Artist: It's A Beautiful Day
Title: White Bird
Source: LP: Heavy Sounds (originally released on LP: It's A Beautiful Day)
Writer(s): David & Linda LaFlamme
San Francisco's It's A Beautiful Day is a good illustration of how a band can be a part of a trend without intending to be or even realizing that they are. In their case, they were actually tied to two different trends. The first one was a positive thing: it was now possible for a band to be considered successful without a top 40 hit, as long as their album sales were healthy. The second trend was not such a good thing; as was true for way too many bands, It's A Beautiful Day was sorely mistreated by its own management, in this case one Matthew Katz. Katz already represented both Jefferson Airplane and Moby Grape when he signed up It's A Beautiful Day in 1967. What the members of It's A Beautiful Day did not know at the time was that both of the aforementioned bands were desperately trying to get out of their contracts with Katz. The first thing Katz did after signing It's A Beautiful Day was to ship the band off to Seattle to become house band at a club Katz owned called the San Francisco Sound. Unfortunately for the band, Seattle already had a sound of its own and attendance at their gigs was sparse. Feeling downtrodden and caged (and having no means of transportation to boot) classically-trained 5-string violinist and lead vocalist David LaFlamme and his keyboardist wife Linda LaFlamme translated those feelings into a song that is at once sad and beautiful: the classic White Bird. As an aside, Linda LaFlamme was not the female vocalist heard on White Bird. Credit for those goes to one Pattie Santos, the other female band member. To this day Katz owns the rights to It's A Beautiful Day's recordings, which have been reissued on CD on Katz's San Francisco Sound label.
Artist: Rolling Stones
Title: I Don't Know Why aka Don't Know Why I Love You
Source: CD: Singles Collection-The London Years (originally released on LP: Metamorphosis and as 45 RPM single)
Label: Abkco (original label: London)
Year: Recorded 1969, released 1975
In 1969 Stevie Wonder released a single called I Don't Know Why I Love You. Before the record could take off, however, several radio stations decided to instead play the B side of the record, a balled called My Cherie Amour. The song became, to that point, Wonder's biggest hit, and I Don't Know Why I Love You quietly faded off into obscurity. Or rather it would have, if not for the fact that the Rolling Stones recorded their own version of the tune (retitling it I Don't Know Why) around the same time the Stevie Wonder version was released. The Stones, however, did not release the recording immediately. In fact, by the time the song was released (in 1975), the band was no longer associated with the British Decca label (and it's US counterpart London), and did not have control over their recordings made before they formed their own label in the 1970s. Rather it was Allen Klein, who had acquired the rights to the Stones' Decca recordings by deception, who issued the song on the unauthorized Metamorphosis album and subsequently released it as a single.
Title: Hard Chargin' Woman
Source: CD: Zephyr
Label: One Way (original label: ABC/Probe)
By the early 1970s it had become almost mandatory for a band to include one extra long track on their debut LP intended to showcase the individual talents of the various band members. Zephyr, a blues-based jam band from Boulder, Colorado, was among the first to record such a track, in this case the nine-minute Hard Chargin' Woman. The track starts off as a slow menacing blues number built around a pair of power chords, with Candy Given's unique vocals front and center. Before long Tommy Bolin starts adding guitar fills. After a couple of verses and chorus, Bolin introduces an entirely new repeating riff, giving keyboardist John Faris a chance to strut his stuff. Although bassist David Givens and drummer Robbie Chamberlin do not have any solos, both have a chance to show what they can do throughout the piece, which eventually returns to it's original slow tempo for the grand finale. Bolin, after a second album, left Zephyr to join the James Gang, and was well on his way to establishing himself as a star, both as a solo artist and as Ritchie Blackmore's replacement in Deep Purple when he suddenly became a member of the "27 club" due to a drug overdose.
