Sunday, December 26, 2021

Stuck in the Psychedelic Era # 2201 (starts 12/27/21)

    This week we feature a set of tunes from Blue Cheer's debut LP, Vincebus Eruptum, introduced by the Intrepid Traveler, Ken Babbs, of the Merry Pranksters. Also in the mix, a Beatles artists' set, an obscure Bee Gees track from the Odessa album and the usual assortment of singles, B sides and album tracks, with a slight emphasis on the years 1966 and 1968.

Artist:    Donovan
Title:    Season Of The Witch
Source:    CD: Sunshine On The Mountain (originally released on LP: Sunshine Superman)
Writer:    Donovan Leitch
Label:    Sony Music (original label: Epic)
Year:    1966 (stereo version, 1969)
     Season Of The Witch has proved to be one of the most popular and enduring tracks on Donovan's Sunshine Superman album. Due to a contract dispute with Pye Records, the album was not released in the UK until late 1967, and then only as an LP combining tracks from both the Sunshine Superman and Mellow Yellow albums. Like all tracks from both Sunshine Superman and Mellow Yellow, Season Of The Witch was only available in a mono mix until 1969, when a new stereo mix was created from the original multi-track masters for the singer/songwriter's first greatest hits compilation. Season of the Witch has since been covered by an impressive array of artists, including Al Kooper and Stephen Stills (on the Super Session album) and Vanilla Fudge.

Artist:    Thor's Hammer (Hljomar)
Title:    My Life
Source:    Mono CD: Nuggets II-Original Artyfacts From The British Empire And Beyond 1964-1969 (originally released on British EP: Umbarumbamba for export to Iceland)
Writer(s):    Thordarson/Ostlund
Label:    Rhino (original label: Parlophone)
Year:    1966
    Originally formed in 1964 in Keflavik, Iceland, Hljomar, led by Gunnar Thordarson quickly became one of the most popular teen-oriented bands on the island nation, commencing to record locally in their native language in 1965. It soon became evident, however, that for the band to increase their audience base they would have to start recording in English, and by the end of the year had travelled to England to record songs under the name Thor's Hammer for an upcoming movie starring the band. Both the movie itself and a four-song EP featuring tunes from the film were released in late 1966, both bearing the name Umbarumbamba. Neither the movie or the EP did particularly well, however, despite strong tunes such as My Life, and, after a final attempt at an English language single in 1967, the band returned to Iceland, becoming Hljomar once more for the remainder of their existence.

Artist:    Count Five
Title:    Psychotic Reaction
Source:    Mono CD: Nuggets-Classics From The Psychedelic 60s (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Ellner/Chaney/Atkinson/Byrne/Michaelski
Label:    Rhino (original label: Double Shot)
Year:    1966
    Although San Jose, Ca. is a rather large city in its own right (the 10th-largest city in the US in fact), it has always had a kind of suburban status, thanks to being within the same media market as San Francisco. Nonetheless, San Jose had its own very active music scene in the mid-60s, and Count Five was, for a time in late 1966, at the top of the heap, thanks in large part to Psychotic Reaction tearing up the national charts.

Artist:    Mojo Men
Title:    She's My Baby
Source:    Mono CD: Love Is The Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-70 (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Stewart/Alaimo/Curcio
Label:    Rhino (original labels: Autumn/Reprise)
Year:    1965/1966
    Although generally considered to be one of the early San Francisco bands, the Mojo Men actually originated in Rochester, NY. After spending most of the early 60s in Florida playing to fraternities, the band moved out the West Coast in 1965, soon falling in with Autumn Records producer Sylvester Stewart (Sly Stone), for a time becoming his backup band. Stewart produced several singles for the Mojo Men, including She's My Baby, a song that had originally been recorded in 1962 as a song to do the mashed potato (an early 60s dance) to by Steve Alaimo, brother of Mojo Men bassist/lead vocalist Jim Alaimo and co-host (with Paul Revere and the Raiders) of the nationally distributed dance show Where The Action Is. The Mojo Men version of She's My Baby has more of a blues/garage-rock sound than the Steve Alaimo original, prompting its inclusion on several compilation albums over the past forty years. The original single, released in 1965 on the Autumn label, had different vocals than the 1966 Reprise reissue heard here, although both use the same instrumental backing track.

Artist:    Raik's Progress
Title:    "F" In "A"
Source:    Mono LP: Sewer Rat Love Chant
Writer(s):    Krikorian/Shapazian/van Maarth/Olson/Scott
Label:    Sundazed
Year:    Recorded 1966, released 2003
    "A bunch of 17-year-old quasi-intellectual proto-punks" was how Steve Krikorian, later to be known as Tonio K, described his first band. Krikorian, along with friends Alan Shapazian, Steve Olson, Nick van Maarth, and Duane Scott, formed The Raik's Progress in 1966 in Fresno, California. By the end of the year they had already cut a single for a major label (Liberty) and would soon find themselves opening for Buffalo Springfield at San Francisco's Fillmore Auditorium, gaining a reputation for their unique stage show, which included sitting down and playing a game of poker between songs and other strange antics. Their music was equally unusual, in that it combined influences from the more blues oriented British Invasion bands like the Animals and Them with an avant-garde sensibility more in line with what Frank Zappa's Mothers were doing at the time. Although the band did not release any more records they did record several tracks that were released in 2003 as an LP called Sewer Rat Love Chant (the title of the B side of the aforementioned single). Warning: do not say the title of this track (which has absolutely nothing to do with the lyrics of "F" In "A") too quickly in front of your parents or other authority figures.

Artist:     Canned Heat
Title:     On The Road Again
Source:       CD: The Very Best Of Canned Heat (originally released on LP: Boogie With Canned Heat)
Writer:     Jones/Wilson
Label:     Capitol (original 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 1968 they were starting to compose their own material, albeit in a style that remained consistent with their blues roots. On The Road Again is built on the same repeating riff the band used for their extended onstage jams such as Refried Boogie and Woodstock Boogie; the same basic riff that ZZ Top would use (at double speed) for their hit LaGrange a few years later.

Artist:    George Harrison
Title:    In The Park
Source:    CD: Wonderwall Music
Writer(s):    George Harrison
Label:    Apple
Year:    1968
    George Harrison first played sitar on the Rubber Soul album, released in late 1965. Over the next two years he would release three songs that were virtually dominated by the Indian instrument: Love You To (Revolver LP), Within You Without You (Sgt. Pepper's album), and The Inner Light (the B side of Lady Madonna). When the double-LP called The Beatles (aka the White Album) came out in 1968, however, there was not a trace of sitar on the entire album. So what happened? My own theory is that after recording the soundtrack for the Joe Massot film Wonderwall Harrison had simply had his fill of the instrument and had decided that in the future, if he needed sitar on a record he would call on the acknowledged master of the instrument, Ravi Shankar, to play it. As is obvious from listening to In The Park, from the Wonderwall Music album, Harrison played a lot of sitar that year.

Artist:    Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title:    1983…(A Merman I Should Turn To Be)/Moon Turn The Tides (Gently, Gently Away)
Source:    CD: Electric Ladyland
Writer:    Jimi Hendrix
Label:    Experience Hendrix/Legacy (original label: Reprise)
Year:    1968
    1983…(A Merman I Should Turn To Be)/Moon Turn The Tides (Gently, Gently Away) from the Electric Ladyland album is the longest work created purely in the studio by Jimi Hendrix, with a running time of over 16 minutes. The piece starts with tape effects that lead into the song's main guitar rift. The vocals and drums join in to tell a science fiction story set in a future world where the human race has had to move underwater in order to survive some unspecified catastrophe. After a couple verses, the piece goes into a long unstructured section made up mostly of guitar effects before returning to the main theme and closing out with more effects that combine volume control and stereo panning to create a circular effect. As is the case with several tracks on Electric Ladyland, 1983…(A Merman I Should Turn To Be)/Moon Turn The Tides (Gently, Gently Away) features Hendrix on both guitar and bass, with Mitch Mitchell on drums and special guest Chris Wood (from Traffic) on flute.

Artist:    Cream
Title:    Passing The Time
Source:    LP: Wheels Of Fire
Writer(s):    Baker/Taylor
Label:    Atco
Year:    1968
    Although Jack Bruce is generally acknowledged as the member of Cream that provided the most psychedelic material that the band recorded, drummer Ginger Baker gave him a run for his money on the studio half of their third LP, Wheels Of Fire. Perhaps the best of these was Passing The Time, which alternates between a slow, dreamlike section notable for its use of a calliope and a fast section that rocks out as hard as anything the band performed live in concert.

