Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Stuck in the Psychedelic Era # 1239 (starts 9/27/12)

    Just a reminder. Mono and fake stereo LP and CD sources are noted as such. All others are stereo. 45s, on the other hand, were nearly all mono, so from now on I'll only be noting when they are in stereo (such as this week's opening track).

Artist:    Rolling Stones
Title:    Mother's Little Helper
Source:    45 RPM single (stereo reissue)
Writer(s):    Jagger/Richards
Label:    London
Year:    1966
    By 1966 the Rolling Stones had already had a few brushes with the law over their use of illegal drugs. Mother's Little Helper, released in Spring of '66, is a scathing criticism of the abuse of "legal" prescription drugs by the parents of the Stones' fans. Perhaps more than any other song of the time, Mother's Little Helper illustrates the increasingly hostile generation gap that had sprung up between the young baby boomers and the previous generation.

Artist:    Merrell And The Exiles (aka Fapardokly)
Title:    Tomorrow's Girl
Source:    Mono CD: Where The Action Is: L.A. Nuggets 1965-68 (originally released on 45 RPM vinyl and included on LP: Fapardokly)
Writer(s):    Merrell Fankhauser
Label:    Rhino (original label: Glenn; LP issued on UIP)
Year:    1967
    Merrell Fankhauser was a fixture on the L.A. music scene, fronting several bands throughout the 60s ranging in styles from surf to psychedelic, depending on what was in vogue at the time. For most of 1966 and 67 he led a group called Merrell and the Exiles (or Xiles), while holding down a somewhat more mundane day job between gigs. The last single by the Exiles was Tomorrow's Girl, originally released in 1967 on the tiny Glenn label and included on Fankhauser's Fapardokly album on UIP records later that same year.

Artist:    Harumi
Title:    Talk About It
Source:    Mono LP: Harumi
Writer(s):    Harumi
Label:    Verve Forecast
Year:    1968
    When it comes to obscurity, the album Harumi scores on multiple fronts. Virtually nothing is known about this Japanese-born artist other than the fact that sometime in the mid-60s he relocated to New York and managed to get a contract with Verve Forecast records, where he recorded this self-titled double LP with producer Tom Wilson. As to the music itself, it is perhaps best described by reviewer Thom Jurek of Allmusic.com: "there is nothing at all like this record in the known universe." Possibly the most conventional-sounding track on the album is Talk About It, which opens side one.

Artist:    Country Joe And The Fish
Title:    Section 43
Source:    Mono CD: Love Is The Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-70 (originally released on EP: Rag Baby #2)
Writer(s):    Joe McDonald
Label:    Rhino
Year:    1966
    Rag Baby was an underground journal published by Country Joe McDonald in mid-60s Berkeley, California. In 1965 McDonald decided to do a "talking issue" of the paper with an extended play (EP) record    containing two songs by McDonald's band, Country Joe and the Fish and two by singer Peter Krug. In 1966 McDonald published a second Rag Baby EP, this time featuring four songs by Country Joe and the Fish. Among those was the original version of Section 43, a psychedelic instrumental that would appear in a re-recorded (and slightly changed) stereo form on the band's first LP, Electric Music For The Mind And Body, in early 1967.

Artist:    Donovan
Title:    Sunny South Kensington
Source:    Mono LP: Mellow Yellow
Writer(s):    Donovan Leitch
Label:    Epic
Year:    1967
    Donovan followed up his 1966 hit single Sunshine Superman with an album of the same name. He then repeated himself with the song and album Mellow Yellow. Although there were no other singles released from either album, the song Sunny South Kensington, which was done in much the same style as Superman, was a highlight of the Mellow Yellow album. Due to a contractual dispute in the UK between Donovan and Pye Records, neither LP was issued in its original form in Britain.

