Friday, November 19, 2010

Playlist 1026

Artist: Blues Project
Title: Two Trains Running
Source: LP:Projections
Year: 1966
Leading off tonight we have possibly the most influential (yet least known outside of musicians' circles) band of the Psychedelic Era: 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 also the very first jam band, as their version of the Muddy Waters classic Two Trains Running shows. Among those drawing their inspiration from the Blues Project were the Warlocks, a group of young musicians who were traveling with Ken Kesey on the Electric Cool-Aid Acid Test tour bus. The Warlocks would soon change their name to the Grateful Dead and take the jam band concept to a whole new level.

Artist: Groupies
Title: Primitive
Source: CD: Nuggets-Original Artyfacts from the Psychedelic Era
Year: 1966
You know, with a name like the Groupies you would expect an all-female band or at least something like the Mothers of Invention. Instead we get a band that billed themselves as "abstract rock." I guess that is using the term abstract in the same sense that scientific journals use it: to distill something complicated down to its basic essence, because these guys were musically exactly what the title of their only single implied: primitive.

Artist: Notes From the Underground
Title: Why Did You Put Me On
Source: CD: Love Is the Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-70
Year: 1968
Pinch-hitting for Country Joe and the Fish we have Notes From the Underground, fellow Berkleyites who played at the same club (the Jabberwock) when the Fish were busy elsewhere and even got a contract with the same record label (Vanguard). Unfortunately, like most pinch-hitters, the Notes were strictly second-string.

Artist: Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title: All Along the Watchtower
Source: LP: Electric Ladyland
Year: 1968
In the cleanup spot we have The Jimi Hendrix Experience hitting it out of the park with what is generally acknowledged to be the best Bob Dylan cover ever recorded. Even Dylan himself now uses the Hendrix arrangement of All Along the Watchtower when he performs it live. You don't get much higher praise than that.

Artist: Del Shannon
Title: I Think I Love You
Source: CD: Where the Action Is: L.A. Nuggets 1965-68
Year: 1968
Del Shannon? The guy who did Runaway back in '62? Yep. Also the same Del Shannon who Tom Petty has acknowledged as his number one inspiration and who was on the verge of being asked to replace the late Roy Orbison in the Traveling Wilburys when he himself became the late Del Shannon. Unlike many of his early 60s contemporaries such as Bobby Vee or Fabian, Shannon was able to keep up with the times, as this piece of pure psychedelia (penned by Shannon himself) from the album The Further Adventures of Charles Westover demonstrates.

Artist: David Bowie
Title: Five Years
Source: CD: The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars
Year: 1972
If David Bowie's career had started about five years earlier than it did he would have been a major star of the psychedelic era. As it was, he came of age at a time when it took some fairly outrageous antics to get noticed, and he proved himself up to the task by pretty much singlehandedly creating glitter rock.

Artist: Jefferson Airplane
Title: White Rabbit
Source: CD: Psychedelic Pop
Year: 1967
A while back a co-worker was asking me about what kind of music I played on the show. When I told him the show was called Stuck in the Psychedelic Era he immediately said "Oh, I bet you play White Rabbit a lot, huh?" As a matter of fact, I do.

Artist: Jan and Dean
Title: Dead Man's Curve
Source: 45 RPM single (reissue)
Year: 1964
As I talk about in a really long scholarly article elsewhere on the web site, one of the many contributing factors to the temporary democratization of the US popular music industry was the surf music craze of 1962 and 63, which morphed into the hot rod music craze of 1964 and 65. Although the style was created by instrumentalists such as Dick Dale and the Ventures, it was the vocal groups such as the Beach Boys and Jan and Dean that found the greatest commercial success with it. One of the biggest hits was the eerily predictive Dead Man's Curve, about a car wreck along a particularly nasty stretch of Sunset Blvd. in the vicinity of Beverly Hills. About two years after this song topped the charts, Jan Berry was involved in a near-fatal collision just a few blocks from the infamous curve; an accident he never fully recovered from.

Artist: Merry-Go-Round
Title: Listen Listen
Source: CD: Where the Action Is: L.A. Nuggets 1965-68
Year: 1968
High school student Emitt Rhodes had his first success in 1965 as a member of the British-flavored Palace Guard with the song Like Falling Sugar. While still a teen he had an even bigger regional hit with the Merry-Go-Round song Live. Other singles followed, including this harder edged tune from 1968. Rhodes would go on have a moderately successful solo career as a singer-songwriter in the early 70s.

Artist: Cream
Title: White Room
Source: LP: Wheels of Fire
Year: 1968
Although Cream was conceived as a British blues super-group (as in cream of the crop), it was psychedelic rock tunes like White Room, written by bassist Jack Bruce and his frequent collaborator Pete Brown, that gave them their greatest commercial successes.

Artist: Left Banke
Title: She May Call You Up Tonight
Source: 45 RPM single B side
Year: 1967
Unlike their first two singles, Walk Away Renee and Pretty Ballerina, this song failed to chart, possibly due to the release two months earlier of a song called Ivy Ivy, written by LB keyboardist Michael Brown and shown on the label as being by the Left Banke. However, the song was in reality performed entirely by session musicians, including lead vocals by Bert Sommer, who would be one of the acoustic acts on the opening afternoon of the Woodstock festival a couple years later. The resulting fued between Brown and the rest of the band left a large number of radio stations gun shy when came to any record with the name Left Banke on the label, and She May Call You Up Tonight tanked.

