Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Stuck in the Psychedelic Era # 1213 (starts 3/29/12)

Artist: First Edition
Title: Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)
Source: LP: Nuggets Vol. 9-Acid Rock (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Mickey Newbury
Label: Rhino (original label: Reprise)
Year: 1968
In 1968, former New Christy Mistrels members Kenny Rogers and Mickey Newbury decided to form a psychedelic rock band, the First Edition. Although Newbury wrote most of the songs on the first album, it was Rogers who would emerge as the star of the band, even to the point of eventually changing the band's name to Kenny Rogers and the First Edition. That change reflected a shift from psychedelic to country flavored pop that would eventually propel Rogers to superstar status.

Artist: Chocolate Watchband
Title: Medication
Source: CD: The Inner Mystique
Writer(s): Alton/Ditosti
Label: Sundazed (original label: Tower)
Year: 1968
By early 1968 the Chocolate Watchband had fallen on hard times. In fact, the original group had disbanded, only to reform at the behest of Tower Records and producer Ed Cobb, who wanted to put out a second Watchband LP. In short order a new group featuring mostly former members of the Watchband was formed. Cobb, however, did not have the time to wait for the new lineup to gel and got to work on the album without them. In fact, the entire first side of The Inner Mystique was performed by studio musicians. Additionally, Cobb pulled out unreleased tapes from the archive to help fill out the album, including the original band's cover of a Standells tune called Medication. Like their earlier track Let's Talk About Girls, Medication features studio vocalist Don Bennett rather than regular lead vocalist Dave Aguilar. It's not known for sure why the substitution was made, unless perhaps Cobb was feeling pressure from the rock press, which had dismissed Aguilar as a Mick Jagger wannabe.

Artist: Jethro Tull
Title: Serenade To A Cuckoo
Source: LP: This Was
Writer(s): Roland Kirk
Label: Chrysalis (original label: Reprise)
Year: 1968
Jethro Tull did not, as a general rule, record cover tunes. The most notable exception is Roland Kirk's classic jazz piece Serenade To A Cuckoo, which was included on their first LP, This Was.

Artist: Romancers (aka the Smoke Rings)
Title: Love's The Thing
Source: CD: Where The Action Is: L.A. Nuggets 1965-68 (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Max & Bob Uballez
Label: Rhino (original label: Linda)
Year: 1965
Released three times on three labels under two different band names. Such was the studio scene in East L.A. in the mid-60s. Max Uballez, leader of the Romancers and East L.A.'s answer to Phil Spector, was the driving force behind this tune.

Artist: McCoys
Title: Hang On Sloopy
Source: CD: Billboard Top Rock 'N' Roll Hits-1965 (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Farrell/Russell
Label: Rhino (original label: Bang)
Year: 1965
The McCoys were a fairly typical Eastern Ohio band of the mid-60s, playing parties, teen clubs, high school dances and occassionally opening for out of town acts. In 1965 the McCoys opened for the Strangeloves, who were on the road promoting their hit single I Want Candy (of course, the Strangeloves were in reality a trio of professional songwriters who had come up with a rather unusual gimmick: they passed themselves off as sons of an Australian sheepherder). The members of the Strangeloves were so impressed with the McCoys, particularly vocalist/guitarist Rick Derringer, that they offered them the song that was slated to be the follow-up to I Want Candy: a song called Hang On Sloopy. The instrumental tracks for the song had already been recorded, so the only member of the McCoys to actually appear on the record is Derringer. Hang On Sloopy went all the way to the top of the charts, becoming one of the top 10 singles of the year and providing a stellar debut for Derringer, who went on to hook up with the Edgar Winter Group before embarking on a successful solo career.

Artist: Spencer Davis Group
Title: I'm A Man
Source: LP: Progressive Heavies (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Miller/Winwood
Label: United Artists
Year: 1967
The Spencer Davis Group, featuring Steve and Muff Winwood, was one of the UK's most successful white R&B bands of the sixties, cranking out a steady stream of hit singles. Two of them, the iconic Gimme Some Lovin' and I'm A Man, were also major hits in the US, the latter being the last song to feature the Winwood brothers. Muff Winwood became a successful record producer. The group itself continued on for several years, but were never able to duplicate their earlier successes. As for Steve Winwood, he quickly faded off into obscurity, never to be heard from again. Except as the leader of Traffic. And a member of Blind Faith. And Traffic again. And some critically-acclaimed collaborations in the early 1980s with various Asian musicians. Oh yeah, and a few obscure solo hits (While You See A Chance, Roll With It, Higher Love, etc.) in the late 80s. Other than that, nothing.

