This week we have some fairly long sets, including both progression and regressions through the years, a Doors set, and, to start things off, a whole bunch of tunes from 1967.
Artist: Status Quo
Title: Pictures Of Matchstick Men
Source: Mono CD: Psychedelic Pop (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Francis Rossi
Label: BMG/RCA/Buddah (original label: Cadet Concept)
If you have ever seen the film This Is Spinal Tap, the story of Britain's Status Quo might seem a bit familiar. Signed to Pye Records in 1967 the group scored a huge international hit with their first single, Pictures Of Matchstick Men, but were unable to duplicate that success with subsequent releases. In the early 1970s the band totally reinvented itself as a boogie band and began a run in the UK that resulted in them scoring more charted singles than any other band in history, including the Beatles and Rolling Stones. For all that, however, they never again charted in the US, where they are generally remembered as one-hit wonders. In addition to their UK success, Status Quo remains immensely popular in the Scandanavian countries, where they continue to play to sellout crowds on a regular basis.
Artist: Spencer Davis Group
Title: I Can't Get Enough Of It
Source: 45 RPM single B side
Label: United Artists
One listen to the B side of the Spencer Davis Group's1967 hit I'm A Man and it's easy to see why the young Stevie Winwood was often compared to Ray Charles by the British music press. I Can't Get Enough Of It, co-written by producer Jimmy Miller, features Winwood on both lead vocal and piano. Winwood would leave the group shortly after the release of this single and resurface with the more psychedelically-tinged Traffic later the same year.
Title: Night Of The Long Grass
Source: British simulated stereo CD: Greatest Hits (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Chip Taylor
Label: Spectrum (original label: Fontana)
After scoring a huge international hit in 1966 with Wild Thing, the Troggs (originally known as the Troglodytes) cranked out a series of singles that did well in the UK but for the most part were never heard by US listeners. One of the best of those British hits was Night Of The Long Grass, which got airplay across Europe in the summer of '67. Like many of the Troggs' hits, Night Of The Long Grass has somewhat suggestive lyrics that probably hurt its chances for airplay on US top 40 radio stations.
Artist: Idle Race
Title: Imposters Of Life's Magazine
Source: Mono CD: Nuggets II-Original Artyfacts From The British Empire And Beyond 1964-1969 (originally released in the UK as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Jeff Lynne
Label: Rhino (original label: Liberty)
Birmingham, as England's second largest city, was home to many of the most influential bands in rock history, including the Moody Blues, the Spencer Davis Group and the Move. Although not as well known as the others, the Idle Race belongs on the same list, if for no other reason than it served as the launching pad for the career of guitarist/vocalist Jeff Lynne, who would eventually go on to form the Electric Light Orchestra. The members of the Idle Race and the Move were always close; the original intended debut Idle Race single was supposed to be a cover of the Move's (Here We Go 'Round) The Lemon Tree until that song was unexpectedly chosen to be the B side of the Move's hit single Flowers In The Rain in mid-1967. Instead, Liberty Records chose to go with Lynne's own Imposters Of Life's Magazine, which was released in October of 1967.
Artist: Canned Heat
Title: Catfish Blues
Source: LP: Progressive Heavies (originally released on LP: Canned Heat)
Writer: Robert Petway
Label: United Artists (original label: Liberty)
Like many other US cities in the 1960s, San Francisco had a small but enthusiastic community of blues record collectors. A group of them got together in 1966 to form Canned Heat, and made quite an impression when they played the Monterey International Pop Festival in June of 1967. This led to a contract with Liberty Records and an album consisting entirely of cover versions of blues standards. One standout track from that album is Robert Petway's Catfish Blues, expanded to over six minutes by the Heat.
Artist: Jimi Hendrix Experience
Source: CD: Axis: Bold As Love
Writer(s): Jimi Hendrix
Label: Experience Hendrix/Legacy (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 with multiple tracks to work with, 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 moving from left to right and back again, fading in and out to create the illusion of circling the listener (this is particularly effective if you're wearing headphones). The intro to the piece is a faux interview of a slowed-down Hendrix (posing as his friend Paul Caruso) by bassist Noel Redding.
