This week we take an extended look at the year 1969; a year of beginnings for some (Crosby, Stills & Nash) and endings for others (the Beatles). It was also the year that the Firesign Theatre gave us the Further Adventures Of Nick Danger, which we are presenting in its entirety, uncut. After a few more 1969 tracks we round out the show with the song from 1971 that made Yes something more than an answer to a question.
Title: Here Comes The Sun
Source: LP: Abbey Road
Writer(s): George Harrison
In a way, George Harrison's career as a songwriter parallels the Beatles' development as a studio band. His first song to get any attention was If I Needed Someone on the Rubber Soul album, the LP that marked the beginning of the group's transition from performers to studio artists. As the Beatles' skills in the studio increased, so did Harrison's writing skills, reaching a peak with the Abbey Road album. As usual, Harrison wrote two songs for the LP, but this time one of them (Something) became the first single released from the album and the first Harrison song to hit the top five on the charts. The other Harrison composition on Abbey Road was Here Comes The Sun. Although never released as a single, the song, written while Harrison, tired of dealing with the business aspects of Apple Corp., was hiding out at his friend Eric Clapton's place, has gone on to become Harrison's most enduring masterpiece.
Artist: Crosby, Stills and Nash
Source: LP: So Far (originally released on LP: Crosby, Stills and Nash)
Writer(s): David Crosby
By 1969 David Crosby had developed into a first-class songwriter. Nowhere is that more evident than on Guinnevere, from the first Crosby, Stills and Nash album. Instrumentally the song is essentially a solo guitar piece. It is the layered harmonies from Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash that make the song truly stand out as one of the best releases of 1969.
Artist: Fairport Convention
Title: Percy's Song
Source: LP: Fairport Chronicles (originally released on LP: Unhalfbricking)
Writer(s): Bob Dylan
Although Bob Dylan recorded Percy's Song in 1963, his version of the song remained unreleased until 1985, when it appeared (along with other unreleased tracks) on the Biograph compilation album. Meanwhile, however, bootleg copies of the song were widely circulated and at least two cover versions of the song were released. The best known of these is by Fairport Convention, originally released on the 1969 album Halfbricking and featured on the Fairport Chronicles compilation album.
Artist: Firesign Theatre
Title: The Further Adventures Of Nick Danger
Source: CD: How Can You Be In Two Places At Once When You're Not Anywhere At All
The Firesign Theatre, consisting of Phil Proctor, Peter Bergman, Phil Austin and David Ossman, pioneered a type of "counter-culture comedy" that would be followed up on by such stars as Cheech and Chong, George Carlin, and the Credibility Gap (with Harry Shearer and Michael McKean), as well as the National Lampoon Radio Hour (featuring Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, Gilda Radner, Christopher Guest and others). The Firesigns most famous work is The Further Adventures Of Nick Danger from the 1969 album How Can You Be In Two Places At Once When You're Not Anywhere At All. The piece itself runs over 28 minutes, taking up the entire second side of the original LP. It is a parody of old-time radio detective dramas, done in a noir style that has itself become a standard comedy trope. The plot itself is secondary to the jokes, many of which are sly references to counter-cultural icons such as the Beatles and Bob Dylan. There have been several more Nick Danger pieces by the Firesign Theatre over the years, the most recent being 2001'sThe Bride Of Firesign, but none approach the classic status of the 1969 original.
Artist: Rolling Stones
Title: Honky Tonk Women
Source: Mono CD: Singles Collection-The London Years (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Abkco (original label: London)
After revitalizing their career with Jumpin' Jack Flash and Street Fighting Man in 1968, the Rolling Stones delivered the coup-de-grace the following year with a true monster of a hit: the classic Honky Tonk Women. The song was the first single without Brian Jones, who had been found dead in his swimming pool not long after being kicked out of the band. Jones's replacement, Mick Taylor (fresh from a stint with blues legend John Mayall), plays slide guitar on the track.
Title: Who Needs Ya
Source: CD: Born To Be Wild-A Retrospective
Label: MCA (original label: Dunhill)
It's no secret that there are often clashes between members of talented bands. Sometimes these clashes turn pretty ugly, as was the case between Steppenwolf guitarist Michael Monarch and lead vocalist John Kay. On at least one occasion Monarch got so angry with Kay that he stopped playing in the middle of a performance. Finally it got to the point where one of them had to go. Since Steppenwolf was basically Kay's band, Monarch was the one to leave. He was replaced by Larry Byrom, who was a member of the Los Angeles band T.I.M.E. Byrom stayed with with the band for the next two years, co-writing the tune Who Needs Ya, which was released as a single in October of 1970 and appeared on the album Steppenwolf 7.
Source: CD: Fragile
Some artists are one-hit wonders. Others have long and productive careers. Most, however, never really achieve the kind of success they hope for. Somewhere in the middle of all that are artists who make it big on the strength of one song, and then manage to stick around long enough to make a more permanent name for themselves. But still, if it weren't for that first big hit they probably would have faded off into obscurity without anyone knowing who they were. Such a band was Yes, and their big hit song was Roundabout, from their 1971 album Fragile. Ask yourself this: if it weren't for Roundabout, do you think anyone would have paid attention to Close To The Edge or Tales From Topographic Oceans? Would Owner Of A Lonely Heart even have been written? Doubtful.