Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Stuck in the Psychedelic Era # 1449 (starts 12/3/14)

Artist:    Majority
Title:    One Third
Source:    Mono CD: Nuggets II-Original Artyfacts From The British Empire And Beyond 1964-1969 (originally released in UK as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer(s):    Barry Graham
Label:    Rhino (original label: Decca)
Year:    1966
    Originally known as Barry Graham and the Mustangs, the Majority moved south from Hull to London after signing with the British Decca label in 1965. A highly adaptable group, the Majority recorded a total of eight singles for Decca without achieving any chart success. Among the best of these tracks was One Third, a song from July of 1966 that was sadly relegated to being a B side. The group did manage to pick up a following on the European continent, and after their contract with Decca expired in 1968 the band packed their bags and moved overseas. After a moderately successful run in Europe using the name Majority One, the group disbanded in the mid-1970s.

Artist:    Sonny And Cher
Title:    Love Don't Come
Source:    45 RPM single B side
Writer(s):    Sonny Bono
Label:    Atco
Year:    1967
    Sonny Bono's talents as a songwriter are often overlooked, mostly because all of Sonny Bono's talents were overshadowed by his wife Cher (who is one of the entertainment legends of the 20th century, after all). Nonetheless the fact remains that Bono was the guy who wrote the songs that made Sonny And Cher the most popular singing duo in the nation in the late 1960s and early 70s. Even an obscure B side like 1967's Love Don't Come demonstrates his ability to craft a song with unexpected key and tempo changes that keep the listener's attention right through to the end of the track.

Artist:    First Edition
Title:    Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)
Source:    LP: Nuggets Vol. 9-Acid Rock (originally released on LP: The First Edition and as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Mickey Newbury
Label:    Rhino (original label: Reprise)
Year:    1968
    In 1968, former New Christy Mistrels members Kenny Rogers and Mike Settle decided to form a psychedelic rock band, the First Edition. Although Settle was the official leader 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:    Electric Prunes
Title:    Hey Mr. President
Source:    Mono CD: The Complete Reprise Singles (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Adams/Barkan
Label:    Real Gone Music/Rhino (original label: Reprise)
Year:    1969
    Although to most of us "Electric Prunes" was the name of a band, to people in the music industry it was actually the name of a commodity. This commodity was originally owned by engineer Dave Hassinger, who produced the band's first two albums for Reprise. After the second LP failed to produce a hit single Hassinger worked out a deal with composer David Axelrod to record something called Mass In F Minor and release it as the third Prunes LP. It soon became apparent, however, that the band members were ill-suited to perform Axelrod's music, and Hassinger brought in members of another band entirely, the Collectors, to record most of the album's instrumental tracks. Although Mass In F Minor was even less commercial than the two previous albums, Hassinger chose to continue working with Axelrod on a fourth Electric Prunes album, Release Of An Oath, using an entirely new group of musicians. By this time the ownership of the band's name had passed to Axelrod's manager, Lenny Poncher, who was responsible for the next single to be released under the Electric Prunes name, 1969's Hey Mr. President. This new lineup (which included former West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band guitarist Ron Morgan) stayed in place until the group officially disbanded, recording one album of mostly-original material in 1969.

Artist:    Who
Title:    The Seeker
Source:    CD: Meaty Beaty Big And Bouncy (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Pete Townshend
Label:    MCA (original label: Decca)
Year:    1970
    The Who's first post-Tommy single was a song called The Seeker, which Pete Townshend claims to have written while drunk out of his mind at 3AM in a Florida swamp. The band first recorded the song in Townshend's home studio, then again at IBC studios, where they ended up producing the record themselves when their regular producer, Kit Lambert, broke his jaw getting a tooth pulled.

Artist:    Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title:    3rd Stone From The Sun
Source:    LP: Are You Experienced?
Writer(s):    Jimi Hendrix
Label:    Legacy (original label: Reprise)
Year:    1967
    One of the great rock instrumentals, 3rd Stone From The Sun (from the Jimi Hendrix Experience album Are You Experienced?) is one of the first tracks to use a recording technique known as backwards masking (where the tape is deliberately put on the machine backwards and new material is added to the reversed recording). In this particular case  the masked material (Hendrix speaking) was added at a faster speed than the original recording, with a lot of reverb added, creating an almost otherworldly effect when played forward at normal speed.