Artist: Electric Prunes
Title: You've Never Had It Better
Source: 45 RPM single B side
Following the lack of a hit single from their second album, Underground, the Electric Prunes took one last shot at top 40 airplay with a song called Everybody Knows Your Not In Love. The band might have had better luck if they had pushed the flip side of the record, You Never Had It Better, which is a much stronger song. As it is, the record stiffed, and producer David Hassinger reacted by stripping the band of any creative freedom they might have had and made an album called Mass in F Minor using mostly studio musicians. The band, having signed away the rights to the name Electric Prunes to their manager early on, could do nothing but watch helplessly as Hassinger created an album that had little in common with the original band other than their name. Because of this, the original members soon left, and Hassinger brought in a whole new group for two more albums (and several singles) before retiring the Prunes name for good. In recent years several members of the original band have reformed the Electric Prunes. Whether they had to get permission to use the name is unknown.
Title: Deserted Cities Of The Heart
Source: LP: Wheels Of Fire
Label: RSO (original label: Atco)
The most psychedelic of Cream's songs were penned by Jack Bruce and his songwriting partner Pete Brown. One of the best of these was chosen to close out the last studio side of the last Cream album released while the band was still in existence. Deserted Cities Of The Heart is a fitting epitaph to an unforgettable band.
Title: It's All Right
Source: Mono LP: Kinks Kinkdom
Writer(s): Ray Davies
It's All Right, the original B side of the Kinks first hit, You Really Got Me, was not available on an LP until the release of the 1965 album Kinkdom, a US-only album made up mostly of tracks that had previously been issued only in the UK. The song shows how strong an influence early US rock and roll had on Ray Davies's songwriting.
Title: So What!!
Source: Mono CD: Nuggets-Original Artyfacts From The First Psychedelic Era (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Chris Gaylord
Label: Rhino (original label: Era)
In some ways the story of the Lyrics is fairly typical for the mid-1960s. The Carlsbad, California group had already established itself as a competent if somewhat bland cover band when in 1964 they recruited the local cool kid, Chris Gaylord (who was so cool that he had his own beat up old limo, plastered on the inside with Rolling Stones memorabilia, of course), to be their frontman. Gaylord provided the band with a healthy dose of attitude, as demonstrated by their 1965 single So What!! The song was written by Gaylord after he had a brief fling with a local rich girl. Gaylord's tenure lasted until mid-1966. Although the band continued without him, they never again saw the inside of a recording studio.
Artist: Otis Redding
Title: Nobody Knows You (When You're Down And Out)
Source: LP: The Dock Of The Bay (originally released on LP: The Soul Album)
Writer(s): Jimmie Cox
Like its predecessors, Otis Redding's fourth LP, The Soul Album, contains mostly cover tunes. Scratch that. Otis didn't do covers, he did interpretations. When Otis Redding did a song, he invariably made it his own. Even his signature song, Try A Little Tenderness, was originally recorded in the 1930s (by a variety of artists, including Bing Crosby) but Otis's version bears little resemblance to those early recordings of the song. The Soul Album, released in 1966, is often overlooked because it doesn't contain any of Otis's hit singles, but it does include some of his finest work. In fact, his version of another classic from the Jazz Age, Jimmie Cox's Nobody Knows You (When You're Down And Out), was considered to be so strong a performance that it was included on Redding's first post-humous LP, The Dock Of The Bay, just two years after its original release.
Source: Mono LP: Nuggets Vol. 2-Punk (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer(s): Otis Redding
Label: Rhino (original label: Atco)
Sounding a lot like the Rascals, the Vagrants were a popular Long Island band led by singer Peter Sabatino and best remembered for being the group that had guitarist Leslie Weinstein in it. Weinstein would change his last name to West and record a solo album called Mountain before forming the band of the same name. This version of Respect is fairly faithful to the original Otis Redding version. Unfortunately for the Vagrants, Aretha Franklin would release her radically rearranged version of the song just a few weeks after the Vagrants, relegating their version of the tune (and the Vagrants themselves) to footnote status.
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.