Artist: Buffalo Springfield
Title: Rock And Roll Woman
Source: LP: Buffalo Springfield Again
Writer(s): Stephen Stills
Label: Atco
Year: 1967
Buffalo Springfield did not sell huge numbers of records (except for the single For What It's Worth). Nor did they pack in the crowds. As a matter of fact, when they played the club across the street from where Love was playing, they barely had any audience at all. Artistically, though, it's a whole 'nother story. During their brief existence Buffalo Springfield launched the careers of no less than four major artists: Richie Furay, Jim Messina, Stephen Stills and Neil Young. They also recorded more than their share of tracks that have held up better than most of what else was being recorded at the time. Case in point: Rock and Roll Woman, a Stephen Stills tune that still sounds fresh well over 40 years after it was recorded.

Artist: Uriah Heep
Title: I'll Keep On Trying
Source: LP:Uriah Heep
Writer(s): Box/Byron
Label: Mercury
Year: 1970
The term "heavy metal" had not come into common usage in 1970. If it had, Uriah Heep's debut LP would have been hailed as an early example. Although their later albums, particularly Demons And Wizards and the Magician's Birthday, would take a more progressive turn and deal with fantasy themes, Uriah Heep's first LP was much more straight ahead hard rock. The album was originally released in the UK with the title Very 'eavy...Very 'umble and featured a picture of lead vocalist David Byron partially obscured by cobwebs. The US release of the LP was entitled simply Uriah Heep and had a silver dragon on a black background. With one exception the song lineup was the same for both albums. I'll Keep On Trying, a song written by Byron and guitarist Mick Box, was included on both versions. You can check out both album covers at the Stuck in the Psychedelic Era Facebook page.

Artist: Jimi Hendrix
Title: Bleeding Heart
Source: CD: South Saturn Delta
Writer(s): Jimi Hendrix
Label: MCA
Year: 1970
Right from the start, the Jimi Hendrix Experience included several cover tunes in their live sets, including sped up versions of blues classics such as Rock Me Baby and Killing Floor. Often these songs would eventually get new lyrics and end up being credited to Hendrix as the sole songwriter. One such case is Bleeding Heart, which started off as Killing Floor.

Artist: Doors
Title: Roadhouse Blues
Source: Best Of The Doors (originally released on LP: Morrison Hotel)
Writer(s): The Doors
Label: Elektra
Year: 1970
After getting less than favorable reviews for their fourth LP, The Soft Parade, the Doors decided to go back to their roots for 1970s Morrison Hotel. One of the many bluesier tunes on the album was Roadhouse Blues, a song that soon became a staple of the group's live performances.

Artist: John Mayall
Title: Blues From Laurel Canyon (side two-excerpt)
Source: LP: Blues From Laurel Canyon
Writer(s): John Mayall
Label: London
Year: 1968
The first release following the breakup of the Bluesbreakers, this album featured a 19-year-old Mick Taylor on guitar. The album itself is autobiographical, documenting Mayall's LA vacation in the summer of '68. The Bear that was "rolling in the shade" was Robert Hite, lead vocalist and harp player for Canned Heat. The "strange, elusive Miss James" was reportedly the famous groupie Catherine James. Other references to people and places are presumably just as real.

Artist: Quicksilver Messenger Service
Title: Who Do You Love
Source: CD: Love Is The Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-70 (originally released on CD: Quicksilver: Lost Gold And Silver)
Writer(s): Elias McDaniel
Label: Rhino (original label: Collector's Choice)
Year: Recorded 1966, released 1999
The classic San Francisco music scene (c 1966) had at its core three popular local bands: Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service. Although none of these bands were at their artistic peak, they did epitomize the spirit of the city's counter-culture and the Haight-Ashbury district in particular. The Airplane was the first to experience national success, thanks to a membership shuffle in late 1966 that brought Grace Slick and Spencer Dryden into the group. The Dead followed in 1967, leaving only Quicksilver without a record contract as late as 1968. By the time they did sign their deal to Capitol, Quicksilver had already had its own share of personnel changes, including the departure of original lead vocalist Jim Murray. In fact, the only QMS recording I know of with Murray at the helm is this 1966 demo of the Bo Diddley classic Who Do You Love, featuring an extended jam that was typical of the band in its early days.

