OK, I admit it. I've been having fun with the whole "battle of the bands" concept lately. So much that I decided to pit swingin' London against psychedelic San Francisco this week, with Jefferson Airplane and (once again) the Rolling Stones sharing the spotlight in our second hour. Also of note: a Seeds set that includes a tune that was released in France before it made its US LP debut and (in keeping with the US vs. UK thing) a pair of bands with almost the same name, resulting in one suing the other over the matter.
Artist: Bob Dylan
Title: Like A Rolling Stone
Source: 45 RPM single (stereo reissue)
Writer(s): Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan incurred the wrath of folk purists when he decided to use electric instruments for his 1965 LP Highway 61 Revisited. The opening track on the album is the six-minute Like A Rolling Stone, a song that was also selected to be the first single released from the new album. After the single was pressed, the shirts at Columbia Records decided to cancel the release due to its length. An acetate copy of the record, however, made it to a local New York club, where, by audience request, the record was played over and over until it was worn out (acetate copies not being as durable as their vinyl counterparts). When Columbia started getting calls from local radio stations demanding copies of the song the next morning they decided to release the single after all. Like A Rolling Stone ended up going all the way to the number two spot on the US charts, doing quite well in several other countries as well.
Title: Let Me Be
Source: Mono LP: It Ain't Me Babe
Writer(s): P.F. Sloan
Label: White Whale
The Turtles were nothing if not able to redefine themselves when the need arose. Originally a surf band known as the Crossfires, the band quickly adopted an "angry young men" stance with their first single, Bob Dylan's It Ain't Me Babe, and the subsequent album of the same name. For the follow-up single the band chose a track from their album, Let Me Be, that, although written by a different writer, had the same general message as It Ain't Me Babe. The band would soon switch over to love songs like Happy Together and She'd Rather Be With Me before taking their whole chameleon bit to its logical extreme with an album called Battle Of The Bands on which each track was meant to sound like it was done by an entirely different group.
Title: Out Of Our Tree
Source: Mono CD: Nuggets-Original Artyfacts from the Psychedelic Era (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Rhino (original label: Etiquette)
The Pacific Northwest was, and is, home to a louder, harder-rocking and generally raunchier style of rock and roll than most other regions of the country. It's never been explained exactly why this is, but Kurt Cobain may have touched on it when he said that because the weather is such that it discourages outdoor activities (i.e, it rains a lot), there really isn't much else to do but go to places where live music is played. Another reason for the scene developing the way it did might be these guys, who practically invented raunch and roll. The Wailers were formed in 1958, doing mostly instrumental versions of songs by Chuck Berry, Little Richard and other early rock and roll/R&B artists. One of the hallmarks of the Wailers was that they played hard and loud, influencing later bands such as the Sonics to do the same. This meant that in order to be heard over the instruments, a vocalist had to basically scream out the lyrics. Etiquette Records, which was started by the Wailers themselves, was one of the first labels to release records with a healthy amount of distortion built in. This may have been due to budget limitations or it could have been a deliberate aesthetical choice. The result was garage-rock classics such as Out Of Our Tree, the echoes of which can be heard in the Grunge movement of the early 1990s.
Title: Excuse, Excuse
Source: LP: The Seeds
Writer(s): Sky Saxon
Label: GNP Crescendo
Although they branded themselves as the original flower power band, the Seeds have a legitimate claim to being one of the first punk-rock bands as well. A prime example is Excuse, Excuse. Whereas a more conventional song of the time might have been an angst-ridden tale of worry that perhaps the girl in question did not return the singer's feelings, Sky Saxon's lyrics (delivered with a sneer that would do Johnny Rotten proud) are instead a scathing condemnation of said girl for not being straight up honest about the whole thing. Excuse, Excuse was first released in late 1965 in France on an EP called The Seeds Avec Sky Saxon. The EP also included the band's debut single, Can't Seem To Make You Mine and its original B side, Daisy Mae, along with No Escape! All but Daisy Mae would be included on the band's self-titled debut LP the following April.
Title: Can't Seem To Make You Mine
Source: Simulated stereo LP: Nuggets Vol. 2-Punk (originally released as 45 RPM single and included on LP: The Seeds)
Writer: Sky Saxon
Label: Rhino (original label: GNP Crescendo)
One of the first psychedelic singles to hit the L.A. market in 1965 was Can't Seem To Make You Mine. The song was also chosen to lead off the first Seeds album. Indeed, it could be argued that this was the song that first defined the "flower power" sound, its local success predating that of the Seeds' biggest hit, Pushin' Too Hard, by several months.
