This week the emphasis in on the years 1967 and '68, with particular focus on a Procol Harum piece that combines psychedelic and progressive rock like nothing else before or after. We also manage to fit in, among other things, some early Elton John and a short (but as always, sweet) Beatles set.
Title: My Back Pages
Source: CD: Younger Than Yesterday
Writer(s): Bob Dylan
One of the items of contention between David Crosby and Roger McGuinn was the latter's insistence on continuing to record covers of Bob Dylan songs when the band members themselves had a wealth of their own material available. Indeed, it was reportedly an argument over whether or not to include Crosby's Triad on the next album that resulted in Crosby being fired from the band in October of 1967 (although other factors certainly played into it as well). Nonetheless, the last Dylan cover with Crosby still in the band was perhaps their best as well. Although not as big a hit as Mr. Tambourine Man, My Back Pages from the Younger Than Yesterday album did respectably well on the charts, becoming one of the Byrds' last top 40 hits.
Artist: Simon And Garfunkel
Title: Mrs. Robinson
Source: LP: Bookends
Writer(s): Paul Simon
A shortened version of Mrs. Robinson first appeared on the soundtrack for the film The Graduate in 1967, but it wasn't until the Bookends album came out in 1968 that the full four minute version was released. Although The Graduate was one of the most successful films of the decade, I suspect that many more people have heard the song than have seen the film. Take that, movie lovers!
Title: Savage Lost
Source: Mono CD: An Overdose Of Heavy Psych (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Arf! Arf! (original label: Heads-Up)
Although not as well-publicized as those in places like San Francisco, Los Angeles or Chicago, Miami has always had a vibrant local music scene. One of the more popular bands in the area was the Shaggs, who cut a couple singles for local labels in 1965 and 1966. Also popular in South Florida was a band from Long Island that called itself the Pigeons, and it was the latter band's success in 1967 following a name change to Vanilla Fudge that inspired the Shaggs to change their own name to the Kollektion, modifying their style to more resemble that of the Fudge as well. In early 1967 they cut a single called Savage Lost for the Heads-Up label that shows just how strongly they had been influenced by the Vanilla Fudge. The Kollektion fell apart, however, when lead vocalist Angela Rissoff left to go on tour with another South Florida band, Blues Image.
Artist: Chambers Brothers
Title: I Can't Stand It
Source: CD: The Time Has Come
Writer(s): Lester Chambers
If Time Has Come Today is the only Chambers Brothers song you are familiar with you might be surprised to hear just how strong of a gospel sound permeates nearly every other song they recorded. The Chambers Brothers were, after all, originally formed as a gospel group in Lee County Mississippi in 1954 and had long since expanded their audience base by performing at various folk venues, including the 1965 Newport Folk Festival, where they used electrical instruments and were referred to by the MC as a "rock and roll" band. This in turn led to appearances at Bill Graham's Fillmore Auditorium and a contract with Columbia Records, releasing a live album in 1966. In 1967 they recorded The Time Has Come, an album that has been called a perfect blend of garage and soul. I Can't Stand It, written and sung by the group's harmonica player, Lester Chambers, sounds like it could have been recorded in Memphis. Unfortunately, the group fell victim to questionable business practices by a succession of managers and promoters and officially disbanded in 1972, although various members have reformed the group several times since then.
Artist: Circus Maximus
Title: Bright Light Lover
Source: CD: Circus Maximus
Writer(s): Bob Bruno
Keyboardist Bob Bruno's contributions as a songwriter to Circus Maximus tended to favor jazz arrangements. On Bright Light Lover, however, from the band's first album, he proves that he could rock out with the raunchiest of the garage bands when the mood hit.
Title: She'd Rather Be With Me
Source: Mono CD: All The Singles (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Manifesto (original label: White Whale)
The Turtles knew a good thing when they found it, and in 1967 that good thing was Gary Bonner and Alan Gordon, a pair of New York songwriters who had been members of a band called the Magicians. The first Bonner/Gordon song to be recorded by the Turtles was Happy Together, a huge hit that knocked the Beatles' Penny Lane off the top of the charts. The next Turtles single was another Bonner/Gordon composition called She'd Rather Be With Me. That one peaked at #3. Before the year was over the Turtles would take two more Bonner/Gordon tunes into the top 20.
Source: European import LP: Revolver
Writer(s): George Harrison
The Beatles' 1966 LP Revolver was a major step forward, particularly for guitarist George Harrison, who for the first time had three of his own compositions on an album. Making it even sweeter was the fact that one of these, Taxman, was chosen to lead off both the British and US versions of the album itself. Although Harrison is usually considered the band's lead guitarist, the solo in Taxman is actually performed by Paul McCartney, whose own style had a harder edge (and considerably less finesse) than Harrison's.
