Thursday, January 6, 2011

Best of 2010 playlist

It's New Year's weekend, and I thought it might be fun to emulate something that was quite common during the psychedelic era, particularly the early years: The top 20 countdown. Now obviously I can't count down the biggest hits of the year like they did back then, but I can do a survey based on how many times a song got played and/or requested, with side trips for the top five (actually six) groups and a few special numbers. So let's get going already.

Artist: Eric Burdon and the Animals
Title: Monterey
Source: CD: Best of Eric Burdon and the Animals (originally released on 45 RPM vinyl and featured on LP: The Twain Shall Meet).
Label: Polydor (originally released on M-G-M)
Year: 1968
The very first syndicated show on Memorial Day weekend featured the longest group set ever done on Stuck in the Psychedelic Era. Clocking in at nearly 45 minutes, the set featured tracks from both the original and the "new" Animals, formed in 1967 by Eric Burdon after a one-shot solo album. This set, combined with another shorter set and several individual cuts throughout the year, puts the combined Animals bands tied for the fourth most played in 2010. This track, from the "new" Animals (known officially as Eric Burdon and the Animals), describes one of the seminal events of the psychedelic era: the Monterey International Pop Festival, where the band made its US debut.

And now, coming in at # 20 for the year....

Artist: Jethro Tull
Title: A New Day Yesterday
Source: CD: Stand Up
Label: Chrysalis/Capitol (originally released on Reprise)
Year: 1969
After the departure of guitarist Mick Abrahams, Jethro Tull was fully in the creative control of flautist/acoustic guitarist Ian Anderson. Stand Up was the first album to feature compositions exclusively by Anderson and established the musical direction that band would take in the future. A New Day Yesterday was the first track on Stand Up and thus was the first song featuring Abrahams' replacement Martin Barre that many record buyers would hear.

Artist: Ultimate Spinach
Title: Ego Trip
Source: LP: Ultimate Spinach
Label: M-G-M
Year: 1967
One of the most infamous trends of the psychedelic era is responsible for this year's # 19 track. By 1967, the six major labels (RCA Victor, Columbia, Capitol, Decca, Mercury and M-G-M) were just beginning to embrace US-made rock. Columbia had led the way almost by default when Bob Dylan, who had been signed with the label as a folk artist, began to experiment with rock instrumentation in 1965. The label soon signed other rock acts, notably the Byrds and Paul Revere and the Raiders. On the opposite end of the spectrum was M-G-M, which, with the exception of the Mothers of Invention on its subsidiary label Verve, had not signed any major US acts. Having missed the opportunity to sign any of the new San Francisco bands, the label turned to the most progressive city on the east coast, Boston. Signing no less than four local acts, M-G-M immediately launched a campaign promoting the "Boss-town sound". The strategy backfired, however, when the fledgling rock press decried the campaign as empty hyperbole, and none of the bands signed lasted more than a couple albums in their original incarnation. The best remembered of these bands was Ultimate Spinach, which was essentially a vehicle for the songwriting and arranging talents of Ian Bruce-Douglas. After two LPs for M-G-M, Bruce-Douglas called it quits. As a result, subsequent albums by Ultimate Spinach bore little resemblance to the original band.

Artist: Big Brother and the Holding Company
Title: Turtle Blues
Source: LP: Cheap Thrills
Label: Columbia
Year: 1968
Our # 18 track is essentially a Janis Joplin solo piece from Big Brother's major label debut. Written by Joplin herself, the song captures her persona perhaps better than any other song she recorded.

Artist: Strawberry Alarm Clock
Title: Incense and Peppermints
Source: CD: Even More Nuggets (originally released on 45 RPM vinyl)
Label: Rhino (originally released on Uni)
Year: 1967
At # 17 we have one of the iconic songs of the psychedelic era and a fascinating case study of the conflict between musicians and the music industry itself. Although the song was originally written by band members Mark Weitz and Ed King as an instrumental B side, the band's producer, Frank Slay, hired professional songwriters Tim Gilbert and John Carter to rework the song. The band members hated Carter's lyrics and refused to sing them. Slay responded by hiring 16-year-old Greg Munford, from a band called Shapes of Sound, to sing the song. When the record was issued, Incense and Peppermints was still considered the B side, but local L.A. radio stations, for reasons unknown, began playing it more than the intended A side, a semi-novelty track called The Birdman of Alkatrash. Ironically, Incense and Peppermints would be the band's biggest hit, and the only one anyone remembers.

