Sunday, February 10, 2019
Stuck in the Psychedelic Era # 1907 (starts 2/11/19)
It's been over five years since side two of the classic Moody Blues album, Days Of Future Passed, was played on Stuck in the Psychedelic Era, so I figured it was about time to play it again. The rest of the show is made up entirely of sets of songs from a particular year (with a couple of isolated tunes thrown in).
Artist: Lovin' Spoonful
Title: Do You Believe In Magic
Source: CD: Battle Of The Bands (originally released as 45 RPM single and on LP: Do You Believe In Magic)
Writer(s): John Sebastian
Label: Era (original label: Kama Sutra)
Do You Believe In Magic, the debut single by the Lovin' Spoonful, was instrumental in establishing not only the band itself, but the Kama Sutra label as well. Over the next couple of years, the Spoonful would crank out a string of hits, pretty much single-handedly keeping Kama Sutra in business. In 1967 the band's lead vocalist and primary songwriter John Sebastian departed the group for a solo career, and Kama Sutra itself soon morphed into a company called Buddah Records. Buddah (the misspelling being discovered too late to be fixed) soon came to dominate the "bubble gum" genre of top 40 music throughout 1968 and well into 1969, but eventually proved in its own way to be as much a one-trick pony as its predecessor.
Title: A Well Respected Man
Source: 45 RPM single (reissue)
Writer: Ray Davies
Label: Eric (original label: Reprise)
Year: Released 1965, charted 1966
The Kinks were one of the original British Invasion bands, scoring huge R&B-influenced hits with You Really Got Me and All Day And All Of The Night in 1964. The hits continued in 1965 with more melodic songs like Set Me Free and Tired Of Waiting For You. 1966 saw Ray Davies's songwriting take a satiric turn, as A Well Respected Man (actually released in late 1965) amply illustrates. Over the next few years the Kinks would continue to evolve, generally getting decent critical reviews and moderate record sales for their albums. The title of one of those later albums, Muswell Hillbillies, refers to the Davies brothers hometown of Muswell Hill, North London.
Title: In My Life
Source: CD: Rubber Soul
Rubber Soul was the first Beatles album to be made up entirely of songs written by the band members themselves, mostly John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Lennon's contributions in particular were starting to move away from the typical "young love" songs the band had become famous for. One of the best examples is In My Life, which is a nostalgic look back at Lennon's own past (although put in such a way that it could be universally applied). Despite never being released as a single, In My Life remains one of the most popular songs in the Beatles catalog.
Artist: Jefferson Airplane
Title: Won't You Try/Saturday Afternoon
Source: LP: After Bathing At Baxter's
Writer(s): Paul Kantner
Label: RCA Victor
The first Jefferson Airplane album (the 1966 release Jefferson Airplane Takes Off) was dominated by songs from the pen of founder Marty Balin, a few of which were collaborations with other band members such as Paul Kantner and Jorma Kaukonen. The songwriting on the group's second LP, Surrealistic Pillow, was fairly evenly balanced between the three above and new arrival Grace Slick. By the band's third album, After Bathing At Baxter's, released in the fall of 1967, Kantner had emerged as the group's main songwriter, having a hand in over half the tracks on the LP. One of the most durable of these was the album's closing track, a medley of two songs, Won't You Try and Saturday Afternoon, the latter being about a free concert that band had participated in in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park earlier that year.
Artist: Music Machine
Title: The Eagle Never Hunts The Fly
Source: LP: Nuggets Vol. 2-Punk (originally released as 45 RPM single and included on LP: Bonniwell Music Machine)
Writer(s): Sean Bonniwell
Label: Rhino (original label: Original Sound, stereo LP version released on Warner Brothers)
The Music Machine was by far the most advanced of all the bands playing on Sunset Strip in 1966-67. Not only did they feature tight sets (so that audience members wouldn't get the chance to call out requests between songs), they also had their own visual look that set them apart from other bands. With all the band members dressed entirely in black (including dyed hair) and wearing one black glove, the Machine projected an image that would influence such diverse artists as the Ramones and Michael Jackson in later years. Musically, Bonniwell's songwriting showed a sophistication that was on a par with the best L.A. had to offer, demonstrated by a series of fine singles such as The Eagle Never Hunts the Fly. Unfortunately, problems on the business end prevented the Music Machine from achieving the success it deserved and Bonniwell, disheartened, dissillusioned and/or disgusted, eventually quit the music business altogether.