Artist: Mamas And The Papas
Title: Trip, Stumble And Fall
Source: CD: The Mamas and the Papas
Label: MCA (original label: Dunhill)
During sessions for the second LP by the Mamas And The Papas , it was discovered that Mama Michelle and Papa Denny were having an affair. Since Mama Michelle was married to Papa John at the time, this created more than a little tension in the group, and led to Mama Michelle being replaced by Mama Jill, who was the girlfriend of the group's producer (and head of Dunhill Reocrds), Lou Adler. Being the mid-1960s, apparently nobody considered replacing Papa Denny as well, and the recording sessions continued, with Mama Jill recording over several of Mama Michelle's tracks, plus recording a few new ones as well. Before the album was completed, however, Mama Michelle returned to the band, recording over some, but not all, of Mama Jill's vocal tracks and adding some new ones as well. As a result, nobody seems to know for sure who sang on what, but it would be a fair guess that Mama Michelle is not heard on Trip, Stumble And Fall, a song written by Papa John that seems to be aimed directly at Mama Michelle. But what do I know?
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
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, Sounds Of Silence, consisting 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 Green Pleasure Machine, an energetic piece satirizing rampant consumerism and the advertising industry..
Artist: Big Brother And The Holding Company
Title: Oh, Sweet Mary
Source: LP: Cheap Thrills
The only song credited to the entire membership of Big Brother And The Holding Company on their Cheap Thrills album was Oh, Sweet Mary (although some copies credit Janis Joplin as sole writer). The tune bears a strong resemblance to Coo Coo, a non-album single the band had released on the Mainstream label before signing to Columbia. Oh, Sweet Mary, however, has new lyrics and a "dreamy" bridge section played at a slower tempo than the rest of the tune.
Title: As You Said
Source: LP: Wheels Of Fire
Cream started off as a British blues supergroup, but soon found themselves putting out some of the finest psychedelic tunes east of the Atlantic. Much of the credit for this goes to the songwriting team of bassist Jack Bruce and Pete Brown. Brown was originally brought in as a songwriting partner for Ginger Baker, but soon found a better synergy with Bruce. The two went on to write some of Cream's most memorable songs, including Tales of Brave Ulysses, Deserted Cities of the Heart and White Room. As You Said, from Cream's third LP, Wheel's Of Fire, is somewhat unusual in that it features acoustical instruments exclusively (including Ginger Baker setting aside his drumsticks in favor of brushes).
Title: Spanish Caravan
Source: CD: The Best Of The Doors (originally released on LP: Waiting For The Sun)
Writer(s): The Doors
The third Doors album, Waiting For The Sun, was somewhat of a departure from the first two, covering a greater variety of styles than their previous efforts. A prime example is Spanish Caravan, which starts with a flamenco solo from guitarist Robbie Kreiger and continues in a highly Spanish (not Mexican) flavored musical vein.
Artist: Ultimate Spinach
Title: (Ballad Of The) Hip Death Goddess
Source: LP: Ultimate Spinach
Writer(s): Ian Bruce-Douglas
Ultimate Spinach was the brainchild of Ian Bruce-Douglas, who wrote and arranged all the band's material. Although the group had no hit singles, some tracks, such as (Ballad of the) Hip Death Goddess received a significant amount of airplay on progressive "underground" FM stations. The recording has in more recent years been used by movie producers looking to invoke a late 60s atmosphere.
Artist: James Gang
Title: Tend My Garden/Garden Gate
Source: CD: James Gang Rides Again
Writer: Joe Walsh
Label: MCA (original label: ABC)
Cleveland, Ohio's James Gang spent so much time on the road promoting their first album, Takes Off, that they didn't have much material ready when it came time to record a follow-up LP. The group found itself actually writing songs in the studio and recording them practically as they were being written. Guitarist/lead vocalist Joe Walsh, meanwhile, had some acoustic songs he had been working on, and it was decided that the new album would have one side of electric hard rock songs while the other would be an acoustic side. The opening tracks for the second side of the album were Tend My Garden, which features Walsh on both organ and guitar, followed by Garden Gate, a Walsh solo piece.
Artist: Bob Dylan
Title: Subterranean Homesick Blues
Source: 45 RPM single (reissue)
Writer(s): Bob Dylan
1965 was the year Bob Dylan went electric, and got his first top 40 hit, Subterranean Homesick Blues, in the process. Although the song, which also led off his Bringing It All Back Home album, stalled out in the lower 30s, it did pave the way for electrified cover versions of Dylan songs by the Byrds and Turtles and Dylan's own Like A Rolling Stone, which would revolutionize top 40 radio itself. A line from the song itself, "you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows", became the inspiration for a radical offshoot of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) that called itself the Weathermen (later the Weather Underground).
