Once again I managed to get notes written a couple days ahead of this week's first airing. I'm almost certain that won't be the case next time around, sorry to say. This week we're switching things around a little by putting an artist set at the beginning of the show (lately they've all been in the last half hour). We follow that up with a set of songs from British artists, then a set from bands working out of L.A. before settling in to a series of progressions through the years (with a few random tracks thrown in, of course). Also noticeable is the fact that very few of these songs have been played on the show yet this year.
Artist: Jefferson Airplane
Title: She Has Funny Cars
Source: CD: Surrealistic Pillow
I thought it might be fun to do an artist set that sort of ties together thematically; in this case songs with titles that refer in some way to vehicular travel (although in the third case it's kind of a stretch unless you happen to be a race car driver). The title of the first track, She Has Funny Cars, was a reference to some unusual possessions belonging to new drummer Spencer Dryden's girlfriend. The title has nothing to do with the lyrics of the song itself.
Artist: Jefferson Airplane
Title: Chaffeur Blues
Source: LP: Jefferson Airplane Takes Off
Writer: Lester Melrose
Label: RCA Victor
The Jefferson Airplane's original female vocalist was Signe Toly Anderson. Unlike Grace Slick, who basically shared lead vocals with founder Marty Balin, Anderson mostly functioned as a backup singer. The only Airplane recording to feature Anderson as a lead vocal was Chaffeur Blues, a cover of an old Lester Melrose tune. The song was featured on the band's first LP, Jefferson Airplane Takes Off.
Artist: Jefferson Airplane
Title: 3/5 Of A Mile In 10 Seconds
Source: CD: Surrealistic Pillow
Writer: Marty Balin
Another strong album track from the Airplane's second LP, Surrealistic Pillow. Marty Balin says he came up with the song title by combining a couple of random phrases from the sports section of a newspaper. 3/5 Of A Mile In 10 Seconds works out to 216 MPH, by the way.
Title: Closer To Heaven
Source: 45 RPM single B side
Writer: Russ Ballard
After the Zombies split up in 1968 keyboardist Rod Argent set out to form a new band to be known simply as Argent. The new group scored its biggest hit in 1972 with the song Hold Your Head Up. Guitarist/keyboardist Russ Ballard provided the B side to that record.
Title: Night Of The Long Grass
Source: CD: Golden Hits
Continuing our set of tunes from British bands we have a group originally known as the Troglodytes. After scoring a huge international hit in 1966 with Wild Thing (which the band hated), the group, now known as the Troggs, cranked out a series of singles that did well in the UK but for the most part did not make an impression on 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.
Title: Across The Universe
Source: CD: Past Masters vol. 2 (originally released on charity album for the World Wildlife Fund)
Label: Parlophone (original label unknown)
Undoubtably the most successful British band of all was the Beatles. Across The Universe was recorded in 1968 and was in serious contention for release as a single that year (ultimately Lady Madonna was chosen instead). The recording sat in the vaults until 1969, when it was included on a charity album for the World Wildlife Fund (hence the sounds of flapping wings at the beginning and end of the track). Phil Spector would eventually get his hands on the master tape, slowing it down and adding strings and including it on the Let It Be album. Personally I prefer this untampered-with version.
Artist: Blues Magoos
Source: LP: Electric Comic Book
Lots of bands that play multiple sets in clubs work up a break song to let the audience know they'll be back in a few minutes. Very few of them, however, actually record their break song. The Blues Magoos, never ones to do things half way, took it a step further by including it as the closing track of the first side of the second album, Electric Comic Book.
Artist: Paul Revere and the Raiders
Title: There's Always Tomorrow
Source: LP: Midnight Ride
We move now to sunny Los Angeles, circa 1966, where we find a band from Boise, Idaho starring in Dick Clark's daily national dance show, Where The Action Is. Paul Revere and the Raiders were one of the many bands of the early 1960s that helped lay the groundwork for the temporary democratization of American popular music later in the decade (for more on that click the "era" button at hermitradio.com). After honing their craft for years in the clubs of the Pacific Northwest the Raiders caught the attention of Clark, who called them the most versatile rock band he had ever seen. Clark introduced the band to Terry Melcher, which in turn led to Paul Revere and the Raiders being the first rock band ever signed to industry giant Columbia Records, at that time the second largest record company in the country. In addition to organist Revere the band featured Mark Lindsay on lead vocals and saxophone, Phil "Fang" Volker on bass, Drake Levin on lead guitar and Mike "Smitty" Smith on drums. Occassional someone other than Lindsay would get the opportunity to sing a lead vocal part, as Smitty does on There's Always Tomorrow, a song he co-wrote with Levin shortly before the guitarist quit to join the National Guard. Seriously, the guy who played the double-tracked lead guitars on Just Like Me quit the hottest band in the US at the peak of their popularity to voluntarily join the military. I'd say there was a good chance he was not one of the guys burning their draft cards that year.
