Friday, October 8, 2010

Playlist 1020

Artist: Jefferson Airplane
Song Title: How Do You Feel
Source: LP: Surrealistic Pillow
Release Year: 1967
We start the week with one of the few Jefferson Airplane songs that were not written by band members. Truth to tell, I don't know a thing about Tom Mastin, who wrote How Do You Feel. I do know that the song was selected to be the B side of their first single from Surrealistic Pillow (the A side was the Skip Spence tune My Best Friend), and that neither tune charted nationally, although they both got airplay on San Francisco area radio stations.

Artist: Bert Sommer
Song Title: Smile
Source: CD: Woodstock: 40 Years On: Back To Yasgur's Farm
Release Year: 2009 (recorded 1969)
Bert Sommer was one of the many singer-songwriters (although the term hadn't really come into vogue at that point) to pitch in and perform on the opening day of Woodstock, when equipment problems prevented the electric rock bands from performing as scheduled. Perhaps because there were so many acoustic acts performing back to back, his part has gone largely unnoticed over the years. Last year Rhino decided to rectify that situation somewhat by including several of his tunes on their 40th anniversary Woodstock collection. Smile is one of those tunes.

Artist: Mountain
Song Title: Blood of the Sun
Source: CD: Woodstock: 40 Years On: Back To Yasgur's Farm
Release Year: 2009 (recorded 1969)
Another track recorded live at Woodstock but unissued for 40 years, Blood of the Sun was featured on the Woodstock 2 album. However, the band was unhappy with the actual recording of their performance and insisted on re-recording it for the 1972 release. One of these days I might just bring in the Woodstock 2 performance just for comparison's sake.

Artist: Paul Revere and the Raiders
Song Title: I Know
Source: LP: Just Like Us
Release Year: 1965
In 1965 the emphasis was on having a hit single. Albums were mostly either collections of previous hits or of the artist doing cover versions of other artists' hits. The Beatles, in addition to writing the bulk of their own songs, had added a new wrinkle by letting Ringo sing a cover song or two on each album, and would by 1966 abandon cover tunes entirely, instead giving the slots over to songs written by George Harrison. As the producer of the first rock band ever signed to Columbia Records, Terry Melcher tended to follow the lead of the Beatles, and thus we have drummer Mike "Smitty" Smith singing lead on this cover of Barbara George's biggest hit. In keeping with the personalities being established as the house band on Dick Clark's afternoon TV show Where the Action Is, Smitty did not treat his performance entirely seriously, an idea that would be expanded on by Don Kirschner for songs sung by Peter Tork on the first pair of Monkees albums.

Artist: Joe Cocker and the Grease Band
Song Title: Let's Go Get Stoned
Source: CD: Woodstock: 40 Years On: Back To Yasgur's Farm
Release Year: 1969
In an era defined by artists that wrote their own material, Joe Cocker managed to achieve stardom doing cover songs. Here we have him covering the Ray Charles classic Let's Go Get Stoned. Given the nature of the crowd at Woodstock, the song takes on a whole new meaning in this context.

Artist: Mad River
Song Title: Amphetamine Gazelle
Source: CD: Love Is the Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-70
Release Year: 1968
By 1968 acid was no longer the drug of choice on the streets of San Francisco. In its place, crystal meth was beginning to dominate the scene, with a corresponding increase in ripoffs and burns. The local musicians often reflected this change, with some, such as Canned Heat, declaring that Speed Kills and moving south to Laurel Canyon. Others, such as Mad River, attempted to use ridicule to combat the problem, but with no appreciable success (speed freaks not being known for their sense of humor, or any other kind of sense for that matter).

Our artist set of the week focuses on the Seeds, the band that is credited with coining the phrase "flower power". In 1968 Frank Zappa would declare that "flower power sucks", but in 1966 the Seeds were the hip thing in town, despite the fact that none of the band members were actually from L.A (and there were many people who were convinced that band leader Sky Saxon wasn't even from planet Earth). Here we have three tracks from their debut album, including their biggest hit Pushin' Too Hard. Although the album itself was released in the spring of 1966, Pushin' would not hit its peak national chart position until the following year.

