Tuesday, October 13, 2015
Stuck in the Psychedelic Era # 1542 (starts 10/14/15)
Title: (Theme From) The Monkees
Source: CD: Greatest Hits (originally released on LP: The Monkees)
Label: Rhino (original label: Colgems)
Fun facts about the Monkees: Songwriters Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart got involved in the whole Monkees thing thinking they would be the core members of the band itself. They even recorded a demo of the Monkees theme song. The powers that be, however, decided that using four guys from entirely different backgrounds who were almost complete strangers was a better idea [shrugs]. Everyone knows that the Monkees did not play their own instruments of their first two albums, but did you know that there is not a single song on the first LP that features all four members on it, even as vocalists? Most of the backup vocals, in fact, were provided by studio musicians.
Artist: Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title: Spanish Castle Magic
Source: CD: Axis: Bold As Love
Writer(s): Jimi Hendrix
Label: MCA (original label: Reprise)
When the second Jimi Hendrix Experience album, Axis: Bold As Love came out it was hailed as a masterpiece of four-track engineering. Working closely with producer Chas Chandler and engineer Eddie Kramer, Hendrix used the recording studio itself as an instrument, making an art form out of the stereo mixing process. The unfortunate by-product of this is that most of the songs on the album could not be played live and still sound anything like the studio version. One notable exception is Spanish Castle Magic, which became a more or less permanent part of the band's performing repertoire.
Artist: Jefferson Airplane
Source: LP: Crown Of Creation
Writer(s): Grace Slick
Label: RCA Victor
One of Grace Slick's most memorable tunes was Lather from the Jefferson Airplane's fourth LP, Crown Of Creation. Featuring an eerie instrumental bridge played on a tissue-paper covered comb (at least that's what I think it was), the song was reportedly about drummer Spencer Dryden, the band's oldest member, who had turned 30 while the album was being recorded. A popular phrase of the time was "don't trust anyone over 30", making it an unfortunate time to have that particular birthday.
Artist: Shy Limbs
Source: Mono British import CD: Love, Poetry And Revolution (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer(s): John Dickenson
Label: Grapefruit (original label: CBS)
The volatile nature of the late 60s British rock scene is clearly illustrated by a band called Shy Limbs. Formed by songwriter John Dickenson and vocalist Greg Lake, both former members of a band called Shame, the band also included guitarist/bassist Alan Bowery (from a band called the Actress) and drummer Andy McCulloch. The B side of the band's first single, a song called Love, featured guest guitarist Robert Fripp, who was in the process of forming his own band, King Crimson, at the time. Before the single was even released, Lake had left to join Fripp's band, and Shy Limbs released a second single without him before disbanding, at which time McCulloch replaced Michael Giles in King Crimson. By then, however, Lake had left King Crimson to co-found Emerson, Lake and Palmer.
Artist: Bob Dylan
Title: From A Buick 6
Source: Mono 45 RPM single B side
Writer(s): Bob Dylan
Although there were several unissued recordings made during the Highway 61 Revisited sessions, Dylan and his producer, Tom Wilson, chose to instead use one of the already released album tracks as the B side for Positively 4th Street in September of 1965. The chosen track was From A Buick 6, a song that is vintage Dylan through and through.
Artist: Dick Dale And His Del-Tones
Title: Taco Wagon
Source: CD: The Best Of Dick Dale And His Del-Tones (originally released on LP: Mr. Eliminator)
Writer(s): Dick Dale
Label: Rhino (original label: Capitol)
Known as the "king of the surf guitar", Dick Dale is one of the most respected guitarists in rock history, despite never having a true hit single.
Dale plays left-handed without restringing his guitar, giving him a unique perspective that inspired a young Jimi Hendrix, among others. Between 1961 and 1964 Dale and his band the Del-Tones recorded five albums and several singles, most of which were released on the Capitol label. By 1964 almost all surf music was being rebranded as "hot rod" music; but all Dale really had to do was change the titles of some of his songs to keep up with the trend. Taco Wagon, for instance, incorporates elements of Mexican music into what is still undeniably a surf style, yet fits with the motoring trend as well. Pretty clever, that.
