Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Stuck in the Psychedelic Era # 1313 (starts 3/28/13)

Artist:    Jefferson Airplane
Title:    Embryonic Journey
Source:    CD: The Worst Of Jefferson Airplane
Writer(s):    Jorma Kaukonen
Label:    BMG/RCA
Year:    1967
    Jorma Kaukonen originally considered Embryonic Journey to be little more than a practice exercise. Other members of Jefferson Airplane insisted he record it, however, and it has since come to be identified as a kind of signature song for the guitarist, who played the tune live when the band was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.

Artist:    Cream
Title:    World Of Pain
Source:    LP: Disraeli Gears
Writer(s):    Pappalardi/Collins
Label:    RSO (original label: Atco)
Year:    1967
    Whereas the first Cream LP was made up of mostly blues-oriented material, Disraeli Gears took a much more psychedelic turn, due in large part to the songwriting team of Jack Bruce and Pete Brown. The Bruce/Brown team was not, however, the only source of material for the band. Both Eric Clapton and Ginger Baker made contributions, as did Cream's unofficial fourth member, keyboardist/producer Felix Pappalardi, who co-wrote World Of Pain with his wife Janet Collins. Pappalardi would later become a founding member of Mountain, playing bass parts on his keyboards.

Artist:    Electric Prunes
Title:    Long Day's Flight
Source:    CD: Underground
Writer(s):    Weakley/Yorty
Label:    Collector's Choice (original label: Reprise)
Year:    1967
    Originally from the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles, California, the Electric Prunes were often mislabeled as a Pacific Northwest band, due to their popularity in the Seattle area. Interestingly enough, the band also enjoyed greater popularity in the UK than many of their L.A. contemporaries (such as the Doors). Long Day's Flight, an anthemic track from the band's second LP, was released as a single in the UK, but not in the US.

Artist:    Bob Dylan
Title:    Rainy Day Women # 12 & 35
Source:    Mono CD: The Best Of The Original Mono Recordings
Writer(s):    Bob Dylan
Label:    Columbia/Legacy
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 numbers 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:    Status Quo
Title:    Pictures Of Matchstick Men
Source:    Mono CD: Psychedelic Pop (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Francis Rossi
Label:    BMG/RCA/Buddah (original label: Pye)
Year:    1967
    If you have ever seen the film This Is Spinal Tap, the story of Britain's Status Quo might seem a bit familiar. Signed to Pye Records in 1967 the group scored a huge international hit with their first single, Pictures Of Matchstick Men, but were unable to duplicate that success with subsequent releases. In the early 1970s the band totally reinvented itself as a boogie band and began a run in the UK that resulted in them scoring more charted singles than any other band in history, including the Beatles and Rolling Stones. For all that, however, they never again charted in the US, where they are generally remembered as one-hit wonders. In addition to their UK success, Status Quo remains immensely popular in the Scandanavian countries, where they continue to play to sellout crowds on a regular basis.

Artist:    People
Title:    I Love You
Source:    Mono CD: Love Is The Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-70 (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Chris White
Label:    Rhino (original label: Capitol)
Year:    1968
    By 1968 the major labels had signed just about every San Francisco band with any perceived potential. Capitol, having had some success with the Chocolate Watchband from San Jose on its Tower subsidiary, decided to sign another south bay band, People, to the parent label. The most successful single for the band was a new recording of an obscure Zombies B side. I Love You ended up hitting the top 20 nationally, despite the active efforts of two of the most powerful men in the music industry, who set out to squash the song as a way of punishing the record's producer for something having nothing to do with the song or the band itself.

Artist:    Music Explosion
Title:    Little Bit O' Soul
Source:    45 RPM single (reissue)
Writer(s):    Lewis/Carter
Label:    Laurie
Year:    1967
    Mansfield, Ohio, was home to the Music Explosion who made their mark as one-hit wonders in early 1967 with Little Bit O' Soul. The song was an early forerunner of the bubble-gum movement that would dominate the top 40 charts over a year later.