Artist:    Moby Grape
Title:    Omaha
Source:    LP: Moby Grape
Writer(s):    Skip Spence
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1967
    As an ill-advised promotional gimmick, Columbia Records released five separate singles concurrently with the first Moby Grape album. Of the five singles, only one, Omaha, actually charted, and it only got to the #86 spot. Meanwhile, the heavy promotion by the label led to Moby Grape getting the reputation of being over-hyped, much to the detriment of the band's career.

Artist:    Pink Floyd
Title:    Lucifer Sam
Source:    Mono CD: The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn
Writer(s):    Syd Barrett
Label:    Capitol (original label: Tower)
Year:    1967
    Beyond a shadow of a doubt the original driving force behind Pink Floyd was the legendary Syd Barrett. Not only did he front the band during their rise to fame, he also wrote their first two singles, Arnold Layne and See Emily Play, as well as most of their first LP, The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn. In fact it could be argued that one of the songs on that album, Lucifer Sam, could have just as easily been issued as a single, as it is stylistically similar to the first two songs. Sadly, Barrett's mental health deteriorated quickly over the next year and his participation in the making of the band's next LP, A Saucerful Of Secrets, was minimal. He soon left the group altogether, never to return (although several of his former bandmates did participate in the making of his 1970 solo album, The Madcap Laughs).

Artist:    Blues Project
Title:    Two Trains Running
Source:    Mono CD: Projections
Writer(s):    McKinley Morganfield
Label:    Sundazed (original label: Verve Forecast)
Year:    1966
    Possibly the most influential (yet least known outside of musicians' circles) band of the Psychedelic Era was the Blues Project. Formed in 1965 in Greenwich Village, the band worked its way from coast to coast playing mostly college campuses, in the process blazing a path that continues to be followed by underground/progressive/alternative artists. As if founding the whole college circuit wasn't enough, they were arguably the very first jam band, as their version of the Muddy Waters classic Two Trains Running shows. Among those drawing their inspiration from the Blues Project were the Warlocks, a group of young musicians who were traveling with Ken Kesey on the Electric Cool-Aid Acid Test tour bus. The Warlocks would soon change their name to the Grateful Dead and take the jam band concept to a whole new level. Still, they may never have moved in that direction at all if it weren't for the Blues Project.

Artist:    Spencer Davis Group
Title:    I'm A Man
Source:    Mono LP: Progressive Heavies (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Winwood/Miller
Label:    United Artists
Year:    1967
    The Spencer Davis Group, featuring Steve and Muff Winwood, was one of the UK's most successful white R&B bands of the sixties, cranking out a steady stream of hit singles. Two of them, the iconic Gimme Some Lovin' and I'm A Man, were also major hits in the US, the latter being the last song to feature the Winwood brothers. Muff Winwood became a successful record producer. The group itself continued on for several years, but were never able to duplicate their earlier successes. As for Steve Winwood, he quickly faded off into obscurity, never to be heard from again. Except as the leader of Traffic. And a member of Blind Faith. And Traffic again. And some critically-acclaimed collaborations in the early 1980s with Asian musicians. Oh yeah, and a few major solo hits in the late 80s. Other than that, nothing.

Artist:    Love Sculpture
Title:    Wang Dang Doodle
Source:    British import CD: Blues Helping
Writer(s):    Willie Dixon
Label:    EMI (original label: Parlophone)
Year:    1968
    During my first year of college I moved into a house shared by five other people (not all of which were students) near the University of New Mexico. Shortly after moving in I bought an old Philips reel-to-reel machine and began taping various albums from my roommates' collections. Not long after that I discovered a gold mine in the basement. A former resident of the house had left a box of reel-to-reel tapes, some of which were only vaguely labeled, if at all. One of the tapes was labeled simply "Love Sculpture". It turned out that some of the songs on that tape were actually from the Blues Project's Projections album, but others, such as this rather tasty version of Koko Taylor's Wang Dang Doodle, were indeed by a band called Love Sculpture. I was not aware at the time, however, that the song was from an album called Blues Helping, or that Love Sculpture's lead guitarist and vocalist was none other than Dave Edmunds, who I had only known as the guy who did the remake of I Hear You Knockin' in the early 1970s.

Artist:    Doors
Title:    Alabama Song (Whiskey Bar)
Source:    LP: The Doors
Writer(s):    Weill/Brecht
Label:    Elektra
Year:    1967
    1967 was a breakthrough year for Elektra Records, which had only signed its first full-fledged rock band (Love) the previous year. Between Love's second and third albums and the first two Doors LPs, Elektra had by the end of the year established itself as a player. Although never released as a single, Alabama Song managed to make it onto the Best of the Doors album and has been a classic rock staple for years.

