Saturday, June 25, 2011

Show # 1125 Playlist (week of 6/23/11)

Well, once again the playlist is up a bit late this week, and it's pretty much for the same reason as last week. Next week I'm on vacation from my day job, so I should have plenty of time to get the playlist done.

This week we have a bit set of songs from the Blues Project, as well as tracks from several of the bands that the Project had a profound influence on when they played San Francisco in the spring of 1966. There's lots of other stuff as well, as always. So why don't we just get on with it?

Artist: Dino Valenti
Title: Let's Get Together
Source: CD: Love Is The Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-70 (first released on CD: Someone To Love-The Early San Francisco Sounds)
Writer: Chet Powers
Label: Rhino (original label: Big Beat)
Year: Recorded 1964, first released 1996 (UK only)
At first glance this may look like a cover tune. In reality, though, Dino Valenti was one of several aliases used by the guy who was born Chester Powers. Perhaps this was brought on by his several encounters with the law, most of which led to jail time. By all accounts, Valenti was one of the more bombastic characters on the San Francisco scene, making this an appropriate track to start off this week's show. The song was first commercially recorded by Jefferson Airplane in 1966, but it wasn't until 1969, when the Youngbloods shortened the title to Get Together, that the song became a national hit.

Artist: Barbarians
Title: Are You A Boy Or Are You A Girl
Source: LP: Nuggets Vol. 1-The Hits (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer: Morris/Morris
Label: Rhino (original label: Laurie)
Year: 1965
From Boston we have the Barbarians, best known for having a one-handed drummer named Moulty who wore a hook on his other arm (and was probably the inspiration for the hook-handed bass player in the cult film Wild In The Streets a few years later). In addition to Are You A Boy Or Are You A Girl, which was their biggest hit, the group recorded an inspirational tune (inspirational in the 80s self-help sense, not the religious one) called Moulty that got some airplay in 1966.

Artist: Blues Project
Title: Fly Away
Source: LP: special DJ record (originally released on LP: Projections)
Writer: Al Kooper
Label: Verve Forecast
Year: 1966
Al Kooper was a guitarist with some talent (but no professional experience) on keyboards who was already sufficiently connected enough to be allowed in the studio when Bob Dylan was recording his Highway 61 Revisited album. Not content to be merely a spectator (Mike Bloomfield was already there as a guitarist), Kooper noticed that there was an organ in the studio and immediately sat down and started playing on the sessions. Dylan was impressed enough with Kooper's playing to not only include him on the album, but to invite him to perform with him at the upcoming Newport Jazz Festival as well. The gig became probably Dylan's most notorious moment in his career, as several folk purists voiced their displeasure with Dylan's use of electric instruments. Some of them even stormed the stage, knocking over Kooper's keyboards in the process. After the gig Kooper became an in-demand studio musician. It was in this capacity (brought in to play piano by producer Tom Wilson) that he first met Danny Kalb, Andy Kuhlberg, Tommy Flanders, Roy Blumenthal and Steve Katz, who had recently formed the Blues Project and were making their first recordings for Columbia Records at their New York studios. Kooper had been looking for an opportunity to improve his skills on the keyboards (most of his gigs as a studio musician were for producers hoping to cash in on the "Dylan sound", which he found limiting), and soon joined the band as their full-time keyboardist. In addition to his instrumental contributions to the band, he provided some of their best original material as well. One such tune is Fly Away, from the Projections album (generally considered to be the apex of the Blues Project's career).

Artist: Blues Project
Title: Where There's Smoke, There's Fire
Source: LP: Live At Town Hall (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer: Kooper/Levine/Brass
Label: Verve Forecast
Year: 1966
Al Kooper left the Blues Project in early 1967. That probably should have been the end of the story, but the record company instead decided to patch together some recordings made while Kooper was still with the band to create a new album. They called the album Live At Town Hall, despite the fact that several tracks were not recorded live, instead being studio tracks with audience sounds overdubbed onto the beginning and end of each track. One of these studio tracks was Where There's Smoke, There's Fire, which actually predates the Projections album and was released as a single (without the fake audience sounds) in June of 1966.