Artist:     Jethro Tull
Title:     Dharma For One
Source:     LP: This Was
Writer:     Anderson/Bunker
Label:     Chrysalis
Year:     1968
     By 1968 it was almost considered mandatory that a rock band would include a drum solo on at least one album, thanks to Ginger Baker's Toad (on Cream's Wheels Of Fire) and Iron Butterfly's In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida. Jethro Tull's contribution to the trend was Dharma For One, the only Tull song to give a writing credit to drummer Clive Bunker. Compared to most drum solos of the time, Bunker's is fairly short (less than two minutes) and somewhat quirky, almost resembling a Spike Jones recording in places.

Artist:    Doors
Title:    Love Her Madly
Source:    Stereo 45 RPM single
Writer(s):    The Doors
Label:    Elektra
Year:    1971   
    Released as a single in advance of the 1971 Doors album L.A. Woman, Love Her Madly was a major success, peaking just outside the top 10 in the US, and going all the way to the #3 spot in Canada. The album itself was a return to a more blues-based sound by the Doors, a change that did not sit well with producer Paul Rothchild, who left the project early on, leaving engineer Bruce Botnik to assume production duties. Rothchild's opinion aside, it was exactly what the Doors needed to end their run (in their original four man incarnation) on a positive note.

Artist:     Kinks
Title:     Rats
Source:     45 RPM single B side
Writer:     Dave Davies
Label:     Reprise
Year:     1970
     After several years of being banned from performing in the US (due to some sort of dispute involving the musician's union), the Kinks finally got the ban lifted in time to promote their 1970 LP Lola vs. Powerman and the Moneyground Part One with a US tour. As a result, the band managed to get two consecutive singles onto the US charts: the smash hit Lola and its follow-up, Apeman. The B side of Apeman was Rats, a tune written by Dave Davies, who by then had fallen into a George Harrison type role of being the lead guitarist who got to write one or two songs for each album.

Artist:    T.I.M.E.
Title:    Tripping Into Sunshine
Source:    CD: Ah Feel Like Ahcid (originally released on LP: T.I.M.E. and as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Nicholas/Richardson/Byron/Rumph
Label:    Zonophone (original label: Liberty)
Year:    1968
    After the demise of the Canadian band Sparrow, bassist Nick St. Nicholas gravitated to San Francisco, where he met up with former members of the San Diego-based Hard Times to form T.I.M.E. (Trust In Men Everywhere). The band recorded two albums for Liberty, the first of which opens with the track Tripping Into Sunshine. After the group's demise St. Nicholas rejoined his former Sparrow bandmates in their new band Steppenwolf. He was eventually joined by T.I.M.E. guitarist Larry Byrom as well.

Artist:    Beatles
Title:    Hello, Goodbye
Source:    CD: Magical Mystery Tour (orginally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Lennon/McCartney
Label:    Apple/Parlophone (original label: Capitol)
Year:    1967
    1967 was unquestionably a good year for the Beatles. Their first release was a double A sided single, Strawberry Fields Forever/Penny Lane, both sides of which were major hits. They followed that up with the #1 album of the year, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, and another hit single, All You Need Is Love. To finish out the year they released yet another major hit single, Hello Goodbye. The only downside to the year was the cool reception that was afforded their December telefilm, Magical Mystery Tour, although the songs themselves were well-received when released in the UK as a double-EP set (complete with full color booklet containing stills from the film, as well as lyric sheets). As EPs were not considered a viable format in the US, Capitol Records put together an LP that included all six tracks from the telefilm on one side of the album and the five single sides (Hello Goodbye had used I Am The Walrus from Magical Mystery Tour as a B side) on the other. That album has since become the official version of Magical Mystery Tour, although the EP continued to be available in the UK for several years following its initial release.

Artist:    Beatles
Title:    I Feel Fine
Source:    Simulated stereo LP: Beatles '65 (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Lennon/McCartney
Label:    Capitol
Year:    1964
    One of the most persistant complaints about Capitol Records executive Dave Dexter, Jr. was the way he modified Beatles recordings to suit the American buying public. In particular, critics single out his use of "Duophonic" simulated stereo mixes on several tracks that were originally mixed in mono and, even worse, his excessive use of reverb on some of those mixes. Both are on prominent display on the version of John Lennon's late-1964 hit I Feel Fine heard on the album Beatles '65.

Artist:    Beatles
Title:    Tomorrow Never Knows
Source:    Mono CD: Revolver
Writer:    Lennon/McCartney
Label:    Capitol/EMI
Year:    1966
    A few years ago I started to compile an (admittedly subjective) list of the top psychedelic songs ever recorded. Although I never finished ranking the songs, one of the top contenders for the number one spot was Tomorrow Never Knows. The recording is one of the first to use studio techniques such as backwards masking on the lead guitar track and various tape loops throughout, and has been hailed as a studio masterpiece. Heard here is the original mono mix of Tomorrow Never Knows, with some of the tape loops heard more prominently than on the later stereo mix.

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:    Love
Title:    Old Man
Source:    Comes In Colours (originally released on LP: Forever Changes)
Writer(s):    Bryan MacLean
Label:    Raven (original label: Elektra)
Year:    1967
    An often overlooked fact about the L.A. band Love is that they had not one, but two quality singer/songwriters in the group. Although Arthur Lee wrote the bulk of the band's material, it was Bryan McLean who wrote and sang one of the group's best-known songs, the haunting Alone Again Or, which opens their classic Forever Changes album. A second McLean song, Old Man, was actually one of the first tracks recorded for Forever Changes. At the time, the band's rhythm section was more into sex and drugs than rock and roll, and McLean and Lee arranged to have studio musicians play on Old Man, as well as on one of Lee's songs. The rest of the group was so stunned by this development that they were able to temporarily get their act together long enough to complete the album. Nonetheless, the two tunes with studio musicians were left as is, although reportedly Ken Forssi did step in to show Carol Kaye how the bass part should be played (ironic, since Kaye is estimated to have played on over 10,000 recordings in her long career as a studio musician).

Artist:    Bee Gees
Title:    Black Diamond
Source:    LP: Odessa
Writer(s):    Gibb/Gibb/Gibb
Label:    Atco
Year:    1968
    Although I can't tell you the exact time and place, I vividly remember seeing the Bee Gees' fourth (international) album Odessa on the record racks. It was hard to miss, with its bright red cover made of fuzzy stuff (apparently it's called "flocking", although I don't see what birds have to do with anything) and, due to it being a double LP, its thickness compared to other albums. Still, it was a Bee Gees album, and thus fell well outside my tastes at the time, which ran more to harder rocking bands like the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Cream. As a result I never bought a copy of Odessa, now considered the artistic peak of the original Bee Gees lineup. As can be heard on songs like Black Diamond, Odessa was a sophisticated work, designed as a concept album telling the story of a lost ship at sea around the end of the 19th century. The album would be the last to feature guitarist Vince Melouney, who left to join a more blues-oriented group. Robin Gibb also left the band after the release of Odessa for a solo career, but would rejoin his brother Barrys and Maurice in 1970.

Artist:    First Edition
Title:    Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)
Source:    CD: Even More Nuggets (originally released on LP: The First Edition and as 45 RPM single)
Writer:    Mickey Newbury
Label:    Rhino (original label: Reprise)
Year:    1968
    In 1968, former New Christy Minstrels members Kenny Rogers and Mike Settle decided to form a psychedelic rock band, the First Edition. Although Settle wrote (and sang lead on) most of the songs on the first album, it was Rogers who would emerge as the star of the group, thanks to the fact that one of the two songs he sang lead on, Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In), became a huge top 40 hit. It wasn't long before the official name of the band was changed to Kenny Rogers and the First Edition. That change reflected a shift from psychedelic to country flavored pop that would eventually propel Rogers to superstar status, leaving the First Edition far behind.

Artist:      Blue Cheer
Title:     Summertime Blues
Source:      Dutch import LP: Vincebus Eruptum
Writer(s):    Cochrane/Capehart
Label:    Philips
Year:     1968
     European electronics giant Philips had its own record label in the 1960s. In the US, the label was distributed by Mercury Records, and was known primarily for a long string of hits by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. In 1968 the label surprised everyone by signing the loudest band in San Francisco, Blue Cheer. Their cover of the 50s Eddie Cochrane hit Summertime Blues was all over both the AM and FM airwaves that summer.