Title: Ticket To Ride
Source: CD: Help!
Label: Parlophone (original label: Capitol)
Trying to figure out the Beatles' catalog can be a bit confusing, as Capitol Records, which had the rights to release the band's recordings in the US, had their own ideas about what should be on a Beatles album, which was often at odds with the wishes of the band members themselves. Some US albums, such as Beatles '65, had no British counterpart at all, while others had different track lineups than the original UK versions. Probably the most radically altered of the original LPs was the soundtrack album to the film Help! In the UK, side one of the album contained songs from the film itself, while side two contained a collection of unrelated studio recordings, some of which had been intended for, but not used in, the film. In the US, however, the Help album included incidental orchestral pieces heard throughout the movie interspersed with the songs heard on side one of the UK album. Among the tracks heard on both versions was Ticket To Ride, which was also issued as a single in the US (using one of the songs from side two of the UK Help album as a B side). The tune has gone on to become one of the most recognizable Beatle songs ever recorded.
Title: Cry Baby Cry
Source: CD: The Beatles
Label: Parlophone (original label: Apple)
Unlike many of the songs on The Beatles (white album), Cry Baby Cry features the entire band playing on the recording. After a full day of rehearsal, recording commenced on July 16, 1968, with John Lennon's guitar and piano, Paul McCartney's bass and Ringo Starr's drum tracks all being laid down on the first day. The remaining overdubs, including most of the vocals and George Harrison's guitar work (played on a Les Paul borrowed from Eric Clapton) were added a couple of days later. At the end of the track, McCartney can be heard singing a short piece known as Can You Take Me Back, accompanying himself on an acoustic guitar in a snippet taken from a solo session the following September.
Artist: Beach Boys
Title: Good Vibrations
Source: 45 RPM single
Although I had originally discovered top 40 radio in 1963 (when I received a small Sony transistor radio for my birthday), it wasn't until 1966 that I really got into it in a big way. This was due to a combination of a couple of things: first, my dad bought a console stereo, and second, my junior high school went onto split sessions, meaning that I was home by one o'clock every day. This gave me unprecedented access to Denver's two big top 40 AM stations, as well as an FM station that was experimenting with a Top 100 format for a few hours each day. At first I was content to just listen to the music, but soon realized that the DJs were making a point of mentioning each song's chart position just about every time that song would play. Naturally I began writing all this stuff down in my notebook (when I was supposed to be doing my homework), until I realized that both KIMN and KBTR actually published weekly charts, which I began to diligently hunt down at various local stores. In addition to the songs occupying numbered positions on the charts, both stations included songs at the bottom of the list that they called "pick hits". These were new releases that had not been around long enough to achieve a chart position. The one that most stands out in my memory was the Beach Boys' Good Vibrations, a song I liked so much that I went out to the nearest Woolco and bought it the afternoon I heard it. Within a few weeks Good Vibrations had gone all the way to the top of the charts, and I always felt that some of the credit should go to me for buying the record when it first came out (hey I was 13, OK?). Over the next couple of years I bought plenty more singles, but to this day Good Vibrations stands out as the most significant 45 RPM record purchase I ever made.
Title: Paper Sun
Source: 45 RPM single (reissue)
Label: Silver Spotlight (original label: United Artists)
One of the first British acid-rock bands was a group called Deep Feeling, which included drummer Jim Capaldi and woodwind player Chris Wood. At the same time Deep Feeling was experimenting with psychedelia, another, more commercially oriented band, the Spencer Davis Group, was tearing up the British top 40 charts with hits like Keep On Running, Gimme Some Lovin' and I'm A Man. The undisputed star of the Spencer Davis Group was a teenaged guitarist/keyboardist/vocalist named Steve Winwood, who was also beginning to make his mark as a songwriter. Along with guitarist/vocalist Dave Mason, who had worked with Capaldi in earlier bands, they formed Traffic in the spring of 1967, releasing their first single, Paper Sun, in May of that year. Capaldi and Winwood had actually written the tune while Winwood was still in the Spencer Davis Group, and the song was an immediate hit in the UK. This was followed quickly by an album, Mr. Fantasy, that, as was the common practice at the time in the UK, did not include Paper Sun. When the album was picked up by United Artists Records for US release in early 1968, however, Paper Sun was included as the LP's opening track. The US version of the album was originally titled Heaven Is In Your Mind, but was quickly retitled Mr. Fantasy to match the original British title (although the alterations in track listing remained).
