One of the most popular terms of the psychedelic era was "far out", an adjective used to describe....well, just about everything at one time or another. This week's show definitely fits the bill. In our first segment alone we have tunes from the legendary Charlatans (recorded but not released in 1967) and the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, not to mention one of the only rock songs about cannibalism to make the top 40 charts. Also in our first hour: the first song from the first side of the first King Crimson album, and the last single released by the original Love, as well as a Jeff Beck/Rod Stewart version of a Willie Dixon tune using an arrangement that was pretty much copied by Led Zeppelin a year later. It's the second hour, though, that really gets weird, as we present a track from the Merry Pranksters' legendary underground LP The Acid Test featuring Kens Kesey and Babbs tripping their brains out. And toward the end of the show we sneak in the single released by Big Brother And The Holding Company by their original label while they were already working on Cheap Thrills. Pretty far out, huh?
Title: Back Door Man
Source: LP: The Doors
Writer(s): Willie Dixon
In their early days as an L.A. club band, the Doors supplemented their growing body of original material with covers of classic blues tunes (rather than covers of top 40 hits like many of their contemporaries). Perhaps best of these was Willie Dixon's Back Door Man, which had been a mid-50s R&B hit for Howlin' Wolf. The Doors themselves certainly thought so, as it was one of only two cover songs on their debut LP.
Artist: West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band
Title: Suppose They Give A War And No One Comes
Source: LP: Volume II
One of the more popular posters of the pyschedelic era took the phrase Suppose They Give A War And No One Comes and highlighted the letters P,E,A,C and E with colors that, when viewed under a black light, stood out from the rest of the text. At around the same time a movie came out with a similar title. Quite possibly both were inspired by a track from the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band's late 1967 LP Volume II. The song itself is either really cool or really pretentious. I've had a copy of it for over 30 years and still haven't figured out which.
Title: Alabama Bound
Source: CD: Love Is The Song We Sing: San Francisco Nuggets 1965-70
Writer: trad., arr. The Charlatans
Label: Rhino (original label: Ace/Big Beat)
Year: Recorded 1967, released 1996
Despite being one of the most important bands on the San Francisco scene, the Charlatans did not have much luck in the recording studio. Their first sessions were aborted, the planned LP for Kama Sutra was shelved by the label itself, and the band was overruled in their choice of songs to be released on their first (and only) single issued from the Kama Sutra sessions. In 1967, however, they did manage to get some decent tracks recorded. Unfortunately, those tracks were not released until 1996, and then only in the UK. The centerpiece of the 1967 sessions was this six-and-a-half minute recording of a traditional tune that is considered by many to be the Charlatans' signature song: Alabama Bound.
Artist: Bee Gees
Title: I Close My Eyes
Source: CD: Bee Gees 1st
Writer(s): Barry, Robin & Maurice Gibb
Label: Reprise (original label: Atco)
Most of the 14 songs on the 1967 LP Bee Gees 1st were credited to brothers Barry and Robin Gibb. The other three, however, including I Close My Eyes, include the third Gibb brother, Maurice's name in the songwriting credits. All of the Gibb brothers have said, however, that Maurice helped write most of the songs on the LP, including all three hit singles (New York Mining Disaster, To Love Somebody, and Holiday).
Artist: Classics IV
Source: 45 RPM single
Most people don't know this (it was news to me too), but the Halloween classic Spooky, by the Classics IV, was orginally an instrumental. The tune was written by saxophonist Mike Sharpe, with Harry Middlebrooks, Jr. and released by Sharpe in 1967, making it to the #57 on the Billboard charts. Late in the year, Classics IV guitarist J. R. Cobb and producer Buddy Buie came up with lyrics for the song in time to get the song recorded and released by Halloween, and the band scored their first top 40 hit with the song, featuring drummer Dennis Yost on lead vocals. The Classics IV continued to hit the top 40 charts into the early 1970s, with Yost moving out from behind the drum kit and taking over top billing (See? Phil Collins wasn't the first to do that!), while Cobb and Buie, as a side project, formed the Atlanta Rhythm Section in 1970. Finally, in 1975, Yost officially went solo, ending the story of the Classics IV.