Artist:    Blue Cheer
Title:    Parchman Farm
Source:    Mono LP: Vincebus Eruptum
Writer(s):    Mose Allison
Label:    Philips
Year:    1968
    If the release of the first Black Sabbath album in early 1970 marks the birth of heavy metal, then the release of the first Blue Cheer album in 1968 may be considered the point of conception for the form. Certainly, in terms of pure volume, Cheer was unequalled in their live performances (although the Grateful Dead's sound system had more wattage, Owsley Stanley used it judiciously to get the best sound quality as opposed to the sheer quantity of decibels favored by Blue Cheer), and managed to preserve that sense of loudness in the studio. Like Black Sabbath, the members of Blue Cheer had more than a passing familiarity with the blues as well, as evidenced by their inclusion of an old Mose Allison tune, Parchman Farm, on their debut LP, Vincebus Eruptum (the album included a cover of B.B. King's Rock Me, Baby as well). Contrary to rumors, guitarist Leigh Stephens did not go deaf and kill himself (although he did leave Blue Cheer after the band's second LP, moving to England and releasing a somewhat distortion-free solo album in 1969).

Artist:     Blue Cheer
Title:     Out Of Focus
Source:     Dutch import LP: Vincebus Eruptum
Writer:     Dickie Peterson
Label:     Philips
Year:     1968
     With the possible exception of the Grateful Dead (when they were using the Owsley-designed sound system), the loudest band to come out of San Francisco was Blue Cheer. The album Vincebus Eruptum, highlighted by the band's feedback-drenched version of Eddie Cochrane's Summertime Blues, is considered by some to be the first heavy metal album ever recorded. My own favorite track on the album is Out Of Focus, which opens side 2 of the LP and was issued as the B side of Summertime Blues.

Artist:    Shadows of Knight
Title:    Gloria
Source:    LP: Nuggets Vol. 2-Punk (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Van Morrison
Label:    Rhino (original label: Dunwich)
Year:    1966
    The original Them version of Van Morrison's Gloria found itself banned on the majority of US radio stations due to controversial lyrics. By changing one line (essentially substituting "around here" for "up to my room") the suburban Chicago punk-blues band Shadows of Knight turned it into a huge hit and a garage band standard.

Artist:    Circus Maximus
Title:    Travelin' Around
Source:    LP: Circus Maximus
Writer:    Bob Bruno
Label:    Vanguard
Year:    1967
    Circus Maximus was formed in Greenwich Village in 1967 by lead guitarist/keyboardist/vocalist Bob Bruno (who wrote most of the band's material) and guitarist/vocalist Jerry Jeff Walker, who went on to much greater success as a songwriter after he left the group for a solo career (he wrote the classic Mr. Bojangles, among other things). The lead vocals on the first Circus Maximus LP were split between the two, with one exception: guitarist Peter Troutner shares lead vocal duties with Bruno on the album's opening track, the high-energy Travelin' Around.

Artist:    Penny Peeps
Title:    Model Village
Source:    Mono British import CD: Insane Times (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Alexander
Label:    Zonophone (original label: Liberty)
Year:    1968
    Although the British psychedelic era was considerably shorter (only about two years long) than its American counterpart, there are a surprisingly large number of British psych-pop singles that were never issued in the US. Among those was a somewhat forgettable song called Little Man With A Stick, released in 1967 by a band called the Penny Peeps. The band took its name from the risque coin-fed viewers at Brighton Beach (apparently London's version of Coney Island). Emulating his American counterparts, producer Les Reed (who wrote Little Man), allowed the band itself to come up with its own B side. The result was Model Village, a track that manages to convey a classic garage-rock energy while remaining uniquely British.

Artist:     Steppenwolf
Title:     Move Over
Source:     LP: The ABC Collection (originally released on LP: Monster)
Writer(s):    Kay/Meckler
Label:    ABC (original label: Dunhill)
Year:     1969
     Move Over was the last Steppenwolf song that can be legitimately referred to as a hit single. The piece, like most other tracks on the Monster album, has a strong political message, but maintains the straightforward hard rock style that propelled the band to stardom in the first place.

Rockin' in 1971 (starts 12/27/21)

    It's been 50 years since 1971 came to a close, and this week we feature just a small sampling of tracks from the year that marked the emergence of '70s rock radio. Some of them, such as Gordon Haskell's Sitting By The Fire, are quite obscure, while others, like Led Zeppelin's When The Levee Breaks, have become classic rock standards. So get ready for an uninterrupted hour of solid rock, starting with the Flamin' Groovies.

Artist:    Flamin' Groovies
Title:    Teenage Head
Source:    European import CD: Pure...Psychedelic Rock (originally released on LP: Teenage Head)
Writer(s):    Jordan/Loney
Label:    Sony Music (original label: Kama Sutra)
Year:    1971
    In 1965, guitarists Roy Loney and Tim Lynch, who had been performing as a folk duo since their junior high days, were inspired by the Rolling Stones to go electric, adding bassist George Alexander, lead guitarist Cyril Jordan and drummer Ron Greco, who was soon replaced by Danny Mihm. After undergoing several name changes over a three year period, they finally settled on the Flamin' Groovies, using their own money to finance an EP called Sneakers that appeared in San Francisco music stores in 1968. The success of Sneakers got the band signed to Epic Records, but their only album for the label, Supersnazz, was a commercial disappointment and the band soon found themselves without a record contract. Unfazed, the band began touring nationally, spending much of their time in Detroit, which, in the words of Loney, "hardened up our sound a whole lot". The Groovies signed with the Kama Sutra label in 1970, releasing two LPs, Flamingo and Teenage Head. Although Flamingo suffered from poor production, Teenage Head is now considered a classic, and was singled out by Mick Jagger for doing a better job of modernizing rock and roll than the Stones' own Sticky Fingers album, which was released around the same time. Despite such high praise, Teenage Head did not sell well, and both Loney and Lynch soon left the band they had formed, leaving Jordan to reshape the band's sound into the power-pop they became best known for in the late 1970s.

Artist:    Rod Stewart and Faces
Title:    (I Know) I'm Losing You
Source:    45 RPM single (promo copy)
Writer(s):    Whitfield/Holland/Grant
Label:    Mercury
Year:    1971
    In addition to his role as lead vocalist for the Faces (formerly the Small Faces), singer Rod Stewart had a solo career going at the same time. This made for some awkward situations, since Stewart's solo work appeared on the Mercury label, while the Faces were under contract to Warner Brothers. For one thing, none of the band members received credit on any of Stewart's albums, including Every Picture Tells A Story, which was in essence a Faces album in all but name. Still, it is not entirely clear if the entire band was present for the recording of (I Know) I'm Losing You, a Motown classic originally recorded by the Temptations, although the label on the single clearly states that the song was by Rod Stewart and Faces.

