Sunday, August 23, 2020
Stuck in the Psychedelic Era # 2035 (starts 8/24/20)
Some album sides just have to be played in their entirety to be truly appreciated. An example of this is the first side of the third Mothers of Invention album, We're Only In It For The Money, which is featured in the show's second hour. Also of note are artists' sets from the Electric Prunes and the Chocolate Watch Band and two thirds of a side of Vanilla Fudge. And just to add to the confusion, the show ends with a track called Introduction.
Artist: Buffalo Springfield
Title: For What It's Worth (Stop, Hey What's That Sound)
Source: CD: Buffalo Springfield
Writer(s): Stephen Stills
By mid-1966 Hollywood's Sunset Strip was being taken over every night by local teenagers, with several underage clubs featuring live music being a major attraction. Many of the businesses in the area, citing traffic problems and rampant drug and alcohol abuse, began to put pressure on city officials to do something about the situation. The city responded by passing new loitering ordinances and imposing a 10PM curfew on the Strip. They also began putting pressure on the clubs, including condemning the popular Pandora's Box for demolition. On November 12, 1966 fliers appeared on the streets inviting people to a demonstration that evening to protest the closing of the club. The demostration continued over a period of days, exascerbated by the city's decision to revoke the permits of a dozen other clubs on the Strip, forcing them to bar anyone under the age of 21 from entering. Stephen Stills, a member of Buffalo Springfield, one of the many bands appearing regularly in these clubs, wrote a new song in response to the situation, and the band quickly booked studio time, recording the still-unnamed track on December 5th. The band had recently released their debut LP, but sales of the album were lackluster due to the lack of a hit single. Stills reportedly presented the new recording to label head Ahmet Ertegun with the words "I have this song here, for what it's worth, if you want it." Ertegun, sensing that he had a hit on his hands, got the song rush-released two days before Christmas, 1966, using For What It's Worth as the official song title, but sub-titling it Stop, Hey What's That Sound on the label as well. As predicted, For What It's Worth was an instant hit in the L.A. market, and soon went national, where it was taken by most record buyers to be about the general sense of unrest being felt across the nation over issues like racial equality and the Vietnam War (and oddly enough, by some people as being about the Kent State massacre, even though that happened nearly three years after the song was released). As the single moved up the charts, eventually peaking at #7, Atco recalled the Buffalo Springfield LP, reissuing it with a modified song selection that included For What It's Worth as the album's openng track. Needless to say, album sales picked up after that. As a matter of fact, I don't think I've ever even seen a copy of the Buffalo Springfield album without For What It's Worth on it, although I'm sure some of those early pressings must still exist.
Title: Pleasant Valley Sunday
Source: CD: Nuggets-Classics From the Psychedelic 60s (originally released on LP: Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones, LTD.)
After making it a point to play their own instruments on their third LP, Headquarters, the Monkees decided to once again use studio musicians for their next album, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones, LTD. The difference was that this time the studio musicians would be recording under the supervision of the Monkees themselves rather than Don Kirschner and the array of producers he had lined up for the first two Monkees LPs. The result was an album that many critics consider the group's best effort. The only single released from the album was Pleasant Valley Sunday, a song penned by the husband and wife team of Gerry Goffin and Carole King, and backed by the band's remake of the Tommy Boyce/Bobby Hart song Words, which had been recorded the previous year by the Leaves. Although both songs ended up making the charts, it was Pleasant Valley Sunday that got the most airplay and is considered by many to be Monkees' greatest achievement.
Artist: Big Brother And The Holding Company
Title: Oh, Sweet Mary
Source: CD: Cheap Thrills
The only song credited to the entire membership of Big Brother And The Holding Company on their Cheap Thrills album was Oh, Sweet Mary (although the original label credits Janis Joplin as sole writer and the album cover itself gives only Joplin and Peter Albin credit). The tune bears a strong resemblance to Coo Coo, a non-album single the band had released on the Mainstream label before signing to Columbia. Oh, Sweet Mary, however, has new lyrics and, for a breath of fresh air, a bridge section played at a slower tempo than the rest of the tune.