Source: LP: Harmony (original label: Scepter)
Writer(s): Rupert Holmes
Label: RCA Special Products (original label: Scepter)
Rupert Holmes wrote the 1970 song Timothy, dealing with cannibalism, specifically to get banned from top 40 radio, thus giving him a measure of notoriety. What he didn't bargain for, however, was the song becoming a hit single anyway, despite the best efforts of the shirts at Scepter Records to convince everyone that "Timothy" was in fact, a mule, and not one of the miners caught in a cave-in. Holmes himself set the record straight in an interview, but by that time the song had hit the #17 spot on the Billboard Hot 100. Holmes had intended the song to be recorded by a band called the Glass Prism, who had released an album of Edgar Allan Poe's poetry set to music the previous year. The Glass Prism, however, was under contract to RCA Victor, and was unavailable to record the song. Instead, Holmes chose the Buoys, a band from Scranton, Pennsylvania, who had been signed to, and then virtually ignored by, the New York-based Scepter Records. Holmes, who played keyboards on the song, went on to write several more songs for the Buoys, all of which were from the point of view of someone who had committed some sort of crime. Holmes ended up becoming more famous, in the long run, for a song called Escape (The Piña Colada Song) that he released under his own name in 1979.
Artist: King Crimson
Title: 21st Century Schizoid Man
Source: CD: In The Court Of The Crimson King
Label: Discipline Global Mobile (original US label: Atlantic)
There are several bands with a legitimate claim to starting the prog-rock movement of the mid-70s. The one most musicians cite as the one that started it all, however, is King Crimson. Led by Robert Fripp, the band went through several personnel changes over the years. Many of the members went on to greater commercial success as members of other bands, including guitarist/keyboardist Ian McDonald (Foreigner), and lead vocalist/bassist Greg Lake (Emerson, Lake and Palmer) from the original lineup heard on In The Court Of The Crimson King. Additionally, poet Peter Sinfield, who wrote all King Crimson's early lyrics, would go on to perform a similar function for Emerson, Lake and Palmer, including their magnum opus Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends. Other original members included Michael Giles on drums and Fripp himself on guitar. 21st Century Schizoid Man, as the first song on the first album by King Crimson, can quite literally be cited as the song that got the whole thing started.
Artist: Jeff Beck
Title: You Shook Me
Source: CD: Truth
Writer(s): Willie Dixon
Led Zeppelin has often been accused of stealing riffs, lyrics and sometimes entire songs from other artists. After hearing Jeff Beck's 1968 recording of Willie Dixon's You Shook Me, from the album Truth with Rod Stewart on vocals, you can add arrangements to the list.
Artist: Pink Floyd
Title: See Emily Play
Source: Mono CD: An Introduction To Syd Barrett (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Syd Barrett
Label: Capitol (original label: Tower)
Following up on their first single, Arnold Layne, Pink Floyd found even greater chart success (at least in their native England) with See Emily Play. Released in June of 1967, the song went all the way to the #6 spot on the British charts. In the US the song failed to chart as a single, although it was included on the US version of Pink Floyd's debut LP, The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn. The "Emily" in question is reportedly the sculptor Emily Young, who in those days was known as the "psychedelic schoolgirl" at London's legendary UFO club.
Artist: Mothers of Invention
Title: Hungry Freaks, Daddy
Source: LP: Mothermania (originally releasedd on LP: Freak Out)
Writer: Frank Zappa
Label: Zappa (original label: Verve)
Hungry Freaks, Daddy is the opening track on the first Mothers Of Invention album, Freak Out! This alone would make the track historically significant, but the truth of the matter is that Hungry Freaks, Daddy is an excellent song in its own right. Unlike most socially aware songs up to that point in time, Hungry Freaks, Daddy has a decidedly satirical edge that would become a trademark of Frank Zappa's songwriting for years to come.
Artist: Rose Garden
Title: Here's Today
Source: Mono CD: Where the Action Is: L.A. Nuggets 1965-68 (originally released as a 45 RPM single B side)
Label: Rhino (original label: Atco)
One of many new groups signed to Atco in the late 60s, the Rose Garden was generally disposed to recording light pop tunes with radio airplay in mind. Here's Today was an attempt to move the group in a slightly different direction.