Title: You Set The Scene
Source: CD: Forever Changes
Writer: Arthur Lee
During the production of Forever Changes, vocalist/guitarist Arthur Lee became convinced that he was destined to die soon after the release of the album. Accordingly, he crafted lyrics that were meant to be his final words to the world. As the final track on the LP, You Set The Scene in particular reflected this viewpoint. As it turned out, Forever Changes was not Lee's swan song. It was, however, the last album to feature the lineup that had been the most popular band on Sunset Strip for the past two years. Subsequent Love albums would feature a whole new lineup backing Lee, and would have an entirely different sound as well. Ironically, Lee was still around at the dawn of the 21st century over 30 years later (dying of acute myeloid leukemia in 2006), outliving several of his old bandmates.
Artist: West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band
Title: Smell of Incense
Source: LP: Volume II
One of the commercially strongest songs on the second West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band album for Reprise was Smell of Incense. The length of the track, however, (over five minutes) meant it would never get airplay on AM radio, although England Dan Seals and John Ford Coley took it to the # 56 spot on the charts while still in high school in 1968 with their band Southwest F.O.B.
Title: Love Is Gone
Source: Mono CD: The Huns Conquer Ithaca, NY 1966
Writer(s): Steve Dworetz
Year: Recorded 1966, released 2017
Like most college towns, Ithaca, NY (home of both Ithaca College and Cornell University) has always had a thriving local music scene. In the mid-1960s that scene was dominated by bands doing mostly covers of current top 40 hits. Bassist Frank Van Nostrand and organist John Sweeney, however, wanted to do something different. The two Ithaca College juniors were fans of the more rebellious bands like the Animals, Kinks and especially the Rolling Stones, who were already establishing themselves as the bad boys of British rock. As their fellow students began to stream in to register for the upcoming school year, Sweeney and Van Nostrand were camped out at their own table, looking to recruit like-minded musicians to form a new band that would soon come to be known as the Huns. By the time the school year was over, the Huns had racked up a total of 51 gigs at a combination of local clubs, frat houses and parties. They even made an appearance on a mock TV show produced by fellow student Lynn Cates as a class project. Although the video of that performance is long gone, the audio dub survived for over 50 years, and has been made into a CD called The Huns Conquer Ithaca, NY 1966. Recorded on March 10, the album captures the Huns at the peak of their popularity, before hassles with the college dean over hair length (among other things) led to the dismissal of both Sweeney and Van Nostrand and the subsequent breakup of the band itself. The opening track of the CD, Love Is Gone, shows a band pretty far removed from what was popular in the Eastern US at the time; in fact it feels more like the cutting edge bands populating the mid-60s club scene in Los Angeles.
Artist: Downliners Sect
Source: Mono CD: Nuggets II-Original Artyfacts From The British Empire And Beyond 1964-1969 (originally released in UK as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Ray Stanley
Label: Rhino (original label: Columbia)
Although they never had the massive success of the Rolling Stones, Kinks or Animals, the Downliners Sect had a solid run in their native England beginning in 1964, with enough staying power to cut three LPs and numerous singles over a period of years. One of their more notable tracks is their 1966 remake of a 1956 Perry Como hit, Glendora, about a department store mannequin. As interpreted by the Sect, the song takes on a cool macabre flavor.
Artist: Blues Project
Title: Two Trains Running
Source: Mono CD: Projections
Writer(s): McKinley Morganfield
Label: Sundazed (original label: Verve Forecast)
Possibly the most influential (yet least known outside of musicians' circles) band of the Psychedelic Era was the Blues Project. Formed in 1965 in Greenwich Village, the band worked its way from coast to coast playing mostly college campuses, in the process blazing a path that continues to be followed by underground/progressive/alternative artists. As if founding the whole college circuit wasn't enough, they were arguably the very first jam band, as their version of the Muddy Waters classic Two Trains Running shows. Among those drawing their inspiration from the Blues Project were the Warlocks, a group of young musicians who were traveling with Ken Kesey on the Electric Cool-Aid Acid Test tour bus. The Warlocks would soon change their name to the Grateful Dead and take the jam band concept to a whole new level. Still, they may never have moved in that direction at all if it weren't for the Blues Project.
Artist: Count Five
Title: Psychotic Reaction
Source: Mono CD: Love Is The Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-70 (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Rhino (original label: Double Shot)
San Jose, California, had a vibrant teen music scene in the late 60s, despite the fact that the relatively small city was overshadowed by San Francisco at the other end of the bay (both cities are considered part of the same metropolitan market). One of the more popular bands in town was this group of five individuals who chose to dress up like Bela Lugosi's Dracula, capes and all. Musically, they idolized the Yardbirds (Jeff Beck era), and for slightly more than three minutes managed to sound more like their idols than the Yardbirds themselves (who by then had replaced Beck with Jimmy Page).