Artist: Blues Project
Title: Violets Of Dawn (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Source: LP: special disc jockey record
Writer: Anderson
Label: Verve Forecast
Year: 1966
Although Columbia decided not to sign the Blues Project, the songs they recorded for the label in late 1965 ended up being released as their first single for Verve in January of 1966. The A side was Violets of Dawn, written by folk singer Tim Anderson. The song was not a hit, however, despite its release during the heyday of the folk-rock movement. The original lead vocalist, Tommy Flanders, sounds just a bit out of his element here, as he, by all accounts, had a Mick Jagger-like quality about him that was better suited for the band's more energetic material.

Artist: Blues Project
Title: (Electric) Flute Thing
Source: LP: Live At Town Hall
Writer: Al Kooper
Label: Verve Forecast
Year: 1967
As mentioned earlier, several tracks on Live At Town Hall were not recorded live at all. In fact, of the few live recordings on the album, only (Electric) Flute Thing was actually recorded at Town Hall. The other live tracks on the LP were from a 1966 recording at Stonybrook University. All of the live tracks suffer from poor sound quality, which, considering they were among the first attempts ever at recording a progressive blues/rock band in concert, is not all that surprising.

Artist: Blues Project
Title: Back Door Man
Source: LP: special disc jockey record (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer: Dixon/Burnett
Label: Verve Forecast
Year: 1966
The B side of the Blues Project's first single is much more indicative than the A side of how the band sounded with original lead vocalist Tommy Flanders. Verve Records was very excited about the potential of the band when they signed them, seeing them as America's answer to the Rolling Stones. Before the release of their first album, Live At Cafe Au-Go-Go, the band was flown out to Hollywood and given the red carpet treatment by Verve's parent company, M-G-M. Then something happened that would change everything. There had already been friction between band members even before the trip to L.A, and Flanders' girlfriend, who had accompanied the band out to California, stirred things up even more by suggesting that Flanders was the true star of the band and should be treated as such. This led to a showdown at the Hilton Hotel, where the band was staying, that resulted in the girlfriend announcing that Flanders was quitting the band to start a solo career. Flanders, of course, went along with the idea. If this story seems vaguely familiar, you probably saw the movie Spinal Tap. Unlike in the movie, however, the Blues Project actually benefitted from the change, as it forced them to concentrate more on their instrumental prowess. The result was a band that became known for its improvisational abilities, continuing to play to capacity crowds as the house band at the Cafe Au-Go in Manhattan and working their way out to the west coast, playing college campuses and coffee houses along the way. On their arrival in San Francisco they played at the Matrix, where manager and part-owner Marty Balin had just formed his own new band, Jefferson Airplane. The Matrix was essentially a musicians' club, and was frequented by members of several local bands, including the Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service and Big Brother And The Holding Company. All of these musicians were influenced by the group that has come to be considered the mother of all jam bands: The Blues Project.

Artist: Premiers
Title: Get On This Plane
Source: CD: Where The Action Is: L.A. Nuggets 1965-68 (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer: Delgado/Uballez
Label: Rhino (original label: Faro)
Year: 1966
The Premiers were a band from East L.A. best known for their 1964 hit Farmer John. After that national success, the group continued to record, cranking out a series of local hits for Faro Records. The last of these was Get On This Plane from 1966.

Artist: Moby Grape
Title: 8:05
Source: LP: Moby Grape
Writer: Miller/Stevenson
Label: Columbia
Year: 1967
Three of the members of Moby Grape had previously recorded together as the Frantics (heard on last week's show). The song 8:05, from the first Moby Grape album, was written by the same two members (guitarist Jerry Miller and drummer Don Stevenson) that wrote the aformentioned Frantics tune, Human Monkey. I thought it might be nice to compare the two, but really they don't sound a bit like each other. Whereas Human Monkey is somewhat, well, Frantic, 8:05 is considerabally mellower, with the emphasis more on vocal harmonies.

