Thursday, July 7, 2011

Stuck in the Psychedelic Era # 1127 Playlist and notes

I decided to change the post title starting this week in the hopes of making it easier to find using a search engine. The content is still pretty much the same, though (and yes I have been doing some copy/pasting to be able to get these up a day or two sooner).

Artist: Balloon Farm
Title: A Question Of Temperature
Source: LP: Nuggets Vol. 1-The Hits
Writer: Appel/Schnug/Henny
Label: Rhino
Year: 1967
We start off the show with a tune last heard a couple weeks ago. A Question Of Temperature, unlike most of the tracks heard on Stuck in the Psychedelic Era, is a studio creation from New York City that was released in late 1967, hitting its peak of popularity in March of 1968. One of the writer/musicians involved in the project was Mike Appel, who later went on to discover Bruce Springsteen and became, for a time, Springsteen's personal manager.

Artist: Doors
Title: I Can't See Your Face In My Mind
Source: LP: Strange Days
Writer: The Doors
Label: Elektra
Year: 1967
The Doors second LP, Strange Days, was essentially a continuation of the band's first album stylistically, even down to closing the LP with a long extended jam track featuring a Jim Morrison monologue (or poem, if you prefer). In all likelihood there were several songs on the album that had already been written by the time the Doors signed a recording contract with Elektra, but had to be left off the first LP due to space limitations. If I had to make a guess I'd put I Can't See Your Face In My Mind in that category.

Artist: Janis Joplin
Title: Try (Just A Little Bit Harder)
Source: LP: I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama
Writer: Ragovoy/Taylor
Label: Columbia
Year: 1969
A glance through the various playlists on this blog makes one thing abundantly clear: the psychedelic era was a time for bands, as opposed to individual stars. The music industry itself, however, tends to favor the single artist. Perhaps this is because it is easier to market (cynics would say exploit) an individual artist than a collective of musicians. In the case of Janis Joplin, people in the industry managed to convince her that her fellow members of Big Brother and the Holding Company were holding her back due to their lack of musicianship. A listen to her first album without her old bandmates puts the lie to that argument. Although the Kozmic Blues Band may indeed have had greater expertise as individual musicians than Big Brother, the energy that had electrified audiences at the Monterey Pop Festival and at various San Francisco ballrooms was just not there, and the album is generally considered somewhat limp in comparison to Cheap Thrills. The opening (and some would say best) track on the album is Try (Just A Little Bit Harder). While not a bad song, the recording just doesn't have the magic of a Piece of My Heart or Ball and Chain, despite a strong vocal performance by Joplin herself.

Title: I Put A Spell On You
Source: CD: Woodstock: 40 Years On: Back To Yasgur's Farm
Writer: Screamin' Jay Hawkins
Label: Rhino
Year: 1969
Before getting major attention for its string of top five singles (including three consecutive # 2 songs), CCR released a pair of cover tunes in 1968: Dale Hawkins' Suzy Q and this one from an entirely different Hawkins, Screamin' Jay. Although the Creedence version only made it to the # 58 spot on the national charts, it was still part of their repertoire when they played at Woodstock the following year.

Artist: Neil Young/Crazy Horse
Title: Down By The River
Source: CD: Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
Writer: Neil Young
Label: Reprise
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. Coincidentally (or maybe not) the same three songs were all written while Young was running a 104 degree fever. We should all be so sick.

Artist: Peter, Paul and Mary
Title: Flora
Source: 45 RPM single B side
Writer: Stookey/Travers/Mezzetti
Label: Warner Brothers
Year: 1963
A gem from the early days of Peter, Paul and Mary, Flora originally was released on the LP Moving and was issued as the B side of the group's successful Dylan cover, Blowin' In The Wind, in 1963.

Artist: Byrds
Title: Thoughts And Words
Source: CD: Younger Than Yesterday
Writer: Chris Hillman
Label: Columbia/Legacy
Year: 1967
In addition to recording the most commercially successful Dylan cover songs, the Byrds had a wealth of original material over the course of several albums. On their first album, these came primarily from guitarists Gene Clark and Jim (now Roger) McGuinn, with David Crosby emerging as the group's third songwriter on the band's second album. After Clark's departure, bassist Chris Hillman began writing as well, and had three credits as solo songwriter on the group's fourth LP, Younger Than Yesterday. Hillman credits McGuinn, however, for coming up with the distinctive reverse-guitar break midway through the song.