Title: Widow With Shawl (A Portrait)
Source: LP: A Gift From A Flower To A Garden
Writer(s): Donovan Leitch
Donovan's fifth album, A Gift From A Flower To A Garden, was a bit of an extravagance. To start off with, it was a double LP set, still a rarity in 1967. Additionally, rather than a standard LP jacket, the LPs came in a box, with a cover that used an infrared photograph that required six color separations (as opposed to the standard four). Each of the LPs had its own character. The first carried the subtitle Wear Your Love Like Heaven, and was the more pop oriented of the two, utilizing studio musicians extensively. The second album, subtitled For Little Ones, contained less elaborately produced acoustic tracks such as Widow With Shawl (A Portrait). Included in the box was a folder with illustrated lyrics for all the songs on the second LP, individually printed on high quality paper. To offset some of the risk of releasing such an expensive package, the two albums were also released separately at standard LP prices. Much of the material on A Gift From A Flower To A Garden was composed while Donovan was in India, along with Mia Farrow, the Beatles and an assortment of other celebrities.
Title: Strawberry Fields Forever
Source: CD: Magical Mystery Tour (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Apple/Parlophone (original US label: Capitol)
The first song recorded for the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album, John Lennon's Strawberry Fields Forever was instead issued as a single (along with Paul McCartney's Penny Lane) a few months before the album came out. The song went into the top 10, but was not released on an album until December of 1967, when it was included on the US version of Magical Mystery Tour.
Title: Father's Name Was Dad
Source: Mono CD: Nuggets II-Original Artyfacts From The British Empire And Beyond 1964-1969 (originally released in UK as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Dave Lambert
Label: Rhino (original label: Decca)
As any fan of the Austin Powers movies can tell you, London in the mid-1960s was home to the Mods, a group (or movement) of young people distinguished by the colorful fashions they wore, most of which came from shops on Carnaby Street. The Mods had their own music as well, usually referred to as "freakbeat" or sometimes just "beat", although not all of the bands playing that kind of music identified with the Mods themselves. Most of the early beat bands were also in the first wave of the British invasion of the US; in fact the Beatles themselves (prior to the release of Rubber Soul) were usually considered the top beat band of all. By 1966, however, the US audience was already getting into other things (Motown, garage rock, Memphis soul and the beginnings of bubble gum). In Europe and the UK, however, beat bands were still on top, with newer groups like the Move, the Small Faces and the Who (in their pre-Tommy days) riding high on the charts. Among these newer beat groups was a trio called Friday's Chyld. After changing their name to Fire, they got a contract with the British Decca label and a publishing deal with the Beatles' Apple organization. After hearing a demo of Father's Name Was Dad, Paul McCartney made a few production suggestions and the group added backing vocals and double-tracked guitar for the final released version of the song. Although Father's Name Was Dad was not a hit, it did serve as the recording debut of lead vocalist/guitarist Dave Lambert, who would go on to have some success in the 70s as a founding member of a band called Strawbs.
Artist: Liberation News Service
Title: Mid-Winter's Afternoon
Source: Mono CD: A Deadly Dose Of Wild Psych (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Ed Esko
Label: Arf! Arf! (original label: Esko)
Liberation News Service was a Philadelphia band founded in 1965 by the Esko brothers, Ed and Jeff. Their first release was Mid-Winter's Afternoon, released on the band's own Esko label in 1967. Not long after its release the band added a new lead vocalist and changed their name to the Esko Affair, eventually getting a contract with Mercury Records and releasing singles in 1968 and 1969.
Artist: Strawberry Alarm Clock
Title: Incense And Peppermints (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Source: Mono CD: Psychedelic Pop
Label: BMG/RCA/Buddah (original label: Uni)
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.
Title: A Well Respected Man
Source: 45 RPM single (reissue)
Writer(s): Ray Davies
Label: Eric (original label: Reprise)
The Kinks were one of the original British Invasion bands, scoring huge R&B-influenced hits with You Really Got Me and All Day And All Of The Night in 1964. The hits continued in 1965 with more melodic songs like Set Me Free and Tired Of Waiting For You. 1966 saw Ray Davies's songwriting take a satiric turn, as A Well Respected Man amply illustrates. Over the next few years the Kinks would continue to evolve, generally getting decent critical reviews and moderate record sales for their albums. The title of one of those later albums, Muswell Hillbillies, refers to the Davies brothers hometown of Muswell Hill, North London.