Artist: Monkees
Title: Porpoise Song
Source: LP: Nuggets Vol. 9-Acid Rock (originally released in edited form on LP: Head)
Label: Rhino (originally released on Colgems)
Year: 1968
The Monkees were a phenomena in late 1966, controversial in 1967, and passe in 1968. In an attempt to remain relevant, the group made an art movie called Head, written by Jack Nicholson and featuring several cameos by hip people such as Frank Zappa. The problem was that the band's original fans had outgrown them, and those that did go to the movie did so with expectations of an expanded version of the TV show. They left confused. Meanwhile, the crowd that might have been inclined to appreciate the film were also the crowd that wouldn't be caught dead going to a Monkees movie. As a result, both the movie and the soundtrack album for Head tanked, despite having some fine tracks such as Porpoise Song, which comes in at the # 16 spot for the year.

Artist: Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young
Title: 4+20
Source: CD: Woodstock: 40 Years On: Back To Yasgur's Farm
Label: Rhino (originally released on Cotillion)
Year: 1970
One of the songs that got the most positive feedback was this Stephen Stills tune, heard here as performed at
Woodstock. I guess maybe I should play a bit more CSN (&Y) in 2011.

Artist: Mountain
Title: Blood of the Sun
Source: CD: Woodstock: 40 Years On: Back To Yasgur's Farm
Label: Rhino
Year: Recorded in 1969, released in 2009
Several artists got their careers into high gear by appearing at Woodstock and in the subsequent film and soundtrack album. Others, such as Mountain, were left out of the movie and album, but through word of mouth hit it big anyway. Blood of the Sun was actually featured on the Woodstock 2 album, but that version was a re-recorded track made especially for that album. The actual Woodstock performance of the song did not come out until 2009, when Rhino released a five-disc set that put the emphasis on presenting what the audience actually heard, flaws and all. As it turns out, Mountain put in a solid performance, coming in at # 15 for the year.

Artist: Steppenwolf
Title: Magic Carpet Ride
Source: LP: Nuggets Vol. 9-Acid Rock (originally released on LP: Steppenwolf the Second)
Label: Rhino (originally released on Dunhill)
Year: 1968
Our # 14 song is another audience favorite: the iconic Magic Carpet Ride. 'Nuff said.

Artist: Fairport Convention
Title: Tam Lin
Source: LP: Fairport Chronicles (originally released on LP: Leige and Leaf)
Label: A&M
Year: 1969
Although Tam Lin did not make the top 20 list, it did get a strong positively response the only time it got played this year, prompting this encore appearance. Vocalist Sandy Denny has often been compared to Grace Slick, who (not so coincidentally) wrote the # 13 song on this year's list.

Artist: Jefferson Airplane
Title: White Rabbit
Source: CD: Psychedelic Pop (originally released on LP: Surrealistic Pillow)
Label: BMG/RCA/Buddah (originally released on RCA Victor)
Year: 1967
The only group to get two songs on this year's top 20 is Jefferson Airplane. The lower of the two is White Rabbit, yet another iconic tune of the psychedelic era.

Artist: Who
Title: Pinball Wizard
Source: CD: Woodstock: 40 Years On: Back To Yasgur's Farm
Label: Rhino
Year: Recorded in 1969, released in 2009
The second group tied at # 4 for the year is the only band to perform an entire opera at Woodstock: The Who. For this show we have a track that did not get played in 2010 (although the studio version from the rock-opera Tommy did).

Artist: Byrds
Title: Eight Miles High
Source: CD: Psychedelic Pop (originally released on LP: 5D)
Label: BMG/RCA/Buddah (originally released on Columbia)
Year: 1966
At # 12 we have the Byrds most controversial song. According to the band, the song was about transcontinental air travel, an important subject to the Byrds due to Gene Clark's fear of flying (which had caused him to leave the band shortly before 5D was released). According to Bill Drake, the most powerful man in top 40 radio, it was a drug song and stations were advised to avoid it. Despite this, Eight Miles High, with its John Coltrane-inspired guitar riffs, managed to make it into the top 20 in late 1966.

Artist: Doors
Title: Strange Days
Source: CD: Best of the Doors (originally released on LP: Strange Days)
Label: Elektra
Year: 1967
Barely missing the top 10 we have the Doors with the title cut of their second album, one of many Doors tunes heard on Stuck in the Psychedelic Era this year. In fact, when I did the compiling for this show I was surprised that the Doors did not make the top five groups played list (although they did come close).

And that wraps up the first hour. I do want to take this opportunity to acknowledge the instrumental track I've been using at the end of the first hour throughout the year. It is called All's Quiet on the Occluded Front and was recorded in 1987 by The Soft Corps of Albuquerque, New Mexico. The composer is guitarist Suzan Hagler, with bass provided by Stephen R Webb and drums by Jim Schwar. The recording was co-engineered by Webb and legendary New Mexico recording engineer Q (Quincy Adams), who passed away on December 31, 2008 from stomach cancer.

