Monday, December 31, 2012

Stuck in the Psychedelic Era # 1252 (looking back at 2012)

    Now that you've had the chance to hear the special year-end edition of Stuck in the Psychedelic Era, with its countdown of the year's most played artists (and many of the year's most played songs as well), I'm revealing the playlist after the fact, along with some extra information. Nice of me, eh?

Artist:    Big Brother And The Holding Company
Title:    Combination Of The Two
Source:    CD: Cheap Thrills
Writer(s):    Sam Andrew
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1968
    The 20th most played artists of the year were San Francisco's Big Brother and the Holding Company. One of the more notable releases of the year was the direct off the board recording of the band's 1968 performance at the Carousel Ballroom (soon to be renamed the Fillmore West), recorded just a few weeks before Janis Joplin's departure from the band that she made (and that made her) famous. 1968 was by all accounts the apex of Big Brother's career, with one of the most anticipated LPs of the year, Cheap Thrills, shooting straight to the top of the charts. The opening track of that album, guitarist Sam Andrews's Combination Of The Two, was also the band's concert opener, and the live version heard on Cheap Thrills has long been considered the definitive version of the song.

Artist:    West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band
Title:    Watch Yourself
Source:    LP: Volume III-A Child's Guide To Good And Evil
Writer(s):    Robert Yeazel
Label:    Reprise
Year:    1968
    At #19 we have the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, a group that in many ways typifies the tumultous nature of the psychedelic era. The band, formed in 1966 by Danny and Shaun Harris, was soon taken over by 30-year-old hipster Bob Markley, who in return for much-needed financial support got to indulge his penchant for chasing teenage girls and writing weird lyrics. Oddly enough, the band did turn out some fine tracks on their three LPs for Reprise, including Watch Yourself, written by Robert Yeazel, a friend of guitarist Ron Morgan, whose own history with the band was anything but smooth.

Artist:    Blues Project
Title:    No Time Like The Right Time
Source:    Mono CD: Anthology (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Al Kooper
Label:    Polydor (original label: Verve Forecast)
Year:    1967
    Although our 18th most played band of 2012, the Blues Project, was arguably the first Jam Band, their most successful song was the tightly arranged Al Kooper classic No Time Like The Right Time, released as a single in early 1967 and included on Lenny Kaye's original Nuggets collection in 1972. The Greenwich Village based Blues Project is often cited as a major inspiration for such bands as the Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service, whose members were among the crowds that turned out to see the Project when they toured the West Coast in 1966.

Artist:    Traffic
Title:    Dear Mr. Fantasy
Source:    CD: Heaven Is In Your Mind
Writer(s):    Capaldi/Wood/Winwood
Label:    Island (original label: United Artists)
Year:    1967
    At this point I should mention the 19th most-played song of 2012, I'm A Man by the Spencer Davis Group, if for no other reason than the fact that it was the group's last record to feature Steve Winwood on lead vocals and keyboards. Winwood would soon prove that he was just as talented a guitarist as he was an organist with his new band Traffic, our 17th most played band of 2012. Dear Mr. Fantasy was a showcase for Winwood, both as a guitarist and vocalist, and has gone on to become one of his signature songs.

Artist:    Donovan
Title:    Bert's Blues
Source:    Mono CD: Sunshine On The Mountain (originally released on LP: Sunshine Superman)
Writer(s):    Donovan Leitch
Label:    Sony (original label: Epic)
Year:    1966
    It should come as no surprise that of the 20 most played artists on Stuck in the Psychedelic Era in 2012 (or any other year, for that matter), only one is a solo artist. After all, the entire psychedelic era itself is rooted in the idea of self-contained bands rebelling against a corporate pop machine that used anonymous studio musicians backing carefully-groomed teen idol vocalists to crank out cookie-cutter hits in the early part of the decade. Still, much of that rebellion came out of the folk movement that included such stars as Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and a young Scottish singer/songwriter, Donovan Leitch, who, unlike many of his contemporaries, moved beyond straight folk music to become one of the architects of the psychedelic era. His Sunshine Superman is sometimes considered the first psychedelic hit, and tracks like Bert's Blues, from the Sunshine Superman album, show that our 16th most-played artist of 2012 was one of the most innovative songwriters of his time.