Artist: Quicksilver Messenger Service
Title: I Don't Want To Spoil Your Party (alternate version of Dino's Song)
Source: CD: Quicksilver Messenger Service (originally released on CD: Unreleased Quicksilver)
Writer(s): Dino Valenti
Label: RockBeat (original label: Capitol)
Year: Recorded 1968, alternate version released 2000)
A few years back I picked up the DVD collector's edition of the telefilm that DA Pennebacker made of the Monterey International Pop Festival. In addition to the film itself there were two discs of bonus material, including a song by Quicksilver Messenger Service that was listed under the title All I Ever Wanted To Do (Was Love You). I spent some time trying to figure out which album the song had originally appeared on, but came up empty until I got a copy of the first Quicksilver album and discovered it was actually called Dino's song. The album version has a definite garage sound to it, similar to the classic Van Morrison song Gloria. In 2000 Collector's Choice released a compilation of previously unheard Quicksilver tracks, including this alternate version of Dino's Song that uses yet another title: I Don't Want To Spoil Your Party. This version has a more country-rock sound to it than the original LP version. I suspect the confusion in song titles is connected to the origins of the band itself, which was the brainchild of Dino Valenti and John Cipollina (and possibly Gary Duncan). The day after their first practice session Valenti got busted and spent the next few years in jail for marijuana possession. My theory is that this was an untitled song that Valenti showed Cippolina at that first practice. Since it probably still didn't have a title when the group performed the song at Monterey, the filmmakers used the most repeated line from the song itself, All I Ever Wanted To Do (Was Love You). When the band recorded their first LP in 1968 they just called it Dino's Song. Presumably by the time this alternate version was released in 2000 Valenti had come up with an official title, I Don't Want To Spoil Your Party. If anyone knows of another explanation, please pass it along.
Artist: Johnny Winter
Title: Mean Town Blues
Source: LP: The Progressive Blues Experiment
Writer: Johnny Winter
Label: Imperial (original label: Sonobeat)
Although he had been making records for a variety of local Texas labels for most of the 1960s, Johnny Winter did not get to record a full-length album until 1968, when The Progressive Blues Experiment was released on the Sonobeat label. The album quickly gained a following among blues enthusiasts, prompting the Imperial label to reissue the album nationally. Among the many outstanding tracks recorded by the trio consisting of Winter, drummer Uncle John Turner and bassist Tommy Shannon, was Mean Town Blues, a tune the band would perform at Woodstock. The response from the crowd was strong enough to prompt Columbia Records to offer Winter a $600,000 recording deal, a huge amount for a virtually unknown artist at that time.
Title: Sookie Sookie
Source: LP: The ABC Collection (originally released on LP: Steppenwolf)
Label: ABC (original label: Dunhill)
Not every song on the first Steppenwolf album was an original composition. In fact, some of the best songs on the LP were covers, from Hoyt Axton's The Pusher to Willie Dixon's Hoochie Coochie Man. A third cover, Sookie Sookie, was actually released as a follow-up single to Born To Be Wild, but failed to chart. The song had been an R&B hit a couple years earlier for Don Covay and was co-written by the legendary MGs guitarist Steve Cropper.
Artist: Max Frost And The Troopers (aka the 13th Power)
Title: Captain Hassel
Source: European import CD: Shape Of Things To Come (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
Label: Captain High (original US label: Sidewalk)
If anyone needed proof that the fictional band known as Max Frost And The Troopers was in reality the 13th Power, it is provided by Captain Hassel, which, along with I See A Change Is Gonna Come was released as the only 13th Power single on Mike Curb's Sidewalk label in 1967, a year before the film Wild In The Streets (featuring Max Frost And The Troopers) came out. Further proof is provided on the soundtrack album of the 1968 film, on which a reworked version of Captain Hassel retitled Free Lovin' is credited to the 13th Power. Later that same year, Tower Records released an entire LP credited to Max Frost And The Troopers that included a stereo mix of the original recording of Captain Hassel with its original title restored.
Artist: October Country
Title: My Girlfriend Is A Witch
Source: Mono CD: Where The Action Is: L.A. Nuggets 1965-68 (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Michael Lloyd
Label: Rhino (original label: Epic)
By 1968 the L.A. under-age club scene was winding down, and several now out of work bands were making last (and sometimes only) attempts at garnering hits in the studio. One such band was October Country, whose first release had gotten a fair amount of local airplay, but who had become bogged down trying to come up with lyrics for a follow-up single. Enter Michael Lloyd, recently split from the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band and looking to become a record producer. Lloyd not only produced and wrote the lyrics for My Girlfriend Is A Witch, he also ended up playing drums on the record as well. Since then Lloyd has gone on to be one of the most successful record producers in L.A. (the Dirty Dancing soundtrack, for instance).