Artist: Music Machine
Title: Talk Talk
Source: CD: More Nuggets (originally released on LP: Turn On the Music Machine)
Label: Rhino (originally released on Original Sound)
Year: 1966
Our # 10 song of the year comes from the darkest band on the L.A. underground club scene of the psychedelic era. The Music Machine, led by Sean Bonniwell, was known for playing entire sets without a break. According to Bonniwell, this was to discourage audience members from calling out requests for pop hits between songs. The band also had a distinctive look, with all the members dressed entirely in black, including dyed hair. Bonniwell himself cut an impressive image with his one black glove, at a time when Michael Jackson was still in elementary school. The band's entire stage repertoire was written by Bonniwell. Ironically, the Music Machine's debut album was marred by the presence of a handful of cover tunes that the band had recorded for use on a local TV show. Bonniwell was not aware of their inclusion on the album until it was too late to do anything about it. Talk Talk was a major hit in the L.A. area in 1966 that was moderately successful on a national level as well. Unfortunately, due to incompetence on the part of both the band's manager and Original Sound Records, the Music Machine was unable to equal Talk Talk's success, despite a series of outstanding tracks being released as singles (and later included on the Warner Brothers LP Bonniwell Music Machine).

Artist: Beatles
Title: Tomorrow Never Knows
Source: CD: Revolver
Label: Parlophone (originally released in US on Capitol)
Year: 1966
Oddly enough, the Beatles do not have a song in this year's top 10, despite being the 3rd most played group of the year. This is easily explained by the fact that the group had so many good songs that no one tune got more than its share of airplay. In that spirit we have a song that did not get played at all in 2010. It certainly deserves to be heard, however, so here it is.

Artist: First Edition
Title: Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)
Source: CD: Even More Nuggets (originally released on 45 RPM vinyl)
Label: Rhino (originally released on Reprise)
Year: 1968
The fact that Kenny Rogers reportedly cringes every time this song gets played on the radio is enough to earn it the # 9 spot this year. It doesn't hurt that it is actually a pretty good tune, written by bandmate Mickey Newbury.

Artist: Cream
Title: White Room
Source: LP: Wheels of Fire
Label: Atco
Year: 1968
The final band tied for fourth most played (with the Animals and the Who) on Stuck in the Psychedelic Era this year is also the band with the # 8 song of the year. Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce got together in 1966 to form the first British blues supergroup. Their third album, Wheels of Fire, was a double LP, with two sides of live tracks and two sides of new studio material. White Room, written by Jack Bruce and Pete Brown, was the first single released from the album as well as the opening track. It sounds as good today as it did in 1968.

Artist: Steve Miller Band
Title: Your Saving Grace
Source: LP: Anthology (originally released on LP: Your Saving Grace)
Label: Capitol
Year: 1969
It's no secret that the biggest drawback to Stuck in the Psychedelic Era becoming a syndicated radio show this year is that fact that I no longer get to take real-time phone requests. The existence of the web site you're reading this on is an attempt to make up for that by making making the show more interractive through the use of the contact link. One song that was not only requested, but that received positive feedback after being played was this tune from the Steve Miller Band.

Artist: Country Joe and the Fish
Title: Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine
Source: LP: Electric Music For the Mind and Body
Label: Vanguard
Year: 1967
One of the defining bands of the Summer of Love was Country Joe and the Fish, who released their first album at exactly the right time: late spring 1967. An early progressive FM favorite from that album was Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine, which comes in at # 7 on the Stuck in the Psychedelic 2010 top 20 list.

Artist: Blue Cheer
Title: Summertime Blues
Source: CD: Love is the Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-70 (originally released on LP: Vincebus Eruptum)
Label: Rhino (originally released on Philips)
Year: 1968
Blue Cheer is considered by many to be the first heavy metal band. They were certainly one of the loudest bands of their time (along with the Grateful Dead), and were given to extended solos featuring lots of feedback. Their best known recording is their version of Eddie Cochrane's Summertime Blues, which managed to receive extensive airplay both on progressive FM and top 40 AM stations in 1968 and ends up in the # 6 spot on this year's top 20 list.

One hallmark of Stuck in the Psychedelic Era is the occassional set from a particular year. For the last segment of this week's show we combine this idea with the countdown of the top five tracks of the year, starting with a set from 1966.

Artist: Blues Project
Title: The Flute Thing
Source: LP: Projections
Label: Verve Forecast
Year: 1966
The track receiving the most positive feedback of 2010 was Two Trains Running from the second Blues Project album. Unfortunately, there was not enough time this week to re-present the eleven minute track. Instead we have a slightly shorter extended jam from the world's first jam band, featuring bassist Andy Kuhlberg moving over to electric flute and solos from almost every other band member. It's not known whether the flute solo was an overdub or if second guitarist Steve Katz moved over to bass for this studio recording, as he did for the band's live performance on the group's next LP.