Artist: Eric Burdon And The Animals
Title: Help Me Girl
Source: CD: The Best Of Eric Burdon And The Animals (originally released as 45 RPM single and included on LP: Eric Is Here)
Label: Polydor (original label: M-G-M)
Consider the following paradox: Animals vocalist Eric Burdon made no secret of his disdain for the songs provided to the Animals by producer Mickey Most, which by and large came from professional songwriters based in New York's Brill Building. Nonetheless, when the original Animals split up, the first new song to come from Eric Burdon was not only a product of professional songwriters, it was even lighter in tone than the songs that he had complained about. Even stranger, Help Me Girl was fully orchestrated and, with the exception of drummer Barry Jenkins, was performed entirely by studio musicians.
Artist: Vanilla Fudge
Title: Take Me For A Little While/Eleanor Rigby
Source: LP: Vanilla Fudge
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: Electric Prunes
Title: I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night)
Source: Mono CD: The Complete Reprise Singles (originally released as 45 RPM single and on LP: The Electric Prunes)
Label: Real Gone Music/Rhino (original label: Reprise)
The Electric Prunes biggest hit was I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night), released in late 1966 and hitting the charts in early 1967. The record, initially released without much promotion from the 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 both the original Lenny Kaye Nuggets compilation and Rhino's first Nuggets LP.
Artist: Electric Prunes
Title: Get Me To The World On Time
Source: CD: I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night) (originally released on LP: The Electric Prunes)
Label: Collector's Choice/Rhino (original label: Reprise)
With I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night) climbing the charts in early 1967, the Electric Prunes turned to songwriter Annette Tucker for two more tracks to include on their debut LP. One of those, Get Me To The World On Time (co-written by lyricist Jill Jones) was selected to be the follow up single to Dream. Although not as big a hit, the song still did respectably on the charts (and was actually the first Electric Prunes song I ever heard on FM radio).
Artist: Electric Prunes
Title: You've Never Had It Better
Source: Mono CD: The Complete Reprise Singles (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Label: Collector's Choice (original label: Reprise)
Following the lack of a hit single from their second album, Underground, the Electric Prunes took one last shot at top 40 airplay with a song called Everybody Knows Your Not In Love. The band might have had better luck if they had pushed the flip side of the record, You Never Had It Better, which is a much stronger song. As it is, the record stiffed, and producer David Hassinger reacted by stripping the band of any creative freedom they might have had and made an album called Mass in F Minor using mostly studio musicians. The band, having signed away the rights to the name Electric Prunes to their manager early on, could do nothing but watch helplessly as Hassinger created an album that had little in common with the original band other than their name. Because of this, the original members soon left, and Hassinger brought in a whole new group for two more albums before retiring the Prunes name for good. In recent years several members of the original band have reformed the Electric Prunes. Whether they had to get permission to use their own name is unknown.
Artist: Rolling Stones
Title: It's All Over Now
Source: CD: Big Hits (High Tide And Green Grass) (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Bobby & Shirley Womack
Label: Abkco (original label: London)
During a 1964 on-air interview with the Rolling Stones, New York DJ Murray the K played a copy of a song called It's All Over Now by Bobby Womack's band, the Valentinos. The song had been a minor hit earlier in the year, spending two weeks in the top 100, and the Stones were reportedly knocked out by the record, calling it "our kind of song." Less than two weeks later the Stones recorded their own version of the song, which became their first number one hit in the UK. At first, Womack was reportedly against the idea of a British band recording his song, but changed his mind when he saw his first royalty check from the Stones' recording.
Title: Instant Party (Circles)
Source: Mono LP: The Who Sings My Generation
Writer: Pete Townshend
Label: MCA (original label: Decca)
As was the case with many British bands, the song lineups on the early Who albums were not exactly the same in the US and the UK. In the case of the My Generation album, the only difference was actually due to censorship by Decca Records, who felt that the band's version of Bo Diddley's I'm A Man was too risque for American teenagers. To replace it, Decca chose a song that had not yet been released in either the US or UK called Instant Party (Circles). The song was released in the UK as Instant Party a few months later when the band's original British label, Brunswick, issued it as the B side to A Legal Matter without the band's permission (the Who had changed labels to Reaction/Polydor after the My Generation LP was released). Making it even more confusing was the fact that the Who had released their latest single, Substitute, three days before the Brunswick single, with the song Circles (Instant Party) as the B side.