Title: Circle Sky
Source: LP: Head
Writer(s): Michael Nesmith
A total departure from anything the Monkees had done before, Head, the group's first and only movie, was a commercial flop. The soundtrack album was equally ignored, despite (or maybe because of) the fact that it featured some of the group's most innovative and experimental recordings, such as Michael Nesmith's Circle Sky, a song that defies easy categorization (psychedelic bluegrass???).
Title: Pulsating Dream
Source: CD: Where The Action Is: L.A. Nuggets 1965-68 (originally released on LP: Side Trips)
Writer: Chris Darrow
Label: Rhino (original label: Epic)
From Los Angeles we have the Kaleidoscope, a band that had more in common with the folk-rock bands up in San Francisco than its contemporaries on the L.A. club scene. Pulsating Dream is a somewhat typical example of what the group sounded like on its only album for Epic, Side Trips, released in 1967.
Title: Hall Of The Mountain King
Source: CD: The Who Sell Out (bonus track)
Writer(s): Edvard Greig
In the early 1960s various local instrumental rock and roll bands began to mix rocked out versions of classical pieces into their sets, such as Nut Rocker by B. Bumble And The Stingers (from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker). In the UK the most popular of these adaptations was Hall Of The Mountain King, from Greig's Peer Gynt Suite, which was actually recorded by several different bands. The Who did their own studio version of the piece in late 1967, although the recording was not released until 1995, as a bonus track on The Who Sell Out CD.
Artist: Procol Harum
Title: In Held Twas In I
Source: CD: Shine On Brightly
Although the idea of grouping songs together as "suites" was first tried by Jefferson Airplane on their 1967 album After Bathing At Baxter's, Procol Harum's 17-minute long In Held Twas In I, from their 1968 album Shine On Brightly, is usually cited as the first progressive rock suite. The title comes from the first word of each section of the piece that contains vocals (several sections are purely instrumental). The work contains some of the best early work from guitarist Robin Trower, who would leave the group a few years later for a solo career. Shine On Brightly was the last Procol Harum album to include organist Matthew Fisher, who came up with the famous opening riff for the group's first hit, A Whiter Shade Of Pale.
Artist: Rolling Stones
Title: Jumpin' Jack Flash
Source: 45 RPM single
After the negative reaction by both fans and the rock press to their most psychedelic album, Their Satanic Majesties Request in late 1967, the Stones replaced longtime producer Andrew Loog Oldham with Jimmy Miller, who had made a name for himself working with Steve Winwood on recordings by both the Spencer Davis Group and Traffic. The collaboration resulted in a back-to-basics approach that produced the classic single Jumpin' Jack Flash, followed by the Beggar's Banquet album.
Source: British Import CD: The Flock/Dinosaur Swamps (originally released on LP: Dinosaur Swamps)
Writer(s): the Flock
Label: BGO (original US label: Columbia)
Chicago is a town known for its horn players, and the Flock had one of the best horn sections ever to come out of the windy city. On top of that they had Jerry Goodman playing a mean electric violin. Nonetheless, they never seemed to be able to connect up with a large audience, and after a couple critically well-received but poor selling albums, the members moved on, with Goodman in particular gaining fame as a founding member of the Mahavishnu Orchestra. The Flock had a flair for (almost an obsession with, really) doing things differently than anyone else. Crabfoot, from the band's second LP, Dinosaur Swamps, starts off sounding like a high-powered jazz-rock tune along the lines of Chase's Get It On, leading into an equally high-energy drum solo that all of a sudden, right in the middle, turns into...well, I really don't know how to describe it.
