Sunday, January 13, 2019
Stuck in the Psychedelic Era # 1903 (starts 1/14/19)
This time around we have several progressions through the years, a 1967 set and an entire half hour of 1968 tracks, including Procol Harum's landmark progressive psychedelic piece In Held Twas In I, from their Shine On Brightly album. We also have another Advanced Psych segment featuring, once again, a track from the new Ace Of Cups album. This time, though, it's a tune featuring several guest musicians, including a guy named Bob Weir who provides lead vocals and guitar for a tune penned by the Ace Of Cups. It all starts, appropriately enough, with the 1964 demo of a song that would eventually sum up the entire San Francisco scene.
Artist: Dino Valenti
Title: Let's Get Together
Source: CD: Love Is The Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-70
Writer(s): Chet Powers (Dino Valenti)
Year: Recorded 1964, released 2007
At first glance this version of Let's Get Together could be mistaken for a cover tune. In reality, though, Dino Valenti was one of several aliases used by the guy who was born Chester Powers. Perhaps this was brought on by his several encounters with the law, most of which led to jail time. By all accounts, Valenti was one of the more bombastic characters on the San Francisco scene. The song was first commercially recorded by Jefferson Airplane in 1966, but it wasn't until 1969, when the 1967 Youngbloods version was re-released with the title shortened to Get Together, that the song became a major hit.
Artist: Simon And Garfunkel
Title: We've Got A Groovy Thing Going
Source: LP: Sounds Of Silence (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer(s): Paul Simon
In late 1965, producer Tom Wilson decided to preform an experiment. He took the original recording of a song from Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel's 1964 album, Wednesday Morning 6AM, and added electric instruments to it (using some of the same musicians that had played on Bob Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited album), essentially creating a whole new version of the song and, for that matter, a whole new genre: folk-rock. The Sound of Silence, backed by We've Got a Groovy Thing Going, became a huge national hit, going all the way to #1 on the top 40 charts. The only problem was that by the time all this happened, Simon and Garfunkel had gone their separate ways, briefly reuniting to record We've Got a Groovy Thing Going in 1965, but not releasing it at the time. Paul Simon, who was by then living in England, returned to the states in early 1966, got back together with Art Garfunkel and the rest is history.
Artist: Electric Prunes
Title: I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night)
Source: LP: Nuggets Vol. 1-The Hits (originally released on LP: The Electric Prunes and as 45 RPM single)
Label: Rhino (original label: Reprise)
The Electric Prunes biggest hit was I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night), released in November of 1966. The record, initially released without much promotion from their record label, was championed by Seattle DJ Pat O'Day of KJR radio, and was already popular in that area when it hit the national charts (thus explaining why so many people assumed the band was from Seattle). I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night) has come to be one of the defining songs of the psychedelic era and was the opening track on the original Lenny Kaye Nuggets compilation (and the second track on Rhino's first Nuggets LP).
Artist: Velvet Illusions
Title: Acid Head
Source: Mono CD: Where The Action Is: L.A. Nuggets 1965-68 (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Rhino (original label: Metromedia, also released on Tell Records)
Showing an obvious influence by the Electric Prunes (a suburban L.A. band that was embraced by the Seattle crowd as one of their own) the Illusions backtracked the Prunes' steps, leaving their native Yakima and steady gigging for the supposedly greener pastures of the City of Angels. After a few months of frustration in which the band seldom found places to practice, let alone perform, they headed back to Seattle to cut this lone single, Acid Head, before calling it quits.
Artist: Big Brother and the Holding Company
Title: Down On Me
Source: CD: Love Is The Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-70 (originally released on LP: Joplin In Concert)
Writer: Trad. Arr. Joplin
Label: Rhino (original label: Columbia)
Big Brother And The Holding Company's first album, featuring the single Down On Me, was recorded in 1967 at the studios of Mainstream Records, a medium-sized Chicago label known for its jazz recordings. At the time, Mainstream's engineers had no experience with a rock band, particularly a loud one like Big Brother, and vainly attempted to clean up the band's sound as best they could. The result was an album full of bland recordings sucked dry of the energy that made Big Brother and the Holding Company one of the top live attractions of its time. Luckily we have this live recording made in early 1968 and released in 1972 that captures the band at their peak, before powerful people with questionable motives convinced singer Janis Joplin that the rest of the group was (ahem) holding her back.
