn't until a fortuitous trip to a local thrift store a couple of years later that I realized that the slow version of Two Trains Running on the tape was not Love Sculpture at all, but was in fact the Blues Project, from their Projections album. This slowed down version of the Muddy Waters classic has what is considered to be one of the great accidental moments in recording history. About 2/3 of the way through Two Trains Running, Danny Kalb realized that one of the strings on his guitar had gone out of tune, and managed to retune it on the fly in such a way that it sounded like he had planned the whole thing.
Artist: 13th Floor Elevators
Title: You're Gonna Miss Me
Source: Mono CD: Nuggets-Original Artyfacts From The First Psychedelic Era (originally released as 45 RPM single and included on LP: The Psychedelic Sounds Of The 13th Floor Elevators)
Writer(s): Roky Erickson
Label: Rhino (original label: International Artists)
If anyplace outside of California has a legitimate claim to being the birthplace of the psychedelic era, it's Austin, Texas. That's mainly due to the presence of the 13th Floor Elevators, a local band led by Roky Erickson that had the audacity to use an electric jug (played by Tommy Hall) onstage. Their debut album was the first to use the word psychedelic in the title (predating the Blues Magoos' Psychedelic Lollipop by mere weeks). Musically, their leanings were more toward garage-rock than acid-rock, at least on their first album (they got rather metaphysical on their follow-up album, Easter Everywhere).
Artist: Country Joe And The Fish
Title: Section 43 (EP version)
Source: Mono CD: Love Is The Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-70 (originally released on EP: Rag Baby #2)
Writer(s): Joe McDonald
Label: Rhino (original label: Rag Baby)
Rag Baby was an underground journal published by Country Joe McDonald in mid-60s Berkeley, California. In 1965 McDonald decided to do a "talking issue" of the paper with an extended play (EP) record containing two songs by McDonald's band, Country Joe and the Fish and two by singer Peter Krug. In 1966 McDonald published a second Rag Baby EP, this time featuring four songs by Country Joe and the Fish. Among those was the original version of Section 43, a psychedelic instrumental that would appear in a re-recorded (and slightly changed) stereo form on the band's first LP, Electric Music For The Mind And Body, in early 1967.
Title: Sunshine Superman
Source: British import CD: Psychedelia At Abbey Road (originally released as 45 RPM single and on LP: Sunshine Superman)
Writer(s): Donovan Leitch
Up until the early 1970s there was an unwritten rule that stated that in order to get played on top 40 radio a song could be no more than three and a half minutes long. There were exceptions, of course, such as Bob Dylan's Like A Rolling Stone, but as a general rule the policy was strictly adhered to. Sometimes an artist would record a song that exceeded the limit but nonetheless was considered to have commercial potential. In cases like these the usual practice was for the record company (or sometimes the record's own producer) to create an edited version of the master recording for release as a single. Usually in these cases the original unedited version of the song would appear on an album. In the case of Donovan's Sunshine Superman, however, the mono single version was used for the album as well, possibly because the album itself was never issued in stereo. In fact, it wasn't until 1969 that the full-length original recording of Sunshine Superman was made available as a track on Donovan's first Greatest Hits collection. This was also the first time the song had appeared in stereo, having been newly mixed for that album. An even newer mix was made in 1998 and is included on a British anthology album called Psychedelia At Abbey Road. This version takes advantage of digital technology and has a slightly different sound than previous releases of the song.
Artist: Pink Floyd
Title: Arnold Layne
Source: CD: Works (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer: Syd Barrett
Label: Capitol (original label: Tower)
Like most bands in the 60s, Pink Floyd made their vinyl debut with a 45 RPM single: in this case the song Arnold Layne. As was the case with all the band's 1967 singles, the song was written by original bandleader Syd Barrett. Arnold Layne went quickly into the UK top 20 but then hit a roadblock when it was banned by the BBC due to its subject matter (it's about a guy who steals women's garments off of clotheslines and then wears them himself). The song was eventually included on the album Relics and has been included on several other compilations over the years.
Title: Tales Of Brave Ulysses
Source: LP: Disraeli Gears
Cream was one of the first bands to break British tradition and release singles that were also available as album cuts. This tradition likely came about because 45 RPM records (both singles and extended play 45s) tended to stay in print indefinitely in the UK, unlike in the US, where a hit single usually had a shelf life of around 2-3 months then disappeared forever. When the Disraeli Gears album was released, however, the song Strange Brew, which leads off the LP, was released in Europe as a single. The B side of that single was Tales Of Brave Ulysses, which opens side two of the album.