Artist: Led Zeppelin
Title: How Many More Times
Source: LP: Homer (soundtrack) (originally released on LP: Led Zeppelin)
Label: Cotillion (original label: Atlantic)
Like many early Led Zeppelin songs, How Many More Times was originally credited to the band members (except, for contractual reasons, singer Robert Plant). More recent releases of the song, however, list Chester Burnett (Howlin' Wolf) as a co-writer, despite the fact that he and the members of Led Zeppelin had never met. This is because of the similarity, especially in the lyrics, to a 1951 Howlin' Wolf record called How Many More Years. The band reportedly tried to trick radio programmers into playing the eight and a half minute song by listing it on the album cover as being three minutes and thirty seconds long. I doubt anyone was fooled.
Artist: Tangerine Dream
Source: British import CD: Electronic Meditation (originally released in Germany)
Label: Reactive/Esoteric (original German label: Ohr)
Tangerine Dream is generally acknowledged to be the band that started the entire electronic rock genre. Although they became famous for their use of synthesizers, their first LP, Electronic Meditation, was recorded in a rented factory in Berlin in October 1969, using just a two-track Revox tape recorder. It was the only album recorded by the group's original lineup of Edgar Froese, Klaus Schulze, and Conrad Schnitzler. The album itself is highly experimental, as can be heard on its final track, Resurrection.
Artist: Ten Years After
Title: Love Until I Die (Top Gear version)
Source: Mono CD: Ten Years After (bonus track)
Writer(s): Alvin Lee
When the British government pulled the plug on Radio London in 1967, DJ John Peel, who had hosted a popular and influential underground radio show on the popular pirate station, immediately found work on the new BBC Radio 1, which was launched specifically to capture Radio London's former audience. He soon found himself involved with the revival of a program called Top Gear, that featured a mixture of records and live performances by Britain's most popular bands. Under Peel's guidance, the show became an important part of the emerging blues and progressive rock scenes. One of the first bands to be featured on the show was Ten Years After, performing songs from their first album, such as Love Until I Die, an Alvin Lee original that builds on the same riff that Eric Clapton And The Powerhouse had used for their version of Crossroads on the 1966 LP What's Shakin' (and Cream would use on their 1968 Wheels Of Fire album), but soon takes off in an entirely different musical direction.
Artist: Beau Brummels
Title: Don't Talk To Strangers
Source: Mono CD: Love Is The Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-70 (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Rhino (original label: Autumn)
The Beau Brummels were one of the first bands to emerge from the San Francisco area following the British Invasion of 1964. Signed to Mike Donahue's Autumn Records in 1964, the band got off to a solid start with back-to-back hit singles (Laugh Laugh, and Just A Little), and were considered one of the originators of the folk-rock movement. Financial problems at Autumn, however, led to poor promotion of the band's subsequent releases, including the excellent Don't Talk To Strangers (produced by Sly Stone), and they were never able to regain their momentum, even after Autumn (and the Beau Brummels' contract) was bought out by Warner Brothers in 1967.
Title: Unhappy Girl
Source: Mono CD: Strange Days
Writer(s): The Doors
After the success of their first album and the single Light My Fire in early 1967, the Doors quickly returned to the studio, releasing a second LP, Strange Days, later the same year. The first single released from the new album was People Are Strange. The B side of that single was Unhappy Girl, from the same album. Both sides got played a lot on the jukebox at a neighborhood gasthaus known as the Woog in the village of Meisenbach near Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany, where I spent a good number of my evening hours.
Title: Riders On The Storm
Source: Stereo 45 RPM single
Writer(s): The Doors
The last major hit single for the Doors was also one of their best: Riders On The Storm. In fact, it still holds up as one of the finest singles ever released. By anyone.
Title: When The Music's Over
Source: CD: Strange Days
Writer(s): The Doors
I remember the first time I heard When The Music's Over. My girlfriend's older brother had a copy of the Strange Days album on the stereo in his room and told us to get real close to the speakers so we could hear the sound of a butterfly while he turned the volume way up. What we got, of course, was a blast of "...we want the world and we want it now." Good times.