Artist: Janis Joplin with the Kozmic Blues Band
Title: Raise Your Hand
Source: Stereo 45 RPM single box set: Move Over (originally released on CD: Rare Pearls)
Year: Recorded 1969, released 1999
Raise Your Hand is a 1969 live recording by Janis Joplin and her Kozmic Blues Band that was originally issued on a CD called Rare Pearls which was only available as part of the Box Of Pearls Janis Joplin box set, released in 1999. More recently, the track has been issued as part of a four-disc 45 RPM box set called Move Over. The song is a good representation of where Joplin was at musically after splitting with Big Brother And The Holding Company.
Artist: Human Beinz
Title: Nobody But Me
Source: Mono LP: Nuggets Vol. 1-The Hits (originally released as a 45 RPM single)
Writer: Ron, Rudy and O'Kelley Isley
Label: LP: Rhino (originally released on Capitol)
The Human Beingz were a band that had been around since 1964 doing mostly club gigs in the Youngstown, Ohio area as the Premiers. In the late 60s they decided to update their image with a name more in tune with the times and came up with the Human Beingz. Unfortunately someone at Capitol Records misspelled their name (leaving out the "g") on the label of Nobody But Me, and after the song became a national hit the band was stuck with the new spelling. The band split up in 1969, but after Nobody But Me was featured in the Quentin Tarantino film Kill Bill: Vol.1, original leader Ting Markulin reformed the band with a new lineup that has appeared in the Northeastern US in recent years.
Artist: Moody Blues
Title: The Afternoon/Evening/The Night
Source: LP: Days Of Future Passed
In 1967 the Moody Blues went out on a limb and recorded an entire album using a symphony orchestra, creating an entire genre (classical rock) in the process. The album, Days Of Future Passed, is essentially a song cycle that covers a typical day, with side one covering the morning through lunchtime. The second side, which starts with the afternoon and continues into the night, includes two of the band's best known songs: Tuesday Afternoon and Nights In White Satin. Although Tuesday Afternoon charted in early 1968, Nights In White Satin did not hit the top 40 until an edited version was released in 1972. By 1972 the original master tape had deteriorated to the point that a new mix was made from the original multi-track tape. This mix was used for all subsequent pressings of Days Of Future Passed, including this 1981 Mobile Fidelity pressing of the LP. In 2017 a pristine copy of the original LP was found, and a new master tape was created from that copy, although I have not yet heard it. Apparently there are some differences between the two, including extra measures of music here and there that were left out of the newer mix.
Artist: Grateful Dead
Title: Friend Of The Devil
Source: LP: American Beauty
Label: Warner Brothers
The Grateful Dead spent three years and four albums trying to capture the energy of their live performances on vinyl. Having finally succeeded with the 1969 Live Dead album the group began to focus more on their songwriting capabilities. The result was two outstanding studio albums, both released in 1970: Workingman's Dead and American Beauty. Of the two, American Beauty is made up almost entirely of songs played on acoustic instruments, including pedal steel guitar, which was played by Jerry Garcia. One of the best-known tracks on American Beauty is Friend Of The Devil, which lyricist Robert Hunter referred to as "the closest we've come to what may be a classic song." Not to take anything away from Friend Of The Devil, but I'd have to say that at least three other songs (Ripple, Sugar Magnolia and Truckin') on American Beauty also qualify as classics.
Artist: Deep Purple
Title: Listen, Learn, Read On
Source: CD: The Book Of Taliesyn
Label: Eagle (original label: Tetragrammaton)
Deep Purple's second LP, The Book Of Taliesyn, was recorded only three months after the release of the debut LP, Shades Of Deep Purple, in 1968. The reason for this rush job was that they were about to embark on their first US tour, and their US label, Tetragrammaton, felt that they needed to have a new album to promote while on the road. This is actually a case of forward thinking, since putting out a new album just before starting a tour is now standard practice for popular artists. Given the lack of time the band had to come up with new material, The Book Of Taliesyn actually came out pretty good overall, although I have to say that every time I hear the album's opening track (Listen, Learn, Read On) images of Spinal Tap on stage with their miniature Stonehenge come to mind.
Artist: Simon and Garfunkel
Title: Mrs. Robinson
Source: CD :Collected Works (originally released on LP: Bookends)
Writer(s): Paul Simon
Possibly the most enduring song in the entire Simon And Garfunkel catalog, Mrs. Robinson (in an edited version) first appeared on the soundtrack for the film The Graduate in 1967. It wasn't until the Bookends album came out in 1968 that the full four minute version was released. Also released as a single, the song shot right to the top of the charts, staying there for several weeks.