Artist: Byrds
Title: 2-4-2 Fox Trot (The Lear Jet Song)
Source: LP: 5D
Writer: Roger McGuinn
Label: Columbia
Year: 1966
1966 was the beginning of a time when rock musicians began to experiment in the recording studio. One early effort was Roger (then Jim) McGuinn's 2-4-2 Fox Trot (The Lear Jet Song), which uses a recording of an actual jet plane throughout the track.

Artist: Byrds
Title: Why
Source: CD: Younger Than Yesterday
Writer: McGuinn/Crosby
Label: Columbia/Legacy
Year: 1967
The closing track for the Byrds' fourth LP, Younger Than Yesterday, was originally recorded in late 1965 at RCA studios and was released as the B side of Eight Miles High in 1966. The Younger Than Yesterday version of Why is actually a re-recording of the song.

Artist: Cream
Title: Swalbr
Source: CD: Disraeli Gears (also released as 45 RPM B side)
Writer: Bruce/Brown
Label: Polydor (original label: Atco)
Year: 1967
I distinctly remember this song getting played on the local jukebox just as much as the single's A side, Sunshine Of Your Love (maybe even more). Like most of Cream's more psychedelic material, the song was written by the songwriting team of Jack Bruce and Pete Brown. Brown had originally been brought in as a co-writer for Ginger Baker, but soon realized that he and Bruce had better songwriting chemistry.

Artist: Procol Harum
Title: Skip Softly (My Moonbeams)
Source: LP: Shine On Brightly
Writer: Brooker/Reid
Label: A&M
Year: 1968
Procol Harum is not generally thought of as a novelty act. The closest they ever came was this track from the Shine On Brightly album that steals shamelessly from a classical piece I really should know the name of but don't.

Artist: Tommy James and the Shondells
Title: Breakaway
Source: 45 RPM single B side
Writer: James/Vale
Label: Roulette
Year: 1969
From a modern perspective it seems obvious that the only thing keeping Roulette Records going in the late 60s was the string of hits on the label by Tommy James and the Shondells. Oddly enough, Tommy James was one of many acts that initially tanked on the label. It was only when a Pittsburgh DJ began playing a two year old copy of Hanky Panky he had rescued from the throwaway pile in 1966 that the band's career took off. By then, however, the original Shondells had long-since disbanded and James found himself suddenly in demand with no band to back him up. He soon found a new group of Shondells and began cranking out an amazing streak of hits, including I Think We're Alone Now, Mony Mony, Crystal Blue Persuasion and Crimson and Clover. By 1969, however, the streak was coming to an end, with Sweet Cherry Wine being one of the group's last top 40 hits. The B side of that record was the decidedly psychedelic Breakaway. James would continue as a solo artist after the Shondells split up, scoring his last hit in 1971 with Draggin' The Line.

Artist: Beau Brummels
Title: Just A Little
Source: CD: Nuggets-Classics From the Psychedelic 60s
Writer: Elliott/Durand
Label: Rhino (original label: Autumn)
Year: 1965
Often dismissed as an American imitation of British Invasion bands such as the Beatles, the Beau Brummels actually played a pivotal role in rock music history. Formed in San Francisco in 1964, the Brummels were led by Ron Elliott, who co-wrote most of the band's material, including their two top 10 singles in 1965. The second of these, Just A Little, is often cited as the first folk-rock hit, as it was released a week before the Byrds' recording of Mr. Tambourine Man. According to Elliott, the band was not trying to invent folk-rock, however. Rather, it was their own limitations as musicians that forced them to work with what they had: solid vocal harmonies and a mixture of electric and acoustic guitars. Elliott also credits the contributions of producer Sly Stone for the song's success. Conversely, Just A Little was Stone's greatest success as a producer prior to forming his own band, the Family Stone, in 1967.

Artist: Simon and Garfunkel
Title: A Hazy Shade Of Winter
Source: 45 RPM single
Writer: Paul Simon
Label: Columbia
Year: 1966
Originally released as a single in 1966, A Hazy Shade Of Winter was one of several songs written for the film The Graduate. The only one of these actually used in the film was Mrs. Robinson. The remaining songs eventually made up side two of the 1968 album Bookends, although several of them were also released as singles throughout 1967. A Hazy Shade Of Winter, being the first of these singles (and the only one released in 1966), was also the highest charting, peaking at # 13 just as the weather was turning cold.

