Sunday, March 28, 2021

Stuck in the Psychedelic Era # 2114 (starts 3/29/21) 

    This week we pull out some of the big guns, artists that would influence rock for many years beyond the psychedelic era itself. That list includes an all-British set that features the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Blossom Toes, Cream and the Who. We don't entirely neglect less influential but just as important artists such as the Rising Sons, the Charlatans and the Zombies, though. In fact, we have a rather unusual Advanced Psych segment that features three tracks from the 21st century version of the Electric Prunes, all of which were written by original members James Lowe and Mark Tulin.

Artist:    Beach Boys
Title:    Good Vibrations
Source:    45 RPM single
Writer(s):    Wilson/Love
Label:    Capitol
Year:    1966
    Although I had originally discovered top 40 radio in 1963 (when I received a small Sony transistor radio for my birthday), it wasn't until 1966 that I really got into it in a big way. This was due to a combination of a couple of things: first, my dad bought a console stereo, and second, my junior high school went onto split sessions, meaning that I was home by one o'clock every day. This gave me unprecedented access to Denver's two big top 40 AM stations, as well as an FM station that was experimenting with a Top 100 format for a few hours each day. At first I was content to just listen to the music, but soon realized that the DJs were making a point of mentioning each song's chart position just about every time that song would play. Naturally I began writing all this stuff down in my notebook (when I was supposed to be doing my homework), until I realized that both KIMN and KBTR actually published weekly charts, which I began to diligently hunt down at various local stores. In addition to the songs occupying numbered positions on the charts, both stations included songs at the bottom of the list that they called "pick hits". These were new releases that had not been around long enough to achieve a chart position. The one that most stands out in my memory was the Beach Boys' Good Vibrations, a song I liked so much that I went out to the nearest Woolco and bought it the afternoon I heard it. Within a few weeks Good Vibrations had gone all the way to the top of the charts, and I always felt that some of the credit should go to me for buying the record when it first came out (hey I was 13, OK?). Over the next couple of years I bought plenty more singles, but to this day Good Vibrations stands out as the most important 45 RPM record purchase I ever made.
Artist:    Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title:    If 6 Was 9
Source:    LP: Axis: Bold As Love
Writer(s):    Jimi Hendrix
Label:    MCA/Experience Hendrix (original label: Reprise)
Year:    1967
    Before 1967 stereo was little more than an excuse to charge a dollar more for an LP. That all changed in a hurry, as artists such as Jimi Hendrix began to explore the possibilities of the technology, in essence treating stereophonic sound as a multi-dimensional sonic palette. The result can be heard on songs such as If 6 Were 9 from the Axis: Bold As Love album, which is best listened to at high volume, preferably with headphones on. Especially the spoken part in the middle, when Jimi says the words "I'm the one who's got to die when it's time for me to die, so let me live my life the way I want." It sounds like he's inside your head with you.

Artist:    Canned Heat
Title:    On The Road Again
Source:    45 RPM single
Writer(s):    Jones/Wilson
Label:    Liberty
Year:    1968
    Canned Heat was formed by a group of blues record collectors in San Francisco. Although their first album consisted entirely of cover songs, by their 1968 album Boogie With Canned Heat they were starting to compose their own material, albeit in a style that remained consistent with their blues roots. On The Road Again, the band's second and most successful single (peaking at # 16) from that album, is actually an updated version of a 1953 recording by Chicago bluesman Floyd Jones (which was in turn adapted from delta bluesman Tommy Johnson's 1928 recording of a song called Big Road Blues) that guitarist/vocalist Al "Blind Owl" Wilson reworked, adding a tambura drone to give the track a more psychedelic feel. Wilson actually had to retune the sixth hole of his harmonica for his solo on the track.

Artist:    Charlatans
Title:    Alabama Bound
Source:    CD: The Charlatans
Writer(s):    Trad, arr. the Charlatans
Label:    One Way (original label: Philips)
Year:    1969
    Although the Charlatans are generally acknowledged as the godfathers of the San Francisco music scene, they put out very little recorded material during their existence. Formed in 1964, the band released their first single in 1966. Unfortunately, Kama Sutra Records went against the band's wishes and issued a cover of an old Coasters song instead of the band's interpretation of Buffy St. Marie's Codine. As anyone not working for a record company would expect, The Shadow Knows went nowhere, and the rest of the band's recordings for the label got shelved. Three years later the Charlatans finally got to record an album, but by then they had lost half of their original members and were basically an anachronism (ironic, since their visual motif had been to dress up in Old West style clothing). One of the more notable tracks on that 1969 album was the group's signature song, a traditional tune called Alabama Bound that dates back at least as far as the Great Depression. The Charlatans had recorded the song a couple times before, but the 1969 version was actually the first to see the light of day.