Artist:    Steppenwolf
Title:    Hoochie Coochie Man
Source:    CD: Steppenwolf
Writer(s):    Willie Dixon
Label:    MCA (original label: Dunhill)
Year:    1968
    A major driving force behind the renewed interest in the blues in the 1960s was the updating and re-recording of classic blues tunes by contempory rock musicians. This trend started in England, with bands like the Yardbirds and the Animals in the early part of the decade. By the end of the 60s a growing number of US bands were playing songs such as Hoochie Coochie Man, a song originally recorded by Muddy Waters in 1954. Like Cream's Spoonful and Led Zeppelin's You Shook Me, Hoochie Coochie Man was written by Willie Dixon. The 1968 Steppenwolf version of the song slows the tempo down a touch from the original version and features exquisite sustained guitar work by Michael Monarch.

Artist:    Jefferson Airplane
Title:    Come Up The Years
Source:    Mono LP: Jefferson Airplane Takes Off
Writer(s):    Balin/Kantner
Label:    RCA Victor
Year:    1966
    One of the most overused motifs in pop music is the "You're too young for me" song. This probably reflects, to a certain degree, a lifestyle that goes back to the beginnings of rock and roll (Chuck Berry did jail time for transporting a minor across state lines, Jerry Lee Lewis saw his career get derailed by his marraige to his 13-year-old cousin, etc.). The Marty Balin/Paul Kantner tune Come Up The Years takes a more sophisticated look at the subject, although it still comes to the same conclusion (I can't do this because you're jailbait). In fact, the only rock songwriter I know of that came to any other conclusion on the matter was Bob Markley, and that's what ultimately got him in trouble with the law.

Artist:    Jefferson Airplane
Title:    A Song For All Seasons
Source:    CD: Volunteers
Writer(s):    Spencer Dryden
Label:    BMG/RCA
Year:    1969
    When it comes to Jefferson Airplane rarities, there is nothing more rare than a Spencer Dryden composition. In fact, to my knowledge, A Song For All Seasons is the only one that he is given sole credit for. The song itself is a bit of a novelty, sounding like it would be more at home on a Rolling Stones (Let It Bleed era) album than an Airplane one, which is even odder when one considers Dryden's jazz background.

Artist:    Jefferson Airplane
Title:    Run Around
Source:    Mono LP: Jefferson Airplane Takes Off
Writer(s):    Balin/Kantner
Label:    RCA Victor
Year:    1966
    The first Jefferson Airplane album was dominated by the songwriting of the band's founder, Marty Balin, both as a solo writer and as a collaborator with other band members. Run Around, from Balin and rhythm guitarist Paul Kantner is fairly typical of the early Jefferson Airplane sound.

Artist:    Doors
Title:    Take It As It Comes
Source:    LP: The Doors
Writer(s):    The Doors
Label:    Elektra
Year:    1967
    L.A.'s Whisky-A-Go-Go was the place to be in 1966. Not only were some of the city's hottest bands playing there, but for a while the house band was none other than the Doors, playing songs like Take It As It Comes. One evening in early August Jack Holzman, president of Elektra Records, and producer Paul Rothchild were among those attending the club, having been invited there to hear the Doors by Arthur Lee (who with his band Love was already recording for Elektra). After hearing two sets Holzman signed the group to a contract with the label, making the Doors only the second rock band on the Elektra label (although the Butterfield Blues Band is considered by some to be the first, predating Love by several months). By the end of the month the Doors were in the studio recording songs like Take It As It Comes for their debut LP, which was released in January of 1967.

Artist:    Teddy And His Patches
Title:    Suzy Creamcheese
Source:    Mono CD: Love Is The Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-70 (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Dave Conway
Label:    Rhino (original label: Chance)
Year:    1967
    Teddy And His Patches were a group of high school students who heard the phrase "Suzy Creamcheese, what's got into you" from a fellow San Jose, California resident and decided to make a song out of it. Reportedly none of the band members had ever heard the Mothers Of Invention album Freak Out, where the phrase had originated. Nonetheless, they managed to turn out a piece of inspired madness worthy of Frank Zappa himself.