Artist:    Arthur Brown's Kingdom Come
Title:    Gypsy Escape
Source:    British import CD: Spirit Of Joy (originally released in UK on LP: Galactic Zoo Dossier)
Writer(s):    Denis Taylor
Label:    Polydor
Year:    1971
    Arthur Brown became a household name in 1968 with the release of one of the great albums of British psychedelic music, The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown and it's #1 hit single, Fire. To help promote the album the band set out on a US tour; by the time the tour was over the band had decided to break up. After a series of unsuccessful projects, Brown re-emerged in 1970 with a new band, Arthur Brown's Kingdom Come. Unlike the Crazy World, which was one of the most purely psychedelic bands in British rock history, Kingdom Come was a pioneer of the new progressive rock movement and was one of the first bands to use synthesizers extensively. In fact, about the only thing the two bands had in common was Brown's distinctive vocals. Gypsy Escape, from the album Galactic Zoo Dossier, couldn't even make that claim, being an instrumental written by the band's light show guy, Denis Taylor (who was the only non-performing member of the band pictured on the album cover).
Artist:    Gordon Haskell
Title:    Sitting By The Fire
Source:    British import LP: The New Age Of Atlantic (originally released on LP: It Is And It Isn't)
Writer(s):    Gordon Haskell
Label:    Atlantic (original label: Atco)
Year:    1971
    Gordon Haskell was one of those British musicians that was probably known more for the people he knew rather than the music he himself made, at least during the early part of his career. Born in 1946, he played bass during his high school years in a band led by schoolmate Robert Fripp. By the mid-60s he had turned professional as a member of the British psychedelic band Fleur de Lys. Although never a major player on the British music scene, the band did score a #1 hit in South Africa with Haskell's Lazy Life, which also hit #3 in Australia. For a short time in 1966 he was roomates with Jimi Hendrix, who had just moved to England at the behest of the Animals' Chas Chandler. Haskell became more well-known in 1970, when he replaced Greg Lake as bassist for King Crimson on their album In The Wake Of Poseidon, taking on lead vocal duties as well for the band's third LP, Lizard. His own preference for blues and folk music put him at odds with Fripp's more avant-garde approach, however, and Haskell soon left King Crimson for a solo career. Signing with Arif Marden's Atlantic subsidiary Atco, Haskell released It Is And It Isn't, in 1971. Although the album itself was not a commercial success, one of the songs, Sitting By The Fire, was chosen for inclusion on the British sampler album The New Age Of Atlantic. For the next thirty years or so Haskell played mostly bar gigs, occasionally doing support work for other artists as well. In 2001 he released an album called Look Out that featured a song called How Wonderful You Are. Despite a total lack of promotion from his label the song went on to become the most requested song in the history of the BBC's Radio 2, and led to a contract with the British label East-West. His next album, Harry's Bar, went to the #2 spot on the British album charts, but after Haskell referred to a record company official as an android the label dropped him from their roster. Haskell continued to perform across Europe until his death from cancer in October of 2020.

Artist:    Pink Fairies
Title:    War Girl
Source:    CD: Spirit Of Joy (originally released on LP: Neverneverland)
Writer(s):    Twink aka John Charles Edward Alder
Label:    Polydor
Year:    1971
    The Pink Fairies were formed when three members of the Deviants (Paul Rudolph, Duncan Sanderson, and Russell Hunter), who had fired their own band leader during a disastrous North American tour, decided to hook up with Twink (John Charles Edward Alder), the former drummer of Tomorrow and the Pretty Things. Twink had done a one-shot gig with an ad hoc group of musicians under the name Pink Fairies in 1969, and the new group decided that they liked the name and appropriated it for themselves. The band gained immediate notoriety for putting on free concerts, often just outside the gates of places that were charging premium prices for tickets to see more well-known bands. By the end of 1970 the Fairies had secured a contract with Polydor and releasing their first single late in the year. This was followed by a 1971 album called Neverneverland that featured several tracks originally credited to the entire band, such as War Girl, that on later releases are credited to Twink. Although the Pink Fairies split up in 1976, they still get together from time to time to put on a show.

Artist:    War
Title:    Get Down
Source:    45 RPM single B side
Writer(s):    War
Label:    United Artists
Year:    1971
    Although officially formed in 1969, the band War actually can trace its roots to a band called the Creators. Formed in Long Beach, California in 1962 by Howard E. Scott and Harold Brown, the group expanded over the years to include Charles Miller, Morris "B. B." Dickerson and Lonnie Jordan, Lee Oskar and Papa Dee Allen. In 1968 the Creators changed their name to Nightshift and began backing up singer (and former NFL star) Deacon Jones. Producer Jerry Goldstein saw Jones and the band perform at a North Hollywood club called the Rag Doll and was captivated by the band's positive energy. Goldstein convinced the band to change their name to War and begin working with former Animals frontman Eric Burdon. After recording two albums with War, Burdon left the group, who decided to continue on without him, releasing their first album as a standalone group in 1971. The LP was a modest success, but was eclipsed by their next effort, All Day Music, which was released in November of that same year. Among the many standout tracks on the album was Get Down, which was also released as the B side of the All Day Music single.

Artist:    Leon Russell
Title:    Sweet Emily
Source:    LP: Leon Russell And The Shelter People
Writer(s):    Leon Russell
Label:    Shelter
Year:    1971
    Although he had been recording as a session musician and writing songs since the late 1950s, Leon Russell did not record his first solo album until 1970. The following year he got his first gold record as a solo artist for the album Leon Russell And The Shelter People. By then, Russell had set up his own label, Shelter Records and had organized Joe Cocker's Mad Dogs And Englishmen tour, appearing prominently in the movie of the same name. Leon Russell And The Shelter People included a handful of covers (of Bob Dylan and George Harrison songs), as well as a pair of collaborations with former Mothers Of Invention guitarist Don Preston, but the strength of the album was his solo compositions, including Sweet Emily. Russell would go on to record over 30 more albums in a career that spanned six decades before his death in 2016.

Artist:    Elton John
Title:    Madman Across The Water
Source:    CD: Madman Across The Water
Writer(s):    John/Taupin
Label:    MCA (original label: Uni)
Year:    1971
    Elton John's fourth studio album was not a major success in his native country, spending only two weeks on the British charts, peaking at #42. In the US, however, it was a different story, as Madman Across The Water was one of the ten most popular albums of 1971 here. This can probably be attributed to the fact that, by 1971, even relatively small cities like El Paso, Texas (where I first heard the LP's title track) had at least one FM rock station on the air, giving exposure to LP tracks that did not get played on top 40 AM radio (or on BBC-1, which still had a virtual monopoly on pop music in the UK). The title song of Madman Across The Water was one of those LP tracks.

Artist:     Grand Funk Railroad
Title:     I Can Feel Him In The Morning
Source:     LP: Survival
Writer:     Farner/Brewer
Label:     Capitol
Year:     1971
     In the late 1980s I met a woman from L.A who had been in high school the year Grand Funk Railroad's fourth studio LP came out. When she discovered that I still had my original copy of Survival she told me how an 8-track copy of that album got her through the summer of '71 when she was living with her mother in an apartment overlooking one of the hookers' corners on Hollywood Blvd. She said that whenever she was feeling overwhelmed by life she would draw inspiration from the song I Can Feel Him In The Morning. The tune, with its flowing beat and spiritual lyrics, was a departure from the loud, raw sound the band from Flint, Michigan was known for.

Artist:    Led Zeppelin
Title:    When The Levee Breaks
Source:    CD: Led Zeppelin IV
Writer(s):    Page/Plant/Bonham/Jones/Douglas
Label:    Atlantic
Year:    1971
    Although it sounds like it could have been written about Hurricane Katrina, When The Levee Breaks, the last song on the fourth Led Zeppelin LP, was actually inspired by the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927, that saw levees along the river break in over 145 places, leaving over 700,000 people homeless. 29-year-old Lizzie Douglas, was living with her family near Walls, Mississippi, when the levee there broke, and two years later, using her stage name of Memphis Minnie recorded the original version of When The Levee Breaks with her then-partner Kansas Joe McCoy. In 1971 Led Zeppelin used Douglas's lyrics as the basis for their own, musically different version of When The Levee Breaks. The track is instantly identifiable by John Bonham's distinctive opening drum beat, which has been heavily sampled by various hip-hop artists over the years.

Artist:    Doors
Title:    L.A. Woman
Source:    CD: Weird Scenes Inside The Gold Mine (originally released on LP: L.A. Woman)
Writer(s):    The Doors
Label:    Elektra/Rhino
Year:    1971
    Ray Manzarek became justifiably famous as the keyboard player for the Doors. Before joining up with Jim Morrison, Robby Krieger and John Densmore, however, Manzarek was already making a name for himself as an up-and-coming student filmmaker at UCLA. Although he didn't have much of a need to pursue a career in films once the Doors hit it big, he did end up producing and directing an outstanding video for the title track of the 1971 album L.A. Woman years after the band had split up. I only mention this because, really, what else can I say about a song that you've probably heard a million times or so?

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Having a Cool Yule with a hermit (#2152 starts 12/20/21)

    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.

Rockin' the Holidays of Confusion (#2152 starts 12/20/21)

This week we are Rockin' the Holidays of Confusion, with some pretty cool tracks ranging from Steeleye Span to Emerson, Lake And Palmer. See playlist below for details.