Artist: Jefferson Airplane
Title: It's No Secret
Source: LP: Jefferson Airplane Takes Off
Writer: Marty Balin
Label: RCA Victor
The first Jefferson Airplane song to get played on the radio was not Somebody To Love. Rather, it was It's No Secret, from the album Jefferson Airplane Takes Off, that got extensive airplay, albeit only in the San Francisco Bay area. Still, the song was featured on a 1966 Bell Telephone Hour special on Haight Ashbury that introduced a national TV audience to what was happening out on the coast and may have just touched off the exodus to San Francisco the following year.
Title: Light My Fire
Source: CD: The Doors
Writer(s): The Doors
Once in a while a song comes along that totally blows you away the very first time you hear it. The Doors' Light My Fire was one of those songs. I liked it so much that I immediately went out and bought the 45 RPM single. Not long after that I heard the full-length version of the song from the first Doors album and was blown away all over again. To this day I have a tendency to crank up the volume whenever I hear it.
Artist: Grateful Dead
Title: Morning Dew
Source: LP: The Grateful Dead
Label: Warner Brothers
One of the most identifiable songs in the Grateful Dead repertoire, Morning Dew was the first song ever written by Canadian folk singer Bonnie Dobson, who came up with the song in 1961 the morning after having a long discussion with friends about what life might be like following a nuclear holocaust. She began performing the song that year, with the first recorded version appearing on her 1962 live album At Folk City. The song was not published, however, until 1964, when Fred Neil decided to record his own version of the song for his album Tear Down The Walls. The first time the song appeared on a major label was 1966, when Tim Rose recorded it for his self-titled Columbia Records debut album. Rose had secured permission to revise the song and take credit as a co-writer, but his version was virtually identical to the Fred Neil version of the song. Nonetheless, Rose's name has been included on all subsequent recordings (though Dobson gets 75% of the royalties), including the Grateful Dead version heard on their 1967 debut LP.
Artist: Big Brother and the Holding Company
Title: Down On Me
Source: CD: Love Is The Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-70 (originally released on LP: Joplin In Concert)
Writer: Trad. Arr. Joplin
Label: Rhino (original label: Columbia)
Year: Recorded 1968, released 1972
Big Brother And The Holding Company's first album, featuring the single Down On Me, was recorded in 1967 at the studios of Mainstream Records, a medium-sized Chicago label known for its jazz recordings. At the time, Mainstream's engineers had no experience with a rock band, particularly a loud one like Big Brother, and vainly attempted to clean up the band's sound as best they could. The result was an album full of bland recordings sucked dry of the energy that made Big Brother and the Holding Company one of the top live attractions of its time. Luckily we have this live version of the tune recorded in Detroit in early 1968 and released on the 1972 album Joplin In Concert that captures the band at their peak, before powerful people with questionable motives convinced singer Janis Joplin that the rest of the group was (ahem) holding her back.
Title: You Set The Scene
Source: CD: Where The Action Is: L.A. Nuggets 1965-68 (originally released on LP: Forever Changes)
Writer(s): Arthur Lee
Label: Rhino (original label: Elektra)
During the production of Forever Changes, vocalist/guitarist Arthur Lee became convinced that he was destined to die soon after the release of the album. Accordingly, he crafted lyrics that were meant to be his final words to the world. As the final track on the LP, You Set The Scene in particular reflected this viewpoint. As it turned out, Forever Changes was not Lee's swan song. It has, however, come to be seen by many as the final word on the Summer of Love. It was also the last album to feature the lineup that had been the most popular band on Sunset Strip for the past two years. Subsequent Love albums would feature a whole new group of musicians backing Lee, and would have an entirely different sound as well. Ironically, Lee was still around at the dawn of the 21st century over 30 years later (dying of acute myeloid leukemia in 2006), having outlived several of his former bandmates.
At this point we are switching to a countdown of the five most played artists on Stuck in the Psychedelic Era over the past ten years. And there is no way I'm gonna spoil the suspense by naming them here. You'll just have to listen to the show itself to find out who they are, but I will give you a hint: four of the five have already made an appearance on this week's show.