Title: Fallin' In Love
Source: LP: The Seeds
Writer: Sky Saxon
Label: GNP Crescendo
Another group of immigrants to the L.A. scene were the Seeds. Nobody seemed to know for sure where the various members hailed from; one popular theory at the time held that they were actually visitors from another planet. Their music certainly had an otherworldly quality when compared to the rest of the (mostly folk-rock) bands playing the Sunset Strip in 1966. Sky Saxon's vocals in particular sounded nothing like anything that had been heard before (or since) as Fallin' In Love amply demonstrates.
Artist: Beach Boys
Title: Let's Go Away For Awhile
Source: CD: Pet Sounds
Writer: Brian Wilson
Although the Beach Boys are known primarily as a vocal group, their catalog is sprinkled with occassional instrumental pieces, usually featuring the youngest Wilson brother, Carl, on lead guitar. By 1966, however, the band was using studio musicians extensively on their recordings. This was taken to its extreme on the Pet Sounds album with the tune Let's Go Away For Awhile, which was made without the participation of any of the actual band members (except composer/producer Brian Wilson, who said at the time that the track was the most satisfying piece of music he had ever made).
Title: All Of Your Toys
Source: CD: Listen To The Band
Writer: Bill Martin
Year: Recorded 1967, released 1987
When the Monkees were formed in 1966 it was soon apparent that they were not ready to begin recording as a band. Studio musicians were brought in from both coasts to lay down the tracks that the band members would later add vocals to. It was implied at the time that the Monkees would start playing on their own records as soon as they were able to. For the band members that moment came in early 1967 when they recorded All Of Your Toys, written by Bill Martin, a friend of Michael Nesmith's. Don Kirschner, who was musical director for the entire Monkees project, had different ideas and issued an album of tracks from the 1966 sessions (More of the Monkees) as well as a new single (She Hangs Out). These were all released without knowledge of or permission from the Monkees themselves, and ultimately led to the firing of Kirschner and the immediate recall of the single. To add insult to injury, the Monkees discovered that, due to a clause in their contract that stipulated that all their material would be published by Screen Gems, they could not release their recording of All Of Your Toys (which was published through another company). The song was finally released in 1987 by Rhino on the Missing Links album.
Title: Twilight Sanctuary
Source: CD: All The Good That's Happening
Label: One Way (original label: Capitol)
The Leaves were one of those groups that never really caught on outside the L.A. area, despite maintaining a full schedule of gigs from 1965-67 and appearing in a handful of low budget films. In fact, low budget seems to be the operative term when it comes to the Leaves. After having minor success on the national charts with their first album for Mira, the group was signed to Capitol. The band only recorded one LP for Capitol, and it has to be considered one of the most inconsistent LPs ever recorded. A first listen to All The Good That's Happening leaves one with the impression that the album was recorded by several different bands, none of which really seemed to gel. To add insult to injury, Capitol only released the album in mono, despite their debut album being available in both stereo and mono versions.
Title: Don't Look Back
This week's first progression through the years starts with a cover of a John Lee Hooker tune from the first Them album. Van Morrison's vocals still resembled Mick Jagger's at that early point in his career, as Don't Look Back clearly demonstrates.
Title: It's Cold Outside
Source: Nuggets-Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer: Daniel Klawon
Label: Rhino (original label: Canadian-American)
In the mid 1990s Tom Hanks produced a movie called That Thing You Do, about a fictional band called the Wonders that managed to get one song on the national charts before fading off into obscurity. It was, of course, a tribute to the many bands from all over the country that had a similar story in the mid-1960s. One of those bands was The Choir, from Cleveland Ohio. Formed as the Mods in 1964, the Choir scored a regional hit with It's Cold Outside in 1966. The song was picked up for national distribution by Roulette Records in 1967 and was a moderate success.
Title: She's My Girl
Source: Nuggets Vol. 9-Acid Rock (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Rhino (original label: White Whale)
1967 was the year of the Turtles, starting with Happy Together, followed in quick succession by She'd Rather Be With Me, Guide For The Married Man and She's My Girl. I always seem to get a good response when I play this song, so here it is.
Title: Anyone For Tennis
Source: Goodbye Cream (bonus track-originally released on The Savage Seven soundtrack)
Label: Polydor (original label: Atco)
In 1968, shortly before the official breakup of Cream, Eric Clapton recorded Anyone For Tennis for the soundtrack of the movie The Savage Seven. Conveniently, the soundtrack album was issued on Atco, the same label that released Cream's records in the US. The song was not included on the initial release of the album Goodbye Cream but was added for subsequent releases, including the CD version.
Artist: Jo Jo Gunne
Title: Run Run Run
Source: 45 RPM single (promo copy)
After Spirit called it quits following the disappointing sales of the Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus, lead vocalist Jay Ferguson and bassist Mark Andes hooked up with Andes's brother Matt and William "Curly" Smith to form Jo Jo Gunne. Their best known song was Run Run Run, which hit the British top 10 and the US top 30 in 1972, receiving considerable amount of airplay on progressive rock stations as well.
