Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Stuck in the Psychedelic Era # 1203 (starts 1/19/12)

Artist: Bob Dylan
Title: Like A Rolling Stone
Source: CD: Highway 61 Revisited
Writer: Bob Dylan
Label: Columbia
Year: 1965
Bob Dylan incurred the wrath of folk purists when he decided to use electric instruments for his 1965 LP Highway 61 Revisited. The opening track on the album is the six-minute Like A Rolling Stone, a song that was also selected to be the first single released from the new album. After the single was pressed, the shirts at Columbia Records decided to cancel the release due to its length. An acetate copy of the record, however, made it to a local New York club, where, by audience request, the record was played over and over until it was worn out (acetate copies not being as durable as their vinyl counterparts). When Columbia started getting calls from local radio stations demanding copies of the song the next morning they decided to release the single after all. Like A Rolling Stone ended up going all the way to the number two spot on the US charts, doing quite well in several other countries as well. Personnel on this historic recording included guitarist Michael Bloomfield, pianist Paul Griffin, drummer Bobby Gregg, bassist Joe Madho, guitarist Charlie McCoy and tambourinist Bruce Langhorne. In addition, guitarist Al Kooper, who was on the scene as a guest of producer Tom Wilson, sat in on organ, ad-libbing a part that so impressed Dylan that he insisted it be given a prominent place in the final mixdown. This in turn led to Kooper permanently switching over to keyboards for the remainder of his career.

Artist: Lovin' Spoonful
Title: You Didn't Have To Be So Nice
Source: LP: The John Sebastian Songbook
Writer: John Sebastian
Label: Kama Sutra
Year: 1965
The second single released by the Lovin' Spoonful proved to be just as popular as their first one and helped establish the band as one of the premier acts of the folk-rock movement. Unlike the West Coast folk rock artists such as the Byrds and Barry McGuire, who focused on the socio-political issues of the day, John Sebastian tended to write happy songs with catchy melodies such as You Didn't Have To Be So Nice. As a result, the Lovin' Spoonful for a while rivaled the Beatles in popularity while still managing to maintain some street credit due mainly to their Greenwich Village roots.

Artist: Jimi Hendrix
Title: Hear My Train A Comin'
Source: CD: Blues
Writer: Jimi Hendrix
Label: Legacy
Year: 1967
Sometime in 1967 somebody gave Jimi Hendrix an acoustic 12-string guitar to play around with. As Hendrix generally had a tape recorder running when he was in the studio (just in case he came up with something on the spur of the moment he might want to return to later), he managed to capture this performance of a tune he was working on that wouldn't become an official song until a few years later. The presence of numerous tape dropouts suggests that this recording was simply a practice tape that luckily never got erased and reused.

Artist: John Fahey
Title: Dance Of Death
Source: LP: Zabriskie Point soundtrack
Writer: John Fahey
Label: 4 Men With Beards (original label: M-G-M)
Year: 1970
Although the movie Zabriskie Point has a reputation for being one of the worst films ever made, the soundtrack is another story altogether. Most of the attention has been paid to the Pink Floyd tracks on the album, however there are other gems as well, such as this instrumental piece by acoustic guitarist John Fahey. As far as I can tell Dance Of Death does not appear on any of Fahey's own LPs.

Artist: Kinks
Title: See My Friends
Source: LP: Kinkdom
Writer: Ray Davies
Label: Reprise
Year: 1965
Possibly the most psychedelic recording ever made by the Kinks, See My Friends was originally released as a single in the UK in 1965, making the top 10. Ray Davies has been heard to say the song is about the death of his older sister Rene, who had given him his first guitar for his 13th birthday shortly before her death from an undiagnosed hole in her heart. Like many of the Kinks' UK singles, See My Friends was not released as a single in the US, appearing instead on the US-only LP Kinkdom.

Artist: Eric Burdon And The Animals
Title: Anything
Source: CD: Best of Eric Burdon and the Animals (originally released on LP: Winds Of Change)
Writer: Burdon/Briggs/Weider/McCulloch/Jenkins
Label: Polydor (original label: M-G-M)
Year: 1967
The first album by the "new" Eric Burdon And The Animals, Winds Of Change, included three songs that were released as singles, however only one of the three got airplay in both the US and the UK. The US-only single was a song that Eric Burdon has since said was the one he was most proud of writing, a love generation song called Anything. In fact Burdon liked the song well enough to re-record it for a solo album in 1995.

