Sunday, December 27, 2020

Stuck in the Psychedelic Era # 2101 (starts 12/28/20)

    This week we manage to squeeze 35 songs into one two-hour show, including a set from the Animals and half a dozen songs making their Stuck in the Psychedelic Era debut.

Artist:    Spencer Davis Group
Title:    Gimme Some Lovin'
Source:    Mono LP: Gimme Some Lovin' (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Steve Winwood
Label:    United Artists
Year:    1966
    The 1980s movie The Big Chill used Gimme Some Lovin' by the Spencer Davis Group as the backdrop for a touch football game at an informal reunion of former college students from the 60s. From that point on, movie soundtracks became much more than just background music and soundtrack albums started becomming best-sellers. Not entirely coincidentally, 60s-oriented oldies radio stations began to appear in major markets as well. Most of them are now playing 80s and 90s oldies, by the way.

Artist:      Count Five
Title:     They're Gonna Get You
Source:      LP: Psychotic Reaction (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer:    Sean Byrne
Label:     Bicycle (original label: Double Shot)
Year:     1966
     It's been said that Count Five's Psychotic Reaction was two and a half minutes of an American garage band sounding more like the Yardbirds than the Yardbirds themselves. The B side of Psychotic Reaction is that same American garage band sounding more like what they probably sounded like the rest of the time.
Artist:    Janis Ian
Title:    Society's Child (Baby I've Been Thinking)
Source:    45 RPM single (reissue)
Writer(s):    Janis Ian
Label:    Polydor (original label: Verve Folkways)
Year:    1966
    Janis Ian began writing Society's Child, using the title Baby I've Been Thinking, when she was 13 years old, finishing it shortly after her 14th birthday. She shopped it around to several record labels before finally finding one willing to take a chance on the controversial song about interracial dating. The record was released in September of 1966 by M-G-M subsidiary Verve Folkways, a label whose roster included Dave Van Ronk, Laura Nyro and the Blues Project, among others. Despite being banned on several radio stations the song became a major hit when re-released the following year after being featured on an April 1967 Leonard Bernstein TV special. Ian had problems maintaining a balance between her performing career and being a student which ultimately led to her dropping out of high school. She would eventually get her career back on track in the mid-70s, scoring another major hit with At Seventeen, and becoming somewhat of a heroine to the feminist movement.

Artist:    Simon And Garfunkel
Title:    Blessed
Source:    CD: Collected Works (originally released on LP: Sounds Of Silence)
Writer(s):    Paul Simon
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1966
    Possibly the most psychedelic track on Simon And Garfunkel's Sounds Of Silence album, Blessed is a classic example of structured chaos, combining a wall of sound approach with tight harmonies and intelligent lyrics. One of the duo's most overlooked recordings.

Artist:    Dave Clark Five
Title:    I Need Love
Source:    LP: The Dave Clark Five (originally released on LP: I Like It Like That)
Writer(s):    Dave Clark
Label:    Epic
Year:    1966
    I have to admit that I was never a big Dave Clark Five fan. That said, there are a handful of DC5 tunes that really grab me. Among the best of those is I Need Love, a track from the 1966 album I Like It Like That. The song has more of a garage feel than the average DC5 song, which is probably why I like it so much.

Artist:    Donovan
Title:    The Entertaining Of A Shy Girl
Source:    British import CD: The Hurdy Gurdy Man
Writer(s):    Donovan Leitch
Label:    EMO (original US label: Epic)
Year:    1968
    Donovan had completely quit using mind-altering substances altogether by late 1967, when he began recording songs for his sixth album, The Hurdy Gurdy Man. The trippy lyrics of songs like Sunshine Superman and Mellow Yellow were gone, as can be heard on simple, straightforward tunes like The Entertaining Of A Shy Girl, which, at one minute and thirty-nine seconds is also the shortest track on the album.

Artist:    Who
Title:    Glow Girl
Source:    CD: The Who Sell Out (bonus track originally released on LP: Odds And Sods)
Writer(s):    Pete Townshend
Label:    MCA (original label: Decca)
Year:    Recorded 1968, released 1974
    Although it was originally recorded in January of 1968, right after the release of The Who Sell Out, Glow Girl sat on the shelf as the band got to work on their 1969 rock opera Tommy. Pete Townshend, who wrote Glow Girl, was not one to abandon song ideas easily, and he adapted the final line of Glow Girl to be one of the opening lines of Tommy itself, changing the word "girl" to "boy". Glow Girl itself was finally released in 1974 on the Odds And Sods album.

Artist:    Fire
Title:    Father's Name Was Dad
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):    Dave Lambert
Label:    Rhino (original label: Decca)
Year:    1967
    As any fan of the Austin Powers movies can tell you, London in the mid-1960s was home to the Mods, a group (or movement) of young people distinguished by the colorful fashions they wore, most of which came from shops on Carnaby Street. The Mods had their own music as well, usually referred to as "freakbeat" or sometimes just "beat", although not all of the bands playing that kind of music identified with the Mods themselves. Most of the early beat bands were also in the first wave of the British invasion of the US; in fact the Beatles themselves (prior to the release of Rubber Soul) were usually considered the top beat band of all. By 1966, however, the US audience was already getting into other things (Motown, garage rock, Memphis soul and the beginnings of bubble gum). In Europe and the UK, however, beat bands were still on top, with newer groups like the Move, the Small Faces and the Who (in their pre-Tommy days) riding high on the charts. Among these newer beat groups was a trio called Friday's Chyld. After changing their name to the Fire, they got a contract with the British Decca label and a publishing deal with the Beatles' Apple organization. After hearing a demo of Father's Name Was Dad, Paul McCartney made a few production suggestions and the group added backing vocals and double-tracked guitar for the final released version of the song. Although Father's Name Was Dad was not a hit, it did serve as the recording debut of lead vocalist/guitarist Dave Lambert, who would go on to have some success in the 70s as a founding member of a band called Strawbs. Most people that have heard both the original and the "McCartney-ized" versions of Father's Name Was Dad have stated a preference for the earlier recording heard here.

Artist:     Jefferson Airplane
Title:     Volunteers
Source:     LP: The Worst Of Jefferson Airplane (originally released on LP: Volunteers)
Writer:     Balin/Kantner
Label:     Victor
Year:     1969
     By 1969 Jefferson Airplane's music was a staple of progressive FM stations but had all but disappeared from the top 40 charts. Still, the band continued to release singles from their albums, including the title track to their fifth (and final with the classic JA lineup) LP, Volunteers.

Artist:     Left Banke
Title:     Pretty Ballerina
Source:     45 RPM single
Writer:     Michael Brown
Label:     Smash
Year:     1967
     The Left Banke, taking advantage of bandleader Michael Brown's industry connections (his father owned a New York recording studio), ushered in what was considered to be the "next big thing" in popular music in early 1967: baroque pop. After their debut single, Walk Away Renee, became a huge bestseller, the band followed it up with Pretty Ballerina, which easily made the top 20 as well. Subsequent releases were sabotaged by a series of bad decisions by Brown and the other band members that left radio stations leery of playing any record with the words "Left Banke" on the label.
Artist:    Doors
Title:    Strange Days
Source:    CD: The Best Of The Doors (originally released on LP: Strange Days)
Writer(s):    The Doors
Label:    Elektra
Year:    1967
    One of the first rock albums to not picture the band members on the front cover was the Doors' second LP, Strange Days. Instead, the cover featured several circus performers doing various tricks on a city street, with the band's logo appearing on a poster on the wall of a building. The album itself contains some of the Doors' most memorable tracks, including the title song, which also appears on their greatest hits album (which has Jim Morrison's picture on the cover) despite never being released as a single.

Artist:     Chocolate Watchband
Title:     Sweet Young Thing
Source:     Mono CD: Nuggets-Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Ed Cobb
Label:     Rhino (original label: Uptown)
Year:     1967
     There is actually very little on vinyl that captures the flavor of how the Chocolate Watchband actually sounded when left to their own devices, as most of their recorded work was heavily influenced by producer Ed Cobb. One of the few recordings that does accurately represent the Watchband sound is Sweet Young Thing, the first single released under the band's real name (Blue's Theme, an instrumental Watchband recording credited to the Hoggs, had been released in 1966 by Hanna-Barbera records).

Artist:    Tommy James And The Shondells
Title:    I Think We're Alone Now
Source:    Simulated stereo LP: The Best Of Tommy James And The Shondells (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Ritchie Cordell
Label:    Roulette
Year:    1967
    Like many artists of the mid-1960s, Tommy James And The Shondells became famous for a huge hit single (in their case, Hanky Panky, which went to the top of the charts in mid-1966), then started suffering diminishing returns with subsequent releases. Unlike many other artists of the mid-1960s, however, they found a songwriter (Ritchie Cordell, who also produced the record) who gave them two more consecutive top 10 hits in early 1967. The first of these was I Think We're Alone Now, which went to the #4 spot on the national charts and was #1 on Chicago's WLS (arguably the most influential radio station in the world at the time) for five weeks. James later said that although the song was originally written as a mid-tempo ballad, "I said no way and started speeding it up.... I.. put on a nasally, almost juvenile-sounding lead vocal, and without realizing it, we invented "bubblegum" music."

Artist:    Byrds
Title:    Time Between
Source:    CD: Younger Than Yesterday
Writer(s):    Chris Hillman
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1967
    The Byrds went from being the prototypical folk-rock band to being the seminal country-rock band over the space of about three years and six albums. The beginning of this transition can be heard on Time Between, from their fourth LP, Younger Than Yesterday. Time Between was bassist Chris Hillman's first attempt to write a song on his own, and features guest guitarist Clarence White, who would later replace David Crosby as a full-fledged member of the Byrds (ouch!).

Artist:    Beatles
Title:    Baby, You're A Rich Man
Source:    CD: Magical Mystery Tour
Writer(s):    Lennon/McCartney
Label:    Apple/Parlophone
Year:    1967
    Baby, You're A Rich Man was one of the last collaborations between John Lennon and Paul McCartney and addresses the Beatles' longtime manager Brian Epstein, although not by name.  Lennon came up with the basic question "how does it feel to be one of the beautiful people?" (a popular term for the young and hip in late 60s London), which became the basis for the song's verses, which were combined with an existing, but unfinished, Paul McCartney chorus (Baby, You're A Rich Man, too). The finished piece was issued as the B side of the Beatles' second single of 1967, All You Need Is Love, and later remixed in stereo and included on the US-only LP version of Magical Mystery Tour.
Artist:    Kinks
Title:    I Need You
Source:    45 RPM single B side
Writer(s):    Ray Davies
Label:    Reprise
Year:    1965
    After a series of hard-rocking hits in 1964 such as You Really Got Me and All Day And All Of The Night, the Kinks mellowed out a bit with songs like Set Me Free and Tired Of Waiting For You the following year. Lurking on the other side of Set Me Free, though, was a song that showed that the band still knew how to rock out: I Need You.

Artist:     Bobby Fuller Four
Title:     Baby My Heart
Source:     Mono CD: Where The Action Is: L.A. Nuggets 1965-68 (originally released in UK on CD: The Best Of The Bobby Fuller Four)
Writer:     Sonny Curtis
Label:     Rhino (original label: Ace)
Year:     Recorded 1966; released 1992.
     The Bobby Fuller Four perfected their blend of rock and roll and Tex-Mex in their native El Paso before migrating out to L.A. After scoring a huge hit with I Fought The Law, Fuller was found dead in his hotel room of unnatural causes. Baby My Heart, recorded in 1966 but not released until 1992, when it appeared unheralded on a British compilation of Fuller's work, is an indication of what might have been had Fuller lived long enough to establish himself further.
Artist:         Cream
Title:        Sunshine Of Your Love
Source:      CD: The Best Of 60s Supergroups (originally released on LP: Disraeli Gears)
Writer(s):    Bruce/Brown/Clapton
Label:    Priority (original label: Atco)
Year:        1967
        Although by mid-1967 Cream had already released a handful of singles in the UK, Sunshine Of Your Love, featuring one of the most recognizable guitar rifts in the history of rock, was their first song to make a splash in the US. Although only moderately successful in edited form on AM Top-40 radio, the full-length LP version of the song received extensive airplay on the more progressive FM stations, and turned Disraeli Gears into a perennial best-seller. Clapton and Bruce constantly trade off lead vocal lines throughout the song. The basic compatibility of their voices is such that it is sometimes difficult to tell exactly who is singing what line. Clapton's guitar solo (which was almost entirely edited out of the AM version) set a standard for instrumental breaks in terms of length and style that became a hallmark for what is now known as "classic rock."