Artist: Canned Heat
Title: Boogie Music
Source: CD: Living The Blues
Writer(s): L T Tatman III
Label: BGO (original label: Liberty)
Canned Heat was formed in 1966 by a group of Bay Area blues purists. Although a favorite on the rock scene, the band continued to remain true to the blues throughout its existence. The band's most popular single was Going Up the Country from the album Living the Blues. The B side of Going Up The Country was a tune called Boogie Music. The song is credited to L T Tatman III, which may be a pseudonym for the entire band, much as Nanker Phelge was for the Rolling Stones. Unusually, the single version of the song is actually longer than the album version heard here, thanks to a short coda made to sound like an archive recording from the 1920s.
Artist: Pink Floyd
Title: See Emily Play
Source: Mono CD: Relics (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Syd Barrett
Label: Capitol (original label: Tower)
Following up on their first single, Arnold Layne, Pink Floyd found even greater chart success (at least in their native England) with See Emily Play. Released in June of 1967, the song went all the way to the #6 spot on the British charts. In the US the song failed to chart as a single, although it was included on the US version of Pink Floyd's debut LP, The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn. The "Emily" in question is reportedly the sculptor Emily Young, who in those days was nicknamed the "psychedelic schoolgirl" at London's legendary UFO club.
Artist: Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title: Spanish Castle Magic
Source: LP: Axis: Bold As Love
Writer(s): Jimi Hendrix
Label: Experience Hendrix/Legacy (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.
Title: Mass #586
Source: CD: Present Tense (bonus track)
Writer: Gary Usher
Year: Recorded 1967, released 1997
In late 1966 Columbia Records staff producer Gary Usher started a project on his own time that would come to be known as Sagittarius. Usher had successfully made the transition from surf music to more progressive groups as the Byrds, Simon and Garfunkel and the Peanut Butter Conspiracy and was making a lot of money, but was feeling creatively stifled. During the surf era he had been as much a creator as producer, working with people like Terry Melcher on projects like the Hondells' recording of Little Honda. With the newer groups, however, he felt that the artists had plenty of creativity of their own, and that his function was to make sure the records got made on time and under budget. The final event that triggered the Sagittarius project was when he tried to get Chad And Jeremy to record a song called My World Fell Down. After the duo made it clear that they had no interesting in recording the tune, Usher brought in several friends to help him record the song himself. Those friends included vocalists Melcher, Bruce Johnston (who had just begun to perform with the Beach Boys as Brian Wilson's onstage replacement) and lead vocalist Glen Campbell, who had also performed with the Beach Boys. For the instrumental tracks Usher called in another group a friends, a group of studio musicians known collectively as the Wrecking Crew. Now there was never a band officially named the Wrecking Crew, yet it is estimated that they played on more hit records recorded in L.A. during the 60s than everyone else combined (bassist Carol Kaye, for instance, reportedly has over 10,000 recordings to her credit). Shortly after finishing My World Fell Down Usher began collaborating with Curt Boettcher, who had just finished producing his own band, the Ballroom. Working together, the two (along with arranger Keith Olsen, formerly of the Music Machine) turned what had been a spare time project into an eleven-song album. Present Tense, released in July of 1968, included several tracks that Boettcher had already been working on, in addition to an edited version of My World Fell Down. Additionally, several other tracks were recorded, but not released by the same lineup. One of these was Mass #586, recorded in November of 1967.
Title: We're Not On The Same Trip
Source: British import CD: The Amazing Charlatans
Writer(s): Dan Hicks
Label: Big Beat
Year: Recorded 1967, released 1996
Few bands have achieved such legendary status (without actually being heard by most people) as the Charlatans. Formed in 1964, The Charlatans were literally the first LSD-influenced rock band, although their music actually bears little resemblance of what has come to be known as acid-rock. The Charlatans were actually hard to define musically, since each of the five individuals making up the group (George Hunter, Richard Olsen, Mike Wilhelm, Michael Ferguson and Dan Hicks) had their own unique musical vision. One thing the members did have in common was a sense of theatrics, with each member taking on a particular historical persona (Edwardian aristocrat, Mississippi gambler, old west gunfighter, etc.) and dressing to fit that persona. Another thing the band members had in common was a fondness for LSD, which until October of 1966 was still legal to ingest in California. My personal favorite Charlatans recording, We're Not On The Same Trip (a Dan Hicks tune recorded in 1967) reflects this prodigious use of the subtance.
Artist: Blues Magoos
Title: Let's Get Together
Source: Mono LP: Electric Comic Book
Writer(s): Jimmy Reed
Although the Blues Magoos' second LP, Electric Comic Book, was made up mostly of original compositions by the band members themselves, there is one notable exception: a cover of Jimmy Reed's Let's Get Together. The Magoos' recording of the song was actually the second to be released in 1967, as the Leaves had included a fairly bland version of the tune on their second LP, All The Good That's Happening, early in the year. The Blues Magoos approach to the song was far less serious (and far more interesting), with an almost drunken quality to it. It's easy to imagine a bar crowd singing along with this version of the tune.