Artist: Procol Harum
Title: A Christmas Camel
Source: CD: Procol Harum (US album title: A Whiter Shade Of Pale)
Writer: Brooker/Reid
Label: Salvo (original label: Deram)
Year: 1967
In 1966 Gary Brooker, former member of British cover band the Paramounts, formed a songwriting partnership with lyricist Keith Reid. By spring of 1967 the two had at least an album's worth of songs written but no band to play them. They solved the dilemma by placing an ad in Melody Maker and soon formed a group called the Pinewoods. Their very first record was A Whiter Shade Of Pale, which soon became the number one song on the British charts (after the Pinewoods changed their name to Procol Harum). The problem was that the group didn't know any other songs, a problem that was solved by firing the drummer and guitarist and replacing them with two of Brooker's former bandmates, B.J. Wilson and Robin Trower. This second version of the group soon recorded an LP, which included several strong tracks such as A Christmas Camel, making its Stuck in the Psychedelic Era debut this week.

Artist: Grateful Dead
Title: St. Stephen/The Eleven
Source: LP: Live Dead
Writer: Hunter/Garcia/Lesh
Label: Warner Brothers
Year: 1969
In 1969, after going way over budget on the LP Aoxomoxoa, the Grateful Dead decided to release a double-LP live album, essentially giving Warner Brothers three albums for the price of one. Unlike the studio LP, which attempted to combine live material with studio overdubs, Live Dead was a documentation of two nights' worth of recent performances at the Fillmore West. At the time the band pretty much stuck to the same setlist for each performance and the songs were generally played as one continuous piece in concert. For the album, the best performance of each song was chosen and then arranged in the same order that they had been performed. Side two picks up the first nights' performance of St. Stephen (which had also appeared on Aoxomoxoa) and continues into the second night's version of The Eleven, a performance that rock critic Robert Christian called at the time "the finest rock improvisation ever recorded." Within a couple years St. Stephen would be dropped from the band's setlist and a performance of the piece in the band's later decades was considered by fans to be a special treat.

Artist: Beatles
Title: Birthday/Yer Blues
Source: CD: The Beatles
Writer: Lennon/McCartney
Label: Parlophone (original label: Apple)
Year: 1968
One of the great ironies of rock history was that the album entitled simply The Beatles was the one that had the fewest songs with all four of the band members playing on them. By 1968 the Beatles were experiencing internal conflicts, and nearly all of John Lennon and Paul McCartney's songs were played by just the two of them, while George Harrison's songs (and Ringo Starr's single contribution as a songwriter) featured an array of some of the UK's top musicians (including guitarist Eric Clapton). The opening tracks of side three of the album are typical of this approach, as Birthday is essentially a McCartney solo piece. Yer Blues, on the other hand, has Lennon singing and playing guitar, with probably McCartney on bass and drums. The first performance of Yer Blues in front of a live audience was in December of 1968 as part of the Rolling Stones Rock And Roll Circus. It was not the Beatles however, that performed the tune. Instead, Yer Blues was played by the Dirty Mac, a jam band consisting of Lennon, Clapton, drummer Mitch Mitchell (of the Jimi Hendrix Experience), and the Stones' Keith Richards on bass. That performance was never seen, other than by the studio audience, until the entire Circus was released on DVD a few years ago (Mick Jagger reportedly had the entire project shelved due to his dissatisfaction with the Stones' performance).

Artist: Cream
Title: Sitting On Top Of The World
Source: LP: Wheels Of Fire
Writer: Chester Burnett
Label: Atco
Year: 1968
Throughout their existence British blues supergroup Cream recorded covers of blues classics. One of the best of these is Sitting On Top Of The World from the album Wheels Of Fire, which in its earliest form was written by Walter Vinson and Lonnie Chatmon and recorded by the Mississippi Shieks in 1930. Cream's cover uses the lyrics from the 1957 rewrite of the song by Chester Burnett, better know as Howlin' Wolf.