Artist:    World Column
Title:    Lantern Gospel
Source:    Mono British import CD: My Mind Goes High (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Kaplan/Meyer
Label:    Warner Strategic Marketing (original label: Atco)
Year:    1968
    World Column was actually an R&B band from the midwest that, for some unknown reason, decided to change styles and record a song which has since become a psychedelic classic. Lantern Gospel, released in the summer of 1968, appeared on a dozen bootleg compilation albums before finally being officially released on the Rhino Handmade CD My Mind Goes High, which is now available in the UK through Warner Strategic Marketing.

Artist:    Masters Apprentices
Title:    Hot Gully Wind
Source:    Australian import LP: The Master's Apprentices
Writer(s):    Michael Bower
Label:    Astor
Year:    1967
    Formed in 1964 by guitarists Mick Bower and Rick Morrison, drummer Brian Vaughton and bassist Gavin Webb, the Mustangs were an instrumental surf music band from Adelaide, South Australia that specialized in covers of Ventures and Shadows songs. In June of that year the Beatles came to Adelaide and were greeted by the largest crowd of their career (around 300,000 people). The popularity of the Beatles among the locals prompted the Mustangs to add vocalist Jim Keays and switch to British-influenced Beat music. In late 1965, having been introduced to the blues through records by bands like the Yardbirds and Rolling Stones, the band changed its name to the Masters Apprentices, with Bower explaining that  "we are apprentices to the masters of the blues—Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Jimmy Reed, Elmore James and Robert Johnson". The band decided to relocate to Melbourne in early 1967, taking on Steve Hopgood as the band's new drummer when Vaughton decided to stay in Adelaide. They released their debut LP in 1967, although the people at Astor Records mistakenly added an apostrophe to Masters on the album cover. Among the many Bower originals on the album was Hot Gully Wind, a solid rocker that has held up well over the years. Unfortunately, Bower suffered a nervous breakdown in September, and the band was left without a songwriter. By the end of 1967 the band was on the verge of disintegrating, which led Keays to reorganize the band in January of 1968 with several new members, retaining only Gavin Webb from the original Mustangs lineup. He also ended up leaving the group due to stomach ulcers in April of 1968.

Artist:    Eric Burdon And The Animals
Title:    Good Times
Source:    British import CD: Winds Of Change
Writer(s):    Burdon/Briggs/Weider/Jenkins/McCulloch
Label:    BGO (original label: M-G-M)
Year:    1967
    By the end of the original Animals' run they were having greater chart success with their singles in the US than in their native UK. That trend continued with the formation of the "new" Animals in 1967 and their first single, When I Was Young. Shortly after the first LP by the band now known as Eric Burdon And The Animals came out, M-G-M decided to release the song San Franciscan Nights as a single to take advantage of the massive youth migration to the city that summer. Meanwhile the band's British label decided to instead issue Good Times, (an autobiographical song which was released in the US as the B side to San Franciscan Nights) as a single, and the band ended up with one of their biggest UK hits ever. Riding the wave of success of Good Times, San Franciscan Nights eventually did get released in the UK and was a hit there as well.

Artist:    Animals
Title:    I Put A Spell On You
Source:    Simulated stereo LP: Animalization
Writer(s):    Jay Hawkins
Label:    M-G-M
Year:    1966
    Sometimes you have to wonder if there was maybe just a little bit of spite and bitterness going on between Alan Price and Eric Burdon during the first six months of 1966. After all, before Burdon joined the band as lead vocalist in 1962, it was known as the Alan Price Rhythm And Blues Combo, but soon was rechristened the Animals. Over the next couple of years Burdon supplanted Price as the band's leader, both on and off stage, finally leading Price to leave the group in mid-1965 to form his own band, the Alan Price Combo. The second single released by Price was a cover of Screaming Jay Hawkins' I Put A Spell On You, released in March of 1966. At that same time, the Animals, with new keyboardist Dave Rowberry, were in the process of recording their third album, Animalisms, which would be released later that year in the US with a modified song lineup as Animalization. So is it just coincidence that the Animals included their own version of I Put A Spell On You on that album?

Artist:     Eric Burdon and the Animals
Title:     Yes, I'm Experienced
Source:     British import CD: Winds Of Change/The Twain Shall Meet (originally released on LP: Winds Of Change)
Writer:     Burdon/Briggs/Weider/McCulloch/Jenkins
Label:     BGO (originally released in US on M-G-M)
Year:     1967
     A grand tradition dating back to the early Rhythm and Blues recordings was something called the "answer song". Someone would record a song (Hound Dog, for example), that would become popular. In turn, another artist (often a friend of the original one), would then come up with a song that answered the original tune (Bear Cat, in our example earlier). This idea was picked up on by white artists in the late 50s (Hey Paula answered by Hey Paul). True to the tradition, Eric Burdon answered his friend Jimi Hendrix's Are You Experienced with this song, done in a style similar to another Hendrix tune, Manic Depression.

Artist:    Blues Project
Title:    The Flute Thing
Source:    Mono CD: Projections
Writer(s):    Al Kooper
Label:    Sundazed (original label: Verve Folkways)
Year:    1966
    The Blues Project was one of the most influential bands in rock history, yet one of the least known. Perhaps the first of the "underground" rock bands, the Project made their name by playing small colleges across the country (including Hobart College, where Stuck in the Psychedelic Era is produced). The Flute Thing, from the band's second album, Projections, features bassist Andy Kuhlberg on flute, with rhythm guitarist Steve Katz taking over the bass playing, joining lead guitarist Danny Kalb and keyboardist Al Kooper for a tune that owes more to jazz artists like Roland Kirk than to anything top 40 rock had to offer at the time.

Artist:    Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title:    Highway Chile
Source:    Mono CD: The Ultimate Experience (originally released in UK as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer(s):    Jimi Hendrix
Label:    MCA (original label: Track)
Year:    1967
    The Jimi Hendrix Experience already had three hit singles in the UK before releasing their first LP, Are You Experienced, in May of 1967. The following month the band made its US debut at the Monterey International Pop Festival. The gig went over so well that Reprise Records soon made arrangements to release Are You Experienced in the US. To maximize the commercial potential of the LP, Reprise decided to include the A sides of all three singles on the album, even though those songs had not been on the British version. The B sides of all three singles, however, were not included on the album. Among those missing tracks was Highway Chile, a somewhat autobiographical song that was originally paired with The Wind Cries Mary.

Artist:    Deep Purple
Title:    Hush
Source:    LP: Shades Of Deep Purple
Writer:    Joe South
Label:    Tetragrammaton
Year:    1968
    Deep Purple scored a huge US hit in 1968 with their rocked out cover of Hush, a tune written by Joe South that had been an international hit for Billy Joe Royal the previous year. Oddly enough, the song was virtually ignored in their native England. The song was included on the album Shades Of Deep Purple, the first of three LPs to be released in the US on Tetragrammaton Records, a label partially owned by actor/comedian Bill Cosby. When Tetragrammaton folded shortly after the release of the third Deep Purple album the band was left without a US label, and went through some personnel changes, including adding new lead vocalist Ian Gilliam (who had sung the part of Jesus on the original Jesus Christ Superstar album) before signing to Warner Brothers and becoming a major force in 70s rock. Meanwhile, original vocalist Rod Evans hooked up with drummer Bobby Caldwell and two former members of Iron Butterfly to form Captain Beyond before fading from public view.

Artist:    Electric Prunes
Title:    Hey Mr. President
Source:    Mono CD: The Complete Reprise Singles (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Adams/Barkan
Label:    Real Gone Music/Rhino (original label: Reprise)
Year:    1969
    Although to most of us "Electric Prunes" was the name of a band, to people in the music industry it was actually the name of a commodity. This commodity was originally owned by engineer Dave Hassinger, who produced the band's first two albums for Reprise. After the second LP failed to produce a hit single Hassinger worked out a deal with composer David Axelrod to record something called Mass In F Minor and release it as the third Prunes LP. It soon became apparent, however, that the band members were ill-suited to perform Axelrod's music, and Hassinger brought in members of another band entirely, the Collectors, to record most of the album's instrumental tracks. Although Mass In F Minor was even less commercial than the two previous albums, Hassinger chose to continue working with Axelrod on a fourth Electric Prunes album, Release Of An Oath, using an entirely new group of musicians. By this time the ownership of the band's name had passed to Axelrod's manager, Lenny Poncher, who was responsible for the next single to be released under the Electric Prunes name, 1969's Hey Mr. President. This new lineup (which included former West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band guitarist Ron Morgan) stayed in place until the group officially disbanded, recording one album of mostly-original material in 1969.

Artist:    Python Lee Jackson
Title:    In A Broken Dream
Source:    LP: Golden Days Of British Rock (originally released in UK as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    David Bentley
Label:    Sire (original label: Youngblood International)
Year:    1970
    Formed in Sydney, Australia in December 1965, Python Lee Jackson went through several personnel changes before breaking up in January of 1968.  Not long after that two of the band's founding members, guitarist Mick Lieber and drummer David Montgomery, along with keyboardist/vocalist Dave Bentley (who had joined the band in 1966), relocated to the UK, reforming the band in October 1968. In April of 1969 they recorded three songs with guest vocalist Rod Stewart, after Bentley told his bandmates that he didn't think his voice was right for the songs. The first of these was In A Broken Dream, produced by legendary DJ John Peel, who had taken an interest in the band after seeing them perform at the Arts Lab on Drury Lane. The song was originally released in 1970, but did not chart until it was re-released two years later in the wake of Stewart's rise to fame as a solo artist and member of Faces.

Artist:    Outsiders
Title:    Help Me Girl
Source:    45 RPM single
Writer(s):    English/Weiss
Label:    Capitol
Year:    1966
    Although it doesn't happen very often these days, throughout pop music history there have been, on occasions, competing versions of the same song released by two or more artists. Sometimes one version would become the "standard" version soon enough for a record to be a genuine hit (for instance the Kingsmen's version of Louie Louie as opposed to the Paul Revere and the Raiders version recorded at around the same time and place), but as often as not the competing versions would actually end up hurting each other's chart action. Such was the case with Help Me Girl, a song released simultaneously by the Outsiders and Eric Burdon (as Eric Burdon And The Animals, despite actually being Burdon's vocals backed up by studio musicans). In Denver, where I was living at the time, there were two competing top 40 stations, ratings leader KIMN and ABC network affiliate KBTR. Both stations published weekly charts, which were available in record stores and other locations. Although I listened to both stations, I was a bigger fan of KBTR, whose top 40 charts were included in a four page mini-newspaper, as opposed to KIMN's single page top 60 listing. When Help Me Girl came out, KIMN played the Eric Burdon version exclusively, while KBTR did the same for the Outsiders version. As a KBTR listener I was more into the Outsiders version of the song, so much so that I bought a copy of the 45. To me, Sonny Gerachi's yearning vocals seem to fit the song better than Burdon's swaggering style. Nationally, the Burdon version made it to the #29 spot, while the Outiders version stalled out at #37, reflecting, perhaps, the fact that by 1966 the Animals, with Burdon as frontman, already had a string of top 20 hits, while the Outsiders were known for just one song, Time Won't Let Me. Sonny Gerachi would have one more hit single a few years later as the lead vocalist of a group called Climax with a song called Precious And Few.

Artist:     Merry-Go-Round
Title:     Live
Source:     More Nuggets (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer:     Emitt Rhodes
Label:     Rhino (original label: A&M)
Year:     1967
     While San Francisco was basking in the Summer of Love, radio listeners in L.A. were exhorted to Live by local favorites the Merry-Go-Round. 16-year-old drummer Emitt Rhodes had already established himself with the Palace Guard, but took center stage with the Merry-Go-Round. He would later go on to have a moderately successful solo career in the early 70s.