Artist: Vanilla Fudge
Title: The Windmills Of Your Mind
Source: LP: Rock And Roll (mono promo copy)
Vanilla Fudge all but abandoned their early practice of slowing down and psychedelicizing pop tunes after their first LP, but by their fifth album, Rock and Roll, they were at it again, as this revisioning of The Windmills Of Your Mind (a US hit for Dusty Springfield and an even bigger UK hit for Noel Harrison) shows.
Title: Castle Of Thoughts
Source: CD: Bloodrock
Label: One Way/Cema Special Markets (original label: Capitol)
Formed in Fort Worth, Texas in 1963 as the naturals, Bloodrock went through several personnel and at least one name change (to Crowd+1) before being discovered by Grand Funk Railroad producer Terry Knight in 1969. Knight (who came up with hte name Bloodrock) signed the band to Capitol Records, releasing their first self-titled LP in 1970. Although seldom singled out by reviewers, Castle Of Thoughts, the second track on that album, found its way onto the B side of two different singles in 1972, including a reissue of Bloodrock's best-known song, D.O.A.
Artist: Pink Floyd
Title: One Of These Days
Source: CD: Meddle)
Label: Pink Floyd Records (original label: Harvest)
In their early years Pink Floyd was a band that was talked about more than heard, at least in the US. That began to change with the release of their 1971 LP Meddle and its opening track, One Of These Days, which got a significant amount of airplay on progressive FM radio stations.
Title: Mary Mary
Source: CD: More Of The Monkees
Writer(s): Michael Nesmith
Label: Rhino (original label: Colgems)
Everyone associated with the Monkees project in 1966 agreed that one of their top priorities was to get a lot of songs recorded for use on the TV show, which was set to premier in September of that year. A dozen of these songs were then selected for inclusion on the first Monkees album, released on the heels of the hit single Last Train To Clarksville. Two more songs that had not been included on the LP were picked for the next single, I'm A Believer. At this point everyone was still on the same page, but that was about to change. The Monkees had been told that they were be making the second Monkees LP themselves as a band, but early in 1967 a new album appeared on the racks: More Of The Monkees. The band, however, which had been touring to promote the first album and TV show, were unaware of the existence of More Of The Monkees until after it had been released. They were understandably unhappy with the album, which was made up of tracks recorded for the TV show, but not intended for release on vinyl. This was the beginning of the end for musical director Don Kirshner's association with the group (he would be fired when he tried to pull the same crap with the band's third single). Nonetheless, the album was a huge hit, and did include a pair of songs written and produced by the band's de facto leader, Michael Nesmith. One of the two songs was Mary Mary, a tune recorded in July of 1966 featuring Mickey Dolenz on lead vocals. That same month, the Butterfield Blues Band also recorded Mary Mary, releasing it on their landmark album East-West in August of 1966. No songwriting credits were included on East-West, leading Butterfield fans to believe the Monkees' version was a cover, when in reality it was one of their few original compositions to appear under Kirshner's supervision. Incidentally, the lead guitar part on the Monkees version of Mary Mary was not played by Nesmith or the band's other guitarist, Peter Tork. Rather, it is the work of one of L.A.'s top studio musicians, Glen Campbell, who would become a major star as a solo artist in the 1970s.
Artist: H.P. Lovecraft
Title: The Drifter
Source: Two Classic Albums from H. P. Lovecraft: H. P. Lovecraft/H. P. Lovecraft II (originally released on LP: H.P. Lovecraft)
Writer(s): Travis Edmonson
Label: Collector's Choice/Universal Music Special Markets (original label: Philips)
Everyone acknowledges Chicago as the home of electric blues, but few realize that they also had an underground psychedelic scene in the late 1960s as well. Perhaps the most successful band to emerge from this scene was H.P. Lovecraft, named for the early 20th century author. The band itself was one of the most eclectic bands of the psychedelic era, a trait that probably prevented them from attaining any major commercial success. Still, their two albums, released in 1967 and 1968, are now considered classics. The first LP was made up mostly of cover versions of folk-rock songs like The Drifter, written by Travis Edmonson (half of the duo of Bud & Travis). The Lovecraft version of The Drifter features harmony vocals from guitarist George Edwards (himself a veteran solo artist, having recorded a cover of Norwegian Wood for the Dunwich label) and classically-trained keyboardist Dave Michaels. Another notable member of H.P. Lovecraft was rhythm guitarist Jerry McGeorge, who had been a member of the Shadows Of Knight.
