Tuesday, August 2, 2016
Stuck in the Psychedelic Era # 1631 (starts 8/3/16)
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: Simon and Garfunkel
Title: Richard Cory
Source: LP: Sounds Of Silence
Writer(s): Paul Simon
My ultra-cool 9th-grade English teacher brought in a copy of Simon And Garfunkel's Sounds Of Silence album one day. As a class, we deconstructed the lyrics of two of the songs on that album: A Most Peculiar Man and Richard Cory. Both songs deal with suicide, but under vastly different circumstances. Whereas A Most Peculiar Man is about a lonely man who lives an isolated existence as an anonymous resident of a boarding house, Richard Cory deals with a character who is a pillar of society, known and envied by many. Too bad most high school English classes weren't that interesting.
Artist: Blues Project
Title: Steve's Song
Source: Mono CD: Projections
Writer(s): Steve Katz
Label: Sundazed (original label: Verve Folkways)
The members of the Blues Project came from a variety of backgrounds, including jazz, rock, classical and of course, blues. Guitarist Steve Katz had the strongest connection to the Greenwich Village folk scene and was the lead vocalist on the Project's recording of Donovan's Catch The Wind on their first LP. For their second album Katz wrote his own song, entitled simply Steve's Song. The tune starts with a very old-English style repeated motif that gets increasing complicated as it repeats itself before segueing into a more conventional mode with Katz on the lead vocal. Katz would write and sing similarly-styled tunes, such as Sometimes In Winter, as a member of Blood, Sweat and Tears.
Artist: Electric Prunes
Title: I've Got A Way Of My Own
Source: 45 RPM single
Writer(s): L. Ransford
Year: Recorded 1966, released 2016
Not all of the songs the Electric Prunes recorded during sessions for their debut LP, I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night), ended up being included on the album itself. Among the unused tracks was a cover of a Hollies B side called I've Got A Way Of My Own. The song was actually one of the first tunes that the band recorded, while they were still, in the words of vocalist James Lowe, "searching for a sound and style we could capture on a record." Following the sessions the band decided that harmonies were better left to other groups, and I've Got A Way Of My Own remained unreleased until the 21st century.
Artist: Shadows Of Knight
Title: Boom Boom
Source: CD: Gloria
Writer(s): John Lee Hooker
Label: Sundazed (original label: Dunwich)
A good portion of the first Shadows Of Knight LP, Gloria, was made up of covers of 50s Chicago blues songs originally issued on the Chess label. Unlike the Animals and the Rolling Stones, whose debut efforts included many of the same covers, including John Lee Hooker's Boom Boom, the Shadows had the advantage of actually being from (suburban) Chicago, giving them a bit more intimate perspective than their British counterparts. The results speak for themselves.
Title: Shapes Of Things
Source: Simulated stereo LP: Great Hits (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Unlike earlier Yardbirds hits, 1966's Shapes Of Things was written by members of the band. The song, featuring one of guitarist Jeff Beck's most distinctive solos, just barely missed the top 10 in the US, although it was a top 5 single in the UK.
Artist: ? And The Mysterians
Title: I Can't Get Enough Of You Baby
Source: 45 RPM single (reissue)
Label: Abkco (original label: Cameo)
? And The Mysterians' 1966 hit 96 Tears was the last song on the legendary Cameo label to hit the top 10 before the label went bankrupt in 1967 (and was bought by Allan Klein, who still reissues old Cameo-Parkway recordings on his Abkco label). Shortly before that bankruptcy was declared, however, the group released Can't Get Enough Of You Baby, which stalled out in the lower reaches of the charts. The song itself, however, finally achieved massive popularity at the end of the century, when a new version of the tune by Smash Mouth went to the top of the charts.
Title: Pictures Of Lily
Source: Mono CD: Meaty, Beaty, Big And Bouncy (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Pete Townshend
Label: MCA (original label: Decca)
Pictures of Lily was the first single released by the Who in 1967. It hit the #4 spot on the British charts, but only made it to #51 in the US. This was nothing new for the Who, as several of their early singles, including Substitute, I Can't Explain and even My Generation hit the British top 10 without getting any US airplay (or chart action) at all.
Title: Wear Your Love Like Heaven
Source: LP: A Gift From A Flower To A Garden
Writer(s): Donovan Leitch
Following the release of his Mellow Yellow album in early 1967 Donovan decided to take a break from the studio, only recording a pair of singles over the next few months. Finally, in October, the Scottish singer/songwriter began work on his next album, a double LP to be called A Gift From A Flower To A Garden. The first disc was a collection of electric pop songs subtitled Wear Your Love Like Heaven, while the second, For Little Ones, featured more acoustic material and was oriented to a younger audience. As a way of hedging their bets, Epic Records also issued the project as a pair of separate albums. The lead single from the album was the title track from the first disc, which also opens the entire album. The song did fairly well on the charts, peaking at #23 in the US, and is considered a highlight of Donovan's psychedelic period.
