Sunday, March 31, 2019
Stuck in the Psychedelic Era # 1914 (starts 4/1/19)
Title: My Little Red Book
Source: 45 RPM single (stereo reissue)
The first rock record ever released by Elektra Records was a single by Love called My Little Red Book. The track itself (which also opens Love's debut LP), is a punked out version of tune originally recorded by Manfred Mann for the What's New Pussycat movie soundtrack. Needless to say, Love's version was not exactly what composers Burt Bacharach and Hal David had in mind.
Artist: Buffalo Springfield
Title: Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing
Source: CD: Buffalo Springfield
Writer: Neil Young
One of the most influential folk-rock bands to come out of the L.A. scene was the Buffalo Springfield. The Springfield had several quality songwriters, including Neil Young, whose voice was deemed "too weird" by certain record company people. Thus we have Richie Furay handling the lead vocals on Nowadays Clancy Can't Even Sing, the group's debut single. The track was just one of several Young songs sung by Furay on the band's first album. By the time the second Buffalo Springfield album was released things had changed somewhat, and Young got to do his own lead vocals on songs like Mr. Soul and Broken Arrow.
Artist: Rolling Stones
Title: It's Not Easy
Source: British import LP: Aftermath
Label: Abkco (original US label: London)
The Rolling Stones' Aftermath, along with the Beatles' Rubber Soul, began a revolution in rock music that was felt for several decades. Prior to those two releases, albums were basically a mix of original and cover songs meant to provide a little supplemental income for popular artists who had hit singles. Aftermath, however, was full of songs that could stand on their own. Even songs like It's Not Easy, which could have been hit singles for lesser artists, were completely overlooked in favor of tracks like Under My Thumb, which is arguably the first true rock classic not to be released as a single. Within the short span of two years, rock would find itself in a place where an artist could be considered a success without having a hit single, something that was completely unheard of when Aftermath was released.
Artist: Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title: Are You Experienced?
Source: LP: Are You Experienced?
Writer(s): Jimi Hendrix
Label: Experience Hendrix/Legacy (original label: Reprise)
Until the release of Are You Experienced by the Jimi Hendrix Experience the emphasis in rock music (then called pop) was on the 45 RPM single, with albums seen as a luxury item that supplemented an artist's career rather than defined it. Are You Experience helped change all that. The album was not only highly influential, it was a major seller, despite getting virtually no airplay on top 40 radio. The grand finale of the LP was the title track, which features an array of studio effects, including backwards masking and tape loops. Interestingly enough, the album was originally issued only in a mono version in the UK, with European pressings using a simulated stereo mix. After Reprise bought the rights to release the LP in the US it hired its own engineers to create stereo mixes of the songs from the four-track master tapes.
Artist: Sly And The Family Stone
Source: CD: Love Is The Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-70 (originally released on LP: A Whole New Thing)
Writer(s): Sylvester Stewart
Label: Rhino (original label: Epic)
Sly and the Family Stone were a showstopper at the Woodstock festival in 1969, but their story starts years before that historic performance. Sylvester Stewart was a popular DJ and record producer in mid-60s San Francisco, responsible for the first recordings of the Warlocks (later the Grateful Dead) and the Great! Society, among others. During that time he became acquainted with a wealth of talent, including bassist Larry Graham. In 1967, with Autumn Records having been sold to and closed down by Warner Brothers, he decided to form his own band. Anchored by Graham, Sly and the Family Stone's first LP, A Whole New Thing, was possibly the very first pure funk album ever released.
Title: The End
Source: LP: The Doors
Writer(s): The Doors
Prior to recording their first album the Doors' honed their craft at various Sunset Strip clubs, working up live versions of the songs they would soon record, including their show-stopper, The End. Originally written as a breakup song by singer/lyricist Jim Morrison, The End runs nearly twelve minutes and includes the controversial spoken "Oedipus section" that reportedly lost the group their residency at the Whisky-A-Go-Go. My own take on the famous "blue bus" line earlier in the song is that Morrison, being a military brat, was probably familiar with the blue shuttle buses used on military bases for a variety of purposes, including taking kids to school, and simply incorporated his experiences with them into his lyrics. The End got its greatest exposure in 1979, when Oliver Stone used it in his film Apocalypse Now.