Title: Your Mind And We Belong Together
Source: Australian import CD: Comes In Colours (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Writer(s): Arthur Lee
Label: Raven (original label: Elektra)
The last record to be released by the classic Love lineup of Arthur Lee, Ken Forssi, Johnny Echols, Bryan MacLean and Michael Stuart was a single, Your Mind And We Belong Together. Although released in 1968, the song is very much the same style as the 1967 album Forever Changes. A bonus track on the Forever Changes CD shows Lee very much in command of the recording sessions, calling for over two dozen takes before getting an acceptable version of the song. The song serves as a fitting close to the story of one of the most influential, yet overlooked, bands in rock history...or would have, if Lee had not tried to revive the band with new members several times over the next several decades.
Artist: Rolling Stones
Title: No Expectations
Source: LP: Beggar's Banquet
After the heavy dose of studio effects on Their Satanic Majesties Request, the Rolling Stones took a back-to-basics approach for their next album, Beggar's Banquet, the first to be produced by Jimmy Miller (who had previously worked with Steve Winwood in Traffic and the Spencer Davis Group). No Expectations, the second track on the album, uses minimal instrumentation and places a greater emphasis on Mick Jagger's vocals and Brian Jones's slide guitar work. Sadly, it was to be Jones's last album as a member of the Rolling Stones, as heavy drug use was already taking its toll (and would soon take his life as well).
Artist: Bob Dylan
Title: Rainy Day Women # 12 & 35
Source: European import CD: Pure...Psychedelic Rock (originally released on LP: Blonde On Blonde)
Writer(s): Bob Dylan
Label: Sony Music (original US label: Columbia)
Some of the best rock and roll songs of 1966 were banned on a number of stations for being about either sex or drugs. Most artists that recorded those songs claimed they were about something else altogether. In the case of Bob Dylan's Rainy Day Women # 12 & 35, "stoned" refers to a rather unpleasant form of execution (at least according to Dylan). On the other hand, Dylan himself was reportedly quite stoned while recording the song, having passed a few doobies around before starting the tape rolling. Sometimes I think ambiguities like this are why English has become the dominant language of commerce on the planet.
Artist: Music Machine
Source: CD: The Very Best Of The Music Machine-Turn On
Writer(s): Sean Bonniwell
Label: Collectables (original label: Original Sound)
Sean Bonniwell was a member of the mainstream (i.e. lots of appearances on TV variety shows hosted by people like Perry Como and Bob Hope) folk group the Lamplighters in the early 60s. By 1966 he had morphed into one of the more mysterious figures on the LA music scene, leading a proto-punk band dressed entirely in black. Bonniwell himself wore a single black glove (Michael Jackson was about seven years old at the time), and was one of the most prolific songwriters of the day. His recordings, often featuring the distinctive Farfisa organ sound, were a primary influence on later L.A. bands such as Iron Butterfly and the Doors. A classic example of the Music Machine sound was the song Wrong, which was issued as the B side of the group's most successful single, Talk Talk.
Artist: Merry Pranksters, featuring Ken Kesey & Ken Babbs
Title: One-Way Ticket (A Classic)
Source: Mono LP: The Acid Trip
Label: Jackpot (originally released independently)
As a general rule, Americans in 1966 had a limited number of options when it came to buying recorded music, and nearly all of those options involved record companies. In San Francisco, however, something different was happening. People like Country Joe McDonald were putting out their own recorded works in various forms, such as a music and arts magazine (although perhaps "underground newspaper" is a better description) called Rag Baby. New, independent recording studios were opening up as well, including Sound City, which invited Ken Kesey and his fellow Merry Pranksters to come over and record whatever they wanted to. Kesey, his friend Ken Babbs and the gang showed up on January 29, 1966 and spent the next 14 hours tripping their brains out and recording everything they did. The results were edited down to LP length and circulated independently on the streets of San Francisco as an album called The Acid Test. One of the highlights of the album is Babbs riffing vocally on something called One-Way Ticket (subtitled A Classic). Babbs, in his recent book Cronies, says that the Pranksters were too young to be beatniks, but too old to be hippies". One-Way Ticket certainly has a Beatnik vibe to it, albeit tinged with the contents of a sugar cube as well.