Artist: Paul Revere and the Raiders
Title: The Great Airplane Strike (originally released on LP: Spirit Of '67 and as 45 RPM single)
Source: CD: Greatest Hits
In 1966 Paul Revere and the Raiders were at the peak of their popularity, scoring major hits that year with Hungry and Kicks. The last single the band released that year was The Great Airplane Strike from the Spirit Of '67 album. Written by band members Revere and Mark Lindsay, along with producer Terry Melcher, The Great Airplane Strike stands out as a classic example of Pacific Northwest rock, a style which would eventually culminate in the grunge movement of the 1990s.
Artist: Lovin' Spoonful
Title: Jug Band Music
Source: LP: The Best Of The Lovin' Spoonful, Vol. II (originally released on LP: Daydream)
Writer(s): John Sebastian
Label: Kama Sutra
The change in emphasis from singles to album tracks in rock music was a gradual one, and can trace its origins to bands on both coasts, particularly in New York's Greenwich Village and the coffeehouses of San Francisco and Berkeley, where the local jug band musicians, inspired by the Beatles and especially Bob Dylan, were starting to add electric guitars and keyboards to their traditionally acoustic instrumentation. These musicians, unlike the pop stars of the pre-Beatle era, were more concerned with maintaining their musical integrity than in commercial success, and although some, such as the Lovin' Spoonful, did indeed achieve fame and fortune, they managed to maintain that integrity in spite of it all. Whereas most albums from pop groups were a mix of hit songs and "filler" material such as covers of other artists' hits, the Spoonful put just as much time and energy into their LP tracks as they did their singles. Thus, when it came time to release a "best of" compilation, the group deliberately included several songs that had never been released as singles, or even as B sides. Among these is Jug Band Music (from the 1966 LP Daydream), a song that harkens back to the band's own roots in the Village.
Title: Open My Eyes
Source: LP: Nuggets Vol. 1-The Hits (originally released as 45 RPM single and on LP: The Nazz)
Writer: Todd Rundgren
Label: Rhino (original label: SGC)
The Nazz was a band from Philadelphia who were basically the victims of their own bad timing. 1968 was the year that progressive FM radio began to get recognition as a viable format while top 40 radio was being dominated by bubble gum pop bands such as the 1910 Fruitgum Company and the Ohio Express. The Nazz, on the other hand, sounded more like British bands such as the Move and Brian Augur's Trinity that were performing well on the UK charts but were unable to buy a hit in the US. The band had plenty of talent, most notably guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Todd Rundgren, who would go on to establish a successful career, both as an artist (he played all the instruments on his Something/Anything LP and led the band Utopia) and a producer (Grand Funk's We're An American Band, among others). Open My Eyes was originally issued as the A side of a single, but ended up being eclipsed in popularity by its flip side, a song called Hello It's Me, that ended up getting airplay in Boston and other cities, eventually hitting the Canadian charts (a new version would become a solo hit for Rundgren five years later).
Artist: Humane Society
Title: Eternal Prison
Source: Mono CD: Where The Action Is: L.A. Nuggets 1965-68 (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer: Danny Minnich
Label: Rhino (original label: New World)
Simi Valley, California, was home to the Humane Society, a band who, at least on vinyl, showed a decidedly schizophrenic face to the world. The A side of their first single, released on the Liberty label in 1967, was Tip Toe Thru The Tulips (yes, the same song that Tiny Tim became famous for). The B side, on the other hand, was the truly psychotic Knock Knock. The following year they repeated the pattern with another forgettable A side backed with Eternal Prison, one of the most psychedelic tracks ever recorded.
Artist: Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title: Long Hot Summer Night
Source: CD: Electric Ladyland
Writer(s): Jimi Hendrix
Label: Legacy (original label: Reprise)
When Chas Chandler first discovered Jimi Hendrix playing at a club in New York's Greenwich Village in 1966, he knew that he had found one seriously talented guitarist. Within two years Hendrix would prove to be an outstanding songwriter, vocalist and producer as well. This was fortunate for Hendrix, as Chandler would part company with Hendrix during the making of the Electric Ladyland album, leaving Hendrix as sole producer. Chandler's main issue was the slow pace Hendrix maintained in the studio, often reworking songs while the tape was rolling, recording multiple takes until he got exactly what he wanted. Adding to the general level of chaos was Hendrix's propensity for inviting just about anyone he felt like to join him in the studio. Among all these extra people were some of the best musicians around, including keyboardist Al Kooper, whose work can be heard on Long Hot Summer Night.
