Sunday, December 23, 2018
Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 1852 (starts 12/24/18)
This week it's 1968, and we have a dozen tracks from some of the hottest bands of the year, including the Doors, Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience, with strong entries from "oldtimers" like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones as well as brand new bands like Steppenwolf, Spirit, Deep Purple and Jethro Tull. It is truly classic rock.
Title: Five To One
Source: CD: The Best Of The Doors (originally released on LP: Waiting For The Sun)
Writer(s): The Doors
Despite the fact that it was the Doors' only album to hit the top of the charts, Waiting For The Sun was actually a disappointment for many of the band's fans, who felt that the material lacked the edginess of the first two Doors LPs. One notable exception was the album's closing track, Five To One, which features one of Jim Morrison's most famous lines: "No one here gets out alive".
Artist: Canned Heat
Title: Going Up The Country
Source: British import CD: Living The Blues
Writer(s): Alan Wilson
Label: BGO (original label: Liberty)
Canned Heat built up a solid reputation as one of the best blues-rock bands in history, recording several critically-acclaimed albums over a period of years. What they did not have, however, was a top 10 single. The nearest they got was Going Up The Country from their late 1968 LP Living The Blues, which peaked in the #11 spot in early 1969.
Artist: Jethro Tull
Title: A Song For Jeffrey
Source: LP: Living In The Past (originally released on LP: This Was)
Writer(s): Ian Anderson
Label: Chrysalis (original label: Reprise)
Jethro Tull's second single (and first European hit) was A Song For Jeffrey from their debut LP, This Was. The Jeffrey in the song title is Jeffrey Hammond, who, according to the liner notes, was "one of us, though he doesn't play anything". The notes go on to say he "makes bombs and stuff". In fact, Hammond would replace bassist Glen Cornick a few albums later and remain with the group for several years. The song itself proved popular enough that when the band compiled their first Anthology album, Living In The Past, A Song For Jeffrey was chosen to open the album.
Title: (Roamin' Thro' The Gloamin' With) 40,000 Headmen
Source: CD: Smiling Phases (originally released as 45 RPM B side and on LP: Traffic)
Label: Island (original label: United Artists)
The second Traffic album saw the band taking in a broader set of influences, including traditional English folk music. (Roamin' Through The Gloamin' With) 40,000 Headmen, originally released as the B side to the Dave Mason tune No Face, No Name, No Number, combines those influences with the Steve Winwood brand of British R&B to create a timeless classic.
Artist: Rolling Stones
Title: Sympathy For The Devil
Source: LP: Beggar's Banquet
When I was a teenager I would occasionally hear some adult make a comment about how rock and roll was the "Devil's music." This only got more ridiculous in 1968, when the Rolling Stones released Sympathy For The Devil as the opening track on their Beggar's Banquet album. Mick Jagger, who wrote the lyrics, was actually somewhat mystified by such reactions, as it was, after all, only one song on an album that also included such tunes as Prodigal Son (based on a Bible story) and Salt Of The Earth, a celebration of the common man. There is no doubting, however, that Sympathy For The Devil itself is a classic, and has been a staple of the band's live sets since the late 1980s.
Title: Wild Honey Pie/The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill/While My Guitar Gently Weeps
Source: British import LP: The Beatles
By early 1968 the Beatles were beginning to show signs that they would not be together as a band much longer. The group had just experienced their first commercial & critical failure, the Magical Mystery Tour telefilm (although the soundtrack did quite well). Additionally, each member (except maybe Ringo) was starting to move off in his own direction as a songwriter. Nonetheless they went ahead with plans to form Apple, a company designed to market not only their music, but other products as well. The first album that the band released on Apple Records was titled simply The Beatles and had a plain white cover, resulting in it soon becoming known as the White Album. It was the Beatles' first double-LP set, and the only one to feature all-new material. The music covered a wide variety of styles, some of which are even now hard to describe. As an example we have Paul McCartney's Wild Honey Pie, which segues into John Lennon's The Continuing Story Of Bungalow Bill. I defy anyone to define exactly what genre these two tracks are representative of. George Harrison had already written several songs that had appeared on various Beatle albums (and an occasional B side) through 1968, but his first acknowledged classic was While My Guitar Gently Weeps, which immediately follows Bungalow Bill on the album. The recording features Harrison's close friend, guitarist Eric Clapton, who at that time was enjoying superstar status as a member of Cream.