Artist:    Traffic
Title:    No Time To Live
Source:    CD: Traffic
Writer(s):    Winwood/Capaldi
Label:    Island (original US label: United Artists)
Year:    1968
    Although half of the songs on Traffic's self-titled second LP were written by Dave Mason, the guitarist/vocalist had very little to do with the remaining tracks. He did, however, play Hammond organ on the haunting No Time To Live. The song also features Steve Winwood on lead vocals, piano and bass, Chris Wood on soprano saxophone and Jim Capaldi on drums.

Artist:    Bob Seger System
Title:    Ramblin' Gamblin' Man
Source:    45 RPM single (reissue)
Writer(s):    Bob Seger
Label:    Starline (original label: Capitol)
Year:    1969
    People who are familiar with the 70s and 80s hits of Bob Seger's Silver Bullet Band may be surprised to hear how much raw energy there is on Seger's early recordings with the Bob Seger System. The best known of these early records is Ramblin' Gamblin' Man, released as a single in 1969. The song did pretty well at the time, but it would be several years before Seger would return to the charts.

Artist:    Fever Tree
Title:    San Francisco Girls (Return Of The Native)
Source:    CD: Psychedelic Pop (originally released on LP: Fever Tree)
Writer(s):    Scott and Vivian Holtzman
Label:    BMG/RCA/Buddah (original label: Uni)
Year:    1968
    A minor, but notable 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:    Van Morrison
Title:    Brown Eyed Girl
Source:    45 RPM single
Writer(s):    Van Morrison
Label:    Bang
Year:    1967
    It may not be Van Morrison's favorite song, but it is arguably his most popular one. The 1968 single was originally written as Brown Skinned Girl, but, as Morrison later said "That was just a mistake. It was a kind of Jamaican song. Calypso. It just slipped my mind. After we'd recorded it, I looked at the tape box and didn't even notice that I'd changed the title. I looked at the box where I'd lain it down with my guitar and it said 'Brown Eyed Girl' on the tape box. It's just one of those things that happen." Morrison's contract with Bang Records was fairly typical of the times. Not only did he not receive any royalties from the recording, the song was included on the album Blowin' Your Mind without Morrison's input or knowledge. Brown Eyed Girl is, to this day, one of the most played songs in radio history.

Artist:    Turtles
Title:    Grim Reaper Of Love
Source:    Mono CD: Where The Action Is: L.A. Nuggets 1965-68 (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Portz/Nichol
Label:    Rhino (original label: White Whale)
Year:    1966
    The Turtles had some early success in 1965 as a folk-rock band, recording the hit version of Bob Dylan's It Ain't Me Babe and PF Sloan's Let Me Be. By 1966, however, it was getting harder and harder for the group to get a hit record. One attempt was Grim Reaper Of Love, co-written by Turtles lead guitarist Al Nichol. Personally I think it's a pretty cool tune, but was probably a bit too weird to appeal to the average top 40 radio listener in 1966. Grim Reaper Of Love did manage to make it to the # 81 spot on the charts, unlike the band's next two singles that failed to chart at all. It wasn't until the following year, when the Turtles recorded Happy Together, that the band would make it back onto the charts.

Rockin' in the Days of Confusion # 2101 (starts 12/28/20)

    Rockin' in the Days of Confusion starts off 2021 with an hour of free-form rock, including an extended prog-rock piece from Carpe Diem's 1969 debut LP, sent in by a listener. Thanks, Paul!

Artist:    Doobie Brothers
Title:    You Just Can't Stop It
Source:    CD: What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits
Writer(s):    Patrick Simmons
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1974
    For their fourth album, What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits, the Doobie Brothers brought in several guest musicians to enhance some of the tracks on the 1974 LP. You Just Can't Stop It, a Patrick Simmons funk-rock hybrid that opens the LP's second side, features, in addition to the actual band members, Bill Payne from Little Feat on Clavinet and Eddie Guzman from Rare Earth on congas as well as the Memphis Horns.

Artist:    Joni Mitchell
Title:    Help Me
Source:    LP: Court And Spark
Writer(s):    Joni Mitchell
Label:    Asylum
Year:    1974
    Following the release of For The Roses in November of1972, Joni Mitchell decided to take an entire year developing her next LP, Court And Spark. The result was an album that successfully combined folk, rock and jazz into a completely original hybrid that was an instant hit with both fans and critics. Court And Spark was voted "Best Album of the Year" in the Village Voice Pazz & Jop critics poll for 1974 and has gone on to be certified double platinum. The song Help Me, released as a single in March of 1974, became Mitchell's only top 10 hit, going to the #7 spot, and has been covered by several artists since its original release.

Artist:    Mahogany Rush
Title:    Land Of 1000 Nights
Source:    Canadian import CD: Strange Universe
Writer(s):    Frank Marino
Label:    Just A Minute (original label: 20th Century)
Year:    1975
    Formed in Montreal in 1970, Mahogany Rush was, in its early days, a power trio led by guitarist Frank Marino, along with bassist Paul Harwood and drummer Jimmy Ayoub. Marino's style has often been compared to that of Jimi Hendrix, whom Marino cites as a major influence. Perhaps their most successful album was Strange Universe, recorded in Montreal and released on the 20th Century label in 1975. Later in the decade the trio was joined by Marino's brother Vince on rhythm guitar and began touring as Frank Marino And Mahogany Rush.

Artist:    Deep Purple
Title:    Our Lady
Source:    Japanese import CD: Who Do We Think We Are
Writer(s):    Blackmore/Gillan/Glover/Lord/Paice
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1973
    Deep Purple was the top selling artist of 1973, thanks in large part to the release of their seventh studio album, Who Do We Think We Are. It was also the final year for the band's classic MK2 lineup, with both Ian Gillan and Roger Glover leaving the band that summer. According to Gillan, the band had just finished 18 months of touring and every member had had some sort of major illness over that same period, yet their managers insisted that they immediately get to work on the new album, even though the band members desperately needed a break. Nonetheless the album itself is one of their strongest, in spite of the fact that, for the most part the band members weren't even on speaking terms and much of the album was recorded piecemeal, with each member adding his part at a different time. The final track on the album, Our Lady, was a return to the band's psychedelic roots, with a definite Hendrix vibe to the entire piece.

Artist:    Genesis
Title:    The Battle Of Epping Forest
Source:    CD: Selling England By The Pound
Writer(s):    Banks/Collins/Gabriel/Hackett/Rutherford
Label:    Rhino/Atlantic (original label: Charisma)
Year:    1973
    Although sometimes criticized for making their music overly complicated at times (such as on The Battle Of Epping Forest), there is no doubting the thought and effort (not to mention outstanding musicianship) put forth by Peter Gabriel, Tony Banks, Mike Rutherford, Steve Hackett and Phil Collins on the album Selling England By The Pound. Released in 1973, the LP focuses on the loss of traditional English culture and the increasing "Americanization" of the United Kingdom in the last half of the 20th century. The Battle Of Epping Forest was actually inspired by a newspaper article about gang violence in London's East end that Gabriel had read several years earlier. When Gabriel was unable to locate a copy of the article he created new characters to populate the song (and of course the band's legendary stage show).

Artist:    Carpe Diem
Title:    RĂ©incarnation
Source:    French import LP: En Regardant Passer Le Temps (also released in Canada as Way Out-As Time Goes By)
Writer(s):    Yeu/Truchy
Label:    Crypto (original label: Arcane)
Year:    1976
    The mid-1970s saw the rise of several bands that combined elements of rock, jazz and classical music with the latest electronic technology to create something entirely new. In Germany it came to be called Kraut-rock, while in other countries it went by names like art-rock, prog-rock or space-rock. The French Riviera was home to Carpe Diem (originally called Deis Corpus), who released two LPs. The first, En Regardant Passer Le Temps, was also released in Canada under the title Way Out-As Time Goes By. The longest track on the album is RĂ©incarnation, which runs nearly thirteen minutes. Although the album went largely unnoticed when originally released in 1976, it has since come to be regarded as one of the lost classics of progressive rock.

Artist:    Grand Funk Railroad
Title:    Heartbreaker
Source:    CD: On Time
Writer(s):    Mark Farner
Label:    Capitol
Year:    1969
    The second single released from the first Grand Funk Railroad album, Heartbreaker was a concert staple for the band. Unlike most of Grand Funk's early material, Heartbreaker is a slow ballad that speeds up toward the end, building to a typical Spinal Tap, er, Grand Funk, finish.

Artist:    Graham Nash
Title:    Prison Song
Source:    Stereo 45 RPM single
Writer(s):    Graham Nash
Label:    Atlantic
Year:    1973
    Graham Nash's Prison Song is one of those songs that by all rights should have been a huge hit. It was by a name artist. It had a catchy opening harmonica riff and a haunting melody. I can only surmise that once again Bill Gavin (whose Gavin Report was considered by many in the industry to be the top 40 "bible") decided that the lyrics were too controversial for AM radio and had the song blacklisted, much as he had done with the Byrds Eight Miles High a few years earlier. Those lyrics center on a subject that is unfortunately still relevant today: the utter absurdity of drug laws and the disproportionate sentences for violation of those laws in various part of the United States.

Artist:        Spirit
Title:        Topanga Windows
Source:    CD: Spirit
Writer:        Jay Ferguson
Label:        Ode/Epic/Legacy
Year:        1968
        Ed Cassidy had already made a name for himself on the L.A. jazz scene when he married the mother of guitarist Randy California. He soon started jamming with his teenage stepson's friends, leading to the formation of a band initially known as Spirits Rebellious (but soon shortened to Spirit), one of the first rock bands to heavily incorporate jazz elements in their music. The majority of the songs on the group's self-titled first album were written by lead vocalist Jay Ferguson, who would eventually leave the group to co-found Jo Jo Gunne and in recent years has been a soundtrack composer for movies and TV shows, including the theme song of the US TV show The Office.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Stuck in the Psychedelic Era # 2052 (starts 12/21/20) 

It was 50 years ago this week that not only the year 1970, but the entire psychedelic era, was coming to a close. Independent record labels, which had fueled the garage-rock movement, had either been bought up by the big labels or disappeared altogether. The surviving bands of the psychedelic era were exploring new genres such as prog-rock, hard rock, and heavy metal, playing to increasingly larger audiences, which in turn decreased the feeling of audience-artist connection that had characterized the psychedelic era. The advent of multitrack recording technology resulted in increased usage of overdubs, furthering the gap between live performances and studio tracks. Sadly, 1970 was also the year we lost three great talents in the space of about a month: Canned Heat's Alan Wilson on September 3rd, Jimi Hendrix on September 18th and Janis Joplin on October 4th. All of them were 27 years old. This week we revisit 1970, with tracks from both old and new artists of the time, including one band (that could trace its roots to 1958) that hit their artistic and commercial peak in 1970. You'll just have to guess who that group was.

    We start with a sort of overview of 1970, featuring a mixture of old and new artists with backgrounds in folk, rock, blues and even a touch of jazz.

Artist:    Led Zeppelin
Title:    Immigrant Song
Source:    CD: Led Zeppelin III
Writer(s):    Page/Plant
Label:    Atlantic
Year:    1970
    Although the third Led Zeppelin album is known mostly for its surprising turn toward a more acoustic sound than its predecessors, the first single from that album actually rocked out as hard, if not harder, than any previous Zeppelin track. In fact, it could be argued that Immigrant Song rocks out harder than anything on top 40 radio before or since. Starting with a tape echo deliberately feeding on itself the song breaks into a basic riff built on two notes an octave apart, with Robert Plant's wailing vocals sounding almost like a siren call. Guitarist Jimmy Page soon breaks into a series of power chords that continue to build in intensity for the next two minutes, until the song abruptly stops cold. The lyrics of Immigrant Song were inspired by the band's trip to Iceland in 1970.
Artist:    Melanie
Title:    Lay Down (Candles In The Rain)
Source:    European import CD: Pure...Psychedelic Rock (originally released on LP: Candles In The Rain)
Writer(s):    Melanie Safka
Label:    Sony Music (original label Buddah)
Year:    1970
    When it comes to songs inspired by the Woodstock festival, the most famous is, by far, Joni Mitchell's Woodstock, which became a huge hit for Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young in 1970. The thing about that song, however, is that Mitchell herself was not actually at the festival, having famously been advised by her manager to appear on the Dick Cavett show instead. The most famous Woodstock song written (and sung) by someone who was actually there, was Melanie's Lay Down (Candles In The Rain), which was also a huge hit in 1970. New York born Melanie Safka was still virtually unknown in the US when she became one of three female solo artists to appear at Woodstock, although she did have a strong following in Europe thanks to the success of Bobo's Party and Beautiful People, the latter of which she performed on the Woodstock stage. Whereas Mitchell's Woodstock was a description of the festival itself, Lay Down (Candles In The Rain) is more about the spirit of both the crowd and many of the performers, focusing particularly on Melanie's own performance and the crowd reaction to it. The recorded song, from the album Candles In The Rain, was a collaboration between Melanie and the Edwin Hawkins Singers, who's Oh, Happy Day was a top five single in the months leading up to the Woodstock festival.

