Title: Big Black Smoke
Source: 45 RPM single B side
Writer(s): Ray Davies
The Kinks had some of the best B sides of the 60s. Case in point: Big Black Smoke, which appeared as the flip of Dead End Street in early 1967. The song deals with a familiar phenomenon of the 20th century: the small town girl that gets a rude awakening after moving to the big city. In this case the city was London, known colloquially as "the Smoke".
Artist: Electric Prunes
Title: Little Olive
Source: Mono CD: I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night) (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer(s): James Lowe
Label: Collector's Choice/Rhino (original label: Reprise)
Allowing a band to compose its own B side was a fairly common practice in the mid-1960s, as it saved the producer from having to pay for the rights to a composition by professional songwriters and funneled some of the royalty money to the band members. As a result, many B sides were actually a better indication of what a band was really about, since most A sides were picked by the record's producer, rather than the band. Such is the case with Little Olive, a song written by the Electric Prunes' Jim Lowe and released as the B side of their debut single in 1966.
Title: Love You To
Source: British import LP: Revolver
Writer(s): George Harrison
Following the release of Rubber Soul in December of 1965, Beatle George Harrison began to make a serious effort to learn to play the Sitar, studying under the master, Ravi Shankar. Along with the instrument itself, Harrison studied Eastern forms of music. His first song written in the modal form favored by Indian composers was Love You To, from the Revolver album. The recording also features Indian percussion instruments and suitably spiritual lyrics.
Artist: Blind Faith
Title: Can't Find My Way Home
Source: CD: Blind Faith
Writer: Steve Winwood
Label: Polydor (original label: Atco)
Blind Faith was the result of some 1969 jam sessions in guitarist Eric Clapton's basement with keyboardist/guitarist Steve Winwood, whose own band, Traffic, had disbanded earlier in the year. Drummer Ginger Baker, who had been Clapton's bandmate in Cream for the previous three years, showed up one day, and Winwood eventually convinced Clapton to form a band with the three of them and bassist Rick Grech. Clapton, however, did not want another Cream, and even before Blind Faith's only album was released was ready to move on to something that felt less like a supergroup. As a result, Winwood took more of a dominant role in Blind Faith, even to the point of including one track, Can't Find My Way Home, that was practically a Winwood solo piece. Blind Faith disbanded shortly after the album was released, with the various band members moving on to other projects. Winwood, who soon reformed Traffic, is still active as one of rock's elder statesmen, and still performs Can't Find My Way Home in his concert appearances.
Source: CD: Tommy
Writer: Pete Townshend
Label: MCA (original label: Decca)
One of the great rock instrumentals was the Underture from Tommy. Some of the musical themes used in the piece had appeared on the previous album, The Who Sell Out, as part of the song Rael. Here those themes are fleshed out considerably (the track runs a full ten minutes).
Artist: Led Zeppelin
Title: What Is And What Should Never Be
Source: CD: Led Zeppelin II
Due to contractual obligations, singer Robert Plant did not received any writing credits for songs on the first Led Zeppelin album. By the time the band's second LP was released, Plant had been able to get out of his previous contract, and his name began appearing as co-writer of songs such as What Is And What Should Never Be. The song itself was based on a true story concerning Plant's attraction to his girlfriend's sister.
Artist: Sly And The Family Stone
Title: I Want To Take You Higher (originally released on LP: Stand)
Source: CD: Greatest Hits
Writer(s): Sylvester Stewart
Sylvester Stone was already a fixture in the San Francisco Bay area by the time the rest of the nation began to notice what was going on in Haight-Ashbury. A popular local DJ and producer for Autumn Records, the regions top local label, he was responsible for producing the first recordings by the Warlocks (who would soon be known as the Grateful Dead) among others. He was thus in a position to recruit the best musicians around for his new band, which he called the Family Stone. Interestingly enough, the generational anthem I Want To Take You Higher was originally relegated to being the B side of the song Stand when first released in 1969, but following the band's successful set at Woodstock the single was reissued with the sides reversed.
Title: Sitting On Top Of The World
Source: LP: Wheels Of Fire
Writer(s): Chester Burnett
Throughout their existence British blues supergroup Cream recorded covers of blues classics. One of the best of these is Sitting On Top Of The World from the album Wheels Of Fire, which in its earliest form was written by Walter Vinson and Lonnie Chatmon and recorded by the Mississippi Shieks in 1930. Cream's version uses the lyrics from the 1957 rewrite of the song by Chester Burnett, better know as Howlin' Wolf.