Artist: Lovin' Spoonful
Title: Alley Oop
Source: 45 RPM single
Writer(s): Dallas Frazier
Label: Sundazed/Kama Sutra
The Lovin' Spoonful didn't actually release their version of the old Hollywood Argyles song Alley Oop as a single in 1965. In fact, they didn't release the song at all, even though it was recorded during the same sessions that became their debut LP that year. In 2011 the people at Sundazed decided to create a "single that never was", pairing Alley Oop with the full-length version of Night Owl Blues, a song that had been included on the 1965 debut in edited form. The Spoonful version of Alley Oop has an almost garage-band feel about it, and is perhaps the best indication on vinyl of what the band actually sounded like in their early days as a local fixture on the Greenwich Village scene.
Artist: Spencer Davis Group
Title: Somebody Help Me
Source: Mono LP: Gimme Some Lovin' (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Jackie Edwards
Label: United Artists (original label: Atco)
The Spencer Davis Group hit it big in the US with their early 1967 hit Gimme Some Lovin'. It was not the first single to have been released in the US, however. The group's British label, Fontana, released the band's second single, I Can't Stand It, in the US in Decembeer of 1964, but the record went nowhere. The following year the band took two songs written by the Jamaican born Jackie Edwards to the top of the British charts. Both of these, Keep On Running and Somebody Help Me, were licensed to the US Atco label, but again, neither made an impression west of the Atlantic. Finally, in December of 1966, Gimme Some Lovin' was released in the US on the United Artists label and became a major hit, prompting the label to compile an album from the group's earlier recordings, including Somebody Help Me. That album was issued in early 1967.
Artist: Electric Prunes
Source: CD: Underground
Label: Collector's Choice/Rhino (original label: Reprise)
After the moderately successful first Electric Prunes album, producer David Hassinger loosened the reigns a bit for the followup, Underground. Among the original tunes on Underground was Hideaway, a song that probably would have been a better choice as a single than what actually got released: a novelty tune called Dr. Feelgood written by Annette Tucker and Nancie Mantz, who had also written the band's first hit, I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night)
Title: So You Want To Be A Rock And Roll Star
Source: CD: Younger Than Yesterday
By early 1967 there was a building resentment among musicians and rock press alike concerning the instant (and in many eyes unearned) success of the Monkees. One notable expression of this resentment was the Byrds' So You Want To Be A Rock And Roll Star, which takes a somewhat sarcastic look at what it takes to succeed in the music business. Unfortunately, much of what they talk about in the song continues to apply today (although the guitar has been somewhat supplanted by the computer as the instrument of choice).
Title: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor
Source: 45 RPM single B side
By 1967 the Yardbirds had moved far away from their blues roots and were on their fourth lead guitarist, studio whiz Jimmy Page. The band had recently picked up a new producer, Mickey Most, known mostly for his work with Herman's Hermits and the original Animals. Most had a tendency to concentrate solely on the band's single A sides, leaving Page an opportunity to develop his own songwriting and production skills on songs such as Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor, a track that also shows signs of Page's innovative guitar style (including an instrumental break played with a violin bow) that would help define 70s rock.
Artist: Jefferson Airplane
Source: Mono LP: Surrealistic Pillow
Label: Sundazed (original label: RCA Victor)
Uncredited guest guitarist Jerry Garcia adds a simple, but memorable recurring fill riff to Today, an early collaboration between rhythm guitarist Paul Kantner and bandleader Marty Balin on Jefferson Airplane's second LP, Surrealistic Pillow.
Title: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band/With A Little Help From My Friends
Source: LP: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
One of the first tracks recorded for the album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was the title track itself, which opens up side one of the LP. The following song, With A Little Help From My Friends (tentatively titled Bad Finger Boogie at the time), was recorded nearly two months later, yet the two sound like one continuous performance. In fact, it was this painstaking attention to every facet of the recording and production process that made Sgt. Pepper's such a landmark album. Whereas the first Beatle album took 585 minutes to record, Sgt. Pepper's took over 700 hours. At this point in the band's career, drummer Ringo Starr was generally given one song to sing (usually written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney) on each of the group's albums. Originally, these were throwaway songs such as I Wanna Be Your Man (which was actually written for the Rolling Stones), but on the previous album, Revolver, the biggest hit on the album ended up being the song Ringo sang, Yellow Submarine. Although no singles were released from Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, With A Little Help From My Friends received considerable airplay on top 40 radio and is one of the most popular Beatle songs ever recorded.
Title: Come Together
Source: LP: Abbey Road
After the Beatles released their 1968 double LP (the so-called White Album), they went to work on their final film project, a documentary about the band making an album. Unfortunately, what the cameras captured was a group on the verge of disintegration, and both the album and the film itself were shelved indefinitely. Instead, the band went to work recording an entirely new group of compositions. Somehow, despite the internal difficulties the band was going through, they managed to turn out a masterpiece: Abbey Road. Before the album itself came out, a single was released. The official A side was George Harrison's Something, the first Harrison song ever to be released as a Beatle A side. The other side was the song that opened the album itself, John Lennon's Come Together. In later years Come Together came to be Lennon's signature song and was a staple of his live performances.