Title: Bad Part Of Town
Source: British import CD: Singles As & Bs (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Big Beat (original label: M-G-M)
By 1970 the Seeds were barely a memory to most of the record-buying public. It had been nearly a year since they had released any records, and those hadn't sold many copies. Nonetheless, their agent managed to get them a contract to record a new single for the M-G-M label. The tune they recorded for the A side, Bad Part Of Town, was actually one of their better songs in quite some time, but by then there was no market for Seeds records, and the song failed to chart.
Title: Sunshine Superman
Source: British import CD: Psychedelia At Abbey Road (originally released as 45 RPM single and on LP: Sunshine Superman)
Writer(s): Donovan Leitch
Up until the early 1970s there was an unwritten rule that stated that in order to get played on top 40 radio a song could be no more than three and a half minutes long. There were exceptions, of course, such as Bob Dylan's Like A Rolling Stone, but as a general rule the policy was strictly adhered to. Sometimes an artist would record a song that exceeded the limit but nonetheless was considered to have commercial potential. In cases like these the usual practice was for the record company (or sometimes the record's own producer) to create an edited version of the master recording for release as a single. Usually in these cases the original unedited version of the song would appear on an album. In the case of Donovan's Sunshine Superman, however, the mono single version was used for the album as well, possibly because the album itself was never issued in stereo. In fact, it wasn't until 1969 that the full-length original recording of Sunshine Superman was made available as a track on Donovan's first Greatest Hits collection. This was also the first time the song had appeared in stereo, having been newly mixed for that album. An even newer mix was made in 1998 and is included on a British anthology album called Psychedelia At Abbey Road. This version takes advantage of digital technology and has a slightly different sound than previous releases of the song.
Title: (I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone
Source: CD: More Of The Monkees (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Label: Rhino (original label: Colgems)
When Screen Gems/Columbia Pictures announced that they would be doing a new TV series about a rock band called the Monkees, Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart had hopes of being chosen for the project, not only as songwriters, but as actual performing members of the group itself. That part didn't work out (although years later they would participate in a Monkees revival), but they did end up providing the bulk of the songs used for the show. The first of these songs was Last Train To Clarksville, which was released as a single just prior to the show's debut in the fall of 1966 and ended up being a huge hit for the group. For the November 1966 followup single a Neil Diamond song, I'm A Believer, was chosen for the A side of the record. The B side was another Boyce/Hart song, (I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone, that had been previously released by Paul Revere and the Raiders on their Midnight Ride album earlier in the year. The Monkees version of the song ended up being a hit in its own right, going all the way to the #20 spot (I'm A Believer ended up being the #1 song of 1967). Although there were two different mono mixes of the song released, it is the stereo version from the album More Of The Monkees that is most often heard these days.
Title: Inside Looking Out
Source: British import 45 RPM single
One of the last songs recorded by the Animals before their first breakup, Inside Looking Out (a powerful song about life in prison) was covered a few years later by Grand Funk Railroad, who made it one of their concert staples. This has always been one of my all-time favorite rock songs, no matter who recorded it.
Title: When The Music's Over
Source: LP: Strange Days
Writer(s): The Doors
I remember the first time I heard When The Music's Over. My girlfriend's older brother had a copy of the Strange Days album on the stereo in his room and told us to get real close to the speakers so we could hear the sound of a butterfly while he turned the volume way up. What we got, of course, was a blast of "...we want the world and we want it now." Good times.
Artist: B.B. King
Title: Now That You've Lost Me
Source: British import CD: Blues On Top Of Blues
Writer(s): B.B. King
Label: BGO (original US label: Bluesway)
The first B.B. King album I ever bought was Blues On Top Of Blues. It was his first release on ABC's Bluesway label, and was displayed on the same racks (at the Base Exchange on Ramstein AFB, Germany) as more mainstream rock artists. Having heard of King, I decided to take a chance on the LP. At first, being into hard rock, the arrangements felt a little too stiff for my tastes, but eventually the album grew on me enough so that when King's next LP, Lucille, came out, I had a pretty good idea of what to expect. Typical of Blues On Top Of Blues is the last track on side two, Now That You've Lost Me, a kind of "see what you gave up when you left me?" kind of song.