Artist:    B.B. King
Title:    The Thrill Is Gone
Source:    45 RPM single
Writer(s):    Benson/Pettite
Label:    Bluesway
Year:    1970
    Back when there was still room for blues artists on the rhythm and blues charts, one of the names regularly seen was B.B. King, who had gotten his start as a DJ in the early 50s. In the late 1960s he got a new manager, who began getting him more gigs playing to white audiences that had been introduced to the blues through recordings by artists like Paul Butterfield, John Mayall and Eric Clapton. After opening for the Rolling Stones on their 1969 US tour he recorded The Thrill Is Gone, a song written by West Coast blues musician Roy Hawkins and Rick Darnell and released by Hawkins in 1951. The single, produced by Bill Szymczyk, went into the top 20 on both the Hot 100 and Soul charts. King went on to become a member of the Blues Hall Of Fame, the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame and the National Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame  before passing away in 2015 at age 89.

Artist:     Blues Image
Title:     Ride Captain Ride
Source:     CD: Open
Writer:     Blues Image
Label:     Sundazed (original label: Atco)
Year:     1970
     After having mild commercial success with their self-titled debut album in 1969, Blues Image deliberately set out to write a hit song for their second LP, Open. The result was Ride Captain Ride, which made the top 40 in 1970. The album itself, however, did not do as well as its predecessor, and was the last one issued by the band's original lineup.

Artist:    Chicago
Title:    25 Or 6 To 4
Source:    CD: Chicago
Writer(s):    Robert Lamm
Label:    Rhino (original label: Columbia)
Year:    1970
    For their second LP, Chicago (which had justdropped the words "Transit Authority" from their name in response to a threatened lawsuit) tried out all three of their vocalists on each new song to hear who sounded the best for that particular song. In the case of Robert Lamm's 25 Or 6 To 4, bassist Peter Cetera did the honors. The song became a top 10 single both in the US and UK. Despite rumors to the contrary, Lamm says 25 Or 6 To 4 is not a drug song. Instead, he says, the title refers to the time of the morning that he was awake and writing the tune.

    Although psychedelic rock bands were popping up all over the place in the late 1960s, the acknowledged epicenter of the movement was the San Francisco Bay area. Not all of the bands from the Bay Area made it to 1970, and those that did were often going through some changes.

Artist:    Blue Cheer
Title:    Fool
Source:    Mono CD: Love Is The Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-70 (originally released as 45 RPM single
Writer(s):    Yoder/Grelecki
Label:    Rhino (original label: Philips)
Year:    1970
    Following the departure of Randy Holden, who had himself replaced founding member Leigh Stephens, Blue Cheer decided to forego the power trio configuration of their first two and a half albums and instead go with a more melodic sound and shorter songs. To accomplish this, Bruce Stephens (no relation to Leigh) was brought in for one side of the third Blue Cheer album, The New Improved Blue Cheer. Stephens stayed with the band long enough to record the group's self-titled fourth LP, but even on that album his replacement, former Oxford Circle guitarist/vocalist Gary Lee Yoder, whose own band Kak was already disintegrating, made a guest appearance as a songwriter on two of the album's tracks. Cementing his relationship with the band even further, Yoder added a new lead vocal track to the single version of the album's opening track, Fool (which, being co-written by his Kak cohort Gary Grelecki, was probably intended to be recorded by Kak, had that band stayed together long enough to issue a second LP), making it considerably different (and much harder to find) than the original LP track. Yoder would officially replace Stephens as Blue Cheer's guitarist by the time sessions began for the band's fifth album.

Artist:    Steve Miller Band
Title:    Going To Mexico
Source:    CD: Number 5
Writer(s):    Miller/Scaggs
Label:    Capitol
Year:    1970
    Although Boz Scaggs had left the Steve Miller Band following their second album, Sailor, the song Going To Mexico, co-written by Miller and Scaggs, did not appear on an album until Number 5 was released in 1970. Miller himself referred to the song as a 1969 track on his Anthology album, however, leading me to believe the song may have been among the last tracks recorded while Scaggs was still with the band. The recording also features future star Lee Michaels on organ.

Artist:    Jefferson Airplane
Title:    Mexico
Source:    CD: Love Is The Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-70 (originally released as 45 RPM single B side and included on LP: Early Flight)
Writer(s):    Grace Slick
Label:    Rhino (original label: RCA Victor)
Year:    1970
    The B side of the last Jefferson Airplane single to include founding member (and original leader) Marty Balin was Mexico, a scathing response by Grace Slick to President Richard Nixon's attempts to eradicate the marijuana trade between the US and Mexico. The song was slated to be included on the next Airplane album, Long John Silver, but Balin's departure necessitated a change in plans, and Mexico did not appear on an LP until Early Flight was released in 1974.

    Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada was the original home of Allan And The Silvertones, who by 1962 had become Chad Allan And The Reflections. Their first single was released on the Canadian-American label that year, becoming the first of many regional hits for the group. In 1965 they released a version of Shakin' All Over using the name Guess Who as a gimmick. The record became their first US hit and the Guess Who their permanent name. It took another four years for them to get their next US hit, These Eyes, but even that was a prelude to what would turn out to be their most successful year: 1970.

Artist:     Guess Who
Title:     American Woman
Source:     CD: American Woman)
Writer:     Bachman/Cummings/Peterson/Kale
Label:     Buddha/BMG (original label: RCA Victor)
Year:     1970
     From 1968-1970 I was living on Ramstein AFB, which was and is a huge base in Germany with enough Canadian personnel stationed there to justify their own on-base school. For much of the time I lived there I found myself hanging out with a bunch of Canadian kids and I gotta tell you, they absolutely loved everything by the Guess Who, who were, after all, the most successful Canadian band in history. In particular, they all loved the band's most political (and controversial) hit, the 1970 tune American Woman. I rather liked it myself, and immediately went out and bought a copy of the album, one of the first to be pressed on RCA's Dynaflex vinyl. Luckily, the album is now available on CD, which sounds much better than Dynaflex ever did.
Artist:    Guess Who
Title:    No Sugar Tonight/New Mother Nature
Source:    LP: The Best Of The Guess Who (originally released on LP: American Woman)
Writer(s):    Bachman/Cummings
Label:    Buddha/BMG (original label: RCA Victor)
Year:    1970
    Randy Bachman's No Sugar Tonight was not intended to be a hit single. In fact, when he first unveiled the song he was told by his bandmates that it was too short. So, to flesh it out he and Burton Cummings combined No Sugar Tonight with a Cumming tune, New Mother Nature, that was still a work in progress. The resulting medley was included on the 1970 LP American Woman. Additionally, No Sugar Tonight itself, in its short form, was also released as the B side of the American Woman single. It proved so popular that it made the top 40 in its own right. Meanwhile, FM rock stations began playing the full medley, and the shorter single version was soon abandoned by top 40 stations as well. Bachman says the song itself was inspired by an incident that transpired on a California street in which a "tough looking biker" type got publicly dressed down by a five foot tall woman for neglecting his household chores to hang out with his friends. The last words heard before they drove off in her car were "and one more thing, you ain't getting no sugar tonight".

Artist:     Guess Who
Title:     No Time
Source:     CD: American Woman
Writer(s): Bachman/Cummings
Label:     Buddha/BMG (original label: RCA Victor)
Year:     1970
     The Guess Who hit their creative and commercial peak with their 1970 album American Woman. The first of three hit singles from the album was No Time, which was already climbing the charts when the LP was released. After American Woman the band's two main songwriters, guitarist Randy Bachman and vocalist Burton Cummings, would move in increasingly divergent directions, with Bachman eventually leaving the band to form the hard-rocking Bachman-Turner Overdrive, while Cummings continued to helm an increasingly light pop flavored Guess Who.

    Before the psychedelic era, hit songs were almost universally released as singles. By 1970, however, some songs first became popular as album tracks, and later were released (usually in edited form) for top 40 radio stations to play. Here are some examples in their original album form.

Artist:    Sugarloaf
Title:    Green-Eyed Lady
Source:    LP: Sugarloaf
Writer(s):    Corbetta/Phillips/Riordan
Label:    Liberty
Year:    1970
    The unwritten rules of radio, particularly those concerning song length, were in transition in 1970. Take Sugarloaf's Green-Eyed Lady, for example. When first released as a single the 45 was virtually identical to the album version except that it faded out just short of the six-minute mark. This was about twice the allowed length under the old rules and it was soon replaced with an edited version that left out all the instrumental solos, coming in at just under three minutes. The label soon realized, however, that part of the original song's appeal (as heard on FM rock radio) was its organ solo, and a third single edit with that solo restored became the final, and most popular, version of Green-Eyed Lady. Meanwhile, though all of this, FM rock jocks continued to play the original album version heard here. Smart move on their part.

Artist:    Emerson, Lake And Palmer
Title:    Lucky Man
Source:    CD: Emerson, Lake And Palmer
Writer(s):    Greg Lake
Label:    Rhino (original label: Cotillion)
Year:    1970
    By 1970 a trend was developing in rock music that continues to this day. That trend was for musicians to leave their original bands after a couple years and form new "supergroups" with other like-minded musicians. One example was Emerson, Lake and Palmer, made up of former members of the Nice, King Crimson and Atomic Rooster. Their first, and most recognizable, hit was Lucky Man, written by lead vocalist Greg Lake, who also played acoustic guitar on the song.

    The downside of 1970 was that it was the year that three major talents from the rock world passed away over a 31-day period, from September 3rd to October 4th.

Artist:    Janis Joplin
Title:    Mercedes Benz
Source:    CD: Love Is The Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-70 (originally released on LP: Pearl)
Writer(s):    Joplin/Neuwirth/McClure
Label:    Rhino (original label: Columbia)
Year:    Recorded 1970, released 1971
    Mercedes Benz was the last song recorded by Janis Joplin. After laying down this vocal track on October 3, 1970 she went home and OD'd on heroin. The song appeared exactly as recorded on the 1971 album Pearl.

Artist:    Jimi Hendrix/Band Of Gypsys
Title:    Power Of Soul
Source:    Stereo 45 RPM single B side
Writer(s):    Jimi Hendrix
Label:    Legacy
Year:    Recorded 1970, released 2013
    1969 was a strange year for Jimi Hendrix. For one thing, he did not release any new recordings that year, yet he remained the top money maker in rock music. One reason for the lack of new material was an ongoing dispute with Capitol Records over a contract he had signed in 1965 as a session player. By the end of the year an agreement was reached for Hendrix to provide Capitol with one album's worth of new material. At this point Hendrix had not released any live albums, so it was decided to tape his New Year's performances at the Fillmore East with his new Band Of Gypsys (with drummer Buddy Miles and bassist Billy Cox), playing songs that had never been released in studio form. As it turns out, however, studio versions of many of the songs on that album did indeed exist, but were not issued until after Hendrix's death, when producer Alan Douglas put out a pair of LPs (Crash Landing and Midnight Lightning), that had some of the original drum and bass tracks (and even some guitar tracks) re-recorded by musicians that had never actually worked with Hendrix. One of those songs is Power Of Soul, which has finally been released in its original Band Of Gypsys studio version, recorded just a couple of weeks after the Fillmore East gig with background vocals provided by Cox and Miles.