Artist:    Doors
Title:    Variety Is The Spice Of Life
Source:    LP: Other Voices
Writer(s):    The Doors
Label:    Elektra
Year:    1971
    Three months after the death of Jim Morrison the remaining three members of the Doors released Other Voices. The band had started work on the song while Morrison was in France, and ended up using keyboardist Ray Manzarek and guitarist Robby Krieger on lead vocals. Although all the songs were officially credited to the entire band, some tunes, such as Variety Is The Spice Of Life, were the work of individual members (in this case Krieger, who also sang lead vocals on the track).

Artist:    Doors
Title:    End Of The Night
Source:    LP: The Doors
Writer(s):    The Doors
Label:    Elektra
Year:    1967
    The Doors first big break came when they opened for Love at L.A.'s most famous club, the Whisky-A-Go-Go, and became friends with the members of the more established popular local band. Love was already recording for Elektra Records, and enthusiastically recommended that the label sign the Doors as well. Elektra did, and the Doors went on to become one of the most successful and influential bands in rock history. Although not as well-known as Light My Fire or The End, the dark and moody End Of The Night is a classic early Doors tune, from the opening bent chords from guitarist Robby Krieger to the spooky keyboard work of Ray Manzarek and of course Jim Morrison's distinctive vocals.

Artist:     Music Machine
Title:     Talk Me Down
Source:     CD: Beyond The Garage (originally released on LP: Bonniwell Music Machine)
Writer:     Sean Bonniwell
Label:     Sundazed (original label: Warner Brothers)
Year:     1967
     Talk Me Down was, according to composer Sean Bonniwell, quite possibly the first punk rock song ever conceived. The tune was one of four songs recorded on a demo at Original Sound when the Music Machine still called itself the Ragamuffins. This recording was cut in 1967 by the band's original lineup, but not released until Warner Brothers released an album called Bonniwell Music Machine later that year. By the time of the album's release, all the members of the original band except Bonniwell had moved on to other things, and a new lineup was featured on several tracks on the album.

Artist:    Beatles
Title:    Yellow Submarine
Source:    CD: Revolver
Writer(s):    Lennon/McCartney
Label:    Parlophone (original label: Capitol)
Year:    1966
    Ringo's greatest hit.

Artist:    Beatles
Title:    Savoy Truffle
Source:    CD: The Beatles
Writer(s):    George Harrison
Label:    Parlophone (original label: Apple)
Year:    1968
    George Harrison's skills as a songwriter continued to develop in 1968. The double-LP The Beatles (aka the White Album) contained four Harrison compositions, including Savoy Truffle, a tongue-in-cheek song about Harrison's friend Eric Clapton's fondness for chocolate. John Lennon did not participate in the recording of Savoy Truffle. The keyboards were probably played by Chris Thomas, who, in addition to playing on all four Harrison songs on the album, served as de facto producer when George Martin decided to take a vacation in the middle of the album's recording sessions. 

Artist:    Beatles
Title:    I'm Only Sleeping
Source:    CD: Revolver (originally released on LP: Yesterday...And Today)
Writer(s):    Lennon/McCartney
Label:    Parlophone (original label: Capitol)
Year:    1966
    US record buyers were able to hear I'm Only Sleeping several weeks before their British counterparts thanks to Capitol Records including the song on the US-only Yesterday...And Today LP. There was a catch, however. Producer George Martin had not yet made a stereo mix of the song, and Capitol used their "Duophonic" system to create a fake stereo mix for the album. That mix continued to be used on subsequent pressings of the LP (and various tape formats), even after a stereo mix was created and included on the UK version of the Revolver album. It wasn't until EMI released the entire run of UK albums on CD in both the US and UK markets that American record buyers had access to the true stereo version of the song heard here.

Artist:     Cream
Title:     Deserted Cities Of The Heart
Source:     LP: Wheels Of Fire
Writer:     Bruce/Brown
Label:     Atco
Year:     1968
     The most psychedelic of Cream's songs were penned by Jack Bruce and his songwriting partner Pete Brown. One of the best of these was chosen to close out the last studio side of the last Cream album released while the band was still in existence. Deserted Cities Of The Heart is a fitting epitaph to an unforgettable band.