Artist: Buffalo Springfield
Title: Everybody's Wrong
Source: LP: Buffalo Springfield
Writer: Stephen Stills
Label: Atco
Year: 1967
We finish out the first hour this week with a seldom-heard Stephen Stills track from the first Buffalo Springfield album. Like much of Stills's early work, the song has a harder edge than the material he became famous for in the 1970s.

Artist: Bob Weir
Title: Mexicali Blues
Source: CD: Skeletons From the Closet (originally released on LP: Ace)
Writer: Weir/Barlow
Label: Warner Brothers
Year: 1972
In 1972 Warner Brothers gave all the members of the Grateful Dead an opportunity to record solo albums. Three of them, Jerry Garcia, Mickey Hart and Bob Weir, took the label up on their offer. Unlike Garcia, who played many of the instruments on his album himself, Weir chose to use the other members of the Dead (with the sole exception of Ron "Pigpen" McKernan) on his LP, entitled Ace.

Artist: Blues Project
Title: Caress Me Baby
Source: LP: Projections
Writer: Jimmy Reed
Label: Verve Forecast
Year: 1966
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.

Artist: Otis Redding
Title: Try A Little Tenderness
Source: LP: Historic Performances Recorded at the Monterey International Pop Festival
Writer: Woods/Campbell/Connelly
Label: Reprise
Year: 1967
One of the most electrifying performances at the legendary Monterey International Pop Festival in June of 1967 happened on Saturday night during a rainstorm. Otis Redding (backed by Booker T. and the MGs, with Wayne Jackson on trumpet and Andrew Love on sax) was scheduled for the closing slot, but due to technical problems earlier in the day found himself with only enough time for five songs before the festival had to shut down for the night. At the end of his closing song, Try A Little Tenderness, Redding can be heard saying "I've got to go now. I don't want to go" as the festival's organizers, mindful of the terms of their permit, were rushing him off the stage.

Artist: Easybeats
Title: Gonna Have A Good Time
Source: CD: More Nuggets (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer: Vanda/Young
Label: Rhino (original label: Parlophone)
Year 1968
The Easybeats were Australia's most popular band in the sixties. Formed in 1964 at a migrant hostel in Sidney (all the members came from immigrant families), the band's earliest hits were written by rhythm guitarist George Young (older brother of AC/DC's Angus and Malcolm Young) and lead vocalist "Little" Stevie Wright. By 1966, however, lead guitarist Harry Vanda (originally from the Netherlands) had become fluent in English and with the song Friday On My Mind replaced Wright as Young's writing partner (although Wright stayed on as the band's frontman). One of the Easybeats' biggest hits in Australia was Good Times from the album Vigil. I can't verify whether Gonna Have A Good Time is actually Good Times or not, but what little information I have (such as the fact that Good Times was covered by INXS for the film The Lost Boys and my own memory of hearing a remake of this song sometime in the late 80s) leads me to believe that the two are one and the same. Young and Vanda later recorded a series of records under the name Flash and the Pan that were very successful in Australia and Europe. Stevie Wright went on to become Australia's first international pop star.

Artist: Leigh Stephens
Title: Drifting
Source: LP: Red Weather
Writer: Leigh Stephens
Label: Philips
Year: 1969
After two albums lead guitarist Leigh Stephens left Blue Cheer to work on solo projects. The resulting album, Red Weather, was recorded in England and included some of the UK's top session players such as Nicky Hopkins. Drifting, a semi-acoustic instrumental piece, is stylistically worlds away from the proto-metal sound of Blue Cheer. To my knowledge Red Weather has never been issued on CD (at least not in the US).

Artist: G.T.O.s
Title: Do Me In Once And I'll Be Sad, Do Me In Twice And I'll Know Better (Circular Circulation)
Source: 45 RPM single
Writer: George/Rowe
Label: Straight
Year: 1969
The G.T.O.s were the infamous "groupie" group that made a few memorable appearances in the L.A area, usually on the same bill with the Mothers of Invention. All the members used stage names staring with "Miss", such as Miss Cynderella, Miss Mercy and Miss Sandra, who was in reality Sandra Rowe, who wrote the lyrics to Do Me In Once And I'll Be Sad, Do Me In Twice And I'll Know Better (Circular Circulation). The song, which was co-written and produced by Lowell George, appeared on the group's only LP, recorded by Frank Zappa for his Straight records label. Interestingly enough, the single release of the song gave the title as Circular Circulation, no doubt to improve the record's chance of getting played on the radio (like that was gonna happen).