Artist:    Jimi Hendrix/Band Of Gypsys
Title:    Machine Gun
Source:    LP: The Esssential Jimi Hendrix Volume Two (originally released on LP: Band Of Gypsys)
Writer(s):    Jimi Hendrix
Label:    Capitol
Year:    1970
    In 1965 Jimi Hendrix sat in on a recording session with R&B vocalist Curtis Knight, signing what he thought was a standard release contract relinquishing any future claim to royalties on the recordings. Three years later, after Hendrix had released a pair of successful albums on the Reprise label with his new band, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Capitol records issued the Knight sessions as an LP called Get That Feeling, giving Hendrix equal billing with Knight. Additionally, Capitol claimed that  the guitarist was under contract to them. Eventually the matter was settled by Hendrix promising to provide Capitol with an album of new material by the Jimi Hendrix Experience, although it was not specified whether the album be made up of studio or live recordings. While all this was going on, the Experience disbanded, leaving Hendrix bandless and under pressure to come up with new material for his regular label, Reprise, as well as the Capitol album. The solution was to record a set of concerts at the Fillmore East on December 31st, 1969 and January 1st, 1970, and release the best of these recordings as a live album on the Capitol label, freeing Hendrix up to concentrate on a new studio album for Reprise. Hendrix was still working on the studio album when he died, making the live album, Band Of Gypsys, the last new material to be released during the guitarist's lifetime. It features bassist Billy Cox and drummer Buddy Miles on Hendrix originals such as Machine Gun, as well as material written by Miles.

Artist:    Jimi Hendrix Experience II
Title:    Valleys Of Neptune
Source:    Stereo 45 RPM single
Writer(s):    Jimi Hendrix
Label:    Legacy
Year:    Recorded 1970, released 2010
    Even before the breakup of the original Jimi Hendrix Experience in 1969, Hendrix was starting to work with other musicians, including keyboardist Steve Winwood and wind player Chris Wood from Traffic, bassist Jack Casidy from Jefferson Airplane and Electric Flag drummer Buddy Miles. Still, he kept showing a tendency to return to the power trio configuration, first with Band of Gypsys, with Miles and bassist Billy Cox and, in 1970, a new trio that was sometimes billed as the Jimi Hendrix Experience. This trio, featuring Cox along with original Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell (with additional percussion added by Jumo Sultan), recorded extensively in the months leading up to Hendrix's death on September 18th, leaving behind hours of tapes in various stages of completion. Among those recordings was a piece called Valleys Of Neptune that was finally released, both as a single and as the title track of a new CD, in 2010.

Artist:    Canned Heat
Title:    Going Up The Country
Source:    CD: The Very Best Of Canned Heat (originally released on LP: Living The Blues)
Writer(s):    Alan Wilson
Label:    Capitol (original label: Liberty)
Year:    1968
    Canned Heat built up a solid reputation as one of the best blues-rock bands in history, recording several critically-acclaimed albums over a period of years. What they did not have, however, was a top 10 single on the US charts. The nearest they got was Going Up The Country from their late 1968 LP Living The Blues, which peaked in the #11 spot in early 1969 (although it did hit #1 in several other countries). The song was written and sung by guitarist Alan "Blind Own" Wilson, who died at age 27 on September 3, 1970.

    Some popular bands saw 1970 as a time to redefine themselves. The Grateful Dead, for instance, decided that they had finally achieved their original goal of capturing the feel of their live shows on vinyl with the 1969 double LP Live Dead, and instead began to concentrate on their songwriting skills. Others, like the Kinks, finally ended a long dry spell, while the ultimate British psychedelic band, Pink Floyd, got even more experimental.

Artist:    Grateful Dead
Title:    Sugar Magnolia
Source:    CD: Skeletons From The Closet (originally released on LP: American Beauty)
Writer(s):    Hunter/Weir
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:     1970
            One of the most popular songs in the Grateful Dead catalog, Sugar Magnolia also has the distinction of being the second-most performed song in the band's history, with 596 documented performances. The song, written by Robert Hunter and Bob Weir, first appeared on the 1970 album American Beauty, but was not released as a single. A live version two years later, however, did see a single release, charting in the lower reaches of the Billboard Hot 100.

Artist:    Kinks
Title:    Lola
Source:    Mono Canadian CD: 25 Years-The Ultimate Collection (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Ray Davies
Label:    Polygram/PolyTel (original label: Reprise)
Year:    1970
    By 1970 the Kinks were all but forgotten in the US and not doing all that much better in their native UK. Then came Lola. I guess I could stop right there. Or I could mention that the song was based on a true story involving the band's manager. I could even say something about Dave Davies' claim that, although his brother Ray is credited as the sole songwriter of Lola, Dave actually came up with the music and Ray added the lyrics. But you've probably heard it all before. This is Lola, the most famous song about cross-dressing in rock history we're talking about, after all.

Artist:    Pink Floyd
Title:    Embryo
Source:    CD: Cre/Ation-The Early Years 1967-1972 (originally released in UK on LP: Picnic-A Breath Of Fresh Air)
Writer(s):    Roger Waters
Label:    Columbia (original label: Harvest)
Year:    1970
    Until the emergence of CD box sets in the 1990s, trying to gather all of Pink Floyd's officially released material was a daunting task. There were non-album singles and B side, tracks made specifically for movie soundtracks and even one tune, Embryo, the original studio version of which only appeared on a UK-only Harvest Records sampler called Picnic-A Breath Of Fresh Air, released in 1970. The song finally made its first US appearance in 1983, on a Pink Floyd anthology album called Works that was released by Capitol Records in an attempt to undercut the release of The Final Cut on the Columbia label. Embryo, written by Roger Waters, is actually an outtake from the Ummagumma sessions recorded in 1969 with David Gilmour on lead vocals.

    We finish out the show, appropriately, with a couple of tracks that have never been played on Stuck in the Psychedelic Era before. The first is from a little known British prog rock band known as The Web, while the second features Eric Clapton's take on a Jimi Hendrix classic.

Artist:    Web
Title:    I Spider
Source:    British import CD: Spirit Of Joy
Writer(s):    Dave Lawson
Label:    Polydor
Year:    1970
    One of Britain's least-known, yet influential artists is keyboardist/vocalist Dave Lawson. After a stint with the RAF as a jazz pianist, Lawson joined Episode Six, a London cover band featuring vocalist Ian Gillan and bassist Roger Glover. Lawson soon transformed the group's sound, steering them away from pop music and toward more progressive material by bands like Traffic. This led to the band getting the attention of Deep Purple's Jon Lord and Ritchie Blackmore, who were looking to replace original vocalist Rod Evans and bassist Nicky Simper. Following the departure of Gillan and Glover, Lawson hooked up with a band called the Web, who had cut a couple of soul-flavored albums for the Deram label but were looking to move in a more progressive direction following the departure of the original lead vocalist John L. Watson. The band dropped the definitive article from their name for their first album for Polydor, which was written entirely by Lawson, who also provided lead vocals for the progressive jazz-rock LP. The album went mostly unnoticed when originally released in 1970, but has since come to be regarded as a lost classic in prog-rock circles. After changing their name to Samurai the band recorded a second LP for Polydor, but finally disbanded when Lawson accepted an invitation from Dave Greenslade to form a new band called Greenslade. Lawson stayed with Greenslade until they disbanded in 1976, writing or co-writing nearly all of the band's material. Following Greenslade's breakup Lawson participated in several notable projects, including the soundtracks of films like The Man Who Fell To Earth, Superman and Star Wars, where he used an ARP 2600 synthesizer to create the "electric tuba" sound heard in the film's cantina scene. Lawson currently owns his own sound design studio with one of the largest privately owned synthesizer systems in Europe.

Artist:    Derek And The Dominos
Title:    Little Wing
Source:    CD: Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs
Writer(s):    Jimi Hendrix
Label:    Polydor (original label: Atco)
Year:    1970
    The Jimi Hendrix Experience often performed an instrumental jam based on Cream's Sunshine Of Your Love, so it seems only fair that Eric Clapton would someday return the favor. When he did, it was memorable. Little Wing is one of the standout tracks on an album full of standout tracks. As such, it is often overlooked in favor of other tunes from Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs. Still, it is a unique arrangement of the Hendrix classic, enhanced by the presence of Duane Allman on slide guitar.

Rockin' in 1970 (starts 12/21/20)

    By 1970 it had been firmly established that rock bands no longer needed to have top 40 hit singles to be considered successful. This week we feature album tracks from that year, including the original LP versions of a couple songs that did make the top 40 in edited form. Our show opener, however, is the exception. Not only is it a genuine top 40 hit, it isn't even from a rock band. It does, however, present an accurate picture of 1970. Sadly, much of it applies to 2020 as well.

Artist:    Temptations
Title:    Ball Of Confusion
Source:    45 RPM single (reissue)
Writer(s):    Whitfield/Strong
Label:    Motown Yesteryear (original label: Gordy)
Year:    1970
    By 1970 an interesting situation had developed at Motown Records. Various production teams had achieved a degree of autonomy not usually seen in the record industry, resulting in a variety of styles coming from the label, each of which was identified with a particular team. The psychedelic branch of the label was run by Norm Whitfield and Barrett Strong, whose work mostly appeared on the Gordy label. Their stable of artists included Edwin Starr, the Undisputed Truth and the Temptations, the latter of which had gone through several lineup changes that left them without original lead vocalist David Ruffin. Whitfield and Strong used this situation to their best advantage by splitting the lead vocals among several group members within each song. One of the first songs to take this approach was Ball Of Confusion, released in 1970. A longer version of the song, using a less edited version of the same Funk Brothers instrumental track, was released by the Undisputed Truth as a B side.