Artist: 13th Floor Elevators
Source: British import CD: Easter Everywhere
Label: Charly (original label: International Artists)
The first album by the 13th Floor Elevators has long been considered a milestone, in that it was one of the first truly psychedelic albums ever released (and the first to actually use the word "psychedelic" in the title). For their followup LP, the group decided to take their time, going through some personnel changes in the process. Still, the core membership of Roky Erickson, Tommy Hall and Stacy Sutherland held it together long enough to complete Easter Everywhere, releasing the album in 1967. The idea behind the album was to present a spiritual vision that combined both Eastern and Western religious concepts in a rock context. For the most part, such as on tracks like Levitation, it succeeds remarkably well, considering the strife the band was going through at the time.
Artist: Mamas And The Papas
Title: California Dreamin'
Source: LP: If You Believe Your Eyes And Ears (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): John and Michelle Phillips
California Dreamin' was written in 1963 by John and Michelle Phillips, who were living in New York City at the time. The two of them were members of a folk group called the New Journeymen that would eventually become The Mamas And The Papas. Phillips initially gave the song to his friend Barry McGuire to record, but McGuire's version failed to chart. Not long after that McGuire introduced Philips to Lou Adler, president of Dunhill Records who quickly signed The Mamas And The Papas to a recording contract. Using the same instrumental backing track (provided by various Los Angeles studio musicians known as the Wrecking Crew), The Mamas And The Papas recorded new vocals for California Dreamin', releasing it as a single in late 1965. The song took a while to catch on, but eventually peaked in the top five nationally.
Title: Four Until Late
Source: LP: Fresh Cream
Writer(s): Robert Johnson
By the time Cream was formed, guitarist Eric Clapton had already established himself as one of the best guitarists in the world. He had not, however, done much singing, as the bands he had worked with all had strong vocalists: Keith Relf with the Yardbirds and John Mayall with the Bluesbreakers. With Cream, however, Clapton finally got a chance to do some vocals of his own. Most of these are duets with bassist Jack Bruce, who handled the bulk of Cream's lead vocals. Clapton did get to sing lead on a few Cream songs, however. One of the earliest ones was the band's updated version of Robert Johnson's Four Until Late, from the Fresh Cream album.
Title: Riot On Sunset Strip
Source: CD: The Best Of The Standells (originally released on LP: Riot On Sunset Strip soundtrack)
Label: Rhino (original label: Tower)
Anyone who doubts just how much influence bands like the Standells had on the punk-rock movement of the late 1970s need only listen to the 1967 title track from the movie Riot On Sunset Strip. The track sounds like it could have been an early Ramones recording. The song itself (and the movie) were based on a real life event. Local L.A. business owners had been complaining about the unruliness and rampant drug usage among the teens hanging out in front of the various underage clubs that had been springing up on Sunset Strip in the wake of the success of the Whisky-A-Go-Go, and in late 1966 the Los Angeles Police Department was called in to do something about the problem. What followed was a full-blown riot which ultimately led to local laws being passed that put many of the clubs out of business and severely curtailed the ability of the rest to make a profit. By 1968 the entire scene was a thing of the past, with the few remaining clubs converting to a more traditional over-21 approach.
Source: German import LP: Underground '70 (originally released in US on LP: Chicago Transit Authority)
Writer(s): Terry Kath
Label: CBS (original US label: Columbia)
When living in Germany in 1969 I bought a copy of an album called Underground '70 in a local record store. The album itself was on purple vinyl that glowed under a black light and featured a variety of artists that had recently released albums in the US on the Columbia label (since the name Columbia was trademarked by EMI in Europe and the UK, US albums from the American Columbia label were released on the CBS label instead). The opening track of the album was appropriately called Introduction and was also the opening track of the first Chicago (Transit Authority) album. Written by guitarist Terry Kath, the piece effectively showcases the strengths of the band, both as an extremely tight ensemble and as individual soloists, with no one member dominating the song. Finally, in 2018, I couldn't resist the urge to track down a copy of Underground '70, purple vinyl and all. Thank you Internet.
