Sunday, February 16, 2020

Stuck in the Psychedelic Era # 2008 (starts 2/17/20)

    Lots of artists' sets this week, from Donovan, Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Also, sets from 1966 and 1967 and both progressions and regressions through the years. Yep, another typical show all right...

Artist:      Donovan
Title:     Mellow Yellow
Source:      Mono CD: Sunshine On The Mountain (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer:    Donovan Leitch
Label:    Sony Music (original label: Epic)
Year:     1966
     Although the Mellow Yellow album came out in early 1967, the title track had been released several months earlier as a followup to Donovan's breakthrough US hit Sunshine Superman. Ironically, during Donovan's period of greatest US success none of his recordings were being released in his native UK, due to a contract dispute with Pye Records.

Artist:    Donovan
Title:    There Is A Mountain
Source:    CD: Donovan's Greatest Hits (originally released in US as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Donovan Leitch
Label:    Epic/Legacy
Year:    1967
    1967 was a year that saw Donovan continue to shed the "folk singer" image, forcing the media to look for a new term to describe someone like him. As you may have already guessed, that term was "singer-songwriter." On There Is A Mountain, a hit single from 1967, Donovan applies Eastern philosophy and tonality to pop music, with the result being one of those songs that sticks in your head for days.

Artist:    Donovan/Jeff Beck Group
Title:    Barabajabal (Love Is Hot)
Source:    CD: Sunshine On The Mountain (originally released on LP: Barabajagal)
Writer(s):    Donovan Leitch
Label:    Sony Music Special Products (original label: Epic)
Year:    1969
    Donovan Leitch enlisted the Jeff Beck Group as collaborators for Barabajabal (Love Is Hot), a track from his 1969 Barabajal album. When the song was first released as a single the title read Goo Goo Barajabal (Love Is Hot), but was shortened on later pressings.

Artist:    Rolling Stones
Title:    Under My Thumb
Source:    British import LP: Aftermath
Writer(s):    Jagger/Richards
Label:    Abkco (original label: London)
Year:    1966
    With the exception of certain Beatle tracks, pretty much every popular song from the beginning of recorded music through the year 1966 had been released as a single either on 45 or 78 RPM records (and for a while in the 1950s, on both). With Under My Thumb, from the Aftermath album, the Rolling Stones proved that someone besides the fab four could record a classic that was available only as a 33 1/3 RPM LP track. In a sense, then, Aftermath can be considered the very foundation of album rock, as more and groups put their most creative energy into making albums rather than singles in the ensuing years. Thanks, Stones.

Artist:    Simon and Garfunkel
Title:    A Most Peculiar Man
Source:    CD: Collected Works (originally released on LP: Sounds Of Silence)
Writer:    Paul Simon
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1966
    You would think that a high school on a US military facility would be inclined to use the most staunchly traditional teaching methods known to mankind. Surprisingly, though, this was not the case at General H. H. Arnold High School in Weisbaden, Germany, in 1967. In fact, the English department was teaching some sort of new system that dispensed with terms such as verb and noun and replaced them with a more conceptual approach to language. What I best remember about my Freshman English class is the day that my rather Bohemian teacher (he wore sandals to class!), actually brought in a copy of the Sounds Of Silence and had us dissect two songs from the album, Richard Cory and A Most Peculiar Man. We spent several classes discussing the similarities (they both deal with a suicide by someone representing a particular archetype) and differences (the methods used and the archetypes themselves) between the songs. I have forgotten everything else about that class and its so-called revolutionary approach (and even the teacher's name), but those two songs have stayed with me my entire life. I guess that teacher was on to something.

Artist:    Spencer Davis Group
Title:    Gimme Some Lovin'
Source:    45 RPM single
Writer(s):    Steve Winwood
Label:    United Artists
Year:    1966
    Although it sometimes seemed like being British was the only way to get a hit single on the American charts in the mid-1960s, there were actually plenty of bands that were successful in the UK, but struggled to be heard in the US. One of these was the Spencer Davis Group, which was signed to Chris Blackwood's Island label. Island was, at the time, a small independent company specializing in bringing Jamaican recordings to a British audience, but was looking to expand into popular music. Since Island's distribution was limited, the Spencer Davis Group recordings were released on the much larger Fontana label. Fontana released only one Spencer Davis Group single, I Can't Stand It, in the US, in late 1964. A year later Island worked out a deal with Ahmet Ertegun's Atco label to release the band's version of Keep On Running in the US, but neither it nor its followup, Somebody Help Me, made a dent on the Billboard charts, despite the fact that both songs had gone all the way to the number one spot in the UK. Finally, in December of 1966, producer Jimmy Miller did an extensive remix of their current British hit, Gimme Some Lovin', adding piano, background vocals and tons of reverb to the original recording, as well as using an entirely different lead vocal track with slightly different lyrics. That version appeared on the United Artists label, becoming the group's first US hit in early 1967. The Miller mix is now accepted as the standard version of the song.