Artist:    Black Sabbath
Title:    War Pigs
Source:    LP: Black Sabbath
Writer(s):    Iommi/Osborne/Butler/Ward
Label:    Warner Brothers
Year:    1970
    In the summer of 1971 I moved to the small town of Mangum, Oklahoma, along with guitarist Doug Phillips. We had both just graduated from high school and had spent most of our senior year playing in a band called Friends. The last half of the school year had been complicated by a surprise visit from yet another guitarist named Dave Mason (no, not THAT Dave Mason), whom I had been bandmates with the previous year when both our dads had been stationed at Ramstein AFB, Germany. My dad had been transferred to Holloman AFB, New Mexico that summer, while Dave's had retired to his native Oklahoma a couple of months later. The problem was that Dave, who was a bit of a free spirit, had not fit in well in Mangum; in fact, he had just been kicked out of the local high school for refusing to cut his hair. Dave had formed a new band (using the same band name, Sunn, that we had used in Germany) in Oklahoma, and had made enough money to buy a bus ticket for Vacaville, California (where his longtime girlfriend Jeannie was now living, her dad having been transferred to Travis AFB that fall)...or so he thought. It turned that the band's bass player Jim, who was also acting as their financial manager, had absconded with most of the band's earnings, leaving just enough for a bus ticket from Mangum, OK to Alamogordo, NM, and so, following a phone call sometime around New Year's, Dave showed up at my doorstep. My parents, being basically good people, allowed him to stay with us until he could either a) get enough money  to buy a bus ticket to Vacaville, CA, or b) find a place of his own in Alamogordo. After writing a song called Forty-Eight Sixty (the amount needed for the bus ticket) Dave ended up choosing option b) for awhile. Eventually his parents presented him with option c) by offering to buy him a return ticket to Mangum. After exacting a promise from me that I would join him there following graduation, Dave ultimately chose option c).
    About a week after he left New Mexico Dave called me to say "bring Doug, too", which was kind of a surprise, as I had always considered the two of them to be sort of rivals (although maybe that was only in my head, since Doug was the lead guitarist for Friends, while Dave had asked me to join yet another incarnation of Sunn in Alamogordo, which didn't go over so well with the other members of Friends; I ended up playing in both bands, as they had vastly different styles and there really was no conflict, since gigs were few and far between for both groups). Anyway, a week after graduation Doug and I boarded a Greyhound, arriving in Elk City, OK (the nearest town to Mangum with a bus station) at about 3 in the morning. Of couse, the Elk City bus station was closed at 3AM, so we had to stand outside in a thunderstorm waiting for a ride from a friend of Dave's who had forgotten that he was supposed to be picking us up at the Elk City bus station, which was about a half hour's drive north of Mangum.
    A couple months later we were all members of yet another version of Sunn (#5 by my count) when we got an offer from a local theater owner wanting to be our manager. As we were musically ready to take over the world, but were pretty clueless as to how to line up gigs, we accepted, and found ourselves booked for a Saturday night gig at the only theater in Wellington, Texas, a town about the same size of Mangum known mostly as the scene of Bonnie and Clyde's first nationally reported crime spree (which apparently involved wrecking their car, terrorizing a local family, kidnapping two law enforcement officers and tieing them to a tree with barbed wire cut from a fence, according to the New York Times). Wellington is also the county seat of Collingsworth County, which was, at the time, a "dry" county, which meant that local residents had to make the hour-long round trip to Mangum if they wanted to buy any alcoholic beverages. Not exactly the kind of place where you'd expect to hear a heavy metal cover band (although the term "heavy metal" was not part of the rock vocabulary at that point, so I guess '"underground rockers" would probably be a more appropriate label).
    The gig itself went pretty well, with only a couple dicey moments. One of those involved our cover of Black Sabbath's War Pigs, which we had learned by listening to the Paranoid album over and over (see, there was a connection to the song in all of this after all). We actually did a pretty kickass version of War Pigs, with Doug and I doing the sirens at the beginning in harmony and me channeling Ozzy quite credibly (or so it seemed at the time while tripping my brains out) throughout the performance. The problem was with Doug's dedication of the song (by title) to the local police force, a move that actually confused me at the time, since the song has nothing to do with cops. The second dicey moment is when I decided to take off the cowboy hat I had been wearing for the first of our two sets, letting my freak flag fly, so to speak, and eliciting an audible gasp from the audience. Still, the gig itself was a success, in fact, probably our best gig ever. We made a decent amount of money and got a great crowd response. Plus, due to a leaky transmission seal in our equipment van (a '54 Ford panel truck missing its front grill that was affectionately known as "The Glump"), we didn't have to pack up our stuff that night, allowing us to take a trip to Altus, OK, the nearest place with an all-night restaurant.
    Since there were no businesses open in Mangum on Sunday (of any type, including gas stations), we did not return to Wellington until Monday evening, after a friend of the band, J.D., gave us a ride in his black '57 Chevy after work. Following a mildly interesting ride that included cresting one of a series of hills only to see a bunch of cows in the road (we didn't hit any) and then noticing shortly thereafter that the headlights in the rear view mirror that had been making us paranoid every time we crested a hill were no longer there, we arrived in Wellington well after dark. As we were loading equipment into The Glump we noticed that a car was blocking our only exit from the alley behind the theater. A closer look revealed various lights and decals indicating that the car might just be the property of the Wellington Police Department. Confirmation soon came in the form of a guy in his mid-50s wearing a badge on his khaki-colored uniform. He  demanded to speak to the guy who "called us pigs". Gary Dowdy (the owner of The Glump) and I were confused at first, until the guy in the khaki-colored uniform with the badge asked which one of us had dedicated a song to the local police force. At about that time I realized what he was talking about, and attempted to explain that Doug, who was the only band member with a local girlfriend, had chosen to spend time with said girlfriend rather than to help with the loading of equipment (come to think of it, I may have been the only actual band member present). The guy with the badge cut me off at the word "Doug", however. In fact, as I recall, his exact words were "Another word out of you and I'll take you down to the station and cut off all of your hair". Luckily Gary Dowdy, who could Good 'Ol Boy with the best of 'em when it was called for, was able to pacify the officer with a promise to pack up quickly, get out of town and never come back. To this day, I have never again set foot in Wellington, Texas.
Artist:    Uriah Heep
Title:    Bird Of Prey
Source:    LP: Uriah Heep
Writer(s):    David Byron
Label:    Mercury
Year:    1970
    Although for the most part the practice of drastically altering the track lineup of British albums for US release had been abandoned by 1970, there were still a few exceptions, albeit relatively minor ones. One of these was the first Uriah Heep album, which replaced the song Lucy Blue with Bird Of Prey on the US version. More notably, the album itself was retitled and had different cover art in the US. Apparently the people at Mercury Records figured that Very 'Eavy...Very 'Umble was just too Very English for the American buying public.

Artist:    Johnny Winter
Title:    Rock And Roll Hoochie Coo
Source:    European import CD: Johnny Winter And
Writer(s):    Rick Derringer
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1970
    Athough best known as a solo Rick Derringer hit, Rock And Roll Hoochie Coo was originally recorded in 1970 by Johnny Winter for the album Johnny Winter And when Derringer was a member of Winter's band (also known as Johnny Winter And at that time). As can be heard here the arrangement on the earlier version is nearly identical to the hit version, the main differences being Winter's lead vocals and the presence of two lead guitarists in the band.

Artist:     Sugarloaf
Title:     Tongue In Cheek
Source:     LP: Spaceship Earth
Writer:     Robert Yeazel
Label:     Liberty
Year:     1970
     Sugarloaf was a band from Denver, Colorado, that took its name from nearby Sugarloaf mountain. The band scored a big hit in early 1970 with Green-Eyed Lady. Their second LP, Spaceship Earth, had a new guitarist, Robert Yeazel, who wrote their next single, Tongue In Cheek. Unfortunately, the single version of the song cut out the best parts, and achieved only minor chart success. The LP version of Tongue In Cheek, heard here, is highlighted by what is quite possibly the best rock organ solo ever recorded. The guitar solos from Yeazel and co-founder Bob Webber aren't too shabby, either. I strongly suggest turning up the volume when the solos start. If you've never heard this track before you're in for a treat.

Artist:    James Gang
Title:    The Bomber
Source:    CD: James Gang Rides Again
Writer(s):    Fox/Peters/Walsh/Ravel/Guarldi)
Label:    MCA (original label: ABC)
Year:    1970
    The second James Gang album saw the addition of a new bass player, Dale Peters, who replaced founding member Tom Kriss. Unlike the group's debut LP, James Gang Rides Again consisted almost entirely of material written by the band members themselves. The only exceptions were adaptations of Ravel's Bolero and Vince Guaraldi's Cast Your Fate To The Wind that guitarist Joe Walsh incorporated into the instrumental section of The Bomber, which at seven minutes was the longest track on the album. The beginning and end of The Bomber consist of a piece called Closet Queen, which was composed by the entire band. Shortly after the album's rellease the Ravel estate initiated legal proceedings against the band for using Bolero without permission. In response the record was recalled and a new version with Bolero edited out of the track was released in its place. By the time the album The Best Of The James Gang came out (in 1973) the track had been restored to its original length (although the shorter time appears in the credits) and that is the version used on subsequent CD releases of James Gang Rides Again as well.

Artist:    Rolling Stones
Title:    Midnight Rambler (live)
Source:    LP: Get Yer Ya-Yas Out
Writer(s):    Jagger/Richards
Label:    London
Year:    1970
    In December 1966, London Records released a US-only LP called Got Live If You Want It! The album was made up of various live recordings made earlier that year, along with a couple of previously unreleased studio tracks with fake audience sounds added. London wanted to milk the band's popularity following the release of the Aftermath album and the Stones' subsequent summer tour of the US, but the band was still working on Between The Buttons and did not want to release any new material. The live tracks on Got Live If You Want It suffered from the limitations of mid-60s live recording technology combined with the tendency of audiences to scream throughout the entire performances, and the band quickly made their disapproval of the album known. Three years later an audience member used a shotgun microphone and a small reel to reel machine to make a recording of the band's live performance at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Arena in Oakland, California, and released it the following month as Live'r Than You'll Ever Be, one of the first bootleg albums of a rock band. The band itself responded with their own "official" live album, Get Yet Ya-Yas Out, the following year. One of the highlights of the new live album was a version of Midnight Rambler that has become more popular than the original 1969 studio track. The Stones now consider Get Yer Ya-Yas Out to be their first real live album.

Artist:    David Bowie
Title:    Black Country Rock
Source:    CD: The Man Who Sold The World
Writer(s):    David Bowie
Label:    Parlophone (original label: Mercury)
Year:    1970
    David Bowie was not an overnight success. His first single, credited to David Jones With The King Bees, was released in 1964. He started using the name David Bowie in early 1966, possibly to avoid being confused with Manchester native David Jones, who was getting attention for his portrayal of Artful Dodger in the musical Oliver and had released his first solo album in 1965. Bowie released several singles as a solo artist in 1966 and 1967 on first the Pye, then Deram labels, but none of them were commercially successful. Following an equally unsuccessful self-titled solo LP for Deram in 1967, it looked like Bowie's career might be over. Rather than concede defeat however, Bowie decided to reinvent himself, studying drama and mime while continuing to write new songs for other artists to record. Following a short stint working as a mime as the opening act for Marc Bolan's Tyrannosaurus Rex, Bowie returned to recording with the song Space Oddity, released on the Philips label in 1969. The song made the British top 5, but was virtually ignored outside of the UK. A second album, also self-titled, was released by Philips that same year, but was a commercial disappointment. Bowie's next move was to form a band called Hype with John Cambridge, a drummer Bowie met at the Arts Lab, Tony Visconti on bass and Mick Ronson on electric guitar. The four of them appeared on stage dressed like superheroes, but their first gig was such a disaster that they abandoned the idea and settled into a more traditional role as David Bowie's stage band. It was this group that began work on Bowie's next album, The Man Who Sold The World. A falling out with Cambridge led to the recruitment of Mick Woodmansey, who ended up playing drums on all the tracks, including Black Country Rock. The Man Who Sold The World, possibly the closest thing to a hard rock album Bowie would ever record, was also a commercial failure, selling less than 1500 copies in the US when it was initially released. Despite a change of labels from Philips to RCA Victor, Bowie's next LP, Hunky Dory, didn't do much better at first. It wasn't until Bowie once again reinvented himself, taking on the persona of Ziggy Stardust in 1972, that Bowie permanently established himself as a force to be reckoned with on the popular music scene. The Man Who Sold The World was soon reissued on RCA Victor and became a major seller, along with its predecessor, renamed Space Oddity, and Hunky Dory. The rest is legend.

Artist:    Bloodrock
Title:    D.O.A.
Source:    CD: Bloodrock 2
Writer(s):    Cobb/Grundy/Hill/Pickens/Rutledge
Label:    One Way (original label: Capitol)
Year:    1970
    Bloodrock gained infamy in 1970 with the inclusion of D.O.A. on their second LP, a song reputed to be the cause of more bad acid trips than any other track ever recorded. Although the origins of the song are popularly attributed to a plane crash that killed several student atheletes in October of 1970, the fact that the album was already in the hands of record reviewers within a week of that event makes it unlikely that the two are related. The more likely story is that it was inspired by band member Lee Pickens's witnessing of a friend crashing his light plane a couple years before. Regardless of the song's origins, D.O.A. has to be considered one of the creepiest recordings ever made.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Stuck with a Hermit at Yuletide (starts 12/14/20)

    Just about every weekly radio show does a Christmas special this time of year, and for several years now Stuck In the Psychedelic Era has been no exception. There is a problem, though, and that is the unavoidable fact that for the most part the artists featured on Stuck in the Psychedelic Era never had the opportunity (or inclination, for that matter) to record Christmas songs. There are exceptions, of course, and this week you'll hear some of those by Jethro Tull, the Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, the Beach Boys, and others. But, unless I wanted to spend over half the show on Beach Boys Christmas songs (and there are nearly enough of those for an entire show), I knew I would have to take an entirely different approach to selecting the songs. After a couple of years of experimenting around with various approaches I finally decided to just pick out the coolest holiday tracks I could find, regardless of genre or year they were recorded, and have been doing it that way ever since. The addition of our second show, Rockin' in the Days of Confusion, gave me the opportunity to dig even deeper into the Yule (cata)log, adding artists like Bob Seger (with his mid-60s band The Heard), Ike And Tina Turner, The Royal Guardsmen and even Soupy Sales. So get ready to kick back and have a Cool Yule!