Artist: Quicksilver Messenger Service
Title: Light Your Windows
Source: CD: Love Is The Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-70 (originally released on LP: Quicksilver Messenger Service)
Writer: Duncan/Freiberg
Label: Rhino (original label: Capitol)
Year: 1968
One of the last of the legendary San Francisco bands that played at Monterey to be signed to a major label was Quicksilver Messenger Service. Inspired by a conversation between Dino Valenti (see this week's first song) and guitarist John Cippolina, there are differing opinions on just how serious Valenti was about forming a new band at that time. Since Valenti was busted the very next day (and ended up spending the next two years in jail), we'll never know for sure. Cippolina, however, was motivated enough to begin finding members for the new band, including bassist David Freiberg (later to join Starship) and drummer Skip Spence. When Marty Balin stole Spence away to join his own new band (Jefferson Airplane), he tried to make up for it by introducing Cippolina to vocalist/guitarist Gary Duncan and drummer Greg Elmore, whose own band, the Brogues, had recently disbanded. Taking the name Quicksilver Messenger Service (so named for all the member's astrological connections with the planet Mercury), the new band soon became a fixture on the San Francisco scene. Inspired by the Blues Project, Cippolina and Duncan quickly established a reputation for their dual guitar improvisational abilities. Unlike other San Francisco bands such as the Airplane and the Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service did not jump at their first offer from a major record label, preferring to hold out for the best deal. This meant their debut album did not come out until 1968, missing out on the initial buzz surrounding the summer of love.

Artist: Crosby, Stills and Nash
Title: Lady Of The Island
Source: CD: Crosby, Stills And Nash
Writer: Graham Nash
Label: Atlantic
Year: 1969
Lady Of The Island is almost a Graham Nash solo tune. It does, however, feature some interesting counterpoint vocals by David Crosby near the end of the song.

Artist: Ultimate Spinach
Title: Ego Trip
Source: LP: Ultimate Spinach
Writer: Ian Bruce-Douglas
Label: M-G-M
Year: 1967
1967 was the year of the "Boss-Town Sound", a gimmick used to promote several Boston-based bands signed to the M-G-M label (M-G-M having been asleep at the wheel during the recent band-signing frenzy in San Francisco). Derided in the music press as a crass attempt to manipulate record buyers, the ultimate victims of this fraud were the bands themselves, many of which were actually quite talented. The most famous of these bands, Ultimate Spinach, was the brainchild of keyboardist Ian Bruce-Douglas, who wrote all the material for the group's first two LPs. When the stigma of being part of the whole boss-town thing became too much to deal with, Bruce-Douglas left the group. Although the Ultimate Spinach name continued to be used, subsequent albums had little in common musically with the two Bruce-Douglas LPs.

Artist: Balloon Farm
Title: A Question Of Temperature
Source: CD: Nuggets-Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer: Appel/Schnug/Henny
Label: Rhino (original label: Laurie)
Year: 1967
Few, if any, bands managed to successfully cross bubble gum and punk like the Balloon Farm with this 1967 classic, originally released on the Laurie label. Band member Mike Appel went on to greater fame as Bruce Springsteen's first manager.

Artist: Spencer Davis Group
Title: Gimme Some Lovin'
Source: LP: Progressive Heavies (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer: Winwood/Winwood/Davis
Label: United Artists
Year: 1967
The movie The Big Chill used this track as the backdrop for a touch football game at an informal reunion of former college students from the 60s. From that point on, movie soundtracks became much more than just background music and soundtrack albums started becomming best-sellers. Not entirely coincidentally, 60s-oriented oldies radio stations began to appear in major markets as well. Ironically, most of those "oldies" stations are now playing songs that were current hits when The Big Chill first appeared in theaters in the 1980s.