Artist: Serpent Power
Title: Up And Down
Source: CD: Love Is The Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-70 (originally released on LP: The Serpent Power)
Writer: David Meltzer
Label: Rhino (original label: Vanguard)
Year: 1967
David Meltzer was a beat poet who by the late 60s had already spent several years in the San Francisco Bay area, recording a spoken word album in 1959. For reasons having something to do with yoga, Meltzer and his wife Tina decided to form a band in 1967, calling it the Serpent Power. The group cut one LP for Vanguard. Up and Down is one of the shorter tracks from that album.

Artist: Donovan
Title: Writer In The Sun
Source: CD: Mellow Yellow
Writer: Donovan Leitch
Label: EMI (original label: Epic)
Year: 1967
In 1966-67 Donovan's career was almost derailed by a contractual dispute with his UK label, Pye Records. This resulted in two of his albums, Sunshine Superman and Mellow Yellow, not being issued in the UK. At the time he felt that there was a real chance that he would be forced into retirement by the dispute, and with that weighing heavily on his mind he wrote the song Writer In The Sun. Ironically his career was moving in the opposite direction in the US due to him switching from the relatively small Hickory label to Epic Records (a subsidiary of Columbia, at the time the second-largest record company in the US) and scoring top 10 singles with the title tracks from both albums. His success with those records in the US may have been a factor in Pye settling with the singer-songwriter and issuing a British album that combined tracks from the two albums in late 1967.

Artist: Pink Floyd
Title: Take Up Thy Stethescope And Walk
Source: CD: The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn
Writer: Roger Waters
Label: Capitol
Year: 1967 (original label: Tower)
Contrary to popular belief, Syd Barrett did not write all the material on Pink Floyd's first LP, The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn. One of the non-Barrett tracks is Take Up Thy Stethescope And Walk, an early composition by Roger Waters, who would take over as de facto leader of the band when Barrett's mental health issues forced him into retirement.

Artist: Count Five
Title: Psychotic Reaction
Source: 45 RPM single
Writer: Ellner/Chaney/Atkinson/Byrne/Michaelski
Label: Double Shot
Year: 1966
In late 1966 five guys from San Jose California managed to sound more like the Yardbirds that the Yardbirds themselves, especially considering that Jeff Beck was no longer a Yardbird in late 1966. One interesting note about this record is that as late as the mid-1980s the 45 RPM single on the original label was still available in record stores, complete with the original B side. Normally songs more than a year or two old were only available on anthology LPs or on reissue singles with "back-to-back hits" on them. The complete takeover of the record racks by CDs in the late 1980s changed all that.

Artist: Seeds
Title: Can't Seem To Make You Mine
Source: LP: The Seeds
Writer: Sky Saxon
Label: GNP Crescendo
Year: 1966
One of the first psychedelic singles to hit the L.A. market in early 1966 was Can't Seem To Make You Mine. The song was also chosen to lead off the first Seeds album. Indeed, it could be argued that this was the song that first defined the "flower power" sound, predating the Seeds' biggest hit, Pushin' Too Hard, by several months.

Artist: Bob Dylan
Title: Rainy Day Women # 12 & 35
Source: CD: Bob Dylan's Greatest Hits
Writer: Bob Dylan
Label: Columbia
Year: 1966
Some of the best rock and roll songs of 1966 were banned on a number of stations for being about either sex or drugs. Most artists that recorded those songs claimed they were about something else altogether. In the case of Bob Dylan's Rainy Day Women # 12 & 35, "stoned" refers to a rather unpleasant form of execution (at least according to Dylan). On the other hand, Dylan himself was reportedly quite stoned while recording the song, having passed a few doobies around before starting the tape rolling. Sometimes I think ambiguities like this are why English has become the dominant language of commerce on the planet.

Artist: Jefferson Airplane
Title: And I Like It
Source: LP: Jefferson Airplane Takes Off
Writer: Balin/Kaukonen
Label: RCA Victor
Year: 1966
Jorma Kaukonen was giving guitar lessons when approached by Marty Balin to join a new band he was forming. Kaukonen said yes and became a founding member of Jefferson Airplane. The two seldom collaborated on songwriting, though. One of the few examples of a Balin/Kaukonen composition is And I Like It from the band's first album. The song sounds to me like what Hot Tuna would sound like but with Balin's vocals instead of Kaukonen's.

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