Artist: Standells
Title: Dirty Water
Source: LP: Nuggets Vol. 1-The Hits
Year: 1966
When it comes to garage rock it really doesn't get any better than this 1966 classic, written by producer Ed Cobb, the Ed Wood of the record industry.

Artist: Jeannie C. Riley
Title: Harper Valley PTA
Source: 45 RPM single
Year: 1968
The second hour gets off to an unexpected start with the only number one hit for Jeannie C. Riley. It may not have been psychedelic, but it did have attitude.

Artist: Doors
Title: Soul Kitchen
Source: CD: The Doors
Year: 1967
Our 1967 Doors set starts with this tune from the first album, which starts off almost exactly the same way as When the Music's Over from the second album.

Artist: Doors
Title: Strange Days
Source: CD: Strange Days
Year: 1967
Speaking of the Doors' second album, we have the title cut in all its glory.

Artist: Doors
Title: Back Door Man
Source: CD: The Doors
Year: 1967
The song Primitive by the Groupies (heard in tonight's first set) borrowed its main riff from Howlin' Wolf's Smokestack Lightning. Here the Doors borrow an entire Howlin' Wolf song, the classic Back Door Man.

Artist: Doors
Title: People Are Strange
Source: CD: Strange Days
Year: 1967
The first hit single from Strange Days was also the shortest song on the album, barely breaking the two minute mark at a time when songs were getting longer and longer.

Artist: Vejtables
Title: Anything
Source: CD: Love Is the Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-70
Year: 1965
As with any music scene, some of the early San Francisco acts fell by the wayside before the scene really took off. Such was the case with the Vejtables, who got a contract with local label Autumn Records and released this single in 1965. Lead vocalist and drummer Jan Errico would later join the Mojo Men in time for their 1967 cover of Buffalo Springfield's Sit Down I Think I Love You.

Artist: Seeds
Title: You Can't Be Trusted
Source: LP: The Seeds
Year: 1966
A listen to the first Seeds album can get a bit tedious, as Sky Saxon's writing style, while unique, also tended to be a bit repetitious. Taken individually, however, the songs themselves are quite listenable and were even lyrically adventurous. The second album, incidentally, saw Saxon's writing beginning to branch out somewhat, while still retaining the distinctive Seeds sound.

Artist: Steve Miller Band
Title: Going To The Country
Source: LP: Number 5
Year: 1970
The Steve Miller Band started recording for Capitol as part of the San Francisco explosion, but didn't achieve true stardom until the mid 1970s with the release of The Joker. In the intervening years they cranked out a series of fine albums that got most of their airplay on progressive FM stations. (Top 40 radio was generally not heard on FM until around 1978. This is due to a variety of factors that I'm not going to go into here.)

Artist: Spirit
Title: Morning Will Come
Source: CD: The 12 Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus
Year: 1970
When Lou Adler switched distribution of Ode Records from Columbia to A&M, part of the deal was to sell Spirit's recording to Columbia's parent company, CBS. CBS then assigned the band to its Epic label, while strongly hinting that if the next album didn't show an improvement in sales over their previous efforts their contract would be terminated. Spirit responded with the 12 Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus, widely regarded as their best album.

Artist: Neil Young with Crazy Horse
Title: Down By The River
Source: CD: Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
Year: 1969
Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere was Neil Young's second solo album. It was also the first one with Crazy Horse. Down By the River was one of three tracks on the album to get significant FM airplay and continued to be a staple of album rock stations for years.

Artist: Led Zeppelin
Title: Your Time Is Gonna Come/Black Mountain Side
Source: CD: Led Zeppelin
Year: 1969
And speaking of album rock radio, here we have the group that most typifies the format, albeit with a track that never got a lot of commercial airplay. One of the great ironies of Led Zeppelin is that half the members of a band that was revered for its live performances were in fact in-demand studio musicians long before they started performing live. This pair of tracks from the debut Zeppelin album was written by those two members, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones.

Artist: Who
Title: My Generation
Source: LP: The Who Sings My Generation
Year: 1966
My Generation was the signature song of the pre-Tommy Who. Although it was first released in the UK in late 1965, I'm counting it as a 1966 track for this set that progresses through the years. The reason? The US version of the album (used here) didn't come out until April of '66.

Artist: Electric Prunes
Title: I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night)
Source: CD: Even More Nuggets
Year: 1967
If any one song is representative of the psychedelic era, it's this one. Lenny Kaye thought so, too, when he assembled the very first Nuggets album in the early '70s. He used it as the opening track on the album.

Artist: Them
Title: I'm Your Witch Doctor
Source: LP: Now and Them
Year: 1968
Tonight's closer is an oddity: a pyschedelicized version of a John Mayall song by Van Morrison's old band with a new vocalist. Just to make it even odder we have sound effects at the beginning of the song that were obviously added after the fact by the producer (and not done particularly well at that). But then, what else would you expect from the label that put out an LP by a band that didn't even participate in the recording of half the tracks on the album (Chocolate Watchband's No Way Out), a song about a city that none of the band members had even been to (the Standells' Dirty Water), and soundtrack albums to films like Wild In the Streets, Riot On Sunset Strip and The Love In? Let's hear it for Tower Records!

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