Artist: Kinks
Title: Waterloo Sunset
Source: 25 Years-The Ultimate Collection
Writer: Ray Davies
Label: PolyTel
Year: 1967
One of the most beautiful tunes ever recorded by the Kinks (and one I haven't played on the show until this week) is Waterloo Sunset, a song that was a hit single in the UK, but was totally ignored by US radio stations. The reason for this neglect of such a stong song is a mystery, however it may have been due to the fear that American audiences would not be able to relate to all the lyrical references to places in and around London.

Artist: Tornados
Title: Telstar
Source: 45 RPM single
Writer: J. Meek
Label: London
Year: 1962
Before the Beatles kicked off the British Invasion in 1964 there had only been two British recordings that had been able to hit the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The first was Strangers On The Shore, a jazz piece by saxophonist Mr. Acker Bilk. The second chart-topper (the first by a rock band) was the Tornados' Telstar, a quasi-surf instrumental named for the first transatlantic communication satellite.

Artist: Uriah Heep
Title: The Wizard
Source: LP: Demons And Wizards
Writer: Hensley/Clark
Label: Mercury
Year: 1972
Although Uriah Heep had been around since 1969, they didn't get much attention in the US until their Demons And Wizards album in 1972, which included their biggest hit, Easy Livin'. The opening track was appropriately titled The Wizard, and it signalled a subtle shift in the band's style from early heavy metal to a more progressive/metal hybrid sound.

Artist: Chocolate Watchband
Title: Milk Cow Blues
Source: CD: No Way Out
Writer: K. Arnold
Label: Sundazed
Year: 1966
The first Chocolate Watchband album was released in 1967, but the band had actually made a handful of recordings prior to its release. One of those, Milk Cow Blues, did not get released until Sundazed included the song as a bonus track on its reissue of the band's debut album, No Way Out. Original vocalist Dave Aguilar is at his snarling Mick Jaggeresque best on this 1966 recording.

Artist: Jefferson Airplane
Title: D.C.B.A.-25
Source: LP: Surrealistic Pillow
Writer: Paul Kantner
Label: RCA Victor
Year: 1967
Named for the chords used in the song. As for the "25" was 1967. In San Francisco. Paul Kantner wrote it. Figure it out.

Artist: Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title: Little Miss Strange
Source: CD: Electric Ladyland
Writer: Noel Redding
Label: Legacy (original label: Reprise)
Year: 1968
When Chas Chandler brought Jimi Hendrix to England in 1966 he introduced him to several local musicians, including drummer Mitch Mitchell and guitarist Noel Redding. Hendrix talked Redding into switching to bass, and the Jimi Hendrix Experience was born. Redding, however, still had aspirations of being a front man and wrote this tune in 1968. As it turned out, Little Miss Strange would be one of only two Redding tunes the band would ever record and is most notable for Hendrix's double tracked harmony guitar parts. After the Experience split up Redding formed Fat Mattress, but that band had little success.

Artist: Jethro Tull
Title: Bouree
Source: CD: Stand Up
Writer: Ian Anderson
Label: Chrysalis
Year: 1969
The second Jethro Tull album, Stand Up, saw the band moving a considerable distance from its blues-rock roots, as flautist Ian Anderson asserted himself as leader and sole songwriter for the group. Nowhere is that more evident than on the last track of the first side of Stand Up, the instrumental Bouree, which successfully melds jazz and classical influences into the Jethro Tull sound.

Artist: Grateful Dead
Title: St. Stephen
Source: CD: Aoxomoxoa
Writer: Hunter/Garcia/Lesh
Label: Warner Brothers
Year: 1969
One of the Grateful Dead's most recognizable tunes is St. Stephen. The song first appeared on the 1969 album Aoxomoxoa, remained in the Grateful Dead stage repertoire for pretty much their entire existence.