Artist:    Cream
Title:    Dance The Night Away
Source:    CD: Disraeli Gears
Writer(s):    Bruce/Brown
Label:    Polydor/Polygram (original label: Atco)
Year:    1967
    The album Fresh Cream was perhaps the first LP from a rock supergroup, although at the time a more accurate description would have been British blues supergroup. Much of the album was reworking of blues standards by the trio of Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker, all of whom had established their credentials with various British blues bands. With their second album, Disraeli Gears, Cream showed a psychedelic side as well as their original blues orientation. Most of the more psychedelic material, such as Dance the Night Away, came from the songwriting team of Bruce and lyricist Pete Brown.

Artist:    Cream
Title:    Rollin' And Tumblin'
Source:    CD: Fresh Cream
Writer(s):    McKinley Morganfield
Label:    Polydor/Polygram (original label: Atco)
Year:    1966
    Right from the beginning Cream demonstrated two distinct sides: the psychedelic-tinged studio side and the blues-based live performance side. In the case of the US version of the band's first LP, Fresh Cream, that was literally true, as side one consisted entirely of original songs (mostly written by bassist Jack Bruce) and side two was nearly all covers of blues classics such as Muddy Waters's Rollin' And Tumblin'. What makes this particular recording interesting is the instrumentation used: guitar, vocals, harmonica and drums, with no bass whatsoever. This could be due to the limited number of tracks available for overdubs. Just as likely, though, is the possibility that the band chose to make a recording that duplicated their live performance of the song.

Artist:     Cream
Title:     Sunshine Of Your Love
Source:     CD: Disraeli Gears
Writer:     Clapton/Bruce/Brown
Label:     Polydor/Polygram (original label: Atco)
Year:     1967
     Only a handful of songs can truly be described as "iconic". Sunshine Of Your Love, with its often-imitated signature riff, the line-by-line trading off of lead vocals by Jack Bruce and Eric Clapton and one of the best-known lead guitar solos in rock history, certainly qualifies.

Artist:    Velvet Underground
Title:    Oh! Sweet Nuthin'
Source:    LP: Loaded
Writer(s):    Lou Reed
Label:    Cotillion
Year:    1970
    The final Velvet Underground album to feature Lou Reed, Loaded was deliberately constructed to be a commercial success, or as Reed himself put it, was meant to be Loaded with hits. One obvious exception, however, is the album's last track, the dronelike Oh! Sweet Nuthin', which runs in excess of seven minutes, making it an unlikely choice for inclusion on top 40 radio playlists. The fact that the song itself has a distinct underground feel to it only reinforces that unlikelihood. Like all the songs on Loaded, Oh! Sweet Nuthin' was written by Reed, but was credited to the entire band upon the album's release. Doug Yule, who had replaced John Cale, handles both lead vocal and lead guitar duties on the track. Also featured is drummer Billy Yule, filling in for Maureen Tucker, who was on maternity leave at the time the album was being made.

Artist:    Blues Image
Title:    Reality Does Not Inspire
Source:    LP: Blues Image
Writer(s):    Blues Image
Label:    Atco
Year:    1969
    Formed in 1967, Blues Image cited Greenwich Village's Blues Project as their primary inspiration, and is generally acknowledged to be Florida's first jam band. They were also one of the few bands to open their own club, the legendary Thee Image, and played host to many big name acts during the club's short run. Among the Blues Images fans was Jimi Hendrix, who once told them they did great arrangements of other people's material, but their own stuff was relatively weak. The band responded by temporarily putting their original material on the shelf, pulling it out later and giving it the same treatment they would any other cover song. This approach seemed to work well, as Reality Does Not Inspire, the nine minute "showcase" track for their debut LP demonstrates.

