Sunday, December 23, 2018
Stuck in the Psychedelic Era # 1852 (starts 12/24/18)
It was fifty years ago today that 1968 was coming to a close. Musically, it was an outstanding year, with several landmark recordings being released. This week we feature 30 of those recordings (with another dozen on our companion show, Rockin' in the Days of Confusion).
Artist: Rolling Stones
Title: Jumpin' Jack Flash
Source: CD: Singles Collection-The London Years (originally released as 45 RPM single)
After the late 1967 LP Their Satanic Majesties Request was savaged by the critics, the Rolling Stones decided to make a big change, severing ties with their longtime producer Andrew Loog Oldham and replacing him with Jimmy Miller, who had made a name for himself working with Steve Winwood on recordings by both the Spencer Davis Group and Traffic. The collaboration resulted in a back-to-basics approach that produced the classic single Jumpin' Jack Flash. The song was actually the second Stones tune produced by MIller, although it was the first to be released. The song revitalized the band's commercial fortunes, and was soon followed by what is generally considered to be one of the Stones' greatest albums, the classic Beggar's Banquet (which included the first Miller-produced song, Street Fighting Man).
Artist: Procol Harum
Title: Quite Rightly So
Source: CD: Shine On Brightly
In 1969, while living on Ramstein AFB in Germany, my dad managed to get use of one of the basement storage rooms in building 913, the 18-unit apartment building we resided in. For a few months (until getting in trouble for having overnight guests and making too much noise...hey I was 16, whaddaya expect?) I got to use that room as a bedroom. I had a small record player that shut itself off when it got to the end of the record, which meant I got to go to sleep every night to the album of my choice. As often as not that album was Shine On Brightly, a copy of which I had gotten in trade for another album (the Best of the Beach Boys I think) from a guy who was expecting A Whiter Shade of Pale and was disappointed to discover it was not on this album. I always thought I got the better end of that deal, despite the fact that there was a skip during the fade of Quite Rightly So, causing the words "one was me" to repeat over and over until I scooted the needle over a bit. Luckily Quite Rightly So is the first song on the album, so I was usually awake enough to do that.
Artist: Big Brother and the Holding Company
Title: Piece Of My Heart
Source: CD: Cheap Thrills
By 1968 Big Brother and the Holding Company, with their charismatic vocalist from Texas, Janis Joplin, had become as popular as fellow San Francisco bands Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead. Somehow, though, they were still without a major label record deal. That all changed with the release of Cheap Thrills, with cover art by the legendary underground comix artist R. Crumb. The album itself was a curious mixture of live performances and studio tracks, the latter being led by the band's powerful cover of the 1966 Barbara Lynn tune Piece Of My Heart. The song propelled the band, and Joplin, to stardom. That stardom would be short-lived for most of the band members, however, as well-meaning but ultimately wrong-headed advice-givers convinced Joplin that Big Brother was holding her back. The reality was that the band was uniquely suited to support her better than anyone she would ever work with again.
Artist: Quicksilver Messenger Service
Source: British import CD: Ah Feel Like Ahcid (originally released in US as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer(s): Roger Perkins
Label: Zonophone (original label: Capitol)
Possibly the most obscure song in the Quicksilver Messenger Service catalog, Bears appeared as the B side to Dino Valenti's Stand By Me (no relation to the Ben E. King song) in late 1968. To my knowledge, this novelty song was never included on any of the band's albums.
Title: Dirty Old Man (At The Age Of Sixteen)
Source: Mono LP: Now And Them
Writer: Tom Lane
After Van Morrison left Them to pursue a solo career, the band returned to Belfast, where they recruited Kenny McDowell to be the group's new lead vocalist. They then relocated to California, where they cut two albums for Tower Records. The second of the two albums (both released in 1968) featured songs written by the husband and wife team of Sharon Pulley and Tom Lane. The first LP, entitled Now And Them, featured songs from a variety of sources, including one song, Dirty Old Man (At The Age Of Sixteen), written by Lane himself. A slightly punkier version of the song had been released by Them as a single the previous year, prior to their signing with Tower.