Artist: Seeds
Song Title: Fallin' In Love
Source: LP: The Seeds
Release Year: 1966

Artist: Seeds
Song Title: Pushin' Too Hard
Source: CD: The Best of 60s Psychedelic Rock (originally released on LP: The Seeds)
Release Year: 1966

Artist: Seeds
Song Title: Nobody Spoil My Fun
Source: LP: The Seeds
Release Year: 1966

Artist: Sopwith Camel
Song Title: Hello, Hello
Source: CD: Love Is the Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-70 (originally released on 45 RPM vinyl)
Release Year: 1966
As early as 1965, the Charlatans had visually nailed the late 1800s image, but musically were much harder to pin down. Sopwith Camel, working with the same producer as the Charlatans, Erik Jacobsen, managed to capture the sound of the period with this 1966 track. Unfortunately for the band, doing so forever branded them as a one-hit novelty act.

Artist: Mouse and the Traps
Song Title: A Public Execution
Source: CD: More Nuggets (originally released on 45 RPM vinyl)
Release Year: 1965
It's easy to imagine some kid somewhere in Texas inviting his friends over to hear the new Dylan record, only to reveal afterwards that it wasn't Dylan at all, but this band he heard while visiting his cousins down in Tyler. Mouse and the Traps, in fact, got quite a bit of airplay in that part of the state with a series of singles issued in the mid-60s.

Artist: Blues Project
Song Title: You Can't Catch Me
Source: LP: Projections
Release Year: 1966
One of the reasons for Chuck Berry's enduring popularity throughout the 1960s (despite a lack of major hits during the decade) was the fact that so many bands covered his 50s hits, often updating them for a 60s audience. Although not as well-known as Roll Over Beethoven or Johnny B. Goode, You Can't Catch Me nonetheless got its fair share of coverage, including versions by the Rolling Stones and the Blues Project, as well as providing John Lennon an opening line for the song Come Together.

This week the first hour finishes with an international set from the year 1967. Sounds downright cosmopolitan, doesn't it?

Artist: Beau Brummels
Song Title: Two Days 'Til Tomorrow
Source: CD: Love Is the Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-70 (originally released on 45 RPM vinyl)
Release Year: 1967
The Beau Brummels scored two huge hits in 1965: Laugh, Laugh and Just a Little, both of which continue to get strong airplay on various oldies formats. What most people don't realize is that 1) they were one of the first successful bands from San Francisco, and 2) they continued to make records through the end of the decade. This track is a typical example of what they were doing after Warner Brothers acquired their original label, Autumn Records.

Artist: Blues Magoos
Song Title: Pipe Dream
Source: CD: Kaleidoscopic Compendium (originally released on LP: Electric Comic Book and on 45 RPM vinyl)
Release Year: 1967
Following the success of (We Ain't Got) Nothin' Yet, the Blues Magoos released a new single taken from their second album. Unfortunately, both sides of the record were equally strong and stations were split over which side to play. The result is that neither Pipe Dream or There's a Chance We Can Make It did as well as they could have, and the album itself suffered saleswise from not having a major hit on it.

Artist: Spencer Davis Group
Song Title: I'm A Man
Source: LP: Progressive Heavies (originally released on 45 RPM vinyl)
Release Year: 1967
The Spencer Davis Group, featuring Steve Winwood on lead vocals, had a series of hit singles in their native UK, but only the last two, Gimme Some Lovin' and I'm a Man, were successful in the US. After I'm a Man, Winwood left to form Traffic, and the band never had another American hit.

Artist: Byrds
Song Title: Eight Miles High
Source: LP: Nuggets, Vol 9-Acid Rock (originally released on LP: 5D and on 45 RPM vinyl)
Release Year: 1966
A song so good I had to play it two weeks in a row.

Artist: Opus 1
Song Title: Back Seat '38 Dodge
Source: CD: Where the Action Is: L.A. Nuggets 1965-68 (originally released on 45 RPM vinyl)
Release Year: 1966
We make a short progression through the years, starting in 1966 with this track from the L.A. suburbs. The title refers to a controversial sculpture that suburbanites were talking about at the time.

Artist: Chocolate Watchband
Song Title: Don't Need Your Lovin'
Source: CD: One Step Beyond (originally released on LP: Riot On Sunset Strip soundtrack album)
Release Year: 1967
It somehow seems appropriate that the most honest recorded representation of how the Watchband actually sounded did not appear on any of their three albums, instead showing up on the soundtrack of a second-rate teen exploitation flick. Then again, most everything on Tower Records was second-rate, and even the rare first-rate material was tarnished by bad management and exploitative business practices.