Artist:    Shadows Of Knight
Title:    Gloria
Source:    CD: Even More Nuggets (originally released on LP: Gloria)
Writer(s):    Van Morrison
Label:    Rhino (original label: Dunwich)
Year:    1966
    Although they did not make the top 20 artists list this year (barely missing the cut at #21), Chicago's Shadows Of Knight did score the 18th most-played song with perennial favorite Gloria, one of the true classics of the psychedelic era. There will always be some controversy over the fact that the Shadows were able to take Gloria into the top 10 by changing just a few of Van Morrison's lyrics to avoid censorship, but one fact that can't be denied is that the band itself is one of, if not the greatest, American garage bands of its time.

Artist:    Seeds
Title:    Pushin' Too Hard
Source:    CD: The Best Of 60s Psychedelic Rock (originally released on LP: The Seeds)
Writer(s):    Sky Saxon
Label:    Priority (original label: GNP Crescendo)
Year:    1966
    In the #15 spot we have one of the strangest bands to ever hit the Los Angeles club scene. The Seeds were made up entirely of guys that had moved to California from other states; some claimed they had come from another planet entirely. Led by vocalist Sky Saxon, who played bass on stage but never on their recordings, the Seeds took L.A. by storm in late 1965 with a series of regional hits that culminated with Pushin' Too Hard in the summer of 1966. The following year the song (which is our own fourth most-played song of 2012), went national, becoming their only top 40 hit outside the L.A. area.

Artist:    Count Five
Title:    Psychotic Reaction
Source:    Mono CD: Nuggets-Classics From The Psychedelic 60s (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Ellner/Chaney/Atkinson/Byrne/Michalski
Label:    Rhino (original label: Double Shot)
Year:    1966
    It wouldn't be the psychedelic era without one-hit wonders, and one of the best of these was San Jose, California's Count Five, whose Psychotic Reaction was our 14th most-played song of the year.

Artist:    Country Joe And The Fish
Title:    Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine
Source:    CD: Electric Music For The Mind And Body
Writer(s):    Joe McDonald
Label:    Vanguard
Year:    1967
    Berkeley, California, was home to our 14th most-played band of 2012, Country Joe And The Fish. One of the earliest rock groups to have overt political overtones, the band's name came from "Country Joe" Stalin combined with a quote from Mao Tse Tung concerning the revolutionary's role in society as a fish in the stream (or something along those lines). Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine, from the band's debut LP, also made the top 10 list of most-played songs on Stuck in the Psychedelic Era this year, coming in at #8.

Artist:    Beacon Street Union
Title:    Mystic Mourning
Source:    CD: The Eyes Of The Beacon Street Union
Writer(s):    Ulaky/Weisberg/Rhodes
Label:    See For Miles (original label: M-G-M)
Year:    1968
    By 1968 a number of bands were incorporating melodic and rhythmic modes from Indian classical music to create something known as raga rock. Among these was the best of the so-called "Boss-Town Sound" bands, the Beacon Street Union. Mystic Mourning, from the band's 1968 debut LP, was our 12th most-played track of 2012.

Artist:    Electric Prunes
Title:    Hideaway
Source:    Mono CD: Where The Action Is: L.A. Nuggets 1965-68 (originally released on LP: Underground)
Writer(s):    Lowe/Tulin
Label:    Rhino (original label: Reprise)
Year:    1967
    The Electric Prunes were cursed with the bad luck to be saddled with a producer who was more interested in making a name for himself than in allowing the band to reach their full potential. It's appropriate, then, that the Prunes end up as our 13th most-played artists this year (although as you will see later, they did much better on the song list). Hideaway, from their second LP, Underground, gives us a glimpse of what the band could have been if given a bit more artistic freedom.

Artist:    Simon and Garfunkel
Title:    The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine
Source:    CD: Collected Works (originally released on LP: Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme)
Writer(s):    Paul Simon
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1966
    I have, in the past, been taken to task for playing a lot of Simon And Garfunkel songs on Stuck in the Psychedelic Era. Indeed, they were the 12th most-played artists of the year. Still, nobody can deny that the duo was an essential part of the psychedelic era, transcending their early folk style with electrified tracks like The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine, from their 1966 LP Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme.

Artist:    Byrds
Title:    Eight Miles High
Source:    CD: Psychedelic Pop (originally released on LP: Fifth Dimension)
Writer(s):    Clark/McGuinn/Crosby
Label:    BMG/RCA/Buddah (original label: Columbia)
Year:    1966
    To wrap up the first half of this week's show we have the most successful folk-rock band of 1965, the Byrds, our 11th most-played artists of 2012. Although not much on their two 1965 LPs can be called psychedelic, that all changed with the 1966 release of Fifth Dimension, featuring the single Eight Miles High, a song which itself comes in as the 13th most-played of the year.