Artist:    Paul Revere And The Raiders
Title:    Just Like Me
Source:    Mono CD: Nuggets-Original Artyfacts From The First Psychedelic Era (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Dey/Brown
Label:    Rhino (original label: Columbia)
Year:    1965
    Just Like Me was the first top 10 single from Paul Revere And The Raiders, a band that deserves much more credit than they are generally given. The group started in the early part of the decade in Boise, Idaho, when Revere (his real name) hooked up with saxophonist Mark Lindsay. Like most bands at the time, the Raiders' repertoire consisted mostly of instrumentals, as PA systems were a luxury that required more space than was generally allotted to a small town band. It wasn't long before the Raiders relocated to Portland, Oregon, where they became a popular attraction at various clubs. After a hiatus caused by Revere's stint in the military, the band resumed its place as one of the founding bands of the Portland music scene. They soon made their first visit to a recording studio, recording Richard Berry's Louie Louie at around the same time as another popular Portland band, the Kingsmen. Due as much to superior promotion efforts from Wand Records as anything else, the Kingsmen's version ended up being a huge hit while the Raiders' version was virtually ignored. Undeterred, the band continued to grow in popularity, recording another single in 1964 (Like Long Hair) and going on tour. It was while playing in Hawaii that the band was noticed by none other than Dick Clark, who hired them to be the house band on his new afternoon TV show, Where The Action Is. He also got them a contract with Columbia Records, at the time the second-largest record company in the world. The Raiders were Columbia's first rock band, and they paired the band up with their hippest young producer, Terry Melcher. It was a partnership that would lead to a string of hits, starting with Steppin' Out in 1965. The next record, Just Like Me, was the first of a string of top 10 singles that would last until early 1967, when rapidly changing public tastes made the band seem antiquated compared to up and coming groups like Jefferson Airplane. Just Like Me, despite some rather cheesy lyrics, still holds up well after all these years. Much of the credit for that has to go to Drake Levin, whose innovative double-tracked guitar solo rocked out harder than anything else on top 40 radio at the time (with the possible exception of a couple of well-known Kinks songs).

Artist:    Donovan
Title:    Guinevere
Source:    Mono LP: Sunshine Superman
Writer(s):    Donovan Leitch
Label:    Epic/Sundazed
Year:    1966
    Donovan's Sunshine Superman marked the beginning of a transition for the Scottish singer/songwriter from folk singer with a primarily British fan base to an international star at the forefront of the psychedelic era. One track on the album that shows a bit of both is Guinevere. The basic song is very much in the traditional British vein, with lyrics that deliberately hearken back to Arthurian times. Yet the entire track is colored by the presence of a sitar, a decidedly non-British instrument that was becoming popular among the psychedelic crowd in 1966.

Artist:    Pentangle
Title:    Bruton Town
Source:    Pentangle
Writer(s):    trad., arr. Cox/Jansch/McShee/Renbourne/Thompson
Label:    Reprise
Year:    1968
    Sometimes the same term can mean entirely different things, depending on where you are. For example, in the US folk music of the 1960s brings to mind images of beatniks in coffee houses or maybe a group of friends singing around a campfire. In the UK, however, the primary image associated with folk music was that of being forced to learn a bunch of songs in school that were old when your grandparents were born. As a result, there was a certain resistance to folk music in general among British youth that took a bit of doing to overcome. Scotland's Donovan Leitch managed to do it by following in the footsteps of Bob Dylan, ignoring traditional tunes in favor of writing his own more socially-conscious material. A few others performed a mix of traditional folk and modern jazz with rock overtones and were moderately successful at it. In 1968 five of these modern traditionalists got together to form a folk/jazz/rock supergroup. Somehow, despite the massive amount of talent that John Renbourne, Burt Jansch, Jacqui McShee, Terry Cox and Richard Thompson had between them, they managed to stay together for several years without letting their egos get in the way of the music. The result was a series of outstanding albums starting with their 1968 self-titled debut, which included their own arrangement of Bruton Town, a (you guessed it) traditional British folk tune.

Artist:    Buffalo Springfield
Title:    Leave
Source:    LP: Buffalo Springfield
Writer(s):    Stephen Stills
Label:    Atco
Year:    1966
    Although Buffalo Springfield are generally acknowldeged to among the pioneers of a softer rock sound that would gain popularity in the 70s with bands like the Eagles, Poco and Crosby, Stills and Nash, they did occasionally rock out a bit harder on tracks like Leave. Of particular note is lead guitarist Neil Young doing blues licks on this Stephen Stills tune from the first Buffalo Springfield album, released in 1966.

Artist:    Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title:    Bold As Love
Source:    CD: Axis: Bold As Love
Writer(s):    Jimi Hendrix
Label:    MCA (original label: Reprise)
Year:    1967
    When working on the song Bold As Love for the second Jimi Hendrix Experience album in 1967, Jimi reportedly asked engineer Eddie Kramer if he could make a guitar sound like it was under water. Kramer's answer was to use a techique called phasing, which is what happens when two identical sound sources are played simultaneously, but slightly (as in microseconds) out of synch with each other. The technique, first used in 1958 but seldom tried in stereo, somewhat resembles the sound of a jet plane flying by. This is not to be confused with chorusing (sometimes called reverse phasing), a technique used often by the Beatles which splits a single signal into two identical signals then delays one to create the illusion of being seperate tracks.