Artist: Blue Cheer
Song Title: Summertime Blues
Source: LP: Nuggets, vol. 1-the Hits (originally released on 45 RPM vinyl and on LP: Vincebus Eruptum)
Release Year: 1968
Yes, I know it's not summer anymore, but this song is good enough to play anytime. I might even play it next January.

Artist: Cream
Song Title: As You Said
Source: LP: Wheels of Fire
Release Year: 1968
Starting off a set of tunes from 1968 we have this rather unusual track from Cream's classic double album. Certainly one of the most psychedelic tunes from this British supergroup, written by bassist Jack Bruce and his longtime collaborator Pete Brown.

Artist: Randy Newman
Song Title: Last Night I Had a Dream
Source: CD: Where the Action Is: L.A. Nuggets 1965-68 (originally released on 45 RPM vinyl)
Release Year: 1968
If I were to play the "betcha can't guess who this is" game, I seriously doubt anyone would have guessed this was Randy Newman. This song is far and away the hardest rocking song I've ever heard him do.

Artist: Beacon Street Union
Song Title: The Clown's Overture
Source: LP: The Clown Died In Marvin Gardens
Release Year: 1968
Sounding a bit like Erik Satie (a year before Blood, Sweat & Tears did their Variations on a Theme by Erik Satie), this track is a purely orchestral piece. It was, however, composed and arranged by members of the Beacon Street Union, showing a side of the group missing entirely from their first album.

Artist: Lemon Pipers
Song Title: Green Tambourine
Source: CD: Psychedelic Pop
Release Year: 1968
After a promising start signing respected artists like Johnny Winter and Captain Beefheart, Buddah Records quickly acquired a reputation as the "bubble gum" label, with a string of hits by groups like the 1910 Fruitgum Company and the Ohio Express. As a result, Green Tambourine is often dismissed as mere fluff, when in fact it is a legitimate piece of psychedelia.

Artist: Jethro Tull
Song Title: A Song For Jeffrey
Source: LP: This Was
Release Year: 1968
Our final 1968 entry of the night is this track from the first Jethro Tull album. The Jeffrey in the song title is Jeffrey Hammond, who, according to the liner notes, was "one of us, though he doesn't play anything". The notes go on to say he "makes bombs and stuff". In fact, Hammond would replace bassist Glen Cornick a few albums later and remain with the group for several years.

Artist: Mothers of Invention
Song Title: The M.O.I. American Pageant
Source: CD: Absolutely Free
Release Year: 1967
Following up on their debut double-LP Freak Out, the Mothers came up with one of the first concept albums with Absolutely Free, which consisted of two "rock oratorios", each taking up one side of the album. Included in the M.O.I. American Pageant is Brown Shoes Don't Make It, which composer Frank Zappa described as a two-hour musical in condensed form (it runs slightly less than 7 minutes). The entire Pageant runs about 19 minutes.

Artist: White Lightnin'
Song Title: William Tell Overture
Source: 45 RPM vinyl
Release Year: 1971
In the summer of '71 a couple of us went to a drive-in movie in the trunk of a friend's car to see what was billed as the "First Electric Western" (and yes, we got out of the trunk before the movie started). The movie was called "Zachariah" and it featured Country Joe and the Fish as a gang of outlaw musicians. Instead of gun battles we saw dueling drum solos, one of which featured jazz great Elvin Jones. The film's opening sequence was a shot of the James Gang rocking out in the middle of the desert (which caused us to start arguing over where they were plugging their amps in), literally bigger than life on the huge drive-in movie screen. What I didn't know at the time was that the screenplay was written by Philip Proctor and Peter Bergman, themselves half of the Firesign Theater, else I probably would have paid closer attention to the film. According to my sources, this track (apparently used in the movie sometime after I had consumed my first six-pack and thus not remembered) is performed by a band called White Lightnin'. The record label, however, gives credit to arranger/conducter Jimmy Haskell, who also composed the bulk of the movie's soundtrack.

Artist: Beatles
Song Title: I'll Follow the Sun
Source: CD: Beatles For Sale
Release Year: 1964
Many Americans have a hard time placing the album Beatles For Sale. That's because the album never came out in the US. Instead, several of the songs on the album appeared on something called Beatles '65, which had entirely different cover art and included a pair of tunes that had been only released as a single in the UK. Since the 1980s and the release of the entire Beatle catalog on CD, the British albums have been the only ones in print, except for some limited printings of the US albums made for the collectors' market.

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