    At this point I should mention some songs that made the most-played list this year, but are not featured on this week's show. These include the Music Machine's The Eagle Never Hunts The Fly (#17) and Double Yellow Line (#10), Jefferson Airplane's Comin' Back To Me (#15), and the Vanilla Fudge version of You Keep Me Hangin' On (#11). With the exception of the Vanilla Fudge track (which was cut at the last minute due to time considerations), these are all songs by artists that show up in the second hour.

Artist:    Leaves
Title:    Too Many People
Source:    Mono LP: Nuggets Vol. 2-Punk (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Pons/Rinehart
Label:    Rhino (original label: Mira)
Year:    1965
    We start off the second hour of the show with another band that didn't make the top 20 (they came in at #31), but that did have the 9th most-played song of the year on Stuck in the Psychedelic Era. Although the Leaves are (rightly) most famous for popularizing the fast version of Billy Roberts's Hey Joe several months before the slowed-down Jimi Hendrix Experience version was recorded, Too Many People is probably a better example of this L.A. club band's actual style. The song manages to tread the line between the folk-rock that was popular in 1965 and the up and coming garage-rock that would take hold in 1966.

Artist:    Who
Title:    Pictures Of Lily
Source:    Mono CD: Meaty, Beaty, Big And Bouncy (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Pete Townshend
Label:    MCA (original label: Decca)
Year:    1967
    In one sense, the psychedelic era represents a balance between British and American popular music. Many of the British Invasion bands that had totally dominated the charts on both sides of the Atlantic in 1964 were still going strong for the remainder of the decade. At the same time, as early as 1965 US artists were starting to reappear at the top of the charts, thanks in no small part to the electrification of US folk music in the wake of Bob Dylan's Like A Rolling Stone. By the 1970s American artists would once again have the majority of hits in the US, but during the psychedelic era itself the mix was just about even between the two countries. It is appropriate then, that of our top 10 most played artists on Stuck in the Psychedelic Era this past year, exactly half are British and the other half came from the US (although in one case the band members came from both countries). At #10 we have the Who, who were just starting to get recognition in the US in early 1967, despite having several top 10 UK hits the previous year. The Who was still a couple of years from truly breaking things wide open in the US, however, and songs like Pictures Of Lily, which was yet another top UK hit, went mostly unnoticed in the US.

Artist:    Kinks
Title:    Waterloo Sunset
Source:    CD: 25 Years-The Ultimate Collection (originally released on LP: Something Else By The Kinks)
Writer(s):    Ray Davies
Label:    Polygram (original label: Reprise)
Year:    1967
    Our 9th most played band of 2012, the Kinks, were one of the original British Invasion bands to have big hits in the US. You Really Got Me is often cited as the first hard rock song. Due to being banned from performing in the US for a couple of years, the group found itself unable to promote its songs outside their native England and by 1967 their songs went mostly unheard on US radio. It's a bit of a shame, since Waterloo Sunset is undeniably one of the nicest-sounding songs the band ever recorded.

Artist:    Chambers Brothers
Title:    Time Has Come Today
Source:    CD: Even More Nuggets (originally released on LP: The Time Has Come)
Writer(s):    Joe and Willie Chambers
Label:    Rhino (original label: Columbia)
Year:    1967
    Leaving our artist countdown temporarily we have a pair of songs that to many people define the entire psychedelic era. Certainly the Chambers Brothers' Time Has Come Today, which was originally released on their 1967 LP, The Time Has Come, was one of the most heard songs on "underground" FM stations throughout the late 60s, often in its unedited 10-minute plus form. Although the edited version heard here (our 7th most-played song of the year) is only half the length of the original, it does manage to convey a sense of the album version's wild experimental nature.

Artist:    Strawberry Alarm Clock
Title:    Incense And Peppermints
Source:    Mono CD: Psychedelic Pop (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Carter/Gilbert/Weitz/King
Label:    BMG/RCA/Buddah (original label: Uni)
Year:    1967
    If the Chambers Brothers' Time Has Come Today is typical of what was heard on FM in 1967, it's AM counterpart would have to be the Strawberry Alarm Clock's Incense And Peppermints, coming in as the 6th most played song on Stuck in the Psychedelic Era this year.