Source: CD: Best of 60s Psychedelic Rock (originally released on LP: Wheels Of Fire)
Writer: Robert Johnson
Label: Priority (original label: Atco)
Robert Johnson's Crossroads has come to be regarded as a signature song for Eric Clapton, who's live version (recorded at the Fillmore East) was first released on the Cream album Wheels Of Fire.
Artist: Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title: Voodoo Child (Slight Return)
Source: LP: Electric Ladyland
Writer: Jimi Hendrix
Although not released in the US as a single, Voodoo Child (Slight Return), has become a staple of classic rock radio over the years. The song was originally an outgrowth of a jam session at New York's Record Plant, which itself takes up most of side one of the Electric Ladyland LP. This more familiar studio reworking of the piece has been covered by a variety of artists over the years.
Title: Born To Be Wild
Source: CD: Steppenwolf
Writer(s): Mars Bonfire
Label: MCA (original label: Dunhill)
Born To Be Wild's status as a counter-cultural anthem was cemented when it was chosen for the soundtrack of the movie Easy Rider. The popularity of both the song and the movie resulted in Steppenwolf becoming the all-time favorite band of bikers all over the world.
Title: Fresh Garbage
Source: CD: Spirit
Writer(s): Jay Ferguson
Much of the material on the first Spirit album was composed by vocalist Jay Ferguson while the band was living in a big house in California's Topanga Canyon outside of Los Angeles. During their stay there was a garbage strike, which became the inspiration for the album's opening track, Fresh Garbage. The song starts off as a fairly hard rocker and suddenly breaks into a section that is pure jazz, showcasing the group's instrumental talents, before returning to the main theme to finish out the track.The group used a similar formula on about half the tracks on the LP, giving the album and the band a distinctive sound right out of the box.
Artist: Deep Purple
Title: Hard Road (Wring That Neck)
Source: LP: Purple Passages (originally released on LP: The Book Of Taleisyn)
Label: Warner Brothers (original label: Tetragrammaton)
Wring That Neck is an instrumental piece by Deep Purple first recorded for their second LP, The Book Of Taleisyn. The piece served as the band's opening number for live performances, particularly when touring the US in 1968 and 1969. The title refers to the playing styles of guitarist Richie Blackmore and bassist Nicky Simper, who would "wring the neck" of their instruments to "squeeze out" the notes, according to Simper. The band's American label, Tetragrammaton, felt that the title was too violent, however, and had it changed to Hard Road for the album's US release. One of the stops on the band's American tour was San Francisco, home of a band called It's A Beautiful Day. Don And Dewey, the opening track of It's A Beautiful Day's second LP, Marrying Maiden (released in 1970), uses an almost identical signature riff to that of Hard Road. Perhaps not coincidentally, Child In Time, the best-known track on Deep Purple's 1970 LP Deep Purple In Rock, is built around a riff nearly identical to that of Bombay Calling, a popular concert piece from It's A Beautiful Day's 1969 debut album. I guess you might call it a bit of cultural exchange.
Artist: Pink Floyd
Title: Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun (originally released on LP: A Saucerful Of Secrets)
Source: CD: Works
Writer: Roger Waters
Label: Capitol (original label: Tower)
With mental illness pretty much taking Syd Barrett out of the Pink Floyd equation by 1968, other members stepped up their own songwriting game for the band's second LP, A Saucerful Of Secrets. Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun, a Roger Waters composition, is the only Pink Floyd recording to have both Barrett and his replacement, David Gilmour, playing guitar parts and was considered strong enough to be included on the Works compilation album in the early 80s. A Saucerful Of Secrets is the only Pink Floyd album that failed to chart in the US, due in part to it being released on Capitol's Tower subsidiary, which was generally regarded as a second-tier label.