Title: Last Time Around
Source: LP: Nuggets Vol. 2-Punk (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer: Dennis Dahlquist
Label: Rhino (original label: Dunwich)
The Del-Vettes, from Chicago's affluent North Shore (they once showed up for a high school dance by driving their matching white Corvettes into the gym) started off in 1963 covering surf hits. When the British Invasion hit in 1964 the Vettes became enamoured of the Jeff Beck-era Yardbirds. Their best-known song is Last Time Around, one of the earliest known examples of death-rock.
Artist: Country Joe and the Fish
Title: Death Sound
Source: CD: Electric Music For The Mind And Body
Writer: Joe McDonald
Speaking of death-rock, we have this blues number from the first Country Joe and the Fish album, featuring some of guitarist Barry Melton's finest licks. Am I getting morbid here or what?
Source: LP: Autumn To Spring (originally released in UK as 45 RPM single)
Sometime in 1969 I went to see a band called Marshall Hammond (named for their amps and organ, apparently) at the roller rink on Ramstein Air Force Base, Germany. None of us caught the name of the opening act, but I remember this version of this song in particular being performed by them. Were they the Nice? I kind of doubt it, but there's always the possibility, I suppose.
Artist: Led Zeppelin
Title: Communications Breakdown
Source: CD: Led Zeppelin
Speaking of 1969 I remember toward the end of that year the jukebox at the teen club on Ramstein adding the first Led Zeppelin single. Although Good Times Bad Times got played quite a bit, the B side, Communications Breakdown, got played even more. It wasn't long before everyone I knew had a copy of the album, making it easy to borrow a copy to put on reel-to-reel tape.
Artist: James Gang
Source: CD: James Gang Rides Again
Ending our second progression through the years of the week we have yet another song I associate with a particular place; in this case a coffee house in Alamogordo, NM that I could be found hanging out in after school during my senior year. The place had a room with an old console stereo in it, and a stack of half a dozen albums that someone had donated to the place. Side one of James Gang Rides Again must have been played a hundred times on that thing, often over and over when everybody was too stoned to get up to change the record.
Artist: Blues Project
Title: Caress Me Baby
Source: LP: Projections
Writer: Jimmy Reed
Label: Verve Forecast
After deliberately truncating their extended jams for their first LP, Live At The Cafe Au-Go-Go, the Blues Project recorded a second album that was a much more accurate representation of what the band was all about. Mixed in with the group's original material was this outstanding cover of an old Jimmy Reed tune, sung by lead guitarist and Blues Project founder Danny Kalb, running over seven minutes long. Andy Kuhlberg's memorable walking bass line would be lifted a few year later by Blood, Sweat and Tears bassist Jim Fielder for the track Blues, Part II.
Title: I Ain't No Miracle Worker
Source: CD: Nuggets-Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Rhino (original label: Challenge)
Our third and final progression through the years this week starts in 1965 with the definitive version of what has come to be regarded as a punk standard, despite none of the various recordings of the song ever hitting the charts. The Brogues themselves never had any great success outside their native Merced, although two of the members, Gary Duncan and Greg Elmore, would go on to join Quicksilver Messenger Service the following year.
Title: Dead End Street
Source: CD: Face To Face (bonus track-originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer: Ray Davies
Label: Sanctuary (original label-Reprise)
The last big US hit for the Kinks in the 60s was Sunny Afternoon in late 1966. The 1967 follow-up, Deadend Street, was in much the same style, but did not achieve the same kind of success (although it was a hit in the UK). The Kinks would not have another major US hit until Lola in 1970.
Title: Dear Mr. Fantasy
Source: LP: Progressive Heavies (originally released on LP: Mr. Fantasy)
Label: United Artists
One of the all-time great rock songs. 'Nuff said.
Artist: Hearts And Flowers
Title: Tin Angel (Will You Ever Come Down)
Source: CD: Where The Action Is: L.A. Nuggets 1965-68 (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer: Larry Murray
Label: Rhino (original label: Capitol)
Hearts and Flowers is known as one of the pioneering country-rock bands, but in 1968 they recorded what could well be regarded as a lost psychedelic masterpiece. Producer Steve Venet reportedly had Sgt. Pepper in mind as he crafted out Tin Angel over a period of weeks, paying attention to the minutest details of the recording process. The result speaks for itself.
Artist: Blue Cheer
Title: Last Time Around
Source: LP: Vincebus Eruptum
Writer: Dickie Peterson
Our closing track this week could well be considered the first heavy metal song. Blue Cheer was the loudest, heaviest band on the San Francisco scene, and maybe the whole world in 1968, and Last Time Around was the most feedback-drenched track on their debut album, Vincebus Eruptum. Appropriately, it was also the closing track on the LP.