Artist: Paul Revere and the Raiders
Title: Steppin' Out
Source: Mono CD: Nuggets-Original Artyfacts From The First Psychedelic Era (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Rhino (original label: Columbia)
1965 was the year that Paul Revere and the Raiders hit the big time. The Portland, Oregon band had already been performing together for several years, and had been the first rock band to record Louie Louie in the spring of 1963, getting airplay on the West Coast and Hawaii but losing out nationally to another Portland band, the Kingsmen, whose version was recorded the same month as the Raiders'. While playing in Hawaii the band came to the attention of Dick Clark, who was looking for a band to appear on his new afternoon TV program, Where The Action Is. Clark introduced the band to Terry Melcher, a successful producer at Columbia Records, which led to the Raiders being the first actual rock band signed by the label. Appearing on Action turned out to be a major turning point for the band, who soon became the show's defacto hosts as well as house band. The Raiders' first national hit in their new role was Steppin' Out, a song written by Revere and vocalist Mark Lindsay about a guy returning from military service (as Revere himself had done in the early 60s, reforming the band upon his return) and finding out his girl had been unfaithful. Working with Melcher, the Raiders enjoyed a run of hits from 1965-67 unequalled by any other Amercian rock band of the time.
Artist: Buffalo Springfield
Title: Rock And Roll Woman
Source: LP: Homer (soundtrack) (originally released on LP: Buffalo Springfield Again and as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Stephen Stills
Label: Cotillion (original label: Atco)
Buffalo Springfield did not sell huge numbers of records (except for the single For What It's Worth). Nor did they pack in the crowds. As a matter of fact, when they played the club across the street from where Love was playing, they barely had any audience at all. Artistically, though, it's a whole 'nother story. During their brief existence Buffalo Springfield launched the careers of no less than four major artists: Neil Young, Richie Furay, Jim Messina and Stephen Stills. They also recorded more than their share of tracks that have held up better than most of what else was being recorded at the time. Case in point: Rock and Roll Woman, a Stephen Stills tune that still sounds fresh well over 40 years after it was recorded.
Artist: Moby Grape
Source: LP: Moby Grape
Writer(s): Skip Spence
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.
Title: Love Me Two Times
Source: LP: Strange Days
Writer(s): The Doors
Although the second Doors album is sometimes dismissed as being full of tracks that didn't make the cut on the band's debut LP, the fact is that Strange Days contains some of the Doors' best-known tunes. One of those is Love Me Two Times, which was the second single released from the album. The song continues to get heavy airplay on classic rock stations.
Artist: Rolling Stones
Title: Ruby Tuesday
Source: 45 RPM single (stereo reissue)
One of the most durable songs in the Rolling Stones catalog, Ruby Tuesday was originally intended to be the B side of their 1967 single Let's Spend The Night Together. Many stations, however, balked at the subject matter of the A side and began playing Ruby Tuesday instead, which is somewhat ironic considering speculations as to the subject matter of the song (usually considered to be about a groupie of the band's acquaintance, although Mick Jagger has said it was about Keith Richards' ex-girlfriend).
Artist: Rolling Stones
Title: Stray Cat Blues
Source: CD: Beggar's Banquet
Label: ABKCO (original label: London)
As a military dependent overseas I had access to the local Base Exchange. The downside of buying albums there was that they were always a month or two behind the official stateside release dates getting albums in stock. The upside is that the BX had a special of the month that was always a new release for sale at something like 40% off the regular album price. The December 1968 special was a classic-to-be from the Rolling Stones called Beggar's Banquet, which I bought for a buck and a half. Full-priced albums that month included new releases by the Beatles (white album), Hendrix (Electric Ladyland) and Cream (Wheels of Fire). Astute readers may have noticed that all of those full-priced albums were double LP sets. Needless to say, by the end of the month I was broke.
Artist: Rolling Stones
Title: Let's Spend The Night Together
Source: 45 RPM single (stereo reissue)
I seem to recall some TV show (Ed Sullivan, maybe?) making Mick Jagger change the words to "Let's Spend Some Time Together". I can't imagine anyone doing that to the Stones now.