Artist:      John Lennon and Yoko Ono
Title:     Happy Xmas (War Is Over)
Source:      CD: Now That's What I Call Christmas (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Lennon/Ono
Label:     Zomba (original label: Apple)
Year:     1971
     Originally intended as an anti-Vietnam War song, John and Yoko's Happy Xmas (War Is Over) has long since acquired classic status and is now one of the most familiar songs of the season. It was first released in the US in December of 1971, but due to a problem with the publisher did not appear in the rest of the world until November of 1972.

Artist:      Beatles
Title:     Christmas Time (Is Here Again)
Source:      CD single: Free As a Bird
Writer(s):    Lennon/McCartney/Harrison/Starkey)
Label:    Apple/Capitol
Year:     Recorded 1966 and 1967, released 19671997
     Every year the Beatles would record a special Christmas message to go out to members of their fan club, and mail it out on what was then known as a floppy disc. This was not the same as a computer floppy disc, however. In fact, the medium the Beatles used eventually came to be known as a flexi-disc, just to keep things from getting any more confusing. Regardless of what you called it, the things tended to wear out after just a few plays and I doubt there are many playable copies of these discs left in the universe. Luckily for us, George Martin had the foresight to hang on to everything the Beatles ever recorded, including this tune, which was chopped up and used for the 1967 Christmas Greeting. When the Beatles Anthology was released in 1997, the piece was included on the Free As a Bird CD single, and we got to hear the song in its uninterrupted entirety for the first time. Included at the end are Christmas greetings from the 1966 fan club disc and a bit of poetry read by John Lennon.

Artist:      Simon And Garfunkel
Title:     Silent Night/7 O'Clock News
Source:      CD: Collected Works (originally released on LP: Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme)
Writer(s):    Gruber/Muhr, arr. Paul Simon   
Label:     Columbia       
Year:     1966
     Simon and Garfunkel's Silent Night/7 O'Clock News is unique for several reasons. The most obvious is that it uses two unrelated recordings to make an ironically chilling point. The first is a rendition of Franz Gruber's Silent Night, with vocals in the center channel and piano only coming from one speaker. As the song progresses a newscast in the other channel slowly gets louder. Eventually the song ends and there is only the news. What's also unusual is that this well-known Christmas carol is not featured on a Christmas album at all; instead it appears as the final track of the duo's 1966 LP Parsley, Sage, Rosemary And Thyme.

Artist:      Simon And Garfunkel
Title:     A Hazy Shade of Winter
Source:      CD: Collected Works (originally released as 45 RPM single and included on LP: Bookends)
Writer:    Paul Simon
Label:     Columbia
Year:     1966
     I wish I could take credit for putting Simon And Garfunkel's Silent Night/7 O'Clock News and A Hazy Shade of Winter back to back. The truth is I don't know who came up with the idea; my best guess is someone from Westwood One radio, as I first heard it done on one of their syndicated programs. Still, it's not a bad idea, and I happened to have a copy of the Westwood One version of the paired tracks, so there it is.

Artist:      Chuck Berry
Title:     Merry Christmas, Baby
Source:      Mono CD: The Chess Box (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer:    Baxter/Moore
Label:     Chess/MCA
Year:     1958
     Chuck Berry did not record too many cover tunes, as he was a prolific songwriter himself. However, for his 1958 Christmas single he cut this tasty version of Charles Brown's "other" Christmas song, Merry Christmas, Baby, originally recorded by Johnny Moore's Three Blazers (with Brown on lead vocal). The B side of Berry's single, Run Rudolph Run, was also a cover song, although the tune has come to be almost exclusively associated with Berry himself.

Artist:    Ike And Tina Turner
Title:    Merry Christmas Baby
Source:    CD: Cool Yule (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer(s):    Baxter/Moore
Label:    Rhino (original label: Warner Brothers)
Year:    1964
    Ike Turner was a talent scout for Chess Records that formed a band called the Kings Of Rhythm in the early 50s, immediately scoring a #1 R&B hit backing Jackie Brenston on a song called Rocket 88. By 1964 he had married Anna Mae Bullock, who changed her name to Tina Turner and began receiving co-billing on Ike's records, such as the 1964 B side, Merry Christmas Baby. Although lyrically the same as the Charles Brown song of the same name, the track is musically worlds away from Brown's slow blues number.

Artist:      Solomon Burke
Title:     Presents For Christmas
Source:      CD: Cool Yule (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Burke/Burke/Burke
Label:    Rhino (original label: Atlantic)
Year:     1966
     Solomon Burke was a staple artist for the Atlantic label at a time when Atlantic itself was being overshadowed by the Stax/Volt labels that it distributed. Nonetheless, Burke had several R&B hits throughout the sixties and was highly respected by his fellow artists. Presents For Christmas captures Burke at his peak in 1966.

Artist:      Jimmy McCracklin
Title:     Christmas Time
Source:      Mono CD: Blue Yule (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer:    Jimmy McCracklin
Label:    Rhino (original label: Art-Tone)
Year:     1961
     Jimmy McCracklin recorded one of the catchiest, yet underplayed, tunes of the 50s when he did The Walk. Christmas Time, from a few years later, actually sounds like beach music. Go figure.

Artist:      James Brown
Title:     Santa Claus, Santa Claus
Source:      CD: Cool Yule (originally released on LP: Soulful Christmas)
Writer(s):    Bobbitt/Jones
Label:     Rhino (original label: King)
Year:     1968
     Few people would ever accuse James Brown of being a blues artist, but this recording of Santa Claus, Santa Claus (sometimes called just Santa Claus) from 1968 shows what it would have sounded like if he was.
Artist:      Ed "Cookie" Byrnes
Title:     Yulesville
Source:      CD: Cool Yule (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Galanoy/Olafson/Barker
Label:    Rhino (original label: Warner Brothers)
Year:     1959
     The ABC TV network was a perennial also-ran that was just starting to find a winning formula in the late 50s with shows targeted toward a younger audience. The most popular of these was 77 Sunset Strip, starring Ed "Cookie" Byrnes. He and co-star Connie Stevens, staying in character, cut a hit novelty record called Cookie, Cookie, which played on Cookie's propensity for combing his hair. Byrnes, again in character, followed it up with this hip retelling of the classic poem Twas the Night Before Christmas.

Artist:    Elvis Presley
Title:    Santa Claus Is Back In Town
Source:    45 RPM single (reissue)
Writer(s):    Lieber/Stoller
Label:    RCA Victor
Year:    1957
    Santa Claus Is Back In Town is the opening track on the 1957 LP Elvis' Christmas Album.  The song, written by Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller, was also released that year in the UK as a single, going to the #7 spot on the charts. In the US, however, it remained available only as an album track until 1965, when it was released as a single, going to the #4 spot on the Billboard chart. For the B side, RCA reissued Blue Christmas, which had gone into the top 10 the previous year. The Blue Christmas/Santa Claus Is Back In Town single was certified platinum in 1999.

Artist:    Martels
Title:    Rockin' Santa Claus
Source:    Mono CD: Cool Yule (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Mason/Robinson
Label:    Rhino (original label: Bella)
Year:    1959
    Rock history is littered with one-hit wonders, many of whom only got to release one single. The Martels, however, released only half a single, as the other side of the record was by another artist altogether. They cut Rockin' Santa Claus for the tiny Bella label in San Jose, California in 1959, and were never heard from since.

Artist:      Ray Stevens
Title:     Santa Claus Is Watching You
Source:      45 RPM single
Writer:    Ray Stevens
Label:     Mercury
Year:     1962
     I've mentioned something called the Grab Bag before. Basically, it was a sealed paper bag (sometimes with a clear plastic front) containing four 45 RPM records, generally "cut-outs" that were no longer in print. The one my family bought for Christmas of 1964 had a Sing Along With Mitch Christmas EP in the front. By far the oddest record in the bag was Santa Claus Is Watching You by Ray Stevens, although I seem to remember that version being slightly different than the one heard here. One thing that both versions had in common was the presence of Clyde the Camel from Stevens's first hit, Ahab the Arab.

Artist:      Sonics
Title:     Santa Claus
Source:      Mono CD: Cool Yule (originally released on LP: Merry Christmas)
Writer:    Greg Roslie
Label:     Rhino (original label: Etiquette)
Year:     1965
     The Pacific Northwest was home to several bands that can only be described as proto-punk (think Louie Louie). One of the top bands on the scene up there was the Sonics, who recorded raw hard-driving songs with titles like Psycho, the Witch and Strychnine. Santa Claus is very much in the same vein, making it the punkiest Christmas song of the sixties, if not all time.

Artist:    Bob Seger And The Last Heard
Title:    Sock It To Me Santa
Source:    Mono: Christmas A Go-Go (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Seger/Honaker/Lagassa
Label:    Wicked Cool (original label: Cameo)
Year:    1966
    Years before he was singing that old time rock 'n' roll on his way to Katnandu, Bob Seger led a band called the Last Heard. The band was formed when Seger decided to leave his former band, the Omens, to record a song called East Side Story. The song, released on the local Hideout label, was Seger's first hit, selling about 50,000 copies, mostly in the Detroit area. This led to a deal with Cameo-Parkway Records. The first single released by the band on Cameo was a Christmas tune called Sock It To Me Santa that predates fellow Detroiter Mitch Ryder's Sock It To Me-Baby by a few weeks. Seger, of course, would eventually sign with Capitol Records, changing the name of the band to the Bob Seger System, and later, the Silver Bullet Band.

Artist:      Beach Boys
Title:     Little Saint Nick (stereo single version)
Source:      CD: Beach Boys Ultimate Christmas (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Wilson/Love
Label:    Capitol
Year:     1963
     When the Beach Boys first recorded Little Saint Nick they were the hottest surf music band in the country. A year later Beatlemania had set in, and a new version of Little Saint Nick was recorded for the Beach Boys Christmas Album. The new version put a greater emphasis on the vocals, and much of the original instrumentation was deleted from the arrangement. That is the version that usually gets heard on commercial radio every year. In the mid-70s, Carl Wilson, who by then had stepped into the leader's role formerly held by older brother Brian, pulled out the original 1963 tapes and created a new stereo mix of the song. The instruments have greater prominence in this version and include the distinctive sound of sleighbells that were completely exorcised from the 1964 version.

Artist:    Soupy Sales
Title:    Santa Claus Is Surfin' To Town
Source:    Mono CD: Christmas A Go-Go (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Gillespie/Coots
Label:    Wicked Cool/Reprise
Year:    1963
    Best known as the host of a popular kids' show on TV, Soupy Sales cut this bit of weirdness for the Reprise label in 1963. Need I say more?

Artist:      Eartha Kitt
Title:     Santa Baby
Source:      Mono CD: Billboard Greatest Christmas Hits 1935-1954 (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Javits/Springer/Springer
Label:     Rhino (original label: RCA Victor)
Year:     1953
     Eartha Kitt has one of the most unique voices in the history of jazz, and put it to good use on the original 1953 version of Santa Baby, a tune that has unfortunately in recent years become associated with Madonna. Kitt continued to perform with nearly as much energy as she had in the 50s right up to her death on Christmas Day, 2008.

Artist:      Rufus Thomas
Title:     I'll Be Your Santa Baby
Source:      Mono CD: Christmas A Go-Go (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer:    Thomas/Roberts
Label:     Wicked Cool (original label: Stax)
Year:     1973
     Rufus Thomas had a long and storied career going back to the 1950s, first with Bear Cat, an answer song to Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller's Hound Dog, and later with his own series of "dog" hits (Walking the Dog being the most famous). By the mid-1960s he was an important member of the Stax/Volt stable of artists, where his daughter Carla was making a name for herself with hits like B-A-B-Y and (with Otis Redding) Tramp. After Stax severed its distribution deal with Atlantic Records Rufus Thomas stayed with the now fully independent Stax, releasing I'll Be Your Santa Baby in 1973.