Artist: Monks
Title: Complication
Source: CD: Nuggets-Original Artyfacts from the Psychedelic Era (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer: Burger/Spangler/Havlicek/Johnston/Shaw
Label: Rhino (original label: Polydor)
Year: 1966
In 1964 a group of American GIs stationed in Germany decided to get together and form a rock band. After their respective tours of duty ended they decided to stay in the country and in 1966 recorded this single for Polydor. Knowing that a large segment of their audience had a rudimentary grasp of English at best, they deliberately crafted a tune that would be easy to comprehend with clear, almost chanted lyrics. To take the chanting concept a step further they all had square patches shaved off the top of their heads and dressed in brown robes. After thinking about it for a couple days I think I've finally figured out who these guys remind me of: early AC/DC, especially Von Scott's vocals. Compare this to Jailbreak. You'll hear what I mean.

Artist: Music Machine
Title: Discrepancy
Source: CD: Beyond The Garage (originally released on LP: Bonniwell Music Machine)
Writer: Sean Bonniwell
Label: Sundazed (original label: Warner Brothers)
Year: 1967
Last week I did a tribute to Sean Bonniwell of the Music Machine, who died from lung cancer on December 20th, 2011. I inadvertantly left out one song I really wanted to play, however. That song is Discrepancy, one of Bonniwell's most sophisticated efforts. The song actually features two simultaneous vocal lines. The main one, sung by Bonniwell (in the left channel) as a single melody line, tells the story of a deteriorating relationship. In the opposite channel we hear a breathy multi-part vocal line that tells the same story from the perspective of the subconscious. The two come together lyrically from time to time to express key concepts such as the line "now I know I'm losing you", only to once again diverge onto their separate tracks. The bridge serves to further unite the two divergent lines with the repeating plea to "tell me what to do". Discrepancy is one of the few tracks recorded by the original Music Machine lineup that was never released on Original Sound Records, either as an LP track or on a 45 RPM single. Instead, the song was included on the LP Bonniwell Music Machine, released by Warner Brothers in 1967.

Artist: Strawberry Alarm Clock
Title: Incense And Peppermints
Source: CD: Nuggets-Original Artyfacts from the Psychedelic Era (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer: Carter/Gilbert/Weitz/King
Label: Rhino (original label: Uni)
Year: 1967
Incense and Peppermints is one of the iconic songs of the psychedelic era, yet when it was originally released to Los Angeles area radio stations it was intended to be the B side of The Birdman of Alkatrash. Somewhere along the line a DJ flipped the record over and started playing Incense And Peppermints instead. The song caught on and Uni Records (short for Universal, which is now the world's largest record company) picked up the Strawberry Alarm Clock's contract and reissued the record nationally with Incense And Peppermints as the A side.

Artist: Jefferson Airplane
Title: Comin' Back To Me
Source: LP: Surrealistic Pillow
Writer: Marty Balin
Label: RCA Victor
Year: 1967
Uncredited guest guitarist Jerry Garcia adds a simple, but memorable recurring fill riff to this Marty Balin tune. Balin, in his 2003 liner notes to the remastered release of Surrealistic Pillow, claims that Comin' Back To Me was written in one sitting under the influence of some primo stuff given to him by Paul Butterfield. Other players on the recording include Balin and Paul Kantner on guitars, Jack Casady on bass and Grace Slick on recorder.

Artist: Yardbirds
Title: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor
Source: CD: Over, Under, Sideways, Down (originally released in US only as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer: Jim McCarty
Label: Raven (original label: Epic)
Year: 1967
By 1967 the Yardbirds had moved far away from the blues roots and were on their fourth lead guitarist, studio whiz Jimmy Page. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor shows signs of Page's innovative guitar style (such as using a violin bow) that would help define 70s rock with his next band, Led Zeppelin.

Artist: Tommy Boyce And Bobby Hart
Title: Words
Source: CD: Where The Action Is: L.A. Nuggets 1965-68
Writer: Boyce/Hart
Label: Rhino
Year: 1965
Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart were really hoping to be selected for the new band that Screen Gems/Columbia Pictures was putting together to star in a new weekly TV series. It didn't work out for them, but several of the songs they wrote appeared on the Monkees albums, including Words, heard here in its previously unreleased 1965 demo form.

Artist: Seeds
Title: Mr. Farmer
Source: LP: A Web Of Sound
Writer: Sky Saxon
Label: GNP Crescendo
Year: 1966
With two tracks (Can't Seem To Make You Mine and Pushin' Too Hard) from their first album getting decent airplay on L.A. radio stations in 1966 the Seeds headed back to the studio to record a second LP, A Web Of Sound. The first single released from the album was Mr. Farmer, a song that once again did well locally. The only national hit for the Seeds came when Pushin' Too Hard was re-released in December of 1966, hitting its national peak the following spring. Wait a sec...didn't I just say this last week?