Artist:    Taos
Title:    Climbing Up The Mountain
Source:    LP: Taos
Writer(s):    Taos
Label:    Mercury
Year:    1970
    As near as I can tell, Taos might well be the ultimate Hippie band, having been founded by five young men who had moved to the legendary Taos Commune sometime prior to 1970. The five included Jeff Baker on guitar and vocals, Steve Oppenheim on keyboards and vocals, Albie Ciappa on drums, Burt Levine on guitar and banjo, and Kit Bedford on bass. The band's songwriting showed a strong Grateful Dead influence, with almost British-sounding harmony vocals (obviously worked on heavily between their electric practice sessions) being their greatest strength on songs like Climbing Up The Mountain.

Artist:    Alice Cooper
Title:    Swing Low Sweet Cheerio
Source:    CD: Pretties For You
Writer(s):    Cooper/Smith/Dunaway/Bruce/Buxton
Label:    Rhino/Bizarre/Straight
Year:    1969
    The first Alice Cooper LP, Pretties For You, was by far the most psychedelic album ever recorded by the group. The album was recorded in one day; in fact, according to the band's manager, the entire album was made up of rehearsals that were recorded by Frank Zappa's brother. Pretties For You, like just about everything on Zappa's Straight label, was rooted in the avant-garde, and was not a commercial success, although some tracks, such as Swing Low Sweet Cheerio, certainly showed that the band had plenty of instrumental prowess. The song is also notable for having the lead vocals sung by rhythm guitarist Michael Bruce rather than Alice Cooper (Vincent Furnier) himself.

Artist:    Rolling Stones
Title:    2000 Light Years From Home
Source:    CD: Their Satanic Majesties Request
Writer(s):    Jagger/Richards
Label:    Abkco (original label: London)
Year:    1967
    Nowhere was the ripple effect of the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band more blatantly obvious than on the Rolling Stones fall 1967 release Their Satanic Majesties Request. The cover featured the band members in various sorcerous regalia in a seven-inch picture on the kind of holographic paper used for "magic rings" found in bubble-gum machines and pasted over regular album-cover stock, which was a simple pattern of faded white circles on a blue background (it kind of looked like dark wallpaper). Musically it was the most psychedelic Stones album ever released. Interesting enough, different songs were released as singles in different countries. In the US the single was She's A Rainbow, while in Germany and the Netherlands 2,000 Light Years From Home (the US B side of She's A Rainbow) got significant airplay, making the top 5 in both countries.

Artist:    Beatles
Title:    I Am The Walrus
Source:    Stereo British import 45 RPM EP: Magical Mystery Tour
Writer(s):    Lennon/McCartney
Label:    Parlophone
Year:    1967
    Common practice in the UK in the 1960s was to avoid duplication between single releases and album tracks. This led to a unique situation for the Beatles and their British label, EMI/Parlophone, in December of 1967. The band had self-produced a new telefilm to be shown on BBC-TV called Magical Mystery Tour and wanted to make the songs from the film available to the record-buying public in time for Christmas. The problem was that there were only six songs in the one-hour telefilm, not nearly enough to fill an entire album. The solution was to release the songs on a pair of Extended Play 45 RPM records, along with several pages of song lyrics, illustrations and stills from the film itself. My own introduction to Magical Mystery Tour was a friend's German copy of the EPs, and when years later I had the opportunity to pick up a copy of the original UK version, I of course couldn't resist. That copy got totalled in a flood a few years back, but in 2012 I was finally able to locate another copy of the EP set, which is the source of this week's airing of the ultimate British psychedelic recording, I Am The Walrus. This British EP version has a slightly longer intro than the more familiar US LP/CD release.

Artist:    Blossom Toes
Title:    When The Alarm Clock Rings
Source:    British import CD: We Are Ever So Clean
Writer(s):    Jim Cregan
Label:    Sunbeam (original label: Marmalade)
Year:    1968
    Originally known as the Ingoes, Blossom Toes were discovered playing in Paris (where they had released an EP) by Giorgio Gomelsky, manager of the Yardbirds, who signed them to his own label, Marmalade, in 1967. Everyone on the British music scene was talking about (and listening to) the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, trying to figure out how to apply the album's advanced production techniques to their own material, including Gomelsky and Blossom Toes. The result was an album called We Are Ever So Clean, one of the first post-Sgt. Pepper albums to be released in the UK. When The Alarm Clock Rings shows just how strong the Sgt. Pepper's influence was in late 1967.