Artist:      Clarence Carter
Title:     Back Door Santa
Source:      CD: Christmas A Go-Go (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Carter/Daniel
Label:     Wicked Cool (original label: Atlantic)
Year:     1969
     Clarence Carter is an icon of the beach music (for you non-Carolinians, beach music has nothing to do with surf music) crowd. For everyone else, he is a moderately successful soul artist known mostly for his mid-70s hit Slip Away. Regardless of where you might know him from, his Back Door Santa will surprise you with its down and funky energy.

Artist:    Ramsey Lewis Trio
Title:    Winter Wonderland
Source:    45 RPM single B side (reissue)
Writer(s):    Bernard/Smith
Label:    Cadet (original label: Argo)
Year:    1960
    The Ramsey Lewis Trio released their first LP, Ramsey Lewis and the Gentlemen of Swing, in 1956. They remained primarily a jazz band over their first ten years of existence, releasing several singles on the Argo label, a Chess subsidiary. As well as original material, the group recorded their own distinctive versions of standards such as the holiday-oriented Winter Wonderland, which appeared as a B side in 1960.

Artist:      Bobby "Boris" Pickett
Title:     Monster's Holiday
Source:      45 RPM single
Writer:    Bobby Pickett
Label:     Garpax
Year:     1962
     Bobby Picket scored big with his Halloween hit Monster Mash in 1962, and quickly followed it up with this sequel set around the Christmas holidays. Legendary producer Gary Paxton was responsible for both recordings making it onto vinyl and on the air.

Artist:      Spike Jones and His City Slickers
Title:     All I Want For Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth)
Source:      Mono CD: Billboard Greatest Christmas Hits 1935-1954 (originally released as 78 RPM single)
Writer:    Don Gardner
Label:    Rhino (original label: RCA Victor)
Year:     1948
     Spike Jones and His City Slickers were a highly talented bunch who made music out of sound effects, toy instruments, and whatever else it occurred to them to use. Their forte was the novelty record, and no one did it better.  All I Want For Christmas (Is My Two Front Teeth) was written by Middleton, NY schoolteacher Donald Yetter Gardner, who was inspired to write the song when he asked his second grade class what they wanted for Christmas and was struck by how many of them were lisping due to missing front teeth.

Artist:      Chipmunks
Title:     The Chipmunk Song
Source:      CD: Billboard Greatest Christmas Hits 1955-Present (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer:    Ross Bagdasarian
Label:    Rhino (original label: Liberty)
Year:     1958
     In 1958 pop-jazz composer/bandleader Ross Bagdasarian decided to play around with a variable-speed tape recorder and came up with the novelty hit Witch Doctor. He followed it up by using multiple tape machines to create a trio of sped up voices that he called the Chipmunks, and released this smash hit in time for the Christmas season. The success of The Chipmunk Song led to a Saturday morning cartoon series and a series of albums for the Liberty label. His son, Ross Bagdasarian Jr. has revived the concept in recent years, although not with the same level of success. Bagdasarian himself, incidentally, had a small part as a lonely pianist in the Alfred Hitchcock film Rear Window.

Artist:    Royal Guardsmen
Title:    Snoopy's Christmas
Source:    45 RPM single
Writer(s):    Hugo & Luigi/Weiss
Label:    Laurie
Year:    1967
    Like many American bands, the Ocala, Florida based Posmen decided to change their name to something more Anglo sounding in the wake of the British invasion of 1964. As the Royal Guardsmen they had their first regional hit in 1966 with a song called Baby Let's Wait. It was their next release, however, that established the direction the group's career would take from that point on. Snoopy vs. the Red Baron was a huge national hit, going all the way to the #2 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 in late 1966. Several more Snoopy themed songs followed, including Snoopy's Christmas, released in 1967. The most recent of these is Snoopy vs. Osama, which came out in 2006.

Artist:    Dodie Stevens
Title:    Merry, Merry Christmas Baby
Source:    Mono CD: Cool Yule (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Sylvia/Lopez
Label:    Rhino (original label: Dot)
Year:    1960
    Dodie Stevens only had one hit record, the semi-novelty Pink Shoelaces, which came out in 1959. That didn't stop her from trying her luck with a contemporary holiday tune called Merry, Merry Christmas Baby the following year. The song, based on the Tune Weavers' Happy, Happy Birthday Baby, came out on the Dot label, which was no stranger to cover songs, having established itself by releasing sanitized Pat Boone remakes of songs originally recorded by Little Richard and other early rock 'n' roll artists.

Artist:    Otis Redding
Title:    Merry Christmas Baby
Source:    45 RPM single B side
Writer(s):    Baxter/Moore
Label:    Atco
Year:    1968
    Merry Christmas Baby was originally released by Johnny Moore's Three Blazers, which featured Charles Brown on guitar and vocals, in 1947. Several different versions of the song have been recorded over the years by such diverse artists as Chuck Berry, Ike & Tina Turner, Hansen, Christina Aguilara, Bruce Springsteen and Brown himself. Otis Redding's version of the song was released in 1968, almost a year after the plane crash that killed the singer and most of his band.

Artist:      Charles Brown
Title:     Please Come Home For Christmas
Source:      CD: Billboard Greatest Christmas Hits 1955-Present (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Brown/Redd
Label:    Rhino (original label: King)
Year:     1960
     By now just about everyone is familiar with the Eagles version of Please Come Home For Christmas. Not everyone, however, knows the song was written by blues great Charles Brown. Even fewer have actually heard Brown's 1960 original, which is a shame, as it blows the Eagles version clean out of the water.

Artist:      Johnny Preston
Title:     (I Want a) Rock and Roll Guitar
Source:      CD: Cool Yule (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer:    J.P. Richardson
Label:    Rhino (original label: Mercury)
Year:     1960
     Johnny Preston recorded his signature song in 1960, the classic Running Bear, penned by J.P. Richardson, the Big Bopper. The pair teamed up again to create a brand new Christmas song, (I Want a) Rock and Roll Guitar, later the same year. Interesting enough, by the middle of the decade a guitar was exactly what many kids were indeed asking for. I should know; I got my first guitar (and amp) as a Christmas present after badgering my parents mercilessly for months. I think between the two they might have run about $100, which made it the most expensive Christmas I ever had.

Artist:      Ventures
Title:     Sleigh Ride
Source:     LP: The Ventures Christmas Album
Writer:    Leroy Anderson
Label:    Dolton
Year:     1965  
        The Ventures are by far the most successful instrumental rock group in history, with over 100 albums released over several decades. One of the most successful of these was their 1965 Christmas album, which featured this surfinated version of Leroy Anderson's Sleigh Ride, a piece usually associated with the Boston Pops Orchestra.

Artist:    Brenda Lee
Title:    Papa Noel
Source:    CD: Cool Yule (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer(s):    Ray Botkin
Label:    Rhino
Year:    1958
    Just about everyone is familiar with Brenda Lee's 1958 hit Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree. Not as well known is the flip side of that single, a song called Papa Noel. Lee, known as "Little Miss Dynamite" was first discovered by country legend Red Foley when still in her teens.

Artist:    Crystals
Title:    Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
Source:    Mono CD: A Christmas Gift For You
Writer(s):    Coots/Gillespie
Label:    Phil Spector Records (original label: Philles)
Year:    1963
    In 1963 Phil Spector was riding high as one of the most successful record producers on the East coast. His "wall of sound" was heard on top 40 radio stations coast to coast on recordings by groups like the Crystals, who hit it big with And Then He Kissed Me and Da Doo Ron Ron that same year. Late in the year Spector issued an album called A Christmas Gift For You, which featured all the groups on his Philles label. The Crystals had three songs on the album, including an arrangement of Santa Claus Is Coming To Town that was later used by Bruce Springsteen.

Artist:    Ronettes
Title:    Frosty The Snowman
Source:    Mono CD: A Christmas Gift For You
Writer(s):    Nelson/Rollins
Label:    Phil Spector Records (original label: Philles)
Year:    1963
    1963 was probably the peak year for the Ronettes, with two of their biggest hits, Baby I Love You and Be My Baby, being released that year. To cap it all off they contirbuted a trio of tunes to Phil Spector's classic holiday LP, the first of which was their unique take on Frosty The Snowman.   

Artist:    Darlene Love
Title:    Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)
Source:    Mono CD: A Christmas Gift For You (also released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Spector/Greenwich/Barry
Label:    Phil Spector Records (original label: Philles)
Year:    1963
    Only one song from Phil Spector's A Christmas Gift For You was ever released as a single: Darlene Love's solo track, Christmas (Baby Please Come Home). Surprisingly, it was not a major hit and to this day is one of the least-played songs on the album.

Artist:      Jack Scott
Title:     There's Trouble Brewin'
Source:      CD: Cool Yule (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Laura Veronica
Label:    Rhino (original label: Groove)
Year:     1963
    Canadian born Jack Scott was one of the great rockabilly performers of the late 50s, scoring several top 10 hits, including My True Love and Burning Bridges. This 1963 recording of There's Trouble Brewin' shows him at the peak of his vocal powers.

Artist:      Canned Heat
Title:     Christmas Blues
Source:      Mono CD: Billboard Rock and Roll Christmas (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer(s):    Canned Heat
Label:    Rhino (original label: Liberty)
Year:     1968
     Possibly the strangest pairing on record was the 1968 remake of The Chipmunk Song by the Chipmunks and Canned Heat. Yes, you read that correctly. Canned Heat did indeed provide the instrumental backing tracks for Simon, Theodore and Alvin's 10th anniversary remake of their best-known song. The B side of that record is a true gem: an original Canned Heat composition called Christmas Blues.

Artist:      Jethro Tull
Title:     Christmas Song
Source:      British import EP
Writer:    Ian Anderson
Label:    Chrysalis
Year:     1968
     I wanted to play one set made up entirely of songs from the psychedelic era performed by artists that I feature on the show on a fairly regular basis. One of these artists is the band Jethro Tull, led by flautist/acoustic guitarist/vocalist Ian Anderson. His somewhat cynical Christmas Song, originally released in the UK in 1968, did not appear in the US until the 1973 anthology album Living In the Past.
Artist:      Cadillacs
Title:     Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Source:      45 RPM vinyl
Writer:    Johnny Marks
Label:    Josie
Year:     1956
     Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer has been recorded by a lot of different artists over the years, but this version by the Cadillacs stands out for its pure sense of fun. Doo-wop was at the peak of its popularity in 1956 and the Cadillacs, led by Earl "Speedoo" Carroll, were among the best of the bunch.

Artist:      Drifters
Title:     White Christmas
Source:      Mono CD: Billboard Greatest Christmas Hits 1955-Present (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer:    Irving Berlin
Label:    Rhino (original label: Atlantic)
Year:     1955
     The Drifters were a kind of early R&B doowop supergroup made up of ex-members of other R&B groups such as Billy Ward's Dominoes. The most distinctive voice of the original Drifters was high tenor Clyde McPhatter (for whom Ray Stevens's famous camel was named), which is heard prominently on their version of Irving Berlin's White Christmas. Over the years the group's lineup changed many times and led to several former members forming competing groups, all using the Drifters name. Over time, members of these offshoots would in turn form their own Drifters, despite having virtually no connection to the original group. This is why it sometimes seems that half the doowop singers in the world claim to be former members of the Drifters.

Artist:      Marquees
Title:     Christmas In the Congo
Source:      Mono CD: Cool Yule (Originally released as 45 RPM single, possibly promo only)
Writer(s):    Masten/Botkin
Label:    Rhino (original label: Warner Brothers)
Year:     1959
     I recently saw a signed publicity photo of the Marquees taken sometime in the late 1950s. One of the signatures is Marvin Gaye's. What I have not been able to find is any evidence that this record was actually released commercially, although at least one promo copy is known to exist.

Artist:      King Curtis
Title:     The Christmas Song
Source:      45 RPM single
Writer(s):    Mel Torme
Label:    Atco
Year:     1966
     King Curtis was one of the most in-demand saxophone players of the first wave of rock and roll. His best known work was on the song Yakety Yak by the Coasters in 1958. In the sixties he became the music director for the Atlantic Records group, appearing on a variety of recordings by artists such as Solomon Burke and occassionally releasing material on the Atco label under his own name. Tragically, his life was cut short when he was the victim of a stabbing when he attempted to stop junkies from shooting up on his front steps in New York.