Artist:    Steeleye Span
Title:    The King
Source:    LP: Please To See The King
Writer(s):    Trad., arr. Steeleye Span
Label:    Chrysalis (original label: Big Tree)
Year:    1971
    The King, adapted and recorded by Steeleye Span for their second LP, Please To See The King, has its origins in the old Irish "Cutty Wren" ceremony, wherein a wren in a cage is paraded around as if it were a king. Since the ceremony was traditionally held on December 26th, St. Stephen's Day, the song itself was often performed as a Christmas Carol. The tradition has seen a resurgence in recent years, but in England rather than Ireland.

Artist:      Jethro Tull
Title:     Ring Out Solstice Bells
Source:      LP: Songs From the Wood
Writer:    Ian Anderson
Label:    Chrysalis
Year:     1976
     Until the late 1940s the predominate form of recorded music was the 78 RPM (revolutions per minute) record, which was either 10 or 12 inches in diameter and made of a brittle material called shellac. The 10 inch version was the standard for popular music, with a running time of about 3 to 4 minutes. RCA Victor developed a direct replacement for the 78 that was 7 inches in diameter and ran at 45 RPM. Meanwhile, RCA's top rival, Columbia Records, developed a slower long-playing record that used something called microgroove technology that allowed up to half an hour's worth of recorded material per side. Somewhere along the way somebody decided to try the microgroove approach to the 45 and the Extended Play (EP) record was born. In the US, EPs were somewhat popular in the 1950s, but pretty much died out by the time of the Beatles, except for specialized formats such as children's records and low-budget cover labels that would hire anonymous studio musicians to re-create popular hits. In the UK, on the other hand, the format remained viable up through the mid-70s. Jethro Tull took advantage of the EP format to release a Christmas record in December of 1976. Ring Out Solstice Bells was the featured song on the EP, and would not be released in the US until the following spring, when it was included on the album Songs From the Wood.

Artist:    Greg Lake
Title:    I Believe In Father Christmas
Source:    British import 45 RPM single
Writer(s):    Lake/Sinfield
Label:    Manticore
Year:    1975
    According to Greg Lake, I Believe In Father Christmas was not intended to be a Christmas song, despite its title. Lake said he wrote the song to protest the commercialization of Christmas. Peter Sinfield, who wrote the lyrics to the song, had a different take on the matter, saying that the words are about a loss of innocence and childhood belief. One thing they did agree on was that the song is not anti-religious, despite what some critics have said. In fact, Lake made his own views clear in an interview after the song was released, saying "I find it appalling when people say it's politically incorrect to talk about Christmas, you've got to talk about 'The Holiday Season'. Christmas was a time of family warmth and love. There was a feeling of forgiveness, acceptance. And I do believe in Father Christmas." The song was recorded in 1974 and released in 1975, while Lake was still a member of Emerson, Lake and Palmer. It was his most successful solo recording, going to the #2 spot on the British singles chart (kept out of the #1 spot by Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody).

Artist:      Kinks
Title:     Father Christmas
Source:      CD: Christmas A Go-Go (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer:    Ray Davies
Label:     Wicked Cool (original label: Arista)
Year:     1977
     There are not many socially-conscious Christmas songs, especially slightly twisted ones like the Kinks' classic Father Christmas. Originally released in 1977 the track is recognized as one of the greatest rock Christmas songs ever, as well as one of Ray Davies' most unforgettable tunes.

Artist:      Dennis Wilson (Beach Boys)
Title:     Morning Christmas
Source:      CD: Beach Boys Ultimate Christmas
Writer:    Dennis Wilson)
Label:    Capitol
Year:     Recorded 1977, released 1998
     Dennis Wilson was not hanging around with the rest of the Wilson clan in 1977, but did want to make a contribution to their new Christmas album that year, so he sent in this recording of a song he wrote called Morning Christmas. The album ended up not being released, but the track finally did see the light of day on the Beach Boys' Ultimate Christmas collection issued in 1998.

Artist:    Big Crosby/David Bowie
Title:    Peace On Earth/The Little Drummer Boy
Source:    Mono CD: Now That's What I Call Christmas (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Grossman/Fraser/Kohan/Simeone/Onerati/Davis
Label:    Zomba (original label: RCA)
Year:    1982
    In 1977 David Bowie was deliberately trying to "normalize" his musical reputation following his stint as the "king of glitter-rock". One way of doing this was to appear on Bing Crosby's annual Christmas special on NBC-TV, about as mainstream an event as still existed in 1977. Bowie later admitted that the only reason he appeared on the show is that he knew his mother liked Crosby. The two were slated to exchange scipted stories describing each one's own family Christmas traditions before breaking into a duet of The Little Drummer Boy, a song made famous by the Harry Simeone Chorale in 1958. Bowie reportedly told the show's producers that he hated the song, and asked if he could sing something else instead. The producers responded by coming up with a whole new song, Peace On Earth, that was designed to be sung as a counterpoint to The Little Drummer Boy. On the show, Crosby sang the original tune and Bowie the new one, creating a new Christmas classic in the process. Sadly, Crosby died a month before the show aired. The song was not released on vinyl until 1982, when RCA issued it as a single. The song has gone on to become one of Bowie's most successful singles, as well as Crosby's last recording ever to hit the charts.

Artist:    Trans-Siberian Orchestra
Title:    The Three Kings And I (What Really Happened)
Source:    CD: The Christmas Attic
Writer(s):    O'Neil/Kinkel
Label:    Lava
Year:    1998
    The Christmas Attic was the second part of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra's Christmas Trilogy. Released in 1998, the music was not performed live until 2014. One of my personal favorite tracks on the album is The Three Kings And I (What Really Happened), which has a kind of beatnik feel to it. Good stuff.

Artist:    Queen
Title:    Jesus
Source:    LP: Queen
Writer(s):    Freddie Mercury
Label:    Elektra
Year:    1973
    Although technically not a Christmas song, Freddie Mercury's song Jesus, from the first Queen album, was one of the songs I knew I had to include on Rockin' the Holidays of Confusion. After all, without Jesus there wouldn't be a Christmas in the first place, right?

Artist:    Who
Title:    Christmas
Source:    LP: Tommy
Writer(s):    Pete Townshend
Label:    Decca
Year:    1969
    Although not usually considered a Christmas song per se, The Who's Christmas, from the rock-opera Tommy, is actually one of the most thought-provoking pieces on the subject ever put to music. The song features the repeated question "How can he be saved from the eternal grave" if he remains unaware of who Jesus is, due to his inability to see or hear anything. It is the same kind of question I used to ask as a child about various aboriginal peoples that lived and died without ever having been exposed to Christian doctrine. Needless to say, I never did get a satisfactory answer from any of the adults I posed the question to.

Artist:      Cheech and Chong
Title:     Santa Claus and His Old Lady
Source:      CD: Billboard Rock and Roll Christmas (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Marin/Chong
Label:    Rhino (original label: Ode)
Year:     1971
     I heard Cheech And Chong's Santa Claus and His Old Lady on the radio the year it was released and managed to find a copy of the 45 only to have it disappear on me a few years later. Luckily, the folks at Rhino somehow knew of my dilemma and included it on their Rock and Roll Christmas CD (sure they did). Incidentally, the B side of that old 45 was Dave's Not Here from Cheech and Chong's first album.

Artist:    Chesterfield Kings
Title:    Hey Santa Claus
Source:    CD: Christmas A Go-Go
Writer(s):    Babiuk/Prevost/Morabito/Boise
Label:    Wicked Cool
Year:    2004
    Formed in the late 1970s in Rochester, NY, the Chesterfield Kings (named for an old brand of unfiltered cigarettes that my grandfather used to smoke) were instrumental in setting off the garage band revival of the 1980s. Although much of their material is self-released, they have a habit of showing up on various compilations such as Christmas A Go-Go, a 2004 presentation of Little Steven's Underground Garage released on the Wicked Cool label. As near as I can tell, this is the only place Hey Santa Claus appears.

Artist:      George Thorogood and the Destroyers
Title:     Rock And Roll Christmas
Source:      CD: Billboard Rock and Roll Christmas (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer:    George Thorogood
Label:    Rhino (original label: EMI America)
Year:     1983
     I'm not sure what prompted roots rocker George Thorogood to write Rock And Roll Christmas and record it with his the band, the Destroyers, but I'm glad he did. The tune was released as a single on the EMI America label in 1983.