Title: Louie Louie
Source: CD: Nuggets-Original Artyfacts from the Psychedelic Era (originally released as a 45 RPM single)
Writer: Richard Berry
Label: Rhino (original label: Wand)
Although Paul Revere and the Raiders had recorded the song just a few days earlier, the version of Louie Louie that is remembered as the greatest party song of all time came from another Portland, Oregon band, the Kingsmen. With its basic three-chord structure and incomprehensible lyrics, the most popular song to ever come out of the Pacific Northwest was considered a must-learn song for garage bands nationwide.
Artist: Ace Of Cups, featuring Buffy Sainte-Marie
Title: Pepper In The Pot
Source: CD: Ace Of Cups
Label: High Moon
Buffy Sainte-Marie makes a guest appearance as lead vocalist on Pepper In The Pot, from the album Ace Of Cups. The song, which draws from such diverse sources as old jump-rope rhymes and the Bible, was co-written by Sainte-Marie and primary Ace songwriter Denise Kaufman.
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: Ace Of Cups, featuring Taj Mahal
Source: CD: Ace Of Cups
Label: High Moon
The Ace Of Cups/Taj Mahal connection goes back over 50 years to when they were all young musicians out to make a name for themselves. Their careers took different turns, however, with Mahal releasing his first of many solo albums in 1968. The Ace Of Cups, meanwhile, chose not to make any record deals during their original time together. Members of the Ace Of Cups have maintained a close friendship with Mahal, however, and when they finally got the opportunity to make a studio album on their own terms they invited Mahal to sing on a song called Life In Your Hands, written by Joe Allegra while band member Mary Gannon was in labor with his child. Mahal stuck around during the sessions, and late one night picked up a banjo and recorded a short piece called Daydreamin' that features Ace members Diane Vitalich and Diane Kaufman on backup vocals.
Artist: Blue Cheer
Source: LP: Outsideinside
Writer(s): Dickie Peterson
By the time Blue Cheer began recording their second LP they had established themselves as the loudest band in the San Francisco Bay area, if not the entire world. Their decibel level was so high that midway through the album they were kicked out of the studio and had to finish recording outdoors on San Francisco's Pier 57. To immortalize the experience they decided to call the album Outsideinside, although it's not known which tracks were recorded where. Regardless of where it was recorded, the last track on the album, Babylon, by bassist Dickie Peterson, is a classic example of how Blue Cheer sounded in 1968.
Title: Enjoy Yourself
Source: CD: A Lethal Dose of Hard Psych (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Label: Arf! Arf! (original label: Megaphone)
Dragonfly was an album that came out on Los Angeles's Megaphone label in 1970. It's not entirely clear, howevere, if Dragonfly was actually the name of the band itself, or just the album, since no other credits are given. The reason for this confusion is that a couple of years earlier the exact same lineup of musicians had recorded a trio of singles for Megaphone as the Legend, including an early version of Enjoy Yourself, a song that is considered one of the highlights of the Dragonfly album. Now if only someone would send me a copy of the Dragonfly LP...
Artist: Fever Tree
Title: San Francisco Girls (Return of the Native)
Source: LP: Fever Tree
A minor 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.
Artist: Johnny Rivers
Title: Walkin' The Dog
Source: LP: Johnny Rivers At Whisky-a-Go-Go
Writer(s): Rufus Thomas
Although not exactly a psychedelic album, Johnny Rivers At Whisky-A-Go-Go is nonetheless an important milestone in the history of psychedelic music in America. Released in 1964, it was the first album recorded at what was then a brand new venue on Los Angeles' Sunset Boulevard (in fact, Rivers was the club's first headliner). Although Rivers himself would go on to become part of the music industry establishment (starting Soul City Records in 1966), the Whisky soon became the epicenter of L.A.'s own underground rock scene, with such notables as Gypsy, Love and the Doors serving as house band at various times. Rivers, in the early part of his career, was a rock and roll purist, reviving such notable songs as Chuck Berry's Memphis. Another classic from the album was Rivers' cover of Rufus Thomas's signature song, Walkin' The Dog. Unlike later versions such as the early 70s Aerosmith cover of the song, Rivers's version of Walkin' The Dog, performed by a three piece band consisting of Rivers (guitar/vocals), Joe Osborne (bass) and Eddie Rubin (drums), is faithful to the original.