Artist: Strawberry Alarm Clock
Title: Incense And Peppermints
Source: Mono LP: Nuggets Vol. 9-Acid Rock (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Label: Rhino (original labels: All-American/Uni)
Thee Sixpence was a Los Angeles band that released four singles on the local All-American label, owned by the band's producer/manager Bill Holmes, in 1966. None of those records were written by band members, however. In fact, the B sides of the first three were covers of songs that had been recently released on fellow L.A. band Love's first album. One of those singles, a song called Fortune Teller, backed by My Flash On You, had even been reissued on the Dot label for national distribution, but had not charted. For their fifth single, Thee Sixpence worked with a new producer, Frank Slay, on The Birdman Of Alkatrash, a tune written by the band's keyboardist, Mark Weitz. The song was recorded in early 1967, along with an instrumental by Weiss and guitarist Ed King that was intended for the record's B side. Slay, however, brought in professional songwriters Tim Gilbert and John Carter to write lyrics and a melody line for the tune (giving the two sole credit for the finished song), which became Incense And Peppermints. The members of Thee Sixpence hated the new lyrics, and 16-year-old Greg Munford, a member of another local band called Shapes Of Sound, was hired to provide lead vocals for the tune. It was, after all, only a B side, right? Around this time, the band decided to change their name from the faux-British sounding Thee Sixpence to the more psychedelically-flavored Strawberry Alarm Clock. Whether The Birdman of Alkatrash was ever issued under the Thee Sixpence name is disputed (nobody seems to have actually seen a copy), but All-American most definitely released it as the first Strawberry Alarm Clock single in April of 1967. Somewhere along the line a DJ flipped the record over and started playing Incense And Peppermints instead. The song caught on and Uni Records (short for Universal, which is now the world's largest record company) picked up the Strawberry Alarm Clock's contract and reissued the record nationally with Incense And Peppermints as the A side in May of 1967. By the end of November, Incense And Peppermints had become Uni's first #1 hit record, making it, to my knowledge the only instance of a hit single being played, but not sung, by the artists of record (the reverse being a fairly common occurence). Although the Strawberry Alarm Clock was never able to duplicate the success of Incense And Peppermints, the band did end up releasing a total of twelve singles and four LPs before disbanding in 1971, Following the breakup guitarist Ed King became a member of Lynyrd Skynyrd (who had been the Strawberry Alarm Clock's opening band when they toured the south in 1970-71), and wrote the opening guitar riff of that band's first major hit, Sweet Home Alabama. To my knowledge, neither King or Weitz ever saw a penny in royalties for Incense And Peppermints, although Weitz, as sole writer of The Birdman Of Alkatrash, was able to get a share of the royalties for the single itself.
Artist: Grateful Dead
Title: The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion)
Source: CD: Love Is The Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-70 (originally released on LP: The Grateful Dead
Writer(s): McGannahan Skjellyfetti
Label: Rhino (original label: Warner Brothers)
The Grateful Dead's debut single actually sold pretty well in the San Francisco Bay area, where it got airplay on top 40 stations from San Francisco to San Jose. Around the rest of the country, not so much, but the Dead would soon prove that there was more to survival than having a hit record. Writing credits on The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion) were given to McGannahan Skjellyfetti, which like the Rolling Stones' Nanker Phelge was a name used for songs written by the entire band (it took up less space on the label).
Artist: Small Faces
Title: Itchycoo Park
Source: British import CD: Ogden's Nut Gone Flake (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Charly (original label: Immediate)
Led by Steve Marriott and Ronnie Lane, the Small Faces got their name from the fact that all the members of the band were somewhat vertically challenged. The group was quite popular with the London mod crowd, and was sometimes referred to as the East End's answer to the Who. Although quite successful in the UK, the group only managed to score one hit in the US, the iconic Itchycoo Park, which was released in late 1967. Following the departure of Marriott the group shortened their name to Faces, and recruited a new lead vocalist named Rod Stewart. Needless to say, the new version of the band did much better in the US than their previous incarnation.
Artist: Warner Brothers
Title: Lonely I
Source: LP: The Dunwich Records Story (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Peoria, Ilinois, was home to the Warner Bros. Combo, a group made up of brothers Larry and Al Warner along with Tom Stovall and Ken Elam. They released their first single, a cover of Mairzy Doats backed with Three Little Fishes, on the local Kandy Kane label in 1963. The following year they released four singles on three different labels, including a re-release of their first single on the Hollywood-based Everest label. They released one single a year from 1965 to 1968 on four different Chicago-based labels, including a song called I Won't Be The Same Without Her for the Dunwich label in 1966. The B side of that single was Lonely I (the letter I, not the number 1). Oddly enough the word "lonely" never appears in this otherwise blatant swipe of Clarence "Frogman" Henry's Ain't Got No Home.