Artist:    Rolling Stones
Title:    Citadel
Source:    LP: Their Satanic Majesties Request
Writer(s):    Jagger/Richards
Label:    London
Year:    1967
    One of the most underrated songs in the Rolling Stones catalog, Citadel is the second track on Their Satanic Majesties Request, an album often dismissed as being an ill-fated attempt to keep up with Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. As the song is preceeded on the album by the overture-like Sing This All Together with no break between the two, Citadel was almost impossible to play as a separate track from the original vinyl. It's a little easier to play from the CD, but due to sloppiness on the part of whoever mastered the 80s Abkco discs, the start of the song does not quite match up with the start of the CD track. Maybe one of these days I'll get a copy of the remastered version that came out more recently and see if they did a better job with it. In the meantime sit back and enjoy this hard-rockin' piece of psychedelia.

Artist:    Buffalo Springfield
Title:    Bluebird
Source:    LP: Homer (soundtrack) (originally released on LP: Buffalo Springfield Again)
Writer(s):    Stephen Stills
Label:    Cotillion (original label: Atco)
Year:    1967
    When it comes right down to it Buffalo Springfield has one of the highest ratios of songs recorded to songs played on the radio of any band in history, especially if you only count the two albums worth of material that was released while the band was still active. This is probably because Buffalo Springfield had more raw songwriting talent than just about any two other bands. Although Neil Young was just starting to hit his stride as a songwriter, bandmate Stephen Stills was already at an early peak, as songs like Bluebird clearly demonstrate.

Artist:    Blues Magoos
Title:    I Wanna Be There
Source:    CD: Kaleidoscopic Compendium (originally released as 45 RPM single and included on LP: Basic Blues Magoos)
Writer(s):    Theilhelm/Scala
Label:    Mercury
Year:    1967
    Like many bands of the psychedelic era, the Blues Magoos had a relationship with their producers that was uneasy at the best of times, and downright hostile at worst. The basic idea was actually a sound one: the band would make the music while Longhair Productions (Art Polhemus and Bob Wylde) would handle the marketing of the band. In 1966 this meant the Psychedelic Lollipop album, electric suits and an appearance on a Bob Hope special. In 1967 it meant the Electric Comic Book album with an insert offering all sorts of psychedelic items such as a lava lamp called the "psych de-lite". Things started to fray a bit, though, when the producers paired up the two strongest tracks from Electric Comic Book as a single, resulting in radio airplay being split between the two and neither becoming a huge hit. The situation got even worse when Polhemus and Wylde came up with the idea for a Blues Magoos Christmas album. The band withdrew and hired a mobile unit to come to their house to record tracks for their next LP. At that point there were several existing songs that had been released as singles but not yet included on an album. Probably the best of those was I Wanna Be There, which had been released in July of 1967. The tune, along with three other Longhair-produced tracks and the newer self-produced material, was included on the original band's last LP, Basic Blues Magoos, which was released in May of 1968.

Artist:     Serpent Power
Title:     Up And Down
Source:     CD: Love Is The Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-70 (originally released on LP: The Serpent Power)
Writer:     David Meltzer
Label:     Rhino (original label: Vanguard)
Year:     1967
     David Meltzer was a beat poet who by the late 60s had already spent several years in the San Francisco Bay area, recording a spoken word album in 1959. For reasons having something to do with yoga, Meltzer and his wife Tina decided to form a band in 1967, calling it the Serpent Power. The group cut one LP for Vanguard. Up and Down is one of the shorter tracks from that album.

Artist:    Byrds
Title:    Wild Mountain Thyme
Source:    LP: Fifth Dimension
Writer(s):    Francis McPeake
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1966
    The third Byrds album, Fifth Dimension, is notable for being the group's first LP to not include any songs written by Bob Dylan. They did, however, record a cover of cover song that Dylan had recorded. Although Dylan's version was attributed to "traditional" and the Byrds' version followed suit, giving arrangement credit to the band, Wild Mountain Thyme was actually written in 1957 by Francis McPeake, a member of a well-known musical family in Belfast, Ireland. McPeake's song, in turn, was based on an earlier work, The Braes of Balquhither, written around 1800 by Scottish poet Robert Tannahill.

Artist:    Byrds
Title:    He Was A Friend Of Mine
Source:    CD: Turn! Turn! Turn!
Writer(s):    Traditional, arr. McGuinn
Label:    Columbia/Legacy
Year:    1965
    He Was A Friend Of Mine is a traditional folk song that Roger McGuinn wrote new lyrics for the night John F. Kennedy was assassinated. After the Byrds recorded McGuinn's arrangement for their second album in 1965 the song became a staple of the group's live performances. In 1967 David Crosby prefaced the band's performance of the song with an introduction that questioned the Warren Report's contention that assassin Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone, which did not go over well with other members of the band (particularly McGuinn), and is generally considered to be a contributing factor to Crosby's being fired by McGuinn and bassist Chris Hillman later that year.