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 tune 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:    Al Kooper
Title:    I Can't Keep From Crying Sometimes
Source:    CD: Blues Project Anthology (originally released on LP: What's Shakin')
Writer(s):    Blind Willie Johnson
Label:    Polydor (original label: Elektra)
Year:    1966
    In early 1966 Elektra Records, then a New York based folk and blues label, decided to put together an album called What's Shakin'. The LP featured some of the top talent appearing in and around the city's Greenwich Village area, including the Lovin' Spoonful and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. In addition to already recorded material, the album included a handful of tracks recorded specifically for the collection, including one by Al Kooper of the Blues Project, who brought along drummer Roy Blumenfeld and bassist Andy Kuhlberg for the session. The song Kooper chose to record was I Can't Keep From Crying Sometimes, an old Blind Willie Johnson tune that was already in the Blues Project's repertoire but had not yet been recorded by the band. While the Blues Project version of the song recorded later that year for the Projections album is a classic piece of guitar-based blues-rock, the earlier version for What's Shakin' is built around Kooper's piano playing and has more of a Ramsey Lewis feel to it.

Artist:    Chris And Craig
Title:    Isha
Source:    Mono import CD: Ah Feel Like Ahcid (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Chris Ducey
Label:    Zonophone UK (original US label: Capitol)
Year:    1966
    Before the Monkees, there were the Happeners...almost. In 1965, college student Chris Ducey and singer/songwriter Craig Smith were chosen to play a folk-rock duo on a TV show. Although the show itself never made it past pre-production, the two did record a single for Capitol Records, the Ducey-penned Isha, before going their separate ways. Craig Smith auditioned for yet another TV show the following year, but was not one of the four young men chosen to become the Monkees. He did, however, strike up a friendship with fellow applicant Michael Nesmith, who would end up recording one of Smith's songs, Salesman, and later produce Smith's new band, Penny Arkade. Ducey, meanwhile, became a bizarre early victim of identity theft. Folk singer Bobby Jameson, for reasons unknown, recorded an entire album using not only Ducey's name, but his song titles as well. The real Ducey hasn't been heard from since.

Artist:    Who
Title:    Someone's Coming
Source:    45 RPM single B side
Writer(s):    John Entwhistle
Label:    Decca
Year:    1967
    Some songs just get no respect. First released in 1967 in the UK as the B side of I Can See For Miles, John Alec Entwistle's Someone's Coming got left off the US release entirely. It wasn't until the release of the Magic Bus single (and subsequent LP) in 1968 that the tune appeared on US vinyl, and then, once again as a B side (the version used here). The Magic Bus album, however, was never issued on CD in the US, although it has been available as a Canadian import for several years. Finally, in 1995 the song found a home on a US CD as a bonus track on The Who Sell Out.

Artist:    Who
Title:    Amazing Journey
Source:    Import CD: Spirit Of Joy (originally released on LP: Tommy)
Writer(s):    Pete Townshend
Label:    Polydor UK (original US label: Decca)
Year:    1969
    After achieving major success in their native England with a series of hit singles in 1965-67, the Who began to concentrate more on their albums from 1968 on. The first of these concept albums was The Who Sell Out, released in December of 1967. The Who Sell Out was a collection of songs connected by faux radio spots and actual jingles from England's last remaining pirate radio station, Radio London. After releasing a few more singles in 1968, the Who began work on their most ambitious project yet: the world's first rock opera. Tommy, released in 1969, was a double LP telling the story of a boy who, after being tramautized into becoming a blind deaf-mute, eventually emerges as a kind of messiah, only to have his followers ultimately abandon him. One of the early tracks on the album is Amazing Journey, describing Tommy's voyage into the recesses of his own mind in response to the traumatic event that results in his blind, deaf and dumb condition.

Artist:    Who
Title:    Magic Bus
Source:    45 RPM single
Writer(s):    Pete Townshend
Label:    Decca
Year:    1968
    While working on their landmark Tommy album, the Who continued to crank out singles throughout 1968. One of the most popular was Magic Bus, a song that remained in the band's live repertoire for many years. Like most of the Who's pre-Tommy singles, the song was never mixed in true stereo, although a fake stereo mix was created for the US-only LP Magic Bus-The Who On Tour. The original mono version of the song heard here is also shorter than the LP version, clocking in at slightly over three minutes.