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)
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: White Room
Title: Thoughts Of Yesterday
Source: Mono CD: A Heavy Dose Of Lyte Psych (originally released as 45 RPM single)
Label: Arf! Arf! (original label: Symbol)
Nobody seems to know much about the band that called itself White Room and put out a single called Thoughts Of Yesterday in 1968. Even a Google search only turns up the Cream song for which the band was probably named. If indeed White Room was even a band, or just a studio creation is unknown. What is known is that the single was released on the New York based Symbol label and was produced by Kerry St. Matthews for Saint Kerry Productions. We also know that both sides of the single were written by C. Rizzo and T. Finno, but have no idea what either songwriters' first names were. If you know anything about the band called White Room, feel free to drop me a line.
Artist: Neil Young/Crazy Horse
Title: Down By The River
Source: LP: Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
Writer(s): Neil Young
Down By The River is one of four songs on the album Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere that Neil Young wrote while running a fever of 103 degrees Fahrenheit (that's 39.5 degrees for people in civilized nations that use the Celsius, aka centrigrade, scale). By some strange coincidence, they are the four best songs on the album. I wish I could have been that sick in my days as a wannabe rock star.
Title: Sunshine Of Your Love
Source: LP: Disraeli Gears
Only a handful of songs can truly be described as "iconic". Sunshine Of Your Love, with its often-imitated signature riff, the line-by-line trading off of lead vocals by Jack Bruce and Eric Clapton and one of the best-known lead guitar solos in rock history, certainly qualifies.
Source: LP: Homer (soundtrack) (originally released in UK on LP: Fresh Cream)
Writer(s): Willie Dixon
Label: Cotillion (original label: Reaction)
When the album Fresh Cream was released by Atco in the US it was missing one track that was on the original UK version of the album: the band's original studio version of Willie Dixon's Spoonful. A live version of Spoonful was included on the LP Wheels of Fire, but it wasn't until the 1970 soundtrack album for the movie Homer that the studio version was finally released in the US. Unfortunately the compilers of that album left out the last 15 seconds or so from the original recording.
Title: Take It Back
Source: LP: Disraeli Gears
After seven years of serving in the Air Force liason office at Fitzsimmons Army Hospital in Aurora, Colorado, my dad got transferred to Weisbaden Air Force Base in Germany. Standard practice at the time was for the married GI to go on ahead of the rest of the family and find a place to live "on the economy." My dad, already having quite a bit of time in the service, was able to instead get a spot in a place called Kastel, which was a group of WWII Panzer barracks near the city of Mainz that had been adapted for use by American military with families. When the rest of us arrived in August I was happily surprised to find that my dad, in addition to finding us a place to live, had bought a state-of-the-art Akai X-355 Tape Recorder using money he had won at Lotto, along with a pair of Koss headphones. I of course had to go to the Base Exchange to look for pre-recorded tapes. Already having experience with reel to reel machines, I knew that tapes recorded at 3 3/4 ips had more tape hiss than those recorded at 7 1/2 ips, so I was resolved to only buy tapes recorded at the faster speed. Unfortunately several albums I wanted were only available at the slower speed. The problem was resolved a year later when my dad finally got a Dual turntable to hook up to the tape recorded. I immediately went out and bought a reel of blank tape; the first album I made a copy of was Cream's Disraeli Gears. I would often fall asleep listening to that tape, which meant I ended up sleeping through the last songs on the album, including Take It Back. I must have done some kind of sleep learning, though, since to this day I can quote the lyrics of the entire song.