Title: 7&7 Is
Source: LP: Nuggets Vol. 9-Acid Rock (originally released as 45 RPM single. Stereo version released on LP: Da Capo)
Writer(s): Arthur Lee
Label: Rhino (original label: Elektra)
The word "seven" does not appear anywhere in the song 7&7 Is. In fact, I have no idea where Arthur Lee got that title from. Nonetheless, the song is among the most intense tracks to ever make the top 40. 7&7 Is starts off with power chords played over a constant drum roll (possibly played by Lee himself), with cymbals crashing over equally manic semi-spoken lyrics. The song builds up to an explosive climax: an atomic bomb blast followed by a slow post-apocalyptic quasi-surf instrumental that fades out after just a few seconds.
Source: LP: Magical Mystery Tour
1967 was an odd year for the Beatles. They started it with one of their most successful double-sided singles, Strawberry Fields Forever/Penny Lane, and followed it up with the iconic Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album. From there, they embarked on a new film project. Unlike their previous movies, the Magical Mystery Tour was not made to be shown in theaters. Rather, the film was aired as a television special shown exclusively in the UK. The airing of the film coincided with the release (again only in the UK) of a two-disc extended play 45 RPM set featuring the six songs from the special. It was not until later in the year that the songs were released in the US, on an album that combined the songs from the film on one side and all the non-LP single sides they had released that year on the other. Among the songs from the film is Flying, a rare instrumental track that was credited to the entire band.
Artist: Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title: Voodoo Chile
Source: LP: Electric Ladyland
Writer(s): Jimi Hendrix
Midway through the making of the Electric Ladyland album, producer Chas Chandler parted ways with the Jimi Hendrix Experience. At first this may seem to be a mystery, but consider the situation: Hendrix, by this time, had considerable clout in the studio. This allowed him to invite pretty much anyone he damn well pleased to hang out while he was making records, including several fellow musicians. It also allowed him the luxury of using the studio itself as a kind of incubator for new ideas, often developing those ideas while the tape machine was in "record" mode. Chandler, on the other hand, had learned virtually everything he knew about producing records from Mickie Most, one of Britain's most successful producers. As such, Chandler tended to take a more professional approach to recording, finding Hendrix's endless jamming to be a waste of valuable studio time. Whether you side with Chandler or Hendrix over the issue, there is one thing that can't be disputed: the Hendrix approach resulted in some of the most memorable rock recordings ever made. Case in point: Voodoo Chile, a long studio jam featuring Jack Cassidy (Jefferson Airplane) on bass and Steve Winwood (Traffic) on keyboards, as well as regular Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell.
Title: How Does It Feel To Feel
Source: Mono British import CD: Spirit Of Joy (originally released in UK as 45 RPM single B side)
Creation was one of a handful of British bands that were highly successful in Germany, but were unable to buy a hit in their own country. Evolving out of a band known as the Mark Four, Creation was officially formed in 1966 by vocalist Kenny pickett, guitarist Eddie Phillips, bassist Bob Garner and drummer Jack Jones. Their first single stalled out at #49 on the British charts, but went to #5 in Germany. The gap was even wider for their second single, which topped the German charts but did not chart in Britain at all. Garner and Phillips both left the band just as How Does It Feel To Feel was issued in early 1968. The band, with a fluctuating lineup, continued on for a few months but finally threw in the towel in late 1968.
Artist: Mothers Of Invention
Title: We're Only In It For The Money-side one
Source: CD: We're Only In It For The Money
Writer(s): Frank Zappa
Label: Ryko (original label: Verve)
The first Mothers album, Freak Out, had one side (of four) dedicated to a single concept. The second album, Absolutely Free, was essentially two concept sides, each with its own subtitle. The process was taken to its inevitable conclusion with the third album, in which both sides tie into the same concept. The album itself satirizes both the hippy movement (or more precisely what it had become by 1968) and the mainstream culture of the time. Following a short audio collage (Are You Hung Up?) that includes recording engineer Gary Kellgren whispering messages to composer/bandleader Frank Zappa, the album segues into Who Needs The Peace Corps, a scathing indictment of "phony hippies" who looked and acted the part without having any real understanding of the actual socio-political stance of the hippy movement. This leads to Concentration Moon, sung from the point of view of a young person interned in a concentration camp for hippies. The next track, Mom And Dad, tells the story of kids being killed by police while demonstrating in the park, with a punch line that reminds the older generation that all those kids that "looked too weird" were in fact their own children. Bow Tie Daddy pokes fun at the stereotype of the American male, while Harry, You're A Beast (based on a bit by comedian Lenny Bruce) takes a shot at American womanhood and American sexuality in general. This in turn leads to the question: What's The Ugliest Part Of Your Body (I think it's your mind). Absolutely Free takes the drug culture head-on, while Hey Punk sends up the entire San Francisco scene. The first side of the album ends with the voice of recording engineer Gary Kellgren once again whispering messages to Zappa followed by a backwards tape of a verse that the record company insisted be cut out of one of the songs on side two of the album. As to which song, I'll save that for whenever I play side two of the album again.