Artist:    Chambers Brothers
Title:    Time Has Come Today
Source:    CD: The Best Of 60s Psychedelic Rock (originally released on LP: The Time Has Come)
Writer(s):    Joe and Willie Chambers
Label:    Priority (original label: Columbia)
Year:    LP released 1967, single edit released 1968
    Time Has Come Today has one of the most complex histories of any song of the psychedelic era. First recorded in 1966 and released as a two-and-a-half minute single the song flopped. The following year an entirely new eleven minute version of the song was recorded for the album The Time Has Come, featuring an extended pyschedelic section filled with various studio effects. In late 1967 a three minute edited version of the song was released that left out virtually the entire psychedelic section of the recording. Soon after that, the single was pulled from the shelf and replaced by a longer edited version that included part of the psychedelic section. That version became a hit record in 1968, peaking just outside the top 10. This is actually a stereo recreation of that mono second edited version.
Artist:    Pink Floyd
Title:    See Emily Play
Source:    Fake stereo CD: Works (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Syd Barrett
Label:    Capitol (original label: Tower)
Year:    1967
    Following up on their first single, Arnold Layne, Pink Floyd found even greater chart success (at least in their native England) with See Emily Play. Released in June of 1967, the song went all the way to the #6 spot on the British charts. In the US the song failed to chart as a single, although it was included on Pink Floyd's first US LP. The "Emily" in question is reportedly the sculptor Emily Young, who in those days was nicknamed the "psychedelic schoolgirl" at London's famed UFO club.

Artist:    Pink Floyd
Title:    Several Species Of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together In A Cave And Grooving With A Pict
Source:    CD: Works (originally released on LP: Ummagumma)
Writer(s):    Roger Waters
Label:    Capitol (original label: Harvest)
Year:    1969
    In 1971 I was in a band called Sunn that played mostly in theaters in western Oklahoma and the Texas panhandle . To get the crowd in the right mood for our performance we would play a tape loop of Pink Floyd's Several Species Of Small Furry Animals Gathered Together In A Cave And Grooving With A Pict through the band's PA system while people were getting seated. We figured most everyone in the audience had not yet heard of Pink Floyd, since there were no progressive rock FM stations in that part of the country (and damned few AM stations playing anything but country for that matter). Composer Roger Waters later said of the piece: "It's not actually anything, it's a bit of concrete poetry. Those were sounds that I made, the voice and the hand slapping were all human generated - no musical instruments."
Artist:    Beatles
Title:    Drive My Car
Source:    CD: Rubber Soul
Writer(s):    Lennon/McCartney
Label:    Parlophone (original label: Capitol)
Year:    1965
    Capitol Records repeatedly got the ire of the Beatles by omitting, adding and rearranging songs on the US versions of their albums, especially in 1966, when the band was starting to put considerable time and effort into presenting the songs as a coherent package. At the root of the problem were two facts: albums in the UK had longer running times than US albums, and thus more songs, and UK singles stayed in print longer than their US counterparts and were generally not included on albums at all. This resulted in albums like Yesterday and Today that didn't even have a British counterpart. Drive My Car, for example, was released in the US in 1966 on the Yesterday...And Today LP. It had appeared six months earlier in the UK as the opening track of the Rubber Soul album. Oddly enough, despite being one of the group's most recognizable songs, Drive My Car was never issued as a single.

Artist:    Blues Project
Title:    Fly Away
Source:    LP: Projections
Writer(s):    Al Kooper
Label:    Verve Forecast
Year:    1966
    The Blues Project has a permanent place in rock history, both for pioneering the idea of touring coast to coast playing college venues and as the first jam band. Still, they were never able to break into top 40 radio at a time when a top 40 hit was considered essential to a band's commercial success. Keyboardist Al Kooper, on the other hand, was no stranger to hit records, having co-written This Diamond Ring, a song that became the first number one hit for Gary Lewis and the Playboys (although Kooper himself hated their arrangement of the song) in 1965. One of Kooper's attempts at writing a hit song for the Blues Project was Fly Away, included on their second LP, Projections.

Artist:    Blues Project
Title:    Little Rain
Source:    CD: Anthology (originally released on LP: Blues Project)
Writer(s):    Reed/Abner
Label:    Polydor (original label: Capitol)
Year:    1972
    In 1971 former Blues Project guitarist Danny Kalb and Roy Blumenfeld, along with bassist Don Kretmar recorded an album called Lazarus, credited to the Blues Project. The following year the three added David Cohen (of Country Joe and the Fish) on piano and Bill Lussenden on second guitar to record a self-titled final Blues Project LP. Original lead vocalist Tommy Flanders was also a member of this version of the band, although Danny Kalb handled the lead vocals on a couple of tracks, including the old Jimmy Reed tune Little Rain.