Artist:    Cream
Title:    Tales Of Brave Ulysses
Source:    CD: Disraeli Gears
Writer:    Clapton/Sharp
Label:    Polydor/Polygram (original label: Atco)
Year:    1967
    Cream was one of the first bands to break British tradition and release singles that were also available as album cuts. This tradition likely came about because 45 RPM records (both singles and extended play 45s) tended to stay in print indefinitely in the UK, unlike in the US, where a hit single usually had a shelf life of around 4-6 months then disappeared forever. When the Disraeli Gears album was released, however, the song Strange Brew, which leads off the LP, was released in Europe as a single. The B side of that single was Tales Of Brave Ulysses, which opens side two of the album.

Artist:    Who
Title:    Mary-Anne With The Shaky Hands (US single version)
Source:    Mono LP: Who's Missing (originally released only in US as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer(s):    Pete Townshend
Label:    MCA (original label: Decca)
Year:    1967
    There are at least three versions of Mary-Anne With The Shaky Hands. The first was a monoraul-only electric version of the song released in the US on September 18, 1967 as the B side to I Can See For Miles. Two months later a second, slightly slower stereo version of the tune appeared under the title Mary-Anne With The Shaky Hand (singular) on The Who Sell Out. This more acoustic version of the song, which has a kind of calypso flavor to it, is the best known of the three, due to the album staying in circulation far longer than the 45. A third version of the song, also recorded in 1967 and featuring Al Kooper on organ, appeared as a bonus track on the 1995 CD release of Sell Out. The liner notes on the CD, however, erroneously state that it is the US single version, when in fact it is an entirely different recording.
Artist:    Rising Sons
Title:    11th Street Overcrossing
Source:    CD: The Rising Sons, featuring Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder
Writer(s):    Jesse Lee Kincaid
Label:    Columbia/Legacy
Year:    Recorded 1966, released 1992
    Jesse Lee Kincaid (born Nick Gerlach), learned to play 12-string guitar from his uncle, the legendary Fred Gerlach, when he was about 12 year old. At age 19 he left his native California and headed east, where, after a short stay in New York, he ended up as part of the Cambridge, Mass. folk scene. It was there that he met and formed a musical partnership with a young folk/blues singer/guitarist named Ry Cooder. The two soon moved out to California, where they formed a band called the Rising Sons in 1964 with slide guitarist Ry Cooder, bassist Gary Marker and drummer Ed Cassidy. The band became a popular attraction on the L.A. club scene, gigging often at the Troubador and the Ash Grove, and were considered on a par with the Byrds. After Cassidy left the band with a wrist injury in 1965 he was replaced by Kevin Kelley; not long after that the band was signed by Columbia Records. Columbia, having little experience with rock bands, assigned Terry Melcher (a surf-era veteran who also worked with the Byrds and Paul Revere And The Raiders) to produce the Rising Sons. By this time the band had developed a bit of a split personality, with Majal and Cooder favoring traditional blues while Kincaid's songs, a good example being 11th Street Overcrossing, were influenced more by the British Invasion.     Although the Rising Sons recorded an album's worth of material for Columbia only one single, a cover of Reverend Gary Davis's Candy Man, was actually released by the label. The band split up in 1966, with Kincaid going on to release a handful of singles before relocating to Europe in 1969.   

Artist:    Albert King
Title:    As The Years Go Passing By
Source:    LP: Born Under A Bad Sign
Writer(s):    Peppermint Harris
Label:    Stax
Year:    1967
    Although he had been recording professionally since 1953, it wasn't until he signed with the Stax label in 1966 that Albert King received the recognition as one of the greatest bluesmen of all time that he deserved. His first single for Stax was Laundromat Blues, which peaked at #29 on the Billboard R&B chart in June of 1966. More singles followed, including Crosscut Saw and Born Under A Bad Sign, all using Booker T. And The MGs with the Memphis Horns. In August of 1967 King released his first LP for Stax, Born Under A Bad Sign. Although it included five previously released single sides, as well as six new tracks, the album did not make the charts, but has since come to be regarded as one of the greatest blues albums of all time. The bulk of the album was made up of songs originally recorded by other artists, such as As The Years Go Passing By, which was written by Peppermint Harris (although the sleazy record company owner Don Robey took credit for it) for Fenton Robinson, who recorded it for Robey's Duke label in 1959. The vocal style that once earned King the nickname "The Velvet Bulldozer" is on full display on the track, and strongly influenced British bluesman Eric Clapton, who was still known more for his guitar work than his vocals at the time.