Title: Stage Fright
Source: LP: Stage Fright (also released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Robbie Robertson
There are a whole lot of theories as to what or who the song Stage Fright is actually about. One critic claims it's about "the pitfalls of fortune and fame." Others think it may be about Bob Dylan, or even Robbie Robertson, who wrote the song. The Band's drummer, Levon Helm, has said it is simply about the terror of performing, as the song's title implies. Ralph Gleason, however, summed it up best when he called it "the best song ever written about performing." Stage Fright, from the album of the same name, features the Band's bassist Rick Danko on lead vocals.
Artist: Chocolate Watchband
Title: Devil's Motorcycle
Source: CD: One Step Beyond
Label: Sundazed (original label: Tower)
San Jose, California's Chocolate Watchband went through several personnel changes (and one slight name change) over a period of about four years. The original 1965 lineup only lasted a short while, due to half the members being stolen away by a San Francisco group known as the Topsiders. Within a few weeks guitarist Mark Loomis had in turn raided several other locals bands (including the Topsiders themselves) to form a new version of the Watchband. Fronted by the charismatic Dave Aguilar, this version proved even more popular than the original lineup and by the end of 1966 had procured a manager (Ed Cobb, writer of Dirty Water, a hit for another band he managed, the Standells) and a contract with Tower Records that resulted in an LP called No Way Out. In mid-1967 Loomis decided to change musical directions and left the group; he was soon followed by Aguilar and drummer Gary Andrijasevich. The band still had a month's worth of gigs already booked, though, so the two remaining members, guitarist Sean Tolby and bassist Bill Flores, hastily put together a third version of the Watchband. This lineup, however, did not have the same energy or popularity as previous incarnations, and by the end of 1967 it too was history. Meanwhile, undeterred by something so inconsequential as the lack of an actual band, Tower released a second Watchband LP in 1968. The Inner Mystique was made up mostly of leftover studio tracks with an entire side of new material from studio musicians (hired by Cobb) supplementing the actual Watchband material. Finally, in the fall of 1968 a reformed Chocolate Watchband made up of a combination of members from the first two versions of the band (including the original 1965 lead vocalist Danny Phay) got together to record a third LP for Tower. Unlike previous Watchband albums, One Step Beyond, released in 1969, consisted almost entirely of new material composed and performed by members of the band. One of the better tracks on the album is Devil's Motorcycle, written by guitarist Sean Tolby and drummer Gary Andrijasevich, both of whom had been members of the band's most popular 1966-67 lineup. Moby Grape's Jerry Miller, uncredited for contractual reasons, plays lead guitar on the track.
Artist: Chocolate Watchband
Title: Milk Cow Blues
Source: Mono CD: No Way Out (bonus track originally released on LP: The Best Of The Chocolate Watch Band)
Writer(s): Kokomo Arnold
Year: Recorded 1967, released 1994
The members of the Chocolate Watchband had a clear set of priorities, and spending time in a recording studio was nowhere near the top of their list (apparently neither was making sure the record company got their name right, as the album cover read Chocolate Watch Band). Nonetheless, once they were signed to Tower Records they were obligated to at least make an effort at recording an album, even though they would much rather have been upstaging the various big name acts that they opened for. The result was that their producer, Ed Cobb, found it easier just to hire studio musicians to record tracks that were then included on the first two Chocolate Watchband albums. Even when the band itself did record the songs, Cobb would, on occasion, bring in studio vocalist Don Bennett to record his own lead vocals, replacing those of Dave Aguilar, whom Cobb felt sounded like a Mick Jagger impersonator (he was right, but Aguilar was damn good at it). There are a few recordings, however, that capture the true sound of the Watchband. Among those is their cover of Kokomo Arnold's Milk Cow Blues, using an arrangement similar to that of the Kinks on their Kink Kontroversy album. The song remained unreleased until the 1983, when it was included on the band's first greatest hits collection.