Artist:    Keith Richards
Title:    Run Rudolph Run
Source:    Mono CD: Christmas A Go-Go (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Marks/Brodie
Label:    Wicked Cool (original label: Rolling Stones)
Year:    1978
    Chuck Berry is undisputably one of the most (if not the most) influential rock 'n' roll artists of 1950s. In fact, John Lennon once said of him that if they couldn't call it rock 'n' roll they'd have to call it Chuck Berry. Nonetheless, Berry has always had a bit of shady side to him. For instance, he had the reputation of being so cheap that he refused to hire his own touring band, instead using local bands to back him up at his gigs, whether they could perform his material competently or not. Another cost-saving measure he was known for was re-using old music tracks with new lyrics to create a whole new song. Finally, like many of his contemporaries in the blues world, Berry was not above borrowing someone else's ideas and putting his own name on it. Consider Run Rudolph Run, which was released by Berry as a B side in late 1958. The following year the song Little Queenie was released using the same backing tracks as Run Rudolph Run. The label on the original pressing of Run Rudolph Run credits the song to Chuck Berry Music/Brodie, despite the fact that the song was actually written by Marvin Brodie and Johnny Marks, while Little Queenie is credited entirely to Chuck Berry Music. Newer versions of Run Rudolph Run such as Keith Richards's 1978 single credit Brodie and Marks, while using a variation of the Berry arrangement of the tune.

Artist:      Foghat
Title:     All I Want For Christmas Is You
Source:      CD: Billboard Rock and Roll Christmas (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer:    Dave Peverett
Label:    Rhino (original label: Bearsville)
Year:     1981
     Foghat was formed when all the members of Savoy Brown except leader Kim Simmonds decided to form their own band in the early 70s. After a moderately successful run, founding member "Lonesome" Dave Peverett was all set to call it quits in 1981, but not until after he wrote and recorded All I Want For Christmas Is You. The song was pressed as a promo single in 1981, but I'm not sure if it was ever released to the public.

Artist:    Emerson, Lake And Palmer
Title:    Nutrocker
Source:    LP: Pictures At An Exhibition
Writer(s):    Kim Fowley
Label:    Atlantic (original label: Cotillion)
Year:    1972
    In 1962, Kim Fowley, the Zelig of 60s rock, managed to secure the rights to a rock 'n' roll arrangement of Tchaikovsky's March Of The Toy Soldiers from the Nutcracker ballet. He took this arrangement to a couple different Los Angeles record company labels, both of which recorded the song with their house bands. The second of these was released as Nut Rocker by B.Bumble And The Stingers. The song made it to the #23 spot on the US charts and hit #1 in the UK (which might explain how Fowley found himself producing British bands in London by the middle of the decade). Ten years later, Emerson, Lake And Palmer released their own live version of Nutrocker, which they had been using as an encore, on their Pictures At An Exhibition album.

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Stuck in the Psychedelic Era # 2151 (starts 12/13/21)

    This week we have sets dedicated to single years, long progressions (and regressions) through the years, and a couple of special tracks for the Holidays. No artists' sets though, as the trend of the week is toward anonymity (even if I can't pronounce "anonymity").

Artist:    Bob Dylan
Title:    From A Buick 6
Source:    45 RPM single B side (promo copy)
Writer(s):    Bob Dylan
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1965
    Although there were several unissued recordings made during the Highway 61 Revisited sessions, Bob Dylan and his producer, Tom Wilson, chose to instead use one of the already released album tracks as the B side for Positively 4th Street in September of 1965. The chosen track was From A Buick 6, a song that is vintage Dylan through and through.
Artist:     Other Side
Title:     Streetcar
Source:     Mono British import CD: With Love-A Pot Of Flowers (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer:     Battey/Graham
Label:     Rhino (original label: Brent)
Year:     1966
     Although not as popular as the Chocolate Watchband or Count Five, the Other Side had its share of fans in the San Jose, California area. Enough, in fact, to land a deal with Brent Records. Their single, Walking Down The Road, got some airplay on local radio stations, but it's the B side, Streetcar, that has stood the test of time to become recognized as a classic example of garage rock.

Artist:    Monkees
Title:    Goin' Down (alternate mix)
Source:    Mono CD: Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones, LTD. (original version released as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer(s):    Hilderbrand/Tork/Nesmith/Dolenz/Jones
Label:    Rhino (original label: Colgems)
Year:    1967
    The Monkees released two singles in 1967 that were not included on any albums released that year. The second of these, Daydream Believer, became one of the biggest hits of the year, and was subsequently included on the 1968 LP The Birds, The Bees And The Monkees. The B side of that single was a mostly improvisational number called Goin' Down, with Mickey Dolenz providing the vocals. The longer, alternate mix heard here was later issued as a bonus track on the CD version of Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones, LTD.

Artist:    Beacon Street Union
Title:    South End Incident (I'm Afraid)
Source:    LP: The Eyes Of The Beacon Street Union
Writer(s):    Wayne Ulaky
Label:    M-G-M
Year:    1968
    The Beacon Street Union's South End Incident (I'm Afraid) was reportedly based on a real incident. According to the story, bassist Wayne Ulaky witnessed a mugging in one of Boston's seedier neighborhoods and spent the rest of that evening looking over his shoulder, worried that the muggers might have seen him. He then wrote a song about it that got recorded by the band and released on their debut LP, The Eyes Of The Beacon Street Union.

Artist:    Audience
Title:    Banquet
Source:    British import CD: Spirit Of Joy (originally released on LP: Audience)
Writer(s):    Werth/Williams
Label:    Polydor
Year:    1969
    By 1969 the British blues-rock craze was beginning to subside, and many of the musicians that had made up the core of the movement were moving off in different directions. Black Sabbath was going for a heavier sound, while Ian Anderson was finding ways of incorporating traditional English folk music into Jethro Tull's mixture. The members of the Lloyd Alexander Blues Band, like their better known counterparts from the Yardbirds, took an interest in the new progressive rock movement pioneered by bands like Procol Harum, and in 1969 some of those members formed Audience. Led by lead vocalist/acoustic guitarist Howard Werth and bassist/keyboardist Trevor Williams, Audience was unique in that they had no electric guitarist in the band, a direction that would be followed by Emerson, Lake and Palmer a couple of years later. The band also took a page from Traffic's book and included one member, Keith Gemmell, who played only wood instruments such as flute, clarinet and saxophone. The band, completed by drummer Tony Connor, made such an impression that Polydor records offered them a deal shortly after their first major gig. Banquet, from that 1969 debut LP, is a fairly representative example of what the band was all about.

Artist:    Cream
Title:    I Feel Free
Source:    LP: Fresh Cream
Writer(s):    Bruce/Brown
Label:    Atco
Year:    1966
    After an unsuccessful debut single (Wrapping Paper), Cream scored a bona-fide hit in the UK with their follow-up, I Feel Free. As was the case with nearly every British single at the time, the song was not included on Fresh Cream, the band's debut LP. In the US, however, hit singles were commonly given a prominent place on albums, and the US version of Fresh Cream actually opens with I Feel Free. To my knowledge the song, being basically a studio creation, was never performed live by the band.

Artist:    Monks
Title:    Boys Are Boys And Girls Are Choice
Source:    German import CD: Black Monk Time
Writer(s):    Burger/Clark/Day/Johnston/Shaw
Label:    Repertoire (original label: Polydor)
Year:    1966
    One advantage of being an American beat band (they weren't yet calling it "rock") in mid-60s Germany was that, unless you were truly horrible, you pretty much had a guaranteed local audience. In the case of the Monks, four ex-GIs who were anything but horrible, that meant a level of artistic freedom that most other bands wouldn't have until the latter part of the decade. The Monks were, in fact, popular enough to get a contract with the German branch of England's Polydor label, and tight enough to turn out an excellent, if somewhat obscure album called Black Monk Time, as well as a handful of singles. It turned out, however, that the record buying public wouldn't be ready for a band like the Monks playing short and to the point songs like Boys Are Boys And Girls Are Choice until the late 1970s, when punk-rock became all the rage.

Artist:    Shadows Of Knight
Title:    Three For Love
Source:    LP: Back Door Men
Writer(s):    Joe Kelley
Label:    Sundazed
Year:    1966
    The Shadows Of Knight moved way out of their garage/punk comfort zone for the song Three For Love, a folk-rock piece laden with harmony vocals. The tune, from the second LP, Back Door Men, is the only Shadows song I know of written by guitarist Joe Kelley. Kelley himself had started out as the band's bass player, but midway through sessions for the band's first LP, Gloria, it became obvious that he was a much better guitarist than Warren Rogers. As a result, the two traded roles, with Kelley handling all the leads on Back Door Men. Kelly, however, did not sing the lead vocals on Three For Love, despite being the song's composer. That task fell to rhythm guitarist Jerry McGeorge, who would later become a member of H.P. Lovecraft. It was his only credit as lead vocalist on the album.