Artist: Ultimate Spinach
Title: Dove In Hawk's Clothing
Source: LP: Ultimate Spinach
Writer(s): Ian Bruce-Douglas
Label: M-G-M
Year: 1967
One of the criticisms of Ultimate Spinach (and the whole overly-hyped "Boss-Town Sound") was that the band tried too hard to sound like West Coast psychedelic bands such as Country Joe And The Fish. A listen to Dove In Hawk's Clothing, an anti-draft piece that played on the popular hawk and dove stereotypes of the time, shows that such criticism did indeed have some validity to it. Still, in retrospect the song has a certain dated charm to it, thanks to the songwriting talents of Ian Bruce-Douglas.

Artist: Pink Floyd
Title: Take Up Thy Stethescope And Walk
Source: CD: The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn
Writer(s): Roger Waters
Label: Capitol (original label: Tower)
Year: 1967
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: Beatles
Title: Nowhere Man
Source: CD: Rubber Soul (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Lennon/McCartney
Label: Parlophone (original label: Capitol)
Year: 1965
The original UK version of Rubber Soul, released in December 1965, had several songs that were left off the shorter US version. In the case of Nowhere Man, it was because Capitol Records decided to hold back the song for release as a single in early 1966. Although Nowhere Man was one of the most popular songs of the year in the US, the song was never released as a single in the UK.

Artist: Simon and Garfunkel
Title: The Big Bright Pleasure Machine
Source: CD: Collected Works (originally released on LP: Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme)
Writer(s): Paul Simon
Label: Columbia
Year: 1966
After the surprise success of the Sound Of Silence single, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, who had disbanded their partnership after the seeming failure of their Wednesday Morning 3 AM album in 1964, hastily reunited to record a new album of electrified versions of songs written by Simon, many of which had appeared on his 1965 solo LP the Paul Simon Songbook. With their newfound success, the duo set about recording an album's worth of new material. This time around, however, Simon had the time (and knowledge of what was working for the duo) to compose songs that would play to both the strengths of himself and Garfunkel as vocalists, as well as take advantage of the additional instrumentation available to him. The result was Parsley, Sage, Rosemary And Thyme, featuring tracks such as The Big Bright Pleasure Machine, an energetic piece that effectively combines folk and rock with intelligent lyrics.

Artist: Rolling Stones
Title: Who's Been Sleeping Here
Source: LP: Between The Buttons
Writer(s): Jagger/Richards
Label: London
Year: 1967
Between The Buttons, released in early 1967, shows the Rolling Stones beginning to experiment with a more psychedelic sound than on previous albums. Brian Jones, in particular, took up several new instruments, including the sitar, heard prominently on the track Who's Been Sleeping Here. The next LP, Their Satanic Majesties Request, would take the group even further into psychedelic territory, prompting a back to basics approach the following year.

Artist: Steppenwolf
Title: Born To Be Wild
Source: CD: Easy Rider Soundtrack (originally released on LP: Steppenwolf)
Writer(s): Mars Bonfire
Label: MCA (original label: Dunhill)
Year: 1968
Born To Be Wild's status as a counter-cultural anthem was cemented when it was chosen for the soundtrack of the movie Easy Rider. The popularity of both the song and the movie resulted in Steppenwolf becoming the all-time favorite band of bikers all over the world.

Artist: Blues Project
Title: You Can't Catch Me
Source: LP: Projections
Writer(s): Chuck Berry
Label: Verve Forecast
Year: 1966
One of the reasons for Chuck Berry's enduring popularity throughout the 1960s (despite a lack of major hits during the decade) was the fact that so many bands covered his 50s hits, often updating them for a 60s audience. Although not as well-known as Roll Over Beethoven or Johnny B. Goode, You Can't Catch Me nonetheless got its fair share of coverage, including versions by the Rolling Stones and the Blues Project (as well as providing John Lennon an opening line for the song Come Together).

Artist: West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band
Title: Help, I'm A Rock (single mix)
Source: CD: Part One (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Frank Zappa
Label: Sundazed (original label: Reprise)
Year: 1967
Ya gotta hand it to these guys. It takes cojones to record a cover of a Frank Zappa tune, especially within a year of the original Mothers of Invention version coming out. To top it off, the W.C.P.A.E.B. even released Help, I'm A Rock as a single.