Artist: Music Machine
Title: Affirmative No
Source: Mono CD: Beyond The Garage (originally released on LP: Bonniwell Music Machine)
Writer(s): Sean Bonniwell
Label: Sundazed (original label: Warner Brothers)
Unlike many of their fellow L.A. bands, who preferred to stay close to home, the Music Machine toured extensively after scoring their big national hit Talk Talk. While on the road the band worked on new material for a second album, booking studio time wherever they happened to be. One of those places was Muscle Shoals, Alabama, which had emerged as a rival to Memphis's Stax Studios as a hotbed of southern soul music. The Machine recorded two tracks there in early 1967, including Affirmative No, a song that manages to have a southern soul vibe without sacrificing any of the Music Machine's trademark garage/punk sound. Although the original group disbanded shortly after the songs were recorded, both tunes were included on the 1968 LP Bonniwell Music Machine, joining a couple of previously released Original Sound singles and several tracks recorded later in the year by a new Music Machine lineup.
Title: Spanish Caravan
Source: CD: The Best Of The Doors (originally released on LP: Waiting For The Sun)
Writer(s): The Doors
The third Doors album, Waiting For The Sun, was somewhat of a departure from the first two, covering a greater variety of styles than their previous efforts. A prime example is Spanish Caravan, which starts with a flamenco solo from guitarist Robbie Kreiger and continues in a highly Spanish (not Mexican) flavored musical vein.
Title: My Wild Love
Source: CD: Waiting For The Sun
Writer(s): The Doors
The Doors' third album, Waiting For The Sun, was the band's only LP to make it to the top of the charts. It also marked the beginning of a more experimental period for the band, with an eclectic mix of songs that included the flamenco-flavored Spanish Caravan, the brutally anti-war piece The Unknown Soldier and My Wild Love, a piece that sounds more like a chain gang work song than a rock and roll tune.
Title: Hello, I Love You
Source: CD: The Best Of The Doors (originally released on LP: Waiting For The Sun and as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Jim Morrison
I have to admit, when I first heard Hello, I Love You I hated it, considering it only a half step away from the bubble gum hits like 1,2,3 Red Light and Chewy Chewy that were dominating the top 40 charts in 1968. It turns out that the song was originally recorded in 1965 as a demo by Rick And The Ravens (basically a Doors predecessor) using the title Hello, I Love You (Won't You Tell Me Your Name). The single pressing of the song is notable for being one of the first rock songs to be released as a stereo 45 RPM record. The song went to the top of the charts in the US and Canada and became the first Doors song to break into the British top 20 as well.
Artist: Ultimate Spinach
Title: (Ballad Of The) Hip Death Goddess
Source: LP: Ultimate Spinach
Writer(s): Ian Bruce-Douglas
Ultimate Spinach was the brainchild of Ian Bruce-Douglas, who wrote and arranged all the band's material. Although the group had no hit singles, some tracks, such as (Ballad of the) Hip Death Goddess received a significant amount of airplay on progressive "underground" FM stations. The recording has in more recent years been used by movie producers looking to invoke a late 60s atmosphere.
Artist: Beacon Street Union
Title: Mystic Mourning
Source: LP: The Eyes Of The Beacon Street Union
If I had to choose one single recording that encapsulates the psychedelic era, my choice would be Mystic Mourning, from the album The Eyes Of The Beacon Street Union. Everything about the tune screams psychedelic, starting with a short spacy intro of electric piano over cymbals, leading into a raga beat with a solo bass line that builds up to a repeating riff that ends up getting played at various times by guitar, bass, and/or piano. The lyrics are appropriately existential, and both guitar and piano get a chance to show their stuff over the course of the nearly six-minute track.