Title: Bach Doors Man/Chest Fever
Source: LP: Sugarloaf
The Moonrakers were Denver, Colorado's most popular local band in the mid-1960s, releasing four singles on the Tower label from 1965 to 1966. In 1968 two of the band members, keyboardist/vocalist Jerry Corbetta (who had been playing drums with the Moonrakers) and guitarist Bob Webber, decided to form a new band called Chocolate Hair with bassist Bob Raymond and drummer Myron Pollock. They began recording demo tapes in 1969. The people at Liberty Records were so impressed with the demos, including an organ solo called Bach Doors Man that turned into a cover of Robbie Robertson's Chest Fever over the course of nine minutes, that they ended up using the demos themselves on the first Sugarloaf LP. As a result, even though Pollock had been replaced by Bob McVittie by the time the LP was released, Pollock was the actual drummer on all but one song on the album.
Title: Here Comes The Sun
Source: CD: Abbey Road
Writer: George Harrison
Label: Parlophone (original label: Apple)
In a way, George Harrison's career as a songwriter parallels the Beatles' recording career as a band. His first song to get any attention was If I Needed Someone on the Rubber Soul album, the LP that marked the beginning of the group's transition from performers to studio artists. As the Beatles' skills in the studio increased, so did Harrison's writing skills, reaching a peak with the Abbey Road album. As usual, Harrison wrote two songs for the LP, but this time one of them (Something) became the first single released from the album and the first Harrison song to hit the #1 spot on the charts. The other Harrison composition on Abbey Road was Here Comes The Sun. Although never released as a single, the song has gone on to become Harrison's most enduring masterpiece.
Artist: Tommy James And The Shondells
Title: Crimson And Clover
Source: CD: The Best Of Tommy James And The Shondells (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Rhino (original label: Roulette)
Tommy James And The Shondells were one of the most successful singles bands in the world from 1966 through mid-1968, when they took a three month break from recording to go on tour with Hubert Humphrey's presidential campaign. During that time, James and the band came to the realization that the pop music scene was going through some major changes; in fact, the term "pop music" itself was giving way to "rock", just as the former term had supplanted the term "rock 'n' roll" in the late 1950s following the infamous payola scandal of 1959 that had destroyed the career of disc jockey Alan Freed, who had been instrumental in the popularization of rock 'n' roll in the first place. At the same time, albums were becoming more important to a band's success, a fact that was not lost on James. During their hiatus from recording the band worked on a change in style, and a marketing strategy to go with it. One of the first songs they recorded in this new style was Crimson And Clover. In November of 1968, Tommy James brought a rough mix of the song to Chicago's WLS, arguably the world's most listened to radio station at the time, and played it off the air for disc jockey Larry Lujack. Unbeknownst to James, however, Lujack had one of the station's engineers running a second tape deck in record mode, effectively making a bootleg copy of the song. As the story goes, James then left the station and got into a car that had its radio tuned to WLS, which was already playing the bootleg tape of Crimson And Clover. Although Morris Levy, the head of Roulette Records, asked WLS not to play the tape, the overwhelmingly positive response to the song caused him to change his mind and instead insist that a single be pressed using the same rough mix that WLS was playing. Tommy James was finally allowed to record a longer version of Crimson And Clover for the band's new album (also titled Crimson And Clover), but decided to use the already existing tracks and build on them rather than re-record the entire song. Unfortunately, a speed calibration issue between the original and new sections caused the song to change pitch slightly at the transition points. This mismatch was finally corrected using digital technology in 1991, when Rhino Records reissued the combined Crimson And Clover and Cellophane Symphony albums on a single CD. For years, the only way to hear the shorter version of Crimson And Clover was to find a copy of the rough mono mix, but somewhere along the line Drake-Chenault created a "cut down" of the album mix to match the single version of the song that was used on the tapes being sent to automated radio stations. Finally, in 1992, Rhino issued a new version of the Best Of Tommy James And The Shondells that featured a true stereo mix of the single version.
Artist: Pink Floyd
Title: Matilda Mother
Source: CD: The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn
Writer(s): Syd Barrett
Label: Capitol (original label: Tower)
Listening to tracks like Matilda Mother, I can't help but wonder where Pink Floyd might have gone if Syd Barrett had not succumbed to mental illness following the release of the band's first LP, The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn, in 1967. Unlike the rest of the band members, Barrett had the ability to write songs that were not only adventurous, but commercially viable as singles as well. After Barrett's departure, it took the group several years to become commercially successful on their own terms (although they obviously did). We'll never know what they may have done in the intervening years were Barrett still at the helm.