Title: 7&7 Is
Source: LP: Nuggets Vol. 9-Acid Rock (originally released as 45 RPM single. Stereo version released on LP: Da Capo)
Writer(s): Arthur Lee
Label: Rhino (original label: Elektra)
The word "seven" does not appear anywhere in the song 7&7 Is. In fact, I have no idea where Arthur Lee got that title from. Nonetheless, the song is among the most intense tracks to ever make the top 40. 7&7 Is starts off with power chords played over a constant drum roll (possibly played by Lee himself), with cymbals crashing over equally manic semi-spoken lyrics. The song builds up to an explosive climax: an atomic bomb blast followed by a slow post-apocalyptic instrumental that quickly fades away.
Title: Silas Stingy
Source: LP: The Who Sell Out
Writer(s): John Entwistle
John Alec Entwistle did not write average songs. For example, his best known song, Boris The Spider, was about, well, a spider. Whiskey Man dealt with a drunk's imaginary friend. And then there was Silas Stingy, from The Who Sell Out. The song tells the story of a man who was so miserly he spent his entire fortune on protecting his money, thus ending up with nothing at all. One of my all-time favorite Who tracks.
Artist: Fairport Convention
Title: If (Stomp)
Source: CD: Fairport Convention
While most British psychedelic bands grew out of the Mod scene centered around London's Carnaby Street, Fairport Convention took another path, patterning themselves on the American folk-rock of bands like early Jefferson Airplane. Their gigs were more likely to be at out of the way coffee houses than dance clubs, and the members' spare time was spent reading esoteric works by Spike Milligan, James Joyce and Henry Miller and listening to John Coltrane, John Cage and Doc Watson records. Their first self-titled LP (which was only released in the UK) was a mixture of original tunes and covers of US artists such as Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and Emmitt Rhodes. The only single from that album was a tune called If (Stomp), which is actually an early example of country-rock. The song's co-writer, Ian MacDonald, would later change his name to Iian Matthews, forming his own country-rock band, Matthews' Southern Comfort, in the 1970s.
Artist: Iron Butterfly
Title: It Must Be Love
Source: LP: Ball
Writer(s): Doug Ingle
Although it did not contain anything like the monster hit In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, the third Iron Butterfly LP, Ball, was probably a better album overall. The first single released from the album was In The Time Of Our Lives, backed with It Must Be Love, a tune that features some nice guitar work from Eric Brann, who would soon be leaving the band for an unsuccessful solo career.
Artist: David Bowie
Source: CD: The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars
Writer(s): David Bowie
Label: Ryko (original label: RCA Victor)
Starman was the first single released from David Bowie's breakout hit LP The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars. The song, about a benevolent being from outer space, was so influential that it became the inspiration for the 1984 movie of the same name.
Source: LP: The Beatles
John Lennon's songwriting continued to take a more personal turn with the 1968 release of The Beatles, also known as the White Album. Perhaps the best example of this is the song Julia. The song was written for Lennon's mother, who had been killed by a drunk driver in 1958, although it also has references to Lennon's future wife Yoko Ono (Yoko translates into English as Ocean Child). Julia is the only 100% solo John Lennon recording to appear on a Beatle album.
Title: Doctor Robert
Source: CD: Revolver (originally released in US on LP: Yesterday...And Today)
Label: Parlophone (original label: Capitol)
Dr. Robert is one of the few Beatles songs that was released in the US before it was released in the UK. The song was included on the US-only LP Yesterday...And Today, which came out in June of 1966. Most of the tunes on that album were tracks that had either been issued as singles or had appeared on the British versions of the band's two previous albums (Help! and Rubber Soul) but had been left off the US versions of those LPs. Dr. Robert, however, would not be released in the UK until the Revolver album came out in the fall. Concerning the subject matter of the song, John Lennon later claimed that he himself was Dr. Robert, as he was the one who carried the pills for the band in their early days. A likely story.