Artist:     Five Americans
Title:     Western Union
Source:     Mono CD: More Nuggets (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer:     Rabon/Ezell/Durrell
Label:     Rhino (original label: Abnak)
Year:     1967
     One of the biggest hits of 1967 came from a band formed at Southeastern State College in Durant Oklahoma, although they had their greatest success working out of the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Having already scored a minor hit with I See The Light the previous year, the Five Americans hit the #5 spot on the national charts with Western Union, featuring a distinctive opening organ riff designed to evoke the sound of a telegraph receiver picking up Morse code.

Artist:    Kinks
Title:    Party Line
Source:    Mono LP: Face To Face
Writer(s):    Ray and Dave Davies
Label:    Reprise
Year:    1966
    The first Kinks album I ever bought was Face To Face. I saw it in the cutout bin at the Base Exchange in Ramstein Germany sometime in 1968 on sale for half a buck (or maybe even less) and remembered that I had liked the song Sunny Afternoon when it was being played on the radio in the fall of 1966, so I figured why not? At the time I was using a $10 portable Philips record player that I had gotten for my birthday that year (which in the US was sold under the Mercury name for twice that much), so I didn't even notice that the album was not in stereo. It didn't matter anyway, because the first song on the album, Party Line, made me a Kinks fan for life.

Artist:    Human Expression
Title:    Optical Sound
Source:    Mono CD: Nuggets-Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer:    Quarles/Foster
Label:    Rhino (original label: Accent)
Year:    1967
    One thing Los Angeles had become known for by the mid-1960s was its urban sprawl. Made possible by one of the world's most extensive regional freeway systems, the city had become surrounded by suburbs on all sides (except for the oceanfront). Many of these suburbs were (and are) in Orange County, home to Anaheim stadium, Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm. The O.C. was also home to the Human Expression, a band that recorded a trio of well-regarded singles for the Accent label. The second of these was Optical Sound. True to its name, the song utilized the latest technology available to achieve a decidedly psychedelic sound.

Artist:    Blue Cheer
Title:    Parchman Farm
Source:    Mono LP: Vincebus Eruptum
Writer(s):    Mose Allison
Label:    Philips
Year:    1968
    If the release of the first Black Sabbath album in early 1970 marks the birth of heavy metal, then the release of the first Blue Cheer album in 1968 may be considered the point of conception for the form. Certainly, in terms of pure volume, Cheer was unequalled in their live performances (although the Grateful Dead's sound system had more wattage, Owsley Stanley used it judiciously to get the best sound quality as opposed to sheer quantity), and managed to preserve that sense of loudness in the studio. Like Black Sabbath, the members of Blue Cheer had more than a passing familiarity with the blues as well, as evidenced by their inclusion of an old Mose Allison tune, Parchman Farm, on their debut LP, Vincebus Eruptum (the album included a cover of B.B. King's Rock Me, Baby as well). Contrary to rumors, guitarist Leigh Stephens did not go deaf and kill himself (although he did leave Blue Cheer after the band's second LP, moving to England and releasing a somewhat distortion-free solo album in 1969).

Artist:    Spencer Davis Group
Title:    Gimme Some Lovin'
Source:    Mono LP: Gimme Some Lovin' (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Steve Winwood
Label:    United Artists
Year:    1966
    The 1980s movie The Big Chill used Gimme Some Lovin' by the Spencer Davis Group as the backdrop for a touch football game at an informal reunion of former college students from the 60s. From that point on, movie soundtracks became much more than just background music and soundtrack albums started becomming best-sellers. Not entirely coincidentally, 60s-oriented oldies radio stations began to appear in major markets as well. Most of them are now playing 80s oldies, by the way.