Artist:    Blues Project
Title:    Two Trains Running
Source:    LP: Projections
Writer(s):    McKinley Morganfield
Label:    Verve Forecast
Year:    1966
     Possibly the most influential (yet least known outside of musicians' circles) band of the Psychedelic Era was the Blues Project. Formed in 1965 in Greenwich Village, the band worked its way from coast to coast playing mostly college campuses, in the process blazing a path that continues to be followed by underground/progressive/alternative artists. As if founding the whole college circuit wasn't enough, they were arguably the very first jam band, as their version of the Muddy Waters classic Two Trains Running shows. Among those drawing their inspiration from the Blues Project were the Warlocks, a group of young musicians who were traveling with Ken Kesey on the Electric Cool-Aid Acid Test tour bus. The Warlocks would soon change their name to the Grateful Dead and take the jam band concept to a whole new level.

Artist:    Mothers Of Invention
Title:    We're Only In It For The Money-side one
Source:    CD: We're Only In It For The Money
Writer(s):    Frank Zappa
Label:    Ryko (original label: Verve)
Year:    1968
    The first Mothers album, Freak Out, had one side (of four) dedicated to a single concept. The second album, Absolutely Free, was essentially two concept sides, each with its own subtitle. The process was taken to its inevitable conclusion with the third album, in which both sides tie into the same concept. The album itself satirizes both the hippy movement (or more precisely what it had become by 1968) and the mainstream culture of the time. Following a short audio collage (Are You Hung Up?) tht includes recording engineer Gary Kellgren whispering messages to composer/bandleader Frank Zappa, the album segues into Who Needs The Peace Corps, a scathing indictment of "phony hippies" who looked and acted the part without having any real understanding of the actual socia-political stance of the hippy movement. This leads to Concentration Moon, sung from the point of view of a young person interned in a concentration camp for hippies. The next track, Mom & Dad, tells the story of kids being killed by police while demonstrating in the park, with a punch line that reminds the older generation that all those kids that "looked to weird" were in fact their own children. Bow Tie Daddy pokes fun at the stereotype of the American male, while Harry, You're A Beast takes a shot an American womanhood and American sexuality in general. This in turn leads to the question: What's The Ugliest Part Of Your Body ("I think it's your mind). Absolutely Free takes the drug culture head-on, while Hey Punk sends up the entire San Francisco scene. The first side of the album ends with the voice of recording engineer Gary Kellgren once again whispering messages to Zappa followed by a backwards tape of a verse that the record company insisted be cut out of one of the songs on side two of the album. As to which song, I'll save that for whenever I play side two of the album again.

Artist:    McKendree Spring
Title:    I Can't Make It Anymore
Source:    LP: McKendree Spring
Writer(s):    McKendree Spring
Label:    Decca
Year:    1969
    From Glens Falls, NY, McKendree Spring was one of the last folk-rock groups to begin their recording career, and (to my knowledge) the only one to use synthesizers. The band, consisting of Fran McKendree (vocals and guitar), Fred Holman (bass), Dr. Michael Dreyfuss (electric violin, viola, Moog, Arp), and Martin Slutsky (electric guitar) kept recording steadily through 1976, and reunited for an album of new material in 2007. I Can't Make It Anymore is from their somewhat rare first album, released in 1969.

Artist:     Buffalo Springfield
Title:     Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing
Source:     Mono CD: Retrospective (originally released as 45 RPM single and on LP: Buffalo Springfield)
Writer(s):    Neil Young
Label:    Atco
Year:     1966
     One of the most influential folk-rock bands to come out of the L.A. scene was Buffalo Springfield. The band had several quality songwriters, including Neil Young, whose voice was deemed "too weird" by certain record company people. Thus we have Richie Furay singing a Young tune on the band's first single, Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing.

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