Title: Colour My World
Source: CD: Chicago
Writer(s): James Pankow
Label: Rhino (original label: Columbia)
It may come as a surprise, but Colour My World, one of the most popular songs in the Chicago catalog, was never released as a single. The song originally appeared as part of Ballet For A Girl In Buchanon, a multi-part suite written by James Pankow and appearing on Chicago's self-titled second album in 1970. The first single from that album was Make Me Smile, the opening portion of the same suite, with Colour My World as the B side. Thanks in part to jukebox play, the song became a popular slow dance song and was often heard at weddings in the 1970s. It has also become a staple of various "lite" radio formats such as Adult Contemporary and Music Of Your Life. Vocals on the song were provided by guitarist Terry Kath.
Title: Eleanor Rigby
Source: British import LP: Revolver
The Beatles' Revolver album is usually cited as the beginning of the British psychedelic era, and with good reason. Although the band still had one last tour in them in 1966, they were already far more focused on their studio work than on their live performances, and thus turned out an album full of short masterpieces such as Paul McCartney's Eleanor Rigby. As always, the song was credited to both McCartney and John Lennon, but in reality the only Beatle to appear on the recording was McCartney himself, and then only in a vocal capacity. The instrumentation consisted of simply a string quartet, arranged and conducted by producer George Martin. Released as a double-A-sided single, along with Yellow Submarine, the song shot to the upper echelons of the charts in nearly every country in the western world and remains one of the band's most popular and recognizable tunes.
Artist: Ace Of Cups, featuring Bob Weir
Title: The Well
Source: CD: Ace Of Cups
Label: High Moon
The Well actually dates back to the earliest days of Ace Of Cups, when it was, in the words of Denise Kaufman, "a holding place for a few lines we loved singing. They were like mantras, and the band would sing them over and over, harmonize them, explore different grooves-just playing." When Kaufman's old compatriot from the Merry Prankster days, Bob Weir, agreed to make a guest appearance on the 2018 Ace Of Cups album, The Well was dusted off and rearranged for him to not only sing, but also play lead guitar on. Indeed, the song sounds as if it was written with him in mind all along.
Artist: Disreputable Few
Title: Peace Pipe
Source: CD: Ain't Who I Was
Writer(s): Disreputable Few
Credit for Peace Pipe, from the Disreputable Few CD Ain't Who I Was, has to go to our Associate Producer, Greg Cotterill. Greg's contacts in the music business, which far exceed my own, include Dennis McNally, who is closely associated with the Grateful Dead and their own circle of friends. Among that circle is a band called the Disreputable Few, which consists of Mark Tremalgia (guitar, slide guitar, dobro, vocals), Randy Ray Mitchell (guitar, slide guitar, keys, vocals), Paul Ill (bass, upright bass, keys, vocals) and Dan Potruch (drums, precussion). A few months ago I played Farmer Brown, a track recommended by Dennis himself. This time around I'm going with Peace Pipe, the track that most grabbed me the first time I listened to the entire album.
Artist: Country Joe McDonald
Title: Silent Rage
Source: CD: 50
Writer(s): Joe McDonald
Label: Rag Baby
Although it was originally intended to be released in 2015, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Country Joe McDonald's first recording, the album 50 ended up taking over two years to complete. As can be heard on tracks like Silent Rage, it was worth taking the extra time on. Like many of the tracks on 50, Silent Rage features the talents of the legendary Tubes drummer Prarie Prince, along with guitarist James DePrato, vocalist Diana Mangano and bassist Blair Hardman (who accompanied McDonald on his first recording, The Goodbye Blues, of which only a dozen or so copies were originally pressed).
Artist: Mouse And The Traps
Title: A Public Execution
Source: Mono CD: More Nuggets (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Rhino (original label: Fraternity)
It's easy to imagine some kid somewhere in Texas inviting his friends over to hear the new Bob Dylan record, only to reveal afterwards that it wasn't Dylan at all, but this band he heard while visiting his cousins down in Tyler. Speaking of cousins, A Public Execution was inspired by a misunderstanding concerning a cousin and a motorcycle ride. According to Ronnie "Mouse" Weiss, his fiancee actually broke up with him after getting word that Mouse had been seen giving an attractive girl a ride. It turned out the attractive girl in question was his cousin from across the state who had come for a visit, but by the time the truth came out Weiss and his band had their first of many regional hit records.