Source: CD: The Turtles Present The Battle Of The Bands
Writer(s): The Turtles
Label: Sundazed (original label: White Whale)
By 1968 the Turtles' relationship with their label, White Whale, had deteriorated to the point that the group was starting to consider the possibility of disbanding in order to get out of their contract. They had self-produced several songs earlier in the year that the label had rejected and were under constant pressure to come up with another monster hit like Happy Together. Against this backdrop the group released one of the most unique albums in rock history. Entitled The Turtles Present The Battle Of The Bands, the album contained a dozen tunes, each done in a different style and credited to a different band. Food, for instance, was credited to the Bigg Brothers, and sounded like one of the more whimsical tracks from the Association. The song also included the following recipe within its lyrics, which I am presenting here as a public service:
Two thirds cups of flour
A teaspoon full of salt
A quarter pound of butter
Add an egg and blend it out
Two squares of dark chocolate
Walnuts, pot and sugar
A teaspoon of bakin' powder
Thirty minutes in the heat and it's over
Although The Turtles Present The Battle Of The Bands peaked at only the #128 spot, it is now considered one of the band's best efforts.
Artist: Jeff Thomas
Title: Straight Arrow
Source: Mono British import CD: My Mind Goes High (originally released in US as 45PM single)
Writer(s): Jeff Thomas
Label: Warner Strategic Marketing (original label: Warner Brothers)
To look at a publicity photo of Jeff Thomas, you'd think you had been transported to the late 1950s. Musically, he was squarely (pun intended) in the middle of the road, with a crooning style that was clearly out of synch with the times. Somehow, though, he managed to write a tasty piece of psychedelia called Straight Arrow, which was released as his second of three singles in late 1968.
Artist: Fever Tree
Title: San Francisco Girls (Return Of The Native) (originally released on LP: Fever Tree)
Source: CD: Psychedelic Pop
Writer(s): Scott and Vivian Holtzman
Label: BMG/RCA/Buddah (original label: Uni)
A minor, but notable trend in 1968 was for producer/songwriters to find a band to record their material exclusively. A prime example is Houston's Fever Tree, which featured the music of husband and wife team Scott and Vivian Holtzman. San Francisco Girls (Return of the Native) was the single from that album, peaking in the lower reaches of the Hot 100 charts.
Title: Satisfy You
Source: Mono British import CD: Singles As & Bs 1965-1970 (originally released on LP: Raw And Alive and as 45 RPM single)
Label: Big Beat (original label: GNP Crescendo)
The peak period of the Seeds' popularity was a relatively short one, lasting from mid-1966 to early 1967, and the band responded to their commercial decline by getting more experimental as 1967 wore on. Unfortunately, they were not able to pull off everything they attempted, and their fortunes continued to decline. In early 1968 they decided to take a back to basics approach and recorded an album called Raw And Alive. Althought marketed as a live album, Raw And Alive was actually a live studio performance done in a single take with no overdubs. The sounds of a live audience were added later. The single from the album, Satisfy You, has the sound and feel of a vintage Seeds recording, but by this point in time that sound was considered dated, and the single died a quick death.
Artist: Max Frost And The Troopers
Title: Shape Of Things To Come
Source: CD: Even More Nuggets (originally released on LP: Wild In The Streets soundtrack)
Label: Rhino (original label: Tower)
Max Frost was a politically savvy rock star who rode the youth movement all the way to the White House, first through getting the support of a hip young Senator, then getting the age requirements for holding high political office lowered to 21, and finally lowering the voting age to 14. Everyone over 30 was locked away in internment camps, similar to those used during WWII by various governments to hold those of questionable loyalty to the current regime. What? You don't remember any of that? You say it sounds like the plot of a cheapie late 60s teen exploitation flick? Right on all counts. "Wild in the Streets" starred Christopher Jones as the rock star, Hal Holbrook as the hip young senator, and a Poseidon Adventure-sized Shelly Winter as the rock star's interred mom. Richard Pryor, in his film debut, played the band's drummer/political activist Stanley X. Shape Of Things To Come was a surprise hit single taken from the film, and was probably recorded by studio musicians, possibly members of Davie Allan And The Arrows, with vocals likely provided by Paul Wibier.