Artist:    Grass Roots
Title:    Things I Should Have Said
Source:    CD: Temptation Eyes (originally released on LP: Let's Live For Today
Writer(s):    Sloan/Barri
Label:    MCA
Year:    1967
    The story of the Grass Roots is fairly complicated. It started with songwriters PJ Sloan and Steve Barri, who were under contract to Lou Adler's Dunhill label to come up with songs to cash in on the folk-rock craze that was sweeping Southern California in the mid-1960s. They recorded a demo of a song called Where Were You When I Needed You by a fictitious group named the Grass Roots and began shopping it around. Response to the song was generally positive so they set about finding an actual band willing to change their name to the Grass Roots and record Sloan and Barri's songs. They found one in San Francisco called the Bedouins and brought them to L.A. to begin recording sessions. Oddly enough, the first official Grass Roots single was not a Sloan/Barri tune at all (although they did provide the B side). Instead, the group recorded a Bob Dylan song, Mr. Jones (A Ballad Of A Thin Man), which got a fair amount of airplay on some of the top stations in Southern Cal, such as KHJ and KSD. It wasn't long, however, before the band began demanding more freedom to record the bluesier material they had written during their Bedouins days. When Sloan and Barri refused, most of the band bolted back to San Francisco, and even played a few gigs as the Grass Roots before being served legal papers asserting that the name was the intellectual property of Barri and Sloan. After some experiment around with various lineups, including Sloan himself backed up by studio musicians, the pair came up with a plan: they would hire a local L.A. cover band to be the new Grass Roots for performance purposes, but would use studio musicians to back up vocalists Rob Brill and Creed Bratton on their records. The new system resulted in a series of hit singles, including Things I Should Have Said, a 1967 single from the Let's Live For Today album.

Artist:    Simon And Garfunkel
Title:    Punky's Dilemma
Source:    CD: Collected Works (originally released on LP: Bookends)
Writer(s):    Paul Simon
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1968
    Originally written specifically for the 1967 soundtrack of the movie The Graduate but rejected by the producers, Punky's Dilemma sat on the shelf until the following year, when it became the only track on side two of Simon And Garfunkel's Bookends LP that had not been previously released. The lyrics are about as psychedelic as Simon And Garfunkel ever got.

Artist:    Seeds
Title:    Pushin' Too Hard
Source:    Mono CD: Nuggets-Original Artyfacts From The First Psychedelic Era (originally released on LP: The Seeds)
Writer(s):    Sky Saxon
Label:    Rhino (original label: GNP Crescendo)
Year:    1966
    Although the song was originally released in 1966, it wasn't until spring of 1967 that the Seed's classic Pushin' Too Hard took off nationally. The timing was perfect for me, as the new FM station I was listening to jumped right on it.

Artist:    Left Banke
Title:    I Haven't Got The Nerve
Source:    LP: Walk Away Renee/Pretty Ballerina
Writer(s):    Cameron/Martin
Label:    Smash/Sundazed
Year:    1967
    The first thought I had when seeing the title of Left Banke's 1967 debut LP was "if they had to name the album after the band's two hit singles, the rest of the songs must really suck", so I never gave it another thought. It turns out I was totally wrong, as the album is actually filled with fine tracks such as I Haven't Got The Nerve, which only took me until 2012 to discover. I still think it's a stupid name for an album, though.

Artist:    Big Brother And The Holding Company
Title:    I Need A Man To Love
Source:    CD: Cheap Thrills
Writer(s):    Joplin/Andrew
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1968
    Big Brother and the Holding Company recorded their first album at the Chicago studios of Mainstream records in 1967. Mainstream, however, was a jazz label and their engineers had no idea how to make a band like Big Brother sound good. When the band signed to Columbia the following year it was decided that the best way to record the band was onstage at the Fillmore West. As a result, when Cheap Thrills was released, four of the seven tracks were live recordings, including the Janis Joplin/Peter Albin collaboration I Need A Man To Love.

Artist:    Parking Lot
Title:    World Spinning Sadly
Source:    Mono import CD: Insane Times (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Paul Samwell-Smith
Label:    Zonophone UK (original label: Parlophone)
Year:    1969
    Virtually nothing is known about the band called the Parking Lot. In fact, it is not even known whether there actually was a band called the Parking Lot, as it could just as easily have been a group of studio musicians hired by the producer/songwriter of World Spinning Sadly, a one-off single from 1969. The producer himself, on the other hand, was definitely a real person. Paul Samwell-Smith was, in fact, the original bass player for the Yardbirds, who had left the group in 1966 (after playing on all of their major hits through Over Under Sideways Down) to pursue a career as a record producer. Although he was never a major figure in the music industry in that capacity, he did manage to remain active well past the demise of the Yardbirds themselves, which was probably his goal all along.

Artist:    Fat
Title:    Journey
Source:    LP: Fat
Writer(s):    Kaminsky/Newland
Label:    RCA Victor
Year:    1970
    Urban legend has it that RCA Victor released only 400 copies of the Boston band Fat's only LP. Somehow, WEOS-FM in Geneva, NY, where Stuck in the Psychedelic Era is produced, has had one of those copies in its library since 1970. It ain't half bad, as a listen to the album's final track, Journey, shows.

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