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)
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: Velvet Underground
Title: Head Held High
Source: LP: Loaded
Writer(s): Lou Reed
The fourth Velvet Underground album, Loaded, saw many changes for the band. The band had just switched record labels to Atlantic's Cotillion subsidiary, and had been told by the people at Atlantic to produce an album "loaded with hits". The band did its best to oblige the label, although primary songwriter Lou Reed would later claim that many of the songs on the album had been edited and resequenced without his permission. In fact, Loaded was the final VU album to feature co-founder and primary songwriter Lou Reed, who left the band before the LP was released. It was also the first album recorded without the participation of drummer Maureen Tucker, who was pregnant at the time. Bassist Doug Yule took a greater part in the album's production and singing lead on four songs. Yule also played lead guitar on several tracks, including Head Held High, which opens side two of the album.
Artist: Creedence Clearwater Revival
Title: Bad Moon Rising
Source: CD: Woodstock: 40 Years On: Back To Yasgur's Farm
Writer: John Fogerty
It's a mystery to me why the Woodstock movie completely ignores the presence of Creedence Clearwater Revival, especially considering that they were at their commercial peak at the time of the performance and still riding high on the charts when the movie itself came out. The only reason I can think of was that the owner of Fantasy Records, being a control freak who basically owned the rights to all things Creedence, was probably unwilling to grant permission for the band to appear in the movie, or on either of the soundtrack albums released in the early 1970s. Among the songs that CCR performed at Woodstock was Bad Moon Rising, one of a series of consecutive # 2 hits for the band. The recording of the performance was finally released in 2009 as part of a commemorative box set called Woodstock: 40 Years On: Back To Yasgur's Farm.
Artist: Randy Newman
Title: Last Night I Had A Dream
Source: Mono CD: Where The Action Is: L.A. Nuggets 1965-68 (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer: Randy Newman
Label: Rhino (original label: Reprise)
Randy Newman has, over the course of the past fifty-plus years, established himself as a Great American Writer of Songs. His work includes dozens of hit singles (over half of which were performed by other artists), nearly two dozen movie scores and eleven albums as a solo artist. Newman has won five Grammys, as well as two Oscars and Three Emmys. Last Night I Had A Dream was Newman's second single for the Reprise label (his third overall), coming out the same year as his first LP, which did not include the song.
Artist: Otis Redding
Title: Try A Little Tenderness
Source: LP: Historic Performances Recorded at the Monterey International Pop Festival
One of the most electrifying performances at the legendary Monterey International Pop Festival in June of 1967 happened on Saturday night during a rainstorm. Otis Redding (backed by Booker T. and the MGs, with Wayne Jackson on trumpet and Andrew Love on sax) was scheduled for the closing slot, but due to technical problems earlier in the day found himself with only enough time for five songs before the festival had to shut down for the night. At the end of his closing song, Try A Little Tenderness, Redding can be heard saying "I've got to go now. I don't want to go" as the festival's organizers, mindful of the terms of their permit, were rushing him off the stage.
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).
Title: Alone Again Or
Source: CD: Forever Changes
Writer(s): Bryan MacLean
The only song Love ever released as a single that was not written by Arthur Lee was Alone Again Or, issued in 1970. The song had originally appeared as the opening track from the Forever Changes album three years earlier. Bryan McLean would later say that he was not happy with the recording due to his own vocal being buried beneath that of Lee, since Lee's part was meant to be a harmony line to McLean's melody. McLean would later re-record the song for a solo album, but reportedly was not satisfied with that version either.
Title: House For Everyone
Source: CD: Heaven Is In Your Mind (aka Mr. Fantasy)
Writer(s): Dave Mason
Label: Island (original label: United Artists)
Although Traffic is now known mostly as a Steve Winwood band, many of their earliest songs were the creation of guitarist Dave Mason, whose songs tended to be a bit more psychedelic than Winwood's. One example is House For Everyone from the band's 1967 debut LP, which creatively uses tape edits to simulate a music box being wound up with short snippets of song sneaking through between turns of the key at the beginning of the track.
Artist: Cat Stevens
Title: Matthew And Son
Source: CD: The Very Best Of Cat Stevens (originally released as 45 RPM single and on LP: Matthew And Son)
Writer: Cat Stevens
Label: A&M (original label: Deram)
Although best known as one of the top singer-songwriters of the early to mid-1970s, Cat Stevens actually began recording in 1967, and charted several hits in the UK before achieving international fame. One of the earliest was the title track to his first LP, Matthew And Son. Although the song was released in the US on the Deram label, it failed to chart.