Title: 7&7 Is
Source: Mono CD: Nuggets-Original Artyfacts From The First Psychedelic Era (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Arthur Lee
Label: Rhino (original label: Elektra)
The first rock band signed to Elektra Records was Love, a popular L.A. club band that boasted two talented songwriters, Arthur Lee and Bryan MacLean. On the heels of their first album, which included the single My Little Red Book and one of the first recordings of the fast version of Hey Joe, came their most successful single, the manic 7&7 Is, released in July of 1966.
Artist: Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title: 3rd Stone From The Sun
Source: Dutch import LP: The Singles Album (originally released on LP: Are You Experienced?)
Writer(s): Jimi Hendrix
Label: Polydor (original US label: Reprise)
Jimi Hendrix once stated that he was far more comfortable as a guitarist than as a vocalist, at least in the early days of the Experience. In that case, he was certainly in his element for this classic instrumental from the Are You Experienced album. Many of the sounds heard on 3rd Stone From The Sun were made by superimposing a slowed down recording of the following conversation between Hendrix and producer Chas Chandler over the music:
Hendrix : Star fleet to scout ship, please give your position. Over.
Chandler : I am in orbit around the third planet of star known as sun. Over.
Hendrix : May this be Earth? Over.
Chandler : Positive. It is known to have some form of intelligent species. Over.
Hendrix : I think we should take a look (Jimi then makes vocal spaceship noises).
One of the more notable spoken lines that plays at normal speed on the recording, "To you I shall put an end, then you'll never hear surf music again", was Hendrix's reaction to the news that famed surf guitarist Dick Dale had been diagnosed with a possible terminal case of colon cancer and was meant to encourage his friend's recovery. As heard on the 2007 album The Jimi Hendrix Experience: 1966–1967, Hendrix's original overdub included two more sentences "That sounds like a lie to me. Come on, man; let's go home." that were not used on the final recording. As of 2018, Dick Dale was still alive and kicking and finally getting the recognition he deserves as the "King of the Surf Guitar." The train sequence at the end of 3rd Stone From The Sun, incidentally, was done entirely on guitar.
Title: Hoochie Coochie Man
Source: CD: Steppenwolf
Writer(s): Willie Dixon
Label: MCA (original label: Dunhill)
A major driving force behind the renewed interest in the blues in the 1960s was the updating and re-recording of classic blues tunes by contempory rock musicians. This trend started in England, with bands like the Yardbirds and the Animals in the early part of the decade. By the end of the 60s a growing number of US bands were playing songs such as Hoochie Coochie Man, a tune originally recorded by Muddy Waters in 1954. Like Cream's Spoonful and Led Zeppelin's You Shook Me, Hoochie Coochie Man was written by Willie Dixon. The 1968 Steppenwolf version of the song slows the tempo down a touch from the original version and features exquisite sustained guitar work from Michael Monarch.
Artist: Rolling Stones
Title: Prodigal Son
Source: CD: Beggar's Banquet
Writer(s): Robert Wilkins
Label: Abkco (original label: London)
The Rolling Stones always had a fondness for American roots music, but by 1967 had largely abandoned the genre in favor of more modern sounds such as pychedelia. The 1968 album Beggar's Banquet, however, marked a return to the band's own roots and included such tunes as Prodigal Son, which at first was credited to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. In reality the song was written by the Reverend Robert Wilkins, and has since been acknowledged as such.
Artist: Procol Harum
Title: In Held Twas In I
Source: CD: Shine On Brightly
Although the idea of grouping songs together as "suites" was first tried by Jefferson Airplane on their 1967 album After Bathing At Baxter's, Procol Harum's 17-minute long In Held Twas I, from their 1968 album Shine On Brightly, is usually cited as the first progressive rock suite. The title comes from the first word of each section of the piece that contains vocals (several sections are purely instrumental). The work contains some of the best early work from guitarist Robin Trower, who would leave the group a few years later for a solo career. Shine On Brightly was the last Procol Harum album to include organist Matthew Fisher, who came up with the famous opening riff for the group's first hit, A Whiter Shade Of Pale.