Artist:    Castaways
Title:    Liar Liar
Source:    45 RPM single
Writer(s):    James Donna
Label:    Eric (original label: Soma)
Year:    1965
     The Castaways were a popular local band in the Minneapolis area led by keyboardist James Donna, who, for slightly less than two minutes at a time, dominated the national airwaves in 1965 with their song Liar Liar for a couple months before fading off into obscurity.

Artist:    Electric Prunes
Title:    Circus Freak
Source:    CD: California '66 (originally released on CD: Feedback)
Writer(s):    Lowe/Tulin
Label:    PruneTwang
Year:    2006
    James Lowe's lyrics and Mark Tulin's running bass line are the strength of Circus Freak, a track from the 2006 Electric Prunes album Feedback. The album was the last full disc from the band to be released before the death of Tulin in 2011.

Artist:    Electric Prunes
Title:    Frozen Winter
Source:    CD: WaS
Writer(s):    Lowe/Tulin
Label:    PruneTwang
Year:    2014
    By the second decade of the 21st century, the Electric Prunes had proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that as long as you maintain the right attitude you are never too old to rock out. Sadly, 2011 brought the demise on bassist Mark Tulin, who was one-half of the key songwriting team that kept coming up with new psychedelic classics for the group's later albums. In 2014 the remaining members of the band, led by James Lowe, released one final album of tunes from the Lowe/Tulin fountain of creativity. The disc is full of tunes like Frozen Winter, which, as far as I'm concerned, more than holds its own against anything else released that year.
Artist:    Electric Prunes
Title:    African  Bees
Source:    CD: Feedback
Writer(s):    Lowe/Tulin
Label:    PruneTwang
Year:    2006
    The 2006 Electric Prunes album Feedback sounds like a group of talented musicians with nothing to prove having the time of their lives. Which, of course, is exactly what it is. Their always present sense of whimsy is well-represented by African Bees, a tune that somehow manages to make me think of Frank Zappa, Mitch Mitchell and John Belushi all at the same time. Even better, Mark Tulin's bass line on the song is nothing short of phenomenal (he also plays keyboards).

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:    Steve Miller Band
Title:    My Friend
Source:    CD: Sailor
Writer(s):    Davis/Scaggs
Label:    Capitol
Year:    1968
    Drummer Tim Davis takes center stage as lead vocalist on My Friend, from the second Steve Miller Band album, Sailor. The tune, co-written by fellow band member Boz Scaggs, was the first writing credit for Davis, who would remain with the band through their first five LPs before moving on to other things.

Artist:    West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band
Title:    Watch Yourself
Source:    CD: Volume 3-A Child's Guide To Good And Evil
Writer:    Robert Yeazel
Label:    Sundazed (original label: Reprise)
Year:    1968
    Although the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band usually wrote their own material, they occassionally drew from outside sources. One example is Watch Yourself, written by Robert Yeazel, who would go on to join Sugarloaf in time for their second LP, Spaceship Earth, writing much of the material on that album.

Artist:    Mothers Of Invention
Title:    The Idiot Bastard Son
Source:    Mono LP: Mothermania (originally released on LP: We're Only In It For The Money)
Writer(s):    Frank Zappa
Label:    Zappa (original label: Verve)
Year:    1968
    The first three Mothers Of Invention albums, Freak Out, Absolutely Free and We're Only In It For The Money, while now considered legendary, were not big money makers when they first came out. In fact, the cost of making the albums exceeded profits generated from them, and Verve was looking for a way to recoup their losses. In 1969 the band's leader, Frank Zappa, created a sort of "best of" album for Verve called Mothermania that was made up of songs from those first three LPs, with some tracks, such as The Idiot Bastard Son (from We're Only In It For The Money), radically remixed by Zappa himself. Although Verve would eventually release several more Mothers compilation albums, Mothermania was the only one personally supervised by Zappa himself.

Artist:    Zombies   
Title:    A Rose For Emily
Source:    Stereo 45 RPM single
Writer(s):    Rod Argent
Label:    Varese Vintage
Year:    1968
    The members of the Zombies began their first sessions for what would be their final album on June 1, 1968. The second song recorded that day was A Rose For Emily, inspired by the William Faulkner story about a girl who dies of loneliness. The song's arrangement is sparse, with piano being the primary instrument and Colin Blunstone's lead vocals being front and center. This single, released in 2017, features cello as well.