Artist: Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title: Burning of the Midnight Lamp
Source: LP: Electric Ladyland
Writer: Jimi Hendrix
For the first few months of their existence as a band, the Jimi Hendrix Experience were an entirely British phenomena, despite being led by an American guitarist/vocalist. By mid-1967 the group had released three singles that made the UK charts, as well as an album that was only kept out of the # 1 spot by something called Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The band's next project was Burning Of The Midnight Lamp, the most complex piece of production yet attempted by the band, and their first using state of the art eight-track recording equipment. The song had two notable firsts: it was the first song to feature Hendrix playing a keyboard instrument (a harpsichord) in addition to his usual guitar, and it was his first recording to use the new "wah-wah" effect. Burning of the Midnight Lamp was not released as a single in the US however, and Hendrix revisited the master tapes the following year, creating a new stereo mix for his album Electric Ladyland.
Artist: Captain Beefheart And His Magic Band
Title: Yellow Brick Road
Source: 45 RPM single B side
Writer(s): Van Vliet/Bermann
Following a pair of singles for Herb Alpert's A&M that garnered modest airplay on a handful of Los Angeles area radio stations, Captain Beefheart And His Magic Band set out to record a set of heavily R&B flavored demos. The label, however, didn't like what they heard and soon dropped the band from their lineup. Undeterred, the group soon signed with Kama Sutra's brand new subsidiary label, Buddah. The resulting album, Safe As Milk, was the first LP to be released on the new label. Among the more experimental tracks on the album was Yellow Brick Road, a mono mix of which has recently been reissued as the B side of a single. Also of note is the presence of 20-year-old Ry Cooder on slide guitar.
Artist: George Harrison
Title: Dream Scene
Source: CD: Wonderwall Music
Writer(s): George Harrison
Here's one for trivia buffs: What was the first LP released on the Apple label? If you answered The Beatles (White Album) you'd be close, but not quite on the money. The actual first Apple album was something called Wonderwall Music from a film called (what else?) Wonderwall. The album itself was quite avant garde, with virtually no commercial potential. One of the most notable tracks on the album is Dream Scene, an audio collage that predates John Lennon's Revolution 9 by several months.
Artist: Al Kooper/Stephen Stills/Harvey Brooks/Eddie Hoh
Title: Season Of The Witch
Source: LP: Super Session
Writer(s): Donovan Leitch
In 1968 Al Kooper, formerly of the Blues Project, formed a new group he called Blood, Sweat and Tears. Then, after recording one album with the new group, he promptly quit the band. He then booked studio time and called in his friend Michael Bloomfield (who had just left own his new band the Electric Flag) for a recorded jam session. Due to his chronic insomnia and inclination to use heroin to deal with said insomnia, Bloomfield was unable to record an entire album's worth of material, and Kooper called in another friend, Stephen Stills (who had recently left the Buffalo Springfield) to complete the project. The result was the Super Session album, which surprisingly (considering that it was the first album of its kind), made the top 10 album chart. One of the most popular tracks on Super Session was an extended version of Donovan's "Season of the Witch", featuring Stills using a wah-wah pedal (a relatively new invention at the time). Kooper initially felt that the basic tracks needed some sweetening, so he brought in a horn section to record additional overdubs.
Artist: Big Brother And The Holding Company
Title: Turtle Blues
Source: LP: Cheap Thrills
Writer(s): Janis Joplin
Sometimes I do play favorites. Turtle Blues, from the Big Brother And The Holding Company album Cheap Thrills, is certainly one of them. Besides vocalist Janis Joplin, who wrote the tune, the only other band member heard on the track is guitarist Peter Albin. Legendary producer John Simon provides the piano playing.
Title: I Want Candy
Source: Mono CD: Nuggets-Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Rhino (original label: Bang)
In the wake of the British Invasion, some American artists tried to sound as British as possible, often deliberately letting radio listeners think that they themselves might be a British band. A trio of New York songwriters, Bob Feldman, Jerry Goldstein and Richard Gottehrer, took such deceptions to a whole new level. Rather than try to pass themselves off as a British band, the three invented an elaborate backstory that saw them as sons of an Australian sheepherder who had invented a new shearing process and had used the profits from the venture to form a band called the Strangeloves, who were about to become the Next Big Thing. Although the story never really caught on, the group managed to record two of the all-time great party songs, I Want Candy and Night Time, as well as producing a single called Hang On Sloopy for a band they discovered on the road called the McCoys (although the instrumental tracks were actually from the Strangeloves' own first LP). According to press releases the pounding drum beat on I Want Candy was made by Masai drums that the band members had found while on safari in Africa, which just goes to show you can find just about anything in the New York City area if you know where to look.
Title: Can't Seem To Make You Mine
Source: Mono CD: Nuggets-Classics From the Psychedelic 60s (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer: Sky Saxon
Label: Rhino (original label: GNP Crescendo)
One of the first psychedelic singles to hit the L.A. airwaves was the Seeds' debut single, Can't Seem To Make You Mine, released in 1965. The song was also chosen to lead off the first Seeds album the following year. Indeed, it could be argued that this was the song that first defined the "flower power" sound, predating the Seeds' biggest hit, Pushin' Too Hard.