Artist: Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title: Cat Talking To Me
Source: Stereo 45 RPM single B side
Writer(s): Jimi Hendrix
Year: Recorded 1967, released 2010
The 1967 recording of Cat Talking To Me sat on the shelf for over thirty years before being released as the B side to the Valleys Of Neptune single in 2010. The song is notable for two reasons. The first is rather obvious in that it features a rare lead vocal by drummer Mitch Mitchell. The second thing that makes the song stand out from other Experience recordings is a bit more subtle. Cat Talking To Me is musically much more consistent with Hendrix's later tracks, especially those heard on various posthumous releases, than anything else he was working on in 1967.
Source: CD: Nuggets II-Original Artyfacts From The British Empire And Beyond 1964-1969 (originally released in West Germany as 45 RPM single)
Label: Rhino (original label: Telefunken)
Formed in Berlin in 1965, the Boots were one of the more adventurous bands operating on the European mainland. While most bands in Germany tended to emulate the Beatles, the Boots took a more underground approach, growing their hair out just a bit longer than their contemporaries and appealing to a more Bohemian type of crowd. Lead guitarist Jurg "Jockel" Schulte-Eckle was known for doing strange things to his guitar onstage using screwdrivers, beer bottles and the like to create previously unheard of sounds. On vinyl the band comes off as being just a bit ahead of its time, as can be heard clearly on the original group's final single, Gaby, a song written by singer Werner Krabbe and bassist Bob Bresser. Not long after Gaby's release, Krabbe left the band. Although the Boots continued on with various lineups until 1969, they were never able to recapture the magic generated by the original lineup.
Artist: Mothers of Invention
Title: Who Are The Brain Police
Source: CD: Freak Out
Writer: Frank Zappa
Label: Ryko (original label: Verve)
In 1966, Los Angeles, with its variety of all-ages clubs along Sunset Strip, had one of the most active underground music scenes in rock history. One of the most underground of these bands was the Mothers of Invention, led by musical genius Frank Zappa. In 1966 Tom Wilson, who was already well known for producing Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel, and the Blues Project, brought the Mothers into the studio to record the landmark Freak Out album. To his credit he allowed the band total artistic freedom, jeopardizing his own job in the process (the album cost somewhere between $20,000-30,000 to produce). The second song the band recorded was Who Are The Brain Police, which reportedly prompted Wilson to get on the phone to M-G-M headquarters in New York, presumably to ask for more money.
Artist: Rolling Stones
Title: Lady Jane
Source: CD: Flowers (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Label: Abkco (London)
One of the best early Rolling Stones albums is 1966's Aftermath, which included such classics as Under My Thumb, Stupid Girl and the eleven-minute Goin' Home. Both the US and UK versions of the LP included the song Lady Jane, which was also released as the B side to Mother's Little Helper (which had been left off the US version of Aftermath to make room for Paint It, Black). The policy at the time was for B sides that got a significant amount of airplay to be rated seperately from the A side of the single, and Lady Jane managed to climb to the # 24 spot on the Hot 100 (Mother's Little Helper peaked at # 8). Both tunes were also included on the 1967 LP Flowers, a US-only collection of then-recent singles and songs that had been left off the American versions of earlier Stones LPs.
Artist: Spencer Davis Group
Title: Gimme Some Lovin'
Source: Mono CD: Billboard Top Rock 'N' Roll Hits-1967 (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Rhino (original label: United Artists)
One of many British bands to have far more success at home than abroad, the Spencer Davis Group nonetheless scored big in the US in early 1967 with two songs co-written and sung by 17-year-old Steve Winwood, who would soon leave the band to form Traffic. The first of these, Gimme Some Lovin' would gain renewed popularity in the 80s when it was prominently featured in The Big Chill, one of the first films to use a 60s nostalgia soundtrack.
Title: Get On This Plane
Source: Mono CD: Where The Action Is: L.A. Nuggets 1965-68 (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Rhino (original label: Faro)
The Premiers were a band from East L.A. best known for their 1964 hit Farmer John. After that national success, the group continued to record, cranking out a series of local hits for local latino label Faro, run by Max Uballez. The last of these was Get On This Plane, a song that Uballez co-wrote for the band in 1966.