Artist:    Doors
Title:    I Can't See Your Face In My Mind
Source:    CD: Strange Days
Writer(s):    The Doors
Label:    Elektra
Year:    1967
    Returning to our artists' countdown we also return to the US for the most successful band to emerge from the Los Angeles club scene of 1965-68. There is really very little I can say about the Doors that hasn't already been said, so instead I'll just point out that even if the group had disbanded after their second LP, Strange Days, they would have left behind a body of work that marks them as one of the greatest bands of all time.

Artist:    Beatles
Title:    Being For The Benefit Of Mr. Kite
Source:    CD: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
Writer(s):    Lennon/McCartney
Label:    Parlophone: (original US label: Capitol)
Year:    1967
    Speaking of the greatest bands of all time we have the 7th most-played group on Stuck in the Psychedelic Era this year. The Beatles are unique in that they both defined (especially in their native England) and transcended the psychedelic era itself. Indeed, it is hard to imagine what the musical landscape of the late 60s would have looked like without the Beatles to lead the British Invasion and inspire so many young Americans to pick up a guitar and form a band.

Artist:    Love
Title:    7&7 Is
Source:    Mono CD: Love Story (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Arthur Lee
Label:    Rhino (original label: Elektra)
Year:    1966
    In the #6 spot we have a band that, in a sense, functioned as a reverse-Beatles. Although each of Love's albums did successively worse on the US charts than the previous one, the exact opposite was true in the UK, despite the fact that the band, led by the enigmatic Arthur Lee, never strayed far from their home base of Los Angeles, California. Their Forever Changes LP, released in 1967, is often cited as a major influence by modern UK bands, and is now regarded as one of the truly classic albums of its time, managing to capture the spirit of the summer of love and presage the coming downfall of the hippie culture all at the same time. Love's most successful single was 7&7 Is, which was also the 16th most-played song on Stuck in the Psychedelic Era this past year (it was #1 in 2011).

Artist:    Rolling Stones
Title:    Let's Spend The Night Together
Source:    CD: Flowers
Writer(s):    Jagger/Richards
Label:    Abkco (original label: London)
Year:    1967
    Whether or not the Rolling Stones are the greatest rock and roll band of all time is still open to debate. What is certain is that they were the 5th most-played band on Stuck in the Psychedelic Era this year, thanks in large part to my acquiring original vinyl copies of almost the entire 60s Stones catalog in 2011. How could I not play them? For the most part we stuck to the Brian Jones incarnation of the band, including classics like Let's Spend The Night Together, a song so strong it appeared on two successive LPs (Between The Buttons and Flowers) in 1967.

Artist:    Standells
Title:    Dirty Water
Source:    Mono CD: Nuggets-Classics From The Psychedelic 60s (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Ed Cobb
Label:    Rhino (original label: Tower)
Year:    1966
    Another group that missed being in the top 20 this year (they came in at #25) was the Standells, whose Dirty Water (our 5th most-played song of the year) is played at nearly every sporting event in the city of Boston to this day, despite the band never having played there (they were from Los Angeles).

Artist:    Music Machine
Title:    Talk Talk
Source:    CD: More Nuggets (originally released on LP: Turn On The Music Machine)
Writer(s):    Sean Bonniwell
Label:    Rhino (original label: Original Sound)
Year:    1966
    Sometimes you make a decision that seems like a sure winner, only to have it blow up in your face. You hire a competent manager who nonetheless makes one bonehead decision that derails your entire career. You make sure you record at the best studio in town, only to have the record label that owns the studio screw up your debut album by including tracks you never intended to release. Such is the story of Sean Bonniwell and his band, the Music Machine. Formed in 1965, the Machine was quite simply the best at what they did. They had tight sets with a minimum of wasted time between songs. They had a striking visual image, with all the members completely dressed in black (including dyed hair) and wearing one glove (when Michael Jackson was still in grade school). And, most importantly, they had quality material written by Bonniwell himself. Nonetheless, due to circumstances beyond the control of the musicians themselves, the Music Machine found themselves consigned to the list of one-hit wonders, with this year's third most played song, Talk Talk, hitting the charts in late 1966. Bonniwell himself passed away in December of 2011, and since then Stuck in the Psychedelic Era has made an effort to keep the spotlight on the Music Machine, making them our 4th more played artists of 2012.

Artist:    First Edition
Title:    Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)
Source:    CD: Even More Nuggets (originally released on LP: The First Edition)
Writer(s):    Mickey Newbury
Label:    Rhino (original label: Reprise)
Year:    1968
    The second most-played song on Stuck in the Psychedelic Era this past year is the one song that Kenny Rogers is trying to forget ever happened, despite the fact that it was his first hit record as a lead vocalist. Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In), from the debut album of the First Edition, is a prime piece of psychedelia, from it's backwards-masked guitar intro (played by Glen Campbell) to it's esoteric lyrics (from the pen of Mickey Newbury). Not at all in keeping with Rogers's image as an urbane cowboy.