Title: So Long
Source: Mono LP: Kinda Kinks
Writer(s): Ray Davies
The second Kinks album, Kinda Kinks, was made over a period of two weeks immediately following the band's Asian tour. As such, many of the tracks sound a bit rough, as if they needed some finishing touches that the band didn't have time to add. It wasn't a matter of content; in fact Ray Davies himself said he thought the album had better songs than their first effort (So Long, for example). Davies has also said, however, that the entire album was "just far too rushed" and that "a bit more care should have been taken with it."
Title: Just A Little Bit
Source: Simulated stereo LP: Backtrackin' (originally released in UK on LP: The Angry Young Them)
Label: London (original label: Decca)
Like many mid-60s albums, the debut effort from Belfast's Them had a slightly different track lineup on either side of the Atlantic, with a few of the songs from the British version left off the American album. One of the songs from The Angry Young Them that was left of its US counterpart (titled simply Them) was a remake of a 1959 Roscoe Gordon tune called Just A Little Bit. The song finally appeared in the US on an album called Backtrackin' in 1974. By then, however, LPs were being pressed only in stereo, whereas the original recordings used were all mixed monoraully. Rather than use the mono mixes, London Records chose to create "fake stereo" mixes of the songs on the LP. Although there are no production credits given on the album cover or label, I suspect Allan Klein was somehow involved in putting this album together.
Artist: Harbinger Complex
Title: I Think I'm Down
Source: Mono British import CD: With Love-A Pot Of Flowers (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Big Beat (original label: Brent)
Most garage/club bands never made it beyond a single or two for a relatively small independent label. Freemont, California's Harbinger Complex is a good example. The group was one of many that were signed by Bob Shad, owner of Mainstream Records and its various subsidiaries such as Time and Brent. The band had already released one single on the independent Amber label and were recording at Golden State Recorders in San Francisco when they were discovered by Shad, who signed them to Brent. The band's first single for the label was the British-influenced I Think I'm Down, which came out in 1966 and was included on Mainstream's 1967 showcase album With Love-A Pot Of Flowers.
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.
Artist: Steve Miller Band
Title: Roll With It
Source: CD: Love Is The Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-70 (originally released on LP: Children Of The Future)
Writer: Steve Miller
Label: Rhino (original label: Capitol)
Right from the beginning, the Steve Miller band stood out stylistically from other San Francisco area bands. This was in part because Miller was only recently arrived from Chicago, which had a music tradition of its own. But a lot of the credit has to go to Miller himself, who had the sense to give his bandmates (such as his college buddy Boz Scaggs) the freedom to provide songs for the band in addition to his own material. One example of the latter is Roll With It from the group's 1968 debut LP, Children Of The Future.
Artist: Blues Image
Title: Outside Was Night
Source: LP: Blues Image
Writer(s): Blues Image
There are striking similarities between the Hour Glass of Los Angeles and Blues Image, originally from Tampa, Florida, but operating out of L.A by 1969. Both were club bands that visiting musicians would go out of their way to catch when they were in town, often sticking around for a bit of after hours jamming. Both bands featured guitarists from the Southeastern US (Duane Allman and Mike Pinera) who would go on to greater fame with other bands. And both bands, for whatever reasons, were never able to generate the same kind of excitement in the studio that they did when they played live. Unlike the Hour Glass, however, Blues Image managed to at least play the same style of music in the studio as they did in their club sets; Outside Was Night, from their debut LP, is a good example.
Artist: First Edition
Title: Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)
Source: 45 RPM single
Writer: Mickey Newbury
Kenny Rogers has, on more than one occassion, tried to put as much distance between himself and the 1968 First Edition hit Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In) as possible. I feel it's my duty to remind everyone that he was the lead vocalist on the recording, and that this song was the one that launched his career. So there.
Artist: Mystery Trend
Title: Johnny Was A Good Boy
Source: Mono CD: Love Is The Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-70 (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Rhino (original label: Verve)
The Mystery Trend was a bit of an anomaly. Contemporaries of bands such as the Great! Society and the Charlatans, the Trend always stood apart from the rest of the crowd, playing to an audience that was both a bit more affluent and a bit more "adult" (they were reportedly the house band at a Sausalito strip club). Although they played in the city itself as early as 1965, they did not release their first record until early 1967. The song, Johnny Was A Good Boy, tells the story of a seemingly normal middle-class kid who turns out to be a monster (without actually specifying what he did), surprising friends, family and neighbors. The same theme would be used by XTC in the early 1980s in the song No Thugs In Our House, one of the standout tracks from their landmark English Settlement album.