Artist: Chocolate Watchband
Title: Expo 2000
Source: British import CD: Melts In Your Brain, Not On Your Wrist (originally released on LP: No Way Out)
Writer(s): Richie Podolor
Label: Big Beat (original label: Tower)
If you ignore the fact that Expo 2000, from the first Chocolate Watchband album, No Way Out, is performed by uncredited studio musicians and thus is a complete misrepresentation, it's really a pretty decent instrumental. Too bad we'll never know who actually performed it. We do know, however, that it was written by Richard Podolor, who also owned the studio where the track was recorded.
Title: A Walk In The Sun
Source: Mono LP: It Ain't Me Babe
Writer(s): Howard Kaylan
Label: White Whale
Trivia fact: the members of the Turtles had to get their parents to sign permission slips before they could record their debut LP, It Ain't Me Babe. Yep, they were that young when they scored their first top 10 single in 1965. With that in mind, it might be come as a surprise that vocalist Howard Kaylan had already written a few songs, including A Walk In The Sun, that were included on the album itself. The band, formed when all the members were still in high school, had been known prior to 1965 as the Crossfires, playing mostly surf music. They were the first, and most successful, artists signed to the Los Angeles based White Whale label.
Title: Hey Joe
Source: Mono CD: Nuggets-Original Artyfacts from the Psychedelic Era (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Billy Roberts
Label: Rhino (original label: Mira)
In 1966 there were certain songs you had to know how to play if you had any aspirations of being in a band. Among those were Louie Louie, Gloria and Hey Joe. The Byrds' David Crosby claims to have discovered Hey Joe, but was not able to convince his bandmates to record it before their third album. In the meantime, several other bands had recorded the song, including Love (on their first album) and the Leaves. The version of Hey Joe heard here is actually the third recording the Leaves made of the tune. After the first two versions tanked, guitarist Bobby Arlin came up with the idea of adding fuzz guitar to the song. It was the missing element that transformed a rather bland song into a hit record (the only national hit the Leaves would have). As a side note, the Leaves credited Chet Powers (aka Dino Valenti) as the writer of Hey Joe, but California-based folk singer Billy Roberts had copyrighted the song in 1962 and had reportedly been heard playing the tune as early as 1958.
Artist: Soft Machine
Title: Feelin', Reelin', Squealin'
Source: Mono import CD: Spirit Of Joy (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer(s): Kevin Ayers
Label: Polydor UK
The Soft Machine is best known for being at the forefront of the jazz-rock fusion movement of the 1970s. The bands roots were in the city of Canterbury, a sort of British equivalent of New York's Greenwich Village. Led by drummer Robert Wyatt, the band was first formed as the Wilde Flowers in 1963 with Kevin Ayers as lead vocalist. Heavily influenced by modern jazz, beat poetry and dadaist art, the Wilde Flowers were less a band than a group of friends getting together to make music from time to time. Things got more serious when Ayers and his Australian beatnik friend Daevid Allen made a trip to Ibiza, where they met Wes Brunson, an American who was heir to a fortune. Brunson provided financial backing for a new band called Mister Head, which included Ayers, Wyatt, Allen and Larry Nolan. By late 1966 the group had added Mike Rutledge and changed its name to Soft Machine (after Allen had secured permission to use the name from author William Burroughs), performing regularly at London's legendary UFO club. After the departure of Nolan, the band recorded its first single for Polydor in early 1967. Both sides were written by Ayers, who by then was playing bass and sharing the vocals with Wright. The B side of that single was Feelin', Reelin', Sqealin', a track that helped define British psychedelic music.
Artist: Ultimate Spinach
Source: LP: Ultimate Spinach
Writer: Ian Bruce-Douglas
Trying to take in the entire first Ultimate Spinach album (or even just one side of it) can be a bit overwhelming. Taken individually, however, songs like Pamela, which closes the album, are actually quite listenable.
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.