Title: Spaceship Earth
Source: LP: Spaceship Earth
Writer(s): Robert Yeazel
Although Denver's Sugarloaf (named for a nearby mountain and ski resort) was more of a blues-rock band than a psychedelic one, they did move into pretty interesting territory with the title track of their second album, Spaceship Earth. The tune, written by the band's newest member, guitarist Robert Yeazel, moves from a decidedly spacey opening through a slow buildup to a smooth jazz-rock instrumental showcasing the band's dual lead guitars from Yeazel and Bob Webber, as well as Jerry Corbetta's strong keyboards.
Title: Dark Of The Morning
Source: CD: A Lethal Dose Of Hard Psych (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer(s): Daniel Sleen
Label: Arf! Arf! (original label: Hexagon)
Zoser was a project band with a lot of talent but not a whole lot of cash. Warren Kendrick was a producer and studio owner who needed some renovations done on his Audio City Recording Studio in Minneapolis. So, in exchange for the labor needed to get the renovations done within budget Kendrick recorded Zoser's only single, Together, backed with Dark Of The Morning, and pressed 500 copies of the record. In stereo.
Artist: First Edition
Title: Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)
Source: CD: Even More Nuggets (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer: Mickey Newbury
Label: Rhino (original label: Reprise)
In 1968, former New Christy Mistrels members Kenny Rogers and Mike Settle decided to form a psychedelic rock band, the First Edition. Although Settle wrote most of the songs on the first album, it was Rogers who would emerge as the star of the band, even to the point of eventually changing the band's name to Kenny Rogers and the First Edition. That change reflected a shift from psychedelic to country flavored pop that would eventually propel Rogers to superstar status.
Artist: Iron Butterfly
Title: Gentle As It May Seem
Source: Mono CD: Where The Action Is: L.A. Nuggets 1965-68 (originally released on LP: Heavy)
Label: Rhino (original label: Atco)
Personnel changes were pretty much a regular occurrence with Iron Butterfly. After the first album, Heavy, everyone except keyboardist Doug Ingle and drummer Ron Bushy left the band. This was accompanied by a drastic change in style as well, as Ingle, who had already been carrying the lion's share of lead vocals, became the group's primary songwriter as well. Gentle As It Seems, written by DeLoach and lead guitarist Danny Weis, is a good example of the band's original sound, back when they were scrounging for gigs in a rapidly shrinking L.A. all-ages club scene.
Artist: Aquarian Age
Title: 10,000 Words In A Cardboard Box
Source: British import CD: Psychedelia At Abbey Road (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: EMI (original label: Parlophone)
Following the breakup of the influential British psychedelic band Tomorrow, the various members went their separate ways, with vocalist Keith West embarking on a solo career and guitarist Steve Howe doing studio work before becoming a member of Yes. The remaining two members, Junior Wood (bass) and Twink Alder (drums), continued to work with Abbey Road studios staff producer Mark Wirtz on a single, 10,000 Words In A Cardboard Box, credited to the Aquarian Age. Probably the nearest American equivalent to the project was Sagittarius from Los Angeles producer Gary Usher. Both projects came from respected staff producers at major recording studios utilizing top studio talent, not to mention they both took their names from Zodiac signs.
Artist: Jefferson Airplane
Title: Let Me In
Source: 45 RPM single B side
Label: RCA Victor
Marty Balin deserves recognition for his outstanding abilities as a leader. Most people don't even realize he was the founder of Jefferson Airplane, yet it was Balin who brought together the diverse talents of what would become San Francisco's most successful band of the 60s and managed to keep the band together through more than its share of controversies. One indication of his leadership abilities is that he encouraged Paul Kantner to sing lead on Let Me In, a song that the two of them had written together for the band's debut LP, Jefferson Airplane Takes Off, despite the fact that Balin himself had no other onstage role than to sing lead vocals.