Artist: Big Brother And The Holding Company
Title: Down On Me
Source: Live At The Carousel Ballroom-1968
Writer(s): trad., arr. Joplin
Label: Columbia/Legacy
Year: Recorded 1968, released 2012
The first single by Big Brother And The Holding Company, Down On Me, barely missed making the top 40 charts when it was released in 1967, peaking at # 42. As can be heard on their Live At The Carousel Ballroom-1968 CD, recorded directly off the sound board by Owsley "Bear" Stanley, their performance of the old song from the 1930s only got better with time.

Artist: Leaves
Title: Hey Joe
Source: LP: Nuggets Vol. 1-The Hits (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Billy Roberts
Label: Rhino (original label: Mira)
Year: 1966
The origins of the song Hey Joe are surrounded in mystery. Various writers have been given credit for the tune, including Chet Powers, aka Dino Valenti, who wrote Get Together, but David Crosby claimed the song was actually an old folk tune dating back to the 19th century that he himself had popularized as a member of the Byrds before the Leaves got ahold of it. Regardless of where the song came from, the Leaves version was the first to be released as a single and is generally considered the definitive fast version of the song. In Britain it was the slower version favored by the Jimi Hendrix Experience that became a hit, using an arrangement pioneered by songwriter Tim Rose and the Music Machine's Sean Bonniwell.

Artist: Monkees
Title: Daily Nightly
Source: CD: Where The Action Is: L.A. Nuggets 1965-68 (originally released on LP: Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones, LTD.)
Writer(s): Michael Nesmith
Label: Rhino
Year: 1967
One of the first rock songs to feature a Moog synthesizer was the Monkees' Daily Nightly from the album Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones LTD. Micky Dolenz, who had a reputation for nailing it on the first take but being unable to duplicate his success in subsequent attempts, was at the controls of the new technology for this recording of Michael Nesmith's most psychedelic song (he also sang lead on it). The Moog itself had been programmed by Paul Beaver especially for this recording.

Artist: Procol Harum
Title: Quite Rightly So
Source: LP: Shine On Brightly
Writer(s): Brooker/Reid
Label: A&M
Year: 1968
In 1969, while living on Ramstein AFB in Germany, my dad managed to get use of one of the basement storage rooms in building 913, the 18-unit apartment building we resided in. For a few months (until getting in trouble for having overnight guests and making too much noise...hey I was 16, whaddaya expect?) I got to use that room as a bedroom. I had a small record player that shut itself off when it got to the end of the record, which meant I got to go to sleep every night to the album of my choice. As often as not that album was Shine On Brightly, a copy of which I had gotten in trade for another album (the Best of the Beach Boys I think) from a guy who was expecting A Whiter Shade of Pale and was disappointed to discover it was not on this album. I always thought I got the better end of that deal, despite the fact that there was a skip during the fade of Quite Rightly So, causing the words "one was me" to repeat over and over until I scooted the needle over a bit. Luckily Quite Rightly So is the first song on the album, so I was usually still awake to do that.

Artist: Sagittarius
Title: My World Fell Down
Source: CD: Nuggets-Original Artyfacts From The First Psychedelic Era (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Shakespeare/Stephens
Label: Rhino (original label: Columbia)
Year: 1967
The Beach Boys' 1966 masterpiece Good Vibrations sent shock waves reverberating throughout the L.A. studio scene. Among those inspired by Brian Wilson's achievement were Wilson's former collaborator Gary Usher, who formed the studio band Sagittarius to record My World Fell Down in 1967. Among those participating in the project were Glen Campbell, who was the first person to take Wilson's place onstage when Wilson retired from performing to concentrate on his songwriting and record producing; Bruce Johnston, who succeeded Campbell and remains the group's bassist to this day; and Terry Melcher, best known as the producer who helped make Paul Revere and the Raiders a household name in 1965 (he was sometimes referred to as the "fifth Raider"). The rhythm section consisted of two of the top studio musicians in pop music history: bassist Carol Kaye and drummer Hal Blaine. With Campbell on lead vocals, Sagittarius was a critical and commercial success that nonetheless did not last past their first LP (possibly due to the sheer amount of ego in the group).

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