Artist:    Max Frost And The Troopers
Title:    Captain Hassel
Source:    European import CD: Shape Of Things To Come
Writer(s):    Wibier/McClane/Martin/Beckner/Hector
Label:    Captain High (original US label: Tower)
Year:    1968
    Max Frost And The Troopers were a fictitious group that appeared in the film Wild In The Streets, released on May 29, 1968. A single, Shape Of Things To Come, was released at the same time as the film, and by the end of the summer had made it onto top 40 radio, eventually peaking in the #22 spot. The B side of that single was a song called Free Lovin'. Both songs were included on the movie's soundtrack album, but were originally credited to the 13th Power rather than to Max Frost And The Troopers. To cash in on the success of the single an entire LP by Max Frost And The Troopers soon appeared on the shelves, also called Shape Of Things To Come. One of the songs on that album, Captain Hassel, was a newly recorded version of Free Lovin' with slightly changed lyrics and much higher production values. The writing credits for the two recordings were significantly different as well. Free Lovin' had been credited to vocalist Paul Wibier and an obscure French songwriter named Guy Hemrick; Captain Hassel, on the other hand, lists five songwriters: Paul Wibier, Stewart Martin, Barney Hector, Dale Beckner and Gary McClane. It's likely that these five were in fact a band that originally called itself Mom's Boys, then later 13th Power, which would explain how that name came to be used on the first pressings of the Wild In The Streets soundtrack album. Adding credence to this theory is the fact that, in October of 1967 a single by 13th Power was released on the Sidewalk label, with a song named Captain Hassel, credited to the same five songwriters, on the B side.
The obvious conclusion is that "Max Frost And The Troopers" was, in reality, a band called 13th Power, and a pretty good one at that.

Artist:    Otis Redding
Title:    Respect (live version)
Source:    Historic Performances Recorded At The Monterey Internation Pop Festival
Writer:    Otis Redding
Label:    Rerpise
Year:    1965
    Otis Redding put on the performance of a lifetime at the Monterey International Pop Festival in June of 1967. Backed by Booker T. And The MGs, along with the Bar-Kays horn section, Redding electrified the mostly-white audience as the closing act on the second day of the festival. One of the song he performed was a song that he has written and recorded two years earlier, but had only become a mainstream hit in early 1967, when it was rearranged and covered by Aretha Franklin. Redding's own live version of Respect was played at a much faster tempo, but kept the same basic driving beat as his 1965 studio version. Redding's performance at Monterey helped open the door for other Memphis acts, such as his protege Arthur Conley and the Isaac Hayes-produced duo Sam And Dave, to achieve mainstream success.

Artist:    Strawberry Alarm Clock
Title:    Incense And Peppermints (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Source:    Mono CD: Psychedelic Pop
Writer(s):    Carter/Gilbert/Weitz/King
Label:    BMG/RCA/Buddah (original labels: All-American/Uni)
Year:    1967
    Incense and Peppermints is one of the iconic songs of the psychedelic era, yet when it was originally released to Los Angeles area radio stations on the local All-American label it was intended to be the B side of The Birdman of Alkatrash. Somewhere along the line a DJ flipped the record over and started playing Incense And Peppermints instead. The song caught on and Uni Records (short for Universal, which is now the world's largest record company) picked up the Strawberry Alarm Clock's contract and reissued the record nationally with Incense And Peppermints as the A side. One of the reasons the band did not want Incense And Peppermints issued as an A side was the fact that the lead vocals were sung by Greg Munford, who was not even a member of the Strawberry Alarm Clock.

Artist:    Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title:    Hey Joe
Source:    CD: Are You Experienced?
Writer(s):    Billy Roberts
Label:    MCA (original label: Reprise)
Year:    1966
    The first track recorded by the Jimi Hendrix Experience was Hey Joe, a song that Hendrix had seen Tim Rose perform in Greenwich Village before relocating to London to form his new band. It was released as a single in the UK in late 1966 and went all the way to the # 3 spot on the British top 40. Hendrix's version is a bit heavier than Rose's and leaves off the first verse ("where you going with that money in your hand") entirely. Although Rose always claimed that Hey Joe was a traditional folk song, the song was actually copyrighted in 1962 by California folk singer Billy Roberts. By the time Hendrix recorded Hey Joe several American bands had already released fast versions of the song, with the Leaves hitting the US top 40 with it in early 1966.