Artist:    Simon And Garfunkel
Title:    Punky's Dilemma
Source:    LP: Bookends
Writer(s):    Paul Simon
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1968
    Originally written specifically for the 1967 soundtrack of the movie The Graduate but rejected by the producers, Punky's Dilemma sat on the shelf until the following year, when it became the only track on side two of Simon And Garfunkel's Bookends LP that had not been previously released. The lyrics are about as psychedelic as Simon And Garfunkel ever got.

Artist:    Pink Floyd
Title:    Careful With That Axe, Eugene
Source:    CD: Ummagumma
Writer(s):    Waters/Wright/Mason/Gilmour
Label:    EMI/Capitol (original label: Harvest)
Year:    1969
    Pink Floyd's first double LP, Ummagumma, consisted of a live album with four tracks and a studio LP showcasing each individual member of the group. In later years the album would find itself disparaged by band members and critics alike, although one critic did point out that the live version of Careful With That Axe, Eugene, was actually a pretty decent rendition of one the band's most popular early tunes.

Artist:    Mongrels
Title:    Good Good Man
Source:    CD: A Heavy Dose Of Lyte Psych (originally released in Canada as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer(s):    Randy Bachman
Label:    Arf! Arf! (original Canadian label: Franklin)
Year:    1969
    Not much is known about the Mongrels. Reportedly from Winnipeg, Manitoba, both sides of the band's first three singles were either written or co-written by Randy Bachman, the lead guitarist of the Guess Who. Their first single, Death Of A Salesman, came out on the Franklin label (distributed by London Records of Canada) in 1968. Apparently the record did not go anywhere, as they re-recorded the song in Minneapolis the following year under the title Good Good Man and issued it as the B side of their third single for Franklin, which also came out in the US on the Nico label. Bachman himself produced the Mongrels' fifth and final single for the Canadian division of RCA Victor in 1970.

Artist:    Turtles
Title:    John And Julie
Source:    CD: Turtle Soup
Writer(s):    The Turtles
Label:    Repertoire (original label: White Whale)
Year:    1969
    The Turtles were the only truly successful act in the history of White Whale Records. This created a love/hate relationship between the band and its label, with the band always wanting more creative freedom and the label wanting more hit records. This sometimes resulted in great records such as Elenore, but often led to even more problems. Things came to a head after the band's final album, Turtle Soup, produced by the Kinks' Ray Davies, failed to provide any top 40 hits (the highest charting single stalling out at # 51). The album did have some creative high points, however, such as the lavishly produced John And Julie. Nonetheless, rather than record another album for White Whale, the Turtles officially disbanded, with two of the core members, Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman, hooking up with the Mothers Of Invention, recording the classic Live At The Fillmore East album in 1970.

Artist:    Big Brother And The Holding Company
Title:    Call On Me
Source:    Board stereo CD: Live At The Carousel Ballroom-1968
Writer(s):    Sam Andrew
Label:    Columbia/Legacy
Year:    Recorded 1968, released 2012
    In early 1968 a consortium of three local San Francisco bands (Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service and the Grateful Dead) set out to create a venue that would be an alternative to those controlled by professional promoters such as Bill Graham. They rented a disused place called the Carousel Ballroom and set about fixing the place up. The sound system at the Carousel was set up and run by Owsley Stanley, the legendary Grateful Dead sound man also known as Bear. Bear, as a rule, made recordings of every gig he ran sound for, using his own unique two channel system (one channel for the vocals, the other for guitars, bass and keyboards, with the drums being picked up by both sets of microphones). Bear called these recordings "sonic journals", as their primary purpose was similar to that of training films that sports coaches made during games. After a gig Bear and the band members would listen to these tapes and try to figure out what could be done to improve future performances. On March 12, 2012 (the first anniversary of Bear's death in an automobile accident), Columbia/Legacy released Big Brother And The Holding Company Live At The Carousel Ballroom, recorded on Sunday June 23, 1968, just two weeks before the Carousel experiment came to an end. It was the second of two consecutive nights that Big Brother played at the Carousel, their only gigs at the ballroom. In addition to the full set from June 23rd, the disc contains one bonus track from the previous night's performance: an alternate version of Call On Me, a song that first appeared in studio form on the band's 1967 debut LP on Chicago's Mainstream label.

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