Artist: Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title: House Burning Down
Source: LP: Electric Ladyland
Writer(s): Jimi Hendrix
The third Jimi Hendrix Experience album, Electric Ladyland, was the first to be produced entirely by Hendrix himself, rather than with Chas Chandler (with more than a little help from engineer Eddie Kramer). It was also the first to use state-of-the-art eight-track recording technology (not to be confused with the later 8-track tape cartridge), as well as several new tech toys developed specifically for Hendrix to play with. The result was an album with production standards far beyond anything else being attempted at the time. One song that showcases Hendrix's prowess as a producer is House Burning Down. Using effects such as phasing, double-tracking and stereo panning, Hendrix manages to create music that sounds like it's actually swirling around the listener rather than coming from a specific location. It's also the only rock song I can think of that uses a genuine tango beat (in the verses).
Artist: Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title: Crosstown Traffic
Source: CD: The Ultimate Experience (originally released on LP: Electric Ladyland)
Writer(s): Jimi Hendrix
Label: MCA (original label: Reprise)
By 1968 it didn't matter one bit whether the Jimi Hendrix Experience had any hit singles; their albums were guaranteed to be successful. Nonetheless the Electric Ladyland album had no less that three singles on it (although one was a new stereo mix of a 1967 single). The last of these was Crosstown Traffic, a song that has been included on several anthologies over the years.
Artist: Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title: All Along The Watchtower
Source: LP: Electric Ladyland
Writer(s): Bob Dylan
Although there have been countless covers of Bob Dylan songs recorded by a variety of artists, very few of them are considered improvements over Dylan's original versions. Probably the most notable of these is the Jimi Hendrix Experience version of All Along The Watchtower on the Electric Ladyland album. Hendrix's arrangement of the song has been adopted by several other musicians over the years, including Neil Young (at the massive Bob Dylan tribute concert) and even Dylan himself.
Artist: Steve Miller Band
Title: My Friend
Source: CD: Sailor
Drummer Tim Davis takes center stage as lead vocalist on My Friend, from the second Steve Miller Band album, Sailor. The tune, co-written by fellow band member Boz Scaggs, was the first writing credit for Davis, who would remain with the band through their first five LPs before moving on to other things.
Artist: Steve Miller Band
Title: Quicksilver Girl
Source: CD: Love Is The Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-70 (originally released as 45 RPM single and on LP: Sailor)
Writer(s): Steve Miller
Label: Rhino (original label: Capitol)
Steve Miller moved to San Francisco from Chicago and was reportedly struck by what he saw as a much lower standard of musicianship in the bay area than in the windy city. Miller's response was to form a band that would conform to Chicago standards. The result was the Steve Miller Band, one of the most successful of the San Francisco bands, although much of that success would not come until the mid-1970s, after several personnel changes. One feature of the Miller band is that it featured multiple lead vocalists, depending on who wrote the song. Miller himself wrote and sings on Quicksilver Girl, from the band's second LP, Sailor.
Artist: Steve Miller Band
Source: LP: Sailor
Writer(s): Boz Scaggs
The Steve Miller Band in its early years served as a sort of American analog to John Mayall's Bluesbreakers, serving as a launching pad for the careers of Ben Sidran and Boz Scaggs, among others. Overdrive, from the band's second LP, Sailor, shows a harder-edged side to the Boz than most of his later solo hits.
Artist: Fleetwood Mac
Title: Allow Me One More Show
Source: LP: The Original Fleetwood Mac
Writer(s): Jeremy Spencer
Year: Recorded 1968, released 1971
Jeremy Spencer's contributions to the band he co-founded, Fleetwood Mac, were overshadowed by those of original bandleader Peter Green, despite the fact that Spencer stayed with the group far longer than Green did, leaving in 1971. Around the time of Spencer's departure from the group an album full of unreleased outtakes from the band's early years appeared in the US on the Sire label. Allow Me One More Show is basically a Spencer solo piece heavily influenced by the country blues of Robert Johnson himself.