Artist:    Byrds
Title:    5D
Source:    LP: Fifth Dimension
Writer(s):    Roger McGuinn
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1966
    The second single from the Byrds' third LP, Fifth Dimension, suffered from the same problem as its predecessor. Both 5D and Eight Miles High were branded as drug songs by people who had no clue as to what the songs were really about, which had the effect of discouraging the more conservative radio programmers from playing the songs. In the case of 5D, the song was, according to songwriter Roger McGuinn, an attempt to explain Einstein's theory of relativity in layman's terms. In a 1966 interview McGuinn had this to say about the song: "It's sort of weird but...what I'm talking about is the whole universe, the fifth dimension, which is height, width, depth, time and something else. But there definitely are more dimensions than five. It's infinite. The fifth dimension is the threshold of scientific knowledge." Despite McGuinn's attempts to explain the song, many people insisted on believing it was about an LSD trip, and the single died quickly after being released in late 1966.

Artist:    Seeds
Title:    Pushin' Too Hard
Source:    Mono British import CD: Singles As & Bs (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Sky Saxon
Label:    Big Beat (original label: GNP Crescendo)
Year:    1965
    Pushin' Too Hard is generally included on every collection of psychedelic hits ever compiled. And for good reason. The song is an undisputed classic.

Artist:    Simon and Garfunkel
Title:    I Am A Rock
Source:    CD: Collected Works (originally released on LP: Sounds of Silence)
Writer(s):    Paul Simon
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1966
    The success of I Am A Rock, when released as a single in 1966, showed that the first Simon And Garfunkel hit, The Sound Of Silence, was no fluke. The two songs served as bookends to a very successful LP, Sounds Of Silence, and would lead to several more hit records before the two singers went their separate ways in 1970. This was actually the second time I Am A Rock had been issued as a single. An earlier version, from the Paul Simon Songbook, had been released in 1965. Both the single and the LP were only available for a short time and only in the UK, and were deleted at Simon's request.

Artist:    Monkees
Title:    Salesman
Source:    LP: Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones, LTD.
Writer(s):    Craig Smith
Label:    Colgems
Year:    1967
    The first song on the Monkees' fourth LP, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn And Jones, LTD. was also the most controversial. Michael Nesmith, as a side project, had been producing songs for a group led by Craig Vincent Smith called the Penny Arkade. One song in particular, Salesman, impressed Nesmith so much that he decided to produce a Monkees version of the song as well. The track was then used in a Monkees TV episode called The Devil And Peter Tork. NBC-TV at first refused to air the episode, claiming that the line "Salesman with your secret goods that you push while you talk" was a veiled drug reference (although producer Bert Schnieder was convinced the real reason was the liberal use of the word "hell" in the show's script).

Artist:    Tommy James And The Shondells
Title:    Mony Mony
Source:    The Best Of 60s Supergroups (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    James/Gentry/Cordell/Bloom
Label:    Priority (original label: Roulette)
Year:    1968
    Sometime around 1964, a kid named Tommy James took his band, the Shondells, into a recording studio to record a simple song called Hanky Panky. The song was released on the Roulette label and went absolutely nowhere. Two years later a Pittsburgh DJ, looking for something different to make his show stand out from the crowd, decided to dig out a copy of the record and play it as a sort of on-air audition. The audience loved it, and the DJ soon contacted James, inviting him and the Shondells to make a personal appearance. Unfortunately by this time there were no Shondells, so James hastily put together a new band to promote the record. It wasn't long before the word spread and Hanky Panky was a national hit. James and his new Shondells then commenced to pretty much single-handedly keep Roulette Records afloat for the next three or four years with songs like their 1968 jukebox favorite Mony Mony, one of many top 10 singles for the band.

Artist:    Mad River
Title:    Wind Chimes
Source:    LP: Mad River
Writer(s):    Mad River
Year:    1968
Label:    Sundazed/EMI (original label: Capitol)
    When Mad River's debut LP was released, the San Francisco rock press hailed it as "taking rock music as far as it could go." Indeed, songs like Wind Chimes certainly pushed the envelope in 1968, when bubble gum was king of top 40 radio and progressive FM stations were still in the process of finding an audience. One thing that helped was the band members' friendship with avant-garde poet Richard Brautigan, who pulled whatever strings he could to get attention for his favorite local band. Still, the time was not yet right for such a band as Mad River, who had quietly faded away by the early 1970s.

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