Artist:    Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title:    Foxy Lady (live in studio)
Source:    45 RPM single B side
Writer(s):    Jimi Hendrix
Label:    Legacy
Year:    Recorded 1967, released 2018
    In November of 1967 the Jimi Hendrix Experience was still very much an underground phenomenon in the US. Their June appearance at the Monterey International Pop Festival had introduced the band to an audience that numbered in the thousands, and their records were being played heavily on college radio, but for the most part mainstream America was still unaware of them. In Europe, however, it was an entirely different story. Jimi Hendrix was the hottest thing on the London scene by the time 1967 started; it wasn't long before the word spread to the continent about the outrageously talented guitarist with an equally outrageous stage presence. Most of that year was spent touring Europe, including stops at various TV and radio studios in several countries. One of these was in the Netherlands, where the Experience performed Foxy Lady live in the studio in November of 1967. The recording of this performance has surfaced as the non-album B side of the Lover Man single released (in limited quantity) for Record Store Day 2018.

Artist:    Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title:    Manic Depression
Source:    CD: Are You Experienced?
Writer(s):    Jimi Hendrix
Label:    MCA (original label: Reprise)
Year:    1967
    On February 22, 1967 the Jimi Hendrix Experience played what was possibly their worst gig, which culminated in Hendrix's white Stratocaster being stolen before it was fully paid for. Later that night the band made an appearance at a press reception at which Hendrix, in the words of manager/producer Chas Chandler, sounded like a manic depressive. Inspired by Chandler's observation, Hendrix wrote a song on the subject, which he taught to the band and recorded the next day. Hendrix later referred to Manic Depression as "ugly times music", calling it a "today's type of blues."

Artist:    Beatles
Title:    Run For Your Life
Source:    CD: Rubber Soul
Writer(s):    Lennon/McCartney
Label:    Parlophone (original label: Capitol)
Year:    1965
    Compared to some of John Lennon's later songs, Run For Your Life comes across as a sexist, even violent expression of jealous posessiveness. However, in 1965 such a viewpoint was quite common; in fact it was pretty much the acceptable norm for the times. Scary, huh?

Artist:    Paul Revere and the Raiders
Title:    Hungry
Source:    LP: Spirit of '67
Writer:    Mann/Weil
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1966
    1966 was an incredibly successful year for Paul Revere and the Raiders. In addition to starting a gig as the host band for Dick Clark's new afternoon TV show, Where The Action Is, the band managed to crank out three consecutive top 10 singles. The second of these was Hungry, written by Brill building regulars Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil.

Artist:    Seeds
Title:    The Wind Blows Your Hair
Source:    Mono LP: Nuggets Vol. 9-Acid Rock (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Saxon/Bigelow
Label:    Rhino (original label: GNP Crescendo)
Year:    1967
    The Wind Blows Your Hair is actually one of the Seeds' better tracks. Unfortunately, by the time it was released the whole idea of Flower Power (which the Seeds were intimately tied to) had become yesterday's news (at least in ultra-hip L.A.) and the single went nowhere.

Artist:     Beacon Street Union
Title:     Green Destroys The Gold
Source:     British import CD: The Eyes of the Beacon Street Union
Writer:     Wayne Ulaky
Label:     See For Miles (original label: M-G-M)
Year:     1967   
    The Beacon Street Union found itself handicapped by being signed to M-G-M and being promoted as part of the "boss-town sound." The problem was that there was no "boss-town sound", any more than there was a San Francisco sound or an L.A sound (there is a Long Island Sound, but that has nothing to do with music). In fact, the only legitimate "sound" of the time was the "Motown Sound", and that was confined to a single record company that achieved a consistent sound through the use of the same studio musicians on virtually every recording they released. What made the situation even more ironic for the Beacon Street Union was that by the time their first LP came out they had relocated to New York City. If there is a New York sound, it has more to do with traffic than music. None of which has anything to do specifically with the song Green Destroys The Gold, which was written by the band's bass player, Wayne Ulaky, and included on their debut album The Eyes of the Beacon Street Union.

Artist:    Turtles
Title:    How You Love Me
Source:    Mono CD: All The Singles (originally released on LP: Turtle Soup)
Writer(s):    The Turtles
Label:    Manifesto
Year:    1969
    Ya gotta hand it to the Turtles. When they put out a CD called All The Singles, they include ALL the singles, even those that didn't get released. One such case is How You Love Me. The record, produced by Ray Davies, was originally meant to be the lead single from the album Turtle Soup, but was cancelled when lead vocalist Howard Kaylan temporarily quit the band following a disastrous gig at a private party. By the time Kaylan returned to the group drummer John Seiter had recorded a new lead vocal track and another song entirely, You Don't Have To Walk In The Rain, was issued instead. The revamped version of How You Love Me did end up on the album, however.