And once again, we have a battle of the bands, this time pitting San Francisco's most successful band of the psychedelic era against London's original bad boys of rock 'n' roll.
Artist: Jefferson Airplane
Title: The Ballad Of You And Me And Pooneil
Source: CD: The Worst Of Jefferson Airplane (originally released on LP: After Bathing At Baxter's)
Writer(s): Paul Kantner
The Ballad of You and Me and Pooneil (the title being a reference to Fred Neil) was never issued as a single. Nonetheless, the band decided to include it on their first anthology album, The Worst of Jefferson Airplane. This, in fact, was typical of the collection, which favored the songs the band considered their best over those that were considered the most commercial. Interestingly enough, the original plan for After Bathing At Baxter's (the album the song first appeared on) was to use a nine minute live version of Ballad, but that idea was scrapped in favor of dividing the album into five suites, the first of which opened with the studio version of the tune.
Artist: Rolling Stones
Title: The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man
Source: Mono LP: Out Of Our Heads (manufactured in England for US distribution)
Writer(s): Nanker Phelge
The Rolling Stones embraced the Los Angeles music scene probably more than any other British invasion band. They attended the clubs on Sunset Strip when they were in town, recorded a lot of their classic recordings at RCA's Burbank studios, and generally did a lot of schmoozing with people in the record industry. This latter was the inspiration for their 1965 track The Under Assistant West Coast Promotion Man. The song is credited to the entire band, using the pseudonym Nanker Phelge.
Artist: Jefferson Airplane
Title: Crown Of Creation
Source: CD: The Worst Of Jefferson Airplane (originally released on LP: Crown Of Creation)
Writer(s): Paul Kantner
After the acid rock experimentalism of After Bathing At Baxter's, the Airplane returned to a more conventional format for 1968's Crown Of Creation album. The songs themselves, however, had a harder edge than those on the early Jefferson Airplane albums, as the band itself was becoming more socio-politically radical. The song Crown of Creation draws a definite line between the mainstream and the counter-culture.
Artist: Rolling Stones
Title: The Last Time
Source: Mono LP: Out Of Our Heads (manufactured in England for US distribution)
Released in late winter of 1965, The Last Time was the first single to hit the top 10 in both the US and the UK (being their third consecutive #1 hit in England) and the first one written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Despite that, it would be overshadowed by their next release: (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction, which went to the top of the charts everywhere and ended up being the #1 song of 1965.
Artist: Jefferson Airplane
Title: Somebody To Love
Source: Mono LP: Surrealistic Pillow
Writer(s): Darby Slick
Label: Sundazed (original label: RCA Victor)
If not for Somebody To Love, no one would even remember that Grace Slick and her husband Jerry were once in a band with her brother-in-law, Darby, who wrote the song.
Artist: Rolling Stones
Title: (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction
Source: CD: Out Of Our Heads
Label: Abkco (original label: London)
The most popular song of 1965 needs no other introduction. I mean, seriously, is there anyone who hasn't heard (and probably sung along with) Satisfaction?
Artist: Jimi Hendrix/Gypsy Sun And Rainbows
Title: Jam Back At The House (aka Beginnings)
Source: CD: Live At Woodstock (originally released on LP: Woodstock Two)
Writer(s): Mitch Mitchell
Label: Experience Hendrix/Legacy (original label: Cotillion)
I first heard the song Beginnings from a flexi-disc insert in an early 70s edition of Guitar Player magazine. I was completely blown away by the complex rhythms and (of course) the amazing guitar work from Jimi Hendrix on the track. The following year I picked up a copy of the double LP Woodstock Two that featured a live version of the same song, but bearing the title Jam Back At The House. What I didn't know is that 1) the song was actually written by drummer Mitch Mitchell, and 2) a rare Mitchell drum solo had been completely edited out of the recording. The entire unedited piece is now available on the two-disc Jimi Hendrix CD Live At Woodstock. It's worth getting.