Artist:    Janis Ian
Title:    Younger Generation Blues
Source:    LP: Janis Ian
Writer(s):    Janis Ian
Label:    Polydor (original label: Verve Forecast)
Year:    1967
    Janis Ian recorded her first album, made up entirely of original material, at the age of 15. The album had been commissioned by Atlantic Records, but the shirts at the label changed their mind about releasing it once they had heard some of the more controversial songs Ian had come up with. Unwilling to give up easily, Ian took the tapes to various New York based record labels, finally getting the folks at Verve's Forecast label to take a chance with the single Society's Child. The record got the attention of composer/donductor Leonard Bernstein, who featured it on a highly-rated CBS-TV special Inside Pop: The Rock Revolution. The exposure led Verve Forecast to release the entire album in early 1967 to overwhelmingly positive critical acclaim. Among the many outstanding tracks on the album is Younger Generation Blues, a tune with a garage-rock beat combined with a poetic recitation worthy of Bob Dylan. The song was also released as a followup single to Society's Child, but failed to equal the success of Ian's debut single. In fact, Janis Ian would not have another major hit until 1975, when At Seventeen became a top five single, remaining on the charts for twenty weeks.

Artist:    Moby Grape
Title:    Lazy Me
Source:    LP: Moby Grape
Writer(s):    Bob Mosley
Label:    Columbia
Year:    1967
    Such is the quality of the first Moby Grape LP that there are many outstanding tracks that have gotten virtually no airplay in the years since the album was released. Lazy Me, written by bassist Bob Mosley, is one of those tracks, probably because of its length, a mere one minute and 43 seconds.

Artist:    Left Banke
Title:    Pretty Ballerina
Source:    LP: Walk Away Renee/Pretty Ballerina
Writer(s):    Sommer/Brown/Lookofsky
Label:    Smash/Sundazed
Year:    1967
    The Left Banke, taking advantage of bandleader Michael Brown's industry connections (his father was an Important Person at 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:     West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band
Title:     A Child Of A Few Hours Is Burning To Death
Source:     CD: A Child's Guide To Good and Evil
Writer:     Markley/Morgan
Label:     Sundazed (original label: Reprise)
Year:     1968
     A Child's Guide To Good and Evil is generally considered the best album from the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band as well as their most political one. A Child Of A Few Hours Is Burning To Death has a kind of creepy humor to it that makes it stand out from the many antiwar songs of the time.
Artist:     Bob Seger System
Title:     Death Row
Source:     45 RPM single B side
Writer:     Bob Seger
Label:     Capitol
Year:     1968
     I like to play Bob Seger's Death Row, written from the perspective of a convicted murderer waiting to be executed, for fans of the Silver Bullet Band who think that Turn the Page is about as intense as it gets. I consider myself lucky to have stumbled across this rare single at a radio station I used to work for. Even better, the station had no desire to keep the record, since the A side, the equally intense anti-war song 2+2=?, never charted. Their loss.

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. I didn't even know a harmonica could BE retuned!

Artist:    Beatles
Title:    Lady Madonna
Source:    CD: Past Masters-Volume Two (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    Lennon/McCartney
Label:    Apple/Parlophone (original label: Capitol)
Year:    1968
    In spring of 1968, following the completion of the Magical Mystery Tour telefilm (and soundtrack album) the Beatles took off for India, where they studied Transcendental Meditation for several weeks along with several other celebrities. Before leaving, the group laid down tracks for their first single of 1968, a Paul McCartney tune called Lady Madonna. Released on March 15th it was, of course, a huge hit, going to #1 in the UK and #4 in the US. The song's success, however, paled when compared with their next release: Hey Jude, which would turn out to be the #1 song of the entire decade.

Artist:    David Bowie (recording as Davy Jones)
Title:    You've Got A Habit Of Leaving
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):    David Bowie
Label:    Rhino (original label: Parlophone)
Year:    1965
    David Bowie scored his first major success at the age of 22 with the release of Space Oddity, a song that went all the way into the top 5 on the British charts in 1969 (it would not be a US hit until nearly five years later). Bowie was already a seasoned veteran in the recording studio by the time Space Oddity hit the charts, however. His first single, Liza Jane, had come out in 1964, credited to Davie Jones with The King Bees. After leaving the King Bees he hooked up with the more versatile Manish Boys for another cover tune, I Pity The Fool, released in 1965. His next single, You've Got A Habit Of Leaving, was credited to Davy Jones as both writer and artist, and used the Who-influenced Lower Third as a backup band. This would be the last time Bowie used his birth name, however, as another Davy Jones was already achieving fame playing the Artful Dodger in the stage production of Oliver, and would go on to even greater fame as a member of the Monkees.

Artist:    ? And The Mysterians
Title:    96 Tears
Source:    45 RPM single (reissue)
Writer(s):    The Mysterians
Label:    Abkco (original label: Cameo)
Year:    1966
    Although his birth certificate gives the name Rudy Martinez, the leader of the Mysterians had his name legally changed to "?" several years ago. He asserts that he is actually from the planet Mars and has lived among dinosaurs in a past life. Sometimes I feel like I'm living among dinosaurs in this life, so I guess I can relate a little. The band's only major hit, 96 Tears, has the distinction of being the last top 10 single on the Cameo label before Cameo-Parkway went bankrupt and was bought by Allen Klein, who now operates the company as Abkco.

Artist:     Balloon Farm
Title:     A Question Of Temperature
Source:     Mono CD: Nuggets-Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer:     Appel/Schnug/Henny
Label:     Rhino (original label: Laurie)
Year:     1967
     Few, if any, bands managed to successfully cross bubble gum and punk like the Balloon Farm with A Question Of Temperature, originally released on the Laurie label in 1967. Band member Mike Appel went on to greater notoriety as Bruce Springsteen's first manager.

Artist:    Jan And Dean
Title:    Sidewalk Surfin'
Source:    LP: The Little Old Lady From Pasadena
Writer(s):    Wilson/Christian
Label:    Liberty
Year:    1964
    In mid-1964 Jan Berry decided he wanted to write a song about skateboarding, but couldn't come up with one, so he instead turned to his friend Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys, for help. Wilson responded by re-writing a song called Catch A Wave, adding new lyrics from Roger Christian and giving it the title Sidewalk Surfin'. The song was released as a single in September of 1964 and included on two LPs: Ride The Wild Surf and The Little Old Lady From Pasadena.

Artist:    Beatles
Title:    Another Beatles Christmas Record
Source:    LP: Christmas Album (originally released on flexi-disc)
Writer(s):    Tony Barrow, with plenty of ad-libbing from the Beatles
Label:    Apple (original label: Lyntone)
Year:    1964
    Every year around Christmastime, starting in 1963, the Beatles sent out copies of a flexi-disc to members of their fan club that included a combination of skits, short bits of music and spoken messages. The 1964 edition was mostly made up of the latter, written by publicist Tony Barrow, and was only sent to the British fans of the group (US fans had to settle for an edited version of the 1963 disc). Barrow's script was apparently handwritten, as the Fab Four repeatedly stumbled over words, usually making a joke out of their mistakes. The band would continue to send out similar discs to their fan club through 1969, although the last two were not actually recorded as a group.

Artist:    Eagles
Title:    Funky New Year
Source:    12" 45 RPM EP promo
Writer(s):    Henley/Frey
Label:    Asylum
Year:    1978
    Yes, the Eagles' version of Please Come Home For Christmas has a B side. Not wanted to do two Christmas songs, Don Henley and Glen Frey composed Funky New Year for the occasion.