Artist:    Cream
Title:    Strange Brew
Source:    CD: Disraeli Gears
Writer(s):    Clapton/Collins/Pappalardi
Label:    Polydor (original label: Atco)
Year:    1967
    It was 1967. The Beatles were on top of their game. The Rolling Stones were chugging along being, well, the Rolling Stones. Nonetheless, among knowledgeable aspiring musicians there was a new band at the top of the heap of British rock bands: the first blues-rock supergroup and the third most played band on Stuck in the Psychedelic Era in 2012, Cream. Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker, after a 1966 debut LP firmly rooted in the blues with just a hint of what was to come, bloomed suddenly into the world's premier acid rock jam band with the release of their second LP, Disraeli Gears. Although the band saved their extended jams for their live performances (several of which made up the two live sides of their 1968 double LP Wheels Of Fire), Cream, with the help of their unofficial fourth member, producer Felix Pappalardi, recorded an album full of gems like Tales Of Brave Ulysses, Sunshine Of Your Love, We're Going Wrong, and the album's opening track, Strange Brew, itself a reworking of an old blues tune with new lyrics and melody provided by Pappalardi and his wife Gail Collins and sung by Clapton.

Artist:    Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title:    Are You Experienced?
Source:    CD: Are You Experienced?
Writer(s):    Jimi Hendrix
Label:    MCA (original label: Atco)
Year:    1967
    It's almost impossible to overstate the influence and sheer power of the debut album of our second most-played artist of 2012, Jimi Hendrix. Virtually every guitarist that has hit the scene since 1967 cites Are You Experienced as a primary influence on his or her own career. From it's opening track (Purple Haze on the US version, Foxy Lady on the UK original) to the final notes of the title track, Are You Experienced is full of innovative sounds, made even more amazing when you consider that Hendrix, along with bassist Noel Redding, drummer Mitch Mitchell, producer Chas Chandler and engineer Eddie Kramer, were working with relatively primitive four-track recording equipment and had to create their own studio effects as they went along.

Artist:    Electric Prunes
Title:    I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night)
Source:    CD: Even More Nuggets
Writer(s):    Tucker/Mantz
Label:    BMG/RCA/Buddah
Year:    1967
    It's no fluke that Lenny Kaye, when he first set about compiling the collection of psychedelic tracks that became the original Nuggets album, chose the Electric Prunes' 1967 hit I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night) to open side one of the double LP set. From its opening feedback-drenched guitar chord to its hypnotic bass line and spooky vocals that lead up to a chorus that is difficult not to sing along with (even if some of us sing the wrong words), I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night) is perhaps the perfect psychedelic record, and it was the most-played song on Stuck in the Psychedelic Era in 2012.

Artist:    Jefferson Airplane
Title:    Somebody To Love
Source:    LP: Surrealistic Pillow
Writer(s):    Darby Slick
Label:    RCA Victor
Year:    1967
    For many, the defining event of the entire psychedelic era was the Summer of Love. Centered in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district and fueled by a massive influx of young people from around the country (and even the world), the summer of 1967 was the culmination of the hippie movement that had been building in the city since the late 1950s, when the city became the West Coast center of the Beatnick sub-culture. Much of what made the Summer of Love so remarkable was the amount of publicity given to the scene by the mass media. Much of that publicity was spurred by the blossoming of the city's local music scene into a national phenomena in the early part of the year, and the band at the forefront of that blossoming was our most-played band on Stuck in the Psychedelic Era in 2012, Jefferson Airplane. The Airplane, led by vocalist and local club manager Marty Balin, included lead guitarist Jorma Kaukonen and bassist Jack Casady (both of whom would eventually go on to form Hot Tuna), drummer Spencer Dryden (who had joined in late 1966, replacing Skip Spence who had left to form his own band, Moby Grape), guitarist/vocalist Paul Kantner, who would eventually become the band's main songwriter, and of course the charismatic former model, vocalist Grace Slick, who, like Dryden, joined the band after the group's first LP was released. Slick brought with her Somebody To Love, a song that had been written by her brother-in-law Darby Slick for the Great! Society, a local group they had both been members of in 1966. The Airplane reworked the song into what became the group's first and only top 5 single, putting the band, and the entire San Francisco music scene, on the national music map in the process.

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