Artist: Deep Purple
Title: Prelude: Happiness/I'm So Glad
Source: LP: Shades Of Deep Purple
Deep Purple was originally the brainchild of vocalist Chris Curtis, whose idea was to have a band called Roundabout that utilized a rotating cast of musicians onstage, with only Curtis himself being up there for the entire gig. The first two musicians recruited were organist Jon Lord and guitarist Ritchie Blackmore, both of whom came aboard in late 1967. Curtis soon lost interest in the project, and Lord and Blackmore decided to stay together and form what would become Deep Purple. After a few false starts the lineup stabilized with the addition of bassist Nicky Simper, drummer Ian Paice and vocalist Rod Evans. The group worked up a songlist and used their various connections to get a record deal with a new American record label, Tetragrammaton, which was partially owned by actor/comedian Bill Cosby. This in turn led to a deal to release the band's recordings in England on EMI's Parlophone label as well, although Tetragrammaton had first rights to all the band's material, including the classically-influenced Prelude: Happiness, which leads directly into a cover of the Skip James classic I'm So Glad. The band's first LP, Shades Of Deep Purple, was released in the US in July of 1968 and in the UK in September of the same year. The album was a major success in the US, where the single Hush made it into the top five. In the UK, however, it was panned by the rock press and failed to make the charts. This would prove to be the pattern the band would follow throughout its early years; it was only after Evans and Simper were replaced by Ian Gillan and Roger Glover that the band would find success in their native land. Both editions of Deep Purple can be heard regularly on our companion show, Rockin' in the Days of Confusion.
Artist: Country Joe And The Fish
Title: The Masked Marauder
Source: CD: Electric Music For The Mind And Body
Writer(s): Joe McDonald
Perhaps more than any other band, Country Joe and the Fish capture the essence of the San Francisco scene in the late 60s (which is rather ironic, considering that they were actually based in Berkeley on the other side of the bay and rarely visited the city itself, except to play gigs). Their first two releases were EPs included in Joe McDonald's self-published Rag Baby underground newspaper. In 1967 the band was signed to Vanguard Records, a primarily folk-oriented prestige label that also had Joan Baez on its roster. Their first LP, Electric Music For the Mind and Body had such classic cuts as Section 43, Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine, and the political parody Superbird on it, as well as the mostly-instrumental tune The Masked Marauder. Not for the unenlightened.
Title: John Riley (instrumental version 1)
Source: CD: Fifth Dimension (bonus track)
While working on the song John Riley for their Fifth Dimension album, the Byrds decided to play around a bit between takes. Using the same basic chord structure, they changed the tempo and beat for this instrumental version of this traditional English folk ballad.
Title: Say Those Magic Words
Source: Mono CD: Nuggets II-Original Artyfacts From The British Empire And Beyond 1964-1969 (originally released in UK as 45 RPM single)
Label: Rhino (original label: Reaction)
The Birds are best known for two things. First, they were future Rolling Stone Ron Wood's first band. They also gained notoriety when they took legal action against the Byrds for stealing their name. Originally formed in 1963 as the R&B Bohemians, the band soon changed its name to the Thunderbirds, later shortening it to the Birds to avoid confusion with Chris Farlowe's backup band. The Birds released only four singles between 1964 and 1966, the last of which was an amped up cover of a McCoys tune, Say Those Magic Words. When the single (their first for the Reaction label) failed to chart the group began to disentegrate and officially disbanded in early 1967.
Title: Hope I Never Find Me There
Source: Mono CD: Mr. Fantasy
Writer(s): Dave Mason
Traffic is usually thought of as Steve Winwood's band, as he was the lead vocalist for most of the band's recordings. In the early days of the group, however, he shared the spotlight with singer/songwriter Dave Mason, who wrote several of the song's on the band's 1967 debut LP, Mr. Fantasy. When the album came out in the US in early 1968 however (under the title of Heaven Is In Your Mind), two of Mason's songs were left off the LP to make room for a pair of tunes that had been issued as singles in the UK, but not included on the European version of Mr. Fantasy. One of those deleted songs was Hope I Never Find Me There, which is now included on the CD reissue of Heaven Is In Your Mind as a bonus track.
Title: How Does It Feel To Feel
Source: Mono British import CD: Spirit Of Joy (originally released in UK as 45 RPM single)
Creation was one of a handful of British bands that were highly successful in Germany, but were unable to buy a hit in their own country. Evolving out of a band known as the Mark Four, Creation was officially formed in 1966 by vocalist Kenny Pickett, guitarist Eddie Phillips, bassist Bob Garner and drummer Jack Jones. Their first single stalled out at #49 on the British charts, but went to #5 in Germany. The gap was even wider for their second single, which topped the German charts but did not chart in Britain at all. Garner and Phillips both left the band just as How Does It Feel To Feel was issued in early 1968. The band, with a fluctuating lineup, continued on for a few months but finally threw in the towel in late 1968.