Artist: Thunderclap Newman
Title: Something In The Air
Source: CD: Spirit Of Joy (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): John Keen
Label: Polydor (original label: Marmalade)
Thunderclap Newman was actually the creation of the Who's Pete Townshend, who assembled a bunch of studio musicians to work with drummer (and former Who roadie) John "Speedy" Keen. Keen had written Armenia City In The Sky, the opening track on The Who Sell Out, and Townshend set up the studio project to return the favor. Joining Keen were 15-year-old guitarist Jimmy McCulloch (who would eventually join Paul McCartney's Wings before dying of a heroin overdose in 1979), studio engineer Andy "Thunderclap" Newman (who had worked with Pink Floyd, among others) on piano, and Townshend himself on bass. Following the success of Something In The Air, the group recorded an album, but sales were disappointing and the group soon disbanded.
Title: Topanga Windows
Source: CD: Spirit
Writer: Jay Ferguson
Ed Cassidy had already made a name for himself on the L.A. jazz scene when he married the mother of guitarist Randy California. He soon started jamming with his teenage stepson's friends, leading to the formation of a band initially known as Spirits Rebellious (but soon shortened to Spirit), one of the first rock bands to heavily incorporate jazz elements in their music. The majority of the songs on the group's self-title first album were written by lead vocalist Jay Ferguson, who would eventually leave the group to co-found Jo Jo Gunne and in recent years has been a soundtrack composer for movies and TV shows, including the theme song of the US TV show The Office.
Artist: Dave Van Ronk And The Hudson Dusters
Title: Cocaine (aka Cocaine Blues)
Source: LP: Dave Van Ronk And The Hudson Dusters
Writer(s): Reverend Gary Davis
Label: Verve Forecast
No single person, musician or otherwise, had a greater impact on the Greenwich Village music scene than Dave Van Ronk. Born in Brooklyn in 1936, Van Ronk was among the first white musicians to combine folk music and the blues, and was a fixture in Village coffeehouses from about 1958 on. Virtually every major artist to emerge from the area (including Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, Joni Mitchell and the Blues Project's Danny Kalb) considered Van Ronk to be a mentor and a friend. Van Ronk's own major influence was Reverend Gary Davis, who taught him to approach the guitar as if it were "a piano around his neck". David Van Ronk's recording of Davis' Cocaine Blues remains one of the definitive versions of that song. Van Ronk seldom left Greenwich Village and never learned to drive a car. In later years he was given the nickname "the Mayor of MacDougal Street." Van Ronk died of cardio-pulmonary failure while undergoing post-operative treatment for colon cancer in 2002. A section of Sheridan Square has been named Dave Van Ronk Street in his memory.
Title: Children Of The Sun
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: Fontana)
Year: Recorded 1966, released 1969
Formed in Riverside, California in 1965, the Misunderstood relocated to London in 1966, where they soon became one of the top bands on the local underground scene. Unfortunately, the band was plagued by issues involving draft eligibility, resulting in original rhythm guitarist and primary songwriter Greg Treadwell returning to the states soon after arriving in the UK. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as his replacement, Londoner Tony Hill, teamed up with vocalist Rick Brown to write even better songs, augmented by the talents of Glenn Ross Campbell, who played his leads on a pedal steel guitar. The band soon signed with Fontana, releasing a single in December of 1966 before once again running into problems with the draft board, this time concerning Brown. With their frontman gone, the Misunderstood soon disbanded, with the remaining American members returning to California. Two years later Fontana released a second single by the Misunderstood, Children Of The Sun, which has since come to be regarded as a classic example of garage-flavored psychedelic music.
Title: Heart Full Of Soul
Source: 45 RPM single (reissue)
Writer: Graham Gouldman
Heart Full Of Soul, the Yardbirds' follow-up single to For Your Love, was a huge hit, making the top 10 on both sides of the Atlantic in 1965. The song, the first to feature guitarist Jeff Beck prominently, was written by Graham Gouldman, whose own band, the Mockingbirds, was strangely unable to buy a hit on the charts. Gouldman later went on to be a founding member of 10cc, who were quite successful in the 1970s.