Artist: Bob Dylan
Title: On The Road Again
Source: Mono LP: Bringing It All Back Home
Writer(s): Bob Dylan
On January 14, 1965, Bob Dylan made his first recordings with an electric band at Columbia Records' Studio B. The following day, using mostly the same musicians, he recorded On The Road Again. The song, basically a declaration of indepence from his role as a folk singer, contains the lines "You ask why I don't live here. Honey, how come you don't move?".
Source: LP: Homer (soundtrack) (originally released in UK on LP: Fresh Cream)
Writer(s): Willie Dixon
Label: Cotillion (original label: Reaction)
When the album Fresh Cream was released by Atco in the US it was missing one track that was on the original UK version of the album: the band's original studio version of Willie Dixon's Spoonful. A live version of Spoonful was included on the LP Wheels of Fire, but it wasn't until the 1970 soundtrack album for the movie Homer that the studio version was finally released in the US. Unfortunately the compilers of that album left out the last 25 seconds or so from the original recording.
Artist: Vanilla Fudge
Title: You Keep Me Hangin' On
Source: 45 RPM single
The Vanilla Fudge version of You Keep Me Hangin' On was originally recorded and released in 1967, not too long after the Supremes version of the song finished its own run on the charts. It wasn't until the following year, however, the the Vanilla Fudge recording caught on with radio listeners, turning it into the band's only top 40 hit. Although progressive FM stations often played the longer LP version, it was the mono single edit heard here that was most familiar to listeners of top 40 radio.
Artist: Steve Miller Band
Title: The Beauty Of Time Is That It's Snowing
Source: UK Import CD: Ah Feel Like Ahcid (originally released on LP: Children Of The Future)
Writer(s): Steve Miller
Label: Zonophone (original US label: Capitol)
When the name Steve Miller comes up, the first thing that comes to mind is Fly Like An Eagle, or maybe The Joker or even Living In The USA. In the beginning, though, the Miller band was a bit more eclectic, performing original tunes (by both Miller and fellow band member Boz Scaggs) ranging in style from straight blues to pure psychedelia, such as The Beauty Of Time Is That It's Snowing from their debut LP, Children Of The Future. Although born in Milwaukee, Wisconson, Miller was raised in Texas, playing in several local bands before relocating to Chicago, where he took an interest in electric blues. After a short return to Texas, Miller moved to San Francisco in 1966, where he met Boz Scaggs and formed the Steve Miller Band. Like fellow San Francisco bands Quicksilver Messenger Service and Mother Earth, Miller's group provided songs for the soundtrack of the documentary film Revolution, but did not sign a contract with a major label until 1968. Interestingly, their first LP, Children Of The Future, was recorded in England rather than in San Francisco, and was produced by the legendary Glyn Johns.
Artist: Beach Boys
Title: Let's Go Away For Awhile
Source: Mono LP: Pet Sounds
Writer(s): Brian Wilson
After spending six months and a record amount of money making Good Vibrations, Brian Wilson and Capitol Records decided to use an existing track for the B side of the single rather than take the time to record something new. The chosen track was Let's Go Away For Awhile, a tune from the Pet Sounds album that Wilson described as the most satisfying instrumental piece he had ever written.
Artist: Music Machine
Source: CD: Turn On The Music Machine
Writer(s): Sean Bonniwell
Label: Collectables (original label: Original Sound)
Sean Bonniwell was a member of the mainstream (i.e. lots of appearances on TV variety shows hosted by people like Perry Como and Bob Hope) folk group the Lamplighters in the early 60s. By 1966 he had morphed into one of the more mysterious figures on the LA music scene, leading a proto-punk band dressed entirely in black. Bonniwell himself wore a single black glove (Michael Jackson was about seven years old at the time), and was one of the most prolific songwriters of the day. His recordings, often featuring the distinctive Farfisa organ sound, were a primary influence on later L.A. bands such as Iron Butterfly and the Doors. A classic example of the Music Machine sound was the song Wrong, which was issued as the B side of the group's most successful single, Talk Talk.
Title: Turn Down Day
Source: Mono LP: Red Rubber Ball
If there was ever a song that embodies the feel of late summer, it's the Cyrkle's Turn Down Day, from late summer of 1966. The song was the band's second consecutive top 20 hit, although it fell short of the nearly chart topping performace of the band's debut single, Red Rubber Ball. Subsequent singles by the band did progressively worse over the next year and a half and the Cyrkle disbanded in 1968, with two of its members going on to have successful careers as commercial jingle writers (remember Plop Plop Fizz Fizz?).