Artist: Seeds
Title: Pushin' Too Hard
Source: CD: Nuggets-Classics From the Psychedelic 60s (originally released on LP: The Seeds)
Label: Rhino (originally released on GNP Crescendo)
Year: 1966
In the # 5 spot we have the band that invented the term Flower Power, and subsequently took a nosedive in popularity when the local L.A. hipsters declared that "flower power sucks". Still, there is no doubt that Sky Saxon and company helped define the psychedelic era to a degree matched by few others. Pushin' Too Hard was first released to the Los Angeles radio market in 1966 and became a national bestseller in early 1967.

Artist: Standells
Title: Dirty Water
Source: CD: Nuggets-Original Artyfacts from the Psychedelic Era (originally released on 45 RPM vinyl)
Label: Rhino (originally released on Tower)
Year: 1966
Our # 4 song of the year was written by the music industry's answer to Ed Wood and performed by a group that started off as a clean-cut L.A. bar band fronted by a former Mousketeer and eventually morphed into the epitomy of first-wave punk rock. The Standells made a decent living covering the hits until coming under the guidance of Ed Cobb. Cobb decided that the time was right for America's answer to the Rolling Stones, and guided the band to a grittier place, providing them with their best known songs, the anthemic Sometimes Good Guys Don't Wear White and the song that has become a standard at Boston sporting events: Dirty Water. Oddly enough, none of the band members had ever been anywhere near the Bean City (although Cobb had, including some time spent in the Boston city jail).

Artist: Rolling Stones
Title: Paint It Black
Source: CD: Aftermath
Label: Abkco (originally released in the US on London)
Year: 1966
Speaking of the Stones, we have the group that got the second most songs played on the show this year. Like the Beatles, the Stones have such a huge catalog that no single song got a lot of airplay. One of the best known Stones hits of the era was Paint It Black from their 1966 album Aftermath.

Artist: Jefferson Airplane
Title: Somebody To Love
Source: CD: Surrealistic Pillow
Label: RCA Victor
Year: 1967
The band to get the most airplay on Stuck in the Psychedelic Era this year is also the only band to get two songs on the top 20 list: White Rabbit at # 13 and Somebody To Love at # 3, both from the Surrealistic Pillow album. Between the two the Airplane completely changed the complexion of rock, showing that it was possible for a so-called underground band to sell a lot of records without selling out (at least until they changed methods of transportation from airplane to starship, but that's a discussion for another time).

Artist: Love
Title: 7&7 Is
Source: CD: De Capo
Label: Elektra
Year: 1967
Our # 2 song of the year comes from the band that replaced the Byrds as L.A.'s most popular club band in 1966 and 67. The band's leader, Arthur Lee, was something of an enigma. An acknowledged musical genius, he deliberately eschewed the touring needed to establish a national reputation in favor of keeping Love at the epicenter of the L.A. scene. Yet Lee himself was never seen on Sunset Strip except when Love was playing (which was pretty much every night) at the Whiskey a-Go-Go, located on Sunset between Clark and Hillsdale.

Artist: Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title: Little Wing
Source: CD: Ultimate Experience (originally released on LP: Axis: Bold As Love)
Label: MCA (originally released on Reprise)
Year: 1967
There are many artists I don't think I played enough of this year. Topping that list is Jimi Hendrix. One of my New Years' resolutions is to play more of his stuff.

And finally, the song that got played more than any other on Stuck in the Psychedelic Era this year:

Artist: Amboy Dukes
Title: Journey To the Center of the Mind
Source: CD: Nuggets-Classics From the Psychedelic 60s
Label: Rhino (originally released on Mainstream)
Year: 1968

The reasons for this song getting more airplay are varied. First off, it's a great tune. Second, it tends to show up on just about every psychedelically-oriented anthology collection ever issued. Finally, the Amboy Dukes were pretty much one-hit wonders, their only other notable track being their version of Baby Please Don't Go, which was also recorded by several of their contemporaries. That said, I do have a 1970 album by the Dukes that I'll probably play a track from sometime in 2011.

Which brings us to the future, specifically next year. Since Stuck in the Psychedelic Era went into syndication on Memorial Day weekend, there were 30 two-hour shows to compile for this week's special. Next year that number will be 50. Will the same songs end up on the 2011 list? Doubtful, but with this show you just never know. The only thing I can say for sure is that next week there will be 25-30 or so songs tied for first place for 2011. Beyond that, we'll just have to see.

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