Artist: Rising Sons
Title: Take A Giant Step
Source: CD: The Rising Sons featuring Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder
Year: Recorded 1968, released 1992
Popular Los Angeles club band The Rising Sons were blessed with the talents of not one, but three musicians that would go on to become highly respected in the music business: vocalist Taj Mahal, guitarist Ry Cooder, and singer/songwriter Jesse Lee Kincaid. At the time, however, Columbia Records had no clue how to market an interracial country-blues/rock band. After an early single bombed the band attempted a more commercial sounding tune, the Gerry Goffin/ Carole King penned Take A Giant Step, but Columbia sat on it, as well as over an album's worth of other material. The song itself became well known when the Monkees released it as the B side of their debut single, Last Train To Clarksville. Taj Mahal, who liked the lyrics but not the fast tempo of the original version, re-recorded the song at a slower pace for his 1969 album Giant Step, making it one of his signature songs in the process.
Source: Mono CD: Nuggets-Original Artyfacts from the Psychedelic Era (originally released on LP: Here Are The Sonics)
Writer(s): Gerald Roslie
Label: Rhino (original label: Etiquette)
From 1965 we have a band that maintains a cult following to this day: the legendary Sonics, generally considered one of the foundation stones of the Seattle music scene. Although the majority of songs on their albums were cover tunes, virtually all of their originals, such as Strychnine from their debut LP, are now considered punk classics; indeed, the Sonics, along with their labelmates the Wailers, are often cited as the first true punk rock bands.
Title: Sunny South Kensington
Source: Mono British import CD: Mellow Yellow (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer(s): Donovan Leitch
Label: EMI (original label: Epic)
Scottish singer/songwriter Donovan Leitch 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.
Title: The Crystal Ship
Source: LP: The Doors
Writer: The Doors
Ever feel like you've discovered something really special that nobody else (among your circle of friends at any rate) knows about? At first you kind of want to keep it to yourself, but soon you find yourself compelled to share it with everyone you know. Such was the case when, in the early summer of 1967, I used my weekly allowance to buy copies of a couple of songs I had heard on the American Forces Network (AFN). As usual, it wasn't long before I was flipping the records over to hear what was on the B sides. I liked the first one well enough (a song by Buffalo Springfield called Do I Have To Come Right Out And Say It, the B side of For What It's Worth), but it was the second one, the B side of the Doors' Light My Fire, that really got to me. To this day I consider The Crystal Ship to be one of the finest slow rock songs ever recorded.
Artist: Canned Heat
Title: Boogie Music
Source: LP: Progressive Heavies (originally released on LP: Living The Blues and as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer(s): L.T.Tatman III
Label: United Artists (original label: Liberty)
Canned Heat was formed in 1966 by a group of Bay Area blues purists. Although a favorite on the rock scene, the band continued to remain true to the blues throughout their existence. The band's most popular single was Going Up the Country from the album Living the Blues. An edited version of Boogie Music, also from Living the Blues, was issued as the B side of that single. This is a stereo mix of that version, featured on a United Artists anthology album released in 1969.
Title: Good Good Man
Source: CD: A Heavy Dose Of Lyte Psych (originally released in Canada as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer(s): Randy Bachman
Label: Arf! Arf! (original label: Franklin)
Not much is known about the Mongrels. Reportedly from Winnipeg, Manitoba, the band released their first single Death Of A Salesman, on the Franklin label (distributed by London Records of Canada) in 1968. Apparently the record did not go anywhere, as they re-recorded the song in Minneapolis the following year under the title Good Good Man and issued it as the B side of their third single.
Artist: Johnny Winter
Title: Leland Mississippi Blues
Source: CD: Woodstock: 40 Years On: Back To Yasgur's Farm
Writer(s): Johnny Winter
Year: Recorded 1969, released 2009
Johnny Winter had just released his first album for Columbia in 1969 when he was invited to play the Woodstock festival. Along with his band, which at that time included his brother Edgar on keyboards, future Double Trouble member Tommy Shannon on bass and Uncle John Turner on drums, Winter played a set that included Leland Mississippi Blues, one of the three original compositions on his Columbia debut LP.
Artist: Glass Sun
Title: Silence Of The Morning
Source: Mono CD: An Overdose Of Heavy Psych (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Rick Roll
Label: Arf! Arf! (original label: Sound Patterns)
Westland, Michigan, was home to Glass Sun, who rocked out as hard as any Michagan band of the time. They released a pair of singles for Detroit's Sound Patterns label in 1968, the first (and best) of which was Silence Of The Morning.