Artist: Johnny Winter
Title: I'm Yours And I'm Hers
Source: European import CD: Johnny Winter
Writer(s): Johnny Winter
Label: Repertoire (original US label: Columbia)
1969 was a big year for Johnny Winter. An article the previous year in Rolling Stone magazine referring to the "albino guitarist with long white hair causing a stir in the Southwest" had led to his album The Progressive Blues Experiment being picked up by Imperial Records for national distribution, which in turn led to Winters signing with Columbia, one of the world's largest and most influential record labels. His first album for Columbia, titled simply Johnny Winter, was a critical and commercial success, instantly putting him in the top tier of both blues and rock guitarists. The opening track of the LP was I'm Your And I'm Hers, a Johnny Winter original that utilized the talents of future Double Trouble bassist Tommy Shannon and drummer "Uncle" John Turner, both members of Johnny's band Winter at the time. This same lineup would record a second album for Columbia with Johnny's brother Edgar on keyboards and saxophone before being disbanded in favor of the group that was originally called the McCoys, but would soon come to be known as Johnny Winter And.
Artist: Big Brother And The Holding Company
Title: Coo Coo
Source: 45 RPM single
Writer(s): Peter Albin
Like most of the bands in the San Francisco Bay area in the late 1960s, Big Brother And The Holding Company had members who had already been part of the local folk music scene when they decided to go electric. Peter Albin, in particular, had established himself as a solo artist before joining the band, and, naturally, brought some of his repertoire with him. Perhaps the most popular of these tunes was a song called Coo Coo, that had also been in circulation under the title Jack Of Diamonds. Although there are existing recordings of the song prior to the Big Brother version, Albin took full credit for the tune, possibly due to his providing almost all new lyrics for the track. Coo Coo, recorded in Chicago in 1966, was not included on the group's first LP for Mainstream, instead being issued as a single in early 1968, around the same time Columbia Records was negotiating a buyout of Big Brother's contract with Mainstream. A reworked version of the tune with yet another set of new lyrics and a new musical bridge appeared later the same year on the band's Columbia debut LP, Cheap Thrills, under the title Oh, Sweet Mary.
Artist: Jimi Hendrix Experience
Title: Manic Depression
Source: Mono British import LP: Smash Hits (originally released on LP: Are You Experienced?)
Writer(s): Jimi Hendrix
Label: Polydor (original label: Reprise)
After miraculously surviving being shot point blank in the head (and then bayoneted in the back for good measure) in the Korean War (and receiving a Silver Star), my dad became somewhat of a minor celebrity in the early 50s, appearing on a handful of TV and radio game shows as a kind of poster boy for the Air Force. One result of this series of events was that he was able to indulge his fascination with a new technology that had been developed by the Germans during WWII: magnetic recording tape. He used his prize winnings to buy a Webcor tape recorder, which in turn led to me becoming interested in recording technology at an early age (I distinctly remember being punished for playing with "Daddy's tape recorder" without permission on more than one occasion). He did not receive another overseas assignment until 1967, when he was transferred to Weisbaden, Germany. As was the usual practice at the time, he went there a month or so before the rest of the family, and during his alone time he (on a whim, apparently) went in on a Lotto ticket with a co-worker and won enough to buy an Akai X-355 stereo tape recorder from a fellow serviceman who was being transferred out and did not want to (or couldn't afford to) pay the shipping costs of the rather heavy machine.The Akai was pretty much the state of the art in home audio technology at the time. The problem was that we did not have a stereo system to hook it into, so he bought a set of Koss headphones to go with it. Of course all of his old tapes were in storage (along with the old Webcor) back in Denver, so I decided that this would be a good time to start spending my allowance money on pre-recorded reel-to-reel tapes, the first of which was Are You Experienced by the Jimi Hendrix Experience. The Akai had an auto-reverse system and I would lie on the couch with the headphones on to go to sleep every night listening to songs like Manic Depression. Is it any wonder I turned out like I did?
Artist: Procol Harum
Title: A Whiter Shade Of Pale
Source: 45 RPM single (reissue)
Label: A&M (original label: Deram)
Often credited as being the first progressive rock band, Procol Harum drew heavily from classical music sources, such as the Bach inspired theme used by organist Matthew Fisher as the signature rift for A Whiter Shade of Pale. Fisher initially did not get writing credit for his contributions to the song, but finally, after several lawsuits, began collecting royalties for the song in 2009. A Whiter Shade Of Pale, incidentally, holds the distinction of being the most-played song on the British airwaves over the past 70+ years.