Artist: Elton John
Title: Empty Sky
Source: CD: Jewel Box (originally released in UK on LP: Empty Sky)
Label: UMC/EMI (original label: DJM)
Year: 1968 (US release: 1975)
One of the first British blues bands was a group called Bluesology. Formed in 1961 by organist Reg Dwight and guitarist/vocalist Stu Brown, who were both fourteen at the time, the group also included bassist Rex Bishop and Mick Inkpen. Despite being underage, Bluesology was performing locally in pubs in the London suburb of Pinner, Middlesex by 1962, playing covers of tunes by Muddy Waters, Memphis Slim and other American blues artists. In 1965 the group became a professional backup band for visiting American performers such as the Isley Brothers, Billy Stewart and Patti LaBelle. The original lineup of Bluesology cut a pair of singles in 1965, both written by Dwight, but neither of them charted. The following year Dwight and Brown formed a new, expanded version of Bluesology to serve as backup band for vocalist Long John Baldry, releasing a single as Stu Brown and Bluesology late in the year. By the end of 1967 Dwight had grown disenchanted with Baldry's move away from R&B toward a more cabaret style and left Bluesology for a solo career, using the stage name Elton John. Working with lyricist Bernie Taupin, John became a staff songwriter for DJM Records in 1968, cranking out easy listening tunes for artists such as Lulu to record while also working on more complex material for John to record himself. After a couple of singles, Elton John released his first solo LP, Empty Sky, in 1969. The longest and most complex piece on the album was the opening track, also titled Empty Sky, about which John later had this to say: "I remember when we finished work on the title track - it just floored me. I thought it was the best thing I'd ever heard in my life." Empty Sky (the album) was not released in the US until 1975, after Elton John was well-established among rock's elite.
Artist: Fifty Foot Hose
Title: Red The Sign Post
Source: CD: Love Is The Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-70 (originally released on LP: Cauldron)
Label: Rhino (original label: Limelight)
Although most of the more avant-garde bands of the psychedelic era were headquarted in New York, there were some exceptions, such as San Francisco's Fifty Foot Hose. The core members of the band were founder and bassist Louis "Cork" Marcheschi, guitarist David Blossom, and his wife, vocalist Nancy Blossom. The group used a lot of unusual instruments, such as theramin, Moog synthesizer and prepared guitar and piano. Probably their most commercial song was Red The Sign Post from the LP Cauldron. After that album the group called it quits, with most of the members joining the cast of Hair. In fact, Nancy Blossom played lead character Sheila in the San Francisco production of the musical.
Artist: 13th Floor Elevators
Title: Nobody To Love
Source: CD: Easter Everywhere
Writer: Stacy Sutherland
Label: Charly (original label: International Artists)
The release of The Psychedelic Sounds Of The 13th Floor Elevators in 1966 is considered by some to be the beginning of the psychedelic era. The band soon left their native Texas to spend four months touring in California, playing to packed houses and influencing countless other musicians. Their label, however, wanted them back in Texas and recording new material, and went as far as to threaten to release older, substandard, recordings of the Elevators if the boys didn't return home immediately. Once the band got back to Texas, however, the label made several missteps, such as forcing the band to play inappropriate venues. Also, due to the band members' notorious drug use, the label was reluctant to promote them heavily. By mid-1967 a rift had developed within the band itself, with two of the five members leaving the group to move to San Francisco. The remaining members, with a new bass player and drummer, went into the studio to record a true piece of acid-rock: the album that would come to be known as Easter Everywhere. Although the bulk of the LP would be written by guitarist/vocalist Roky Erickson and electric jug player Tommy Hall, there was one track, Nobody To Love, written by the band's lead guitarist, Stacy Sutherland.
Artist: Strawberry Alarm Clock
Title: Pretty Song From "Psych Out"
Source: LP: The Best Of The Strawberry Alarm Clock (originally released as 45 RPM single B side)
When I first saw the song title Pretty Song From "Psych Out", my immediate response was to find out if there really was a movie called Psych Out. It turns out that Dick Clark had produced a film called Psych-Out about a deaf girl that runs away to San Francisco to try to find her missing brother and gets caught up in the lives of a local psychedelic rock band. The movie was released in 1968, and it had a pretty impressive cast, including Susan Strasberg, Jack Nicholson, Dean Stockwell and Bruce Dern (I may have to go out and find a copy for myself). Although the soundtrack album featured songs performed by the San Fernando Valley band Storybrook, one song, Pretty Song From "Psych Out", was by the Strawberry Alarm Clock, although the soundtrack album itself used Storybrook's cover of the song. The Strawberry Alarm Clock version of Pretty Song From "Psych Out" used in the film itself appeared as the B side of Sit With The Guru soon after the movie was released.
Title: Six Man Band
Source: LP: Greatest Hits
Writer(s): Terry Kirkman
Label: Warner Brothers
The Association had a solid two years of hits starting with their 1966 single Along Comes Mary. They did even better with the followup, Cherish, which went all the way to the # 2 spot on the national charts. They hit their peak in 1967 with two top five singles, Windy and Never My Love, and had their last top 40 hit in 1968 with the song Time For Livin'. By this time the band was being criticized for its use of studio musicians rather than the band members themselves, and the Association responded with the song Six Man Band, which was released as a single later the same year. Although the song did not chart, it was included on the group's Greatest Hits album that same year.