Artist: Byrds
Title: It Happens Every Day
Source: CD: Younger Than Yesterday (bonus track)
Writer: David Crosby
Label: Columbia/Legacy
Year: 1967
The Byrds had a unique problem in early 1967: they were writing and recording more quality material than they could fit on an album. As a result some truly worthy songs like It Happens Every Day got left off Younger Than Yesterday. It's possible that the song would have been included on the next Byrds album, but with David Crosby no longer a member of the band by the time The Notorious Byrd Brothers came out, it was probably deemed inappropriate to include it there. Ironically, it was revealed years later that an uncredited Crosby did play on several tracks on the Notorious Byrd Brothers, despite having left the band before its release.

Artist: King Crimson
Title: The Court Of The Crimson King
Source: LP: In The Court Of The Crimson King
Writer: MacDonald/Sinfield
Label: Atlantic
Year: 1969
Perhaps the most influential progressive rock album of all time was King Crimson's debut LP, In The Court Of The Crimson King. The band, in its original incarnation, included Robert Fripp on guitar, Ian MacDonald on keyboards and woodwinds, Greg Lake on vocals and bass, David Giles on drums and Peter Sinfield as a dedicated lyricist. The title track, which takes up the second half of side two of the LP, features music composed by MacDonald, who would leave the group after their second album, later resurfacing as a founding member of Foreigner. The album's distinctive cover art (posted on the Stuck in the Psychedelic Era Facebook page) came from a painting by computer programmer Barry Godber, who died of a heart attack less than a year after the album was released. According to Fripp, the artwork on the inside is a portrait of the Crimson King, whose manic smile is in direct contrast to his sad eyes. The album, song and artwork were the inspiration for Stephen King's own Crimson King, the insane antagonist of his Dark Tower saga who is out to destroy all of reality, including our own.

Artist: Spirit
Title: Nature's Way
Source: CD: Best Of Spirit (originally released on LP: Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus)
Writer: Randy California
Label: Epic
Year: 1970
Nature's Way is one of the best-known and best-loved songs in the Spirit catalog. Originally released on the 1970 LP The Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus, the song was finally issued as a single in 1973, long after lead vocalist Jay Ferguson and bassist Mark Andes had left the band. The single mix is a bit different from the album version, particularly at the end of the song, which originally ended with a tympani roll by drummer Ed Cassidy. The single version ends with the chord immediately preceding that roll.

Artist: Spirit
Title: Elijah
Source: CD: Spirit
Writer: John Locke
Label: Ode/Epic/Legacy
Year: 1968
Since the mid-1960s many bands have had one long piece that they play in concert that is specifically designed to allow individual band members to strut their stuff. In a few cases, such as Iron Butterfly's In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida or Lynnard Skynnard's Freebird, it becomes their best-known song. In most cases, though, a studio version of the piece gets put on an early album and never gets heard on the radio. Such is the case with Spirit's show-stopper Elijah, which was reportedly never played the same way twice. Elijah, written by keyboardist John Locke, starts with a hard-rockin' main theme that is followed by a jazzier second theme that showcases one of the lead instruments (guitar, keyboards). The piece then comes to a dead stop while one of the members has a solo section of their own devising. This is followed by the main theme, repeating several times until every member has had their own solo section. The piece ends with a return to the main theme followed by a classic power rock ending.

Artist: Spirit
Title: Animal Zoo
Source: CD: Best Of Spirit
Writer: Jay Ferguson
Label: Epic
Year: 1970
The last album by the original lineup of Spirit was The Twelve Dreams Of Dr. Sardonicus, released in 1970. The album was originally going to be produced by Neil Young, but due to other commitments Young had to bow out, recommending David Briggs, who had already produced Young's first album with Crazy Horse, as a replacement. The first song to be released as a single was Animal Zoo, but the tune barely cracked the top 100 charts. The album itself did better on progressive FM stations and has since come to be regarded as a classic. Shortly after the release of Twelve Dreams, Jay Ferguson and Mark Andes left Spirit to form Jo Jo Gunne.

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