Artist:    Love
Title:    Run To The Top
Source:    CD: Love Story (originally released on LP: Out Here)
Writer(s):    Arthur Lee
Label:    Elektra/Rhino (original label: Blue Thumb)
Year:    1969
    Following the release of the single Your Mind And We Belong Together in 1968, Arthur Lee disbanded the original version of Love, reemerging a few months later with a new lineup consisting of Lee, Jay Donnellan on guitar, George Suranovich on drums and Frank Fayad on bass. Lee had been busy writing  songs in the interim, and the group quickly recorded 27 new tunes. Love still owed Elektra an album, and the label was given its pick of ten of the new tracks for the album Love Four Sail. The remaining 17 songs made up the band's first album for the new Blue Thumb label, Out Here. Among those 17 tracks is the carefree-sounding Run To The Top, with lines like "If living is what you're doing, then why don't you be free?". After one more album for Blue Thumb, Lee decided to go solo with the album Vindicator before eventually forming various new versions of Love over the next three decades.

Artist:    Doors
Title:    Wintertime Love
Source:    CD: Waiting For The Sun
Writer(s):    The Doors
Label:    Elektra
Year:    1968
    It is generally accepted that most of the songs from the first two Doors albums were already in the band's repertoire when the group signed their first contract with Elektra Records. The third LP, Waiting For The Sun, on the other hand was made up of newer material. As a result, the album has a different overall feel from the earlier efforts. Among the more unusual tracks on the album is Wintertime Love, perhaps the closest the Doors ever got to country rock.

Artist:    Rolling Stones (also released as Bill Wyman)
Title:    In Another Land
Source:    CD: Their Satanic Majesties Request
Writer(s):    Bill Wyman
Label:    Abkco (original label: London)
Year:    1967
    In Another Land was the first Rolling Stones song written and sung by bassist Bill Wyman, and was even released in the US as a Wyman single. The song originally appeared on the Stones' most psychedelic album, Their Satanic Majesties Request, in late 1967.

Artist:     Blues Project
Title:     Caress Me Baby
Source:     LP: Tommy Flanders, Danny Kalb, Steve Katz, Al Kooper, Andy Kulberg, Roy Blumenfeld Of The Blues Project (originally released on LP: Projections)
Writer:     Jimmy Reed
Label:     Verve Forecast
Year:     1966
     After deliberately truncating their extended jams for their first LP, Live At The Cafe Au-Go-Go, the Blues Project recorded a second album that was a much more accurate representation of what the band was all about. Mixed in with the group's original material was this outstanding cover of Jimmy Reed's Caress Me Baby, sung by lead guitarist and Blues Project founder Danny Kalb, running over seven minutes long. Andy Kulberg's memorable walking bass line would be lifted a few year later by Blood, Sweat and Tears bassist Jim Fielder for the track Blues, Part II.

Artist:    Outsiders
Title:    Time Won't Let Me
Source:    Mono CD: Battle Of The Bands Vol. 2 (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s):    King/Kelly
Label:    Era (original label: Capitol)
Year:    1966
    From Cleveland we have another local band signed to a major label, in this case Capitol Records, which at the time was having great success with both the Beatles and the Beach Boys. Lead vocalist Sonny Gerachi would reappear a few years later with the band Climax, singing a song called Precious and Few, which is one of the greatest juxtapositions of artist names and song titles ever.

Artist:    Vagrants
Title:    Respect
Source:    Mono LP: Nuggets Vol. 2-Punk (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Writer(s):    Otis Redding
Label:    Rhino (original label: Atco)
Year:    1967
    Sounding a lot like the Rascals, the Vagrants were a popular Long Island band led by singer Peter Sabatino and best remembered for being the group that had guitarist Leslie Weinstein in it. Weinstein would change his last name to West and record a solo album called Mountain before forming the band of the same name. This version of Respect is fairly faithful to the original Otis Redding version. Unfortunately for the Vagrants, Aretha Franklin would release her radically rearranged version of the song just a few weeks after the Vagrants, relegating their version of the tune (and the Vagrants themselves) to footnote status.

Artist:    Gun
Title:    Sunshine (single version)
Source:    Mono British import CD: Gun
Writer(s):    Adrian Gurvitz
Label:    Repertoire (original label: CBS)
Year:    1968
    When I was a junior in high school I switched from guitar to bass to form a three-piece band called Sunn. Mostly what we did was jam onstage, although we did learn a handfull of cover songs as well. One of those songs we actually learned by playing it on the jukebox at the local youth center over and over. A British band called Gun had released a tune called Race With The Devil that caught on quickly with the dependent kids at Ramstein AFB in Germany. None of us, however, actually had a copy of the record. A rival band had already started playing Race With The Devil, so we decided to instead go for the B side, Sunshine. Luckily, the song has few lyrics, and tends to repeat them a lot, so we didn't have to spend a whole lot of nickels to get them all down. Ditto for the musical part, as the song is basically just three chords over and over. Still, it turned out to be one of our most popular numbers, since it was about the only song in our repertoire you could slow dance to. Also, the simple structure allowed Dave, the guitarist, to extend the song as long as he felt like jamming, which was generally all night. So, here we have the mono single version of Sunshine, as heard on the Ramstein youth center jukebox all those years ago.

Artist:     Arlo Guthrie
Title:     Coming Into Los Angeles
Source:     LP: The Big Ball (originally released on LP: Running Down The Road)
Writer:     Arlo Guthrie
Label:     Warner Brothers (original label: Rising Son)
Year:     1969
    Coming Into Los Angeles is one of Arlo Guthrie's most popular songs. It is also the song with the most confusing recording history. The song first came to prominence when Guthrie's live performance of the tune was included in the movie Woodstock. When the soundtrack of the film was released, however, a different recording was used. At first I figured they had simply used the studio version of the song, from the 1969 album Running Down The Road, but it turns out there are significant differences between that version (heard here) and the one included on Woodstock album. Complicating matters is the fact that the version included on The Best Of Arlo Guthrie later in the decade seems to be an altogether different recording than any of the previous releases. If anyone out there (Arlo, are you reading this?) can shed some light on this for me, it would be greatly appreciated.

Artist:    Savoy Brown
Title:    Take It Easy
Source:    Looking In
Writer(s):    Simmonds/Peverett
Label:    Deram (original label: Parrot)
Year:    1970
    In mid-1970 lead vocalist Chris Youlden and the rest of Savoy Brown parted company, leaving Dave Peverett to double up as vocalist and guitarist for the band. The remaining four members (Peverett, bassist Tone Stevens, drummer Roger Earl and guitarist/founder Kim Simmonds) immediately went to work on what would be Savoy Brown's sixth LP. Looking In, when released, ended up being the most successful album in the band's entire run, and the only one to make the British charts (Savoy Brown had always done better with US audiences than in their native UK). Among the many listenable tunes on Looking In is Take It Easy, written by Peverett and Simmonds. Unfortunately, this particular Savoy Brown lineup was not to last, as Simmonds summarily dismissed the rest of the group shortly after Looking In was released, citing musical differences. Simmonds set about putting together a new lineup, while the other three erstwhile members formed their own band, Foghat, a band that would ironically have far more commercial success than Savoy Brown ever achieved.
Artist:    Gong
Title:    Tried So Hard
Source:    British import CD: Camembert Electrique (originally released in France)
Writer(s):    Christian Tritsch
Label:    Charly (original label BYG Actuel)
Year:    1971
    It's almost impossible to describe Gong. They had their roots in British psychedelia, founder Daevid Allen having been a member of Soft Machine, but are also known as pioneers of space-rock. The Radio Gnome Invisible trilogy, from 1973-74, is considered a landmark of the genre, telling the story of such characters as Zero the Hero and the Pot Head Pixies from Planet Gong. The groundwork for the trilogy was actually laid in 1971, when the album Camembert Electrique was recorded (and released) in France on the BYG Actuel label. The album itself ranges from the experimental (and even somewhat humorous) Radio Gnome tracks to the spacier cuts like Tropical Fish: Selene, and on occasion even rocks out hard on tracks like Tried So Hard, written by the group's bassist, Christian Tritsch.

Artist:    Blues Magoos
Title:    Summer Is The Man
Source:    Mono LP: Electric Comic Book
Writer(s):    Gilbert/Esposito
Label:    Mercury
Year:    1967
    Following up on their successful debut LP, Psychedelic Lollipop, the Blues Magoos released Electric Comic Book in March of 1967. Unfortunately the first single from the album had two equally strong songs, one of which was favored by the producers and the other by the band. Radio stations were unsure which song to push, and as a result, neither made the top 40, which in turn had a negative effect on album sales. Most of the remaining tracks on the album were written by the band members, including Summer Is The Man, a song with an interesting chord structure, a catchy melody and somewhat existential lyrics.