Artist: Leaves
Title: Too Many People
Source: CD: Nuggets Vol. 2-Punk (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer: Pons/Rinehart
Label: Rhino (original label: Mira)
Year: 1965
The Leaves are a bit unusual in that the members were all native L.A.ins. Founded by bassist Jim Pons and some of his fraternity brothers at Cal State Northridge, the Leaves had their greatest success when they took over as house band at Ciro's after the Byrds vacated the slot to go on tour. Like many bands of the time, they were given a song to record as a single by their producer (Love Minus Zero) and allowed to write their own B side. In this case that B side was Too Many People, written by Pons and guitarist Bill Rinehart. The song ended up getting more airplay on local radio stations than Love Minus Zero, making it their first regional hit. The Leaves had their only national hit the following year with their third attempt at recording the fast version of Hey Joe. Eventually Pons would leave the Leaves, hooking up first with the Turtles, then Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention.

Artist: Mouse and the Traps
Title: A Public Execution (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Source: More Nuggets
Writer: Henderson/Weiss
Label: Rhino (original label: Fraternity)
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: Doors
Title: Five To One
Source: CD: Waiting For The Sun
Writer: The Doors
Label: Elektra
Year: 1968
The nice thing about a prolific band like the Doors is that there are still plenty of songs that have yet to be played on Stuck In The Psychedelic Era. After this week's show, there is one less of those.

Artist: King Crimson
Title: 21st Century Schizoid Man
Source: LP: In The Court Of The Crimson King
Writer: Fripp/McDonald/Lake/Giles/Sinfield
Label: Atlantic
Year: 1969
There are several bands with a legitimate claim to starting the art-rock movement of the mid-70s. The one most other musicians cite as the one that started it all, however, is King Crimson. Led by Robert Fripp, the band went through several personnel changes over the years. Many of the members went on to greater commercial success as members of other bands, including guitarist/keyboardist Ian McDonald (Foreigner), and lead vocalist/bassist Greg Lake (Emerson, Lake and Palmer) from the original lineup. Additionally, poet Peter Sinfield, who wrote all King Crimson's early lyrics, would go on to perform a similar function for Emerson, Lake and Palmer, including their magnum opus Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends. Other original members included Michael Giles on drums and Fripp himself on guitar. This week's track has special significance as the first song on the first album by King Crimson. Enjoy!

Artist: Mothers of Invention
Title: Hungry Freaks, Daddy
Source: CD: Freak Out
Writer: Frank Zappa
Label: Ryko (original label: Verve)
Year: 1966
Speaking of first songs from first albums from groups led by a musical genius that launched the careers of several major stars we have Hungry Freaks, Daddy from the album Freak Out. I've had a copy of this on vinyl for many years and only recently acquired a CD copy. I was amazed to hear instruments on this track that I didn't realize were there before (a xylophone being the most prominent). The song itself is the first of many Zappa songs over the years that take aim at society in general and the mainstream culture in particular. As would be the case throughout Zappa's songwriting career, the lyrics have a satirical edge that distinguishes them from the run of the mill protest song.

Artist: Monkees
Title: Don't Wait For Me
Source: LP: Instant Replay
Writer: Michael Nesmith
Label: Colgems
Year: 1969
By 1969 the Monkees were a trio, Peter Tork having left when it became inarguably clear that they would never be, in his eyes, a real band. Don't Wait For Me is a good example of the direction Michael Nesmith's songwriting would take once he himself left the group to form the First National Band.

Artist: Lovin' Spoonful
Title: Coconut Grove
Source: LP: John Sebastian Songbook, Vol. 1
Writer: Sebastian/Yanovsky
Label: Kama Sutra
Year: 1966
Our final track of the night is a song that originally appeared on the album Hums Of The Lovin' Spoonful. The album itself was an attempt to play in a variety of styles. Coconut Grove manages to evoke images of the South Pacific without devolving into Rogers and Hart/Hammerstein territory.

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