Source: British import LP: The Beatles
Writer(s): George Harrison
Beatle George Harrison had first revealed an anti-establishment side with his song Taxman, released in 1966 on the Revolver album. This particular viewpoint remained dormant until the song Piggies came out on the 1968 double LP The Beatles (aka the White Album). Although the song was intended to be satirical in tone, at least one Californian, Charles Manson, took it seriously enough to justify "whacking" a few "piggies" of his own. It was not pretty.
Artist: Spencer Davis Group
Title: Gimme Some Lovin'
Source: Simulated stereo LP: Progressive Heavies (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: United Artists
The 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 becoming best-sellers. Not entirely coincidentally, 60s-oriented oldies radio stations began to appear in major markets as well. Ironically, most of those stations are now playing 80s oldies.
Source: Mono LP: Nuggets Vol. 2-Punk (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Otis Redding
Label: Rhino (original label: Atco)
Sounding a lot like the Rascals, the Vagrants were a popular Long Island band led by singer Peter Sabatino and best remembered for being the group that had guitarist Leslie Weinstein in it. Weinstein would change his last name to West and record a solo album called Mountain before forming the band of the same name. This version of Respect is fairly faithful to the original Otis Redding version. Unfortunately for the Vagrants, Aretha Franklin would release her rearranged version of the song just a few weeks after the Vagrants, relegating their version of the tune (and the Vagrants themselves) to footnote status.
Artist: Ultimate Spinach
Title: Sacrifice Of The Moon
Source: LP: Ultimate Spinach
Writer(s): Ian Bruce-Douglas
Ultimate Spinach was one of several Boston area bands signed by M-G-M's Alan Lorber and marketed as representative of a "Bosstown Sound" that didn't actually exist. In fact, Ultimate Spinach, led by multi-instrumentalist Ian Bruce-Douglas, who wrote all the group's material (and liner notes as well), sounded a lot like Country Joe and the Fish, especially on instrumentals like Sacrifice Of The Moon from their self-titled debut LP. The LP, released in January of 1968, did fairly well on the charts, hitting the #34 spot, leading to a second LP, Behold And See, later the same year. Bruce-Douglas left the band he founded after that second LP, and although there were more Ultimate Spinach albums, none of them sounded anything like the original band.
Artist: Tommy James And The Shondells
Title: Sweet Cherry Wine
Source: 45 RPM single
Tommy James And The Shondells was one of the most successful single-oriented bands in rock history, cranking out a series of top 40 hits from 1966-1969, quite a few of which are still in hot rotation on oldies radio stations. Many of those records have been labelled as "bubble gum" rock, but there are actually several key differences between the Shondells and the bands from Kazenetz-Katz productions that the term was coined to describe. For one thing, the Shondells were a real performing unit that played on their own records, as opposed to the anonymous studio musicians that recorded under names like 1910 Fruitgum company and Ohio Express. Another important point was the fact that Tommy James himself wrote almost all the Shondells' songs, including Sweet Cherry Wine, a somewhat psychedelic tune that was released as a followup to one of their best known songs, Crimson And Clover.
Artist: Firesign Theatre
Title: The Further Adventures Of Nick Danger
Source: CD: How Can You Be In Two Places At Once When You're Not Anywhere At All
The Firesign Theatre, consisting of Phil Proctor, Peter Bergman, Phil Austin and David Ossman, pioneered a type of "counter-culture comedy" that would be followed up on by such stars as Cheech and Chong, George Carlin, and the Credibility Gap (with Harry Shearer and Michael McKean), as well as the National Lampoon Radio Hour (featuring Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, Gilda Radner, Christopher Guest and others). Their most famous work is The Further Adventures Of Nick Danger from the 1969 album How Can You Be In Two Places At Once When You're Not Anywhere At All. The piece itself runs over 28 minutes, taking up the entire second side of the original LP. It is a parody of old-time radio detective dramas, done in a noir style that has itself become a standard comedy trope. The plot itself is secondary to the jokes, many of which are references to counter-cultural icons such as the Beatles. There have been several more Nick Danger pieces by the Firesign Theatre over the years, the most recent being The Bride Of Firesign, released in 2001.