Artist: Johnny Winter
Title: Black Cat Bone
Source: LP: The Progressive Blues Experiment
Writer(s): Johnny Winter
Johnny Winter was already a veteran recording artist by the time he released his first LP, The Progressive Blues Experiment, in 1968. His earlier work, however, was much more pop oriented, having an almost Tex-Mex flavor. With his new backing band of Uncle John Turner on drums and Tommy Shannon (later to work with Stevie Ray Vaughan as a member of Double Trouble) on bass, Winter put together an album mixing blues classics and original tunes such as Black Cat Bone. The critical success of the album led to Winter signing a multi-album contract with Columbia Records the following year.
Title: Think About It
Source: Mono Australian import CD: Over, Under, Sideways, Down (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Label: Raven (original label: Epic)
The final Yardbirds record was a single released in early 1968. Although the group made TV appearances in Europe to promote the A side, Good Night Josephine, it is the B side of that record, Think About It, that deserves to be considered the last Yardbirds song. Instrumentally the song sounds a lot like something off of Led Zeppelin's first couple of albums. Once Keith Relf's vocals come in, however, there is no doubt that this is vintage Yardbirds, and quite possibly the best track of the entire Jimmy Page era.
Artist: Blue Cheer
Title: Summertime Blues
Source: Mono LP: Vincebus Eruptum
European electronics giant Philips had its own record label in the 1960s. In the US, the label was distributed by Mercury Records, and was known primarily for a long string of hits by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. In 1968 the label surprised everyone by signing the loudest band in San Francisco, Blue Cheer. Their cover of the 50s Eddie Cochrane hit Summertime Blues was all over both the AM and FM airwaves that summer.
Artist: Eric Burdon And The Animals
Title: Sky Pilot
Source: CD: The Best Of Eric Burdon And The Animals (originally released on LP: The Twain Shall Meet)
Label: Polydor (original label: M-G-M)
After the original Animals lineup disbanded in late 1966, lead vocalist Eric Burdon quickly set out to form a "New Animals" group that would come to be called Eric Burdon and the Animals. Their biggest hit was 1968's Sky Pilot, a song that was so long it had to be split across two sides of a 45 RPM record. The uninterrupted version of the song was included on the group's second album, The Twain Shall Meet.
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: Simon and Garfunkel
Source: 45 RPM single B side (song originally released on LP: Bookends)
Writer(s): Paul Simon
Four years after the release of the album Bookends (and two years after the breakup of Simon and Garfunkel), Columbia decided to release the song For Emily, Wherever I May Find Her, from their final album Bridge Over Troubled Water, as a single, to coincide with the release of their Greatest Hits album. For the B side, they went even further back, pulling out the original tapes for the song America. The tracks on the Bookends album were deliberately overlapped to form a continuous audio montage, making this the first standalone version of America to be released by the duo.
Artist: Vanilla Fudge
Title: Season of the Witch (pt. 1)
Source: Mono CD: The Complete Atco Singles (originally released on LP: Renaissance and as 45 RPM single)
Writer: Donovan Leitch
Label: Real Gone/Rhino (original label: Atco)
The Vanilla Fudge are generally best remembered for their acid rock rearrangements of hit songs such as You Keep Me Hangin' On, Ticket To Ride and Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down). Their third album, Renaissance, while actually featuring more original material that their previous albums, still included a couple of these cover songs. The best-known of these was this rather spooky (and a little over-the-top) version of Donovan's Season Of The Witch, a song that was also covered by Al Kooper and Stephen Stills the same year on the first Super Session album. A mono single version of the song saw the track broken up into two pieces, one on each side of the 45 RPM record.