Title: Good Times
Source: CD: More Nuggets (originally released in UK and Australia as 45 RPM single)
Label: Rhino (original label: Parlophone)
The Easybeats were Australia's most popular band in the sixties. Formed in 1964 at a migrant hostel in Sidney (all the members came from immigrant families), the band's earliest British Invasion styled hits were written by rhythm guitarist George Young (older brother of AC/DC's Angus and Malcolm Young) and lead vocalist "Little" Stevie Wright. By 1966, however, lead guitarist Harry Vanda (originally from the Netherlands) had become fluent in English and with the song Friday On My Mind replaced Wright as Young's writing partner (although Wright stayed on as the band's frontman). Around that same time the Easybeats relocated to England, although they continued to chart hits on a regular basis in Australia. One of their most memorable songs was Good Times from the 1968 album Vigil, featuring guest vocalist Steve Marriott. Young and Vanda later moved back to Australia and recorded a series of records under the name Flash and the Pan that were very successful in Australia and Europe. Stevie Wright went on to become Australia's first international pop star. The song Good Times became a hit for another Australian band, INXS, in the 1980s when it was used in the film The Lost Boys.
Title: Rael 1
Source: LP: The Who Sell Out
Writer(s): Pete Townshend
The Who Sell Out, released in December 1967, was the last album by the group before their 1969 rock-opera Tommy. The last track on the LP, Rael, is itself a mini-opera that tells the story of a wealthy man who has taken on the role of a crusader, out to free his ancestral homeland from its current occupiers. He tells the captain of his ship to come back for him on Christmas Day to see if he is ready to return. If not, he tells the captain, the boat is yours. Of course the captain has no intention of returning, as he declares soon after putting back out to sea. The piece then goes into an instrumental passage that would be copied pretty much note for note on the Tommy album as part of the Underture. The track ends with a repeat of the owner's instructions to the captain. The events surrounding the recording of Rael have become the stuff of legend. The band spent an entire day recording and mixing the song, and were apparently so exhausted at the end of the session that they left without securing the multi-track master in a safe place. The cleaning woman came in the next morning and tossed the tape into the waste basket. She then emptied the ashtrays and other trash into the same waste basket. When the band came in around noon the recording engineer who had found the tape had the unenviable task of telling them what had happened. Pete Townsend was in a rage, and the engineer tried to placate him by saying "these things happen". Townshend then proceeded to throw a chair through the glass wall separating the studio from the control room, informing the engineer that "these things happen".
Artist: Grass Roots
Title: Let's Live For Today
Source: CD: Even More Nuggets (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Rhino (original label: Dunhill)
This well-known 1967 hit by the Grass Roots started off as a song by the Italian band the Rokes, Piangi Con Mi, released in 1966. The Rokes themselves were originally from Manchester, England, but had relocated to Italy in 1963. Piangi Con Mi was their biggest hit to date, and it the band decided to re-record the tune in English for release in Britain (ironic, considering that the band originally specialized in translating popular US and UK hits into the Italian language). The original translation didn't sit right with the band's UK label, so a guy from the record company came up with new lyrics and the title Let's Live For Today. The song still didn't do much on the charts, but did get the attention of former Brill building songwriter Jeff Barri, whose current project was writing and producing a studio band known as the Grass Roots with his partner P.F. Sloan. The song became such a big hit that the Grass Roots became a real perfoming band and had several hits over the next couple of years.
Artist: Uncalled For
Title: Do Like Me
Source: Mono LP: Pebbles Vol. 8
Writer(s): Uncalled For
Label: BFD (original labels Dollie, Laurie)
Virtually nothing is known about the Uncalled For other than that they came from Youngstown, Ohio (which was still a vital steel-making center with a thriving local music scene in the 1960s) and recorded one 1967 single, Do Like Me, for the local Dollie label. The song was apparently successful enough to be picked up by a national label, Laurie, and re-released later in the year. If anyone knows more about the Uncalled For, feel free to drop me a line.