Artist:     Grateful Dead
Title:     Beat It On Down the Line
Source:     CD: Grateful Dead
Writer(s):    Jesse Fuller
Label:     Warner Brothers
Year:     1967
     Beat It On Down the Line, from the first Grateful Dead album, is fairly typical of the band's sound in the early days, having only recently gotten off the (Kesey) bus and established themselves as crowd favorites around the various San Francisco ballrooms and auditoriums.

Artist:    Vanilla Fudge
Title:    Take Me For A Little While/Eleanor Rigby
Source:    LP: Vanilla Fudge
Writer(s):    Martin/Lennon/McCartney
Label:    Atco
Year:    1967
    Vanilla Fudge made their mark by doing slowed down rocked out versions of popular songs such as the Supremes' You Keep Me Hangin' On. In fact, all of the tracks on their debut LP were songs of this nature, including two Beatles tunes. Side two of the original LP featured three tracks tied together by short psychedelic instrumental pieces knowns collectively as Illusions Of My Childhood. In addition to the aforementioned Supremes cover, the side features a Trade Martin composition called Take Me For A Little While that takes a diametrically opposed viewpoint to the first song, which leads directly into Eleanor Rigby, which sort of sums up both of the previous tracks lyrically. Although the Vanilla Fudge would stick around for a couple more years (and four more albums), they were never again able to match the commercial success of their 1967 debut LP.

Artist:    Eric Burdon and the Animals
Title:    The Black Plague
Source:    British import CD: Winds Of Change
Writer(s):    Burdon/Briggs/Weider/Jenkins/McCulloch
Label:    Repertoire (original US label: M-G-M)
Year:    1967
    One of the most interesting recordings of 1967 was Eric Burdon And The Animals' The Black Plague, which appeared on the Winds Of Change album. The Black Plague is a spoken word piece dealing with life and death in a medieval village during the time of the Black Plague (natch), set to a somewhat gothic piece of music that includes Gregorian style chanting and an occasional voice calling out the words "bring out your dead" in the background. The album itself had a rather distinctive cover, consisting of a stylized album title accompanied by a rather lengthy text piece on a scroll against a black background, something that has never been done before or since on a rock album cover.

Artist:    West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band
Title:    Tracy Had A Hard Day Sunday
Source:    LP: Volume II
Writer(s):    Markley/Harris
Label:    Reprise
Year:    1967
    Once upon a time record producer Kim Fowley hired the Yardbirds to play a private Hollywood party. The Harris brothers, a pair of local art school students who had sent their homemade tapes to Fowley, were impressed by the band's musical abilities. Bob Markley, an almost-30-year-old hipster with a law degree and an inheritance was impressed with the band's ability to attract teenage girls. Fowley introduced the Harris brothers to Markley, who expressed a willingness to finance them in return for letting him be their new lead vocalist, and the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band was formed. Before it was all over the group had recorded five or six albums for at least three labels, churning out an eclectic mix of psychedelic tunes such as Tracy Had A Hard Day Sunday, which appeared on the second album for Reprise Records (their third LP overall), appropriately titled Volume II.

Artist:     Tradewinds
Title:     Mind Excursion
Source:     Mono LP: Excursions
Writer:     Anders/Poncia
Label:     Kama Sutra
Year:     1966
     The Tradewinds (sometimes listed as Trade Winds) were a vocal group formed in Providence, Rhode Island by Peter Anders, Vini Poncia and Norman Marzano. Originally known as the Videls, the group first hit the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1960 with a tune called Mr. Lonely, which peaked in the #73 spot. Subsequent Videls singles failed to chart, however, and the group disbanded, with Anders and Poncia becoming songwriters for Phil Spector's production company. In 1965 the duo began releasing singles as The Trade Winds, hitting the top 40 with the quasi surf song New York's A Lonely Town on the Red Bird label. After switching to the newly formed Kama Sutra label, the Trade Winds released the sunshine pop single Mind Excursion in July of 1966; three months later they released There's Got To Be A Word as The Innocence. To add to the confusion the Tradewinds LP Excursions was released in 1967, just a few months before the first Innocence album came out on the same label. A third album was released in 1969 by Warner Brothers under the name Anders & Poncia before the duo finally called it quits, with Poncia going on to produce records for such diverse acts as Melissa Manchester, Ringo Starr and Kiss.

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